Thursday, November 10, 2011

3d6 in a row for stats is so harsh!

A little something before the weekend starts. I tried very hard to be old school and force my players to roll 3d6 in a row for stats. There was much whining and threatening, but I stayed undeterred. For a while. When we started a new setting not long ago, new characters were in order and we discussed (again!) how it had to be done.

So here is the compromise: A player might roll six times 3d6, but he notes every single number. This is what he gets, no more, no less. He might combine them how ever he sees fit, though. Three digits make an ability score.

It's still harsh, but now my players have the option to build the characters they want, with the crap they rolled.*

There was less whining and almost no threatening. I'm happy.

*It's scary how bad the results were, no kidding. I had to invent a new class for cases like this, the Pilgrim. But that's  for another post.


  1. I do (in 1E) 4d6 drop lowest in order for demihumans, no level limits but still class restrictions. Humans get 5d6 drop lowest 2, arrange as desired, any class but no multiclassing.

    Seems to work.

  2. I'm pretty sure it works, because it's pretty generous. 5d6?! I would play that character! But you know what? My players wouldn't. It would be way too easy. And that's the thing,you know: if you give them all they want in the beginning, they will never experience the joy of having a challenge. They want to be challenged.

    Seems to work, too.

  3. Actually, 5d6 won't guarantee anything. You might get an 18 to put on one of your stats, but a PC with exactly what he wants is a pretty rare result.

    Having a little higher stats at the beginning isn't a problem. Let's say every Human Fighter will put his highest stat in STR. Let's go further and say every such PC gets an 18 for STR. Then he gets to roll for exceptional Strength. He still is probably going to get only slightly better STR bonuses than for 18. And there are Gauntlets of Ogre Power floating around out there, so his natural strength might be meaningless.

    M-Us don't gain anything really for high INT, but without it they're limited in spell level accessible.

    Clerics and Thieves really make out the best on this deal.

    But I did it because I wanted SOMEONE to play a Human. If you remove level limits, which I was dedicated to doing (because they're dumb), there isn't a reason to play a Human if a Demihuman can also be that class. Demihumans get Infravision, special detection abilities, and Elves and Halflings get awesome sneaking ability, and Elves above all have a ton of special abilities. I think ending up with a few extra points in your ability scores balances that out. Check out the drawing of the various races in the PHB1. The Human is much bigger, broader, tougher than anyone else (even Half-Orcs). It makes sense he should have higher STR and CON at the very least.

    Roll up a few PCs with 3d6, and you'll note that almost nobody has bonuses or penalties. I like that for the game I wrote, because I wanted an adventuring party to contain only a couple of people with exceptional stats.

    You could do the same thing with giving 3d6 in order for demihumans and 4d6-drop lowest-arrange for Humans. I just decided that for this game, the earlier scheme was best.

    Regardless, I think this boils down to opinion differences about how tough the game should be, where PCs should start on the scale, how quickly they should improve. Your players' tastes run toward having characters with average stats. I can see your perspective, if you do 3d6 and you're looking at someone who does 5d6. I feel the same way when I look at 1E Dark Sun, or the 3E scheme of point-buy, high modifiers, cheap stat-modifying magic items, and level-advancement stat bonuses. But there are people out there pretty pleased to play that game too.

    I bet there are folks playing D&D right now with 2d6+1 for stats, grumbling about how generous 3d6 in order is.

  4. I have to agree. And I DMed Hackmaster for a long time, so I can understand your point and see the benefits. Plus: I use the rules for Fractional Ability Points in my actual game, which means, there is always a chance to increase an ability. This might change the perspective a little bit. I was serious when I wrote I would totally play it the way you mentioned.

    Rolling 18d6 and distributing the rolled digits is a compromise. It allows some control for the players while generating a character. And they like it more than rolling 3d6 in order.

    I try to give my players as much information about the setting as possible (without spoiling anything). So the decision to play a human might not only be derived from what a player rolled.

    But that's the beauty of the game and why I like the OSR: there are so many ways to play and customize D&D and so many people to share it.


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