5E Point Buy vs Rolling for Stats

Hussar

Legend
Maxperson said:
Ahh, but I'm not talking about a somewhat lower primary. I'm talking about bad stats. A 12-14 is a somewhat lower primary. An 11 or lower is a bad stat.
But, what's stopping you from doing that with an array or with point buy? And, again, since we're talking about odds here, the odds that you're going to roll 6 stats ALL below 12 is very, very small. Additionally, that's considered an unplayable character in most editions. You would reroll that character in 1ed and 3e for example. Not sure about 2e and 4e didn't do it that way.

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Stepping back a bit but, it appears to me that this is fundamentally just a riff on the whole rules as physics debate. Do the mechanics model the in-game reality or are they simply tools we use to resolve events? Personally, I favor the latter rather strongly. Mostly because when you try to extrapolate game mechanics into the larger world, all sorts of bizarre discrepancies crop up (10% of your population being physically or mentally challenged as an example from this thread).

I get that there is some differing of opinion on the issue though. :D
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But, what's stopping you from doing that with an array or with point buy? And, again, since we're talking about odds here, the odds that you're going to roll 6 stats ALL below 12 is very, very small. Additionally, that's considered an unplayable character in most editions. You would reroll that character in 1ed and 3e for example. Not sure about 2e and 4e didn't do it that way.
Again, in practice it almost never happens with point buy or array. Also, no need to roll all 12's or lower. You just have to roll that in your prime stat(s). For most of my gaming for lack of a better word, career, we have taken stat rolls as they fall with no swapping. I've had the 9 or 10 strength fighter, with an 11 con. It happens. When it does, if you play it an do well, you are more skilled as a player than the guy who has a 15 strength and 14 con fighter.

Stepping back a bit but, it appears to me that this is fundamentally just a riff on the whole rules as physics debate. Do the mechanics model the in-game reality or are they simply tools we use to resolve events? Personally, I favor the latter rather strongly. Mostly because when you try to extrapolate game mechanics into the larger world, all sorts of bizarre discrepancies crop up (10% of your population being physically or mentally challenged as an example from this thread).
Two things. First, the game reality can be different than reality. Nobody here is arguing otherwise. Realism is a sliding scale and we all play with it. Only the degree varies. Second, if you use the mechanics to model the game reality or even the game reality with more realism than the base game offers, you just make ruling on the spot to correct those discrepancies when they happen. It's not as if the DM has to go with something bizarre if he doesn't want to.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The reason we have ability scores is because we need to determine a modifier, up to a +/- 5 or so to add to a D20 to resolve an uncertain event. Since people in the world do not roll a D20 to determine whether they succeed at tasks they do not need or have ability scores until we transform them into a game construct called a "character" and start playing the game.

Of course if your world is just a set of numbers and pawns on a complex chessboard then they may need numbers. But if it's a "real" fantasy world the ability score doesn't matter because their modifier to their D20 roll doesn't matter because there are no D20 rolls.
It's a bit more than just determining a modifier within a +/- 5 range. It's also a way of mechanically differentiating between them and of backing up the narration.

If the DM narrates that the town blacksmith is a bit dim-witted but strong as an ox and for some reason people find him unusually persuasive, that gives a good thumbnail overview of the guy. But there's no frame of reference to place this in - does she mean Str 15, Int 6 and Cha 13 or does she mean Str 18, Int 9 and Cha 16 - and no comparison with the known PCs. I'm not at all saying the DM should rattle off the numbers as part of the narration - ye gods, no! - but that the numbers need to be there to back up the narration. And here's why:

Players come to develop ideas in their own minds of what each stat number might represent. Those ideas may vary from player to player, but that's not the point here. The point is that after a little experience playing the game each player is going to come to an idea of what Charisma 15 - as opposed to 12 or 10 or 7 - represents in his/her imagination. The DM, meanwhile, is also going to have her own ideas.

Where numbers come in handy is to tie these ideas together. Narrating that the blacksmith is uncommonly persuasive given his lack of intelligence might be the DM trying to narrate what she sees as Cha 15 while one player interprets it as Cha 12 and another as Cha 17; and this may well affect their decision as to whether or not to try persuading him to do them a favour. A player might ask "do I think he's more persuasive than Ballad and if yes, by how much?"* and the answer to this - which suddenly forces the blacksmith into a Cha score - puts the blacksmith's Charisma into terms both the DM and players can agree on.

