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Author Topic: Should "ability scores" be comparable to a real world metric? can it be done?  (Read 2222 times)

Banjo Destructo

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It depends on your goal.  Are you making a game that knows its a game? Or making a game that is trying to be a simulation?  D&D is a game that knows it is a game, ability scores have some basis in reality but are obscured and detached from reality as well, it very clearly is not trying to simulate or stick to reality.

Zelen

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Short Answer: No.

How are you going to quantify anything other than the most basic strength & speed type activities? Is there some universal metric for Wisdom or Charisma?

Even for things like Strength, it can't be done without creating weird unrealistic consequences or just-plain-bad game rules. In the real world there's a difference between deadlifts and pushups and gymnastics and track & field events, but a game doesn't (and mostly can't) have the resolution necessary to mechanically differentiate these things.

Opaopajr

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It cannot truly be done.  ;) Otherwise Hospitals would have been using RPG parameters at Emergency Room triage by now. Nothing you think as "realism" truly is enough, let alone playable. Let that dream die and embrace suspending disbelief.  8) It's OK, it won't hurt.
Just make your fuckin' guy and roll the dice, you pricks. Focus on what's interesting, not what gives you the biggest randomly generated virtual penis.  -- J Arcane
 
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Mishihari

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Can it be done?  Certainly.  Is it useful?  Well, that depends.  Strength and intelligence are probably useful to model in real world terms - they're easy enough.  We have various measures of those two that we use all the time.  Knowing that a character with Strength X can deadlift Y pounds is useful, since it connects our real world intuition.  The rest of the ability scores, one would have to make up a real world scale, which would give at best limited benefit.

PSIandCO

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Does it matter if there's a table somewhere that maps strength scores to the weights lifted in real world competitions? The DM is still arbitrarily deciding how much things weigh, and the DCs or target numbers or whatever of the challenges. The precision and research is just a false veneer. Underneath, it's just still just arbitrary judgment calls.
And in almost all cases, the mechanics are completely divorced from reality. For instance, a lot of games have opposed strength checks where an ordinary person has a chance of beating a very strong person. That's not realistic. In reality, a really strong person will win an arm wrestling competition or whatever not just most of the time, or 99% of the time, but effectively 100% of the time. There are similar problems with skills. A lot of time it's whether you have advanced training or not.
If you want a greater sense of realism, then it's probably a lot more useful to look at how the system resolves comparative differences between different native or learned abilities than to just do something superficial like map them to real world equivalents. But I don't think most people want that. Games are more about mechanics that are easy to understand, the ability of the players or the GM to assess their chances, and how the mechanics create an interesting dynamic in play. The elements of simulation are just there to trick people into suspending their disbelief.
**************
a quick glance at d20 games...
Rather than deriving ability modifiers thus: Stat -10, then divide by two. 20=+5, 18=+4, 16=+3...
try revising the math to have a greater reward for ability scores above 10 and punishing ability scores below 10.
Like this: ability modifier = Stat -10. 
this makes every point count, including the odd numbers!
someone with a 15 can beat someone who has only a 14.
Someone with a 4, is beat by everyone with the same attribute being 10 or higher.

Pathfinder 2e, the proficiency rank mechanic:
untrained is 0 + ability modifier and other modifiers.
Trained is 2+ your level+ ability modifier and other modifiers.
Expert is 4+ your level+ ability modifier and other modifiers.
Mastery is 6+ your level+ ability modifier and other modifiers.
Legendary is 2+ your level+ ability modifier and other modifiers.
They haven't written "epic/mythic" play yet.

Anywho, during the playtest for PF2E, untrained was -2 and the proficiency ranks were only +1 per stage:
trained+1, expert+2, Mastery+3, Legendary+4.
in the current 2E Gamemastery guide, there are rules for NOT including the Level in anything.

let us combine these ideas and see what happens to the game play:
 Stat-10= ability modifier, +2 for each proficiency rank, Not including level. 
The effect is that your ability scores have a huge impact, and your proficiency rank with skills also matters.

Test: Educated Genius (Int 18) Vs. uneducated Idiot (int 6)
Idiot- rolls a 20, ability modifier is -4, training is 0= 16. The idiot can never get a "20" even rolling a 20!
Genius- Rolls a 10, ability modifier is +8, training is expert +4= 22.

now, a skill Expert average joe (int 11) Vs. Uneducated genius (int 18)
Uneducated genius rolls a 10, +8 modifier, +0 for skill= 18
Average Joe rolls a 10, +1 modifier, +4 for skill= 15

The genius wins, but what if the challenge was neurosurgery?
the skill rules allow many things to be attempted untrained, and plenty more require training in the skill to even attempt.
Being untrained, the genius can still recall and reason, but won't have the knowledge to complete the task.
Being an expert "Average joe" has the knowledge but struggles to recall every step of the task and apply what he does know.

