Thoughts on "Stat-less" Games? Semi-Defined MCs? And More

I think about stats a lot when playing and i think sometimes it affects my experience of the game. But i have mixed feelings on this because I the possibility of failure adds a great deal to those games and I dont think i quite understood how what you’re proposing would go like.

Is it more of a setup of a character you’d like to choose and the ability of success is unlocked for the character in question? Or is it more of a" anything goes" mechanic and your choices are always going to succeed?

In the first case, i think you could pull it off if you made the choices on how to approach problems diverse for each “setup” or made some small things only accessible for them. I can’t see the second one working for me honestly, the knowledge of guaranteed success would lead me to believe it meaningless.

It’s the same for relationships. As much as I liked Our life (I’m currently on my second playthrough), I think there’s a little frustration below all the wholesomeness. Something about the knowledge Cove will just match my feelings makes him less compelling, in the relationship side at least, cause he seems less of a person in that aspect. Too much control makes me more aware of the fact that there’s an onesided thing going on and ruins immersion. The possibility of failure in a relationship because you made bad choices makes the character feel more alive. I’d like to think the perception of your actions could also make a character you’re romantically involved with break things up or something alogn those lines but idk I’m really sleepy.

Sorry for the rant as there’s a good chance i misunderstood your point entirety


Hmm I would like to add a example of a game that handles stats(And it has quite a few especially hidden stats) that in a way that isn’t a huge pain in the back side(Unless you are achievement hunting :grin:) Fallen Hero. Passing checks can have you see interesting things but failing them will never ruin a run and your choices matter more then your stats.


These are intriguing questions. My initial thought went to comparing this idea to alignment in D&D: a generally subjective, nebulous concept that loosely influences player decision while rarely being tracked as a stat. I have mixed feelings, but overall, I’d definitely try a gamebook like you’re suggesting.

I’ve recently played the demo for Defiled Hearts: the Barbarian, and so far one of my favorite game-play aspects is the lack of visible stats regarding our standing with NPCs. It’s a breath of fresh air to me, because I don’t feel tempted to micromanage NPC relationships. So, even though it’s probably tracked in the background, that’s a point in favor for trying a gamebook with reduced stat load.

I have also recently played the first Pon Para gamebook. While I love the story, I absolutely cannot stand the stat system. I’m on my third or fourth play (and my last), but I’ve only replayed so far because I feel so compelled to try to make a character that has useful and fun stats, while also feeling like he’s more than just a character sheet. I feel there are way too many stats in that game, and so in order to be decent enough to succeed in the occasional challenge, you have to utterly fail in plenty others (or go with undesired outcomes). It feels bloated.

In addition, I thoroughly dislike the game’s personality dualities. I can be honest in coversations, but the second I try to use any battle tactics aside from, “Hit it!” I lose Honesty. For some reason. I don’t think I’ve seen a single check for Counsel (the opposite of Command), but I’ve failed plenty if checks due to low Command.

The game feels like it’s nickel and diming my every decision, with the cost of failure (or, many times, simply the cost of a non-perfect success) being outrageously expensive. Oh no, something bad is about to happen to your friend! Do you try to help? Too bad, you fail, and you also lose friendship points for the botched attempt. Do you ignore their need? That’s okay, no biggie, they don’t mind because at least you didn’t fail. Want to use a bow? Okay, but you’re only ever going to use it to hunt, and now your combat checks are going to fail (because you’re only a hunter, not a warrior).

The stat system for Pon Para is such a big turn-off that I highly doubt I’ll play any of the sequels. And, ultimately, that’s a long-winded way to say I prefer balance in a game’s stats. I’d also give your game idea a try, just to see what it’s like.


There is also BREACH. It does stats, it does random and it does it really well and entertaining. But it’s definitely a lot of work.
But speaking about what @Bacondoneright does, heheh, right - it’s, how should I best say it, synergy stat of intimidation? Which factors in your other stats -your height, your poise and etc. I found that incredibly cool and would like to see more of that. It’s not really about how much stats you have and how they are presented - points or percentage - it’s about what you do with them. If you utilize them good enough, if they are clear enough and so on.
What I also think would be an interesting alternative to personality stats is your reputational stats. It’s not only about what you do it’s also about how many people witness what you do. Even if you are usually softspoken and peaceful but for some reasons were provoked into a public fighting, people will assume that you are a scoundrel and will treat you that way until you manage to acquire enough sightings of your peaceful ways. Or don’t. It can also be fun to have a really mixed reputation and being treated like a complete wild card.


