Ragnarok Development Diary - Attributes of a Hero!

Clint Staples

Every hero has qualities that define him or her. Is she strong as an ox, lithe as a dancer, a potent mage, or a legendary storyteller or bard? Maybe more than one of the above.

In Ragnarok, we define what heroes, and villains, are good at in two main ways.

Talents represent the natural or earned gifts that a hero displays: Like being a Berserker or Shapeshifter, being able to Obfuscate, or the ability to work Sorcery. We will get into talents in another Diary post. Today, we are going to lay out the other main way we define heroes: Attributes!

Attributes are not exactly a new phenomenon in RPGs - and we are not trying to go too far down the rabbithole of game design by coming up with new mechanics everywhere. Attributes define, usually numerically, the core characteristics of just about every creature in a game. The number of Attributes, and their names, differ from game to game, but usually there are between 3 and 10 or 12, and cover things like Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, etc.

The Ragnarok Engine, what we call the system on which Ragnarok the RPG runs, defines 5 Attributes, as follows: Might, Agility, Intellect, Fate, Charisma. Here is what we mean by each.

Might: This is a measure of strength and stamina, and determines how well you fight when wrestling or with heavier weapons, how much damage you do in melee, and how athletic you are generally. Might also affects your toughness, expressed in Ragnarok as Hits. Your melee damage is increased by your Might.

Associated Skills: Axe, Brawn, Climbing, Endurance, Great Axe, Swimming, Wrestling

Derived Characteristics: Hits, Physical, Vigor


Agility: This is a measure of dexterity and swiftness, and determines how well you fight with lighter or ranged, weapons, but also how hard you are to hit and how fast you cam move or act. Your ranged chance to hit is increased by your Co-ordination.

Associated Skills: Bow, Sword, Spear, Saex, Riding, Running, Stealth, Two-Weapon Fighting

Derived Characteristics: Physical, Ranged, Possibly Defense, Initiative, Move


Intellect: This is a measure of your innate cunning, as well as your scholarly ability. It determines how adept you are at ranged attacks, magic, how perceptive you are and (possibly) how hard you are to hit.

Associated Skills: Crafting (see Crafting), various Lores (see Lore), Maps, Read Runes, Survival, Sailing

Derived Characteristics: Mental, Ranged, (possibly) Defense, Perception


Fate: Fate is everywhere in the Nordic worldview, now more than ever as the Fate of the Gods themselves seems imminent. Fate determines your proficiency with, and your capacity to work or resist magic, or employ many eldritch Talents. Fate is also a measure of your luck. You can also expend Fate Points for particular effects in the course of play. Some talents (especially Eldritch ones) allow you to expand on how you spend Fate Points.

Associated Skills: various Eldritch Talents (see individual Eldritch Talents), Galdr Magic, Magical Defense, Runecasting, Sorcery, Seidr Magic.

Derived Characteristics: Hits, Mental, Social, (possibly) Defense, Perception


Charisma: This is a measure of your general appeal as well as your ability to convey meaning and sway the opinions of others, both on the battlefield and elsewhere. It also may include the ability speak well in court, to versify on command or at will, or the ability to play an instrument or sing.

Associated Skills: Courtliness, Influence, Intimidate, Commerce, Performance, Verse

Derived Characteristics: Possibly Renown


Each Hero has 10 Attribute Points to spend on their character. A score of Zero is a skill indicated human average, and your hero can have an attribute of Zero, but in the The Wolf Age you will likely suffer for it. There is no benefit to reducing an Attribute to a negative number, so that would rarely be done. Representing disability is done with Hindrances, rather than low Attributes.

Hopefully, you get an idea of the attributes that a burly thegn (Might, Agility), a canny hunter (Agility, Fate), or a subtle skald (Intellect, Charisma), might want to stress in character creation. 

You should also note that each Attribute has two categories listed after its description: Associated Skills, and Derived Characteristics.

Associated Skills: These skill are to an extent derived from ability in the associated Attribute. Most of the time, people pursue skills that work with their strengths as they perceive them. In Ragnarok, heroes get Skill Points equal to the number of Attributes they have (usually 10), but the points are associated with a particular Attribute. So if you have a Might of 3, you also have 3 Skill Points to spend on skills Associated with Might.

