Stats and Training in Numenera
Whether they’re called ability scores, stats, or something else, most games have some numerical value to rate the basic inherent ability of a character. Most games also have some kind of mechanic that reflects training (ability gained through practice). Numenera has both of these concepts too, but they work differently than many games.
There are three stats in Numenera: Might/Health, Speed/Agility, and Intellect/Personality. But we just call them Might, Speed, and Intellect for simplicity. They represent exactly what you would think they do.
Any kind of action taken by a player character in the game can be assigned to a stat. Jumping is a Might action. Dodging an attack is a Speed action. Talking your way past a guard is an Intellect action. And so on. This is only really relevant, however, if the action in question is one that the player really wants to focus on. To do this, he or she spends points from the relavant stat to put “effort” into the action. This makes the action easier to do (and thus, makes it more likely to succeed. Points from stats can be regained, of course, but it’s still a finite resource. Thus, a player should only put effort into the actions important to them.
Training also goes into reducing the difficulty of tasks. If you’re an experienced climber, climbing a steep, rocky incline is probably easier for you than someone who has never climbed before. If putting effort into an action makes it one “step” easier, then so does training. It works precisely the same way. It’s possible to get two steps of training, and it’s possible, of course, to put effort into something you’re trained to do. These things all “stack.”
Numenera also introduces a concept that I’m calling an “inability” right now. This is like the opposite of a skill. It’s an area in which your character does not excel. For example, a character might be particularly bad with people. Or clumsy. These are represented by inabilities. The cool thing is, with training and inabilities, we can take a system that has only three broad stats and really flesh out a character. For example, you might have a good Intellect stat. Intellect, of course, represents both intelligence and charm. But not everyone who excels in one does so in the other. So you might have a good Intellect, but an inability with lore. This might suggest that you’re smart and charismatic, but you’re just not good with scholarly pursuits. Or, imagine the opposite character. She’s smart, educated, and even bookish, with training in all kinds of areas, but she’s got an inability with personal interactions. She’s better with books than with people.
As I said in the character creation blog, generating a standard character is quick once you know what you’re doing. The three choices you make help determine all these things. But tinkerers can tinker with not only stats but also training, inabilities, and more, so you get a character that truly fits your concept. Because to me, that’s what it’s all about–fitting a concept, not just min-maxing.