This question primarily refers to a fantasy RPG called "One Step Beyond", published back in 1989. It had five ability scores: Strength, Mental Strength, Will, Agility, Health. These were essentially a 1-to-1 correlation to the six D&D ability scores (but with Charisma removed as it was often used as a "dump stat"):

Strength -> STR
Mental Strength -> INT
Will -> WIS
Agility -> DEX
Health -> CON

We currently have the rights to this system, and are re-writing it with the six traditional ability scores, primarily to add options (such as divine spell-casting) that were not available in the 1st edition. One problem we are encountering is that Wisdom (aka "Will") is used in the system for matters of willpower, perception and intuition. Where Intelligence applies to "book-learning", Wisdom refers to the kind of "common sense" that might be found in a barbarian or ranger who never received formal education.

But if Wisdom is the primary attribute for divine spell-casting, this means that divine spell-casters ("clerics", "priests", etc.) will also excel in these areas. This doesn't make sense to us. It seems that characters normally described as "thieves", "rogues", "rangers" and "barbarians" should be the ones who have the highest "common sense".

By contrast, clerics and priests would need to have a decent Charisma score -- to manage a temple, deliver sermons and attract followers to their deity. Also, divine spell-casting requires a strong "relationship" with a deity. This is essentially an interpersonal or "social" relationship -- one that seems to be guided by Charisma more than Wisdom.

This leaves Wisdom as an "open" stat, like Constitution, that isn't the primary attribute for any one "class" of character. Does this seem like the right solution?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've no time for an answer now, but the issue you are experiencing is that the defintiions of stats you are using in your game are no longer the same definitions used in traditional D&D. Explicitly write out the definitions you are using, and decide which stat makes the most sense for divinely-granted magic based on that. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    May 16, 2013 at 7:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your definition of Wisdom is only a subset of D&D's definition for it. For instance: Wisdom also includes compassion and environmental awareness, hence Wisdom being used for perception (spot, listen) and insight (sense motive). The same may be true for the other attributes you're grappling with: you may not have the full picture. \$\endgroup\$ May 16, 2013 at 8:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is a reason many games don't use the six traditional ability scores. "Tradition" and "good" are not actually synonymous. \$\endgroup\$ May 16, 2013 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm writing to explain my close vote - this isn't a question we can answer authoritatively. We are here to answer questions about existing games. \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    May 16, 2013 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ We are a community of RPG experts, we can answer questions about designing games just as well as preexisting games. Also, those who want to answer, do it in an answer not in the comments please. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    May 17, 2013 at 12:54

4 Answers 4


Cart Before The Horse

Because people read the stats part of every RPG book first, based on traditional game book organization that D&D originated, they often fall into the trap when they design their first game of thinking that they need to design the stats first and then the rest of the game in section order as they proceed. This is the opposite of the truth.

First you should decide how you want gameplay to unfold and feel like. What kinds of characters do you want there to be? Then create ideas of character types - classes, or point-buy tidbits, or whatever - to match those, then determine what attributes of a character should exist to influence them and by how much.

Some games have no stats, some have a couple (Tri-stat had Body, Mind, and Soul and that was it), some have the "D&D six," and some have more. What kind of stories do you want your game to tell? What attributes of a character are important vs unimportant in generating that? Some games weight stats >>, >, =, <, and << skills/powers in terms of how they affect play.

Your problem is that you are blindly mapping over without understanding the stats you're mapping to and why.

If you have

  • Strength
  • Mental Strength
  • Will
  • Agility
  • Health

and you want to add in other things to the game, what are they? I'm hearing "divine spellcasting." You could decide that in your world that means Mental Strength, or you could decide it's a Piety/Soul/etc. other attribute to add to the list. What makes a good spellcaster in your divine system? Likeability? Mental focus? Dedication? Emotional intelligence? Book learning? Nothing, it's just something anyone can learn regardless of their personal abilities?

