Stats Gone Wild

…or Done Well, rather, but I liked the title. I’ve been thinking a lot about stats lately and I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts.

What makes a stat suited to the game it’s in, on top of describing a skill? For me, I like to see when a game doesn’t necessarily cover every possible skill, so it says something about the MC’s capabilities or the kind of story the game is telling. Conversely if skills go into a lot of detail about combat, say, you know you’re in for a game which focuses on that area. What stats have you seen which made you think “yes! that’s perfect for that game”.

And have you encountered secondary stats (reputation, health, willpower etc) that you’ve loved? I like the ship and punctuality stats in Asteroid Run as the crunchy mechanics reflect the narrative importance of completing the job and, well, not having the ship fall apart.

Also I just love when there’s a characterful name, for example, Grumpy Goose vs Happy Helper in In the Service of Mrs Claus makes me laugh every time I look at it. Ditto Beautiful Cinnamon Roll vs Rotten Apple in The Fog Knows Your Name. Any of those which stand out for you?


I like games with stats, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t stand games with too many stats.

For instance, the Zombie Exodus games and Tin Star are fantastic games, and I greatly enjoy that they’re meant to be pseudo sandbox games, but it’s, quite frankly, overwhelming to have that many stats - especially when you will never use all of them in a single play-through.

Stats that numerous are better left to tabletops, like D&D.

I’ll come back to this with better examples at a later time :slight_smile:


I find that the awnser to liking and disliking, finding them useful or arbitrary is entirely based on what they are used for and if they are used.

I love it when stats influence some lines or choices, in the sense that it makes it like your character thinks, acts and says things differently (An Odyssey: Echoes of War is a good recent example, some lines and choices as well as their outcomes change depending on your stance on fame and divinity, aswell as your level of mercy vs. cruelty). Samurai of Hyuga is a sort-of good example of this aswell, though it’s more of a indicator for right and wrong choices and which variant of the narrative you follow.

Past that I don’t feel much can be said beside the fact that skills need to be checked and progress or resource bars need to be used with indication of failure, success or clear reference towards it status in the story. I also like it when stats make a minor change in a paragraph, it creates this miniscule but cool feeling of personalisation.

I dislike it though when a game makes a list of stats and seemingly at random make this complementary or make that exclusive for the sake of a double skill and personality check or makes it that this choice or situation defines you in a way that can be seen as out of character.

Magicians Workshop kind of fits this description.

I find Hero’s of Myth, Fool!, Fallen Hero and War For The West to be good examples, to name a few good games with good stats and how to use them, name them and style them, atleast in my very humble-ish and entirely unprofessional opinion.


I’m a fan of skill and secondary stats, especially if you don’t have to use/affect them in a single playthrough, as that usually means more replayability and different endings.

I really liked the stats in Fool! – things like wit or stagecraft are exactly what I’d expect a jester to be concerned about. I thought the Life of a Wizard’s magic and knowledge stats worked as well, as it would have been strange to have the story broadly tell the story of the MC’s life but only use a narrow amount of magic/knowledge.

For secondary stats, I think a good example is the Father’s Mood stat in A Midsummer’s Night. It is a constant looming presence to the player in the stats screen just as the father’s mood and presence is always looming over the MC, and it has an impact throughout the story.

As for characterful names, the skills in An Odyssey: Echoes of War stood out to me – A Born Leader, Strong as a Storm, etc. I’ve only played the demo, but they sound like descriptions Demodocus would use for the MC.


I ascribe to the philosophy “less is more”, so the less stats there are, the more I tend to enjoy the game since it indicates that it’s more story-based.

Plus, it tells me that I won’t have to ‘play’ the game to boost my stats to win if I run into some skill check that I can’t beat.

I like stat graphs that are used as a visual to track your relationship with an NPC, but other than that? Not something I generally like in my stories.


