RPGs Should Ditch the Stats

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An obsession with statistics has prevented RPGs from evolving past their decades-old origins.

RPGs have enjoyed a number of vast improvements over the years – beautiful graphics, the ability to play with people all over the world – but their stubborn fixation on a character’s abilities being tied to numbers prevents them from evolving as a game genre. So argues Jeff Tidball in this week’s issue of The Escapist, anyway.

According to Tidball, even the most high-profile RPGs of today are, at their cores, nearly indistinguishable from their ancestors:

Consider this: Back in the day, Dungeons & Dragons gave us six primary characteristics – Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma. Each was represented by a number on a scale, but the most important statistic for determining a character’s overall effectiveness was its level. Fallout 3, the game of the year in 2008, has seven primary characteristics represented by numbers on a scale, including Strength, Intelligence and Charisma. Agility stands in for Dexterity and Endurance for Constitution. Levels? Check, and now as then, they boil down a character’s overall potency to a single number.

Is he right? Should we be looking for new ways to drive our RPGs? Or are those wisdom and dexterity stats a common language that allow players to move comfortably from game to game? Read the rest of Roleplaying: Evolved and let us know what you think.

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