D&D General Sampling Random Ability Scores

Hussar

Legend
What I really don't quite get, when people talk about liking random chargen, is why? Why does it make the game more fun to have a single die roll determine so much about how you will engage in the game for the next year or more? We certainly don't allow that in any other aspect of the game. You even get multiple death saves now. Save or Die has largely been replaced with multiple saves. And, even if your character does die, there are many in game resources that can be leveraged to bring you back.

So, why do we expect a single (or well six I guess) die rolls to be given such a high status in the game? Nothing else in the game works this way. Yes, I know that originally, we expected die rolled characters. But, then again, those characters were meant to have a shelf life of mayflies and, the base expectation was that you would play multiple characters.

That's not true anymore at most tables.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Pedantically, no, they're not the same. They have a different mean, to start: 11.75 vs 12, respectively. I'm not sure this difference is enough to not use a shortcut (although, with anydice, it's trivial to do reroll 1's), but it isn't quite true that these are exactly the same.
Yes they are.

If you reroll 1s then each non-1 dice is in a linear 2-6 range (i.e. exactly the same as d5+1); and each re-rolled die is also in that same linear 2-6 range. (unless you're assuming that if another 1 comes up on the re-roll you have to keep it; but to me re-roll 1s means keep re-rolling until it's not a 1)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The issue with randomly generated stats isn't with the averages though. There are two main issues here:

1. Luck. Whether good or bad. The thing is, the stats you randomly generate will be used for a character that will be played for a long, long time.
Or so you'd like to think.

Depends on the lethality of one's game, I suppose, but I never assume any character is going to last all that long until-unless it surprises me, and does. :)
2. Cheating. Let's be honest here. We've all seen it. I've done it. I'm pretty sure at some point in time, most of us have. "Oh, that die is... err... cocked, yeah, look, it's sitting slightly on an angle! It needs to be rerolled!" Oh the far more common, "Gee, I have this pretty good set except for this one number pleading look at the DM" which can result in, "Oops, look at that, I accidentally erased that bad number. Guess you need to reroll that one!"
I've seen this too, and my stance on it has become steadily harsher as the years have gone by.
I'm really against random stat generation anymore. I won't stop players who do it, but, I really discourage it. Even down to randomly rolled HP. I'd much rather just not bother. The risk/reward is never worth the randomness. If I have a chance of having a 4 stat, say, then I should have a chance of having a 20 shouldn't I? And my chances of getting that 20 should be much higher than my chances of getting that 4. Or it's a suckers bet. Which, of course, is why you get all these stat gen methods like 4d6 or whatnot. It's just playing into people's gambling fixation and the fact that people are really, really bad at it.
The range is 3-18; skewing that range a bit toward the high end (e.g. by using 4d6k3) is fine. You'll never start with a 20 because the range just don't go that high; and sure, you might start with a 4 - but it's very unlikely. Even less likely once you apply racial adjustments and-or rearrangement.

That said, I'll never use anything other than random rolling, as life's like that: some people are just intrinsically better at stuff than others. I do use a blanket low-end cutoff standard of "if nothing's higher than 13 and the average is less than 10, start over" to make sure a character is playable; this works out surprisingly similar to what 3e had (if the total of your six bonuses adds to less than +0, start over), though I was using this long before 3e arrived.

That also said, I've run the numbers and found that starting stats don't predict nearly as much about the expected lifespan of a character as one might think.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
What I really don't quite get, when people talk about liking random chargen, is why? Why does it make the game more fun to have a single die roll determine so much about how you will engage in the game for the next year or more? We certainly don't allow that in any other aspect of the game. You even get multiple death saves now. Save or Die has largely been replaced with multiple saves. And, even if your character does die, there are many in game resources that can be leveraged to bring you back.

So, why do we expect a single (or well six I guess) die rolls to be given such a high status in the game? Nothing else in the game works this way. Yes, I know that originally, we expected die rolled characters. But, then again, those characters were meant to have a shelf life of mayflies and, the base expectation was that you would play multiple characters.

That's not true anymore at most tables.
Which is all rather sad.
 

Hussar

Legend
Which is all rather sad.
Why?

You don't do it in any other part of the game. You don't allow a single die roll to impact the entire campaign in any other aspect of the game. So, why would we do it in chargen?

