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Yosharian

Thoughts About Minimum Attributes in Character Creation

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TL;DR: other role-playing games and role-playing systems restrict their characters to reasonable attributes when creating a character, for example having lower limits of 7 points for a given attribute.  Should games like Pillars of Eternity also have such restrictions, in order to promote role-playing and prevent absurd ludonarrative dissonance?  Or is it perfectly fine and desirable for players to be able to create characters with the intelligence of a brick?

A Short Preface

I've been playing Pathfinder Kingmaker recently, and noticed that in character creation, you are limited to a minimum base value of 7.  I'm normally a pretty extreme min-maxer in CRPGs, so I was quite surprised by this.  It got me thinking: why are we allowed to choose values as low as 3 in games like Pillars?  So I decided to write up my thoughts.  I'm interested to hear what the Pillars community thinks about this.  I'm guessing there will be strong resistance, but I'm not certain.  Well, on with the post essay freaking novel.

Attributes/Ability Scores In Detail

So in Pillars 1 and Deadfire there are a range of attributes that you can choose at character creation.  You can choose from a range of 3-18 for any given attribute.  It could be speculated that such values originate from the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing system, where a similar set of values exist.  The Pathfinder system is derived from D&D 3.5.  Thus, I believe it's useful to look at the descriptions for attribute levels to get an idea for what these numbers are meant to represent.  However, I do so with the disclaimer that these aren't actually from Deadfire or Pillars 1 themselves (which shall henceforth be referred to as 'the Pillars system' for brevity), and thus they may not correspond exactly with what Obsidian had in mind when they picked the numbers 3-18.  I think they are accurate enough, and serve as a useful guide.

An Average Score

10 could be seen as an average score for characters in the Pillars system.  It definitely is in D&D/Pathfinder.  The D20PFSRD (a reference website for Pathfinder, link here: http://www.d20pfsrd.com/basics-ability-scores/ability-scores/ ) has this to say about average scores:

  • 10 Strength: an average Human.  Can literally pull their own weight.
  • 10 Dexterity: capable of usually catching a small tossed object, average human agility
  • 10 Constitution: occasionally contracts mild sicknesses, average human healthiness
  • 10 Intelligence: knows what they need to know to get by.
  • 10 Wisdom: capable of planning and makes reasoned decisions most of the time
  • 10 Charisma: understands most conventions of social interactions and acts relatively acceptably in social circumstances.

For those that are unfamiliar with D&D, Wisdom determines the Perception skill in D&D, so Pillar's Perception attribute could be seen as equivalent to D&D's Wisdom (though the comparison breaks down a little once you factor in accuracy).

Similarly, Pillar's Resolve functions similarly to D&D's Charisma, in that it determines "mental intimidation, leadership, and convincing performances." (Source: https://pillarsofeternity.gamepedia.com/Attributes.)  (Again, the comparison breaks down a little if you examine it in detail, but broadly speaking they have more similarities than differences)

So 10 could be seen as an average score for a human, and it's not unreasonable to presume that such a statement could be accurate for Pillars' system too.

Character Creation Maximums

In D&D, the maximum possible score at character creation is 18, before modifiers.  This corresponds exactly with the Pillars system.  The D20PFSRD has this to say about such scores:

  • 18 Strength: same as a Centaur.  Can break objects like wood with bare hands.
  • 18 Dexterity: better than an Octopus.  Light on feet, able to often hit small moving targets at a distance.
  • 18 Constitution: same as a Polar Bear.  Able to stay awake for days on end.
  • 18 Intelligence: better than a Succubus.  Genius-level intelligence, may invent new processes or uses for knowledge.
  • 18 Wisdom: perhaps equivalent to a monk, or wise guardian.  Often looked to as a source of wisdom or as a counselor.
  • 18 Charisma: perhaps equivalent to a Siren, or similar creature.  Immediately likeable by many people, subject of favorable talk.

So 18 could be seen as the most powerful score a normal human could achieve.  Of course, the abstraction breaks down somewhat when you consider that in both the Pillars and D&D 3.5/Pathfinder systems, adventurers can achieve scores well above these 'maximums'; in fact, it's possible to reach scores of 50+ by the time a character reaches 20th level in D&D 3.5/PF, and in the Pillars system the attribute cap is 35.

However, the fact remains that 18 was selected as the standard maximum for the Pillars system, and it stands to reason that this was done for a reason - to represent the most powerful score a normal human could achieve.  Scores above these can be seen as adventurers acquiring skills, attributes, legendary artifacts, etc, that place them well above what any normal human could achieve - putting them closer to gods, than normal humans.  This makes sense when you consider that your heroes are meant to be saving the world, defeating incredible enemies, etc.

Character Creation Minimums

This is where the interesting part comes in.  To begin, let's look at the descriptions for D&D ability scores, for the minimum scores available in the Pillars system, which is 3, or 2 after modifiers:

  • 2-3 Strength: no description, but somewhere between "Needs help to stand, can be knocked over by strong breezes" and "Knocked off balance by swinging something dense".  Similar to a monstrous centipede.
  • 2-3 Dexterity: similar to a sea urchin.  Incapable of moving without great effort.
  • 2-3 Constitution: no equivalent creature listed, but a fair bit worse than a toad or hedgehog.  Frail, suffers constant illnesses.
  • 2-3 Intelligence: similar to a dog, or horse.  Animal-level intelligence, acts mostly on instinct but can be trained.
  • 2-3 Wisdom: similar to a semi-sentient fungal creature.  Rarely notices important or prominent items, people, or occurrences.
  • 2-3 Charisma: same as a lizard, or crocodile.  Capable of only minimal independent decision-making.

