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D&D 5E The Philosophy Behind Randomized and Standardized Ability Scores

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I’ve heard some folks talk about an “ability score draft”, where they roll up enough scores for all the characters, put them all in a big pool, and draft them. First round is random, and thereafter you pick in order of whoever got the lowest score in the previous round first, whoever got the highest last. Sounds kinda fun.

That's me! Stat Draft - Ghosts of Saltmarsh
 

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Blue Orange

Adventurer
It's one way to see it, the other way being that it actually suits people so much to be able to have very varied styles of gaming that 5e is the most popular RPG ever... :p

There's a lot of truth to that. The game survived 40 years and 3 owners, it's doing something right.
 


Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Fairness.

Fundamentally, D&D is a social game that you play with other people. Different people have different methods of handling the game, of competition, and of certain innate ideas of fairness- this is why, for example, the concept of "sharing the spotlight" has become more important in RPGs. However, this is an aspect of the social compact that often gets overlooked when it comes to PC ability score generation.
Well fairness... and asymmetrical ability score to class design.

If you want to play a melee warrior, you had to roll high STR. There was no DEX duelist at the beginning. And even now in 5e, only STR, DEX, and CHA allow for melee builds.
Same with casters. Originally there were only 2 spellcasting classes with 2 casting stats.

Only in 4e did you have warrior, casters, melee, and range be in almost every ability score.

This is before you get to later editions with Multiple Ability score Dependence. When some classes require 3 good rolls whereas others only needed 1.
 

Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
I’ve heard some folks talk about an “ability score draft”, where they roll up enough scores for all the characters, put them all in a big pool, and draft them. First round is random, and thereafter you pick in order of whoever got the lowest score in the previous round first, whoever got the highest last. Sounds kinda fun.
I did a variation on this for my campaign. Each player rolled 4d6 6 times and the 24 results were recorded on a central sheet. I then ordered the results high to low then assigned each player a number 1 through 4. From that point I started with the top score working down to the lowest in snake draft (1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1) order.

I think it was a lot of needless time wasting versus just picking an array, but the players liked the possibility of getting some starting 18s even if it came with possible 6s and requested some sort of die rolling.

I feel my snake draft method allows for some high scores but doesn't end up with characters far from each other when it comes to stat bonus totals.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
The biggest problem with rolling stats is lots of people will not play a PC with two stats below 9. The number of people I met who played with bad randomly rolled stat is 0. People SAY oh lets do random. Then spend the Saturday morning rolling stats for 4 and half hours till they get the stats they want. Just use an array or a point buy which your players find acceptable. Or get use to Suicide pcs.
 

I wonder if the designers willingly omit to add a safety belt mechanic or advice for rolled stats? They could easily add an advice for too weak or even too strong rolls. Nope. Nada. Silence. I don’t even remember any Sage advice on the subject.
Rolling is still popular but also mostly home brew.
Would you like an official advice for 2024?
 

pukunui

Legend
Last time I ran a 3.5e campaign (back in 2007), I used the following combined method:

1) Roll 4d6 drop lowest three times
2) Determine the point value of these rolls according to the provided table (with scores of 8 or lower being worth 0 points)
3) Subtract that value from a total of 36 points
4) Use any remaining points to buy three more ability scores
5) Place your three rolled and three bought scores as desired
6) Apply racial modifiers

The idea was to let the old school gamers who enjoyed rolling for stats to have that process while still ending up with characters that were all still more or less on the same (above average) power level.

Don't know that I'd ever bother using anything that complicated again, but I thought it might be worth sharing anyway.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I wonder if the designers willingly omit to add a safety belt mechanic or advice for rolled stats? They could easily add an advice for too weak or even too strong rolls. Nope. Nada. Silence. I don’t even remember any Sage advice on the subject.
Rolling is still popular but also mostly home brew.
Would you like an official advice for 2024?
I ran a game with the "colleville method" (roll stats 3d6 for stats in order don't reroll ones but reroll the entire array if you don't have two stats 15 or better). It pushed my players to trying classes outside their comfort zone as designed, but the characters themselves were just standard $class with what were often better than normal stats. It wasn't something that seemed to improve the game & generating the arrays took a long time due to tossing so many.

I'd much rather see "official advice" that realigns the stat mods from every +/-1 for every 2 points above/blow ten where it has been since 3.5 back to ad&d2e style -1 at 5-6 +1 at 15-16. An option like that would free up some room for magic items & such within the system math. Being an "official" option means that I could just point at it & say "this campaign are using this for these characters" like I did for survivors withou the sort of pushback I got with just as if not more powerful level zero characters. Of course 2024 is 3 years away & despite being "most popular RPG ever" I expect to no longer be playing or running d&d due to 5e's failings and wotc will need to meet a very high bar to interest me into returning again.
 

