Setting the method for rolling ability scores

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Yeah. It's all perspective. In my group not only do the players not care if one person gets fantastic stats, the group as a whole is happy about it because it helps the party.
Plus, fantastic stats aren't all they're hyped up to be.

You are adding anywhere from a +1 to a +20 to everything, and that die roll is going to absolutely swamp even a maxed-out stat. Sure, you're statistically more likely to succeed given an infinite number of rolls--but you don't get an infinite number of rolls. You get to roll once, and in that moment the odds of you getting a +2 are identical to your odds of getting a +19.

The d20 is the true powerhouse of a character build, not the stats. It's mathematically preferable to find ways to reroll, or to roll more than once. That's why Advantage, Halfling Luck, the Lucky feat, Extra Attack, and even the Eldritch Blast cantrip are so popular (and powerful).
 
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Thomas Shey

Legend
Not just that, but the definition of "playable" seems to have crept upwards across the editions...

(Although having said that, there's commentary in the 1st Ed DMG that puts something of a lie to it. But since 2nd Ed it seems to be an upward trend.)

This is going to inevitably colored by people's experience and expectations. If a game is trying to make you play Everymen and you're expecting to play Heroes (and don't view those as being Everymen) there's going to be a disconnect; and once attributes actually mattered, it didn't take too many people in the group to end up with good values for the people who didn't to feel like spear-carriers.
 

Yora

Legend
I'm currently considering a system of 3d6 in order, with the option to move each score around as desired.
Any score tha remains in the place it was rolled for gets a +1.

It provides an option to get the highest and lowest scores in whichever abilities benefit your desired class, but there's also a good incentive not to do so and first take a moment to consider if there's something interesting that could be done with the scores as they fell. Especially when the +1 pushes the score over the limit for a higher modifiers.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
So, as chargen continues to be more and more of a mini-game unto itself, I will advocate for going full bore.

Draft.

That's right.

Rolling for abilities? That's so .... Gygaxian.

Point buy? Ugh. What are you, some kind of Skills & Powers loser?

Nope. The real hotness? That's right .... a draft system! Have players compete to get what they want.

Make the chargen minigame a MAXI-GAME.

Hear me now and thank me later .... you want fun? You want fairness? You want cut throat competition and game theory?

Get everyone together and draft your character abilities.
After doing an in-person stat draft for my last game a few weeks back, it's going to be my default system. It's simultaneously variable and balanced, and no one complains that they didn't get what they wanted.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
I’ve used most stat generating systems in D&D up to 4Ed’s methods. Pretty much the last few times I ran a D&D campaign, I did it on an honor system.

Personally, I’ve used some form of 3d6 or 4d6 for creating most (simple majority) of my characters. The randomness has led me down some interesting character journeys.
 


Edgar Ironpelt

Explorer
I like point-buy systems - outside of D&D.
For D&D, the system I use in the games I run is to roll 3d6 for each ability score, in order, to set the minimum scores. Characters can then increase those scores until the total of the six reach a campaign-specific value (85 for my Brotherhood of Rangers game), with 18 being the maximum for any score. Racial adjustments get applied after this.

I'll note that I belong to the old school of "no 18 equals no fun" and so am willing to hand out what many would consider very high ability scores. Although the "Brotherhood of Rangers" game was on the high side even by my standards with average scores of 14-1/6.

What I see as advantages of this system are
  • Players can get an 18 in a desired ability score if they want, due to the high scores overall. Alternatively, they can (usually) take above-average scores overall, without a very high one.
  • Players might be able to get a dump stat if they desire one, but it's not either required or guaranteed that they do so. I dislike "Every character has a dump stat" and this allows dump stats sometimes while keeping them from being ubiquitous.
  • Players will sometimes be "stuck" with an unexpected and possibly undesired high ability score. If the player wants to play a Barbarian, and rolls a 17 for INT, then the character can be a Barbarian with a 17 INT.
 

cavalier973

Adventurer
I’d say that it depends on which version of D&D, or which other rules set you are using.

B/X and BECMI use 3d6 straight, but include methods for adjusting the result.

These rules aren’t as abilities-dependent as other versions of D&D, so having average or low scores from random rolls isn’t as debilitating to a PC. Even the XP bonus (or penalty) from high (or low) prime requisite scores isn’t as much of a problem, because the bonuses are relatively slight.