Can you write a personality stat-less game? (Or at least one where it’s not presented in the stat menu making it of paramount importance.) Yeah, you can. Pretty uncommon though. Case in point is the enchanter part of this game:

In saying that, I am tracking one or two variables more heavily in the alternate path (not yet on the forum), but that has less to do with personality and how your choices are wearing down your energy and resolve. You can still flip between choice types to some extent without much if any penalty and it destroying a “character build”. Because of the game type it is with semi-defined MC’s I think you can do that because your choice selections are already narrowed down somewhat to fit the storyline. I’m seriously considering keeping it this way.

Games that prioritise story over high levels of customisation aren’t as common though, and don’t tend to do particularly well when released. (So people stop making them unless they’re pet projects like this one.)

Correct me if I’m wrong (haven’t played it in ages) but I think Creatures such as we (which placed highly in IFComp) is also very light on personality stats (and has nothing in the stat menu visible to the reader) but it’s one of the few I can think of built this way that are published.


I feel the same way. It’s one reason the stat heavy things drive me nuts. As much as I love Breach, if I wanted to play a shooter + open world + RPG where I have to manage inventory and decide what weapon to use for each situation, I’d go play Fallout: New Vegas where I can enjoy the sight head shotting Legionaries or blowing their legs off at the knee. I don’t need that sort of micromanagement in an IF. The writing is so good on that one that it skirts the line on the positive side, though.


And like you, I feel there is too much subjectivity in deciding how choices affect personality stats. Unless you code dive, or the author adds text to tell you what stat is affected, there’s really no way to know what it’s going to do to your character. Which annoys me to no end.

You and me both. This is another issue I have with stats. In essence, you’re playing a tabletop game where, in many cases, you have to be level 20 to win against a level 8 opponent, simply because nothing is taken into consideration other than your highest stat. That not only ruins the immersiveness of the game, but it is aggravating as hell.

You may run into the same problem with these stats, unless you make it clear how each choice affects the stat. One person’s realism is another person’s pessimism (I live this on a daily basis, by the way!). And introversion/extroversion is likewise troublesome. Introverts don’t necessarily hate interacting with people, nor are they necessarily shy–it’s just that they find dealing with people (especially in larger groups) exhausting, whereas extroverts love big groups of people and want to talk to everyone all the time. So if you use the “introvert” label to make people shy, it doesn’t always fit.

Instead, depending on your reasons for picking these, you might go for charming/neutral/intimidating or the like. Or maybe friendly/neutral/stoic (or quiet or standoffish) if you’re talking about a trait in dealing with new people.

I tend to like the charming/neutral/intimidating traits quite a bit. People who “charm” aren’t going to go in like a bulldozer, and people who operate like bulldozers aren’t going to go in and turn into charm machines. The optimist vs pessimist thing usually annoys me because being a realist isn’t being pessimistic! (personal beef, but my characters don’t care one way or the other, usually, lol)

Expressive/neutral/stoic is another one I tend to like. Expressive people will react in a more obvious way to things that happen than stoic people, who tend to bottle things up and have a poker face. This is also one of those trait scales where it’s much easier for NPCs to note sudden change in behavior. Just my opinion, though, so take it for what it’s worth.

This is one of the things that bothers me, too. It’d be a simple choice after the MC makes a choice that goes against their “base” personality traits for an NPC to give them a funny look, and say something along the lines of, “Have you suddenly turned into an idealist on us?” and give response options indicating whether this is a situational thing or if it’s a sudden personality shift. A comment on the matter is easy enough to write in, and a personality shift question wouldn’t even have to be triggered then, but after several choices like that.


Speaking as someone who had played read quite a bit of both CYOA-style gamebooks, without any stats and Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf and other gamebooks where stats and/or abilities for your character where an important part of the book: I started by playing/reading CYOA-style gamebooks and enjoyed them a lot then, but after having played/read Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf and other series with stats for your character, playing/reading CYOA started feeling lackluster in comparison.

