News and Updates

Removing Wits

Learn about the game design decisions that went into removing Wits.

Going from 6 to 5 Attributes

We at The Contract just made a large change to the game, reducing the number of Attributes from 6 to 5. Before, we had Brawn, Dexterity, Charisma, Perception, Wits, and Intelligence. We combined Wits and Intelligence into Intellect.

This may not seem like a big change, but Attributes are big in The Contract. They contribute to every roll, affect a multitude of other mechanics, and are one of only two number-based stats that Players make choices about during character creation. On top of that, we have online character sheets, and active Players woke up this morning to find one fewer Attribute on their character sheets. That’s jarring even for a game in alpha.

To understand our choice, you must understand the three purposes Attributes serve in our game:

  1. Help define a character’s core competencies and archetype.
  2. Enrich action resolution by contextualizing ability use (all rolls pair an Attribute and an Ability based on the context).
  3. Provide balance levers for us designers and advancement decisions for the Players.

While our previous layout of Attributes achieved purpose #3 fairly well, we found it lacking on points #1 and #2.

On Point 1: Who has high Wits?

In order to define a character’s core competencies and archetype, each Attribute must represent a distinct aspect of the character. They must be evocative and clear.

So who has high Wits? Oscar Wilde? Sure, or does he have high Charisma? Michael Jordan? While he reacts quickly on the court, it has more to do with his Dexterity. Jackie Chan’s characters? Sure, but it is inextricably linked with his Dexterity and even Perception.

In addition to this ambiguity, The Contract’s gameplay revolves around putting Player characters into critical, life-or-death situations. Wits, on a characterization level, comes with the territory of being a Contractor.

In the end, it is less that we have combined Wits and Intelligence and more that we have combined it with several Attributes. We believe this will improve the ease with which you can represent a character with the sheet.

On Point 2: What should you roll?

In The Contract, when a character attempts an action with a risky or uncertain outcome, the GM calls for a roll that uses one Attribute and one Ability. For example, firing a gun is Dexterity + Firearms, but examining a gun could be Perception + Firearms, and selling a gun could be Charisma + Firearms.

Wits added a lot of confusion to the process of calling for rolls. Imagine you turn up the urgency on any of the situations listed above. Now that time is of the essence, is examining the gun Wits + Firearms? And if I have a character with 1 Intelligence and 5 Wits, do they know more about guns when they’re pressed for time?

In reality, GMs should have been offering more limited information for Wits-based rolls than they did for Intelligence-based rolls, but that is demanding quite a bit from the GM. The easier the game is to GM, the better the experience will be.

Clearer Attribute domain reduces game-time conflicts and creates a smoother, more reliable gameplay experience.

Tradeoffs and Concessions

While we stand by our decision to change Attributes, we recognize that this choice came at a price.

A greater number of Attributes can provide additional resolution for the picture of a character. By removing Wits, we have made it more difficult to represent certain types of characters. These include jet pilots and professional video game players: people who have incredible reflexes but may not be hyper-dexterous or intellectual. This is relevant because in The Contract, you can play and build custom powers for any character concept.

It also complicates rolls for similar situations, the most relevant of which is rolls that involve the Ability Drive. We have now paired it with Dexterity in most cases.

In Conclusion

We are thankful to our incredible community for providing us with an extraordinary amount of playtesting. Despite being in alpha, The Contract has seen more playtesting than most published RPGs, both focused and free-form. This allows us to find and fine-tune mechanics using perspectives that we would have missed with a more narrow group of testers.

We’re excited about the new layout of Attributes and hope they make the game more enjoyable for new and experienced Players alike.