Stats (and Skills) in the Navigator RPG

A close reading of Peter R’s Navigator update causes me to believe that, so far, the most salient part of White Star that he is using are the adventuring professions. The rest appears in common with the d100 system that we all love. This strikes me as an opportunity to revisit this latter system, and I shall begin where character creation commences: stats.

Stats define the character, and, broadly speaking, there are three intentions to be considered as one employs player characteristics in game design. PC attributes are the result of a simulation of chance (aka deterministic nature), a player’s predetermined character concept, or a combination of these. This last is the approach Peter has adopted for Navigator: players roll their stats (the deterministic “mini game”) but they get to assign them (the “build”) and, most importantly, if they don’t get numbers high enough, two can be replaced with 90s.

I think the Navigator design process is an opportunity for Peter to revisit Spacemaster’s ten stats. As I have written before, I like the symmetry of ten stats within a percentile system. But that symmetry is sort of broken when Peter assigns three of the ten as bonuses to individual Skills. And, as I have said (again in the article linked above), I like the symmetry of three, which breaks down into the three traditionally-regarded aspects of the person: mind, body, and soul.

I should add here, looking ahead in the design process, that rough Skill “groups” might conveniently break down into three (as is sort of demonstrated in Against the Darkmaster). For Spacemaster these Skill categories could be Combat, Utility and Learning. Should there be ten Skills in each category? Maybe. I might prefer five, but such a paltry value might reflect a “lite” version of our favorite d100 game.

While I’m on the topic of symmetry, it appears that original Spacemaster is likewise considerate of this aspect of elegance. Five of its stats it identifies as “Development Stats;” the remaining five are “Primary Stats.” These designations represent the “mini game” of early Spacemaster character creation: high numbers in Development Stats garner more Development Points for Skills. But high Primary Stats (maybe) directly benefit more “useful” Skills. The parenthetical “maybe” reveals my uncertainty that the distinctions here result in “meaningful” choices (I’m not going to plunge that deeply into this old design) at character creation, and I’m not sure that Constitution (identified as a Development Stat) believably should result in DPs.

This topic of “meaningful choices” should be kept in mind as Peter assigns Stats to Skills. All of the stats should be used more or less commensurately. I’m not saying that they need to be “balanced,” but all should find some use within the game. Another way of putting this directive is that attributes such as Charisma should not immediately be regarded as a “dump stat.” These White Box games have done well to dignify this stat (and Wisdom) by awarding an xp bonus for a high value. If it becomes a last resort, Navigator might consider something similar. Finally, a good first principle would be to try to find a stat from each of the three aspects of the person to modify each Skill.

So now I’m again privileging three aspects of the person. Can I convince Peter to go with nine stats instead of ten? Here they are in categories, to see what might be thrown out.

MIND: Self-Discipline, Memory, Reasoning 

BODY: Constitution, Agility, Strength, Quickness 

SOUL: Presence, Intuition, Empathy 

Looks like I’d wrap Agility and Quickness together, reducing body to three stats.

7 Replies to “Stats (and Skills) in the Navigator RPG”

  1. I think that some of the stats could be better named. ‘Empathy’ for example doesn’t really capture the idea of an Essence spellcasting stat very well. That is to say, if you gave someone who had never played SM or RM the list of 10 stats and asked them which one governed Arcane spellcasting (the word for Essence in DnD, as opposed to Divine spellcasting), I doubt most people would guess correctly. The stat that governs this in DnD is Intelligence.

    I wouldn’t fold Agility into Quickness though. This was one of the things that I really liked about Rolemaster: it allowed for you to have a creature that was very agile but slow, such as a blob or slug. A blob or slug isn’t hard to hit, so it shouldn’t get at DB bonus; but it is able to contort itself into difficult spaces or slide out of handcuffs. I like that functionality.

    1. Renaming is a good idea. Here are the stats for my Viking d100 system I drafted earlier this year. Maybe some of these would work. Interestingly, in my game I attached Empathy to Soul (or the Channeling realm).

      MIND: Wits/Wi (overall canniness), Attention/At (directed perception), Resolve/Re (willpower)
      BODY: Thews/Th (strength), Sinew/Si (agility), Blood/Bl (health/constitution)
      SOUL: Magnetism/Ma (charisma), Empathy/Em (reading/understanding others), Awareness/Aw (connection to the divine/passive perception)

      I like Quickness, too. To me, it kind of pulls together all three parts of the person. Reaction is predicated on Mind (nerves from the brain to the muscles), Body (the muscle capability and responsiveness), and Soul (instinct, awareness). Okay, I’m convinced. Keep all ten stats. Quickness is the tissue that binds the person together. 😁

  2. One of the things I liked about the development of skills in Rolemaster was that it began to use multiple stats as skill bonuses. If in the system each skill really did involve all three parts described by Gabe it would really balance out the game and channel players into playing different types of characters with advantageous skill groups for a set of stats.

    I still like keeping quickness reaction speed but I’m still not convinced that a fast reaction speed can function without some physical agility component. I also still struggle with gross motor skill agility (Agility Balance Co-ordination) and fine motor skills (Dexterity Precision Control). And I say this here in a SpaceMaster setting where the two are far more important making the distinction between leaping across a zero-G room and firing hand weapons vs mending circuits and flying a spacecraft.

  3. Hurin, the essence vs empathy thing really doesn’t work in Space – unless you are trying to recreate W40K. However, if we are talking about spell casting perhaps for Essence it is the intelligent mind that is more important. The user creates the spell from the elemental forces through force of mind and perhaps will? I think we might have to go back then to that thought experiment on how else could you define powerpoints and spell casting. Dropping it from being a stat thing to a level thing.

  4. In this project I am trying to walk a tightrope keeping my balance as I wobble between constraints.

    If you look at a piece of knitting up close it is a collection of holes held together with string.

    Navigator RPG is going to be a knitted game system.

    Regarding stats I have changed the default number of stats away from the Spacemaster’s RAW 11 stats.

    It is a misconception that Spacemaster had 10 stats.

    I have kept the ten functional stat names. I have changed the way that DPs, PPs and Stat bonuses are derived but the names remain.

    The design choices that drove that was all about backward compatibility with current Shadow World NPCs, compatibility with old Spacemaster books including the Guild Adventurer books. It also means that skills from old books can be parachuted in and they will work seamlessly.

    There are two ‘original sources’, the first is the spirit of Spacemaster and the second is the written word of White Star.
    WS has just enough professions and races to crew the millennium falcon.

    I am happy to leave it at that because it remains faithful to WS but it also leaves so big holes that other people can fill in. If you have the tools to create Vulcans, Romulans and Klingons and the tools to create professions for medics (Bones), Scientific Officers (Spock) and Starship Commanders (Kirk) ylthen you can take my rules and run with them.

    A Firefly supplement could look completely different but would only need one new species for the Reavers.

    This is why I see it as holes held together with string. The holes will be its strength.

    Needless to say I have made no progress on this.

    On the plus side I am feeling much stronger and I have been told that I am not going to die. That was a good day.

    1. Thanks for the update, Peter!

      You might like to know that I intend to continue to raise challenges and considerations during your design process. Those articles should go live on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week. Get well soon, so you can start contributing regularly again and put an end to my nonsense! 😁

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