In D&D, is Wisdom a weird mix of sly/common sense/Perception and willpower/torture resistance and Clericyness? Yes. So don't do that if that's not what you want. If you want, as first class citizens, those as two different items, add them that way.

  • Strength
  • Mental Strength
  • Will
  • Agility
  • Health
  • Perceptiveness
  • Piety

for example. You don't have to map attributes one to one, I assume someone who has Mental Strength could interpret that as "high IQ" or "lots of learning" or even "determination" (it seems to overlap with Will in fact, without careful definition).

So don't jam your worldview into a stats system, consider what you want the most important aspects of a person to be and have those be your stats. They'll then be working for you not against you.

Ask yourself if there's a meaningful top-line difference between the stats you have - is Body, Mind, Soul not enough and if so why? If something's going to be "dump statted" should it be a skill or something and not a stat? Why do you want spellcasting ability tied to a stat in the first place?

Just wrestling D&D into a different shape without understanding game design will probably just make you and your players sad. Either play D&D, since everyone understands it regardless of how much theoretical sense it makes, or design your own system intentionally to support the game world/playstyle feel you want.

Even if you're wanting mostly the D&D Six, but you're trying to figure out how to change them, this is the process you follow. They dumped CHA because it wasn't used. If you switch spellcasting to CHA you could lose WIS, on the grounds that "force of will" is in Charisma too and you can base saves on it (if you're using that kind of save). In OD&D Wis was the traditional thief dump stat because it drove nothing; it driving perception etc. is a purely 3e+ construct. Or keep it as a spellcasting stat for nature types like druids and rangers (if you have those). Note all the ifs - whether you have a stat or not and what it is should be driven from the rest of your game design.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a good answer, but it reveals that I didn't describe our situation well. We already have the "horse": 191 pages that include mechanics and skills and a fairly well-balanced and tested breakdown of methods for player agency. We're now working on the "cart", such as fleshing out the game world and available spell-casting methods. So we're just wrestling with some "weirdness" that comes from this. Specifically that "clerics" tend to also be good at things that other classes (primarily thieves, rangers and druids -- in our opinion) should be good at (or better at). \$\endgroup\$ May 18, 2013 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ FYI, 91% of our customers have played D&D in some form; 84% have played OD&D or AD&D or 2nd edition; 68% "agree" or "strongly agree" that the game should "feel like early editions of Dungeons and Dragons". So we are not 100% locked into using "the D&D six", but we are strongly leaning in that direction (and that's the system we've been play-testing). \$\endgroup\$ May 18, 2013 at 19:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're cloning D&D, just clone D&D. That "weirdness" is something folks are long used to. But if you want to change it, then see my answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    May 18, 2013 at 20:41

Stats are a model, an attempt to classify and digitize mental and physical attributes. If you're seriously rethinking your stat system, it might be worth starting from the ground up.

First, try ignoring the canonical stat breakdowns from your favorite games and list the lowest level (elemental, if you will) mental and physical features you want to work with. Then you can bundle the related ones into stats until you reach a level of granularity that meets the play-style goals of your system. (In the following, some of the names I've used may be a bit goofy, but I've purposefully avoided the 6 canonical terms.)

For instance, physical elements might include:

Might - how much you can lift, how hard you can punch

Toughness - how resistant your body is to damage

Robustness - how resistant your body is to disease

Regenerativeness - How quickly your body heals

Health - How much damage your body can withstand before being impaired/incapacitated/killed

Endurance - How easily you get fatigued; stamina

Quickness - reaction time

Deftness - hand-to-eye coordination


The idea is to remove the ambiguity, as best you can, down to the point where each attribute represents a single well-defined effect. After you have your list, you might go back and dissect the statistics descriptions from other games to get ideas for other elements you've missed. (e.g. I just looked at the D&D 4e PH and in the definition of "Dexterity" I found "agility" and "balance", which I would add to my list...)

