Disco Elysium – Skills & Attributes

Skills & Attributes

When starting a new game of Disco Elysium, the player can choose one of three archetypes for their Attribute distribution, or they can make a character from scratch. If make from scratch, all four attributes can range from 1 to 6 points inclusive with a maximum total of 12 points. This is the only time attributes can be changed; attributes do not level up.

Customized characters are allowed to have a total below 12 points, even entering the game with just a single point in all four attributes. This will significantly negatively affect all skill checks, but players can attempt the challenge if they wish.

Two skills, Volition of the Psyche Skills and Endurance of the Physique Skills, govern the character’s Morale and Health respectively. When either of those reach zero, it’s game over. It’s advised that both Psyche and Physique have at least 2 points to ensure that any incredibly early mistakes won’t kill the player-character.

Attributes set the character’s starting values in the skills of each skill group. Attributes also set the character’s TRAINABLE maximum for the skills in the skill group. This means if the character has an exceptionally low attribute, he still won’t be able to level up the skills in that group beyond a very small number.

Disco Elysium has a strong variety of its skill checks throughout the adventure. It rewards both min/maxing and jack-of-all-trades style of attribute distribution. Further, skills (but not attributes) are greatly affected by equippable clothing items and can be changed freely during the game.

Note:  That clothing bonuses are not subject to any maximum number. Attributes set only the trainable maximum of skills in their skill group. Therefore it’s possible to wear the right set of clothes to artificially increase a given skill well beyond a low value if the player needs to pass a certain check.

Attributes themselves do nothing in game terms. When conducting checks, Disco Elysium only does the check against the relevant skill, not the attribute governing it.

It’s advised that the player needs to truly roleplay for the best chance at victory. The player should decide early on what kind of character they want to be; someone who is brilliant, or street-smart, or thieving, or a strong man, or a jack-of-all-trades, and set up their attributes accordingly. There is no wrong way to play, and no matter what path is chosen, a lot of checks will go with and against the player.

Skill Groups

The four Attributes of Disco Elysium are Intellect, Psyche, Physique, and Motorics. In traditional RPGs, these could be equated to Intelligence, Wisdom (and a little Charisma), Strength, and Dexterity.

Each attribute has six skills in its skill group. Each group broadly determines the type of checks it will be used for, which can give the player an idea of what kind archetype they wish to make if not using a pre-made character.

This section will break down the various attributes and what their skill groups are generally for, but you can click a given skill group for a deeper dive.

Intellect Skills

The six Intellect Skills are Logic, Encyclopedia, Rhetoric, Drama, Conceptualization, and Visual Calculus. These skills are generally used in passive skill checks to advise the player which is the “correct” dialogue option to choose. Successful passive checks on these skills usually open new dialogue options in the current conversation.

  • Logic

Logic is the measure of the character’s ability to connect multiple pieces of information. It’s usually passively checked if at all, and it’s rare for Logic to fail a check; usually it will either succeed or simply not appear. Successful logic checks often open new dialogue options.

  • Encyclopedia

Encyclopedia is the player-character’s knowledge regarding the world. It’s almost always a passive skill check when the character hears a new term or enters a new area. This is subtly different from the Inland Empire skill. Where Encyclopedia is more about history and events long before the player-character’s time, Inland Empire is more about the “here and now” of the different organizations involved in the plot.

As with Logic, it’s rare for Encyclopedia fail; it will either succeed or simply not appear. Encyclopedia checks are almost always used for background lore of the world of Disco Elysium and rarely affects dialogue options. It’s one of the least important skills in the game for direct gameplay, but one of the most important if the player wishes to learn about the game world.

  • Rhetoric

Rhetoric is the measure of stating the character’s opinion and listening to others’ opinions. It’s often a passive skill check when the player-character listens to an NPC’s political views and when the player-character is judging whether the NPC is telling the truth. Rarely, an active Rhetoric check will be made when the player attempts to use their words to influence a target, but usually those attempts are governed by other skills.

