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:
- Strength, Dexterity/Speed, and Intelligence/Magic. This underlies the traditional Fighter, Mage, Thief and the Speed, Smarts and Strength paradigm.
- Body/Physical, Mind/Intellectual, and Soul/Spiritual. This setup is based on the Anatomy of the Soul and is popular in Eastern RPGs and related genres. May overlap with:
- Strength/Melee, Magic/Ranged, and Health/Defense. This effectively creates a Sword and Sorcerer dichotomy, with both having to balance their offense with their defense.
- Health, Mana, and Stamina. This set represents resource pools rather than characters' abilities, though it may overlap with or be derived from Str/Int/Dex or Body/Mind/Soul type.
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.
- 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.
- Team Fortress 2 does this with its nine classes. Loosely speaking, the Heavy 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)
- Sonic Heroes: The playable teams are composed of 3 characters, each with a specific quality of either Speed, Power or Fly, e.g. in Team Sonic, Sonic is Speed, Knuckles is Power, and Tails is Fly.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 and the Wizard 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 cloth armor (which grants bonuses making it most suited to mage characters).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.