D&D 5E Point Buy vs Rolling for Stats

Arial Black

All this debate over NPCs....

The truth is we DMs have always made them however we pleased. And always will.
Sometimes that means we roll some dice. Sometimes we just pick #s. Other times we just make up some modifier on the fly if needed.

Absolutely true!

But the crucial fact is that the DM can only make these decisions if he knows the context.

The DM could say that this halfling dressmaker has Dex 3 and Str 20, and describe her as 'weak but nimble', but the numbers are at odds with that concept.

The numbers are the way the game rules interact with the concepts. The numbers and the concepts should match.

In order to understand the meaning of Str 20 or Dex 3, you need a context.

In every iteration of D&D, that context is and has always been the 3d6 bell curve. That context has never changed.

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But the assumption of the bell curve was never dropped.

Can you point to anywhere in the 5E books where it states that? I don't deny that logically ability scores should be based on some kind of bell curve, but if we look at IQ, a little more than 50% of the population is "average". If we have no good way of modeling a bell curve, it becomes pretty irrelevant.

Some things have been inherited. We have OwlBears because Gygax picked up some cheap Japanese minis*. The bell curve distribution based on rolling 3d6? Not part of the game.

*I've always wondered about that. Were the people who did the mini just doing too much Saki or is there really a tradition of weird monsters like owl + bear crossovers in Japanese culture?

Tony Vargas

The 'demonstrably untrue' part was the claim that 'point-buy lets players play the concept they want'.
Which is, itself, demonstrably untrue. ;P

The rest is just pointing out the near infinite concepts that point-buy absolutely disallows, and that those same concepts are still available when rolling; even if you have to wait for the right random roll, a small chance is still higher than zero chance.
In the sense that the Lotto will get you millions. ;) Yeah, random generation lets you hope, but it still necessarily gives you exactly one array to arrange from the myriad possibilities. You can give it credit for the myriad, but you only get the one. The degrees of freedom you have to build the character you want with random-and-arrange is identical to that of standard array - and less than that of point buy. That's just fact.

The flip side of that, which you're kinda alluding to, is Maxperson's attitude, not random lets you play what you want, but that you want to play what random gives you. ;) Which is fine, too.

If I generate a set of ability scores, by whatever method, then I try to create a concept that makes sense for those scores
Yep, random is excellent for sparking a concept idea, that way.
or try and assign scores that match my pre-existing concept.
Random isn't so great for that, on par with standard array: you get to shuffle scores around.

If I wanted to stat up The Avengers, Thor's Strength will be much higher than Captain America's, even though 'strong' is a feature of both concepts.
Yep, and if you tried to do that in D&D, you'd be out of luck, because Thor's strength is right off the D&D scale. OTOH, you'd have no problem statting out both Thor & Cap in Champions! which uses (surprise) point-buy, not just for stats, but for everything - Thor's super-STR, magic hammer, & invulnerability, Cap's human-paragon abilities, skills & shield.

The numbers do matter! The numbers are how the game quantifies a major part of our concepts, because how strong, dexterous, tough, smart, wise and charismatic are part of every concept, even if a particular ability is 'unremarkable' in a particular concept.
Numbers matter, of course, but they're relative. In a super-hero game, Thor & Cap (and Black Widow and Quicksilver) are all do-able. In D&D, they're not. In some D&D campaigns, a concept with very high stats across the board might be OK, or even expected, in others something more moderate might be preferred - that informs the method the DM chooses, but each method can give higher or lower stats, in general, it's just a matter of calibrating it to the campaign, using a different array than the standard, rolling more/fewer dice, or giving more/fewer points. Random carries the risk, however minute, of delivering a campaign-inappropriate array - that doesn't mean it covers more concepts, it means it fails some of the time (the character will need to be rejected by the DM and re-rolled).

In every iteration of D&D, that context is and has always been the 3d6 bell curve. That context has never changed.
It's just not the only context. 3 STR/18 DEX is 'weak but agile,' sure, relative to the curve, extremely so. So is STR 8/DEX 14. So is STR 10/DEX 12 in a party where the next-lowest STR is 16 and the next highest DEX 8. STR 19/DEX 12 might be 'weak but agile' for a storm giant, STR 8/DEX 15 might be strong but clutzy for a quickling.

The most important context for a PC is probably his party (and, thus, the method used to generate them), then the enemies he meets, then the NPCs, then the background world, then, finally, the hypothetical curve that started it all.
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Irrelevant. It's the freaking PLAYERS HANDBOOK, so of course references will be to PCs. We don't play D&D with only the PHB, though. All the books work together and the DMG proves you wrong. Just admit it man. It's explicitly right there in literal black and white.

Sorry Max but your the one who is COMPLETELY wrong insofar as you contend that all NPCs can reach a 20 in a stat.
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Morkus from Orkus
Apparently, he feels the criticism of 5e came from a different angle, and that you're now arguing the opposite facts being true to push back. It's a different point about a different point, though. Before, you were saying that stats ultimately didn't matter in 5e, because the difference of a point of bonus here or there was dwarfed by class abilities and player skill. Now, you're arguing that the difference of even percentage points matters.
But it's a different context. Painting a picture of the population, a world-buidling context, which Hussar doesn't even recognize as a valid context for considering the rules.

Exactly, the context is completely different. The math and abilities set up of 5e is very different from 1e where stats mattered much more.

In the literal sense, though, he is right, you were arguing that the difference between a 10 and a 14 is nothing in 5e, when it's a +2 to a fair range of important things, like saves/attack/damage/DCs/skills and now arguing that the difference between 10 and 14 is huge, when it's just carrying capacity and % chances to bend an iron bar.
It was completely disingenuous of [MENTION=6801845]Oofta[/MENTION]. I'm not surprised given Oofta's questionable statements in prior posts.

1e /is/ terribly relevant to 5e.
In general, sure. Stat comparisons? Not so much.


Exactly, the context is completely different. The math and abilities set up of 5e is very different from 1e where stats mattered much more.

It was completely disingenuous of [MENTION=6801845]Oofta[/MENTION]. I'm not surprised given Oofta's questionable statements in prior posts.

In general, sure. Stat comparisons? Not so much.

Lordy Lord! You sure do know how to zing a guy! :D

You say a 7% difference for one miscellaneous task is huge but a 5% difference on every ability score that affects multiple aspects of the game is inconsequential. Even when can show that it does indeed have major impact. Yep, you've slain me with your rock solid logic. Hoo boy. Time to retire posting to the message board.

Gahh! And there you go again making me break my resolution to not get into ****ing contests again. :mad:


My contention was that NPCs can reach 20. I'm 100% right about that. I didn't say that they all could.

Yes NPCs build like PCs can reach 20 in stats, this is why they are considered special NPCs. I've said that all long. Adventurers (PCs), Monsters, and Special NPCs can have stats of 20 or in the monsters case over 20. All others have stats from 3 and maxing at 18. That's what is says on pg 7.

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