Thursday, June 25, 2015

FR Part 1

Furry Roleplay

I am making an RPG for the furfags. No hate, I love you guys, it's just an easy title, and I'm crass enough to use it with love. (Hey, I'm an oldfag, it's like my grandfather complimenting a "nigger", give me a break.)

The hardest part about making this game, will be making an RPG for the community. Anyone can make an RPG that features anthropomorphic creatures- hell any RPG system can be customized to do it! Even just renaming the generic races to be flavored differently, and imagining them as anthropomorphs is good enough! Because the concepts are inside your head, any RPG system, really, can represent furry fiction. However, few of these, aside from Ironclaw and Albedo, have received much attention. (And even they're kinda' forgotten these days)

The main reason for this is because RPGs do not resonate well with the furry community. RPG play is an isolated activity, focused on a close-knit group of friends with very little external interaction, is mostly done indoors, takes a great deal of preparation, consumes a great deal of time, and is a primarily sedentary activity. All of these things are contrary to what furry culture is- light, outgoing, social, emotional, active, and spontaneous. They overlap in that both are deeply creative, but from there the two cultures diverge. Thus, creating a furry RPG means more than simply making a generic RPG about anthropomorphs- we aren't making this game for a subject, we're making it for an audience. As a result, a completely different approach needs to be taken here- a whole new mode of RP needs to be invented for this audience to finally have its game.

1. First off, we don't need to add any demand of creativity. RPGs are already a fundamentally creative medium, and the target audience is fundamentally drawn to creative endeavors. So we're good on the imagination side of things.

2. Next, we need to make the game light. By light, I mean it needs to be something that someone can say "Hey, let's play this" to a bunch of strangers, play for a half hour, and still leave everyone involved feeling happy and satisfied. It needs to be pick-up-and-go, fast, easy, efficient, and have as few points of contact as possible. Setup for a game should take a matter of moments, including chargen, assuming everyone already has an idea of what they want to create. We may want it to have sort of a beer-and-pretzels-game quality to it, something you can still play while slightly buzzed and distracted.

3. Then it needs to be made versatile. You should be able to run the game just as easily in tabletop tactics or Parlour-Play LARP. (I am personally ethically opposed to full-contact LARP. I do not believe there is any safe way to run such a game) That way, people who prefer the deep combat side of things can do their thing, and people who want to go out and party with strangers can do that too.

4. Rules need to be simple enough that the entire rulebook can be memorized after only a session or two of play. The rulebook itself should be presented in a compact, pocket-size reference book format, preferably in hardcover, with a waterproof coating and a zipper to protect the pages. The pages should be made out of something tough, not cheap magazine paper. The spine needs to be able to fold internally like a moleskein notebook. This will make it portable and durable, and look cool.

Part 1: Rules Light

For one thing, a lot of RPGs attempt to describe everything in exact, objective, mechanical terms, as though they are manually simulating a little pocket-reality. This degree of manual simulation on a technical level leads to a vast overburden on the players and game system due to simple complexity and minutiae. This degree of technical processing, usually in the form of baroque mathematics to find results on charts in a large book, is often called "rules-heavy" by the general public, but is referred to as "points of contact" by RPG theorists.

In theory, we distinguish gameplay into two parts: Playing the game and operating the game's system. Playing the game is the creative part, making decisions, describing activities, experiencing the consequences of actions, roleplaying, imagining stuff, etc. Operating the game system is everything you need to do in order to keep playing, such as referencing a rule, rolling a die, checking a chart, noting changes to a character sheet, etc. Each time play is interrupted by operation is a "point of contact". In general, points of contact are a bad thing. Those who promote high points of contact usually do not actually enjoy the points of contact themselves, but their effect on the game. Theoretically, if you have two games that simulate the same subject with the same degree of complexity and depth, but one of them has fewer points of contact, the one with less contact is the better game, as it does the same things more efficiently and allows play to go on uninterrupted for longer. In order to make the game as light and efficient as possible, we need to make an engine (set of rules) with as few points of contact as possible.