Most likely, you'll end up with way to many attributes to manage effectively, so the second part is to draw up a cross-reference matrix with your class/profession structure, and check the boxes where that profession would rely on that attribute. That will start to give you a better picture of which attributes tend to group together under your system, which will tell you the best way to collapse the list into fewer, more generalized terms. It will also help you recognize which attributes are associated with a few distinct professions, and which are really generic or "open" in your system. You'll have to make some sacrifices as you combine things, but this should help you control the damage and make smart choices.

Lastly, if you save the original elemental breakdown terms and definitions, it makes it easier to write the definitions for your final stats so that the GMs and players can fully appreciate exactly what facets of physicality and mentality are covered by each. A long look at your class vs attribute matrix may also suggest that your basic classes lean toward certain skills, or that there are "holes" where attribute combinations aren't represented. This may provide ideas for additional classes. Having these tools can also aid in defining new, balanced classes/professions later on.


Your problem doesn't appear to be how to utilize the status, but the definitions of the stats don't match your ideals of it

I suggest you rewrite your status like

Intelligence: It is raw mental power, like for logic and mathematics. Wizards intelligence.

Intrapersonal: This would deal with the will power of someone, self-control, and self-motivation, the type would be used for druids, cleric and paladins, for pursues their goals and enter a state of meditation and contemplation

Interpersonal: This one would be the one for rogues and bards, it is the power that the character can interact with the world, the perception others have of them, and ability to deal/manipulate people.

Maybe someone can improve the names.


I'm going to answer this with the assumption that you are writing a D&D 3.5 variant, like Pathfinder or Iron Heroes or Trailblazer, rather than having the freedom that comes with a brand new system. That is, that you are using the D&D 3.5 attributes pretty much as they are, but modifying the classes to create a new game.

I have to say I like the idea of priestly types using CHA for their spell-casting, although I'd be tempted to leave the more reclusive, nature-based casters (Druids, Rangers, etc.) with WIS.

But even if they change too, does that leave WIS as a dump stat? To which I would say, not nearly as badly as CHA is to begin with. Consider:

  • Half the attributes are used for saves. CHA isn't one of them, but WIS is.

  • Four of the attributes have significant mechanical effects in the game (STR for melee & thrown; DEX for AC, ranged and initiative; CON for HP; INT for skills)

  • Two of the attributes are the base for a large number of generically useful skills: DEX for movement-based ones, WIS for perception.

CHA has none of those, and the few skills it supports are narrow and can often be safely left to one character acting as the party's 'face'.

WIS doesn't do too badly. The will save bonus is nice, and the skills are arguably the most broadly useful of the lot.

It might be nice to see if you can find something else to apply it to that might be useful for most characters. Or it might be nice to add class features, like the monk's bonus to AC, to those classes that you think should favour it. Trap sense, tracking, favored enemy, favored terrain are all the sorts things that could be changed to benefit from a high WIS.

But all of these would be a bonus. Even if no class used WIS as their spell-casting attribute and no other changes were made, WIS would still be more useful than CHA is to most classes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ D&D 3.5e didn't exist in 1989. The system they're building on is not going to contain any of these features that you talk about. \$\endgroup\$ May 20, 2013 at 1:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ The original system was written in 1989. Sounds to me like they're using the old background but updating to a new system based around D20? \$\endgroup\$ May 20, 2013 at 1:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's no mention or hint of converting to d20 in the question. That's the sort of thing they'd probably mention. You could ask for clarification on that in a comment on the question though. \$\endgroup\$ May 20, 2013 at 1:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie If they're concerned about WIS being used by thieves/Perception, then it sounds like they're OGLing off d20 more than really using OD&D. WIS was a thief dump stat prior to 3e. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    May 20, 2013 at 2:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not using OGL. "Will" was already used for perception and intuition in the original rules: "One problem we are encountering is that Wisdom (aka "Will") is used in the system for matters of willpower, perception and intuition." \$\endgroup\$ Feb 9, 2016 at 8:43

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