So if we look at these descriptions, we can see that these scores are astoundingly bad for any adventurer or heroic (or villainous) type.  These are bad enough to make 'saving the world' or 'defeating incredible enemies' pretty much impossible.  With some of these scores, it might be possible to still be a heroic character or adventurer if one were led around and commanded by a smarter ally, in the manner of a glorified pet, or the like, but arguably it would the victory of the commander, rather than the pet.

Again, these are descriptions based off a different role-playing system to the Pillars one, but I think it's reasonable to speculate that they are fairly accurate.  Also, let's bear in mind that it's likely that the minimum base value 3 was chosen by Pillars' designers because it represents the lowest roll one can achieve with 3d6 (and 18 the maximum), another nod to D&D roots.

Note: Boeroer makes the point that he thinks a 3 in the Pillars system is equivalent to a 7 in the Pathfinder system.  I don't buy that, personally, but it's a reasonable point.  The reason I'm not convinced is because it doesn't make sense from an overarching perspective.  If the range of values is from 0 (non-functional, dead, cannot exist) to 10, and 10 is average, I don't buy that 3 is the lower limit for a character that can still be an effective adventurer, because there is a huge gulf between 'competent adventurer' and 'dead/non-functional/cannot exist', but only values of 1, 2 and 3 span that gulf, in Boeroer's explanation.  I concede that, as Boeroer says, it 'hurts my aesthetic feeling for numbers.'

Averages, Maximums and Minimums?

So it could reasonably be argued that 10 represents an average score, and 18 represents the very best humanity could offer, perhaps one-in-a-million genius, or strong-man, or charismatic leader, etc.  What does 3 represent?  Does it really represent the worst humanity could offer?  And, could a character with such a score actually be a hero, or adventurer?

Let's take Eder as an example.  Eder has the following attributes in Pillars of Eternity: Mig: 16 Con: 16 Dex: 11 Per: 12 Int: 10 Res: 13.

So Eder is really strong, and has a great constitution.  He "carries heavy objects with one arm" and "easily shrugs off most illnesses".  This all sounds like the Eder we know, and is within the realms of possibility for a relatively rare adventurer type.  But what if Eder had an Intellect of 3?

[Josh Sawyer himself talks about this extensively in his GDC 2016 talk about 'attribute tuning'.  You can see more info here: https://rpgcodex.net/article.php?id=10263.  What I find interesting is where he talks about the 'weirdness' of players choosing to lower attribute scores to extreme levels.  I find this interesting, because he, as one of the game's most prominent designers, chose to give players the option of reducing attributes to extremely low numbers, then reacted with surprise when players showed a desire to reduce companion attributes to... extremely low numbers!]

Pathfinder Point-Buy systems, and Pathfinder Games

Pathfinder has a Point-Buy system that allows you to 'purchase' ability scores for a certain amount of points, with the points per character being static, similar to the Pillars system.  (Each point is worth a different amount, with the purchase of an 18 score being much more expensive than a 12, for example, but that's not relevant to this discussion.)

In most versions of this 'point-buy', you're restricted to a minimum of 7 in any ability score, before modifiers.  You'll notice that that's much higher than many low 3d6 rolls (3, 4, 5 and 6 are all possible), and much higher than the minimum score available in the Pillars system.

You can see for yourself by visiting a Pathfinder ability score calculator such as the one here: http://www.jody-white.com/pathfinder-ability-score-calculator.php

This system is used in some Pathfinder Pen And Paper ('PnP') games, such as Pathfinder Society (which strictly regulates what characters can and cannot be made, for balance purposes), and also some Pathfinder games, such as the recently released Pathfinder Kingmaker.  Other times, 3d6 rolls are used, or sometimes there are other hybrid systems, but point-buy is commonly accepted as a means of character ability score generation.

Why Have A Minimum of 7?

Why have a minimum set so high?  Well, the most logical reason stems from the PnP roots of Pathfinder.  How, exactly, do you role-play a character with 3 Intelligence, in a PnP game?  Let's remind ourselves that 2-3 Intelligence in Pathfinder equates to intelligence 'similar to a dog, or horse; animal-level intelligence, that acts mostly on instinct but can be trained.'

In fact, such a thing is determined to be effectively impossible to do within standard expectations.  Of course, any PnP Dungeon Master, or Game Master, may operate their table however they wish, and may choose to allow characters with ability scores below base 7.  But, the standard point-buy system chooses to restrict players to 7 or upwards (with the caveat that race modifiers may, of course, lower values below 7).

What About CRPGs?

This gets even worse when you consider CRPGs, where the freedom to role-play a character with the intellect of a brick is most likely not possible at all.  In Pillars, for example, your characters talks the same no matter what Intellect score they have.  3, or 18, the result is the same; with the exception of special options that are occasionally available, your character will speak with the same level of intellect, charisma and wisdom.