One caveat, you can never truly eliminate every point of contact; something must be done to keep the game running. In this regard, I feel we can learn a thing or two from sports and 5th edition D&D. In sports, the points of contact ARE the game. In baseball, hitting the ball is not only where the fun comes from, which is play, but a point of contact which allows the game to operate. 5th edition D&D has done something remarkable; they took many parts of the game which were once slow, tedious, and disruptive points of contact, and made them into low-contact, light, fun, gameplay elements by changing their mechanism into something that is simple and fun in its own right. (IE: Downtime becomes an instantaneous transaction, with the return being the playing of a minigame.) By approaching the necessary points of contact in the game in this manner, we reduce their impact on play, integrating them into play as much as possible, lightening the game, and making the whole experience more enjoyable.

One thing we can readily eliminate is randomizer engagement, commonly referred to as "the dice" even if the game doesn't use dice. Every time a player engages a randomizer (Dice, spinners, cards, etc.) to determine an outcome, is a point of contact, however small. By removing randomizers completely, we remove the vast majority of points of contact in the engine. Luckily, today, in the year 2015, we have about 30 years of history of people experimenting in "diceless" game design, which we can lean on as a foundation in what does and does not work, from which we may build something new, and advance the medium further.

We know that flat diceless operation, (For example, in Amber Diceless) though functional, is not desirable, as it is considered anticlimactic and promotes excessive consideration over ones every move.

We also know that randomization can be replaced by resource management with an abstract currency, (As in Marvel Universe) though dependence on this system actually results in an amplification of points of contact, as people "manage their money" to get the best "bang for their buck" in everything they do.

We know that replacing contest checks (where one character is acting against another) with a game, (Like in the earlier editions of Mind's Eye Theatre) can actually diminish interest, if the interaction is considered ridiculous, childish, or otherwise undesirable or out of place. (For example, when MET was applied to Vampire the Masquerade, we had ancient vampire lords locked in a bloody power struggle for the fate of humanity... Playing rock-paper-scisors to determine if they killed each other. Most people found this to be, for lack of any better way of saying it, "fucking retarded".)

Finally, we also know that we can make diceless play more exciting and less predictable by introducing the opportunity to interject before results are determined from an action. (This can be seen in many games, including ARGUMENT! RPG and even in a primitive form in Amber Diceless) This allows the results of an action to be changed as characters correct what they are duing as a reaction to percieved results. Going to lose a fight because your "hand-to-hand" skill isn't as good as your opponent's? Pull a knife if your "short blades" skill is higher! If your opponent can't think of a way to react, you'll probably actually win!

For this game, I plan to use a system I developed for the finished, but content-less and mostly unplayed homebrew Mass Effect Diceless RPG I was working on. Basically, gameplay is flat diceless with the opportunity to interject tied to a currency. In other words, you spend currency in order to adjust your actions in the middle of an event before the consequences are determined.

Example from MEDRPG: You decide to run across a field. An opponent spends a point to take a shot at you while you're running through the open. Your perception is higher than his stealth, so you are informed that someone is taking aim. You may then decide to spend points to adjust your movement to evade the shot. The opponent's perception is not as good as your agility, so they do not have an opportunity to react. Unfortunately, their accuracy does exceed your agility, and the shot hits you before you reach your destination. Had their perception been higher, they would have been able to adjust their aim, which would cost more points than your reaction to their action. Every time a character reacts to a reaction, it costs more points than the reaction preceding it.

One thing that is key to diceless games, however, is player ignorance. The player cannot be allowed to know the exact values of their opposition. In the absence of player ignorance, play becomes completely crushed under the weight of the player doing only that which will absolutely work, the consequence being the impossibility of failure. I believe this is mainly due to all other diceless games trying to simulate the subject in objective terms, as though it were still based on probabilities. My solution would be to eliminate precise objective representations, and replace them with relative and subjective representations, which will be easier to keep secret, because indirectly revealing them will not mean much. Absolute secrecy will nolonger be a necessity, allowing for a certain degree of information to slip to the players without destabilizing play. This is where this engine diverges from MEDRPG; we are no longer examining the environment in detailed, technical, objective terms, the granularity is being reduced to the point where it is more like comparing glasses of water based on how full they are.

