Ideas and Concepts with Character Attributes

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Ideas Can Have Attributes

IdeasIt has been awhile since I had a free moment of thought due to my day job swallowing my soul. With some free time after months, I am getting back into RPG Jutsu site. It’s also GURPS Day which is a wonderful time to add content for reading. With that in mind I decided to look at a new way for GMs to track nebulous ideas.

A GM may be used to record keeping the progress of a campaign. There are likely notes, word documents, cards, post-its, or even forum posts somewhere cataloging the flow of ideas. These ideas are interconnected to the story and have direct relationship to the player. They can take the form of friends, enemies, environments, cities, objects or simply notions. GURPS players are used to statistics governing characters. I am speaking of Strength, Dexterity, Hit Points and similar.

What if we apply these same attributes to intangible concepts? You might dismiss the notion as not fitting your mental image of what the idea is. Surely friendship doesn’t have a Dexterity attribute.

No matter your view, this article is going to take a trip down Attributes and make them less tangible than than they are on a character sheet. I will also give some working examples of how they might be used for GM record keeping.

Ideas Have Strength

Strength represents a few physical abstract notions. It represents effort, mass, and more. I’ll not delve into the complete definition of Strength but if you take that concept, perhaps you can fit it into ideas. ST might represent the durability or forcefulness of an idea. For relationships it might be the loyalty of the bond, it could also be something as simple as how often individuals interact.

With such a concept you can easily use ST to be hit points for an idea. When someone mistreats an ally, that might be injury. If they thwart a villain’s plan, that might be injury. If someone is writing a book and it gets negative reviews, this might be injury! With injury you can also heal. Maybe there are actions that can rebuild injury. Perhaps erratas on a book might heal the view people have on it.

Ideas Have Dexterity

Dexterity is coordination and agility. Ideas that represent multiple concepts or fluid change can have DX just like a character. An organization might have fluid communication the ability to change rapidly to adjust to situations. Rigid ideas might have low dexterity represented a set path. Dexterity might be the water Bruce Lee was talking about when he said be shapeless.

DX may not need to be so intangible though. Perhaps it is the literal average of the combined character DX’s. One might even go so far as to derive skills from the DX. This is to aid in GM record keeping so there isn’t any wrong way to apply an attribute.

Ideas Have Intelligence

Intelligence is force of thought and consciousness. While this might be difficult to abstract away for a nebulous concept if one picks apart where IQ is used it becomes a little clearer.

IQ is often used to plan, process and think. While someone’s written book might not plan and think, what if IQ represented the sum of all the book stores selling it? What if IQ was the mental fortitude of the planners and thinkers surrounding the idea? An organizations ability to process events occurring to it?

IQ also derives will and perception. Imagine your players are trying to unmask a secret syndicate. They break into one of their holdings and dig around for evidence. A GM could easily roll against the organization’s perception versus the player’s ability to cover their tracks. If they succeed perception maybe just rolling against IQ for the organization to analyze what it was the players took.

IQ can also be how quickly an organization or relationship recovers from the stun of a surprise. This need not be actual stun. After all, we’re being┬ánebulous in concept. However, if you imagine an investment firm after the investments of their clients tank, you can imagine how chaotic the initial shock might be.

Ideas Have Health

Health is general cohesion and presentation. It might overlap ST in some ways, but it’s less about force and more about resistance. It might be how well established a concept is. HT may also be how structured an organization or idea is. No matter the case you can use HT in much the same ways it’s used for characters. Fatigue may be paid for an idea to act or make changes. HT might be rolled to resist certain influences, to check if an idea survives injury or even physical stun from serious blows.

Ideas in Practice

Imagine the above possibilities applied to a group of zombie survivors. The group consists of a few PCs and many NPCs. The GM simply uses nebulous statistics to map out the relationship and status of the group. The GM may represent the groups loyalty with ST, their flexibility and expertise as DX, their organization as IQ, and their general morale as HT.

The zombies survivors just met one another. They have little loyalty. So he decides to give them ST of 7. Ouch. They come from many walks of life so the GM decides they have DX 13 for flexibility. They haven’t spent much time planning or dealing with structure and organization, so their IQ is 8. The general morale or outlook is great so the HT is 12.

As the GM runs adventures with these survivors their conditions change. They take a serious blow when the group loses a member in a zombie attack and are uprooted from their lodging. The GM decides this causes them to lose 5 HP. Since their loyalty isn’t very high, he rolls versus HT and rolls 13. This leaves them stunned from the situation and chaotic, but the group didn’t suffer enough harm to risk falling apart… yet. After some leadership rolling and planning rolls the group is back on track and they recover from their stun.

They decide they want to try to spend time looking for resources and location to stay. They are successful and the GM decides they heal some HP bringing them up to 5.

Practice Makes Perfect

There is nothing forcing these attributes to represent anything but your imagination. It’s a tool to make tracking easier for you. If the tracking is a hassle then it’s pointless to use the system. However, it can be a fun abstraction for the GM to play with. Some games the GM might even let players know the status of the attributes.


There’s a number of ways to keep track of the flow of a game. Some people like simple sliders. Other GMs may enjoy writing long paragraphs of possibilities. This is just another tool in the box to play with how you wish.

As always, I look forward to your feedback.

Posted in GM, Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

One Comment

  1. Now this is some outside of the box thinking we need more of!

    While this clearly isn’t gonna be need for all games, it’s gold for more drama or political intrigue type games. Also, this would totally rock if used in a GURPS Pheonix Wright campaign!

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