Of course, such role-play might take place in the mind of the player, rather than in the actual events and dialogue happening on-screen, and for some this may be enough.  But even they would surely be forced to admit that such a thing requires considerable mental gymnastics; role-playing a sub-brick character when the dialogue, events, and actions in the game contradict that at every turn, isn't easy, nor desirable.

Mechanics and Role-Playing Systems Working Together

It's often the case that mechanical and role-playing systems run up against each other, both from a development perspective and a player perspective.  I believe that in a well-designed game, they should complement each other, and work in sync to create a great player experience.

For example, if I decide that my character needs a high Wisdom to be a D&D Cleric, and then in-game there is lots of role-playing interactivity for high Wisdom characters, such as special dialogues, Wisdom checks, and so on, then that's an example of a mechanical system (Wisdom required to be a Cleric) working in concert with a role-playing system (Wisdom is recognised by the game in the form of special dialogues, checks, etc) to create a great player experience.  My character has a high Wisdom because he needs it to be a good Cleric, but also it's part of his character.  That's a strong experience for the player.

Another example could be, in Fallout 1, a player might choose to divert S.P.E.C.I.A.L. points from Intelligence into other areas, such as Strength.  The mechanical reasoning is: I want my character to be strong, and I don't care about Intelligence too much.  But in Fallout 1, as many of you are I'm sure aware, there are actual dialogue changes for characters with low intelligence:
 

Quote

When the player character in Fallout and Fallout 2 has less than 4 Intelligence, the biggest change in gameplay is undoubtedly the dialogue. Upon reaching Shady Sands, the villagers take pity on the Vault Dweller, and Aradesh will simply shrug them off. The best they can speak is half-word sentences or gibberish.

The real downside, though, is the nigh impossibility to do about 90% of the side quests. No one will talk to a moron or even give them the time of day.

In Fallout 2, the Chosen One may meet Torr, the "town simpleton of Klamath," who would normally give them a quest to help protect his brahmin against "the evil bugmen." If the player character has low Intelligence, however, he will appear to be highly intelligent as if being stupid has a culture and language of its own. Two flat-headed people can have a complete, thought-provoking, and fully articulated conversation between them.

Another person one may have an "intelligent" conversation with in Fallout 2 is AHS-9, who becomes able to understand what the Chosen One tries to say after the alignment, and gives the quest to kill the Shi Emperor.

When talking to Algernon in the basement of New Reno Arms, the Chosen One can start a childhood "cop and robbers" type dialog in which they accidentally "shoot" and kill him.

A character with a low Intelligence is unable to gamble. When they observe a roulette table or a slot machine, the character will respond to it as a fun toy or an interactive character, respectively. Visiting a craps table will result in a dumb Chosen One commenting to the dealer that they "play craps in pants".

 

Source: https://fallout.fandom.com/wiki/Intelligence

This opens up an entirely new way to play the game.  It's another example of a mechanical system (player can spend points in various attributes the way they wish, including lowering certain attributes all the way to 1) working in concert with a role-playing system (player characters with low intelligence have certain restrictions and special interactivity in the game).  They work together to create a very special player experience.  Now this is an extreme example, but you get the idea.  Certain games have explored this in a much more limited fashion, such as Fallout: New Vegas, but at least the attempt is made.

Thus, a player choosing to reduce Intelligence for mechanical reasons, also has to contend with the fact that the role-playing systems in the game will be affected by this.  This is a meaningful player experience.

Mechanics vs Role-Playing: Acting In Opposition

So let's explore some examples where the systems work in opposition.  That is to say, a mechanical system gives you an option, and when you take that option, it runs completely in contradiction to role-playing systems set up within the game.

For example, let's make a character in Pillars of Eternity that has an Intellect score of 3 (referred to as Sub-Brick from now on).  If we take the D20PFSRD description of 3 Intelligence: similar to a dog, or horse.  Animal-level intelligence, acts mostly on instinct but can be trained.  Even if you don't agree that that's accurate for the Pillars system, let's at least agree that an Intellect of 3 in Pillars is really.... really dumb.  Like, extreme-level mentally challenged.

Now Pillars of Eternity has many role-playing systems that provide interactivity with player characters that have high ability scores.  High Resolve scores grant opportunities to role-play as a forceful, charismatic, 'force of personality'-type.  High Perception scores grant opportunities to role-play as a perceptive, observant character who sees things that others miss.  So Pillars sets itself up as a game in which attribute scores matter, from a role-playing perspective.

Yet also within this game, Sub-Brick is able to converse readily with the people of Eora quite happily.  He can solve problems, complete quests, hunt bad guys, make alliances, etc etc, just as easily as a character with 10 Intellect can.  None of his dialogue is affected, and his ability to reason, problem-solve, and so on is completely unaffected.

So, the mechanical system (you can reduce an attribute score to 3 and use those points to raise other attributes) runs in direct opposition to the established role-playing systems (attribute scores are supposed to be a core part of your character).

