Stat Checks?

Frostorm

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So you know how in most tabletop RPGs, there will be instances throughout the story where the player needs to a certain stat high enough in order to perform certain actions? E.g. Need X Strength or higher to move a boulder. Does such a mechanic translate well into video game RPGs? Do any of you do this in your own projects?
 

Soulrender

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Personaly I don't do that in my project, because it's not practical. I'll explain what I mean...
Here in 2021 we people we can measure men's muscle strenght with dynamometer, but the results are separated into many categories (isometric, isotonic, excentric, concentric etc), and by that scales we can determine man's strenght capability and implementing 1to1 would cause game to be more immersive, but more difficult to explain by scenario (if game is fantasy), so I skipped that mechanic, but it can be simplified to absolute minimum, as you mentioned an example in topic... In overall I don't use it, because I can do something else with boulder: Ask party members to help to move it - and they won't refuse. (Because I say that. )
 

estriole

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I agree with @Soulrender above...
just like he said... because lots of the 'require x stat' scenario is not reasonable...
ex: need 50 Str to move boulder while your hero have 49 Str... just ask your party member to push together :D
 

Frostorm

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Lol, boulders were a bad example. I guess I mean more like how Baldur's Gate 3 does it. Basically for narrative stuff.
 

Soulrender

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And how you would explain it by scenario? (also example)
Party member refused to help, because hero's charisma was 1? what's that mean charisma: 1?
How to master it? (well, in Sims 1 practicing charisma was quite good and clever).If I had more skills and knowledge in JS I would default perks change from numeric version to descriptions in status window (or School grades):

HP: Excelent (full HP)
MP: Perfect (full MP)
ATK: Good
DEF: Very Good
MAT: Average
MDF: Average
LUK: Poor
AGI: Very Good.
 

RCXDan

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I mean, the way I'd do this isn't to block progression with stats... but to affect the narrative instead.

... Like one scenario I've had sitting around in my head is a scene where the bad guys analyze your power. If your level is lower than the invisible variable, they'll comment on how you look weak and underprepared - ripe for defeat. But if your level is equal or higher, the villains get worried but are still confident. If you are super overleveled like I know certain people would do, the villains will start to worry for their lives and try to think of other ways to beat you that might not involve direct contact anymore.

Essentially if the scenario calls for you to do something, I'd rather not block the player from doing it so they can raise it up to an arbitrary level. Instead you do it anyway, but the responses change. I feel that's more fun in the long run.
 

Frostorm

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Oh yes, definitely not block progression! It would only affect narrative as you said, so bonus/alternative scenarios. I forgot to mention that earlier, heh.

Edit: The most accurate examples I can think of are games like Pillars of Eternity & Baldurs Gate 3.
 
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Milennin

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No, I don't want to emphasize my stats. They're just kind of there for the combat system, but it's not something I'd expect players to look at or get involved with. I don't see the appeal of setting up stat requirements for random environmental interactions.
 

Tiamat-86

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when i tried this kinda thing before with D&D style skill checks, seems good on paper.
but in game only seems to work half as*d.
if have alot of party members it makes the player need to either switch party members for higher stat team, or just grind main team higher level.
if just never using the other characters they might need grinding still anyways.

only time skill check system seemed to actually be "decent" was when i used it for gathering system.
gather skill + RNG >= item difficulty == success/fail
gather rank - item rank == yield(min1)
+ i had bunch other stuff going on with it for gather exp/next lv, tool rank/durability system.

overall though skill check systems were just more of a hinderance, most of the time.
if wanting to control the party in this kinda way better to just have level requirements or unique skills.
THF character picks locks, WAR pushes stuff, traps only mage can get by. kinda thing.
that method is kind of a classic. 1st example comes to mind is BoF 1&2
 
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Redeye

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I like out-of-battle moments where the story can shift depending on your character build. Granted, this kind of thing really only works well with solo parties where you can customize the main character extensively. I wouldn't block progression entirely, but perhaps such a skill check could instead be used to access a shortcut around an otherwise mildly-dangerous dungeon. You need Strength to push the boulder blocking the road, so if you're a wizard who skipped gym class, you're gonna have to take the detour through the Death Forest.

You can use Charisma to persuade the Guard into giving you the key to the barracks, or you can use Security to pick the lock and break in, or you can use Strength to bust down the door, or you can use the "Open Lock" spell you learned from the local mage. If the player is super Charismatic, they can complete the whole game with diplomacy, and convince the main villain to give up and find a new career in Real Estate.

You CAN lock optional treasure and rewards behind skill checks, though, such as a tempting treasure chest across the large gap, but you need a high Acrobatics/Agility to cross it. If you can't jump, you're SOL. Come back later after Leg Day.

If you're running a traditional RPG with multiple characters that have set classes, you could sign those individual characters their own problem-solving technique. You can have a quick button that allow you to swap the party leader in order to solve a problem. Wizards can hack and disable magical seals. Thieves can pick locks. Rangers can jump long distances and navigate difficult terrain. Warriors can break stuff. Mesmers can persuade people into giving information. Merchants can get better prices at shops and bribe people into giving something of value.
 

TheGentlemanLoser

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woweeeeeee this is a biggggggg topic I've thought about a lot (too much, probably). but so I don't spend all day on this post lol, I'll try to keep things simple. the following examples all involve dialogue making them a bit of an oversimplification of the topic

In general I am much more of a fan of this kind of mechanic than 9/10 of the posters in this thread but I also recognize it is very easy to do VERY VERY WRONG w/ bad implementation.

DON'T BE LIKE FALLOUT 3: In Fallout 3, in dialogue with NPCs, if you can pass a speech check, you can use certain different (BETTER) dialogue options. These options are shown to you all the time, so you can see what your speech isn't good enough for you to say. It is a literal d% roll-under your Speech skill which maxes out at 100. This is implemented in a way that is freaking TERRIBLE for several reasons. For starters, in FO3 you can save anywhere all the time so technically you can just save scum again and again and again to render the entire system completely pointless. Secondly, absolutely no thought is put into what your character is actually saying, or how you're convincing anyone into doing anything. Like, literally if you have speech 100 you can just convince the game's main bad guy to just kill himself by asking. This is absurd, in a bad way.

DO BE LIKE FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS: For starters, in New Vegas while Speech is useful, the dialogue system has been expanded so that EVERY SKILL (and sometimes, your SPECIAL attributes too) can be used in some conversations to get unique dialogue options. As before, you can see the dialogue options your character isn't skilled enough to have access to, i.e. the ones you automatically fail at with a joke option. There is no die roll involved, it is completely deterministic. If you have Strength 7, you can say this thing. If you have Science 55, you can say this thing, and so on. Meaning you can use chems/skill boosting items (like the magazines) to push your relevant skill/attribute up, if you're close enough that 20-30 points can make a difference and if the option isn't a one-chance only one. Speech remains powerful and useful in that in most situations (but not all!) it can accomplish the same thing that a relevant (to the situation) skill/attribute "check" could.

DON'T BE LIKE CYBERPUNK 2077: All the time in Cyberpunk 2077 you see new optional dialogue choices that are unlocked by your lifepath (Nomad, Corpo, Street Kid) or having a level in a certain attribute (Body, Reflexes, Intelligence, Technical Ability, Cool). Sounds great, right? Except 90-99% of the time these unique, flavorful options you get ARE NOT ALLOWED TO MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE AT ALL. Have Body 10 so you can just intimidate an enemy into giving you what you want? Nope, doesn't matter, you get some optional dialogue and then you have to pick the same "let's get on with it" color coded yellow option--the optional dialogue that DOESN'T advance the plot/mission is blue--that you would if you had Body 4. Have Technical Ability 9 and notice something about tech/hardware that should give you an advantage in the situation? Same thing: screw you, you get some lines of dialogue and then you pick t he same "let's move on" yellow option as someone else. Are you a Nomad and got a unique dialogue option when dealing with Nomads in the game? NOPE, DOESN'T MATTER, you say some stuff and then you have to proceed the same way as a Corpo character would!! To add insult to injury, not only do these dialogue options not ACCOMPLISH anything in the story/mission (it is infuriaitng how NPCs just dismiss them entirely no matter how good or relevant or crucial a point your character makes!), they also don't award any experience, so the player is not rewarded in ANY way. None of your dialogue choices matter. Ever.

DO BE LIKE FALLOUT: NEW VEGAS: Every time you pass a skill/attribute check in dialogue you get experience, rewarding you ON TOP OF the fact that these alternate routes to success/victory are already their own reward!

