Has there ever been a better set of stats than those presented in D&D? I don’t think so. I think D&D got it bang on from the outset and every game released since then has had to be different, and has had to compromise on quality as a result.
The 6 characteristics are like a catechism for me, strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, charisma. The symmetry is beautiful and elegant. You have 3 physical, and 3 mental. There are 3 pairs that correspond to (roughly) mind, body and soul. They are hard coded into defences (or saves). They even show you the underlying priorities in the game, athough you might have to squint to see that!
They literally define your character, they are the skeleton that every other rules hangs off of. One of the very few things that irritates me about 4e is seeing them relegated to the bottom of the character sheet, I prefer to see them front and centre, proud of what they are.
There have been pretenders to the ability throne. Perception is perhaps the most popular. Doesn’t sit well with me. I can understand it as a skill (don’t get me started, I’d dispense with the lot of them), but as a pure stat? What would it do? Con gives you hits, Str gives you power, Dex keeps you safe, Cha? Well that’s a post of it’s own. But Per? I say it’s the DMs job to be your eyes and ears, not the number on your character sheet.
Credit where it’s due, Castles & Crusades gave stats the treatment, and reverence, they deserve with their SIEGE engine. White Wolf have a decent set up with their 3×3 grid. Apart from those? You tell me. Who’s got stats right?