Now... Opposed arm wrestling. an "Athletics" skill check.
Hank has 18 strength and is an athletics expert +4.
Gustav has a 17 strength, and is also an athletics expert.
if they both roll the same on the d20, Hank will always be +1 ahead.

The effects on pathfinder 2e, Monsters of all kinds would be a threat regardless of level.
Being Min/maxed becomes important as a difference of +/-1 can decide who wins and who... doesn't.
With these rules in effect, the 3.0/3.5 magic item rules could make a comeback with some tweaking.
You would want high-level characters to have earned magic items that push their ability beyond the mortal limits.
thing is, this invalidates anyone who doesn't get specific magic items...
The idea of a "Character" to role-play is brushed aside by a shopping list of MacGuffins.
best not to do that then. winning "Bling" can be fun, but it too easily becomes "the point" of the game.

 I agree, changing how the math is done, models a realistic outcome.
Personal experience; back in the sixth grade I had never learned how to "Block" in football games.
I got pit against a 6'4" at 320lbs giant. the result is that he flipped me out of the way everytime.
yet, another kid my size who did know how to block effectively was able to Keep the giant back, the giant couldn't take one step forward.

Training does matter. it is a HUGE difference.

Thank you for the insights, all of them!
 

PSIandCO

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Short Answer: No.
How are you going to quantify anything other than the most basic strength & speed type activities? Is there some universal metric for Wisdom or Charisma?
Even for things like Strength, it can't be done without creating weird unrealistic consequences or just-plain-bad game rules. In the real world there's a difference between deadlifts and pushups and gymnastics and track & field events, but a game doesn't (and mostly can't) have the resolution necessary to mechanically differentiate these things.

Devastating, and right. you are right.
The more realism I would like, the more convoluted the rules become.

PSIandCO

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It cannot truly be done.  ;) Otherwise Hospitals would have been using RPG parameters at Emergency Room triage by now. Nothing you think as "realism" truly is enough, let alone playable. Let that dream die and embrace suspending disbelief.  8) It's OK, it won't hurt.

Sigh... correct. too much realism makes game play impossible.

Shasarak

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Quote
An old issue of Dragon magazine had an interesting alternative to determining Dungeons & Dragons ability scores, all of which were based on the player's actual abilities. Dragon #8, published back in 1977, had an article written by Brian Blume that offered a "realistic" approach to determining a D&D character's ability scores that were meant to reflect the attributes of the player controlling the character. By using this method, a character would have the stats of the player instead of stats that represented an extraordinary character.

Instead of using dice to determine a character's stats, players were to calculate their stats using six simple tests, one for each attribute scores.

The tests were as follows:

Strength: Divide the maximum amount of weight you can military press by ten.

Dexterity: Time yourself running 440 yards and then subtract your time from 80.

Constitution: The number of consecutive months you've gone without missing a day of school or work due to illness.

Intelligence: Divide the result of your most recent IQ test by 10.

Wisdom: Subtract the average number of hours you spend playing or planning D&D by 20.

Charisma: Multiply the number of times you've appeared on television or had your picture in the newspaper by two.

https://comicbook.com/gaming/news/dungeons-and-dragons-realistic-character-stats/
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pathetically struggling,
look at the good things you've got! -  Jesus

PSIandCO

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Can it be done?  Certainly.  Is it useful?  Well, that depends.  Strength and intelligence are probably useful to model in real world terms - they're easy enough.  We have various measures of those two that we use all the time.  Knowing that a character with Strength X can deadlift Y pounds is useful, since it connects our real world intuition.  The rest of the ability scores, one would have to make up a real world scale, which would give at best limited benefit.

Agreed.

I would like some detail, and "meaning".
Yet, generalities become necessary and exceptions being to multiply.

take a bodybuilder, Did he or she develop all of his or her muscles with proportions, or did they specialize for a sport?
A boxer will have a different build from a runner, from a gymnast, from a swimmer, from a cyclist.
what if someone is very lean but has Densely chorded muscle? the metric and what it represents gets tossed out the window...

