D&D 5E Ability score generation: "buy your dice roll"

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
I was going through my old notes and came across this homebrew ability score generation option I used in 3E to give some variance with ability scores so everyone didn't look cookie cutter. This way, maybe there could be a wizard with an 18 STR because does every wizard have an 8-10 Strength? There isn't one wizard in the world who works out? I'm pretty sure I didn't create it, don't know who did, and was positing whether it would translate to 5E.

Buy your dice roll method:

You have 5 points. Purchase a roll for each ability score from the options below. You don't have to spend all 5 points on rolls. You can instead "reserve" any number of your 5 points to improve a score after the dice are rolled. The worse the score, the bigger the improvement.

Point Cost MethodDie Roll RangeAverage
A: 3 points.15 + 1/2 of 1d6 (round down)15-1816.5
B: 2 points.10 + 2d412-1815
C: 1 point.6 + 2d68-1813
D: 0 points.3d63-1810.5

Reserve boost per point spent:

Ability ScoreBoost
3-7 +3
8-13+2
14-16 +1
17-18 +0

Optional: Mulligan / Superhero.
Although unlikely that one may roll to the extremes, the DM and player should discuss a redo (“mulligan”) if no score has a positive ability modifier, or all scores have a positive ability score modifier.

Example:
I'm thinking about playing a wizard, so I know I'll want high intelligence, and I also decide I want a decent Con to survive. I use 3 points to buy method A for Intelligence because it gives me the highest range. I buy a Method Cs for Con at 1 point and make the rest Method D (costs me nothing) so I can save 1 point for a boost, just in case.

STR - 3d6 Rolled a 13
Dex – 3d6 Rolled a 12
Con - 6+2d6 Rolled an 8
Int - 15 + 1/2 of 1d6 (round down) Rolled a 17
Wis - 3d6 Rolled a 7
Cha - 3d6 Rolled an 11

Now I have a dilemma. My Con at 8 is poor, and the "boost" would get it up by +2 to a 10 so I'd have no penalty. Or, I could do the same to my 7 Wisdom to get it to a 10 (+3). Or, I might just boost something else! All depends on what you're playing. And, this wizard works out. He's got a 13 Strength. No more embarrassment asking others to help carry your waterskin when it's filled up.
 

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DND_Reborn

Legend
It reminds me of the AD&D UA system of having 9d6, 8d6, etc. and choosing where you wanted to roll the most dice.

I've also seen system were you roll 5d6 for two scores, 4d6 for two scores, and 3d6 for two scores, only keeping 3d6 each time.

I think those systems and something like yours is a fine way to go, really. My personal preference would be to keep the die types the same, but that is a minor point.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
This does scratch an itch I have without voiding two other concerns that point buy avoids. I really enjoy the Faustian bargain of ASI or feat when both of them are quite tempting. But in earlier editions, I like the organic "not quite what you expected" of rolling in order. This seems to give both of those. My last worry with rolling is large power discrepencies between the best and the worst in the party in terms of their prime ability score. But with this method, variation goes down on the ones you want to be good.

I'm genuinely surprised, in a good way, to see a rolling mechanic that meets my criteria in terms of party power disparities, feats and ASI as both tempting, and satisfies the organic "I'm surprised by how this ended up" itch.

I'm evaluating this as it would be at my table, which uses Tasha's ability score adjustments. Methods that can give the highest as even numbers (16 or 18 in this case) can otherwise be fodder for only pairing with the races that give +2 to it for some types of gamers, which reduced variety. Tasha's eliminates that, you can play any race/class combo without being limited.

Also this particular breakdown can give some really great scores for SAD classes (like rogue archers) with one great and most others decent, and can give a great and a good that most other classes want at the cost of all of the others being 3d6, but is a bit tight when it comes to classes that want three good scores, like a paladin or a wizard (bladesinger). Not a showstopper, just an observation.

All in all, like this a lot.
 

It's a complex system. Whether that's good or bad is a matter of personal preference, but this is a bit too complex for my taste. It does seem like the numbers work out well, though.

Beyond that the only specific critique I have would be on this section:

Optional: Mulligan / Superhero. Although unlikely that one may roll to the extremes, the DM and player should discuss a redo (“mulligan”) if no score has a positive ability modifier, or all scores have a positive ability score modifier.

