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Three-Stat System

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As role-playing video games (and games with RPG Elements) evolve further and further away from their Tabletop RPG ancestors, their Game Systems likewise depart from The Six Stats known from Dungeons & Dragons and move towards a more straightforward and manageable number of core stats — usually three.

From the gameplay design standpoint, three core stats are a very efficient arrangement. On the one hand, it is a manageable number that is unlikely to overwhelm players new to the particular Game System and it is easy to find balance where no stat is particularly broken or universally useless. On the other, it creates at least seven possible Player Character archetypes (one specializing in each of three stats, three hybrids, and a Jack of All Stats) in a way that is easy to grasp. Lastly, it does not detract the player from Skill Scores and Perks, which are the main means of in-depth character customization in most modern RPGs.

Just which stats these three are, however, differs from system to system. Common variations include:

The stats are often Color-Coded for Your Convenience, producing a Chromatic Arrangement of character archetypes: Strength and Health are usually red (unless they're separate stats, then Health will be green), Intelligence and Mana are blue, and Dexterity and Stamina are green or yellow.

Subtrope of Game System and Rule of Three. See also The Six Stats. Compare Balance, Power, Skill, Gimmick, which usually revolves around two opposed stats instead of three, and Three Approach System, where gameplay styles follow Rule of Three.

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Gaming Examples:

    Driving Games 
  • Burnout Paradise's vehicles follow this dynamic:
    • Aggression vehicles, focused on (surprise, surprise) aggression, good for taking down your enemies.
    • Stunt vehicles, focused on stunts but also serves as a nice intermediate between the other two classes.
    • Speed vehicles, Fragile Speedsters. They are among the fastest cars in Paradise, but cannot take too much punishment.
    • The Hawker Mech, meanwhile, is a Jack of All Trades which can switch between all three modes.

    First Person Shooters 
  • PAYDAY 3 has this with Edge, Grit and Rush, a trio of buffs which are gained by, and activate, certain skills:
    • Edge boosts damage dealt by 10%, and chiefly activates weapon skills (e.g. Ammo Funnel and Cutting Shot)
    • Grit cuts damage taken by 10% and is primaily associated with defensive skills (e.g. Last Man Standing and Solid)
    • Rush boosts a heister's movement speed and is mainly associated with stealth (Infiltrator, Quick Fingers) and general speed (Code Blue, Bagger).
  • Team Fortress 2 does this with its nine classes. Loosely speaking, the Heavy, Soldier, and Demoman are combat—possessing decent HP and lots of power, but lower speeds. The Scout, Sniper, and Spy are ranged/stealth, favoring situational burst damage to pick off key enemy targets. The Pyro, Engineer, and Medic are support, with a medley of abilities that aren't wholly focused on direct combat.
    • Pure Combat - Heavy (best frontal firepower and highest health in the game, but low speed)
    • Combat/Support - Soldier (good foundation of high durability and damage with rocket jumping to compensate for below-average mobility, and powerful team rallying Limit Break items.)
    • Combat/Stealth - Demoman (ambushing via stickybombs and non-direct combat with bouncing grenades)
    • Pure Stealth - Spy (can turn invisible and disguise himself as the enemy to get into position for a quick backstab instakill. Fares poorly in a fair fight.)
    • Stealth/Combat - Scout (devastating point-blank damage with the highest speed in game and a hard-to-target small frame.)
    • Stealth/Support - Sniper (long range headshots and the ability to make people take mini-crits with Jarate)
    • Pure Support - Medic (healing and incredibly powerful ubercharges, but lacks in direct combat)
    • Support/Combat - Pyro (fights by setting foes on fire, detects spies and versatile Airblast)
    • Support/Stealth - Engineer (relies on building a base in corners to ambush people with turrets, places teleporters to get his teammates into the fight faster and builds dispensers which heal his teammates)

    Platform Game 
  • Super Mario Bros. 2 has Jump Height/Length, Running Speed, and Lift Speed.
  • Super Smash Bros. 4 has Offense, Defense, and Speed as its core stats. Stat-boosting equipment in comes in three flavors, buffing one stat nerfs the next in the cycle to ensure balance.

