Opposite pair variables vs. single percent variables

If I were playing a game that had dumb/smart as opposed variables, and I wanted to play dumb, but I was too smart to do so, that would annoy me. :slight_smile:

Aside from that, I’m not arguing that you can’t do it. And definitely flavor text will be greatly influenced by low stats. But I’m musing about stat tests in particular, whether the big difference between the two types of stats is that one is more likely to reward a low stat, while the other isn’t.

Because, as @poison_mara and @ParrotWatcher noted, there no real difference between the two types of stats, aside from how they are presented on the stat screen.

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Maybe something to keep in mind for your new game, eh?

There are a few things I can think of that “reward” dumb. The most interesting was in Fallout New Vegas, where dumb characters can get Arcade as a companion more easily then others (because he feels sorry for them, so it is out of pity). The other one would be people who are perceived to be dumb getting away with some (criminal) shit normal and smart people wouldn’t. Of course this “benefit” goes mostly to those who are perceived as dumb or dim-witted by society and the people around them and sometimes the greatest benefit is for the genuinely smart character to act dumb. One situation I can think of would be a smart enough royal bastard acting dumb enough to dupe his royal parent and sibling into thinking he would not be any sort of threat to them.

Of course stat wise this is best handled by either having a simple check for low intelligence or else for the appropriate skills at deception (charisma + cunning would seem like the natural default here).


Are you implying that you think I wouldn’t? :unamused:


Well Mara sincerity here, You have a big tendency to say characters how they feel and to force them in a determined path like love people or being terrible goodie to the fault. Just saying :wink:

Only to characters named Mara. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: (Okay, that was a joke, but that’s one reason why I actually asked you for comments to help me Mara-ify Countdown.)


I find that opposing stats are very useful in tailoring text to describe scenes, and seeing how the reader wants to play their character. Single stats are useful for things you just gets better/worse at.

But I think it all depends on what you wants to do with the stats in your game.

For example in my game I have opposing stats (like cautious/daring and arrogance/anonymity) for things that determines the style of MC that people play, single stats to determine their mental powers and relationships with people, and then lots of on/off stats that has no numerical value, they are either there or not. There’s usually different ways to get through a challenge, and the different paths in failure or success is just that. Different paths. I am trying to write this from an RP standpoint more than a numbers game, so I am using the stats to track and customize as much as check against. My goal is that the reader should be able to pick what they feel the character should do and have a satisfying result, even if that might not be the best possible one.


arrogance and anonymous aren’t opposite in any meaningful way. There are many people who is anonymous and want to be that way who are far far more arrogant that fame seekers. I know some … the opposite would be arrogant vs humble anonymous vs fame seekers I never played your game but certainly I would came with o my god wtf?

I am trying to come up with a better word for it, this is just a wip after all. Anonymous is the kind of person who wants to stay in the shadows, is not a glory hound and wants to be anonymous. So… what could be a better word for the opposite of that? I agree that arrogance is not the perfect word, I choose that since this is a supervillain game, and that came closest to describing the monologing, bombastic villains of that type.

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No opposed stats capture that perfectly, for example my mc in your game is generally smart, savvy and pragmantic, the only exception to date has been that Herald kid, I decided that boy just rubs my mc the wrong way, so against his better judgement he does the monologueing, bombastic villain thing there, against his better judgement because it just feels so good to let some of those frustrations out. :wink:

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Fame seekers vs anonymous. Some people calling thrm fame whores People who try to do everything to being recognized and observed, they feel powerful that way. An anonymous person feel anxiety if everyone is watching them . So opposite

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Hello all! First post for me, have been lurking for a couple of weeks. I find this conversation really interesting. My perception, as some others have said, is that both types are good for different reasons.

I think concrete skills and trainable mental/physical abilities work best as single stats. This make sure you can be both smart and strong (probably at the expense of something else, but you choose your own character’s weakness through gameplay, rather than it being dictated by the game’s stat pairs).

However I do like opposed variables for a character’s philosophies, or their alliances in a 2-sided conflict (e.g. pacifist vs warmonger, kind vs heartless, Orcs vs Humans). Opposed pairs are also good when a balanced view is equally interesting to an extreme one, and a high value does not always mean ‘good’.

Pairs can also be good to describe the balance of the world around your character - like the China vs US stat in Choice of Robots.

I think we just have to make sure that the opposing pairs logically conflict with each other, so that it makes sense that, when one value is raised, the other must always be lowered.


Congrats on your first post! You’ve joined at the ending of a very interesting discussion which looking at the votes, is almost split. : )


I like Gower’s insight a lot – that opposed stats will often be useful when you want to reward either high or low scores in a stat, while non-opposed stats lend themselves to rewarding high scores. Of course there will be exceptions and other ways to do things, but I think that’s generally a helpful lens on stat design in CS.

A couple of other thoughts:

Indeed, they often are… and I think that can be represented in an opposed-stat system by the broad mushy middle that most people fall into (40-60). People with a strong score on either side are the less paradoxical people, the consistently compassionate or ruthless (for example). This can still result in a balanced game as long as there are punishments as well as rewards for being extreme – where being super-compassionate doesn’t only get you extra friends, but loses you credibility with other people who would respect either a ruthless or normally paradoxical person.

In my own game, I started by using opposed stats to represent what the MC really thinks, but shifted them to represent solely how they’re perceived by the rest of the world. That means I don’t have to be constantly parsing what my choices might mean to the reader (“Hey, I picked the mass murdering out of pure selfless compassion!”) but how they appear to the average denizen of my gameworld.


Thanks! Indeed - and what could be more fitting for an interactive fiction forum than a split decision? :smile:

I’m just glad we’re not tearing each other apart like a pack of rabid Tasmanian devils. Seems like people around here are quite mature in that regard. Want to know the secret in how we achieve this? We sacrifice a newbie each month to all mighty Cthulhu in order to keep the peace. Speaking of which… you look like a juicy newbie. :stuck_out_tongue:

Welcome to our community! :smiley:

In my own writing I’ve pretty much abandoned considering the PC’s intent in favor of the purely objective.


Saw this and thought of opposed stats, with some thoughts that cover interactive fiction re: black + white morality. : )

(Am I allowed to put this here or is there a “interesting outside articles and videos” thread out there I haven’t found? If not, I may start one. :slight_smile: )


The first game (This war of mine?) seems bad if there is no way to play and be good. I don’t like the only way to win is to quit games. Also, why do people with little mental fortitude keep volunteering? I like the way psychological trauma was portrayed more in The Walking Dead Game because it was more gradual, realistic, and you got to know the characters.

But, I do think it can be hard to track if a player is good or bad because their motives may be unknown and sometimes less stats is better.

Aha! I should have known. Eldritch sacrifice is the only reliable way to achieve peace, it’s true. Following the proper rites and rituals, I have thus sacrificed my old identity to the Old Ones and now emerge reborn, ready to serve Them (and this community). Ia! Ia!

(I decided to change my username to a more interesting pseudonym)

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It’s funny I found this topic, because I’m having a problem with opposed stats right now.

I have five opposing stats and I’m not sure how to design the beginning where the player chooses their initial “build”. My first idea was to have five stat-setting choices, with two options each, but that seems like too few options. But then, how do I design so an opposing pair doesn’t get “left out” because the player chose to concentrate on the other opposing pair? Any thoughts?