Anyway, I'm implementing some variation of these out-of-battle skills in BOTH of my current projects (MDC and Spirt of '76; in MDC thieves can (TRY TO) pick locks and disarm traps, whereas in '76 computer hacking is a big deal, and Razors and Hackers can hack computers, while Heavies and Faces can persuade some NPCs) and I'm still very early on into the implementation, so I'm still working out for myself how much of a probabilistic (random) element I want to include, but I don't want it to be completely probabilistic like in FONV or completely deterministic (no random element) like in FO3. I'm also trying to figure out how much of these systems involves the player doing something like a minigame or w/e (the lockpicking and computer hacking in Fallout would be the relevant examples) and how much the character having the skill can do the job "for" the player. So as my ideas crystallize around this I might have more to add later. Whew!
 

Johnny_Ray

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Well,in my game i was thinking of having a passive skill that makes you able to equip hammers and be able to break empty boxes so you can reach boxes that you wouldn't normally be able to reach.
 

TheoAllen

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It can work with a lot of effort. But my game is more like an arcade game with RPG elements than an RPG game. So, I don't need them.
 

alice_gristle

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I like @TheGentlemanLoser's line of thinking. But personally, I hate it when I see my options even when I can't pick them. :biggrin: Like, I only want to see the option of charming the bandit IF my charmingness is up to the task! (It makes me feel doubly good for being clever enough to invest into charmingness, too!)
 

TheGentlemanLoser

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That is what Fallout games prior to Bethesda's involvement did, I believe, so you didn't even realize that certain options were unlockable until you'd unlocked them. I can see the merit in both approaches.
 

Tai_MT

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Honestly, I only use it for two things. It's never really made sense to me in an RPG to have a "stat check" that the player can see and savescum around or whatever. Feels very "meta".

The two instances I use it in:

Lockpicking Chests.
Pillaging Chests.

Lockpicked chests have 5 possible rewards. If you're below the lowest number, you get the lowest reward. If you're above the highest number, you get the highest reward. But, technically speaking, having maxed out of a stat doesn't get you "the best reward". Or, at least, not all the time. Likewise, each chest has "difficulty", which means you get a random number added to your stat, which can affect your rewards. Higher difficulty chests add fewer numbers. Lower difficulty chests add more numbers. But, the player never fails to lockpick a chest. It is impossible. They click the chest, ask if they want to lockpick it, if they say yes, it rolls their "Luck" stat and then adds the "difficulty" random number. After that, it checks the number against the loot table and dispenses whatever you got. The player never knows what the thresholds are, or if there were better items, or even what they rolled. The only information given to the player is some flavor text to hint at "difficulty" of the chest.

Pillaging chests works in a different way. If you don't have the requisite character in your party to "Pillage", you can just open the chest (it is the only chest in the game that will ask if you if you are sure you want to open it, because of the Pillage mechanic existing). If you open the chest, you get some minor item, usually something insignificant or a consumable or something. If you have the character you need, you are asked, "Pillage?". If you say yes, the game checks the "Strength" stat of the character and rolls a random number. If you roll the threshold, you get a single useful piece of equipment or rare item. If you roll above or below it, you get multiple consumables (some of which might also be pretty useful). Again, the player is never told what the threshold is. The most they get flavor text to indicate "difficulty".

The loot chart for the Pillage mechanic usually looks like this:
If below 57, get 5 Potions.
If above 64, get 5 Potions.
If between 58 and 63, get Comet Sword.

Otherwise, I don't really believe in a "stat check" system for RPG's. It's weird to think, "Okay, I have 58 Speechcraft, so I can't select the option, but if I just had 59 Speechcraft, I could!". Like... what does that even mean? What is the differecne between 58 and 59 other than some arbitrary number?

I much prefer some of the older games where if you have the ability, it works no matter what. You picked up the skill to punch through walls? Okay, you can punch through all walls. You picked up the skill to mind control someone into agreeing with you? Okay, they'll always do what you ask them to do.

I'm not really a fan of a game trying to dictate to me a specific stat that I need to do something specific. All that makes me want to do, as a player, is min/max my character so that I can do everything.
 

