The Grisly Eye

R.G. Wood's Blog

The Pond Skater

Illustration of a commong kingfisher.

A common kingfisher sitting on a branch of a tree. Etching by Heath.

I am reminded of a parable: a pond skater was admiring his pond. Behold, its perfect curves. How plentiful its food. Enough space for pond skater life to prosper, no more, and no less, he proclaimed. Incapable of conceiving the waters below, or the skies above, he remarked: This universe is truly unique and complete!

He was then promptly plucked out of the water by a kingfisher. Before being swallowed, he glimpsed the incomprehensible, cosmic horror of a new dimension around the surface of his pond. And beyond? More ponds than any pond skater should, or could, ever imagine.

Which is to say, we all suffer some kind of myopia. The most powerful (and painful) of which is nostalgia.

The Big 6

…while the intelligent character will know that smoking is harmful to him, he may well lack the wisdom to stop (this writer may well fall into this category). Dungeon Master's Guide, AD&D 1st Edition. Gary Gygax.

Speaking of myopic nostalgia, let’s talk about the Big 6 ability scores: Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.

Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence… A holy mantra, repeated by the faithful. A lens through which so much RPG design is viewed.

The stakes are high on the subject of the Big 6. To the OSR movement, they’re an essential fragment of forgotten lore. To Wizard’s of the Coast, a grand legacy that must be honoured. And why fix something that isn’t broken? The Big 6 are a lingua franca for expressing characters. Anyone with a passing familiarity with TTRPGs knows what Dexterity, Wisdom, etc. means.

However, another school of thought holds that that ability scores should reflect the flavour, and core proficiencies of your game. For example, In a science fiction game, Dexterity might not make sense when lasers have replaced bows, and technology reduces the importance of manual finesse.

Illustration of Might Attribute

Three Meet

With this new school of thought in mind, the motivating design goal for Three Meet is to unify and simplify the ability scores into three Attributes: Might, Cunning, and Wisdom.

It’s no coincidence these correspond with the core activities of traditional fantasy roleplaying: fighting, thieving, and casting spells. (More on that later.) Players are presented with an abbreviated choice: Might is how fightery you are, Cunning how thiefy, and Wisdom how clericy or wizardy you are.

If you want to play a fierce warrior, you just increase your Might, rather than worrying whether to put your highest scores into Strength or Constitution. Similarly, a wily thief doesn’t have to chose between Dexterity or Perception. Cunning covers both.

And Wisdom and Intelligence are merged into a single score One that that doesn’t require various philosophical contortions to separate. (Are you foolish for smoking? Or merely naive?)

What of all this?

Three Meet trades simplicity for expressiveness. Certainly, characters you could express through the Big 6 are harder to express with Might, Cunning, and Wisdom. The bumbling wizard is a famous example.

Yet not all is lost… skills can shore up these gaps. Perhaps the bumbling wizard has high Wisdom, and proficiency in Arcana/History, but lacks proficiency in Insight.

Will this work? Playtest will tell. What is next? I’ll be looking at the corresponding character classes: The Mighty, The Cunning and The Wise. Please subscribe or follow me for updates.

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