Revising the attributes and skills

Introduction Forums Workshops and Brainstorms Revising the attributes and skills

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    I believe that OpenD6 needs more development. It seems to me that the skill and attribute structure no longer matches the way I play games. I look at games like D&D or Savage Worlds a note the continued development in the way of skills and abilities. D&D especially has gone from a virtual absence of skills in 1e, to a loose structure in 2e, to massive bloated skill lists in 3e, to a streamlined selection in 5e. Three editions of Savage Worlds all slightly revise the skill selection and uses.

    In my opinion, OpenD6 also suffers from a lack of defined attributes and skills- being intentionally designed to be customized by each GM. So perhaps what I really want to do is nail down the attributes and skills I want to use in my own games. In the name of accessibility and growth, I also want a list that is generally useful and easily adopted by new writers for new settings.

    So that’s the goal. What skills and attributes serve that goal? I lean toward the traditional six: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. It’s a good structure that has stood the test of time and many different settings.

    So what skills do I want? Maybe a better question is what do I want the skills to do? The 5e list has been refined and pared down, but I think it leaves gaps in game play and certainly there are differences in system application. The next step is to decide which aspects of game play I want to emphasize and which skills will support them the best.


    I have always felt the main part of the game is a tabletop skirmish game. That’s the roots of the hobby, right? So the first action I want to support is combat.

    The basic system actions involved are: to hit, to defend, to damage, to resist. Tangentially, we also have movement, psychological tricks, and creating modifiers like cover and concealment. Movement and modifiers fall within the realm of defensive actions, but tricks can affect others, so I would classify them as both attack and defense. Blending “mental” and physical actions merits an article by itself but some crossover is important, and I think Savage Worlds provides an excellent example. My primary purpose is to apply the rule of tiers to assign combat skills.

    With this in mind:
    Attack skils: brawling, melee, shooting
    Defense skills: dodge, parry
    Damage skills: by weapon, weapon + attribute, attribute alone
    Resist skills: by armor, armor + stamina, stamina alone
    Movement skills: hide, run, climb, jump
    Tricks: feint, provoke, dissuade


    Roll to hit, roll to defend.

    Brawling is unarmed fighting. It can be specialized into areas like grappling, disarm, knockdown, etc. It is a Tier 2 trait under Strength.

    Melee is weapon combat. It can be specialized into specific weapons. It is a Tier 2 trait under Strength.

    Shooting ought to be setting specific, e.g. guns vs bows. It can be specialized for different weapons. It is a Tier 2 trait under Desxterity.

    Throwing was overlooked, but it can a skill both for combat and general use. Outside of really specialized use like in sports, I don’t think it broad enough to have different specializations itself, though you certainly don’t throw a knife the way you throw a rock. I want to put knife throwing as a function of Melee-Knife and make Throwing a specialization of Strength-Athletics.

    Dodge as a defense strikes me as a way to use other movement skills. I want to make it a specialization of Dexterity-Acrobatics or Dexterity-Stealth, or both. Two different types of dodge.

    I want to treat parry the same way, making it a specialization of Melee, which would make blocking a specialization of Brawling.


    I should summarize my thought process on attributes before going further. Strength = applied force. Dexterity = applied movement. Constitution = applied endurance. Intelligence = applied analysis of information. Wisdom = applied judgement of perspective. Charisma = applied personal influence. Also, the relationship of skills to attributes is such that you only ever roll/reference an attribute directly if you do not have training in a given skill.

    Back to combat. Roll to damage, roll to resist.

    In the current system, Lift is used to determine Strength damage, which is added to most melee weapons to determine the final damage code. I really want to subsume all of those kinds of feats of strength under a single skill – Athletics – which would be used not only to determine Strength damage but also for generic activities based on applied strength but not necessarily related to movement, which is the purview of Dexterity and Acrobatics.

    In the same way, resistance is determined based on the Constitution-Stamina skill, which I think is just fine.



    Movement has its own place on the skirmish board. It gets a little sticky when dividing movement into skills, though. Here, I think the 5e definitions help out quite a bit. To summarize and adapt: Strength-Athletics allows you to overcome perceived obstacles and unusual terrain, involving climbing, jumping, running, and swimming; Dexterity-Acrobatics allows you to react to unperceived obstacles and unusual circumstances in terrain. For purposes of defending in combat, it is the “reaction” part that I wish to emphasize.

    Defensive movement has works in combat by: using/creating cover, using/creating concealment, or moving unpredictably. Concealment matches Stealth. Cover can be used by either Stealth or Acrobatics. Unpredictable movement (dodging) matches well with Acrobatics.

    This makes the combat movement skills: Dexterity-Stealth (take cover, hide) and Dexterity-Acrobatics (take cover, dodge). It also means that Strength-Athletics may apply to battlefield terrain, but is not used to directly, defensively influence the opponent’s roll.



    “Tricks” are ways to manipulate an opponent or an ally so that they take action or do not take action. Sun Tzu says that all warfare is based on deception, but that doesn’t seem to suit this context. Rather than forcing a position or stance – which would be a physical action – the goal here is to cause the opponent/ally to use their action to adopt it.

    What actions do we want to provoke? Mathematically, we are seeking to: enhance defense, enhance offense, or control actions. Savage Worlds allows only two tricks: taunt, intimidate; 5e doesn’t leave room for any kind of tricks like this.

    In general, a skill that boosts another skill does so by making an action and then adding one-half of the success or failure to the boosted skill. (see “charm” skill examples in the main rules) The bonus/penalty is then applied to the very next use of the skill. Charm, Con, and Intimidate are the rulebook examples. Command should be added to these for use on allies. I think that covers the offense/defense portion nicely.

    But what about forced actions? This is a pass/fail check instead of graduated check. I think it still works out. The four skills are based on reaction (charm, intimidate) and relationship (con, command).


    All of this addresses tactical combat on the skirmish field. It makes our attribute, skill and specialization list:

    * Brawling – parry, disarm, knockdown, grapple
    * Melee – weapon
    * Athletics – lift/crush

    * Shooting – weapon
    * Acrobatics – dodge, take cover
    * Stealth – hide, take cover

    * Stamina
    * Recover

    * Insight

    * Charm
    * Con – feint
    * Command
    * Intimidate


    Hi Winston,

    First, thanks for setting up / maintaining this very useful site for Open D6, much appreciated.

    Now, on to your comments on revising attributes & skills – you make good points – but it seems that would be essentially creating a new game departing significantly from the D6 system, and if you want to go with the traditional list of 6 attributes why not then just go with an OSR, Traveller et al game systems?

    While I understand that a purpose of this site is to “develop” OpenD6 – I would imagine that any development would / should allow the continued usage of existing OpenD6 and compatible material with no or minimal modification.

    Thanks and Cheers,



    Good to see you, Gary!

    In the very first D6 System book, the Rules As Written required every GM to first decide what attributes and skills they wanted to use in the game and how those attributes and skills would be linked. It didn’t even provide a “standard” list, just a list from which to choose.

    The main rules are solid and don’t need to change, but I’m dissatisfied with the attribute and skill lists of Adventure/Fantasy/Space. So I’m working on an alternate build!

    Why not use Swords & Wizardry, Castles & Crusades, etc? Those are excellent systems with thriving communities. I run a weekly Castles & Crusades game already! But I like the way OpenD6 handles interactions and I want to do more with it. It is my feeling that as long as the basic interactive structure of the game is the same (Making Actions, etc) then changing the skills around – even their use – does not depart from OpenD6.

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