Sixteen: Fun with Acronyms

What day is this? What YEAR is this? I just had one of those nights of sleep where I feel like I skipped a portion of my life, but not even in a good way. I felt like I was half-awake most of the night, and I am still pretty tired despite sleeping in probably the latest I’ve slept in since my son was born. I’m a little groggy this morning, but I thought it might be fun to talk about some stuff I’ m doing for Sixteen.

Part of what made me want to talk about this is that my wife and I spent the day with a friend of ours yesterday. He owns a PS4 and he generously allows us to try out games from time to time. My wife’s game of choice? Fallout 4. She loves running around abandoned buildings, salvaging stuff for materials so she can build things for her little survivor community. Now I have little to no experience playing any Fallout game, but I am familiar with one aspect of it and it’s an aspect I absolutely love: your SPECIAL. The fact that your stats spell out a fun acronym is just awesome to my pun-loving self, and that’s a theme I decided to embrace while creating Sixteen. So to address that theme, I’m going to describe today what one might see on a typical Sixteen character sheet.

Naturally, there’ll be a slot for the player’s name and the character’s name. There’ll be a place for the name of the class and for the four roles that make up the class. For this example, we’ll rely on my own Myers-Briggs type, the healer: INFP. That means this character will have the roles of Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeler, and Perceiver. Now remember that these are not particularly literal. Introvert means that we are looking at a character with stealth capabilities, but the combination of iNtuitive-Feeler also gives us a temperament: Idealist. There are four temperaments in Myers-Briggs typing, all thanks to the work of David Keirsey, and these temperaments will divide the sixteen jobs into four basic “classes” so to speak. To compare to a more traditional RPG like D&D, Guardians are your “fighters,” Artisans your “thieves,” Rationals your “wizards,” and Idealists your “clerics.” So as an INFP, this character’s primary abilities will be centered around a healing and support role. Being able to also utilize stealth will add to the character’s versatility. The character’s four roles will be listed on the sheet.

Now when it comes to the abilities that those roles offer, that’s still gonna take a lot of work. I’m drawn to the idea of a skill tree for that – taking skills from lower levels allows you to reach higher level branches. However, that aspect of the jobs is still very much in development.

Okay, I’ve been a bit distracted, but we’re finally at the part that actually relates to my Fallout illustration: stats and skills. The six main stats of the game are your PSYCHE: Power, Speed, Youth, Cunning, Heart, and Eloquence. If you’re familiar with D&D or Dungeon World or Star Wars KOTOR or pretty much anything with six main stats, you’ll notice a pattern here. Power = Strength, Speed = Dexterity, Youth = Constitution, Cunning = Intelligence, Heart = Wisdom, and Eloquence = Charisma. I’m very much of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality and those six stats do a very good job of summing up a character nicely. I just renamed them to fit the setting better, and so they would spell out PSYCHE.

Now those six stats combine together in different ways to create your nine skills, or BEHAVIORS. Berate, Examine, Handy, Athletics, Vigor, Inspire, Oratory, Righteous, and Subterfuge. Berate is your ability to intimidate others and is thus based on the sum of your Power and Eloquence. Examine is your ability to notice and search for things and combines Cunning and Heart. Handy represents manual dexterity and the ability to do hard labor, using both Power and Speed. Athletics involves running, jumping, swimming, climbing, anything that tests your strength and enduring, so it relies on Speed and Youth. Vigor is stamina and the ability to overcome ailments and limitations, utilizing your Power and Youth. Inspire represents your ability to drive others to action and get them to follow you, a sum of your Heart and Eloquence. Oratory is the ability to talk smoothly, to convince or manipulate through well-crafted words, a testament to your Cunning and Eloquence. Righteous is your ability to stand against temptations of all sorts and endure the forces of evil, and it relies on your Youth and Heart. Finally, Subterfuge is the ability to do stuff like pick pockets, disable or set traps, sneak around, and all of these skills take both Speed and Cunning.

Now there’s a pattern here: each part of your PSYCHE is important in three BEHAVIORS. Power affects Berate, Handy, and Vigor; Speed affects Handy, Athletics, and Subterfuge; Youth affects Athletics, Vigor, and Righteous; Cunning affects Examine, Oratory, and Subterfuge; Heart affects Examine, Inspire, and Righteous; and Eloquence affects Berate, Inspire, and Oratory. Each aspect of your PSYCHE has an equal impact on your BEHAVIORS, so while some stats may be less important to your because of your class, there’s no one stat that makes a really great throwaway stat. Having a low score in any aspect of your PSYCHE will give you a crutch that you need to overcome.

Now you might notice that BEHAVIORS cover things like talking to people, performing tasks, or dealing with certain passive dangers, but there’s nothing about your fighting ability there. That’s because skill in battle is a separate set of stats and our third acronym: COMBAT. But to talk about COMBAT, we first have to understand how inventory works.