I can’t recall the name of the game, but it was a sci-fi “you’re the captain of a ship now” kind of story, and it has a stat labelled as “luck”. I should read it again now to check, but at the time I never quite understood what decisions increased the “luck” stat (which was a string variable, actually, with some tongue-in-cheek descriptions) but dang if it didn’t make me a reckless captain…

Oh, we need to escape from this ambush ASAP and one of the options is to teleport under them in what’s possibly the most dangerous decision in this universe? Stand back, folks: I’m feeling lucky today.

I loved this so much that thought about implementing something similar for my game (if I ever publish it), but I called it “karma” instead of “luck”. I’m not sure if the player should be able to see their karma stat or not, or rather how to show it, but I’m working on it!

I dislike the system whereby if you have e.g. 64 in [stat] an the stat check requires 65 that’s a massive failure, i.e. the pass-fail model of stat-checks. Despite being pretty much my favorite series, Lucids Lost heir trilogy is the worst offender for this, especially the last entry (I thing Lucid released the “legacy advantage” specifically for this reason, it does make it easier.) That being said, counter-intuitively, I think the Lost heir represents the best use of stats in the game sense of all the text-based adventure games I’ve played, it just feels fun.

I’e been experimenting with a system in my own “game” where whatever your score in a stat is, you have a chance to pass based on that stats value out of 100 - so with a score of 100 you would pas 100% of the time, while with a score of 40 you would only pass 40% of the time. I have no idea how good/frustrating this will be for the average player, because of course it will normalize fail-rolls. A similar system seemed to be popular in Breach:TAJ so I have some hopes.

The second thing I have been doing which I am very pleased about is disconnecting stat increases from choices. The “normal” way i see stats done in CoGs is that you pick the “use sword” option and your sword skill goes up, you pick the “I want to go dancing” choice and your poise goes up and so on and so on. I do find this a bit limiting since you basically have to pick a path you want and stick to it all the way through - an overlap of stat-gaming and making choices. This is most obvious to me in Samurai of Hyuga where its it really easy to pick a choice thinking its going to do one thing and actually it raises another, or lowers something… frustrating.

My least favorite thing is the use of fairmath when stats can go down, since you can effectively spend all your choices grinding up some stat to the 90s in increments of one and two then one wrong choice and it drops back down to like 65 - neither realistic nor enjoyable.

Anyway, In what I have been working on I have basically implemented a level up screen after each chapter so you can spend your experience gained as you would like, so you don’t need to worry about which choices increase which stats. Of course success and failure are still dependent on stats so there is that - its all a bit of an experiment.

All in all I think it depends what type of game you are actually wanting to write - the stats have to fit organically with the plot, and with the “game-type” - of course a more game-y game like The lost Heir is going to be very stat heavy, but that’s the point and the whole thing works and is tied together - a more “character based” game with tons of stats might feel awkward because the game structure does not lend itself to the decided upon stats organization.

Basically what I’m saying is plan your stats as you plan your plot, and don’t be afraid to remove things that don’t work and don’t use fairmath if you include choices that can lower stats.


I personally really like stats that simply reflect the players play style. For example: Wayhaven Chronicles does this well with charming vs intimidating, for example. You don’t necessarily fail stat checks it just creates a bio for your MC, which I really appreciated. The Passenger also does this well where your dialogue will change based on if you’re nonchalant vs goal-oriented you’re either on time for your meeting at Hellbender’s or 5 minutes late. It’s flavor text that makes the game so much more immersive :slight_smile:


YES. I love Wayhaven’s stat system because it feels like the game recognises your personality and celebrates your character’s strengths, rather than punishing the player constantly for not meticulously choosing every answer in a strict sequence. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve literally wanted to chuck my phone across the room because I’ve restarted a game for the 50th time just because I’ve chosen something seemingly insignificant and it’s blown the story apart. Sometimes I have no idea how anyone can be expected to know which answer corresponds with which stat while keeping in mind that if you don’t focus heavily on one or two traits you’ll fail every check. IMO this smothers any self-expression or immersion and it just becomes a numbers game. I feel like I’m in a battle of wits with the author and they have all the answers. Never wanted to cheat more at something in my life - I just want to get on with the story!


