Nationality and Stats Modifiers


This is not a post supporting racism or anything like that. I don’t want that discussion or debate. However I have been chewing on starting my own project and I got to thinking about whether or not it would be appropriate to allow the player to receive a bonus (or penalty) in their stats based on their nationality.

In games like D&D there are multiple races and subraces and they receive stats modifiers. Now I realize that ethnicity and nationality are two separate factors, but it is the closest link I can come to. I tried to find some charts where some people might have given bonuses or penalties to characters that were say Russian as opposed to maybe someone who was American or Chinese.

My reason for doing so was mainly because I was reminded of the old Wasteland game (with its sequel on the way!) and how I enjoyed choosing the various nationalities of my character. It would also come into play perhaps with certain characters feeling a certain way about various races.

I know that with the new Zombie Exodus: Safehouse game you can choose an ethnicity for your character. I’m not sure if that is just for flavor in the game or if at some point it will be used as a factor in the story. I’m not even entirely sure if my thought is just far too over the top.

Anyway just tossing my question up there. I did a quick search on the forums, but didn’t really seem to find anything about it. I see a lot of situations in “character creation” with many of the Choice and Hosted games where you pick personality for your character within the first few minutes of the game and it effects stats. So I wondered if it would be ethical or offensive if characters from various countries had different stats. Americans would obviously be overpowered and get the highest stats in everything. :wink: That was a joke.

I am saying “nationality” by the way because it seems to make more sense than saying that people of a certain ethnicity are genetically better at doing certain things. I’d rather it be more like having stats based on how your country developed you as a citizen.

Anyway I hope I don’t get slammed for asking this. I realize some people might raise an eyebrow or something. Plus…I was kind of looking for suggestions for nationality stat bonuses (or penalties).


It’s okay @Aquos_Boost . I’m American and I neither own a firearm nor know how to use one. I don’t think I’ll survive the zombie apocalypse. Haha.

That’s a pretty handy skill though. I like it. I tried throwing a boomerang when I was little, and sadly, I could never get it to come back. I fear it was due to religious differences.


I’d advise against penalties but bonuses are okay as long as they are logical

I.e an American could start with a higher gun based stat than an British person (this works because firearms are more common place in the US than the UK.)


I have the same advice as Nocturnal. In the game I am working on, I have three nationalities/races. They are all human, but fictional, and recieve only bonuses based on their country. If you want penalties, I’d suggest what I’m planning to do in the same game: personality traits.

Let the player choose a few positive and a few negative personality traits. Positive ones are bonuses to various situations, negative ones act as penalties.


One nationality having a +2 bonus to something is mathematically identical to every other nationality having a -2 penalty to it. Either you want to emphasize the differences between nations or you don’t. It sounds like you don’t. Your only reason for having nationality at all appears to be because fantasy video games have racial bonuses and you want something like that, but there’s no reason to tie that to nationality and in a globalized world it doesn’t even make much sense. What are all Russians, as individuals, better at on average when compared to all Americans? So far as I know, that list is basically limited to speaking Russian.

The differences between nations primarily emerge from how culture, government, and businesses encourage people to interact with one another, what goals a culture exalts, and what natural resources or population they have available. So national differences would make sense only in the context of 1) running an organization so massive that it requires a bureaucracy to manage, so the way different cultures react to bureaucracies comes into play (unlikely), 2) your character’s goals are set by which nationality they come from (bad idea), or 3) you are for some reason only allowed to use gear that was manufactured in your character’s nation of origin (makes no sense). If you want to let people select a nationality, just let them select a nationality, there’s no need and not much sense in tying it to mechanics.

If you want to have characters assigned a small handful of minor bonuses and penalties, career choice makes more sense for that (although even then, some careers, like “soldier” or “stunt driver” are clearly going to do more to prepare you for a life of high adventure than others).


It’s really dangerous do something like that because you probably would fall into stereotypes and that would pissed people. I’m Spanish well many people make direct assumptions about me, or just supposed I’m Mexican due my nationality and that is pure racism exactly same if you use races.

If for you is wrong write black people has -2 to intelligence. Has to be the same use countries like Mexican or Nigerian people -2.


It isn’t that I wanted nationality bonuses simply because Dungeons and Dragons has racial bonuses, but I see how it looks that way. It’s a little hard without discussing my thoughts on what I’m working on and just talking about the stats rules on their own.

This is not my project, but let’s say I was working on a game that was based on a theme similar to Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. You have various nationalities (or in that game’s case culture’s based on a certain ideology) that are working together to colonize a new planet. Based on their group they receive certain bonuses. For instance perhaps some are better used for economic gain. Others are better for more aggressive military and expansionism, etc.

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is a civilization type game however. I’m not working on that. I’m working on an adventure that I plan to have some depth to it, world creation, etc. It isn’t fantasy though. While there might be fantastical elements of a sort, there are reasons for multiple nationalities to be present or have a bit of a stake in the game.

So my question was should everyone just be an equal opportunity human where they just choose from a pool of traits like @DSeg suggests or should their be something along the lines of stats being modified in the way @Nocturnal_Stillness presents.

@poison_mara I don’t think I would be using attributes such as intelligence or strength to be modified based off nationalities. I was thinking more along the lines of skills. I like the idea of Americans for instance getting a bit of a skill bonus for firearms when you consider history, political issues, military, etc. But certain nationalities have other skills that they are widely known for as well. What I wouldn’t want to include is prejudice. The Civilization games give bonuses to nationalities and no one seems to complain, but I can’t really seem to find much on people creating a table or chart on bonuses for nationality’s in an RPG.

I put the penalties in parenthesis because I wasn’t sure about it and tossed that in there as a side. I honestly think it would be unnecessary for that. But still worthy of discussion.

My thing is this…in world creation…if I’m going to let a person choose to be Chinese or Russian (or maybe the Soviet Union if it’s in the past) or Canadian or American…isn’t it kind of a waste if that doesn’t play somehow into the story? Shouldn’t they benefit in some way shape or form? I know you can argue that if we don’t let male or female make a difference why should anything else? I mean we also let people choose between hair color and eye color and that doesn’t change anything either. But I think it might serve to encourage players to try out characters they might not have played before.

That Zombie Exodus Safehouse beta test really struck me has having the sort of interactivity with character creation that felt unparalleled in games of this kind. So maybe in the story Canadian characters have a different point of view or start with different equipment or start in a different location that all gets back to the same point for the story. Maybe American characters have a certain social stigma because of something that they contributed to in the past? Maybe Russian characters are in a very bad place and might add to the challenge of the game.

Or maybe it’s just a lot of work for nothing. I really like the idea. But just trying to get more thoughts on it.


@BrianBlack: The danger I see you running into is–unless the game plays broadly with stereotypes so that the player knows, going in, that if s/he picks “American” it will be a total cinema cowboy-type who can wrangle horses and fire a six-shooter–what if a U.S. player chooses “American” but is forced to have a bonus in firearms and extra expertise in making money and warmongering, even though that’s completely contrary to what being American means to them personally? Some stereotypes can be funny or benign (cowboy), others are…well, which attributes would you choose for each nationality to keep it lighthearted? Too many pitfalls, I’d think.

If it’s far future, the premise could be “In the U.S. in 2220, all citizens must pass a firearms proficiency exam to graduate from kindergarten” or some such. Or in the past: “All Canadian trappers know how to skin a bunny.” That would work, I’d think.

Having a social stigma based on nationality sounds much more promising. In that case, it’s about how the game’s world sees you, not the game deciding how you see yourself. I’d find that very interesting, especially the sort of interpersonal challenges it could present in game play.


Well I was going to have a boomerang throwing skill for Australians, Vodka Drinking for Russians, and Nicest Guys in the World stat for Canadians. Does that count, @Carolyne ?

Haha, yeah I agree. I think if I can give a stat bonus for actions that a nationality caused during the setting of the story would make more sense than expecting people to understand a nationality bonus just for the heck of it. I mean let’s say there is a “Electronics” stat and I said just because you were Japanese you were going to get it simply because you were Japanese. Wait what? However if the Japanese have become a bunch of cybernetic Borg-type individuals well it would make a lot more sense. No, that’s not what I’m thinking, but you know…more along the lines that things should be justified by the world I’m creating and not by what is considered a stereotype today. Although it would be hilarious to play a game where I got to be that glorified cinema cowboy American that you mentioned. This project isn’t supposed to come off as a parody though so I want to stay away from that as much as possible.