    Puzzle Game 
  • Fishdom: The fish tank's merit is based on three stats: fish (depends on the fish that are swimming in it), beauty (the decorations placed in it), and comfort (amenities bought).

    Real-Time Strategy 
  • The Hero Units of Warcraft III use Strength, Agility, and Intellect as stats, their class choosing one of them as "main" stat (which determines their damage output).
    • The Defense of the Ancients mod and its standalone sequel Dota 2 inherits the Strength/Agility/Intelligence system, with each hero having a primary attribute that also increases their attack damage. A later Dota 2 patch additionally introduces universal heroes, which gains attack damage (albeit at a reduced amount) from every attribute.
  • In Republic: The Revolution, each political party, party functionary, and electoral district has an ideological profile that combines Wealth, Force, and Influence in certain proportions. Each combination makes them more or less suited to carry out or to support certain political operations.

  • Curse of the Dead Gods has Constitution, Dexterity, and Perception. Constitution increases your maximum health; Dexterity increases damage dealt with weapons (though there are some weapons whose attack scales off of Constitution instead); and Perception increases the chances of finding treasure.
  • Dead Cells uses Brutality, Tactics, and Survival. Brutality prefers fast melee weapons, damage over time, and offensive mutations, Tactics prefers ranged weapons and deployables but gives the least amount of HP, and Survival prefers slow melee weapons, shields, and two-handed crossbows, and mutations focused around defense and healing and give the most HP. Each stat gives diminishing returns for HP, but generally linear damage and mutation scaling.

    RPG — Eastern 
  • Final Fantasy XIII has the Strength/Magic/Health variation, although its Job System is skewed towards needing high Magic: Medic, Synergist, and Saboteur roles all use it alone, Ravager and Commando can use either Magic or Strength, leaving Sentinel as the only pure Strength role.
  • The first two Paper Mario games feature a downplayed example, with its five-stat system. Three of them (Heart Points, Flower Points and Badge Points) can be increased when Mario levels up, whilst Attack and Defense can only be raised by getting new boots and hammers or equipping Badges.
  • The Reconstruction and The Drop have Body, Mind, and Soul stats as both health meters and special ability point pools. I Miss the Sunrise similarly has Hull, Systems, and Pilot.
  • The Star Ocean franchise works off of Health, Magic and Fury (a gauge that depletes as the other two are used or other actions are taken, and refills by standing still). Since it's possible to die by losing all MP, all three are useful at some point in battle.
  • Vagrant Story uses Strength, Intelligence, and Agility as its main character stats. Strength and Intelligence also separately influence attacks with and defense against physical and magical attacks, respectively.

    RPG — MMO 
  • The Warcraft III setup carried over into World of Warcraft, where every class has one of the three stats (Strength, Agility, Intellect) as their main. Some classes can change between a physical attacker (Strength or Agility) and a magical attacker or healer (Intellect). Doing so requires you have equipment suitable for both specializations.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has Muscle, Mysticality, and Moxie, roughly equivalent to Strength, Intelligence, and Dexterity, respectively. The game's two spinoffs follow the same system.

