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Monday, April 22, 2013

Zero Abilities

As I mentioned some time ago, I'm considering some radical things for Liber Zero. For example, I think I'll rename the ability scores.

Sacrilege, I know. But it's one of the things I will have to consider if I want to make Liber Zero a Creative Commons product instead of an OGL product. It's why I analyzed ability score names oh so long ago. Five of the pre-'80s old school RPGs share names for three of their ability scores, and four of these have two other abilities that are comparable in function. That's my guideline for how similar ability scores can be and still be considered a unique expression of mechanics.

The names I'm currently going with are: Strength, Intellect, Wits, Dexterity, Condition, Charm. I wanted to keep names somewhat short, hence the changes to three of the names. "Wits" is an intuitive or instinctive sense that something's wrong or would be wrong to do; I picked that name instead of "Intuition" or "Instinct" because I wanted to be able to abbreviate the six abilities to two letters and have them be recognizable.

Rolls for abilities will be 3d6 by default, but the ability level labels are Extremely Low, Very Low, Low, Normal, High, Very High, and Extremely High. Emphasis will be on these labels, and there will be a conversion table so that you could use any dice range you want. I want to de-emphasize mechanical details and instead focus on procedure and structure.

Two other changes I'm making to the ability section:
  1. Comparing abilities of an attacker and defender, or two competitors, and giving a +1 to the better side on a relevant die roll. By default, this is a numeric comparison, but comparing labels will be described as well.
  2. For situations that only involve one character or one side vs. a trap, hazard, or difficult challenge, roll only if the character has no appropriate experience (teach yourself blacksmithing on the fly, for example.) Below normal means a penalty. Above Normal ability means a bonus.
Neither of these changes is part of D&D, The Fantasy Trip, or Basic Roleplaying, although they are certainly similar to house rules that may have been floating around. I feel they are justified as a distinctive rule that supports old school play while still being distinctive of Liber Zero.


  1. Those ability names are mostly straightforward, but I would probably change condition. That is supposed to be a replacement for constitution, right? Condition is too often used in the "affected by the stunned condition" way now in RPGs so I think it might be confusing (or at least distracting). It also feels a bit too broad.

    Toughness, maybe? Resilience? Stamina is the other common replacement.

    1. It's got to start with "Co". And be shorter than Constitution, of course. If a new term fails at one of those, there's no real reason to change the name...

      I don't play the newer games that use "condition" that way, but it's my understanding that most of those conditions are physical, exactly the sort of thing that might be affected by Constitution. Is that true? If so, the name "Condition" might be a plus.

    2. Many of them are physical, but not all. For example, frightened, dazzled, invisible.

      See here:


      Not that I'm advocating this system, but it is how the language is commonly used.

      Why do you need "Co" to be the first characters? "To" (for toughness) would also be unique, I think.

    3. Oops, forgot to respond to your question.

      I need all the two-letter abbreviations for the abilities to be the same in D&D and in Liber Zero, so that you can use LZ with modules or supplements without translation.