I think this had to do with a couple of things. Firstly, without no stats and abilities for the characters, the characters felt more vague and without a real core, there was less to really grab unto to give me a sense of what the character was like than in Lone Wolf, Fighting Fantasy and other gamebooks where the characters had stats and/or abilities. Of course, if interactive stories that follows a more anything-goes approach, where you can jump from one storyline to the next, like you do in some interactive stories, this can still feel entertaining in its own way. But if you want a story where the MC interacts with the rest of the world and the rest of the cast in a way that both makes them feel like a proper person, who are in a kind of relationship to the world and the other characters in the story, and makes you truly care about them, it’s harder where the MC has no really discernible qualities and nothing really to hold on to when it comes to defining how the MC is, at least unless you fully self-insert. But if the MC in question has stats and/or abilities or something else that can work a bit like stats, ithis can work as something for the reader/player to grab onto to give them at least a bit more sense of who the MC is. So I think it’s important to keep in mind that a MC without any stats can easily feel too vague and without a clear character to a player/reader,at least unless you put something else in place that serves the same purpose that stats can serve.

The second reason, I think, for why the CYOA-style gamebooks felt a bit lackluster after having played/read gamebooks with stats for a while, was that I missed having cool abilities that could affect what happened and for stats that could do the same and after at that point also having played quite a bit of tabletop rpg games, I think I also missed having character sheets for the MC, with stats and other stuff. And that’s another thing to keep in mind, although we’re probably not anywhere near as vocal about it as those who dislike it or even hate it, there’s plenty of players/readers of COGs and HGs who actually enjoy stats and similar gamey aspects, at least as long as they’re done well. This might be a weird be just a weird hobby of mine that is shared by no one else, but I have to admit I do really enjoy just creating rpg characters and creating adventuring scenarioes and imagining them gaining experience and levels. I got at least some of the same kind of thrill in COG/HG stand alones or series, where I can gradually “build” their stats from mostly comparatively modest to the point where a lot of those stats are really powerful. And if all stats are taken away, with nothing to take their place, I lose all of that. Sure I can still enjoy a COG or HG there’s not much opportunity to “build” the MC’s stats, if the story and/or ROs are really enjoyable, but the bar for what counts as enjoyable enough will then be much higher than what is the case with the the HGs and COGs that gives me the opportunity for the kind of character building I like. And so I think it’s important to keep in mind that there’s probably also a fair amount of people who, like me, actually enjoy stats and stat tests, and who would likely feel that if a HG was without any stat tests and stat checks, it would be poorer for it.

I’m not saying that I don’t see any issues with the way stats are sometimes implemented. I vastly prefer “stand alone” stats to opposed stats and stats to do with abilities, attributes and skills to personality stats. You can’t build opposed stats the way you can build stand alone stats, and the way that opposed personality stats are used in a COG or HG that uses stat checks for those stats, encourages you as a player/reader to try to tactically choose your MC’s personality stats instead of roleplaying a particular personality and so can, in a way takes away some of the personality of your MC. So there are obviously dangers of the misuse and overuse of certain kinds of stats, as well.

I do however think that stats, as long as you don’t focuse or at least focus to much on opposed stats, particularly opposed personality stats, both makes it easier to get a clear picture, so to speak, of your character, and is a source of enjoyment for those of us who likes to build our MCs or in other ways enjoy gamey aspects and features in COGs and HGs. So if you plan on leaving them out, I think it’s also important to ensure that you have other features in place that can serve the same purposes or find other ways you can make up for the lack of stats, ways that would also please those who like/enjoy stats.


I mean, not having stats doesn’t mean you can’t have specialized skills or anything, it might just mean those are instead things you select for. (Like choosing if you specialize in Tactics, or Weapons in I, the Forgotten One.) You can also have a few other ‘stats.’ Personally, I’m considering an appearance based and 2 personality-based stats, then maybe 1 or 2 skill stats the player selects. Realistically, unless your MC is a brand-new babe, they’ve done a lot of their growing already and have a pretty set way of living life. I like being able to determine who they are to an extent at the beginning instead of having to make a choice 100x in order to make them that way.