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If I was going to do this, I would make an equal amount of paths in different directions for all the stats- like high str leads to moving a boulder into a fire cave which gives a burning weapon, while high int leads to missing the cave but spotting a bird that can guide you to an ancient rune later in the game. Also, I would make it probability-based, so that you could still move the boulder if you had 1 str as long you passed the 1 in 10000 chance of pulling it off, and you would only get one shot.

If you wanted someone to play the game a million times over, you could make major story arcs change due to this, but each story arc could have a really interesting ending. Kind of like real life- except a person could start the game over.

Also, I would probably make the stats different from the main combat stats, so that in and out of combat stats were separate. This would allow people to build powerful builds while having out of combat stats reflect the character's personality. Stats like charisma, piety (divine favor), ingenuity (lock picking and using scraps to make tools), ruthlessness, etc. This would allow for easier game balancing, because you could make the rewards equal for the different paths that people can take.

This is why I don't let luck affect item finding, as it's often too easy for people to minmax their builds for the sake of just collecting items.
 

Anthony Xue

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I think that numerical non-combat checks make very much sense, but only under the condition that the check concerns only one party member. Mainly, this is true of very specific skills where (usually) only one party member has the required knowledge. For very broad checks like strength (or also, for instance, an intelligence check representing very common knowledge or a perception check spotting a secret door), it's indeed hard to see why not all party members could pool their collective abilities. Note that some modern games (Pillars of Eternity II, Tides of Numenera) already include such "assistance" for skill checks as well, adding a few points to the main character's skill if someone else in the party is also proficient with it.

Examples for such abilities could be:
- Pick locks
- Disarm traps
- Decipher runes
- Talk in different languages
- Find and follow someone's track through the wilderness
...and so on, I could write a thread about this subject alone.

The other case is when the effect of the check only concerns a specific party member, i.e. if failing a Climb check results in the character dropping to the ground and taking falling damage.

In any case, I agree that such a check should not be a singular road block or "bottleneck". There should be alternative ways around, by using other skills, items that replicate one successful use of the skill, or if all else fails, combat. @Redeye has given fine examples for this. Personally, I very much like such setups, because a) it further develops the characters and b) it gives different aspects of the game systems and game world to explore apart from combat. If all I want is battle, I'll go play a strategy game. I also want to explore a world and resolve its challenges, and that is what such checks are for.

@Tai_MT I don't see your problem with the numbers. We are crafting games based on numerical rules, and we have to draw the line somewhere. The difference between 58 and 59 Speechcraft is just as arbitrary as a 5% Evade chance or a sword strike that deals x damage. Oh no, if it had been x+1 I could have killed the enemy! Making it binary makes just as much sense as a fighter learning every single combat skill at once at first level.

The only "makes it sense" checks that should be relevant are whether things make sense in terms of the game world and in terms of balancing. The lock to the dwarf king's treasure chamber is much harder to pick than the lock at the local herbalist's door? You bet. It can only be picked by a thief that has his skill pushed up to 237 after hours and hours of grinding? Well, if that's how you want your game to be played... I'll probably stay away :wink:
 

Tai_MT

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@Tai_MT I don't see your problem with the numbers. We are crafting games based on numerical rules, and we have to draw the line somewhere. The difference between 58 and 59 Speechcraft is just as arbitrary as a 5% Evade chance or a sword strike that deals x damage. Oh no, if it had been x+1 I could have killed the enemy! Making it binary makes just as much sense as a fighter learning every single combat skill at once at first level.

This is only partially true. Some people are crafting games based on numerical rules. Others are crafting games based on more than a Progression system. For example, much of my combat uses stats, but those stats aren't all that important, and aren't freely handed out. I'm crafting an actual RPG experience where your choices, the characters, and the story are what matters. I'm not crafting a "dungeon crawler" with a numbers based Progression System.

Logically speaking, I doubt I'm the only one.

Likewise, you're confusing "abstraction" with "hard numbers". 5% evade chance is an abstraction in combat. It is meant to signify the chance a character might reasonably dodge an incoming attack. After all, in any fight, not every swing hits. Not every swing is blocked. Some just straight up miss. 5% evade is meant as an "abstraction". This is also true of damage dealt. It's an abstraction. It is an indication of how hard you might have to reasonably fight an enemy before it goes down or how hard enemies have hit your party members to put them down.