The Solution

A score of 7, no matter the attribute, is enough to act as a penalty, without reducing characters to the comical ineptitude of Sub-Brick.  On the D20PFSRD, 7 Dexterity, for example, is described as: "Significant klutz or very slow to react."  7 Intelligence is described as: "Seems to have almost no common sense."  These aren't too extreme for such characters to conceivably be able to perform heroic acts, and basically save the world, as is usually the plot in such games, while still providing players with the freedom to reduce certain attributes for whatever reason they see fit.

If players are restricted to a minimum of 7, before modifiers, it would help resolve a lot of the mechanics vs role-playing contradictions that I see in games such as Pillars of Eternity.

Freedom vs Role-Playing?

Of course, with such a restriction, comes a loss of freedom.  Some players will argue that they should be able to manipulate their attribute scores as they see fit, and damn the role-playing.

However, I would point out that limitations already exist in the game.  For example, I cannot play Pillars of Eternity as a fish: I cannot choose the race 'fish' for my character.  Why should I be restricted from playing as a fish, if I so desire?  Does it impact on other, anti-fish advocates, if I have the option of playing as a fish?

Of course, the proposition seems utterly absurd.  Yet, are we really going to say that playing as a fish is absurd, while also proclaiming that saving the world as Sub-Brick is not?  If you think critically on the question, it is just as absurd for Sub-Brick to defeat Thaos Ix Arkannon, as it is for Plopper The Finned One, Fish Barbarian, to achieve the task.

To use a less extreme example: the game already defines the limits of attribute scores as between 3-18.  So limitations clearly exist.  Why 3?  Why 18?  If we don't choose limits based on what seems logical and reasonable for the character we are playing, then why have limits at all?  Why not allow any number, as low as 1 and as high as 35?  If you agree that the limits exist to make characters reasonable representations of potential game characters, then it seems highly reasonable to me that the lower limit should be 7.

The Question

  • Should role-playing games like Pillars of Eternity restrict attribute scores during character creation to more sensible numbers?
  • If so, is a lower limit of 7 the most reasonable choice?
  • If not, why not?

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

PS: you win one internet if you're cool enough to recognise the Fallout: New Vegas reference

Edited by Yosharian

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, Yosharian said:

The Question

  • Should role-playing games like Pillars of Eternity restrict attribute scores during character creation to more sensible numbers?
  • If so, is a lower limit of 7 the most reasonable choice?
  • If not, why not?

If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

 

  • No
  • There is the limit of 3
  • PoE does use a sensible number. 3 is a sensible number. It all boils down to "what does a score of X mean?" - and that's described during character creation. In this case "3" can translate to a "7" in Pathfinder. The number system itself doesn't matter. You could have used a system that uses numbers from -10 to 10 to describe a stat as INT "as dumb as it gets" up to "genius". If Pathfinder chooses that 7 is the dumbest a character can be then fine. Lower than 7 then maybe means you wouldn't survive on your own if that was your permenent INT. PoE chose that 3 is that number. The removal of fixed boundaries doesn't prevent anybody from roleplaying. That argument is moot. What if you want to roleplay a crippled character - but you can't because DEX is fixed at 7 (meaning really clumsy but not crippled)? You can't then. Restrictions only restrict your roleplaying. THey don't make it better all of a sudden.
    Usually there are sound mechanical reasons why stats are restricted (see 35 as max  in Deadfire now). But roleplaying reasons? Nay... 
Edited by Boeroer
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Posted (edited)
51 minutes ago, Boeroer said:
  • No
  • There is the limit of 3
  • PoE does use a sensible number. 3 is a sensible number. It all boils down to "what does a score of X mean?" - and that's described during character creation. In this case "3" can translate to a "7" in Pathfinder. The number system itself doesn't matter. You could have used a system that uses numbers from -10 to 10 to describe a stat as INT "as dumb as it gets" up to "genius". If Pathfinder chooses that 7 is the dumbest a character can be then fine. Lower than 7 then maybe means you wouldn't survive on your own if that was your permenent INT. PoE chose that 3 is that number. The removal of fixed boundaries doesn't prevent anybody from roleplaying. That argument is moot. What if you want to roleplay a crippled character - but you can't because DEX is fixed at 7 (meaning really clumsy but not crippled)? You can't then. Restrictions only restrict your roleplaying. THey don't make it better all of a sudden.
    Usually there are sound mechanical reasons why stats are restricted (see 35 as max  in Deadfire now). But roleplaying reasons? Nay... 

A character that is crippled is literally incapable of doing the things your character does in Pillars & Deadfire.

In this case your argument can be reduced to 'the numbers can mean anything you want', which doesn't seem to be a very good role-playing system to me.

I'm not arguing for the 'removal of fixed boundaries'.

Edited by Yosharian

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Posted (edited)

The main problem is that really low values very rarely have the penalties they should have in CRPGs, except for maybe strength in the sense that your carrying capacity will be minimal. This makes min-maxing possible. I find min-maxing ethically dubious, so I never do it. I find values under 8 to be extremely undesirable, except for well-justified role-playing reasons.

An example about the lack of penalties: if you make your character as stupid as possible, you will still have all the discussions with NPCs that you normally have, even if you shouldn't be able to. Correct me if I'm wrong, though.

Edited by xzar_monty

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Posted (edited)

"A character that is crippled is literally incapable of doing the things your character does in Pillars & Deadfire.

