Divorcing Stats From Outfits in RPGs

Generally, in RPGs in order to have the best stats and buffs I have to wear less than flattering outfits/armor. First noticed this in Dragon Age: Inquisition as I couldn’t get my character to ever look like they had a fashion sense without being completely squishy. It’s hard to romance Josephine when she completely outclasses me in the wardrobe department, right? RIGHT?

In Fallout 4, I tried to start my character out as a typical 50s housewife who undergoes a transformation throughout the game to effectively become Furiosa. I had different hair styles lined up and different outfits to go with it that I wanted to equip, but I found that about an hour into the game I was just using the armor with the best stats, and kind of got taken out of the experience because I looked so…basic.

I could go on. In the Witcher 3, I stuck with the default armor for FAR TOO LONG because everything else just looked BAD on Geralt.

Does this happen for anyone else in RPGs?

Wouldn’t it be kind of cool if RPGs divorced stats and buffs from the outfits, allowing for a more fashionable/awesome playthrough? Or maybe just relegated stats to patches or bangles or something that just didn’t look generally boring or awful?

How would you solve this problem?


me, pumping every point into Stealth: Don’t need armour if you’re not getting hit.

It depends on the game, but I do like the idea of having invisible items that give the stats as a separate thing from the fashion. Some MMOs let you wear one set of armour as your actual armour, and one set as what people can see you are wearing. Guild Wars II, I think, calls it the ‘Wardrobe’, but basically you’re just applying the skin of one armour over another. It works okay in an MMO, but it might seem a little off if that was in, like, Dragon Age.

Perhaps unintentionally, Skyrim kind of gets around this by letting you exploit the hell out of crafting and equipment enhancement. With the right mix of potions and necklaces of smithing, you can basically enhance anything that counts as armour to, or nearly to, the armour cap. Broadly, I think any game with a crafting system should really have room for you to make the wedding dress you started the game with a Ultimate Dress of the Guarded Bride or whatever the heck, if you’re willing to dump enough materials into enhancing it that far.

On the subject of Fallout 4, I gave up on wearing armour and went full #aesthetic.

She dies pretty much instantly if an enemy spots her, but she leaves a good-looking corpse.


I am absolutely this way in games, so much so that I have quit playing some games because I didn’t want to switch to ugly armor and it ruined the experience for me.

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Diablo 3 introduced “transmute” so you could transfer physical properties of weapons and armor to other designs to customize your look. i think a few MMOs do this as well. But in D3 at least, I don’t really feel like I’m role playing my character, my character is actually just a tool to make the numbers bigger.

A sci-fi game probably has this easy if they have “shields” or some kind of space-age polymers that can be made into any shape, the real challenge is fantasy and modern settings.

I feel like the way that I have gotten around this in recent years is not trying to ‘have it all’ per-se. I’ll take the cool cloth shirt in Fallout over the power armor any day, even if it means soaking a few less bullets. Usually the systems do give you advantages to wearing these items as well.


Depends on where you fall on Nioh being an RPG vs an Action game but if I’m remembering correctly you can change the appearance of weapons / armor for a nominal fee without messing with the stats.


I really enjoy games that have two complete systems (as you’ve suggested). Here is how I would, given infinite budget, build that up:

There is a deep system of wardrobe parts from which you can assemble outfits (and please let me save each complete outfit so I can click into a swap without having to go through and do each part individually - super bonus points if you have dyeing for bits of clothing and can save the colours with each outfit). This includes styling (hair) and possibly even emote selection or animation sets (eg walking styles). 100% cosmetic only, absolutely no combat influence and I’m somewhat resistant to even say that it can modify NPC reactions and dialogue trees - although that would be the obvious gameplay implication to it, giving NPCs a view of how you’re dressed. Certainly not “+10% attractive” bonus on a piece or stuff that builds a hierarchy (and so means you’re not meant to use most items if there is a “better” piece) but it could be interesting if wearing a lot of clothing that’s unusual makes local NPCs either slightly impressed (if they like exotic looks) or unimpressed (if they prefer their local styles).

Then there is the stats system. Much of this is trinkets and so on which are purely a stat system. Maybe it involves slotting if you want to build in a system that makes it expensive to swap bonuses on the fly but whatever the gameplay decisions there are a few key rules: all stat-imbued pieces can be made invisible; they can display (say some shoulder-pads) in some cases to add additional flair but only in minor ways. They also shouldn’t be clearly very ugly until the very top tiers. This should mainly be the system by which the character progresses into the game mechanics and powers up and not a system of visual differentiation (which is the above wardrobe). But it’s nice to see little bits of this and that, maybe a bit of extra bulk from an armour vest worn under the shirt that just sticks out a bit at the neck. Little hints of the choices made. All optional. The necklace is hidden or can be worn over the clothes. None of it is exclusive so you can get cosmetic necklaces in the upper system that can be used in those cosmetic slots if you want visual pieces but not to lock up your stats slot.

Of course all this is expensive to build up and requires thinking about combos. It’s a lot easier to use something like transmogrification (pieces can be made to look like any other piece you have but with the stats of the “good” item) which I think it still how WoW and several other big MMOs offer more varied appearance with a stat-heavy item system.