Meanwhile, "speechcraft" as a skill would be an abstract idea, that we've given "solid numbers to", which makes no sense. Such a thing implies that you could make the exact same argument to an NPC and the only thing that stops you is that you lack a single point in the skill to make it work. It's stupid and asinine.

Imagine that. Imagine I have a Speechcraft maxed out at 100 and all I say is, "dude, just do what I say" and the game says that works. All because my stat is 100.

"Dude, do what I say!" (Speechcraft 10/100 Failed!)
"Dude, do what I say!" (Speechcraft 20/100 Failed!)

Do you understand the point here?

Things that normally affect something like convincing someone to do what you want:
1. If you're intimidating them or sweet talking them.

2. If the person trusts you at all.

3. If the person is even willing to listen to you.

4. Your reputation.

5. If the person owes you a favor.

Etcetera, etcetera.

The difference between 49 Speechcraft and 50 means absolutely nothing. It's a hard number arbitrarily assigned for no reason other than the dev couldn't find a way to make their RPG unique.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd rather run around doing the work to get NPC's to trust me and listen to me instead of just going, "Oop, now I've got 50 Speechcraft, they'll do what I say now even though I totally murdered half of their clan."

I have the same issue with most "Lockpicking" and "Hacking" systems as well. Rather than raise an arbitrary number to even be able to attempt to lockpick or hack, I'd rather be able to attempt it no matter what and my success or failure depends on my skill. Or, if I can't use my own skill, there's a reasonable representation of how much the character actually knows about security systems. Do they know tumbler locks? Combination locks? Do they have a skill to use a "bump key"? Etcetera. I would much rather see, "X has learned how to crack safes!" than "X has gained 12 points in Lockpicking!".

This is why my "skillchecks" always succeed. This is why, even in D&D, I don't tell players what number they have to get for any skillcheck they want to roll. I ask them to describe what they're doing and then roll, and base the roll of the dice on any "luck" factor of the action, while the action itself either succeeds or fails on its own merit.

I've never really been a fan of a game telling me I need a specific stat to do a specific action. All that ever makes me do as a player is grind out that stat so I can do that action. Or, in REALLY FUN cases... forces me to only make characters that take advantage of specific and frequent skills. For example... I've never played a Fallout game in which I didn't main Speechcraft, Lockpicking, and Hacking and max them out as quickly as possible. Why? Because it gives me the most access to the game. Provides the most XP for level ups. Provides good loot. Allows me to solve problems without killing everyone.

But, it forces me to make the same character every single time. This same thing happened with the two newest Deus Ex games as well. Speechcraft, Lockpicking, Hacking. Happened to me in Cyberpunk as well. Hacking and Engineering.

Most often, all a stat check is doing is telling the player, "come back later when you've leveled up that stat". Or, "savescum here".

I am simply not interested in designing those kinds of games. I would rather my players lockpick anything that can be lockpicked, provided the character knows how to do it. I would rather my smooth talking characters be able to talk through many situations, unless they'd irreversibly destroyed credibility in some way with the person they're talking to.

I'm not interested in playing games that offer "skill checks", as they force me to play the same character every single time. I am not interested in playing games that only open up routes to you if you have the proper number next to a skill.

I would much rather any "skill check" that exists be an expression of how much ACTUAL EFFORT I put into the game rather than how long I walked in circles while watching Netflix to level up the skill I need. I would rather have a sprawling quest to unite the kingdom behind me by doing favors and gaining reputation as a genuine hero than just have everyone agree to my terms because, "hurr, durr, I haz 100 speach".

One of these things is more immersive than the other. I prefer to be immersed if at all possible. Especially since most games go out of their way to destroy any and all immersion just so people can watch numbers get bigger. It's hard for me to care about a number getting bigger. It's easier for me to care that a character respects mine because of the favors I've done for them and the ways I've shown I care about them.

I care less about my Speechcraft hitting 100 than I do that I made poor decisions on who to trust and back in the coming fight, so I've been vilified by a faction I like.

I'm more into RPG's than Dungeon Crawlers. I like conversations and story more than I like cookie clicker.
 

Trihan

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I think in the style of RPG we tend to produce, this would only really work as an invisible narrative divider. That is to say, the game silently checks your stats and determines how to progress on the basis of that, but without the player knowing there's a branch happening based on their stats.
 

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