PSIandCO

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Quote
An old issue of Dragon magazine had an interesting alternative to determining Dungeons & Dragons ability scores, all of which were based on the player's actual abilities. Dragon #8, published back in 1977, had an article written by Brian Blume that offered a "realistic" approach to determining a D&D character's ability scores that were meant to reflect the attributes of the player controlling the character. By using this method, a character would have the stats of the player instead of stats that represented an extraordinary character.
Instead of using dice to determine a character's stats, players were to calculate their stats using six simple tests, one for each attribute score.
The tests were as follows:
Strength: Divide the maximum amount of weight you can military press by ten.
Dexterity: Time yourself running 440 yards and then subtract your time from 80.
Constitution: The number of consecutive months you've gone without missing a day of school or work due to illness.
Intelligence: Divide the result of your most recent IQ test by 10.
Wisdom: Subtract the average number of hours you spend playing or planning D&D by 20.
Charisma: Multiply the number of times you've appeared on television or had your picture in the newspaper by two.
https://comicbook.com/gaming/news/dungeons-and-dragons-realistic-character-stats/
Very interesting, but the charisma test is very flawed given the internet and social media these days.
And intelligence testing has changed, tests top out at 140, not 180.
Thank you for the research.

Shasarak

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And intelligence testing has changed, tests top out at 140, not 180.

Damn Millennials dragging everyone else down.
Who da Drow?  U da drow! - hedgehobbit

There will be poor always,
pathetically struggling,
look at the good things you've got! -  Jesus

Wisithir

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Ability scores are sufficiently abstracted that a direct comparison is useless. It would require a far more simulationist approach. However, a broad point of reference is helpful to give sense to the numbers in a "what does the score mean" kind of way. Moreover, most tasks would require a mix of attributes. For instance, even carry weight would be depended on strength to lift, dexterity to balance with the load, and constitution for endurance.

Mental scores are another kind of problem all together as it is not possible to effectively roleplay a character far in excess of the player's own metal capacity. One could portray a caricature there off, but one cannot think like someone much smarter than oneself. It invariably leads to trying to roll WIS/INT/CHA at a problem without any appreciation of how it would apply.  Mechanically, I would argue for  separate caster power stats and have the mental stats as Knowledge, Intuition, and (Force of) Personality.

Mishihari

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Although I'm a simulationist, in my current project I decided to move away from trying to describe character capability in terms of fundamental descriptors of capacity like str, int, etc.  Instead I went with talent covering categories of skills:  attack, defense, athletics, perception, guile, and magic.  So far I like where it's headed.  Frex, if someone has a high athletics score then he has a combination of strength, coordination, endurance, spatial awareness, and discipline that makes him "good at sports" (though in the game it covers things like climbing, running, and brawn rather than football).  It doesn't try to define the particulars because they don't matter - it's the overall effect that's important.

Palleon

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Quote
An old issue of Dragon magazine had an interesting alternative to determining Dungeons & Dragons ability scores, all of which were based on the player's actual abilities. Dragon #8, published back in 1977, had an article written by Brian Blume that offered a "realistic" approach to determining a D&D character's ability scores that were meant to reflect the attributes of the player controlling the character. By using this method, a character would have the stats of the player instead of stats that represented an extraordinary character.
Instead of using dice to determine a character's stats, players were to calculate their stats using six simple tests, one for each attribute score.
The tests were as follows:
Strength: Divide the maximum amount of weight you can military press by ten.
Dexterity: Time yourself running 440 yards and then subtract your time from 80.
Constitution: The number of consecutive months you've gone without missing a day of school or work due to illness.
Intelligence: Divide the result of your most recent IQ test by 10.
Wisdom: Subtract the average number of hours you spend playing or planning D&D by 20.
Charisma: Multiply the number of times you've appeared on television or had your picture in the newspaper by two.
https://comicbook.com/gaming/news/dungeons-and-dragons-realistic-character-stats/
Very interesting, but the charisma test is very flawed given the internet and social media these days.
And intelligence testing has changed, tests top out at 140, not 180.
Thank you for the research.

Not to mention the performance of a 400m sprint has nothing to do with Dex.  That’s all STR and CON. Dex would be how many consecutive cart wheels or something dumb like that.

Eric Diaz

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Dex is traditionally for dodging (AC) and shooting arrows.

Which means.... two completely separate talents.

Charisma, yeah, there should be a better metric. Maybe number of friends?

Constitution would have something to do with endurance, IMO, although the game doesn't make this distinction. Health is hard to measure...

Wisdom is for perception and will power in modern D&D. Again, completely separate issues.

Strength and Intelligence might be the easiest to measure.

In short... well, it is doable, but not particularly easy, and not particularly useful.
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