In this case your argument can be reduced to 'the numbers can mean anything you want', which doesn't seem to be a very good role-playing system to me.

I'm not arguing for the 'removal of fixed boundaries'."

 

@Yosharian: It was an example how a lower boundary restricts you from roleplaying and does not foster it. You mustn't split hairs.

And the numbers can mean anything you want, but that was not was I was saying. I wrote that the numbers mean what the designer wants them to mean. So if a 3 in PoE means "he's dumb but can manage" and the same goes for  a 7 in Pathfinder then what's the problem with the 3 unless it hurts your aestehtic feeling for numbers?

I didn't suggest in any way that you are arguing for the removal of fixed boundaries. I am though.

Edited by Boeroer
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2 minutes ago, xzar_monty said:

I find min-maxing ethically dubious

Sorry... really sorry... but this is the most presumptuous thing you ever wrote in this forum.

How on earth can min-maxing in a CRPG be ethically dubious? If you don't like it for yourself - fine. If you don't feel good when doing it: don't do it. But don't judge powergamers who want to build a very effective character - because they get fun out of it.

This is not an totalitarian system where some higher moral instance decides how the subjects should behave. It's a game that is supposed to be fun for most people. Compromises have to be made of course to make it fun for most players - so stuff like balancing and smoothing the edges is ok - but arguing that min-maxing itself - and that means trying to be very effective in the boundaries of the rules is somwhow ethically dubious... it reads like utter hubris.   

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15 minutes ago, xzar_monty said:

The main problem is that really low values very rarely have the penalties they should have in CRPGs, except for maybe strength in the sense that your carrying capacity will be minimal. This makes min-maxing possible. I find min-maxing ethically dubious, so I never do it. I find values under 8 to be extremely undesirable, except for well-justified role-playing reasons.

An example about the lack of penalties: if you make your character as stupid as possible, you will still have all the discussions with NPCs that you normally have, even if you shouldn't be able to. Correct me if I'm wrong, though.

> This makes min-maxing possible.

This assumes that you can't min-max if such very low values are unavailable.  If the minimum for a given attribute is 7, I can still min-max, just within a smaller (more sensible) range.

I agree that in strict role-playing, a value of 7 is really quite challenging to role-play.  That's why I think 7 is a great number to restrict players to.  It still presents challenging role-play opportunities for those that seek it, and it allows min-maxers to do their thing.  But it isn't absurd, actually-impossible-to-role-play like a value of 3 is.

> An example about the lack of penalties: if you make your character as stupid as possible, you will still have all the discussions with NPCs that you normally have, even if you shouldn't be able to.

Well, that's exactly the same example I gave, but yes, exactly.

> I find min-maxing ethically dubious,

Are you sure you meant ethically dubious?

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Posted (edited)
33 minutes ago, Boeroer said:

"A character that is crippled is literally incapable of doing the things your character does in Pillars & Deadfire.

In this case your argument can be reduced to 'the numbers can mean anything you want', which doesn't seem to be a very good role-playing system to me.

I'm not arguing for the 'removal of fixed boundaries'."

 

@Yosharian: It was an example how a lower boundary restricts you from roleplaying and does not foster it. You mustn't split hairs.

And the numbers can mean anything you want, but that was not was I was saying. I wrote that the numbers mean what the designer wants them to mean. So if a 3 in PoE means "he's dumb but can manage" and the same goes for  a 7 in Pathfinder then what's the problem with the 3 unless it hurts your aestehtic feeling for numbers?

I didn't suggest in any way that you are arguing for the removal of fixed boundaries. I am though.

Oh, well if your argument is that 3 in Pillars is equivalent to 7 in Pathfinder then yes, I concede that that's entirely reasonable.  That's one of the things I mentioned in the post.  Or, I thought I did.  But yes, that's reasonable, if that's what 3 means.  I'm just not certain that that's what it means.

I'm going through Josh's GDC talk now.  I'm sure he mentioned something specific about this.

Edit: ok so actually at the moment he references a Perception of 3, he only says 'that's the lowest it can be', he doesn't go into detail about what that 3 actually means.

I updated my post to include your point.  I concede that yes, it does indeed offend my aesthetic feeling for numbers.

Edited by Yosharian

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Yosharian said:
  • Should role-playing games like Pillars of Eternity restrict attribute scores during character creation to more sensible numbers?
  • If so, is a lower limit of 7 the most reasonable choice?
  • If not, why not?

1. What is "sensible" is somewhat debatable here and could be subjective) So I will answer with: no, in my opinion, the bottom threshold for stats in PoE series should not be more limited than it is.

2. As already stated above I'd rather see it remain at 3.

3. Because for me attribute values in PoE have very little connection with "role-playing stats". And speaking of PoE:

  • Hmm, I don't find a 2 MIG / 8 CON wild orlan who can main-tank a dragon as weak or frail.
  • I also don't really consider a 3 INT cipher/rogue focused on beam powers as stupid.
  • And don't think that a 3 RES character that jumps into a pit, or follows Eothas, as lacking determination.

Also there are uncertain cases like: someone with 3 CON and maxed Athletics, or 3 INT and maxed Arcana and Metaphysics. Or the so often mention scenarios when you want to create "a wizard with powerful physical attacks, but weaker damaging spells" or "a wizard with weak physical might, but powerful damaging spells".