So, instead of comparing numbers, we will be comparing a general description of quality or effectiveness, separated into a standardized tier of degrees. For example, characters may exhibit varying degrees of skill with small firearms, and that skill may be described in the same terms as their skill in swimming, but the two skills are not necessarily being graded in the same standard. Just because your swimming skill exceeds a man's small firearms skill does not mean you can outswim his bullets! In this way, play becomes more subjective, with things being described in relative, rather than objective, terms, with interpretation playing a role in gameplay. This would allow the game to represent everything from "hard science fiction" to "Loony Toons" accurately and faithfully, because the interpretation of the information, not the engine itself, changes with the subject matter.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

POLYBIUS

In 1991, a post was made on coinop.com describing a videogame cabinet released to a few arcades and bars in Portland, Oregon, in 1981. The game was called Polybius. The game itself is poorly described, with people arguing over whether it was a puzzle, maze, or space-shooter game, as well as what it actually looked like. The game became wildly popular within a few days, with lineups forming around the game, and fights breaking out over who got to play next. People who had played the game frequently exhibited the symptoms of PTSD, such as night terrors, seizures, halucinations, nausea, headaches, and swearing off videogames forever. It was also stated that some players committed suicide. Every couple of days, a couple of well-dressed "Men in Black" would drop by and copy information from the game. (Though whether this information was copied in hard or soft copy format is not stated) After a month, all of the game cabinets disappeared. The original poster of the game claimed to be in possession of a ROM image of the game.

The implication is that the videogame was a covert public experiment in the same vein as, or part of, project MKUltra. (Keeping in mind that MKUltra had actually officially ceased operations before 1981.)

There is no evidence of the game's actual existence. There are no newspaper articles, nor magazine articles. There are no genuine photos of the cabinets. All "eyewitness" reports are conflicting, and frankly suspect. The reported ROM image of the game has never been seen or played. There is a supposedly genuine image of the game's title screen, where it is copyrighted in 1981 to a company named sinnesloschen. Sinnesloschen is improper German, and is not something an actual German person would say, because it actually doesn't make sense unless you translate it into English literally. It translates to "thought erasing", but to a German-speaking person, would be more like "thinking deleted". Additionally, "Polybius" is the name of an ancient Greek/Roman historian who is important as one of the first people to try and describe history as a series of causes and effects, rather than an abstract series of events. He criticized other historians for writing from tradition alone, and famously believed that one should only report what can be learned from interviews with first-hand witnesses. Polybius' name, in ancient Greek, translates literally to "many life" but its actual meaning is difficult to discern, as "many" is the only correct translation of poly, so the name may have actually had meaning more related to reincarnation than life itself.

All of the above combined makes it seem quite strongly that this is a very well played hoax. And it very likely is. (Though the actual MKUltra experiments would have never been known, had it not been for an error- the CIA is very good at what they do.) Using a videogame for any type of research on a random unaware public sampling is fundamentally unreliable. It would not provide substantially meaningful information, especially if used on such a small sample group, unless the information they were seeking was very general.

But it got me thinking. What would it take to make a game that can actually do the above, and what function could it serve?

The first, and most important factor, is the purpose of the experiment. This will define all other aspects of the game's design. If it was a CIA experiment, we can basically be certain that it was weapon research. That was the basis of every single public experiment they did at the time. They were at war, and they wanted to win. These were experiments on how to covertly use chemical and biological weapons to achieve military objectives.

If that was the case, the question would likely have been, "Can we use a videogame as a lure to distribute [weapon]?" followed likely with "How effective can such a lure possibly be, and how effective is the [weapon] dispersal after delivery?" This essentially makes the videogame an experiment in vector-based chemical weapon use, treating the videogame somewhat like a flower attracting players like insects, applying a weaponized payload as though it were pollen, and then observing ultimate delivery and dispersal of the payload from the affected vectors.

If this was its actual intended function, then based on the reports, the experiment was essentially a failure, because either the game or the payload was too addictive. Instead of leaving the game to distribute the payload, vectors crowded around the lure, spreading the payload only to each other and returning it to the lure, resulting in a rapidly increasing concentration of the payload at the site of delivery and in the subjects. This would make the experimental weapon an immediate failure, as well as a liability, as excessive popularity would have resulted in a great deal of focused interest and attention; the opposite of what you want in a covert operation. Hence the sudden end to the project.