Khelon Testudo

Cleric of Stronmaus
Our DM rolled 4d6 drop low 7 times, dropped the lowest, and let us each use the resulting six stats in the best order for our class/character. Simple, even, fair.
 

MGibster

Legend
Anyway, I wanted to put this out for general discussion- the social and table aspect of ability score generation. What do you think? Do you consider this, and if so (or if not), why?
I've been using point buy for D&D character generation ever since 3rd edition. Fairness doesn't really enter the picture for me, I just want to be able to make the type of character I want to play rather than leaving it to random chance. That said, in my current game someone suggest we all roll up random attributes and I was all for it. I said I was up to iron man the character generation but my fellow players wimped out on me. But for me, one of my specific goals of this campaign was to play a combination of character class and race that I don't typically play. Which is why I have an elf druid.
 

MGibster

Legend
Back in the very late 80s or early 90s, my DM got the bright idea of determining each attribute by rolling 2d6 taking the highest number and multiplying that by 3. I ended up with 18s in all my attributes except for Charisma which was a 15. I still couldn't qualify to be a #%#%# Paladin!
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
I did a variation on this for my campaign. Each player rolled 4d6 6 times and the 24 results were recorded on a central sheet. I then ordered the results high to low then assigned each player a number 1 through 4. From that point I started with the top score working down to the lowest in snake draft (1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1) order.

I think it was a lot of needless time wasting versus just picking an array, but the players liked the possibility of getting some starting 18s even if it came with possible 6s and requested some sort of die rolling.

I feel my snake draft method allows for some high scores but doesn't end up with characters far from each other when it comes to stat bonus totals.
What I like about “the player who got the lowest score last round gets first pick this round” as opposed to snake draft is it gamifies the drafting process a bit more. In a snake draft the “right” call is always just to pick the highest score available, which contributes to it feeling like an unnecessarily elaborate way to basically get arrays with maybe a small chance at an 18 or a 6. But if picking a lower score now could mean getting first pick next round…
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!

I just read a comment by @FireLance -
One possibility that I've been toying with, although I admit I've never actually used in any of the campaigns I've run, is to start with the standard array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8), assign as desired to the various ability scores, and then roll 3d6 in order. If the number rolled for an ability score is higher than the assigned number, use the rolled number instead.

It's an interesting proposal! The thing is, from the very beginning (3d6 in order) to the new random (4d6k1) to the variants introduced in the 1e DMG and UA to modern methods of point buy and the standard array, the one constant I have seen is the desire to explore different methods of ability score generation.
(((SNIP)))


Anyway, I wanted to put this out for general discussion- the social and table aspect of ability score generation. What do you think? Do you consider this, and if so (or if not), why?

Sounds fine to me. But if you want "ultimate group fairness with random rolling"...and some sort of sick glee from watching your Players agonize about accepting that score of 5 to get that 18 as well ;) ...then I created a method I use for my own Homebrew Fantasy RPG (based on Darkurthe Legends) that I call the "Wheel of Pain Method".

I already described it in a couple other threads over the years, so here's the latest (I think):

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

ardoughter

Hero
Supporter
Nerd Immersion mentioned in a video a method that I liked of Stat Bingo. Create a Grid of 6x6 rolling 4d6 drop lowest and the players can select from any line or diagonal.
 



reelo

Adventurer
I never could wrap my head around "roll for stats and then distribute them yourself anyway".

Well, other than desire to have higher ability scores than is possible through point-buy.
What I can't wrap my head around is automatic ASI ever so often in 5E, as well as the expectation that by level X, you are "supposed" to have 20 in your main stat.
I much prefer the way games like Mythras handle stats, where your starting stats are your body's absolute achievable prime.
If I ever DM 5E again, I'll completely excise ASI.
 

payn

Legend
What I can't wrap my head around is automatic ASI ever so often in 5E, as well as the expectation that by level X, you are "supposed" to have 20 in your main stat.
I much prefer the way games like Mythras handle stats, where your starting stats are your body's absolute achievable prime.
If I ever DM 5E again, I'll completely excise ASI.
Make sure you understand the system math when you do this. It could have unintended consequences on character's ability to be effective. Probably not as detrimental as a system like PF2, but there will still be an impact on this decision.
 

ardoughter

Hero
Supporter
What I can't wrap my head around is automatic ASI ever so often in 5E, as well as the expectation that by level X, you are "supposed" to have 20 in your main stat.
I much prefer the way games like Mythras handle stats, where your starting stats are your body's absolute achievable prime.
If I ever DM 5E again, I'll completely excise ASI.
I would not but I understand the sentiment and with bounded accuracy it is a bit unnecessary, I am tempted to run some mid level one shots with no ASI but allow feats instead.
 

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