Illogical and disadvantageous stats

Okay, this is a topic that’s been on my mind for a little while now, regarding personality and skill stats in choice and hosted games.

My question is this: are there any stats you dislike, or implementations of stats that you find issue with? Examples: stats that are mutually exclusive, stats that are hard to discern, stats that take a lot of effort to raise, games where you can’t tell how high stats you need, etc.

I have some of my own. Most of it comes down to personality stats.

First and foremost: I find it jarring when you have to choose between logic and mysticism in games where mystical forces are provable real. Your character is talking to ghosts, fighting supernatural forces, but they don’t believe any of it is real & react with disbelief to everything going on? It’s frankly a bit annoying, and the mysticism stat usually makes your character talk like the Oracle of Delphi when really it’s the logical choice to believe in things that are objectively real in your world. Lmao.

But the stat that really grinds my gears, is the one where you choose between being “kind/emotional” and something like “willfull/strong/etc”. I feel like the stat names here are often misrepresentive, because in practice it tends to come down to “are you an asshole or not?” It’s kind of like in Dragon Age 2 if you choose the “angry” personality, and not only is Hawke standoffish but will be prone to really unethical shit. I’ve noticed that this stat in choice/hosted games will often lead to a main character who’ll let someone die without remorse, even when there’s no real reason to beyond being an unfeeling asshole.

Oof. There that’s off my chest. I’m curious if anyone else has similar qualms or has noticed the same patterns, or perhaps if anyone disagrees haha. I live for discussions in this forum so I’d love to hear people’s thoughts. :slight_smile: I hope y’all have a good day!

5 Likes

Most of the time when I see things like this, it’s also the case that the outcome of your choice is not at all representative of the text for the choice. So… it’s not so much that you aren’t acting according to your stats, but rather your actions and stats have nothing to do with your choices. I notice this a lot more with authors who are switching from kinetic novel writing to choice-based game writing. They’re trying to introduce literary devices into their choice menu which simply doesn’t work, because choices need clarity.

Yup, same. The problem is that we usually don’t even know that before we have to make the choice. It’s okay if the MC also doesn’t know that, but if the author is holding back info that the MC knows… well that’s an issue in itself. Like, I’m an atheist myself and most of the time choose for my MC to be either atheist or agnostic. But if gods are demonstrably real in the setting? Hell yes I’m going to believe in them.

6 Likes

I’m decidedly not a fan of the Cunning/Honor stat in Choice of the Dragon. Why does keeping my word mean I just got stupider?

Basically, any sort of opposing stats that don’t actually represent natural opposites.

19 Likes

agree and yet… i feel like opposing stats that are not natural opposites are okay as long as the name of that stat is actually reflected in the choice, narrative, and repercussions? like, if an opposing stat is not truly two complete opposites, but at least the choices provided are accurately a decision between those two methods or adjectives, i’m cool with it.

for example, cunning and honor are not even remotely opposites. but if you had two choices and they did accurately reflect choosing to do something Cunning but dishonorable/unethical vs. choosing to do something that can be perceived as Honorable but is arguably less advantageous to the PC? that makes game sense to me

i guess pulling that sort of thing off would be reliant on execution, though…

3 Likes

Honestly, I’m not usually a fan of personality stats having much involvement in gameplay. Except for very few games where I think it’s done well, I’d rather have personality stats only effect dialogue, internal monologue, and flavor text because the second you start factoring them into success/failure during gameplay, it’s going to end up tripping people who think it makes sense for their character to deviate from their set personality occasionally yet will get punished by the game for doing so.

28 Likes

Yeah honestly this one bugs me a lot when it comes to things like, lying/honesty. So many of these characters have to either be a pathological liar, OR honest by principle. Most people don’t work like that.

I understand when the question becomes, are you good at lying, but whenever my honest character gets an option where they know telling the truth will, like, lead to someone’s death, I’m always frustrated that their personality is fixed enough to where they can’t lie.

It’s probably a coding complexity thing more than anything else, and I get that. But from a narrative perspective, I didn’t mean to sign my character up to become a sofist haha.

ANOTHER THING ENTIRELY that I wonder if anyone else has issues with:

I don’t know how to avoid this, but in games where you have one job which frames your story, and the job skill is a stat of many … It becomes such a struggle to me. Like, yeah, you’re an amazing shooter known for being a crack shot! Except I focused on the wrong stats so now my character, hilariously, sucks at the main selling point of their job. This comes mainly in all the games where you have to choose between fencing and sailing, etc.

Example: I focused on diplomacy, because that seemed to give me the most boosts in the narrative, but now there’s a war broken out and I’ll die in this next scene because combat=dumb brute, and I didn’t want to play as that character, but now I’m stuck deciding between stats I find interesting and stats I need to get a favorable ending. Oftentimes this leads to a lot of disheartening scenes where I can’t get interesting dialogue options, but at least I can save the RO, or something.

Which in general is reminiscent of the “you’ve managed to pick your focus stats but in this next encounter neither is an option so you’re screwed either way”. Sometimes I think this comes down to the author seeming to place intrinsic moral value on some stats over others, i.e. you’re way cooler with this stat than that one, or oh you wanted to try a new stat? Now you’ll get locked out of stuff you didn’t realize was stat-based.

My best example is the Shepards WIP, where choosing “willful” over "emotional"means you kinda become a dick, and “rebel” means you’ll watch people die simply because it’s not your job to save them I was hoping for more broody calculating, not inhuman, oops. Those types of stats feel like they should be action, not personality, based.

Shoutout to the more recent games like Wayhaven and Fallen Hero that instead have flavor text with “this isn’t usually how you behave, so the others express surprise”. Those moments have a special place in my heart.

13 Likes

It might make sense to frame the choices that way, but imagine failing a stats check because you wanted to do the honorable thing but couldn’t because you were … too damn smart?

5 Likes

I think it would work if it is about having mystical knowledge and using it, versus just using regular logic to make decisions (I mean, I’d do that if I were writing that kind of game; you can believe something exists and still not know much about it), but if it’s about not believing the stuff you do regularly actually existing, then… yeah.

3 Likes

I’ve found the traits aren’t too bad in Zombie Exodus Safe Haven. Morality and Humanity are separate and just high or low. The only pair up I have an issue with is Honourable vs Pragmatic, they aren’t so completely different that I hate it, but you can be honourable and still make pragmatic decisions.

2 Likes