Inventory in this game isn’t going to be a weight-based system. In my gaming group, we almost never encounter a situation where weight of the inventory is going to be a serious problem, unless I as the GM craft that scenario myself. What usually ends up being a problem is stuff that is effectively weightless – why can’t someone just buy 50 healing potions? They don’t weigh anything. As the GM, I constantly have to limit these situations by saying “realistically, you can only fit X number in your pack,” or “okay, you can carry 50, but you know that the second you drop this pack of glass bottles that you’re going to have a soggy sack full of useless potion.” Because, in my opinion, equipment size and being able to realistically carry all of that equipment is more pertinent than the weight, Sixteen will rely on inventory slots rather than a weight system. There’ll be the “worn” slots for armor that the character has equipped, but also “sheaths” or “packs” to represent other things that he or she is carrying. But you can’t have an infinite number of these things, either. You can’t just have three packs on your back all at once. Where on your body you keep your inventory will be significant and will limit how much you can conceivably carry. Weight will be more of a “GM’s call” type of thing: it won’t ever come into play unless it is clear to the GM that being able to carry four things that heavy would be completely ridiculous.

Now things in your inventory have stats too, and those stats are called the item’s GEAR: Grade, Efficiency, Application, and Retail. Grade represents how good the item is at its job, while Efficiency is how practical it is to use. To use weapons as an example, a halberd would be amazing at wounding someone but is difficult to use, while a knife isn’t nearly as dangerous but is both light and versatile. The former would have high Grade, while the latter would have high Efficiency. Something like a sword would fall in the middle of that scale. Application reveals what the item is for. A knife would probably have an Application like “Weapon, Small” or “Weapon, Bladed,” while a shield would have an Application like “Armor, Arm,” and a healing potion’s Application might be “Medicine, Drink.” As much of a pain as it will be for me to design a huge array of Application tags, this stat is important because how you are able to use an item depends heavily on its Application. Finally, Retail represents the item’s value. This is not necessarily the value you can buy the item for, or what you can sell it for – stores may mark up the Retail of an item while paying less than Retail for people selling it back. It’s how they make money, after all. But the Retail of an item is a strong indicator of what its value is going to be. I may decide to do Retail as a pair of numbers instead. For example, an item with Retail 50 might actually cost 75, while only selling for 25. I could instead have the Retail of that item be 75/25, where the first number is the purchase price and the second is the sale price. I don’t know – what do you think is the better method here? Let me know in the comments if you think one is superior to the other.

Okay, so now that we know about GEAR, we can finally examine the character’s battle statistics: COMBAT. COMBAT stands for Constitution, Oomph, Measure, Batter, Avoid, and Toughness. Constitution is similar to HP, and represents how much punishment you can take before passing out or dying. Oomph is similar to MP (something not often present in tabletops, to be sure), and represents how much energy you have to put into special actions. Both of these rely partly on your Level – as you Level up, these stats get gradually higher. Because all characters will start out at Level 0, these will easily be your lowest stats starting out. This is certainly an odd situation, as normally HP and MP are significantly higher than a character’s other stats. Part of this is for realism, particularly where HP is concerned – in a real fight, all it takes is one good blow. Real sword fights or gunfights take only an instant, a few quick exchanges before someone gets the upper hand and then a body drops. The other justification is that these stats may not be expended in the traditional way. That, though, is a topic for a future Sixteen post.

Anyway, after Constitution and Oomph we have Measure, Batter, Avoid, and Toughness. Measure is equivalent to accuracy and represents how easy it is for you to hit what you’re aiming for. It combines the Efficiency of your weapon with your character’s Cunning. This means that unlike D&D, where a big burly barbarian with high strength is both accurate AND deals high damage, having a good Power rank doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be hitting what you’re aiming at. It takes Power and the Cunning to use it right to be a balanced threat. Batter is the damage that your attacks can deal, and it combines the weapon’s Grade stat with the character’s Power. Some weapons with specific Applications will have a special quality where they may have a particularly high Grade, but not factor in the character’s Power. A good example of a weapon that might do this would be a gun. It doesn’t matter how strong you are – a wimp can do just as much damage with a gun as a bodybuilder, and vice versa. Next is Avoid, which represents your ability to dodge an enemy’s attack outright. This relies on your armor’s Efficiency and combines with your Speed. After that comes Toughness, which detracts from how much damage you suffer when you do get hit. This combines your Youth with the Grade on your Armor. Naturally, not getting hit is better than getting hit, but avoiding is harder to do and a good Toughness rating can be the difference between a one-hit-knockout and enduring two or three good blows before falling.

So there you have it. Your character’s PSYCHE influences the BEHAVIORS that you are good at, and combines with the GEAR of your weapons and armor to reveal your COMBAT proficiency. Your inventory is controlled not by the weight of your items, but by how many things you can realistically carry and where on your body you can fit them. I hope this breakdown of what you’ll be able to see on a Sixteen character sheet was interesting to you. In the near future, I’m going to be working on the game’s core mechanic (and therefore figuring out the appropriate numbers to assign to these different stats), as well as figuring out what the game’s eight roles do and building the jobs around those roles. It’s been a lot of fun working on the game and I am very excited to continue in this direction. I hope you’re enjoying taking this journey along with me, adventurers!

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