Derived Characteristics: Derived Characteristics are the "stats" that drive much of the meechanics of the ragnarok Engine. They are derived, in the sense that they are essentially two of the five Attributes  added together. So Physical is Might + Agility, whereas Coordination is Agility + Intellect. Most skills, including attacks and defense, are figured using Derived Characteristics. If you read the previous Development Diaries, when we discussed the Norn Die and the Bonus Die, we referred to a roll being comprised of 3d6 + a Modifier (with one of the dice being the Norn Die)/ The Modifier is based on the Derived Characterisitic used in the attempt.

As an example, let's take a look at Bolverk the Savage, one of the exemplar characters in Ragnarok. We follow Bolverk and his companions through character creation and revisit them throughout the course of the rest of the book.

Bolverk has Might 3, Agility 3, Intellect 2, Fate 2, and Charisma 0. He is a big bruiser, but with well-honed reflexes. Though he often plays the uncouth brute, and has a quick temper (we will get to Hindrances like "Quick Temper" in a future Diary, he is surprisingly bright. His Fate of 2 means he is no magical pushover, and that he has considerable innate luck and probably has caught the attention of one or more gods (or giants, or dragons, etc). His Charisma, Bolverk's player states, reflects his savage upbringing among oathbreakers and outlaws, before he was "freed" by the Jarl. 

For Skill Points, Bolverk has 3 to spend in Mind, another 3 for Agility, and 2 each in Intellect and Fate. He has no skill point to spend in Charisma.

Bolverk's Derived Characteristics are as follows:

Hits: 5

Physical: +6

Coordination: +5

Mental: +4

Social: +2

Vigor: 13

Defense: 14

Initiative: +4

Perception: Scan +4/ Notice 12.

Renown: 6


Now, let's take a look at Bolverk's Weapon Skiil. As a berserker, he will want one. He has 3 points to spend in each of Might and Agility, so he can select more than one weapon skill, but let's focus on one for now. Bolverk's player wants to have Bolverk to wield a two-handed axe "Barbarian-style" as he calls it. Great Axe is a Might Skill, and employs Physical as its base. So Bolverk will begin with +6 in Great Axe, which is quite good. Spending the first point in a skill means you are "trained" in that skill, and you get to roll your full compliment of dice with that skill. So Bolverk will roll 3d6 (including a Norn Die) And add 6 to his roll to hit, comparing the total to the Defense of the target.

If Bolverk does not spend a point in Great Axe, his use will be Unskilled.

In Ragnarok, if you don't have a skill, your drop one die any time you roll a challenge (what we call making the roll to determine success or failure). You still get to roll your Norn Die, and you can throw a Bonus Die in if you have one and it is important enough to you. But overall, you are less likely to succeed.

Since Bolverk is intended primarily as a powerful melee fighter, he will definitely want one, or more, weapon skills. If he chose sword, or spear, note that he would begin with a +5, because these skills are based on Coordination. But they are also Agility skills, so he might take one of them anyway, because he has three points to spend on Agility skills.


Here is Bolverk's player's Skill Point allocation, along with his skill modifiers:

Might: Brawl +6, Great Axe +6, Endurance +6

Agility: Saex +5, Running +5, Stealth +5

Intellect: Willpower +4, Survival +4

Fate: Berserker's Rage +4, Ignore Wound +4

Charisma: None

Obviously Bolverk has the potential to be a great warrior, but he will struggle in social situations. Given his ill-temper, he may be driven from meadhall to meadhall, despite his prowess on the battlefield. He may be able to contribute as a hunter and scout however, keeping the larder full and the border secure.

If you look closely, Bolverk, with a Social of +2, has no Skill Points, because of his Charisma of 0. How does that work in play?

Well, for all his gruff manner, and quick temper, there is still something appealing about him (+2 Social), that might save him from outlawry. Since he has no social skills, he suffers when he wants to convince someone of something, probably relying on Bonus Dice when he really needs to succeed on an appeal.