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Okay, I kind of love that outfit for the game, but it’s a shame that means dying super fast. :frowning:

I’d count Nioh in that, same with Dark Souls. In DS, I felt similarly about the armor I equipped. I wanted the best stats, but that generally meant looking…meh. :stuck_out_tongue:

I like this, particularly splitting things up into cosmetic vs functional. I get that it makes things more complex, but in an 80+ hour game, I feel like getting our characters just right is pretty crucial. We have to stare at them for a long time, after all.

Could even have stats be based on tattoos you get or etchings on your character’s skin? That could offset some of the buffs, and then use necklaces, bracelets, caps, or accessories to build out your defenses and still allow for the sickest dress/suit this side of the cosmos.

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generally, no matter what the game is, if i find an outfit i like but it doesn’t have stats as good as something else, i still stick with it for at least awhile before i switch to my best armor. usually until i’m sure it’s gonna be a burden. even in a game with very few outfits like persona 3 portable i was wearing the female armor on my character for longer than i should have cuz i really liked it/enjoyed making akihiko blush.

as for solving it, i like how the MMOs people have been pointing out are doing it. i’ve been playing PSO2 alot lately, and what gives you armor are little doodads that float behind you or by your arms or legs, and you can hide those. what you’re actually wearing on you is cosmetic and gives no bonuses, and there are even 3 different cosmetic layers you can mix and match as well. it’s nice, and kinda freeing!! well, aside from how expensive most clothes are in that game. :T


I feel like this is a built-in problem with the now-accepted RPG game loop of increasing difficulty over time by bumping up the enemy stats across the board, rather than introducing new mechanics or enemy gimmicks that require different strategies to deal with. If the curve comes from enemy Numbers Going Up, the loop then has to be about the player’s own Numbers, rather than their skill as a player, or lessons learned from interacting with the game’s systems.

Most stuff nowadays deals with this by just divorcing equipment visuals from functionality, but that kinda deadens the ability of outfits/weapons/etc to function as storytelling devices, outside of just dumping some lore into the item description. Feels weird to me to divorce that stuff but I’m also really into RPGs that use stats as an extrapolation of character rather than a difficulty ramp to be maxed out. if that makes any sense. idk games are weird


God, I wish every game split stats and looks into different things. I know a lot of MMOs at this point have some sort of outfit system where you can have your actual stat armor be invisible and you can equip another set of armor just for the look, but I can’t think of any single-player games that do that off the top of my head.

Dragon Quest IX actually has an interesting alternative to a complete split of fashion and stats (don’t know if it’s in other games in the series) with its “Style” stat. Every piece of armor in the game has a separate “Style” stat, and if your outfit’s total “Style” score is high enough, you actually have a chance of randomly stunning an enemy for a turn during a battle. Granted, the system doesn’t account for the outfit’s composition as a whole (which, judging from my limited experience with the Style Savvy series, is something games are not very good at doing) and if I remember correctly a lot of the female armor pieces with high “Style” are really stupid and fanservice-ey (like “walking into battle in nothing but a bikini” levels of bad), but the idea behind the system is solid and it would be interesting to see another game try and do something similar.

I usually prioritize my outfits over strategy. I’d rather play one difficulty level down, with a character who looks the way that I envision than at the bleeding edge of my abilities dressed in whatever misshapen design the top-tier armor happens to have.


That makes sense. And in these games I tend to fall into the habit of min-maxing stats and just playing the numbers game instead of trying to explore these characters I’ve made. In Dragon Age: Inquisition I played two different kinds of characters who I envisioned each having their own style and fashion sense in the world, but the armor all looked the same so that was that.

In Fallout 4, I’ve rolled pretty straight-laced characters and very promiscuous characters, and have wanted to explore very different styles of character, but have always been limited by looking pretty much the same as every other playthrough.

Xenoblade X had the perfect fix to this via the “Fashion Gear”

Basically, your appearance and your armor were 2 distinctly different things. Modern JRPGs have been avoiding this as well.

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I don’t like games that require a lot of equipment management. I liked that the Witcher 3 had sets you could seek out and keep for a very long time. I went with the Cat school set and it looked “right.”

I have a strong preference for sets like in Monster Hunter or Bloodborne rather than mixing pieces as is typical in western RPGs.

One solution is a system like Nier Automata’s where the stats are tied to non-cosmetic choices. Nier has an easy diegetic context for it, but you could come up with similar systems for other settings.

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I should really start playing these games one difficulty down like you say. There’s a weird part of my brain that’s paranoid I’ll miss out on some of the fun by going “easy.”

My only gripe with The Witcher 3 sets were that some of those really awesome looks came so late in the game. I think I stuck with the cat outfit set because the Wolf one glitched and I couldn’t get it in my playthrough. I wouldn’t mind games following Witcher 3 in that regard.

The Cat school gear looks dope. I also liked that every time you upgraded it changed a little (though I would’ve stuck with the short sleeve version all game if I had the choice).

Another cool thing about that armour is when you run into a Cat school witcher, he remarks on the fact that you’re a “wolf dressed like a cat” or something along those lines.


Oh! I remember that scene. Heck yeah, that was pretty dope. I dug the short-sleeved version as well, but also really liked the “final form” of the outfit too. I really wish my playthrough hadn’t glitched because that wolf set looked pretty choice.