* - the party's Cha 14 Bard

Lan-"strong like mountain - tough like mountain - smart like mountain"-efan
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Stepping back a bit but, it appears to me that this is fundamentally just a riff on the whole rules as physics debate. Do the mechanics model the in-game reality or are they simply tools we use to resolve events? Personally, I favor the latter rather strongly. Mostly because when you try to extrapolate game mechanics into the larger world, all sorts of bizarre discrepancies crop up (10% of your population being physically or mentally challenged as an example from this thread).

I get that there is some differing of opinion on the issue though. :D
I want there to be some underlying mechanics to the game world; and the game-given mechanics are all there are unless I want to a) develop an entirely different set of mechanics for world-modelling and then b) be stuck with two sets of mechanics all the time - one for PCs and one for everything else. And the messiest part of this is when someone in the game world has reason to suddenly jump from one set of mechanics to the other - say, Macie the barmaid who has always been an average commoner falls in love with Creon the Thief and decides to take up adventuring with him - she's just gone from commoner status to adventurer status. Mechanically - yuck!

So, what I look for are the mechanics that apply to everything and from there determine whether the PCs specifically differ from these and if so how, and by how much.

Your example of 10% of the population being challenged if one uses straight 3d6 to model stats is a good one to use here. The underlying mechanic is a 3-18 bell curve; the general population are on a reasonably tight version of that curve while the PCs are on a looser 3d6 curve probably skewed a little high by using 4d6x1.

Lanefan
 

Harzel

Explorer
Additionally, die rolled characters will consistently have at least one higher die roll above 15, meaning that most die rolled characters will actually not achieve what it is you are looking for.
56.8% - not sure whether that qualifies as consistently; 'most' is accurate, but just barely.
 

Harzel

Explorer
Most die rolled PC's will have at least one 15 or higher, which will go in that combat stat. It's a pretty rare die rolled character that has no rolls of 15 or higher.
About 79% will have one 15 or better, so 'most' sounds fair. Up to you whether you count 21% as pretty rare.
 

Hussar

Legend
Thanks for the math check [MENTION=6857506]Harzel[/MENTION]. :thumbu:

Oh, and I was in no way trying to imply that there was a right or wrong answer to whether or not you like rules as physics. It's entirely a personal choice. For me, the potential wonkiness just outweighs the benefits. Obviously that's not true for others.

I wonder if group size has any impact here as well. In a fairly small group, say 3 PC's, most of the time those three PC's will be within fairly close tolerances. Sure, one might be a bit higher or lower, but, there likely won't be large disparities most of the time. But, the larger the group gets, the larger the chances become of a greater disparity between high and low, simply because you're rolling more dice.

I play in large groups. We've had 6 PC's pretty consistently for a long time. With that many PC's, having PC's with consistently higher stats really skews game balance. And it becomes more and more difficult to create encounters when you have to account for the fact that the group has so many actions per round AND many of those actions will be more successful than baseline assumptions.

Dunno. Just spit balling here.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I wonder if group size has any impact here as well. In a fairly small group, say 3 PC's, most of the time those three PC's will be within fairly close tolerances. Sure, one might be a bit higher or lower, but, there likely won't be large disparities most of the time. But, the larger the group gets, the larger the chances become of a greater disparity between high and low, simply because you're rolling more dice.

I play in large groups. We've had 6 PC's pretty consistently for a long time. With that many PC's, having PC's with consistently higher stats really skews game balance. And it becomes more and more difficult to create encounters when you have to account for the fact that the group has so many actions per round AND many of those actions will be more successful than baseline assumptions.

Dunno. Just spit balling here.
Our PC parties are almost always very large by today's standards - usually 6-8 PCs plus an NPC or two plus an occasional hench plus whatever enemies they've been able to charm and convince to tag along as potential damage absorbers and info sources.

Imbalances all over the place, some countered by imbalances the other way, others not.

That said, creating encounters is as easy as dirt: either I or the module I'm running chucks some monsters or opponents at 'em and we see what happens next. In over 30 years I've only had one full TPK (and that was a module encounter run stock that just went sideways) with a couple of other near-misses (one of these was another stock module encounter where they ignored lots of warnings, the other was largely self-inflicted) and that's despite numerous instances of parties knowingly and willingly biting off more than in theory they could chew.

And yes, with big parties do come longer combats; it's an unavoidable side effect.

Lanefan
 

S'mon

Legend
1. Obviously rolled stats requires they be rolled in front of the GM. Some people may not cheat even knowing that the vast majority will, but it's just unfair on them. So always roll in front of GM.

