D&D 5E Dice Rolling for beginning ability scores...redux

Casimir Liber

If I were going to use this method, I would do the following.

  1. Players roll their stats (six lots of 4d6k3) as normal and add any racial bonuses. Reroll any set that has no result of at least 14.
  2. Players sum the total of their modifiers, and separately count the total number of odd scores they have.
  3. If every player has a modifier total no more than 2 less than the highest player's total, do nothing--these scores are already good...or at least good enough.
  4. If any player has a modifier total outside that range, they get free feats, one for every 2 points by which their total falls short.
  5. If any player receives feats, they should also count their total number of odd ability scores. If they have more than two odd ability scores, they may (if they wish) also pick one from a list of flavorful "half" feats (e.g. Actor, Chef, Keen Mind.)
This is fascinating (I wish I'd thought of this!) - by making it relative rather than absolute, it might make it all a bit simpler. Has anyone made a list of strong vs weak feats yet though

log in or register to remove this ad


These days I allow each player to make the choice for themselves. Either they use point buy (which is slightly different from the PHB, because the racial ASIs are built in), or a standard array (again, slightly different from the PHB), or random roll (using 6d6 keep 3 once, 5d6 keep 3 once, and 4d6 keep 3 four times).

On paper, the standard array we use is slightly better than point buy, and the random rolls are slightly better again (on average). But the price you pay is that you don't have as much control and so have less scope for optimisation.

One caveat I do put on the random rolls: if you choose that option then you have to agree to play the resulting character in good faith. So no 'suiciding' a bad character, or such things.

Thus far pretty much everyone has gone for the standard array. Maybe the other options are just too complex? :)


Follower of the Way
This is fascinating (I wish I'd thought of this!) - by making it relative rather than absolute, it might make it all a bit simpler. Has anyone made a list of strong vs weak feats yet though
I don't believe so, no. However, if you would like a quick example of what I consider appropriately "weak" feats for that purpose (you might add a few more; I am erring on the side of caution):
  • Actor
  • Athlete
  • Chef
  • Keen Mind
  • Linguist
  • Observant
  • Skill Expert
  • Tavern Brawler
  • Weapon Master
Additional options could include the various armor proficiency feats, the armor mastery feats, Telekinetic and/or Telepathic (if you want to have a touch of psionics), or some racial feats with specific approval. Elven Accuracy is much too powerful, but some (like Dragon Fear, Dragon Hide, Fade Away, perhaps others) are less dramatic and could be reasonable as a "half-feat" to fill in that lingering gap.


Follower of the Way
Thus far pretty much everyone has gone for the standard array. Maybe the other options are just too complex? :)
RPG players, as least when it comes to character creation, tend to be creatures of caution even if it wouldn't necessarily serve their interest to do so. The value of certainty that you'll have some good stats usually outweighs the fact that you're likely to do better with random rolling. If PB is objectively inferior to a fixed array, you'll probably never see people use PB, because both have equal certainty but it's effort to squeeze anything out of PB as it is, and knowing it is objectively inferior will drive most players away unless they really want those high secondary stats.


Yeah agree-so looking at ways to balance post-rolling so we get the fun of rolling and balance with post-hoc feats

Bear in mind that some feats provide ability increases which could cancel out the penalty.

A fighter that's just under the cut-off point by one or two ability points could pick Athlete and get +1 Str, +1 Dex and be par or even slightly better than a point-buy character's ability array and get the Athlete's standing up from prone ability on top of that.

'Course that's an unlikely edge case, but it's worth considering.

It's more likely that you'd have a character with a good number in their primary stat (since the Player would likely have their best stat in their class's primary ability, either by assignment or random luck depending on what ability assigning rule the campaign used).

The Fifth Edition RAW says a Feat has a value equivalent to an Ability Score Improvement from class advancement, so if you're adding this Homebrew I'd think you'll want at least a 2-point shortfall on the ability array before it kicks in, equivalent to a character with a Point Value of 23 or less (The standard 27 points of point buy less 4 for the cost of increasing two decent ability scores by +1). Maybe a bit less, since Feats have an upper limit of 20 on an ability score like standard Advancement, not the 15 of standard Improvement, plus there's the possibility that your random roll can already have 16+ ability scores.

Let's consider some extreme cases.

If a randomly rolled Ability Score of 18 is worth 15 as per the original proposal and the trigger point is a point value of 23, that leaves 8 points. A character with the array 8, 8, 8, 9, 14, 18 or 8, 8, 12, 12, 18 would have that cost. If they get a post-hoc bonus feat, they can boost one or two stats by +1 with the right picks to make their prime stat to 19.

A more average character with randomly rolled scores within the point buy range of 8 to 15 can easily have one or more 15s and a point value of 23. The most extreme case would be an array of 15, 15, 13, 8, 8, 8. If such a character got a pro bono feat, those two 15s could become 16s for a point higher ability modifier.

'Course it's unlikely to randomly roll some of these stat arrays, but the unlikely can happen. Plus random generation has the problem of fudging rolls that simply isn't an issue with point buy.

Plus the racial ability adjustments can make a big difference. A +2 in the primary stat would make that roll of 15 an 18 once it's boosted by feat and race, while a roll of 17 (which has a 4.1666% of happening with best-3-of-4d6) would go straight to the advancement max of 20.


Follower of the Way
I was actually thinking about doing a poll, but a search on this site found one from last year. Standard array came in third with 16%, behind point buy with 41% and 4d6 drop low with 30%. "Other" came in at 15%.
Though I can't see the person you're replying to, I believe what they meant was that the game default is standard array today (which is true.) But since you can make the standard array using point buy, point buy will generally be more popular with players, because it can be leveraged. It will always retain those folks who don't care enough or who find it tedious to fiddle with the numbers, though the ease of finding a point-buy calculator out on the interwebs reduces the latter by a fair margin.

So yeah, I'm not surprised PB won. It's pretty easy and has the standard array as its floor, rather than being actually worse than the standard array.


Since when? Is that something for One D&D?
Roll 4d6 drop lowest is the default in the 2014 PHB, there is no default in DDB. AL uses point buy or standard array IIRC, most games I've been involved with you point buy. Of course my personal experience is pretty limited to AL or two other DMs (well, three but my wife doesn't count).


Uncomfortably diegetic
...but you won't see that unless the player rolls well. Because the
You say it is "much more likely," but you need to already be in rarefied company to have the potential. A Fighter is going to put their first high stat in Strength or Dex, depending on which they rely on most, and the second into Con. For a Str-based Fighter, high Dex is still compelling, but for a Dex-based one, high Str is of minimal value. So, for a Dex-based one, you're gonna need at least three good rolls to see high Int (or Cha or whatever) on a Fighter; for a Str-based one, you'll probably need four such rolls. I'm not sure what you would consider a "high" stat, but even for pretty low standards thereof, people are only gonna hit that about one seventh of the time (e.g. rolling four 14+ stats.)

Conversely, I've known several players, including yours truly, who have no problem sinking 14 or more into "unimportant" stats with point buy because it fits the concept of the character. This is especially true when the point buy is more generous, covers a broader spread of numbers, and the game overall offers ways to mitigate it...which is exactly what I've done in other games.
Agreed. This is generally why my preferred arrays (or preferred stat generation method, a stat draft) have 4 high stats; precisely so that a player can assign an interesting tertiary stat.

Remove ads


Remove ads

Upcoming Releases