Alternatively, it may be an experiment in the impact of a weaponized payload on a single target, and the videogame as simply a lure to attract subjects into the experiment. In this case, the question would be in regards to the effectiveness of the delivery mechanism to apply the weaponized payload, and then measuring dosages based on time spent playing, number of times played, and frequency of play, for each subject, followed by monitoring the consequences indirectly, such as recording the arrival of patients with common symptoms at medical facilities and observing local news articles. In this case, data recorded from the game would likely simply be video footage or photographs of the faces of the subjects.

In this regard, the experiment would likely have been a resounding success. Within a month, the game or the payload was capable of creating localized hysteria, with massive attractiveness to subjects. If the game simply took the player's photo each time they played and each time they reached a timed point in the game, (each time a dose is delivered) a researcher could simply collect and count the photos of each face to determine dosage levels and frequency. Players played with increasing frequency and for increasing periods, resulting in rapidly increasing concentration in test subjects, while having next to no impact on surrounding unintended targets. In essence, if you want to deliver a weaponized payload to a given demographic, simply regularly deliver it in negligible dosages through an increasingly attractive lure to the target. The intended targets will rapidly build themselves up to an effective dose, while unintended targets will likely not reach that level, as they will not be attracted to the lure frequently enough. However, such a weapon has limited and unreliable use, as it is dependent on the personal tastes of the subject and coincidental exposure to the lure. If a person in the demographic just doesn't like the lure as much as the rest, or coincidentally never gets exposed to the lure, they will be unaffected by it. As with the other version of this theory, because the weapon developed such massive attractiveness, it still would have been at least a partial failure, as such attention is detrimental to its covert nature. A famous secret weapon is a disaster waiting to happen.

Finally, a lot of people seem to think that the videogame would have been an experiment in hypnosis and subliminal suggestion. Nevermind the fact that by 1981, the CIA would have been very aware of the actual limitations of practical hypnosis. Still, it could be an experiment in hypnosis; hypnosis is real and functional, it is just very limited. Specifically, you cannot hypnotize someone who does not want, or is unable, to listen, and you cannot hypnotically suggest anyone to engage in a behavior or thought process that they do not specifically desire. So, if you genuinely want to quit smoking, hypnosis will effectively erase your psychological dependency, making it far easier to overcome the chemical dependency. Hypnosis is NOT reinforced by chemical influence or intoxication. The subject must have normal awareness; they cannot be distracted by excessive sensory stimuli, as this will impede message delivery and trance-like state, nor can they be numbed to normal stimuli, as this will equally impede message delivery, and likely turn a trance-like state into sleep. In order for the game to experiment with hypnosis, it must actually put players into a hypnotic state.

This is difficult, because videogames are actually hostile to a trance-like state. Videogames demand intense concentration and awareness in order to mitigate the penalties and failure from unpredictable elements. In order for the game to be challenging, and therefore "fun" or attractive, (the driving force behind psychological addictiveness) there must be elements of play which present a genuine risk of failure- meaning they must be capable of actually causing failure against a player who is giving a genuine effort. This means they must have some unpredictable element.

There is a certain degree of trance-like state in digital interfaces, colloquially referred to as "the zone" for television and "immersion" in videogames. When immersed in a virtual environment, the brain actively dismisses external stimuli as irrelevant; similar to how one slowly loses focus of driving a car while talking on a cell phone. The implication is that the brain somehow perceives the interface with the virtual environment to be similar to some form of socialization; gaming, even against a digital opponent, is social-like behavior. The more interesting and engaging social-like environment encourages us to dismiss the mundane genuine setting, regardless of whether reality is more dangerous to us or not. This is further reinforced by experience, where people less and less associate virtual environments with negative emotions, as they are less likely to have negative consequences with any lasting or meaningful impact. Those who grow up interacting with virtual environments feel safer and more comfortable there, because it is genuinely safer than reality, at least in a short-term, shallow, purely physical sort of way.