Generally speaking, I do perceive attributes in this game mostly as mechanical numbers, and decide by myself what my character is and how he/she behaves and feels.

Although I could be just bad at RP) Since most of my characters are somewhat similar internally.

 

Btw, Josh is aware that PoE attributes are not realistic. And he mentions that it was not a priority: here.

P.S. Btw, I don't really like when there are hard limits. Usually it means that mechanics get broken somewhere at the edges of allowed range. And I don't like broken mechanics. Duh.

A good system is a somewhat self-balancing one, where players are discouraged from dropping or maxing the stat values not by artificial limits, but rather by some natural causes.

And by natural causes I mean:

  • stuff that is emerging from encounter design. For example there is little incentive to dump CON completely - because it increases the odds to get oneshot. There is little incentive to max CON - because the surplus of health might remain unused. Unless there is a specific build that can capitalize on one or the other.
  • "intrinsic diminishing returns" and "isoperimetric optimization". E.g: the more you put points into DEX, the less relative returns you get per each point. Additionally the less point there are remaining to put in other stats. Depending on the build there are often more than 1 stat line you would like to increase. Let's say for a dps'er you are interested in MIG and DEX. And again, depending on the build and situation, going for 15 MIG + 15 DEX might provide a higher effective dps increase than going for 20 MIG + 10 DEX. It's like area of a square 5x5 will be bigger than of some rectangle of the same perimeter (4x6, 3x7, etc); although in practice each axis might have it's own weight/priority so sometimes you need to find the right "rectangle" that fits you.
Edited by MaxQuest
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If you aim for the best, you can calculate it even if the attribute scores are bounded. You're going to arrange and weight the points the same way, doesn't matter the boundaries, because they are generally normalized/balanced for/to the whole game.

Looser ranges of scores support more the role-play than the action play.
Have the opportunity to play the same stat in a very differently way, with a very different feeling; there's more color, and color is fun.
You're also going to create and play characters that rationally can't be conceived, but fantasy can, and it's freedom.

In pillars you can finish the game in either way, with companions and sidekicks or custom ones because it's balanced to play as you please.
There is an interview for pillars 1 likewise the gdc one where they talk about this and attributes in general.

 


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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Yosharian said:

Well, that's exactly the same example I gave, but yes, exactly.

> I find min-maxing ethically dubious,

Are you sure you meant ethically dubious?

 

Apologies for repeating your example! I had no intention to. Your post was rather long, and before writing my reply, I had clearly already forgotten this detail. Foolish from me, no question.

 

And yes, you're quite right: min-maxing will likely always remain a possibility, but min-maxing within more reasonable limits doesn't look as bad as min-maxing within, for instance, the classic 3-18 range found in DD. Realistically, it would be difficult to effectively role-play a character who has a 3 in any of the classic stats, except charisma. No question it would be a challenge, but I don't think it would be an interesting challenge most of the time. But in CRPGs, most of the time, a 3 -- or the equivalent -- presents very little challenge, for obvious reasons.

 

And yes, I did mean ethically, although the word is possibly a tad strong in this context. As for Boeroer claiming it was presumptuous: I only described what I feel about it and what I do myself, there is no judgement on anyone else, so no need to get upset. I also find blatant spoilers, asking for the in-game locations of best items, save-scumming etc. to be against the spirit of the game to an ethically questionable extent, but obviously that's a valid way of playing to anyone so inclined. No superiority implied here, just a preference. I prefer to have the possibility of spectacular failure, not knowing what to do and/or getting lost or stuck -- although I would agree that the developers of Pathfinder:Kingmaker erred on the other side of this, i.e. they made spectacular failure a bit too likely in some of their design choices. Like, no sensible DM would present their players with a random encounter where everyone is immediately within the range of an insta-kill effect -- that's just not fun. (My background is table-top RPG, CRPGs are a distant second.)

Edited by xzar_monty

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A character with a strength/might of 3 probably has issues wearing normal clothing. Let alone armor or any type of weapon. But sure hand them a greatsword and since he is very perceptive he can still hit enemies with it. RPG logic.

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More specifically, CRPG logic. In a proper RPG, the DM would be able to deal with that kind of thing, but no CRPG has AI sophisticated enough to deal with all the ramifications of extreme min-maxing. (This, incidentally, is one reason I regard it as ethically dubious, as it's essentially taking advantage of inadequate AI.)

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I have to agree with Boeroer on this one.

Just because psychologically a score of 7 appears to be more reasonable than a score of 3, that doesn't mean it has to be so. It's an arbitrary system rooted in the mind of the designer and in that of the player, after all; real-life people don't measure their strength or perception with a set score from 3 to 18 assigned at birth :) A score of 3 in Pillars of Eternity can, for all intents and purposes, be the same as a score of 7 in Pathfinder: Kingmaker if the system is designed around that notion.

It all boils down to the design goals and the designer's interpretation of the numbers. Pillars of Eternity was, as stated in this very thread when referencing Josh's words, never meant to be a purely simulationist system—and that's OK. A system doesn't have to be simulationist (or anything else) to be good; the true measure of a system's goodness is the extent to which it is fun to play.

