Table Top RPG systems are based on attributes and statistics for their characters. This is just a simple, base line fact for how the games work. We have numbers to represent how strong, fast, agile, smart, charming, and wise characters can be. These split across different games in different ways, and one of the fun parts of looking at a new system for me - at least now - is seeing how the designer opted to break down the stats, and what that can mean for the game.
Is there just a Body stat that covers strength, speed, and endurance? Or are those three things each their own stat? Which way it goes can tell you a lot about how the game expects to handle physical challenges, and how important it is to the story that strength be its own stat, or covered by something else.
Then, however, we get to mental stats. Now, I've said on this blog before that I'm not a fan of the intelligence stat. I'm not a fan of it, because "intelligence level" isn't something that most people can control. Sure, you can control knowledge and mental reaction time, but you can't really change how you process information. In reading the "new" version of Pendragon (version 5.1) I noticed that they also have done away with intelligence. In fact, in Pendragon you don't have any mental stats at all, and the book flat out says that the player is the "mind" of their character, while the numbers represent the physical attributes that can't be aptly simulated with the mind and imagination.
Effectively, the reasoning seems to be that we need the numbers for physical stats, our characters are vastly different than us physically. However, the player is free to be the mind for the knight, and with all the insight and knowledge they have. There is even mention in the book for giving a player an experience check for knowing things about the culture/world that isn't represented on their character-sheet, complete with a note about then being careful with medieval history majors.
Now, I see strengths and weaknesses to this. On the strong side, it frees the person to play up to the best of their abilities through the lens of his/her characters. They don't have to stop and check "would my character think of that?" When they have some crazy synergistic idea to use the tipped over ladder as a lever to throw themselves to the top of the battlements. On the other hand, it can severely penalize players whose only fault is that they don't know a whole ton about the world they're playing in. This doesn't seem too bad at first, but put it in the context of a new player versus an experienced player. The new player simply doesn't have the skills to adapt and overcome some of these hurdles in the same way the experienced player does, and it can rob them of the fun of the game.
I am, as always with these topics, very interested in what you think. Do we need mental stats? All of them? Only some of them? Which ones do you think we could do away with? Which should we hold onto for the foreseeable future?