Unfortunately, in order to engage a virtual environment, and thus obtain immersion in it, the user must interact through some form of hardware interface. Kinesthetic interactions with such an interface disengage the user from the virtual environment, becoming aware of the physical reality of the controls, effectively causing them to "lose immersion", and therefore interrupting any sort of trance-like state which may have formed. Superior game design allows the controls to work as players expect, allowing them to grow accustomed to the interface rapidly. The more quickly players become accustomed to the interface, the more time can be spent developing muscle memory for the interface, transforming the hardware interface into a subconscious activity, like walking, using cutlery, or riding a bike. Once this occurs, the probability of the interface distracting the user decreases considerably, and continues to decrease exponentially with the amount of time the player has spent playing the game.

The crux of creating an immersive interface depends on the principle of KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid. Good programming allows a user to do more with fewer points of contact (controls) without losing accuracy or reliability. Thus, if a player fails, it is because of their own failure, not due to a failure of the game designer's interface, allowing the players to continue "forgetting" they are interacting with an object, maintaining immersion. Likewise, the gameplay itself must be exceedingly reliable, (glitch-free) consistent, (bereft of sudden jarring changes in aesthetic features) and engaging. If gameplay is unreliable, each time gameplay fails or malfunctions, the player will lose immersion as they become aware of the game itself. If the game is inconsistent, each time a sudden change occurs, players are given a brief moment to lose immersion and think in metagame terms, such as "Ok, next level!" or "Uh oh, now what is it doing?" which equally results in a loss of immersion. And finally, if a game is not engaging, it is simply unattractive, and nobody will play it, preventing immersion from ever happening in the first place. As with the controls, gameplay should follow the principle of KISS; the fewer components a machine has, the fewer points of failure it has. Gameplay can be engaging and immersive, provided it elegantly provides deep, complex play derived from as few simple rules and functions as possible.

True to these principles, it is believed that Polybius was a fast-paced space-shooter (often described as similar to Tempest) with maze-like elements and some sort of focus on puzzles or problem solving, and its panel is often depicted as having only one joystick and only one button. Simple game means fewer glitches, simple controls means shallow learning curb.

Now, because maintaining immersion is a fundamental element of good game design, this is really essential to the creation of any type of game in general. However, immersion is the fundamental basis in which a trance-like state may be generated in a videogame, so it is absolutely essential to any experiment in videogame-delivered hypnotic suggestion.

Now, on to the subject of hypnotic suggestion. Here are modes of hypnotic suggestion that everyone thinks work, but don't:

1. Backwards delivery. The brain does not work like a digital camera. Information is not stored as a matrix of data representing images. Our brain simplifies images into abstract ideas, and only expands them into images by reference when required to. It cannot remember a sound forward and backwards, because it only remembers the meaning of the sound. It does not know the meaning of a backwards word unless the person can read backwards.

2. Rapid delivery. Again, our brains are not like computers. When watching a video, our brains do not store a million individual copies of each frame displayed. When listening to a sound, our brains do not record every vibration that impacts our ears. Speeding up a sound does not deliver it to our brains faster, it renders the sound incomprehensible. Flashing a command, no matter how simple, does not deliver it without us noticing, it simply causes us to miss the message in the first place.

3. Peripheral delivery. Delivering a message in a form that is seen but not noticed is also ineffective, as we do not record things that we don't notice or care about.

In order for hypnotic suggestion to work, it must be clear, simple, and obvious. It must be clear and simple, so that the subject understands the suggestion without need for clarification, Not understanding a suggestion will often result in instant loss of trance-like state. The suggestion must be obvious to ensure that the subject receives it despite their trance-like state, which opposes normal information delivery, focusing attention through limited channels, allowing information to arrive only through those channels. It's a delicate sort of personal sensory deprivation. The above ineffective message delivery mechanisms actually disturb a trance-like state.

So, how do you deliver clear, simple, obvious hypnotic suggestions to a single subject in a public area without alerting anyone? The most effective method I can think of is as follows:

1. The game must be hypnotic. It must rely on players focusing on something small and simple without distractions for an extended period of time. Easiest way I can think of to do this, would be to have the "player" set in the center of the screen with the game revolving around that point. Gameplay should reward players for focusing on that point with their eyes, and using only their peripheral vision to view the rest of the game, but not penalize players for blinking. The game must be relaxing, and ergonomically comfortable, allowing players to get comfy and feel safe while playing. Play-wise, this means players should be able to get into what is called a "groove", a mode of play where they can play almost entirely by muscle memory, with very little input. Gamers often describe being in a groove as being highly meditative and calming. Gameplay should encourage and reward this kind of behavior. The game must also eliminate external distractions such that the subject does not need to exert effort in order to do so. Arcade cabinets already did this to an extent, with their overhead speakers and side blinders; they were supposed to create their own little acoustic environment, where you wouldn't hear the rest of the arcade much, but can hear the game clearly, as long as you were standing at the controls.