 


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25 minutes ago, AndreaColombo said:

It all boils down to the design goals and the designer's interpretation of the numbers. Pillars of Eternity was, as stated in this very thread when referencing Josh's words, never meant to be a purely simulationist system—and that's OK. A system doesn't have to be simulationist (or anything else) to be good; the true measure of a system's goodness is the extent to which it is fun to play.

 

 

Yep, very much so. And here's something that I have noticed both in PoE and Deadfire: stats matter so little that it feels almost meaningless. I'm not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, only that this is how it feels to me. In Pathfinder: Kingmaker, for instance (or Baldur's Gate II), I can quickly, easily and definitely notice the benefits of a really good strength score in comparison to a mediocre one. In PoE and Deadfire, these differences disappear almost completely. I don't feel that it matters at all whether a character has 12 or 18 Might, for instance; the resultant differences are so small. This effect is further compounded by the fact that everybody can wear all armor and use all weapons without any apparent difficulties. Again, this isn't a good thing or a bad thing.

Now, I'm not sure if stats start to really matter if you play on the hardest difficulties with several god challenges switched on. Possibly. But at least on Veteran, it's all the same.

 

And to reiterate: Deadfire is a great game. Given the choice, I would tweak the system here and there, though.

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4 minutes ago, xzar_monty said:

Here's something that I have noticed both in PoE and Deadfire: stats matter so little that it feels almost meaningless. I'm not saying this is a good thing or a bad thing, only that this is how it feels to me. In Pathfinder: Kingmaker, for instance (or Baldur's Gate II), I can quickly, easily and definitely notice the benefits of a really good strength score in comparison to a mediocre one. In PoE and Deadfire, these differences disappear almost completely.

This is a side effect of Josh's "no trap builds" philosophy. If you want to make most—if not all—builds viable, the game must be designed around the capabilities of the most mediocre builds to ensure they can win. This inevitably leads to smoother spikes in each direction when it comes to mechanics; if a high MIG was significantly better than a low MIG, then low-MIG builds would have a much greater potential of qualifying as "trap builds."

I like both the Infinity Engine games and Pillars of Eternity games, but just like the play very differently, I also enjoy them in different ways.


"Time is not your enemy. Forever is."

— Fall-From-Grace, Planescape: Torment

"It's the questions we can't answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question, and he'll look for his own answers."

— Kvothe, The Wise Man's Fears

My Deadfire mods: Brilliant Mod | Faster Deadfire | Deadfire Unnerfed | Helwalker Rekke

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, AndreaColombo said:

This is a side effect of Josh's "no trap builds" philosophy. If you want to make most—if not all—builds viable, the game must be designed around the capabilities of the most mediocre builds to ensure they can win. This inevitably leads to smoother spikes in each direction when it comes to mechanics; if a high MIG was significantly better than a low MIG, then low-MIG builds would have a much greater potential of qualifying as "trap builds."

I like both the Infinity Engine games and Pillars of Eternity games, but just like the play very differently, I also enjoy them in different ways.

I actually like the POE stats and Josh's philosophy better than the older infinity engine games for all these reasons. It made for better roleplaying experience to me and allowed you to experiment with class builds the way you liked for the most part as opposed to the old D&D stats .

Edited by draego
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It would be fun to have more reactivity for lower level stats.  I could go for what MaxQuest hinted at with attributes vs skills, might be interesting to see higher / lower attributes add incremental bonuses / penalties for skills.

As for 7, 3 vs 18 makes sense to me (but 2 vs 18 would make more sense I guess) ... I could see for min-maxing 3 is a much better number than 7.

Pillars is nice because it does rewards high levels of skills and attributes, which if you play on expert mode remain a mystery until you reach those higher levels.  Perfect example is the SSS DLC, you really only get more options for completing the quest if you have specific high attibutes/skills.  So it would be fun to see the same amount of reactivity for people who dump stats too, like low intelligence removing how you can reply to characters even more so than it already does,  Maybe if you hit 3 there is a grunt option, attack, or remain silent ...you know if I never open my mouth no one will ever know how stupid I am kind of thing.  Low dexterity making a high mechanics skill almost impossible, etc. good points.


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Posted (edited)

In regards to the Pathfinder system, I think even a 7 is too low, at least unless you incorporate a system similar to Arcanum. A 7 int character is similar to a troll or hell hound and is "dull-witted or slow, often misuses and mispronounces words." Basically the equivalent of an int 4 or lower character in Arcanum. It isn't until 8+ that characters can effectively communicate. The same can be said of the other abilities - 8+ is required such that the character isn't severely hampered.

In terms of PoE II, I do not think a 3 is equivalent to a 7 in Pathfinder as abilities affect +/- to stats in the same way. That is to say, the stat variations are linear in PoE II.  The increase in one's intelligence going from 10 int to 11 int is the same as the decrease in one's intelligence going from 10 int to 9 int. Thus, a 3 int would be the opposite to a 17 int - so if a 17 int character is a near genius, a 3 int character would have nearly no intelligence at all (an animal, or slightly better). However, this breaks down if we don't assume a 18 int is a genius; if 17 int is above average intelligence, then 3 int would be below average. Of course, then you would probably need negative int for creatures, animals, etc...

