Statistics broadly fall into two categories: basic and derived. Basic statistics tend to be ones that you the player can directly change during character creation or leveling, whereas derived statistics are things like Hit Points, Fatigue, Mana/Magicka, saving throws, and combat statistics like attack/to hit and armor class/defense scores. I'll admit, I'm not an expert on the latter in the DnD system (though I generally find the trifecta of Hit Points, Fatigue, and Mana to be sufficient), and this post is primarily concerned with the former.
Among the most commonly used statistics in video games are those concerning fundamental attributes/ability scores; Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma in the familiar DnD system. This scheme is tried and true, but there is no reason I see why it cannot be deviated from. It's not as simple as coming up with words that sound nice, though; if one attribute is less utilized than the rest, it will inevitably become a worthless dump stat. The current system works because each ability score is equally integral, and I like to think they can be further broken down to reveal their true essence. Evidently one could probably decompose "attributes" endlessly in this manner ("what is running speed but the combination of leg muscle and reflexes?", etc.), but at some point we must draw a line and ultimately ask whether the groupings are logical. Here is a likely incomplete list of what these actually measure in my opinion, or rather things that an ideal system could possibly measure:
Physical: Raw physique (which influences melee damage, ability to perform physically demanding tasks, and maximum encumbrance), endurance (the attrition rate of fatigue), balance, speed (in the form of acceleration and agility), "dexterity" (as I describe manual skill and/or hand-eye coordination), reflexes (reaction speed, dodging), "constitution" (innate resistance versus poison and disease), sensory acuity, and physical attractiveness.
Mental: Willpower (volition), concentration (focusing of attention, and I suppose discipline is also related), creativity (use of the imagination), memory (though this is typically not included in video games), reasoning (including all high-level cognitive function), wisdom (for the sage archetype just as reasoning is for the tinkerer), awareness (by which I mean perceptual awareness of surroundings), intuition (which I suppose is social awareness), charisma (persuasive ability), and I suppose something that represents degree of attunement to magic or whatever.
Obviously I have just included magic as a mere afterthought, so the system isn't perfect, but I think that touches on quite a few things the DnD system leaves out, or perhaps includes in the form of traits instead of statistics. Is there some way we can better group these characteristics, that will give us more precise control over our character, or open up new possibilities? Do we really need separate derived statistics like saving throws, or can ability scores be rearranged to render them obsolete? Historically, some aspects such as memory and creativity have gone completely ignored, in theory left up to the player I suppose; is that how it should be?
Is character movement too neglected, and we should actually add agility separate from manual dexterity (which would still be useful for ranged attack and trade skills). Or perhaps add an Awareness attribute (I can hear the hardcore DnD crowd wincing)? Are balance and concentration best left as passive skills, and sensory acuity best left as trait modifiers?
The other predominant form of statistic is the "skill", which can denote combat skills, trade skills, survival skills, social skills, among others. This is one part of the DnD system that I find particularly deficient, with little distinction made between the very different types of skills. Typically, at any rate, these skills contain some kind of ability check (reflecting the above attributes) and are leveled up through experience. So far I believe we know that Project Eternity will contain trade skills unlike some of the other cRPGs we know, but we don't know much else.
I'm not going to go into detail regarding which skills I'd like to see as that deserves its own thread and this one is long enough, but there is one thing I wish to harp on with regard to skills. Skills in real life are the result of knowledge and experience. Disappointingly, however, I have yet to see a game really get this right. Many games just forgo knowledge altogether, and ultimately become a game of how quickly you can collect X experience orbs to level your character, or at least their skills. While I can see this for overall leveling, for individual skills it just makes little sense to me; I think leveling all manners of skills should have a knowledge component and experience component. To this end, there should be teachers/trainers throughout the world along with a wealth of books or another medium by which knowledge is transferred, which is just as important to character advancement as grinding. That's something I'd really like to see with Project Eternity.
Also with regard to skills, in particular practical skills, I'd like to see some kind of profession/occupation field on the character sheet if the trade skill system is as good as I'm envisioning (which for one thing would be better than vanilla Skyrim's). Most tradeskills should involve multiple steps of transforming raw materials into finished goods, but each of these steps doesn't necessarily need its own skill for leveling. In fact, some steps of the process could have no skill check (yet still give experience), but complexity is immersive. Just as a brief overview, I could see various DnD-esque skills but a wider variety. Individual combat maneuvers (parry, disarm, shield bash), mercantile skills (appraise, haggle, bribe), stealth skills (pickpocket, sneak), various persuasive tactics (bluff, intimidate, charm, deceive, etc.), leadership skills (rally and other things to make up for lack of bards), survival skills, along with trade skills. Perhaps movement skills like swimming, climbing, and jumping, or perhaps those would be best left as derived statistics.
Whereas a statistic is quantitative, a trait is qualitative (though it often has a numerical impact on a relevant statistic). However, traits can range from racial bonuses and penalties to feats, and also conceivably include physical and personality traits. Notably, keenness of the senses has usually been relegated to trait status, which I suppose makes some sense since they can't be readily improved. On a side note, why limit it to race? Perhaps we should choose our characters age, height, and weight during character creation, and those should confer certain physical and mental bonuses and penalties. More importantly, I'd personally like to see the use of traits widened substantially in Project Eternity. I know this would be quite difficult to implement and nigh impossible to perfect, but perhaps have us select from a list of traits in character creation that merely influence what kinds of dialogue options are open to our character? Things like attractiveness (if that doesn't become an attribute), sense of humor, body language, etc.
Even with all the traits and statistics in the world, there are some aspects of characters that can't be captured in numbers or single words (here I maybe reveal that I sort of come from a roleplaying angle), and it would be cool if there were various ways to define one's character and some aspects of their past outside of "We choose your character's story, and you put a name and a face on them". Perhaps things like socioeconomic status, level of education, religious beliefs, etc. or am I asking too much?
What character creation/progression system would you like to see in Project Eternity? Does the classic DnD system cut it for you? Should attributes be rearranged? Should skills be grouped in any way, or should they all draw on the same allocation pool? Should skills in Project Eternity reflect both knowledge and experience, or should they stick to experience? Do you wish for more freedom in defining your character's various non-quantifiable traits? Did you actually read this whole post, or did I waste my time writing it?
Edited by mcmanusaur, 01 November 2012 - 08:17 PM.