I think ultimately it is going to come down to who Americans (or others) are during the start of the game and how they got there. If I can’t think of enough interesting reasons for nationalities to be vested into the setting then I’ll just scrap the idea altogether. Last night I didn’t really look at the social stigma aspect. With a game like Tin Star, there is the option to play as a Chinese person. I’m not sure how much of an effect it has in the game, but I think I’m going to see what the author did with that. I think that in period games or others if playing a different race/nationality provided a slightly different outcome in the game for certain things it would bring people back to playing it.

So yeah thanks for the encouragement on which path I should end up taking.


@BrianBlack I’m Australian, however I do not know how to throw a boomerang. However a skill we have is surviving temperatures of 35C +.


Why if instead use nationalities like perks, use typical personalities about each nation, for instance.
We have the fame of being gun lovers

but i never have a fire weapon I’m a pacifist

#Im a great hunter
#Im a gun club member since kid.


Giving all Americans a firearms bonus falls square into the “makes no sense” area. The *vast majority* of Americans have never fired a gun in their lives. The density of people who are familiar with guns is comparatively much higher than other countries, which is why if you were running a nation simulator game like Civilization it would make sense to, say, make it cheaper to train soldiers in America, but you’re dealing with individuals. And individually, the average American doesn’t know where to find the safety and only knows what an ironsight is because of Call of Duty (plus, Canadians have about the same density of firearm ownership, they’re just less famous for it). Plus, when it comes to number of people who own guns which they have actually used to shoot people (other than themselves), America is unsurprisingly far behind places like Colombia or Brazil or Mexico (although funnily enough if you roll in suicides, America has nearly as many gun deaths as Mexico, despite Mexico having a firearm-related homicide rate three times higher).

Having people react to you differently on nationality would make sense and would actually be pretty cool. If you are an American in France, a significant number of people (though not the majority) will automatically hate you for no good reason. And the same applies if you are any kind of Spanish-speaker in America. And if you are blonde and white in China, some people will think you are awesome for no reason and others will hate you for no reason. If you’re in Los Angeles or New Orleans, it can make a huge difference whether you’re black, white, or hispanic, not to your actual capabilities, but to how other people respond to you.



I was under the impression that a lot of American households had at least one firearm so I assumed they would have a basic knowledge of them. More so than myself who lives in England and guns aren’t as common place. No offence was meant when I suggested it. So I am sorry if it did.


I’m certainly not offended. It’s not really any skin off my nose if people aren’t perfectly familiar with how my country works (there are about 200 countries in the world and many of them contain multiple cultures, so it would be entirely unreasonable for me to expect everyone I meet to be an expert on mine specifically). But no, the majority of American households do not have firearms (the Economist says 39%), and in most of those households the firearms are kept in a locked cabinet or a gun safe or some other place where they’re well out of reach of children whenever they aren’t in use, so there’s no need to make sure everyone in the household knows how to handle one.

It’s going to be like that with most skills that a country is famous for. The number of people in Kazakhstan who hunt deer with an eagle is really high compared to other countries, but it’s still less than half.


Exactly thats why the country trait for a character is unfair. In a rts game its ok due you are dealing percentages and entire countries no individuals.


Differences between diferent real-world nations are much smaler then between fantasy races: While a Dwarf can’t become a Halflig without magic, most advantages and disadvantages due to national background can be made up with some training or education, unless ther’s in-game racism.

If you really want to do it, I’d suggest you to use a mixture of ethnic and social background like in Choice of Vampires, possibly adding gender. For example, characters from favelas in a developing countries would have lower health stats due to malnutrition and poor medical treatment and a male character form a country with conscription could reasonably have higher stats in firearms knowledge.

Otherwise, there are few stats that might depend on ethnics alone without making the game racst: language knowledge is most obvious, and a very exotic backgroung might reduce stealth.


I think when I made the original post, I hadn’t much thought about the story ramifications as much as I was looking at character development and how giving your character a nationality should benefit them individually with some kind of stat bonus.

After listening to the feedback from you and the others, I do think that if I continue with the idea it will be more along the lines of influencing how NPCs react to certain people and quite possibly opening up different starting areas in the game. They would of course lead to the same places for the overall story arch, but I think there has to be a developed reason for any pros and cons of a nationality to be worked out first.

Perhaps instead of stats there might be a special item or character that becomes a part of the story based on character creation choices.