Response to @Fat_cat :

Part 1: The part that actually answers your question

I think that is an exceptionally good opportunity to use personality bases. I literally was just playing a game with this system and I’m kicking myself not being able to remember… Shit! (Are you a pixel artist by any chance?)

I’d suggest maybe a choice between 3 personalities for children, instead of relying on a stat system, but it is up to you. It is probably going to be more work this way, for me, at least. I just think I prefer it lol. (Don’t limit choices based off personality though, this is for dialogue between choices. I would recommend assigning a numerical variable to the personalities and using @{var a|b|c} command for alternate descriptions of each paragraph where relevant.)

Part 2: This is some conjecture and info about an alternative skill stat system idea, ignore it if you like

A proposition could be a kind of level system, for developing skill stats. This would be something different to the percentages (because it’s more clear). If you are familiar with stat-games this might be something you are familiar with but if not I’ll explain below.

Let’s say that you want a skill system where there is levels of knowledge. In 5 levels, we might have it split like below:
level 0 is elementary
level 1 under-average
level 2 layman’s
level 3 is above average
level 4 is advanced
level 5 is mastery

Let’s say, beyond that, that you want to balance it around ensuring you can’t have a kid with better math skills than an the average adult. You can spend the points how you like, but each level costs more.
Lvl 0 → Lvl 1 Skill -1 Point
Lvl 1 → Lvl 2 Skill -2 Points
Lvl 2 → Lvl 3 Skill -3 Points… and so on

Response to @SeventhJackel :
Goodness gracious! You mad genius! That is exactly the WIP that I was thinking about earlier that wouldn’t come to mind! I really like the way personalities are handled in the game, and the malleability given to the player outside of them. (Though I was not a fan of the two personality types that weren’t ‘honest,’ iirc? I really felt like ‘brooder’ seemed juvenile and while fitting, did not like it lol.


@Phenrex Any thoughts about how would that work with a child MC? Where the MC body and skills are still developing. I have been having a lot of trouble with the stats system and thinking about removing it.

Thinking about having something different, like how do others see the MC, for example.

Really helpful, thanks. Will mess with it and see what I can come up with. :grinning:


If you haven’t played it you might check out @Snoe wip Freak. It hasn’t been updated since 2019 but their method of inputting styles and personality at the beginning and adjusting the story instead of checking numerical stats was pretty effective.


Many. What time frame is the story operating across? There are predictable “milestones” they hit at certain ages.

I think stat-less games are the best, tbh.

I don’t read interactive fiction to play a game. For one, choicesscript is too limited to make creative gameplay with - for instance, I loved the zombie exodus series on my first read-through, but I can’t bring myself to go through again and just… click so many radio buttons over and over to build my stats/inventory, with no emotional payoff most of the time.

For another, gameplay is just hard, and writing is hard too, especially when most choicescript authors are primarily writers and not devs. Asking one person to do it all is asking for 1 chapter a year.

I think the “interactive” aspect of interactive fiction isn’t the best at gamifying things; rather, it’s another tool to draw the reader in and make them feel invested. Even if a choice doesn’t change the overarching story plot or even your character’s outlook on things, it’s still worth having if it makes me think twice about what’s going on in my character’s head when I pick it.

As well, I don’t think the interactive aspect is supposed to help you create the exact character and personality and backstory you want - I think that choice is made when you choose which book you want to read.


The game would cover the entire life of the MC.

Been writing it for a while now.

The readers can choose from three personalities for the first six years.

Sweet child
Fussy child
Stoic child

The MC will also have an insanity stat that can affect the personalities if it is too high.

The personalities won’t lock the readers out of choices, but they will change how the MC behaves and respond and how others see them.

A stoic can still be sweet if they want to, but it will be harder for him/her to show it, and a sweet child could find it harder to keep his/her emotions in check, unlike the stoic one. And a fussy MC is just a spoiled MC.


I do enjoy how I,The Forgotten One handles its personality/ability stats, so I’d fully support more games using that style of “set” choice making over the standard “pick these options to shift percentages” style of stats/abilities. That being said, I do think there needs to be certain points throughout th story to make modifications to your MC’s personality and improve upon their abilities, like you mentioned.