The podcast “3d6 Down the Line” includes a player whose fighter rolled a 5 in constitution, and it was sort of a running gag for the DM and other players to keep asking what his CON score was.
Spoilers: the 5 CON fighter survived.

The Rules Cyclopedia has alternate rules for creating higher level characters. The player rolls 5d6 and adds the result to a base score, like 60, then distributes the total points among the different abilities, as desired.

The RC also says to allow a player to switch the character’s highest rolled ability score for the prime requisite of the class that the player wants the character to be. If the player wants a thief, but the highest rolled ability score is strength, say, then allow the player to switch the STR and DEX scores.
 


Jack Daniel

dice-universe.blogspot.com
I’d say that it depends on which version of D&D, or which other rules set you are using.

B/X and BECMI use 3d6 straight, but include methods for adjusting the result.

These rules aren’t as abilities-dependent as other versions of D&D, so having average or low scores from random rolls isn’t as debilitating to a PC. Even the XP bonus (or penalty) from high (or low) prime requisite scores isn’t as much of a problem, because the bonuses are relatively slight.

This.

I play BXCMI, and so I use 3d6 in order, but I also acknowledge that 3d6 in order is a method that works best when the impact of scores on gameplay is minimal. That's why I don't use ability checks at all, I limit modifiers to no more than ±1 (after the fashion of Swords & Wizardry White Box and its derivatives), and I only have each score impact one thing apart from its function as a prime requisite for a class.

At my table:
• Str adjusts forcing doors; it doesn't affect melee
• Dex adjusts missile fire and Con adjusts hp, as normal; Dex doesn't affect AC
• Cha affects number of henchmen and follower morale; no impact on reaction rolls
• Int adjusts magic saves; Wis adjusts the number of spendable days of downtime a character can accumulate per week
Apart from that, the scores' only function is to be prime requisites for the classes, and even then, I go by the OD&D Vol 1 method of allowing for secondary requisites above 9 to count as bonuses to your prime requisite, 2:1 or 3:1. So while it won't always be the case that you can always play the class you want and also get an XP bonus, you'll very rarely be saddled with an XP penalty for it.

Just by way of an example, let's say I roll some dice hoping to get a magic-user. Magic-users have Int as their prime requisite, and they can use Wis 2-for-1 as prime. I'm gonna roll up some stats here… Str 9 Int 6 Wis 16 Dex 14 Con 9 Cha 11. Yes, I just legit rolled that spread, and it happens to be perfect for my example too: that Wis 16 means that if I play a magic-user with these stats, my Int counts as 9 for the sake of XP earned: ±0%. No bonus, but no penalty either: a perfectly serviceable set of stats for a mage. In fact, just looking at all the basic classes:

A fighter (Str prime, Int 3:1, Wis 2:1) would treat their Str as 12 with this spread, so again, ±0%. One point shy of the 13 needed for a +5% bonus, but them's the breaks.
A cleric would be +10% XP out of the gate from Wis 16; there's not enough Str or Int there to increase it, but it doesn't matter, +10% is the maximum bonus anyway.
A thief (Dex prime, Int 2:1, Wis 1:1) would treat their Dex as 21(!) to determine their XP bonus, so it'd definitely be +10% there.

That said, I do use the ability scores to make nonhuman PCs a bit rarer. Elves, dwarves, and hobbits all have minimum ability score requirements in the red box/black box edition (Int 9+ for Elves, Con 9+ for dwarves, and both Dex 9+ and Con 9+ for hobbits). I kick these requirements up to 11+ to help make my table a tad more human-centric in terms of its player character population.
 

Orius

Hero
I'm also in agreement with @cavalier973, the methods for rolling are also dependant on which set of rules you're using. D&D has at least 4 different systems for character scores and stat generation affects them them differently.

In OD&D and Holmes Basic, stats don't really matter much. Only Dex, Con, and Cha gives bonuses and then only +1s. Str, Int, and Wis determine bonus XP. Here the straight 3d6 might be okay, because there's so little to optimize. The biggest concern is more likely the bonus XP rather than the stat bonuses. Even then though Gary found that enough players were dissatisfied with poor random rolls.

