|Image from Wikipedia|
Following my recent general discussion about ability scores and their role in tabletop RPGs, here are the actual Hexagram rules. Let me know if I have left out anything important that you think belongs in a section about ability scores.
Ability scores help define characters by quantifying strengths and weaknesses. They affect the game directly in two ways. Each ability score provides a small bonus or penalty. For example, an exceptional dexterity (greater than 12) grants a bonus of +1 to missile weapon attacks (or -1 for a score below 8). Additionally, the referee may call for ability checks to resolve some situations. To succeed at an ability check, you must roll less than or equal to the score in question on a d20.
Ability checks may be used to impartially resolve outcomes that are not covered by other, more specific rules. Ability checks are also used to determine how long something takes under trying conditions even if it is assumed that the action will be ultimately successful. In rare cases, bonuses or penalties may be levied on the check due to situation. Because of the large variance of the d20 roll, treating abilities as five points lower or higher when adjusting difficulty is suggested, but the unmodified score should be applicable for most situations where an ability check is useful.
Character path need not be determined by ability scores. For example, it may seem like a character with an average or low dexterity is unsuited for the path of guile. However, a character that focuses on using antediluvian technology may be better served by a high intelligence! A warrior who aspires to lead soldiers rather than stand on the front line with sword and shield may be better served by a high charisma!
Further, ability scores do not have enough mechanical weight within the Hexagram system to determine success. They should more correctly be looked upon as a tool to tell you something about your character as an individual, with minor system effects to keep the abilities salient without being overwhelming. Your wits and creativity as a player are far more important than your character’s ability scores. Feel free to try counterintuitive ability score / path combinations; such may lead to idiosyncratic and memorable characters.
|Strength||melee weapon damage|
|Constitution||hit points per hit die|
|Intelligence||using antediluvian technology|
|Wisdom||saving throw versus magic|
All modifiers are a penalty of 1 if the score is less than 8 or a bonus of 1 if the score is more than 12.
Strength is physical power. It allows you to hit harder and so modifies melee damage rolls. Potential strength checks include:
- Shifting a heavy statue
- Forcing your way out of a grab
- Winning a tug-of-war
Dexterity is agility, quickness, and reflexes. It helps with aim and so modifies ranged attacks. Potential dexterity checks include:
- Catching a falling vase
- Remaining standing on ice
- Slipping out of a grab or restraint
Constitution is endurance, stamina, and toughness. It modifies hit points per hit die. Potential constitution checks include:
- Resisting the effects of a toxic swamp
- Holding breath
- Recovering from an affliction
Intelligence is reason, cognition, and analytical skill. A strong intellect helps with manipulating ancient technology. Potential intelligence checks include:
- Recognizing an ancient script
- Identifying the basic purpose of an antediluvian machine
- Repairing a simple mundane machine
Wisdom is intuition, willpower, and magical acuity, and thus modifies the magic saving throw. Possible wisdom checks include:
- Throwing off a minor curse
- Engaging in psychic combat given a psychic link
- Noting the presence of hedge magic
Charisma is leadership and force of personality. A high charisma inspires devotion and trust, and thus modifies the social reaction roll. Possible charisma checks include:
- Having a lie believed
- Staring down a thug
- Calming a panicked prisoner
VARIATIONS ON ABILITY CHECKS
Time-based tasks may require more than one successful ability check to complete. For example, pushing a heavy box through a door while under attack by enemy archers. The longer it takes, the more shots the archers will be able to get off. Some such tasks may allow multiple characters to contribute, at the cost of being unable to take other actions at the same time (such as return fire).
Ability checks may be opposed. For example, to resolve arm-wrestling, two characters might each make a strength check and compare the degree of success (that is, the number by which the check was made or failed by). Best of three is recommended to resolve such head-to-head conflicts.
It’s not always necessary, however, to determine everything by checks, especially if nothing interesting is at stake. The above arm-wrestling example could just as easily be resolved by comparing strength scores directly.
THE SAVING THROW RULE
Ability checks are never used to resolve a potentially fatal situation. Instead, saving throws are used in such cases. It is important to use saving throws because they improve with level and thus reward extensive play. Several of the example ability checks above may seem like they are resolving life or death situations (like the holding of breath), but what they are really doing is postponing the necessity of a saving throw. Ability checks will often buy time, one of the most valuable resources to adventurers.
THE PERCEPTION RULE
Ability checks are never used for gathering situational information. All obvious features are communicated directly by the referee. Locating hidden features, however, requires further explicit character action. For example, if there is a room with a map concealed beneath a rug, the referee will only describe the rug. If characters do not look under the rug, they will not find the map. Players may also opt to perform an abstract search, at the cost of spending time (this often has potentially deleterious consequences, such as encountering enemy patrols, and so is wise to avoid when possible). See “searching” in the adventuring procedures section, and note that characters on the path of guile gain bonuses to such abstract searching (though time must still be spent).