  • Drama

Drama is the measure of the player-character’s ability to use nonfactual words and actions. It’s usually an active skill check when the player attempts to influence a target without evidence or threats. Drama is also used as a passive skill check when NPCs are using the same to the player. This skill is less used than most others.

  • Conceptualization

Conceptualization is the player-character’s capacity to understand and create art. When checked passively, it can open up new dialogue options when the character is confronted with NPCs who think in artistic terms. When checked actively, it directs the player-character’s success when attempting to understand or create art. Conceptualization is used less often than other skills and usually in a supporting role for some Side Quests.

  • Visual Calculus

Visual Calculus (often shortened in-game to “VisCal”) represents the player-character’s ability to reconstruct an event with seen evidence. It’s often passively checked when the player examines evidence, and if passed, it will open new dialogue options requiring an active Visual Calculus check to get the full story. Visual Calculus is important for learning the order and source of events.

Psyche Skills

The six Psyche Skills are Volition, Inland Empire, Empathy, Authority, Esprit de Corps, and Suggestion. These skills are often used in passive skill checks to advise the player and open new dialogue options similar to the Intellect Skills. However, some of them, such as Authority and Suggestion, are used in more active checks when talking to other characters. Volition also sets the character’s maximum Morale, one of the two “health bars” in the game.

  • Volition

Volition is the measure of the player-character’s willpower. It directly affects the maximum Morale with a 1:1 ratio. It’s almost never directly checked.

  • Inland Empire

Inland Empire is the measure of the player-character’s knowledge of the inner workings of the government. This is subtly different from the Encyclopedia skill. Where Encyclopedia is more about history and events long before the player-character’s time, Inland Empire is more about the “here and now” of the different organizations involved in the plot.

Inland Empire is almost always passively checked and, if successful, will provide the player with more information on the current events of different organizations. It’s almost never actively checked and will only rarely open up new dialogue options.

  • Empathy

Empathy is the measure of how much the player-character understands the emotions of a subject. Empathy is usually passively checked during conversations with NPCs and will open new dialogue options with them if passed. Empathy may be actively checked as well if the player attempts to talk to an NPC who is in emotional distress. It’s one of the more important skills if the player wants to use their words as their primary weapon.

  • Authority

Authority is the measure of how much the player-character can project his power onto others. Using Authority is often a two-step process, with a passive check first to open new dialogue followed by an active check to see if it works. Authority is a double-edged sword however and some NPCs will become less willing to talk if an Authority check fails.

  • Esprit de Corps

Esprit de Corps is an odd skill more for the player than the player-character. When Esprit de Corps passes a check, the player (not the player-characer) will learn what’s going on elsewhere in the world at that moment. This is always presented in text only, but it can inform the player of background that the player-character does not know. Importantly, any passed check on Esprit de Corps is correct; the spirits won’t “lie” to the player when stating what other characters are doing. Because this is more for the player’s benefit rather than the player-character, Esprit de Corps is almost never actively checked.

  • Suggestion

Suggestion is the measure of whether the player-character can get others to do what he wants them to do with only his words. It’s used both as a passive check in almost every conversation to guide the player’s dialogue choices. Although Suggestion as a hint is never wrong, the player is never forced to follow the advice. It’s arguably the most important skill to have if the player wants to use their words as their primary weapon.

Physique Skills

The six Physique Skills are Endurance, Pain Threshold, Physical Instrument, Electrochemsitry, Shivers, and Half Light. These skills are often used in active skill checks when the character attempts to use their physical force to affect the world. A few of the skills may present themselves during passive checks, but for the most part they are used to perform an action. Endurance also sets the character’s maximum Health, one of the two “health bars” in the game.

  • Endurance

Endurance is the measure of the player-character’s general stamina. It directly affects the maximum Health with a 1:1 ratio. It’s rarely checked when the player performs physical actions; usually any physical actions are checked against other Physique skills or some of the Motorics Skills. Note that when moving in the game world, it doesn’t matter whether the player-character runs or walks, and neither affects or is affected by the Endurance skill.