I see what you mean - I’m not super familiar with the games in question but I do find that Choice of the Deathless, say, while being one of my faves, has a huge list of relationships on the stats page that’s quite daunting.

I LOVE when this is done well. I did a bit of domineering vs accommodating multireplace in Creme de la Creme and it seemed to go down well.

I hear this. In Blood Money I went in a direction having a ton of stats and test combinations, which led to a lot of later choices being impossible until I thoroughly reduced their difficulty (and even then it wasn’t entirely clear what I was testing).

@expectedoperator I really enjoy when there’s that sense of personalisation to the game. There’s something to be said for D&D style stats when it’s the right game, but having something characterful gives that special something.

@AChubbyBlackCat That’s really interesting, I hadn’t thought of it like that! Are there particular games with fewer stats that you’ve especially enjoyed?

@AdmirableAnimation I like that! In Choice of the Deathless I believe if you have less Sleep you’re less good at the rest of the challenges which was a really cool mechanic. I love the idea of having a wild card stat that could make unusually fortunate things happen.

I like having graduated successes - a super success, a medium success with some caveats, and a disaster. But it can be so challenging to figure out the results for regular choices like that!

That sounds so interesting! If there were still increased stats with choices, I wonder about the idea of having periodic updates too between chapters, where you could see where your stats had increased and whether there were particularly major choices that changed them.

@iota in Wayhaven if you have low Intimidating and try to intimidate someone, what happens - do you fail the check? Or does something else happen?

I love this and want to do more of it. Not necessarily something that majorly affects that plot or gives a mechanical disadvantage, but flavour.

This is SUCH an issue for me as a developer and I’m thinking a lot about developing my skills. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told “this isn’t clear what the choice is testing”, and I’m still very much learning! Which is a major reason why I made this thread, to learn more about what people like and dislike, and what feels immersive or intuitive.


I can not speak specifically to Tin Star, except from the perspective of a player but with regard to Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven, I can assure you that all the stats are used in a play through.

The main purpose of this large volume of stats is to allow flexibility of the player to approach the game the way they want to. Each problem can be solved in more ways than one.

You may not choose to utilize every stat offered (nor should you) on every play through but because multiple stats are solutions to each check encountered, every stat built in the mechanics are used in the code.

This is exactly the same situation – tabletops allow different solutions to the same problem, so if the situations are the same, offering the same solution: multiple ways of solving a problem, seems fair and desirable to me.


Edit: I have not yet contributed to the mechanics discussion of the thread, but look to do so “soon” …

My approach to stats is for relations with characters to show not % or static number, but to show “Character B: is willing to fight for you.” or along those lines. The title of character changes depending on how much fame (number) and specific choices (boolean) player have made along the way, yet I haven’t done this properly in my game. Along with oathsworn armour types, ship statistics, etc. This way it feels more organic and less a math thing (some of my testers despise math…).

Same for oathsworn armour types, ship statistics, etc.

Of course, there are stats that better fit being simply numerical, wealth, ship speed, warrior count…

I would say trying to make it less a numbers game and more into an immersion of a story is an applaudable thing.

I have tried to do this and I find it hard to implement. All the ifs and possibilities makes my head spin :smiley: Authors who manage to make such games are great.

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That depends a lot on the situation you’re in.

So in Book One, there’s a fight around the end of the first act. Leaning into your stats you can help defeat some goons, and not leaning into your stats means that, well, you sucked at fighting the goons, lol. But the scene ends the same as the PC is sneak attacked and knocked out, which then transitions into the next scene. So there is a different outcome to the stat checks, just not one that’s going to affect the story in any way. But then you have the Boss Fight at the end of act 3, and succeeding or failing your stat checks there results in either the bad guy being captured or escaping. The consequences of this success or failure have yet to appear, but I’m very excited to see where they lead in subsequent books.

