The Limited Shapes of Our Bodies

When looking at RPG Attributes, one fact returns to me constantly: Olympic Athletes cannot compete in every sport.

  • Top wrestlers are stocky, and cannot compete in basketball.
  • Top basketball players move quickly, and cannot compete in weightlifting.
  • Weight lifters cannot compete in climbing events.

A certain amount of focus in one thing seems to preclude master of another.

This suggests an RPG system where people have some general score (e.g. 'fitness'), and another on a sliding scale. Perhaps something like the WoD system, but the initial Attribute receives only up to +3, while the others can add up to +2 further.

1    Health: OOO
3  Speed   Lift
4     OO - OO

Now someone can only gain +5 'Lift' by having 'Health 3' and 'Lift 2', but when trying to sprint, they would take that 'Lift' as a penalty, and get left with +1.



A corollary beckons - perhaps the same thing could be said of mental abilities. It certainly fits the stereotypes.

  • Imagining a quintessential Mathematician, we don't think of someone Charismatic or even terribly witty.
  • And when we think of a fast-thinking comedian, we don't imagine that they might go home and start pondering chess problems.

...but these images feel far less compelling. The Physicist Richard Feynman expressed himself well (and played the bongo); and the actress Hedy Lamarr laid down some of the foundations of Wi-Fi.

So I don't know if I'd want to make this system symmetric, which seems a shame, because every RPG system should have as many lines of symmetry as can fit in it.

Fat Guys Sprinting

The initial system also suffers from overstatement. A bunch of very large people, whether obese from muscle or fat, can in fact sprint very well. They may not sprint as well as actual sprinters, but still - they can sprint. And similarly, any Olympic climber will be better able to lift large, heavy things, than the average person.

Limitations, Not Balance

Perhaps the best way to represent this is some set of Skills which preclude each other. Retain 'Health' (or Strength) as a basic Attribute, then divide a bunch of Athletics-style Abilities into smaller categories which cannot intersect.

It's a bit of an arbitrary ruling, but limitations within a field seem to fit a little better. People who excel at writing low-level code often cannot create a descent website. And people who write great novels may not know how to write a simple advert for a toaster.