Like I said, in earlier editions, it made more sense. You were expected to play multiple PC's in the course of a campaign. So, character generation was minimal, you had virtually no options as you leveled up, and every class was a strictly limited archetype with virtually no ability for the player to change anything about the class. Which, great, ok, die rolling makes perfect sense here. You're playing a fighter this week, a magic user the next and a thief the week after that. No problems.

But, that hasn't been the D&D experience for a very, very long time. Even 2e didn't assume that style of play. That style of play hasn't been presumed part of the game since the Reagan administration. So, why do we hang on to this notion that random stat generation is a good idea when none of the reasons we used random generation are part of the game anymore?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Yes they are.

If you reroll 1s then each non-1 dice is in a linear 2-6 range (i.e. exactly the same as d5+1); and each re-rolled die is also in that same linear 2-6 range. (unless you're assuming that if another 1 comes up on the re-roll you have to keep it; but to me re-roll 1s means keep re-rolling until it's not a 1)
Functionally, yes. But also, pedanticly, no. Recall that chance to forever roll a 1? This vanishing small chance means that the reroll approaches, but never quite gets to, 3d5+3. It far exceeds the threshold for government work, though.
 


Marc_C

Solitary Role Playing
Even Gygax, in the AD&D DMG*, admits that 3d6 in order is not optimal because it generates many 'unplayable characters'. He goes on to list several variant methods DMs can use.

Because this thread is in D&D General and not 5e I will point out that ability bonuses are different in old editions. For example 13, 14 and 15 all grant +1 in Basic.

Nonetheless there are a lot of discussion about this in old D&D forums. I see 2d6+6 pop up quite often as a 'modern day' method to play BECMI or AD&D since it removes anything below 8.

I recall that after a few Basic games in 1981 we decided to use 4d6 best 3, re-roll 1s (repeatedly if necessary).

I believe in 5.5 / 6e 3d6 rolls should be optional and point buy be the default method. That is what the majority of groups do any way.

If you are going to use dice shenanigans to change the average upwards, cut to the chase and use point buy.
____________________________________
(*ability generation in the DMG not PHB)
 
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OptionalRule

Adventurer
So the interesting thing here to me is: if you roll the way the PHB say to roll, you'll probably have a 16 to put in your best ability, before racial mods. Ergo, starting with a 16 regardless of race is well within the tested range of ability scores.

The conclusion I draw: elf barbarians starting with a 16 str is an intended result of default chargen, not an outlier. Standard array and point buy, not rolling, create the impression of 'needing' a race with the 'right' ASI to playa class.
I think think it's about impressions, it's about baselines. Once you have a standard, every character is going to be assessed as above or below that standard (or meet it). Most players do not want a character below the standard. However, using a system where variation is the norm, it becomes more acceptable.
 


OptionalRule

Adventurer
Functionally, yes. But also, pedanticly, no. Recall that chance to forever roll a 1? This vanishing small chance means that the reroll approaches, but never quite gets to, 3d5+3. It far exceeds the threshold for government work, though.
This is why I roll all my abilities inside a black box that cannot be observed, then my abilities are all values at the same time.
 




Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Why?

You don't do it in any other part of the game. You don't allow a single die roll to impact the entire campaign in any other aspect of the game. So, why would we do it in chargen?

Like I said, in earlier editions, it made more sense. You were expected to play multiple PC's in the course of a campaign.
And still are, in anything I'm a part of.
So, character generation was minimal,
Yes, this is important. Chargen has become far too cumbersome a process, starting with 3e. Start to finish shouldn't take more than 15-20 mintues, tops, once a player is familiar with the system.
you had virtually no options as you leveled up, and every class was a strictly limited archetype with virtually no ability for the player to change anything about the class.
Mechanically.

But here's the rub: mechanics aren't everything; and two characters with identical mechanics can play as differently as night and day.

And by the same token, two characters whose mechanics are wildly different can end up playing like identical twins.
Which, great, ok, die rolling makes perfect sense here. You're playing a fighter this week, a magic user the next and a thief the week after that. No problems.

But, that hasn't been the D&D experience for a very, very long time.
Again, very sad.
So, why do we hang on to this notion that random stat generation is a good idea when none of the reasons we used random generation are part of the game anymore?
Because the slow erosion of those reasons was a mistake.
 

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