As a side note, I really don't like how ability increases based upon race, location, etc really have no meaning in PoE II since everything can be balanced out. It makes the ability variations between the races feel superficial.

Edited by mychal26

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I just watched that whole darn hour long presentation of Josh's ... the easiest way to think of ability scores in POE after listening to him talk, is not to think of them as how strong or smart you are, but more like aptitude - so a high might high means your aptitude to do more damage vs less damage - and has nothing to do with strength at all.  Intellect ability score is less on how intelligent you are, but more your aptitude in using your abilities - in this case very specific duration and area of effect.

Makes total sense to me - except this line of thought it breaks down a little with constitution and dexterity which remain closer to D&D than the other ones. 


“How do you 'accidentally' kill a nobleman in his own mansion?"

"With a knife in the chest. Or, rather, a pair of knives in the chest...”

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The differences are not that meaningful, though. I mean, obviously a 7 Might will produce less damage than 19 Might, but it doesn't mean a whole lot because you will deal plenty either way. It may mean a lot, if you're playing on PotD with all the god challenges on (I don't know), but generally it just doesn't.

 

The only stat I have noticed to really have a specific effect on how you get along in the game is Perception when it comes to finding traps.

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Posted (edited)

Role playing games like Pillars of Eternity can restrict the attribute scores to more sensible numbers only if they have sensible attribute system from role playing point of view.

They can either do it or not. If the game developers are willing to put in additional work (programming and writing), they can even allow 0-100 attribute scores, where 0 dexterity means the character cannot even move, 0 intellect means the character is not smart enough to breathe and, for example, 1 or 2 constitution means the character dies from illness in the prologue or needs to be on life support for the entire game.

Obviously, this is not very practical for the developers. For example, if the character has 4-5 intellect, writers will be forced to write additional dialogue where the char mainly grunts and NPC's react appropriately to his/her inability to communicate. This additional dialogue will need to be written for each and every conversation in the game.

Therefore the smart thing is to limit the attribute scores and declare that the game will only support these attribute ranges.

For POE it is different. In PoE attribute ranges should not have such sensible limitations. PoE system is mainly created to ensure that every build will be more or less equally viable and that the builds will be balanced in the battles. These are not real world considerations and they do not lead to a realistic RPG system. PoE's attribute system is a battle system, not RPG system.

Intelligent barbarians, mighty wizards, fighters with 3 constitution, extremely agile priests are the result of such a system. Might governs healing, Resolve governs deflection, Perception governs accuracy. You cannot have anything approaching RPG realism with such a system. Not that the system is bad, but it had different goals.

So, if PoE developers try to limit the attribute ranges to some sensible values, this will be a huge problem, because the system is not sensible from role playing point of view. Players will be extremely angry, because many have stopped to select the attribute scores for RPG purposes and are mainly selecting them based on the battle mechanics.

Edited by wih

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Dropping stats below 10 - let's say from 10 to 5 - has actually more impact in Deadfire than dropping them from 15 to 10 (in some/most cases). It's both 5 points, but as soon as you drop below 10 and create actual maluses they will go through double inversion which means the actual malus is a lot higher. MIG is a good example. DEX, too. 

 

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12 hours ago, Boeroer said:

Dropping stats below 10 - let's say from 10 to 5 - has actually more impact in Deadfire than dropping them from 15 to 10 (in some/most cases). It's both 5 points, but as soon as you drop below 10 and create actual maluses they will go through double inversion which means the actual malus is a lot higher. MIG is a good example. DEX, too. 

 

Interesting.  Can you be specific on which attributes are affected and which aren't?

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12 hours ago, wih said:

Role playing games like Pillars of Eternity can restrict the attribute scores to more sensible numbers only if they have sensible attribute system from role playing point of view.

They can either do it or not. If the game developers are willing to put in additional work (programming and writing), they can even allow 0-100 attribute scores, where 0 dexterity means the character cannot even move, 0 intellect means the character is not smart enough to breathe and, for example, 1 or 2 constitution means the character dies from illness in the prologue or needs to be on life support for the entire game.

Obviously, this is not very practical for the developers. For example, if the character has 4-5 intellect, writers will be forced to write additional dialogue where the char mainly grunts and NPC's react appropriately to his/her inability to communicate. This additional dialogue will need to be written for each and every conversation in the game.

Therefore the smart thing is to limit the attribute scores and declare that the game will only support these attribute ranges.

For POE it is different. In PoE attribute ranges should not have such sensible limitations. PoE system is mainly created to ensure that every build will be more or less equally viable and that the builds will be balanced in the battles. These are not real world considerations and they do not lead to a realistic RPG system. PoE's attribute system is a battle system, not RPG system.

Intelligent barbarians, mighty wizards, fighters with 3 constitution, extremely agile priests are the result of such a system. Might governs healing, Resolve governs deflection, Perception governs accuracy. You cannot have anything approaching RPG realism with such a system. Not that the system is bad, but it had different goals.

So, if PoE developers try to limit the attribute ranges to some sensible values, this will be a huge problem, because the system is not sensible from role playing point of view. Players will be extremely angry, because many have stopped to select the attribute scores for RPG purposes and are mainly selecting them based on the battle mechanics.

So essentially, PoE is not a CRPG?

I don't know about that.

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