You would have to work very hard to get a set where there isn't at least one positive ability modifier. Conversely, I think there are a number of cases where a player could game this system to get all ability scores at a low positive modifier if they decided they want to force a re-do. It would probably be easier to just say "mulligans at the DM's discretion".
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I like this idea a lot, though I feel like the option to improve a score once rolled complicates it too much for my taste. Simply spending points to choose a dice code for each score seems good enough for me.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
I like this idea a lot, though I feel like the option to improve a score once rolled complicates it too much for my taste. Simply spending points to choose a dice code for each score seems good enough for me.
I think the "reserve" is supposed to be like insurance. If a disastrous roll happens, you might be glad you had some.

But it might be interesting to turn the insurance into a gamble by further removing any "plusses" to anything 15 and above.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
...It would probably be easier to just say "mulligans at the DM's discretion".
Simpler is better. While it sounds silly, I suppose I could see players opting 3d6 and ditching characters until they get the rolls they want. Of course, the DM should step in and nip that type of practice in the bud.
 

If folks would like a simpler method, do something like this:

You have five points. By default, roll 3d6 in order. Spend one point on a stat to instead roll 2d6+6 for one stat. Spend two points to instead roll (best 1 of 2d6)+12. If you have points left over, you can spend them to add 2 to any score less than 8, or 1 to any score 8-12. Alternatively, you may swap two stat values by spending one point.

Nice and simple, no need to faff about with big numbers or major modifications. Takes all of five sentences, two of which are very short. Spending 2 points is almost certainly worth the cost, but still a gamble. (If you prefer, just make it 1d6+12 to make it that much more of a gamble, and the process that much simpler.) Players who decide to just roll have a major cushion against really low stats, while players who specialize risk hyper-specialization. Everyone always has at least one stat that rolls 3d6, so odds are decent at least one score will be on the low end. There isn't assign-to-taste, but if you hold onto a point, you can at least swap one stat if necessary.

As baseline examples, I'll do a Dragonborn Paladin and a Half-Elf Bard, since those are characters I've played in 5e before.

Gonna take (2d6k1)+12 for Charisma and Strength, 3d6 for everything else, keeping that reserve point just in case.
"High" rolls: 14, 13 (in order Str/Cha)
Remaining rolls: 10, 6, 12, 7, which go in order Con/Dex/Int/Wis.
This gives
Str: 14+2 (racial) = 16
Con: 10
Dex: 6
Int: 12
Wis: 7
Cha: 13+1 (racial) = 14
Got some real crap rolls on those first two! Guess I shouldn't have gambled so hard. I could put my remaining point into bumping up Dex, but I think I like the idea of a knight who fights really well but is as coordinated as a fledgling goose outside of that context, so I'll bump Wis to 9. May invest an ASI into Dex at some point just 'cause that IS a painful hole though.

Final scores
Str 16
Con 10
Dex 6
Int 12
Wis 9
Cha 14
Not ideal, but not totally awful either.

Half-elf: Charisma is really the only "key" stat for a Bard. I'll do the high roll for Charisma, and medium rolls for Dex, Con, and Int. The other stats fall where they may.
High roll: 17
Mid rolls: 17, 10, 13 (order Con, Dex, Int)
Low rolls: 14, 15 (order Str, Wis)

Wow, holy crap, this is an insanely good set given what I went for--dramatically better than the previous! We end up with:
Str: 14
Con: 17
Dex: 10
Int: 13
Wis: 15
Cha: 17+2 = 19

I have the two floating half-elf ability bonuses, but they can't be applied to Cha. Con 18 is a no-brainer for this character, but it's a bit tough to choose between the other two. Bards should be well-rounded though, so I think a bigger Int modifier is better.

Final scores
Str 14
Con 18
Dex 10
Int 14
Wis 15
Cha 19
A surprisingly "physical" character--almost worth considering Valor Bard over the alternatives. That (relatively) low Dex actually prevents the approach I would typically take, sadly, but perhaps this could work as a Bard that dabbles in Bladelock?
 

I was going through my old notes and came across this homebrew ability score generation option I used in 3E to give some variance with ability scores so everyone didn't look cookie cutter. This way, maybe there could be a wizard with an 18 STR because does every wizard have an 8-10 Strength? There isn't one wizard in the world who works out? I'm pretty sure I didn't create it, don't know who did, and was positing whether it would translate to 5E.

Buy your dice roll method:

You have 5 points. Purchase a roll for each ability score from the options below. You don't have to spend all 5 points on rolls. You can instead "reserve" any number of your 5 points to improve a score after the dice are rolled. The worse the score, the bigger the improvement.