Second is AD&D. Stats give out bonuses, but pretty much only from 15 and up. It kind of encourages a desire for very high stats just to have even a moderate boost, and that eventually led to the logic of UA's overpowered Method V. I'm not really a fan of this system, because of the huge range of identical stats in the middle and because there's a lot of fiddly bits thrown in, sometimes a stat gives a +1-4, sometimes it has a percentage chance for something and so on.

Third is Classic D&D. The modifiers for 3-18 are on a bell curve, and are consistently applied. If you want to go past that range, the Immortal rules extend things. I like this system because it's easy to remember, and the results aren't too overpowered.

Fourth is the modern system where every +2 increase in an ability score gives a +1 bonus. It's also pretty easy to remember and use though I think 5e drops a few subtle aspects of the system that made it pretty good in 3e.

Of these systems, I like Classic D&D's bell curve and the modern linear progression the best, because the stats generally mean something. And I usually give players the choice of at least 2 of 4d6, the standard array or point buy. The standard array is designed for the modern system, but it should work fine with Classic. It would be somewhat useless in AD&D. The standard array is a good method for novice players as well since it gives them a decent set of stats to learn things with.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I agree with a lot of the prior discussion that it comes down to a combination of player expectations and rules context.

In 1974 OD&D the bonuses available were minimal and scores didn't matter much. But as soon as Supplement I: Greyhawk came out Fighters were REALLY hoping for that 18 Strength...

B/X and BECMI had moderate effects from ability scores, and they had you roll 3d6 down the line, but they also allowed point-swapping to boost your Prime Requisite.

AD&D made you need scores of between 13 to 16 to get any bonus, and made big bonuses available at the top of the scale. No wonder that Gygax advises in the 1978 PH that a character probably needs at least two scores of 15 to be viable. And in the DMG officially makes "4d6 drop lowest arrange to taste" the primary method, while also offering others more or less generous (and even more generous options in Unearthed Arcana in 1985).

Really? I don't know anyone that doesn't use stat array, order as you choose in 5E. Though, I suppose you are correct. You still arrange the scores as you see fit, so I suppose that would be a set method for generation that old school didn't often offer.
For the record, this is exactly Method I from AD&D, per the 1979 DMG.

Not just that, but the definition of "playable" seems to have crept upwards across the editions...

(Although having said that, there's commentary in the 1st Ed DMG that puts something of a lie to it. But since 2nd Ed it seems to be an upward trend.)
It's surprising how consistent a lot of editions are with what Gygax advocated in 1E, as far as high stats. 2nd ed was a weird aberration in again offering 6 x 3d6 as the default method, more like OD&D.

Hear me now and thank me later .... you want fun? You want fairness? You want cut throat competition and game theory?

Get everyone together and draft your character abilities.
Certainly fun.

I'm currently considering a system of 3d6 in order, with the option to move each score around as desired.
Any score tha remains in the place it was rolled for gets a +1.

It provides an option to get the highest and lowest scores in whichever abilities benefit your desired class, but there's also a good incentive not to do so and first take a moment to consider if there's something interesting that could be done with the scores as they fell. Especially when the +1 pushes the score over the limit for a higher modifiers.
I like this idea. Incentivizing the randomness.

Right now my favorite luck-mitigator for old school stat generation is the mirror approach.

Use B/X or 3E+ stat mods. Have the players roll 3d6 in order BUT allow them to "flip" or "mirror" the array. That is, subtract every score in order from 21, so every high score becomes low and vice-versa. This way average characters still appear, and if a character has overall low scores the player can just flip the numbers and have high stats. On the other hand, if they have a suboptimal set of stats overall but a high score in the prime req for the class the player wants, they can keep the original array.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
What's draft?

I'm assuming that you have a set of ability scores like "Str 17" and "Dex 16" and the players take turns selecting them? If someone could explain how they draft ability scores, please share, it sounds interesting.
We've had a couple of these on these forums, including TwoSix's playtest for his system, and El Remmen's before that.


 
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James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
We've had a couple of these on these forums, including TwoSix's playtest for his system, and El Remmen's before that.


Thank you, I think I'll attempt a variation on this for my next game.
 

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