    RPG — Western 
  • The Ultima series put an unusual spin on this trope from part four onwards: not only are the core character stats the classic Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, but their initial values and the Avatar's class are tied to the biggest Virtue they express. All Eight Virtues are based on combinations of the Three Principles (Courage, Love, and Truth)—itself a Three-Stat System—and each is mapped to a class that predominantly expresses it. The series also put an interesting spin on the formula by adding the eighth class archetype to the mix: the Shepherds have low scores in all three stats because they represent the Virtue of Humility.
  • Jade Empire has Body, Spirit, and Mind, which respectively determine HP, Chi (Mana), and Focus (used for weapons and to activate Bullet Time). They also determine the effectiveness of your three diplomatic Skills: Body and Mind combine to determine you Charm rating, Mind and Spirit define Intuition, while Spirit and Body produce Intimidation. Throughout the game, you can find gems and techniques that boost any combination of these primary, derived, and hybrid stats.
  • The game system of Path of Exile is based around Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, and the six core classes are mapped either to one or to two of these. The secret Scion class has access to all three.
  • The Elder Scrolls series traditionally had an eight "Attribute" system. As of Skyrim, this is overhauled to just three: Health, Magicka, and Fatigue (Stamina). Each was a derived stat previously in the series. Additionally, Skyrim shifts the character leveling focus to Skill Scores and Perks.
  • Torment: Tides of Numenera, like the tabletop system it's based on, has Might, Speed, and Intellect as core stats.
  • Diablo III is not the straightest example, since it uses the Strength/Dexterity/Intelligence variation plus Vitality that governs max Hit Points and regeneration and is of equal importance to all. Still, Strength governs damage output for the Barbarian and the Crusader and grants damage reduction; Dexterity governs the damage output of the Demon Hunter and the Monk and gives a chance to dodge attacks; while Intelligence governs the damage output of the Witch Doctor, the Wizard and the Necromancer and gives a bonus to elemental resistance.
  • The original Mass Effect had this, but mostly symbolically: each class and companion had a Weapons, Tech, and Biotics rating, although it wasn't so much a stat as a general indicator of their abilities that was shown during party selection. There were three "pure" classes and three hybrids: Soldier/Ashley (pure Weapons), Engineer/Tali (pure Tech), Adept/Liara (pure Biotics), Infiltrator/Garrus (Weapons+Tech), Vanguard/Wrex (Weapons+Biotics), and Sentinel/Kaidan (Tech+Biotics). This aspect was downplayed in the sequels, where each class was given a unique special power to set it apart from the others, while the companions gradually became less defined by their classes and more by their character-specific skill sets.
  • Titan Quest uses strength, dexterity and intelligence, with strength affecting melee damage and being prerequisite to using the best melee weapons and heavy armor, dexterity affecting attack accuracy, defence and being prerequisite for light armor and piercing weapons (mainly bows and spears, plus some swords), and intelligence affecting elemental damage and mana regeneration, and being prerequisite for wielding magic staves and wearing mage armor (which offers less defense than heavier armor but also grants a boost to energy regeneration).
  • The original Dungeon Siege had the classic Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence trio, with STR governing melee combat, DEX for ranged, and INT for both Combat and Nature magic.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Most of White Wolf's games, such as World of Darkness and Exalted have three attribute blocks: Mental, Physical, and Social; which the player assigns as Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary at character creation, giving them so many points to distribute among the three attributes in each block.
    • New World of Darkness: Physical stats include Strength, Dexterity, and Stamina; Mental: Intelligence, Wits, and Resolve; Social: Presence, Manipulation, and Composure.
    • Exalted (2nd Ed.): Physical attributes are the same. Mental stats are Perception, Intelligence, and Wits. And Social stats include Charisma, Manipulation, and Appearance.
  • Numenera has Might, Speed, and Intellect, which are simultaneously resource pools for three types of ability checks and the game's Multiple Life Bars. They can also be directly mapped to the game's three classes, glaive, nano, and jack.
  • In Big Eyes, Small Mouth, the three primary stats for characters are Body, Mind, and Soul. Pretty much every other value on the character sheet is calculated from or modified by at least one of these — in some cases, it's the average of all three.
  • Silver Age Sentinels uses the same system as Big Eyes, Small Mouth, dubbed "Tri-Stat System" by the creators.
  • The Fantasy Trip. The original game Melee had Strength (how much damage you did and how much damage you could take) and Dexterity (how likely you were to hit). The next game in the series, Wizard, added IQ (which determined magical ability).
  • Kitsune: Of Foxes and Fools has Wits (add to die rolls directly), Wisdom (max Trick cards in hand), and Witchery (Mana pool), being based on scheming rather than combat.
  • Blades in the Dark has Insight, Prowess, and Resolve, roughly corresponding to intellectual, physical, and social capacities of a Player Character. In an interesting twist, these basic stats are never used for active Actions (instead, their subordinate Action ratings are taken), but only for reaction rolls to resist negative effects.
  • The One Ring has Body, Wits, and Heart. There are three secondary attributes as well: Valour, Wisdom, and Shadow.
  • A Touch of Evil: Of the Body/Mind/Soul variant, with Combat, Cunning, and Spirit respectively.
  • Characters in Fantasy Flight's Runebound board game have Mind, Body and Spirit scores, which are used for ranged, melee and magic combat respectively.
  • Forgotten Futures uses Body, Mind and Soul stats.
  • The Anime Campaign tabletop game has three stats for each character: Stamina (Hit Points and Mana combined into one), Proficiency (which both determines the strength of your power and gets you more abilities as it increases), and Movement (how many "spaces" you can move). In the Animated Adaptation, Epithet Erased, Movement is gone, and Proficiency is split into two, Proficiency and Creativity.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Grand Theft Auto V features three playable characters with special abilities specialised in the three main aspects of the game:
    • Michael's ability to slow down time on foot helps greatly in gunplay.
    • Franklin's ability to slow down time in vehicles helps greatly in driving (and drive-by shooting).
    • Trevor's ability to enter berserker rage helps in rampages and just general mayhem-causing.

Non-Gaming Examples:

    Fan Works 
  • Paradoxus: Though never given exact numbers, there are three skill branches the characters can master to varying extents and that can be used to predict how well they will fare in certain situations — (1) armed combat with bladed, kinetic, etc. weapons; (2) control of their internal magical affinity, usually elemental (from the Winx Club canon); and (3) wielding of magic from external sources — i.e., one of the six magical forces of the World of Warcraft canon. Fairy/witch transformations are included in this third category because, in order to obtain them, the characters have to seek out an external source such as a magical creature, a special dimension, or a god-like being. To exemplify this, Altalune excels at swordsmanship but struggles to fuel her ice magic with positive emotions — she was able to gain the Bloomix just fine (using it is another matter entirely). Gilliam, on her part, lacks any training with weapons and is only an Enchantix fairy, but has superb control over her nature magic and proves to be pretty creative with it (even creating toxins from pollen). Iladris is an accomplished archer and has started to learn how to harness void magic, but has no innate elemental magic by herself.

    Web Animation 
  • Epithet Erased: Those who are inscribed (and some who aren't, in the case of people like Howie) have three stats associated with them: Stamina, Proficiency, and Creativity.
    • Stamina is how much physical strength and energy a character has and how long they can use their abilities before getting tired.
    • Proficiency is how much of a grasp on their own powers that a person has and how experienced they are at using their abilities.
    • Creativity, which is actually the most important stat, determines how varied someone's powerset is and how good they are at coming up with new applications for it. Indus, for example, has low creativity, and never thinks to do anything else with his power besides making the same barrier over and over again. Giovanni, on the other hand, is very good at coming up with special applications for his powers.
    • The strength of each stat is signified by their ranking out of five normal stars, and each stat has three total levels.
      • The first tier is Star, and this is where most people will stay their whole lives, though having five stars is considered good.
      • A particularly gifted person may increase a stat into second tier, Orbit - the kind of power that big name corporations find hard to replace; an average person can count Orbit-tiers they know about on their hands.
      • The last tier, Nova, is around one-in-lifetime rare - these people have made history or legends, and a Nova-tier fighter would pretty much be an endgame boss in a jRPG.

    Web Comics 
  • Problem Sleuth: The three stats are Pulchritude, Imagination, and Vim. Each of the three main characters specializes in one of them. Ace Dick, with his Stout Strength, is brimming with Vim. Pickle Inspector, The Smart Guy with vivid creativity, excels in Imagination. Problem Sleuth, with his charisma and diplomatic skill, is an exemplar of Pulchritude... allegedly. His idea of diplomacy is mostly Aggressive Negotiations or using Cheat Codes.