2. The messages must be delivered to only one subject at a time, and be imperceptible to unintended targets. This can be done by shaping the cabinet to make a second acoustic environment inside the general one made for the game. This second environment would need to be small, focused around the subject's head, and directed such that sound from it rapidly dissipates outside of that area. Messages would then be delivered at a volume just loud enough to be heard inside that second environment, but just quiet enough to be covered up by the noise of the first, surrounding environment. You would also need to take measures to exclude unintended subjects from entering the area unpredictably. This can be done by making the actual accessible play area very small, and difficult to extract someone who does not wish to be removed.

3. The game must be capable of rapidly assessing the player's skill level, then presenting a challenge which appears to be a match for them but is actually easy, engaging the player long enough to enter a trance-like state, and keeping the player engaged long enough to deliver the message before ramping up difficulty to end play.

The third item is the truly difficult part. In order for it to be done, the game would need to be EXTREMELY simple, simple enough that a computer can actually interpret this kind of information. It would also need to have a deceptively complex appearance, making it harder for players to notice how simple the game actually is. Keeping the players eyes focused in only one point makes this easier, but it would still be very difficult. Assessing when a player has entered a trance-like state without human input would be nearly impossible. You would basically need to have someone remotely viewing the subject and their gameplay in order to assess their state of mind. This is particularly the case with computer technology as it was in 1981.

Now, let's pretend we actually went and built this thing- a true hypnotic videogame. Now what? We can only suggest people do or think things they would want to do anyways! Well, let's go back to our original theory of chemical and biological weapons.

If you can hypnotize a subject with such a device, then deliver a weaponized payload to them- let's say, a chemical weapon applied to their hands via the joystick when it senses their palm is sweating- you could then give suggestions for them to do innocuous actions they would have no objection to, which would ultimately distribute the weaponized substance as you desire. You could also deliver suggestions which would optimize future applications of the lure to the subject, encourage the subject to attract additional subjects to the lure, and decrease potential future interference with the lure from the subject.

And that is how you build a real-life nightmare.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Crafting

Crafting is a recurring issue in RPG design, and has been a troublesome subject since the earliest days of the hobby. Basically, there are two ends of the "bad crafting system spectrum".

1. Crafting is so cheap and easy, it takes over the game. Nobody does anything else unless they absolutely have to, because it's safer and easier, even if slower, to just keep making better and better gear. Sometimes the game will restrict what you can craft by level or story completion or somesuch, but this just makes level grinding into a crafting resource!

2. Crafting is so expensive, time consuming, or difficult, that nobody wastes time with that stupid thing. This can be caused by resources being too scarce and valuable (Star Wars The Old Republic), the crafting process disabling a character for days or months on end (EVE), crafting skills which cost a literal fortune (Nearly all MMOs), the crafting process itself costing a literal fortune (Morrowind Enchanting), crafting skill training taking too much level grinding and the practice work makes no profit (Skyrim), or dungeon crawling providing better equipment than you could ever craft thus rendering crafting redundant and inefficient (D&D).

I have been trying very hard to find a way to create a balanced crafting system in an RPG setting for years. Last year I decided it was impossible. If your game is about crafting, fine, include it and let it take over the game. (Minecraft) If your game isn't about crafting, then don't waste your time making a system nobody will use. (Everything else)

The current edition of D&D comes close. Players can only craft mundane items, (magic items don't really have any rules, so there is no practical way to allow players to make them) and spend "downtime" to do it. Downtime is a reward and resource in this edition. Basically, you accumulate downtime and can spend it between adventures as you see fit. The table then retroactively assumes that you have been spending your downtime on that activity all along, kind of like an off-screen retcon. This is brilliant. It makes crafting both practical and functional. The only problem is that there is so very little to craft. Simply put, if a player ever crafts anything, there will only be an item or two that they want to craft. Once they have those items, there's nothing left that they need to purchase or make, so they never craft anything again. Most mundane items in D&D can perfectly satisfy a character's needs straight through level 20, there is no "equipment tiering" or "equipment tree" as is seen in video RPGs. As a result, the most brilliant crafting system ever devised is currently featured in a game that has no need for it.