2. For balanced play in 3e-5e I find the only thing that works is "roll in order" and allow a full reroll if really bad. Roll then arrange is just variable point buy, not a good idea.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It's a bit more than just determining a modifier within a +/- 5 range. It's also a way of mechanically differentiating between them and of backing up the narration.

If the DM narrates that the town blacksmith is a bit dim-witted but strong as an ox and for some reason people find him unusually persuasive, that gives a good thumbnail overview of the guy. But there's no frame of reference to place this in - does she mean Str 15, Int 6 and Cha 13 or does she mean Str 18, Int 9 and Cha 16 - and no comparison with the known PCs. I'm not at all saying the DM should rattle off the numbers as part of the narration - ye gods, no! - but that the numbers need to be there to back up the narration. And here's why:

Players come to develop ideas in their own minds of what each stat number might represent. Those ideas may vary from player to player, but that's not the point here. The point is that after a little experience playing the game each player is going to come to an idea of what Charisma 15 - as opposed to 12 or 10 or 7 - represents in his/her imagination. The DM, meanwhile, is also going to have her own ideas.

Where numbers come in handy is to tie these ideas together. Narrating that the blacksmith is uncommonly persuasive given his lack of intelligence might be the DM trying to narrate what she sees as Cha 15 while one player interprets it as Cha 12 and another as Cha 17; and this may well affect their decision as to whether or not to try persuading him to do them a favour. A player might ask "do I think he's more persuasive than Ballad and if yes, by how much?"* and the answer to this - which suddenly forces the blacksmith into a Cha score - puts the blacksmith's Charisma into terms both the DM and players can agree on.

* - the party's Cha 14 Bard

Lan-"strong like mountain - tough like mountain - smart like mountain"-efan
So? The DM may envision the blacksmith as having black hair, some players may envision him as blonde, others as bald. Unless it's important to the game it doesn't make a difference.

As far as being "more persuasive", do your players have a secret cheat code? Some way of making floating green numbers hover next to his head? How the heck would they know specific values unless it is only a game to you. In real life you can only determine such things on a broad scale and it may require a great deal of interaction. Most people would not have though of Hitler as being persuasive just passing him on the street.

Unless and until there is a contest of some kind how would the specific number be relevant? Why would it matter what the PCs thought? If there is a contest both sides may roll a D20 and at that point they add a +/- modifier to the roll based on the relevant score. How the DM comes up with the modifier is up to the DM.

I think it's much like quantum mechanics. Until you measure something it's actual value is indeterminate. If you want to determine ability scores for you entire world's population (what about bunnies? do different bunnies have different stats?) More power to you. As the DMG states, hard numbers are not relevant until you need them. You only need them when you pick up a die to resolve something that has an uncertain outcome.
 
However you get them, it does take less skill to play a character with higher stats.
OK, then.
I also disagree that it takes more DM reading/gaming. Primarily, it takes better planning and strategy.
The DM is the world, the planning & strategy that works is the planning & strategy you convince the DM will work. The planning & strategy and 'skilled play' and system mastery that work off the mechanics rather than the DM's judgement are dependent on the numbers, and bad numbers hurt relative to good, regardless, in that case.

So, yeah, if one player rolls high and another low, there's an imbalance there, a potentially severe one - and, yes, if the player with bad stats can bring his A game(ing the DM) to the table, he can make it up. And if the other guy does so better, he's just further behind...

When you have higher stats(more hit points, better AC and saves, etc.), you can be more reckless and survive. Lower stat characters have to be more careful and plan better.
Rather the opposite, really. If your stats suck, you can be reckless, and, if you survive, might accumulate enough character-changing rewards to make it up - and if you don't, you re-roll. If you have great stats, you want to preserve that exceptional character, so you play more cautiously, pay more attention, and plan better...

...but, you're more likely to count on the results of that, on having a big fat bonus, and angling to get to make the right check, rather than knowing that checks are to be avoided, and you have to angle to avoid them and persuade the DM to narrate success for your actions as much as possible...



Stepping back a bit but, it appears to me that this is fundamentally just a riff on the whole rules as physics debate. Do the mechanics model the in-game reality or are they simply tools we use to resolve events? Personally, I favor the latter rather strongly. Mostly because when you try to extrapolate game mechanics into the larger world, all sorts of bizarre discrepancies crop up (10% of your population being physically or mentally challenged as an example from this thread).
Nod. It's all on the 'random generation is more realistic' side of the ledger. (And, IMHO, only as valid as the generation system is outside of player control - more valid with random-in-order than random-and-arrange, more valid if players choose class but not race & certain backgrounds, etc...)
 

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