Point Cost MethodDie Roll RangeAverage
A: 3 points.15 + 1/2 of 1d6 (round down)15-1816.5
B: 2 points.10 + 2d412-1815
C: 1 point.6 + 2d68-1813
D: 0 points.3d63-1810.5

Reserve boost per point spent:

Ability ScoreBoost
3-7 +3
8-13+2
14-16 +1
17-18 +0

Optional: Mulligan / Superhero.
Although unlikely that one may roll to the extremes, the DM and player should discuss a redo (“mulligan”) if no score has a positive ability modifier, or all scores have a positive ability score modifier.

Example:
I'm thinking about playing a wizard, so I know I'll want high intelligence, and I also decide I want a decent Con to survive. I use 3 points to buy method A for Intelligence because it gives me the highest range. I buy a Method Cs for Con at 1 point and make the rest Method D (costs me nothing) so I can save 1 point for a boost, just in case.

STR - 3d6 Rolled a 13
Dex – 3d6 Rolled a 12
Con - 6+2d6 Rolled an 8
Int - 15 + 1/2 of 1d6 (round down) Rolled a 17
Wis - 3d6 Rolled a 7
Cha - 3d6 Rolled an 11

Now I have a dilemma. My Con at 8 is poor, and the "boost" would get it up by +2 to a 10 so I'd have no penalty. Or, I could do the same to my 7 Wisdom to get it to a 10 (+3). Or, I might just boost something else! All depends on what you're playing. And, this wizard works out. He's got a 13 Strength. No more embarrassment asking others to help carry your waterskin when it's filled up.
It's cute but it fundamentally doesn't make sense.

It looks like one of those things someone came up with by themselves and absolutely never tested - the initial concept re: paid rolls isn't terrible though I'd argue the numbers/rolls, but the concept of "reserving" points to shore up bad rolls is frankly idiotic. The return is extremely poor, mathematically, and it requires you to essentially assume you'll get a crap roll, which is let's be clear - NOT HOW HUMANS WORK - sorry for the all caps but I've been talking about RPGs for what, 30 years now, on the internet, and one leading cause of truly bad system design is people don't understand how humans work, don't understand like the basic psychology involved.

And the reserve concept is a prime example of that.

The other two main causes, btw, are "bad math/didn't bother to do any math", and "doesn't understand the rules to start with, but has decided to change them". This also has the "bad math/no math" problem. Like there's no way these numbers are the result of anything but some dude's "gut feeling". Which is why the reserve boost numbers are so low.

For once I don't have a ton of time, but in short it doesn't make mathematical sense to reserve stuff, the odds strongly favour rolling 6+2d6 over reserving any points, and the players aren't going to reserve anything even when they don't immediately realize that, because again, it requires them to assume they'll get terrible rolls, which players do not.

And in the end, what it's trying to achieve is essentially the same as 4d6DtL and standard array, but it's considerably more complicated also has more potential to produce outright unplayble characters than either. So yeah I'd this is one of thousands of stat gen methods destined for and deserving of the scrapheap of history.
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
It's cute but it fundamentally doesn't make sense....this is one of thousands of stat gen methods destined for and deserving of the scrapheap of history.
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Seriously though, appreciate the read. I put it up here because I want it subjected to scrutiny as this came from the days of 3E/Pathfinder and I believe was designed around their "15 point buy" system. I haven't tried to clean it up for 5E in any way because I'm not a math guy and don't know if it translates mathematically.

If there's a way to make it fit, however, I'm all for it because I think standard array characters are boring: Every wizard is physically weak, every fighter is dumb, and unless you're a CHA-based caster, you're probably ugly too. Creates cliches. I also like the idea of player control: if you really want that 15+ stat guaranteed, you can get it, but at the expense of other stats, or you can take a chance and hope that 6+2d6 turns out as good as the odds suggest.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
One variant which caught my eye recently, which someone came up with in '75 or '76, was to roll ability scores and assign them where you like, to any vacant ability.

You could do this with just 3d6 in OD&D or B/X, but in AD&D or more recent editions presumably you'd use 4d6 drop the lowest.

This gives you a measure of control, in that you can assign a good number to the prime requisite for your preferred class, but doesn't guarantee that it will always be your highest stat. For example if I'm trying to make a Fighter and I roll a 15 or better I'm likely to assign that to Strength, but unless it's my very last roll, I could still roll something higher for one of my other stats.
 


DND_Reborn

Legend
For all my players watching the threads, I only accept non-sequential 10's and 20's. :D

$10 will buy you an extra d6, $20 is a bargain and you get an extra 3d6 to use where you want. ;)
 

toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
I should clarify again it's D&D3.5/Pathfinder idea, and the numbers may not translate perfectly. Using Pathfinder (aka D&D 3.75), the "standard" array was a 15-point build, which translates exactly to D&D's array of 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8. However, the table values for the ability scores are different now, and the previous edition net gain from racial ability score modifiers was only +2.

So I'm putting my weak math skills to the test* purely using averages, rounding down, and seeing if it breaks the 27 point buy of D&D:

All 3d6, reserve 5 points = 29 point buy.

10, 11, 10, 11, 10, 11 = 15 point buy. Using reserves to boost a primary stat twice to 15, another to 15, and another to 13, I end up with a final average array of 15, 15, 13, 10, 10, 10.

5 method C, (6 + 2d6), and a 3d6 = 27 point buy.

All 13s and a 10.

Method C x4, rest 3d6, reserve 1 point. = 29 point buy.

13, 13, 13, 13, 10, 11. = 25 point buy. Reserve to boost the 13 to a 15.

The Spoiler method except with averages (the big method A roll, method C, rest 3d6, and reserve 1 point) = 31 point buy.

16, 13, 10, 11, 10, 11 = (presuming a score of 16 has a value of 12 because it jumps into another category of ability boosts, consistent with what 3rd edition reasoned) a 27-point buy. Reserve to boost the 13 to 15.

Two Bs and a C + a trio of 3d6 = 30 point buy.

15, 15, 13, 10, 11, 10.

Method A, rest 3d6, reserve 2 = 30 point buy.

16, 10, 11, 10, 11, 10 = 24 points. Boost an 11 to a 15.

Method B, B, C (yeah you know me...), rest 3d6 = 30 point buy.

15, 15, 13, 10, 11, 10.


the odds strongly favour rolling 6+2d6 over reserving any points
Rolling 5 method Cs with one 3d6 came out worse, on average, than all other methods, though it is one of the safest routes to avoid a single digit score.

Conclusions?

I haven't tinkered every possible combination but feel that covers most. Purely taking averages, whatever method you use is likely, but not guaranteed, to land a stronger array of numbers than the standard array. However, this doesn't mean characters are necessarily more powerful. Rather, it will provide quite a bit more variety in characters, possibly in scores that aren't normally expected to be used for that character. Sure, a wizard might roll an 18 in strength, making his scores on a pure point-buy look artificially strong, but is the wizard really benefiting absurdly so from that? On the flipside, in real life people with perceived disadvantages overcome those to do great things. It makes for a much better story that a 6 CON character, sick since birth with an uncurable disease but keen of mind and will, still took out the lich-king, than the superhero did.

It's not for gamers who have a specific "build" in mind. That's what pure point-buy and standard array are for.

Could there be improvement?

Yeah, the reserve option for scores 14-16 is probably too strong and should be a 0. It wouldn't affect the averages. I don't want to tinker with this one too much because it's the "insurance policy" for players who fear rolling a 6 or the like, but it did allow a spike in the point buy averages when applied to a 13 and above.

To stay on course with D&D's point buy table versus the prior edition, I'm thinking for a revised 5E reserve (untested of course):

3-6, +3
7-9, +2
10-12, +1
13 and above, zero.

Otherwise, what happens if we change the +2d4 to a flat 1d8, and change the 2d6 to a flat d12? Well, we lower the averages for both of those by .5, making both those methods lose roughly 1-2 points on the above averages while the other methods stay unchanged. If we went that route, the reserve numbers definitely have to be changed to keep pace. That's whole new math, though, and I don't wanna.

* Disclaimer: I reserve the right to fall back on my excuse of poor math skills should any of this be wrong.
 
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* Disclaimer: I reserve the right to fall back on my excuse of poor math skills should any of this be wrong.
Sadly I don't have time to properly deconstruct this, but the methodology looks rather dodgy as using pure averages on something with such high randomness is definitely misleading, as is the "point buy" value you're providing.

Specifically, the point buy value includes "worthless" points and values them fully. There's a reason the standard array is the shape it is. There's a reason most characters have 1-2 "dump stats", especially when allowed to use point buy. Because in actual gameplay, it's more important to have a high primary stat and likely a decent secondary and tertiary stat. I mean, 13s across the board gets you 30 points in point buy, and whilst such a character would be "okay", they'd be noticeably weak compared to the other characters in real effectiveness terms (though certainly begging you to play a non-variant human). There are 27-point point buy characters who would be drastically more effective in real terms.
 

The idea's interesting, but I feel it will overall be worse than straight up rolling. With 5 points, you're going to put 3 in your primary, because not only does it gives you your highest average, it guarantees a minimum 15. Then you're going to either use 2 points to have a strong secondary or moderate secondary & tertiary scores, leaving the rest as crap.
 



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