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If I can get through a game without having to look at the stats screen even once and it still feels like a satisfying experience that feels like a good stats system to me :slightly_smiling_face: Don’t get me wrong, I’ll definitely use it to check on character relationships and personality- or alignment stats every once in a while, but if I have to look at it before every choice to try and puzzle out what stats correspond with what the author may or may not have intended with each option that’s a huge disappointment, especially if it doesn’t make sense with the narrative of the story. To use ZE:Safe Haven as an example, you can choose from different military professions. From a story perspective it should mean your character has at least had a military training and, depending on rank, field experience. Yet the skill system completely overrules this. This is most obvious in skill checks to do with firearms and (military) vehicles. You can fail at those to an extent you would never have been able to get into military training, let alone make a career out if it. Ehm… Rant over.

So yeah, from a story>game mechanics perspective good stats are stats that track the MCs relationships with other characters, alignment, attitude, and similar subjective stats, and if it’s a game using skills, skills that aren’t integral to the MCs backstory, open up “extras”, like for example different story branches or flavor text, in the story, do not limit the player to the one path corresponding to that skill or fail automatically, and can be improved through the course of it.


This is the last of my talking about ZE and ZE:SH – I’m invested in the game unlike other titles and I do not want to cause derailment or sniping.

I am not sure what specifically you are talking about regarding the firearms … but I will say this. Depending on your military choices while in service, you may not get the requisite training in either to outskill a civilian expert in either firearms or vehicles.

My eldest sister might have been in the Army, on a base where a platoon of tanks were stationed, and they even made her wash said tanks as punishment detail … but her 30 year career in the military never trained her to drive a tank.

Likewise, with firearms. My middle sister may have been a trained marksman but my oldest sister had to have a “crash” course on pistol wielding when they thought they were going to emergency deploy her to Israel. There is no comparison to the two vastly different experiences that both my sisters had in the military.

So I’m not exactly sure why a career in the military should guarantee success over either firearms or military vehicle checks.

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Balancing the mechanics is hard. As Jim the creator of ZE and ZE:SH says:

Bold emphasis mine. I do think with Safe Haven, Jim learned a lot and in the future, I imagine some things will be done differently but only he can say for sure

With all this and above said, I’d like to link a very important resource for everyone:

These official guidelines are essential background to check out when designing mechanics because CoG goes over a lot of ground to help its authors succeed.

I still can’t find my old posts on the topic, so I’ll have to edit in my past statements once I do.


Yeah the idea was as follows:

Divorce the player choice selection from needing to max stats. E.g. You want to hit x with sword, but you know you need to level up your poise, thus you select the wow them with your equestrianism instead. This raises your poise, and you continue the game.

Instead you can make choices based on whether you think they will be successful and you can change your chance of success mid-game by selecting which stats you raise. You can shape your character but you do not need to make the “right” choices to do so.

I think it is working well so far, but we will see :upside_down_face:

An interesting read there. Thank you!.

Some of that stuff is kinda common sense, if one thinks a bit into CYOA design. Other parts, either it would take me years to make a such a game (I don’t get how other people manage O.o) or either I wouldn’t do cuz of personal reasons. It seems these guidelines are targeted to people with a lot of experience/free time or for games to be very long and complex.

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So in almost every COG or hosted game, we aer rewarded for being consistent with our roleplaying (for example, being consistently kndi or mean, etc). But the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be enough clues on what action leans towards what stat and so on (In werewolves of haven, the choice to be bold yet cautious seems impossible for me. I only know how to stick to calm and caution or bold and feral). Is this only a problem for me? Does anyone else have this problem? If so shouldn’t the dialogue choices be more obvious?

Tldr; Dialogues and choices aren’t too obvious for me. Is this intentional? Does anyone else have this issue? Should the dialogue be more obvious?

In my experience most games set multiple personality stats to be affected by a specific choice. Whether it be by increasing ‘like’ traits, or decreasing ‘unlike’ traits. In games it can be difficult to balance traits because of this. So making consistent ‘choices’ isn’t enough. You generally have to make similar choices consistently, rather than consistently making dissimilar ones. I hope that makes sense.

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