  • Pain Threshold

Pain Threshold is the measure of the player-character’s ability to ignore or manage any physical detriment. It’s often passively checked when the character fails a different Physique skill check and is almost never actively checked. Failing a Pain Threshold check usually results in 1 point of health damage.

  • Physical Instrument

Physical Instrument is the measure of the player-character’s ability to use their physical strength to affect the world. It’s checked when the player does anything physical, whether assisted by tools or not, and is the closest measure to the character’s “raw strength” than any other skill. It’s almost always actively checked, not passively.

  • Electrochemistry

Electrochemistry is the measure of the player-character’s tolerance and knowledge of drugs and alcohol. Successful passive checks will often present new information to player and new dialogue options for the character in conversations with drunks and druggies. Note that if the player is attempting to stay clean or otherwise do a “sober” run, Electrochemistry can still be actively or passively checked but does not govern whether the character imbibes. The decision to imbibe is fully in the hands of the player and is never checked.

  • Shivers

Shivers is the measure of player-character’s guard or senses when entering a new or dangerous area. It tends to be redundant to other skills such as Logic, but this is so a character whose Attributes are set up purely physical rather than intellectual can still sense danger or otherwise prepare themselves before entering a questionable situation. It’s almost never actively checked, but will be passively checked even out of conversations when something catches the character’s attention.

  • Half Light

Half Light is the measure of the player-character’s ability to intimidate a subject. Similarly to Shivers, it’s redundant to other skills in other skill groups such as Empathy or Suggestion but is necessary if the player has put most of their Attribute points into Physique. It’s almost never passively checked, and instead actively checked when the player attempts to intimidate during a conversation.

Motorics Skills

The six Motorics Skills are Hand/Eye Coordination, Perception, Reaction Speed, Savoir Faire, Interfacing, and Composure. This skill mix is used in a variety of passive and active skill checks when the character attempts to do any action not based fully and directly on intelligence or raw strength. It’s used for both being sneaky or simply manipulating small devices.

  • Hand/Eye Coordination

Hand/Eye Coordination measures how well the player-character can aim weapons or throw objects. It’s always actively checked when attempting any such action, and never passively checked unless setting up said action. Of all the Motorics skills, this one is least used.

  • Perception

Perception measures how well the player-character can see or hear something unusual in his environment. Generally this is used passively as the character walks around or examines an object. For people, Composure or one of the Psyche Skills is used instead. It’s almost always passively checked and often during conversations with NPCs.

  • Reaction Speed

Reaction Speed measures how quickly the player-character can respond to a change in the environment, usually defensively. It’s almost never checked actively, instead being checked passively during conversations or events.

  • Savoir Faire

Savoir Faire measures the balance and smoothness of the player-character’s physical movements. Failing a Savoir Faire check usually results in the character suffering Morale damage rather than Health damage. It’s almost always a passive check.

  • Interfacing

Interfacing measures the ability of the player-character to manipulate objects and devices aside from weapons. When using tools, Physical Instrument may be used instead since that relies on raw strength. Interfacing is more for finer devices such as locks or machines. It’s almost always an active check.

  • Composure

Composure measures the ability of the player-character to keep his calm or at least not give away his thoughts, and it measures his ability to detect when others are trying or failing to do the same. Most NPCs in Disco Elysium are unapologetic and don’t hide their emotions, but shifty characters may cause passive Composure checks in conversation. When the player-character is being sized up, the player may need to make passive or active checks to avoid taking damage to their Morale.

1 thought on “Disco Elysium – Skills & Attributes”

  1. Thanks for the info. Just wanted to say that your explanation of a few things is a bit off.

    Inland Empire is not really about government, it is a measure of the main character’s imagination.

    Esprit de corps is the character’s ability to connect with other cops, like Kim and the precinct he’s from.

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