What's the Dump Stat?

D&D has had a long history, with all kinds of funky slang and hobby jargon evolving from it. Among those is the designation of "dump stat". The rundown goes like this: To start a character, you roll up 6 random numbers, then appoint them to your 6 abilities (or stats). Obviously, you want your highest rolls in your most useful stats, but then the question becomes what to do with the least useful rolls. Obviously, you have to put them in the stat that will be used the least, or can be sufficiently avoided. This is your character's dump stat. Now, look at all of the characters that are being made and search for a pattern. What is the most common dump stat? Whatever it is almost everyone uses as the dump stat is the single least important thing in the game. It is THE dump stat. The opposite is the one stat to rule them all; the stat you should try to fill with every point and bonus you have. The god stat is the one stat to rule them all for everybody.

Now, each edition has had some variance on exactly what the dump stat is. It is usually charisma, but sometimes wisdom or intelligence are slightly less useful for certain characters. So, how does 5e stack up?

Well, for once, strength is not the one stat to rule them all! This doesn't happen often in D&D. STR is usually so important that other game designers have actually made whole RPGS which parody it, having only one stat, STR. Don't get me wrong, STR still matters; it is the only stat that can add bonuses to high damage die melee weapons, and it determines carry capacity, (not that anyone tracks that anyways) as well as being a common save and the base stat for the athletics skill, which can be important, as climbing comes up rather frequently... But in this edition, it is totally possible for every archetype to be successful without STR! And that's a pretty big deal!

No, dexterity is the one stat to rule them all, and the god stat for 5e. Let's be honest; it kind of always has been. DEX does the following:
• It's your AC bonus. (Makes you harder to hit) This actually makes DEX more important than CON, as it completely mitigates damage all together,  as opposed to mere damage reduction in other games. In older editions, a high AC could allow a character to survive with only 2hp for a whole campaign.
• It's the attack bonus for ranged weapons.
• Versatile weapons use DEX for their attack bonus, allowing even melee combatants to displace STR in favor of the attack+defense combo of DEX.
• If you play with feats, characters can basically give all weapons versatile.
• DEX saves are the most common save in the game. In particular, they are used for evading dragon breath and trap damage. Typically, if an attack or spell calls for a save, it will very likely be a DEX save.
• DEX is your initiative modifier; it decides your order in combat, allowing you to get the jump on everyone else in the round.
• Several classes rely on DEX, granting you all pof its implicit advantages as well as class features. This makes DEX based classes patently unbalanced compared to the others, and DEX reinforcing races are just more of the same problem.

Constitution is unusually unimportant in this edition. Previously, having a low CON has either been suicide or at least a very risky idea. However, this edition is more lenient on HP loss and death, so it's no longer the begrudged prerequisite that eats a good roll because you have no choice.
• CON based saves don't happen anywhere near as frequently as they once did. Many old standard fortitude (CON) saves are now DEX saves.
• CON has NO skills based on it. This drastically reduces the conditions which would call for a CON check. As such, it is pretty much relegated to rare saves.
• It does play a role in suffocation, starvation, etc., but most people forget air exists when they play the game, and water becomes more like cold blue lava. Eating winds up being "assumed" along with defication, grooming, and dreaming. As a result, nobody cares. It doesn't even get recorded on standard charsheets!
• CON does give a base HP bonus on each hit die, but that only matters if you get hit. As mentioned before, AC prevents damage absolutely. Also, incoming damage from monsters does not scale with character HP as characters level. Monsters deal exponentially more damage as they get stronger, while HP grows in a roughly linear progression. As a result, your extra HP means less as you progress through the game. Worse, tougher monsters like to inflict conditions and effects when they hit you, something CON rarely helps with. It's better to simply not get hit in the first place.
• Long gone are the days of the 1hp fighter. Your first level HP is automatically your highest HD result plus your CON bonus. Penalties don't apply. So now you don't need to use CON as a defensive measure to rebalance bad HD rolls! Also, a CON penalty won't eat your HP growth potential.
• With the current incarnation of stabilization rules, and HD recovery during rests, it's actually pretty hard to die. On top of that, so much as one healer in the party just makes death trivial. Because death is so easily escaped, losing HP isn't as dangerous any more. No instant death. No countdown to doom. All a higher HP total does is reduce the frequency of death scares, reducing the probability of your character actually dying overall.