In my eyes, the “interactive” part of Interactive Fiction shines best when it comes to affecting narrative paths and such, not when trying to emulate the type of interaction you’d find in a traditional video game. I feel like CoG/HG would only benefit if they focused more on the format’s strengths as written stories with branching paths, as opposed to trying to “gamify” things too much.


On stats, depends on the amount and which types of them are present. I don’t like attribute stats like strength/agility/intelligence and gravitate towards personality stats much more, as long as they don’t force me to do something I don’t want to. Examples:

I. Zombie Exodus and Zombie Exodus Safe Haven.

The first ZE is my favourite game here by far. I replay it every few months and each time, it’s an enjoyable experience. When I tried to play ZE Safe Haven, I ended up disliking the game a greater deal more. Seemed weird to me since the quality of the writing only improved but I concluded that the smaller amount of stats was much better for me and the way I like to play games. In the original, you have 6 attribute stats and a humanity bar in the first game. On the sequel, you have 2 more attributes, the addition of 4 bars related to health and the addition of 18 bars of skill.

I was just overwhelmed at that. Some people like micromanaging, but I get confused and frustrated each time I have to stop paying attention to the story to do math about which skill would be best to level up. Skills like intimidation, leadership and persuasion work best for me when coalesced into a single ‘charisma’ bar.

II. Heroes Rise.

The second and last example is Heroes Rise and the infamous way the sequels used the societal/privacy stats to lock you out of certain decisions. Once again, the writing and pacing of the game was spot on for me, just like ZE, but the way the personality stats railed me one way or another just left a bitter taste in my mouth. Not only did a particular choice was locket out that made little sense to me, but the notion that a character must have X personality and absolutely must be only that X person after you made a certain number of choices in that direction disappointed me since humans are anything but predictable, and more often than not do things that differ completely from how people perceive them to be.

To make it short, the fewer stats, the better for me. The games that I enjoy the most here either had few to no attribute stats or relied heavily on personality stats. Samurai of Hyuga is a good example like someone mentioned above, in that the personality stats enhance the flavour of the story and slight change how certain scenes play out rather than just be intrusive. Hope my argument made sense.


I would like to see a game without a single stat. The stats tab has your name and a few things like age and if youre healthy or hurt and whatever, but thats it. Maybe even a portrait of your character or other character portraits.

So you go through the story making the choices you want, the ones you really want, since there are no stats.

And once you reach the ending, when youre about to finish the game, right between the prologue and the voting screen… THEN is when the stats appear. Not to influence your choices, but to reflect them. Like “On this run your main personality was ruthless. Your favorite combat style was magic, and you specialized in thunder magic. People feared you, but they respected your loyalty too. Your relationship with insert love interest here was the talk of the whole city, and your kids never saw you two argue”

Things like that. Stats because of the story, not stats for the story


The Hero Rise series honestly is not something I personally feel a strong affinity for, the fact I got punished for needing to reload, making the checkpoint system essentially useless, felt bitter and unnecessary.

I think that if you have a checkpoint system, it should have an option without a punishment, and maybe there is a mode where punishments are enabled for masochists who want that. When I was just immediately supposed to accept Black Magic’s secret dungeon I was already out of the mood, when I had to vote or he breaks shit off that is when I dropped the series lol. I just can’t get it, though I have heard the third book has good ROs?

Reply to @Josetrayamar :

I mean, you could have something like that. I could, for example, implement a set of tracker variables that have +1 added to the count every time you make a type of choice, though it would be a lot of work. I think personally I prefer seeing it but I could see an appeal to a post-game screen for different genres.

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I remember reading a demo about a detective type of game and it didn’t have any stats check the game would just ask on the prolouge of their mc level of strength like if it was really strong, averge or weak and some other stats and then replace it with flavour text of the chosen level.
I quite enjoyed it on that way that i didn’t have to try to do a specific choice and just chose how the story would go.
To bad i don’t remember the name its been a long time since i seen it :joy: if someone finds it please tell me.

This game is amazing and I’m sure everyone will think the same as me. wordle game