Newbie writer questions about statistics?


I’ve been wanting to try writing a game for this site for a long time, but I’ve always been to gun-shy to try it out. I feel somewhat confident that I can write stories and characters that would be interesting and engaging, but the biggest problem for me has always been the “numbers” side of things.

Like how much does your archery stat improve if you use your bow? Or if you had mostly focused on archery, how hard would it be for you to try the same fight with s sword? Or how high does your intelligence need to be to solve a puzzle successfully? Or how much does your relationship with Character X change when you agree with Character Y instead?

So what sort of advice would you give to someone who has primarily only ever written stories or dialogue? Are there games I should look at that do this particularly well? Or just dive in and see what makes sense? I’ve never had a head for numbers or math, so like I said, I’m nervous to try it and end up with something that doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Anyway, I hope I worded the question properly, let me know if it’s too vague. Any advice/tips/suggestions/thoughts/recommendations are appreciated!


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Choice of the Dragon is one of the simpler and shorter CoG games, and it is also free on the CoG website. If you take a look at the code (instructions here), that might help give you an idea of how to use stats in a way that seems natural and useful when designing a game.

The Choice of Games blog also has a bunch of really helpful game development posts, especially if you flick back to some of their earliest articles.


You don’t actually have to have a lot of stats in a game at all. You could make it mostly decisions based, with a few booleans to keep track of previous player choices.


It shouldn’t be too intimidating – you’re talking about simple arithmetic, after all.

As a general rule you should always add or subtract at least 10 points to variables. That makes it easier for the changes to have an impact. So if you start with everything at 50, for example, then you can perhaps have a couple early questions that each raise or lower a variable by 10. Pretty soon you’ve got things at 60 or 70, or 30 or 40, and then that can help determine how you respond to situations after that.

Those responses, in turn, might influence some secondary variable. So to take your example, if you require intelligence to be 70 or higher to solve a puzzle, then solving that puzzle might increase your, say, confidence variable because you’ve accomplished something difficult. Then you have a higher confidence which in turn allows you to do something else. You’d simply have to write the code so that the result happens however you want it…


I find stats the most difficult part of writing the game. Trying to keep track of them all. It’s just so very complicated.

I’d say first and foremost, if you don’t have a head for stats, then you don’t need to make them overly complicated. The stats can supplement the story.

Looking at games you like, looking at the code, that’s the best method to learn. Then just start simple, and try things out for yourself.

If you look at Creatures Such As We, it doesn’t even have a stats page. There are some behind the scenes stats, but they’re very simple. I’d suggest playing the game first, and then having a look at the code while you play to see how it does things.

Choice of The Dragon is also a great game to look at to see how opposed stats work, since it only has a few main stats. It’s slightly more complicated than Creatures Such As We, but nowhere near as complex as most of the games.

I like @Havenstone’s system for Choice of Rebels. You have three main stats, Charisma, Combat and Intellect. Those are fairly static and can range from 0-3. You don’t need to worry about them increasing, decreasing, and with it being such a small amount of stats, and such a small range for them, it’s easier to ensure each of the stats is important and has unique stuff devoted to it.

He does then have a few other opposed stats that fluctuate more and are more based on your personality, and how you act, and how people see you.

Yeah the blog’s great.


Stats are my weakest area. As of now, I’m just writing a game, putting in stat changes that make sense to me, making sure players can still access various paths if they aim for their desired stats, and calling it good. When the game is mostly done, I’m going to need a massive rebalancing.

Luckily, I’ve been recruiting enough fans and testers that by the time I get there, I’ll probably have some people around who have a more intuitive grasp of math and can give me a few pointers.


My single most important recommendation on stats for a new writer is: Don’t make your stat system any more complicated than it needs to be. Keep it simple. The more complicated it is, the more time and effort it will take to balance and debug.


Lord yes. (Came a voice from deeeeep in the debugging weeds)


And here I actually thought XoR had a relatively simple stat system, attributes from 0 to 2, no fairmath attribute changes, a couple of run of the mill opposed stats etc. Maybe it was just deceptively simple and my perception of XoR as 90% story and world-building, compared to 10% stats was inaccurate due to how much the story elements managed to draw me in. :grin: