D&D General Changing Order of Character Creation, from 1e to 2024

Aldarc

Legend
Rolling for character stats is no more "realistic" than point buy or standard array. The appeal to the idea that people have no control over their genetics or how they are born conflates an out of game play process for an in-universe one. That is because player character has no control over any of these character generation processes. A player character has no control over the stats they are assigned. A player character has no control over their species. A player character has no control over their class. It's all in the hands of the various players at the table. This appeal to realism is flimsy AF.
 

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ezo

Where is that Singe?
I over nearly a decade with "rolled' scores in 2e and into 3e. I put it in quotes because as soon as we figured out that you needed high scores to play what you wanted, players mysteriously always rolled exactly what they needed and never seemed to roll poorly.
In AD&D there are only a couple classes where rolling wouldn't give you the ability to play the class you wanted more often than not. B/X emphasized in order, but allowed customization afterwards (to an extent), and had no minimums for classes anyway.

I never saw PCs with less than a 16 in their prime requisite, multiple ability scores on the high end of the bell curve, and miraculously never seeming to fail to qualify for the class we wanted. Multiple groups of players, many of whom never met each other over the course of years. Once we figured out rolling ability scores were an impediment to playing the characters we wanted, ability score magically rolled exactly what we needed. It was an open secret; everyone knew you fudged scores (and HP rolls; nobody ever gained just 1 hp per level) because those rolls were important. Rolling low on an attack roll or save was recoverable, you only got once chance at your Dexterity Score.
Then your experiences were vastly different from mine (obviously). If you fudged rolls, that's on you. If I discovered a player fudging rolls, they were warned. If they did it again, I didn't play with them. The game is random for a reason.

That includes hit points. Magic-Users were very powerful if you made it past the low levels, and the d4 for hit points was part of the balance.

Of course, with 3E and on WotC embraced the "build-a-bear" character creation process, so that is what most people do now.

So with that background in mind, every fighter starting with a point-bought 16 was no different than every fighter "rolling" and 18/% strength score. It was just what you did, even though it was never acknowledged by the other Players or DMs. Rolling only determined HOW awesome you were, not whether you were going to BE awesome.
Justification because people you played with fudged rolls is a sad commentary IMO.

So go ahead, gamble on your PC. Roll randomly for ability scores, race, class, or anything else you want. Hell, roll to see what level you start at, or roll Traveller Style and see if your PC even survives Chargen. I don't care. But you will NEVER convince me that rolling randomly is better than making what you want.
It isn't a "gamble" as you seem to think. It was playing by "fate". And I'm only talking about race and ability scores, that's it. None of the other things you are talking about has anything to do with it.

Finally, I never, once, claimed it wass "better", just the way I like it. ;) I've pointed out why it can be great and create a PC whose experience is something you wouldn't otherwise ever get to enjoy. Apparently from the beginning in your experience it was something you fought against instead of embracing. Your choice and something you're happy with, so I don't see what you are fighting against now. I've made my point.

If you can't sell people on your way without poo-pooing on theirs and insulting them along the way, then you should probably keep silent and move along.
I'm not trying to "sell people" on anything, merely point out the merits of embracing it. If they don't want to, that's no skin off of my back, but I sincerely pity them being closed-off to it. Full disclosure, there are plently of times I don't do random because I have a concept in mind, not because I am looking for a concept or waiting to see what fate might have in store.

But as far as keeping silent, "Hello, pot..."

You felt it was necessary to post making fun of what I said I like to do, so who's "poo-pooing" on others? It is just as easy to say "That's not for me" or "I don't think I would enjoy it, but if you do that's great for you", but no, I got this:
This is why I just hand players a pre-made character with pre-written backstory as soon as they sit at the table. Realism is all about depriving players of choice.
Which frankly is something a lot of DMs have done (not all the time) as a different type of experience--so nay-saying them. And then of course I got this response:
That's why I occasionally kill player characters at points in the campaign. No saves or anything. IRL, you have no control about whether you have cancer, a heart-attack, or some other medical condition. And sometimes a tree falls on you and you die. Realism.

You feel it is obviously okay to rail against how I like to play. Perhaps you should take your own advice?
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Possibly? I found Basic Fantasy RPG and that scratched my itch for a while.
Do you have a set of players that are just fine with trying out relatively small variations on fantasy gaming regularly? That's been by far my biggest stumbling block in trying out stuff like DCC, OSE, WWN, and so on. Thematically you can tell the same stories, but the rules are close enough to each other to be confusing, but different enough that it's easy to get tripped up.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I had that noted about 1e (that it is all in the DMG about generating them).

The 2e PHB has the ability generating methods, and gives a default and then others the DM might allow.

View attachment 367824

AD&D and B/X are roots from the same tree that happened around the same time (1977+).

AD&D1e had a different philosophy than B/X. I think this paragraph from 1e PHB sums it up well:

View attachment 367966

To be honest, I'd forgotten about that. I had a rather muddled initial experience with D&D though, cause my group was AD&D1e with some B/X added in, then next year 2e was released which we incorporated some of. So my memory is a tangled fusion of those three systems.

To be fair, I came of age during 2e, when expressing an opinion like "Every PC should have 2 15s" would have been seen as extraordinarily munchkin.

Despite being like 95% the same game, the overall attitude between the two product lines was wildly different.

True, I often overlook that, of have a hazy memory of it being mentioned somewhere. I could never remember where.

Yeah, this change from 1E to 2E still baffles me to this day. Gary tells us right up front in 1E that an AD&D character should have at least two scores of 15 or better. The ability score charts then hammer this need home by putting the minimum score needed for a small bonus (at least to the stuff we normally care about, like AC or damage) at a 15 or a 16 (exception: Wisdom 13 gives a Cleric a bonus spell). And then, while cleaning up the tables a bit, 2nd ed keeps those high requirements for any bonus while reverting to OD&D-style 3d6 down the line!

Unsurprisingly, I never saw ANYONE use 3d6 down the line in AD&D. The method the groups I played in settled on was three sets of 4d6 drop the lowest, and arrange to taste.

Yeah, I’ve found /rediscovered many things I like about 1e - escape pursuit evasion rules being a good example - but that whole “you gotta have super heroic stats to be worthwhile as a character” is not one of them. Muuuch prefer the B/X, OSR, OSE 3d6 method that’s about getting through chargen fast and lets you be mediocre or weak in some ways and still adventure. That always felt more true to old school games - it’s what ideas you have and outside the box solutions that matter more than stats
Yes, B/X and BECMI hit a sweet spot (slightly improving on OD&D) due to allowing bonuses starting at a 13 in a score, and allowing point-swapping to increase your Prime Requisite. This means that, although you're still at the mercy of the dice as to what class your character will be best suited for, you can virtually always at least play the (human) class you want, and if you go with whatever the dice point you toward, you can reliably expect to have a 13 or better in your PR.

I prefer the power level of Basic much more than AD&D, but I also like AD&D's options. The perfect game would be something like Basic Fantasy which is built in the style of B/X and keeps characters grounded to that level, but also added elements from AD&D (race and class separate) and even 3e (upwards AC) to blend new and old well.
Basic Fantasy works, but yeah, this is exactly what OSE Advanced does. It does it beautifully, too. Tight design, maintaining balance while incorporating thematic but simplified versions of classes like the Cavalier and Thief-Acrobat (Knight and Acrobat), allowing the separation of race and class, giving ascending AC with attack bonus as one of the core options...

When I started in B/X you rolled IN ORDER, and part of the challenge (and FUN) of the game was creating a character you wanted to play, weighing the balance of taking 2 from one score to bump another by 1, etc., and working with what you had to work with to make something great.

Moving on to AD&D, with minimum requirements for many classes beyound the generic "9 base" made getting those classes when you rolled in order a treat, something awesome and unique, and more enjoyable IME.

Now, with point-buy and standard arrays, and arranging to taste, you have dozens of PCs who seem almost like carbon copies in play. What fighter in 5E doesn't have a STR 16 (or better) by level 4 for STR-based builds? How many rogues are played with DEX below 14??? Ever? When players can move ability scores around, it is just another step towards homogeny.
I have some of this same feeling. I do like how rolling in order gives you more organic-feeling characters. I like how the ability charts in B/X / BECMI / OSE allow you to get a useful bonus at a lower threshold, and how point-swapping makes it easier.

OTOH I'm very sympathetic to folks wanting to be able to play the class they prefer.

Thankfully, with minimal house rules like "generate the set in order but then you may swap any two scores" or "generate the set as normal, but you may "'flip' it by subtracting every score in order from 21", you can usually get the best of both worlds.

I over nearly a decade with "rolled' scores in 2e and into 3e. I put it in quotes because as soon as we figured out that you needed high scores to play what you wanted, players mysteriously always rolled exactly what they needed and never seemed to roll poorly. I never saw PCs with less than a 16 in their prime requisite, multiple ability scores on the high end of the bell curve, and miraculously never seeming to fail to qualify for the class we wanted. Multiple groups of players, many of whom never met each other over the course of years. Once we figured out rolling ability scores were an impediment to playing the characters we wanted, ability score magically rolled exactly what we needed. It was an open secret; everyone knew you fudged scores (and HP rolls; nobody ever gained just 1 hp per level) because those rolls were important. Rolling low on an attack roll or save was recoverable, you only got once chance at your Dexterity Score.
We didn't allow fudging- all rolls had to be made in front of the group, but we adopted a generous rolling system (above) to ensure that we could basically always qualify for what we wanted. We might not always have percentile strength, but we'd reliably have bonuses in what we needed.

So go ahead, gamble on your PC. Roll randomly for ability scores, race, class, or anything else you want. Hell, roll to see what level you start at, or roll Traveller Style and see if your PC even survives Chargen. I don't care. But you will NEVER convince me that rolling randomly is better than making what you want.

Because my time is short, and precious, and I don't have time to waste playing a character I don't want to play.
I think there's a bit of a false dichotomy here. I'm down with point buy too, but with the right rolling system and the right mechanics, you still get to play the character you want, but their scores are a little more organic and a little less predictable. And for me that has some value, though I get that it doesn't for everyone.
 
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Remathilis

Legend
Do you have a set of players that are just fine with trying out relatively small variations on fantasy gaming regularly? That's been by far my biggest stumbling block in trying out stuff like DCC, OSE, WWN, and so on. Thematically you can tell the same stories, but the rules are close enough to each other to be confusing, but different enough that it's easy to get tripped up.
Sadly, we only played a little of my main group mostly as a throwback game. The vast majority of my group was far more interested in Pathfinder (at the time) so we did a few sessions in the Caves of Chaos before calling it quits.

I enjoyed myself, but I could see where a lot of my players felt it was limiting after years of kitted out 2e and 3e. I enjoyed it, but the group preferred something far meatier.
 

Remathilis

Legend
In AD&D there are only a couple classes where rolling wouldn't give you the ability to play the class you wanted more often than not. B/X emphasized in order, but allowed customization afterwards (to an extent), and had no minimums for classes anyway.


Then your experiences were vastly different from mine (obviously). If you fudged rolls, that's on you. If I discovered a player fudging rolls, they were warned. If they did it again, I didn't play with them. The game is random for a reason.

That includes hit points. Magic-Users were very powerful if you made it past the low levels, and the d4 for hit points was part of the balance.

Of course, with 3E and on WotC embraced the "build-a-bear" character creation process, so that is what most people do now.


Justification because people you played with fudged rolls is a sad commentary IMO.


It isn't a "gamble" as you seem to think. It was playing by "fate". And I'm only talking about race and ability scores, that's it. None of the other things you are talking about has anything to do with it.

Finally, I never, once, claimed it wass "better", just the way I like it. ;) I've pointed out why it can be great and create a PC whose experience is something you wouldn't otherwise ever get to enjoy. Apparently from the beginning in your experience it was something you fought against instead of embracing. Your choice and something you're happy with, so I don't see what you are fighting against now. I've made my point.


I'm not trying to "sell people" on anything, merely point out the merits of embracing it. If they don't want to, that's no skin off of my back, but I sincerely pity them being closed-off to it. Full disclosure, there are plently of times I don't do random because I have a concept in mind, not because I am looking for a concept or waiting to see what fate might have in store.

But as far as keeping silent, "Hello, pot..."

You felt it was necessary to post making fun of what I said I like to do, so who's "poo-pooing" on others? It is just as easy to say "That's not for me" or "I don't think I would enjoy it, but if you do that's great for you", but no, I got this:

Which frankly is something a lot of DMs have done (not all the time) as a different type of experience--so nay-saying them. And then of course I got this response:


You feel it is obviously okay to rail against how I like to play. Perhaps you should take your own advice?
We didn't play Basic very long; 2e became our core system and when it did, we learned you were screwed when your scores weren't Uber. Warriors lost out on a key feature (exceptional strength) if you didn't roll an 18 strength. Wizards and priests could not reach the highest level of spells and wizards had a bad chance of failure in gaining me spells (and a hard limit on how many they could learn) if their Int wasn't exceptional. On the other end, Rogues needed high Dex bonuses to thief skills if they wanted anything better than a minimal chance to succeed doing their class functions. (And as discussed in the rogue thread, most thief skills came with harsh riders, so you needed every % you could get). If you intended to survive to and play beyond 5th level, you needed super scores and HP. Otherwise, you were dead PC walking because even if your 14 Int wizard survived to name level, you were never going to have the high spell levels or spell selection to meet those challenges.

So making sure you had necessary scores was to make sure you were pulling your weight. Bob the wizard with a 14 Int and 9 HP at 5th level was a liability and an XP sponge. Pull your weight or retire and open a ration store.

And it was just assumed you did. Everyone did. The other players did, the DM knew you did and he would do it when it was his turn to play. And it wasn't like TSR was shy about showing NPCs and pre gens with sky high scores. Or allowing infinite rerolls and point customization in Baldur's Gate and other D&D games. It was practically encouraged to have high scores. So we rolled 4d6 , dropped the lowest, and rolled until we got a set of scores that worked.

And it broke, finally, when 3e pushed point buy and fixed HP in RPGA and that resolved the issue of needing super high scores and cheating to stay competitive. It was a weight relief from everyone that la costra nostra was gone.

So you can get off your high horse about it. I was there and I saw how multiple groups interpreted it and I'm glad it's gone. You like it? Fine. But don't tell me it's better objectively or otherwise. I would never go back to it again.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
RE: Generating abilities randomly but restricted to a 27 point buy...

 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
I was there and I saw how multiple groups interpreted it and I'm glad it's gone. You like it? Fine. But don't tell me it's better objectively or otherwise. I would never go back to it again.

I am going to briefly interject to say that despite the ... heat ... in this discussion, I agree with both you and @ezo

Very briefly-

I think that there are two ways to think about making a character. The first, modern way, is to think about what kind of character you want to make, and then use the chargen mini-game to make it. In other words, you are the author of a character. That is a lot of fun! Especially when you have a vision in your head, and you are trying to make it work in the rules. It's the Burger King method- you get to have it YOUR WAY.

I do that with 5e. I enjoy doing that. I like to create distinctive and interesting characters and seeing how I can implement my vision within the rules.


On the other hand, when I go back to playing older versions of D&D (or OSR, etc.), I like rolling in order (although I prefer 4d6k1 at a minimum). Why? Because there's also something magic about the serendipity of discovering the character through your abilities! In other words, you have no idea what you have, until you see those abilities and try to make sense of it. That is a different type of fun, and I love that as well. It is incredibly freeing to not have to design a character, but to have the character revealed to you, first through the rolls, and then through play,


I happen to agree that AD&D (1e) began to make this ... problematic, simply because the ability score issue became so much more pronounced. The advantages of really good scores (at least 15), the insane advantages of an 18 (especially for fighters), and the minimum requirements for certain classes.... 17 charisma for Paladin??? 16 dex for an illusionist????

And then there was the poor monk. S15, W15, D15, and C11. Good luck with that, and if you happened to roll that high ... you sure you want to play a monk?

In effect, I'd argue that it was the requirements in AD&D, along with the bonuses starting at 15, that first started us on the path to "choose class first, get the ability scores later."
 

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
I am going to briefly interject to say that despite the ... heat ... in this discussion, I agree with both you and @ezo

Very briefly-

I think that there are two ways to think about making a character. The first, modern way, is to think about what kind of character you want to make, and then use the chargen mini-game to make it. In other words, you are the author of a character. That is a lot of fun! Especially when you have a vision in your head, and you are trying to make it work in the rules. It's the Burger King method- you get to have it YOUR WAY.

I do that with 5e. I enjoy doing that. I like to create distinctive and interesting characters and seeing how I can implement my vision within the rules.


On the other hand, when I go back to playing older versions of D&D (or OSR, etc.), I like rolling in order (although I prefer 4d6k1 at a minimum). Why? Because there's also something magic about the serendipity of discovering the character through your abilities! In other words, you have no idea what you have, until you see those abilities and try to make sense of it. That is a different type of fun, and I love that as well. It is incredibly freeing to not have to design a character, but to have the character revealed to you, first through the rolls, and then through play,


I happen to agree that AD&D (1e) began to make this ... problematic, simply because the ability score issue became so much more pronounced. The advantages of really good scores (at least 15), the insane advantages of an 18 (especially for fighters), and the minimum requirements for certain classes.... 17 charisma for Paladin??? 16 dex for an illusionist????

And then there was the poor monk. S15, W15, D15, and C11. Good luck with that, and if you happened to roll that high ... you sure you want to play a monk?

In effect, I'd argue that it was the requirements in AD&D, along with the bonuses starting at 15, that first started us on the path to "choose class first, get the ability scores later."
Total agreement.

I think allowing for some serendipity in character creation is a lot of fun, but it has to be a welcome fun, not a fun that makes your character weaker overall.

A random roll that makes your gnome wizard abnormally strong is fun. A random roll that makes your wizard dumb and not as good at casting spells is NOT really fun.

Something like the playbooks in Beyond the Wall is fun serendipity. You know what class you're going to play, but you get random spells and random class features as you roll for important events in your character's background. You might end up tougher or wiser because of a shared experience with the character of the player next to you. You don't exactly what your stat distribution will be, but everyone ends up with about the same range of total stats and a decent score in their main stats.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
Total agreement.

I think allowing for some serendipity in character creation is a lot of fun, but it has to be a welcome fun, not a fun that makes your character weaker overall.

A random roll that makes your gnome wizard abnormally strong is fun. A random roll that makes your wizard dumb and not as good at casting spells is NOT really fun.

Something like the playbooks in Beyond the Wall is fun serendipity. You know what class you're going to play, but you get random spells and random class features as you roll for important events in your character's background. You might end up tougher or wiser because of a shared experience with the character of the player next to you. You don't exactly what your stat distribution will be, but everyone ends up with about the same range of total stats and a decent score in their main stats.

There is one other issue I forgot to mention, but I had written about before.


Briefly- fairness.

I think that the main reason that tables have moved to point buy and standard array is fairness.

Again, I love the serendipity of random ability scores. And having to make a character based on the scores. But one of the biggest issues with the randomized method has always been that .... D&D is a social game, and (especially when AD&D made abilities so much more important) if you have a crud character, and Brad ... who rolls his character at home and always ends up with a 18/93 in strength and a great con and dex and, um, a 17 in charisma because he's going to play a Paladin and .... C'MON BRAD, WE ALL KNEW!

It can really affect the table dynamics, because us humans have that innate sense of fairness.

This isn't the same with OD&D and B/X, where there isn't the premium on ability scores.
 

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