Intelligence stands about where it always has: awkward. Basically nobody role plays intellect. Idiots can't play at geniuses, and geniuses won't play at idiots, regardless the numbers. Nobody can tell you you're role playing your character wrong, that would be insanely rude and arrogant. Nobody likes being told their character MUST be an idiot just because all of their low rolls happened to be VERY low. Being restricted in how you play a character because of a die roll just seems stupid, and nobody looks to see your actual scores anyways. So, role play wise, INT is pretty much meaningless. It basically only represents academic knowledge accumulation and regurgitation, which are not actual intelligence in their own right. All but one of its skills are just different restricted manifestations of the old knowledge skill, each with limited use, making them all feel like partial skills; like you need to waste proficiency opportunities elsewhere in order to get a full skill- a skill that won't save your life or earn you extra treasure. In other words, building for INT skills is literally paying to suck. Investigation can come in handy- it can get you treasure AND save your life! ... Sadly, it seems that most adventure writers forget it exists. Most "investigations" are handled by perception, investigation's big brother. If your DM is good, get investigation- it will help, even if it has a low base score. If you're playing published stuff, don't worry about it- you've only missed out on a few plot hints and 100gp so far. Everything else was handled by perception despite investigation being more appropriate. With each adventure having different writers, this may change at some point, but as of now we're half way through the second season, and investigation has become completely absent from play.

Wisdom has, comparatively, become immeasurably more important! Both insight and perception use wisdom, and both are important. Perception is basically your ability to notice stuff that's hard to notice, kind of like a super-version of investigation, and insight is their sister skill, which is basically perception for social encounters. Both will save your life, reduce opposition, and give bonus loot. Insight suffers a bit from perception overstepping it's territory, much like investigation, but not quite to the same extent. You want a decent WIS score, and you NEED perception proficiency. So important is perception, most character sheets have its passive score recorded separately from all other skills. That's impressive; the skill has damn near become a standalone ability! There is a problem though; WIS has no real inherent function beyond those two skills, and it's remaining skills are pretty forgettable. (Animal handling? Really? An enforceable means of revoking the value of animal allies? Dicks.) Unlike DEX, STR, and all the others, WIS has no inherent function. Worse, it is still very poorly defined and vague, meaning WIS checks are essentially non existent. WIS also takes over from old will saves, though many old will saves have now become CON saves, so WIS is probably the least useful stat in its own right. Thus, if you're going to be forced to put a good roll in a useless stat for an essential skill, there is high motivation to make some sort of return on that investment, making WIS based classes (and by relation, WIS reinforcing races) more valuable.

Now, I'm sure nobody is surprised here, but yet again, CHR is the dump stat. What a shock. What is that? 8 iterations of the game with the same dump stat? Basically, CHR suffers from the same problem as INT: it is in direct conflict with the idea of role playing. Either you don't role play and handle all social interactions with CHR checks, or you never use CHR for anything and handle all socialization through role play. You simply cannot have it both ways! However, it is less useful than INT because it is even less likely to save your life or earn treasure, determines nothing inherently, and all of its skills are just extensions of regular CHR checks. CHR saves are pretty much unheard of. The published adventures try to make CHR matter by referencing it frequently... But it has the opposite effect. If you are playing published adventures, it is actually beneficial to have a terrible CHR score, because it almost always results in more fights with more enemies (meaning more rewards after you kill them) and never results in a true penalty. So having a CHR penalty is actually REWARDING! It never hurts you.

5th edition is pretty wonky, quite frankly. It's the first D&D where strength doesn't matter, constitution isn't a prerequisite, an ability is completely absorbed by a single skill, and you are actually rewarded for dumping on CHR. What total weirdness.