The Advantages of Using 3d6 Over Point Buy

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on January 24, 2012

Have you ever played a character in 4e D&D without optimized stats? A Fighter with a Strength score below 14 or a Wizard with an Intelligence under 14? I think it’s safe to say that none of us have done it. Why would you? The game assumes that you’re going to have a decent score (16+) in your primary ability from the outset and to ensure this we use the point buy system to assign the numbers as we deem appropriate. Add to that racial bonuses and there’s really no reason you’d even have to play a character with a low score in their primarily ability.

As long as players use point buy to assign scores we’re always going to see fully optimized stats. All Fighters will have exceptional Strength. All Wizards will have exceptional Intelligence. The base foundation on which characters are built (the six ability scores) will be similar, if not identical, when comparing characters of similar classes. The mechanics of 4e almost demand that this be the case. It’s not to your advantage to play a PC with sub-optimized ability scores. If you want to be on par with the game’s power baseline you have to optimize the numbers. A character with a 14 in his main ability will be less powerful than his allies. But is this really a bad thing.

Some of the most memorable characters I’ve ever played have not had exceptional ability scores. All of these characters were created using older D&D mechanics. We didn’t assign ability scores, we rolled them. When I first began playing D&D everyone made characters using the old 3d6 method. You rolled 3d6, added them up, and that was your ability score. There were a few variations but in the end the ability scores were determined by random rolls and the luck of the dice. It was extremely rare to have an 18 in any ability score at level 1. Even two scores of 16 or more was practically unheard of.

Rolling your abilities randomly really added something to the character creation process that has disappeared with 4e. Today if I’m making a character I do it on a laptop, in the comfort and privacy of my game room. The social atmosphere that used to accompany character creation has long since disappeared, assuming it was ever present in 4e.

When I make a character in 4e I don’t need to consult with the other players in my group about what everyone’s playing. There is such balance in 4e that a party can get by with almost any group of characters as long as their all optimized. It’s certainly easier if the four roles are represented, but an experienced group can be just as effective with an unbalanced party. Because of this there is no need to make the character creation process social.

Rolling for ability scores changes how you make a character. It doesn’t just add a new step that requires you to rolls the dice a few times, it encourages community. Before 4e I never made characters by myself. It was a shared experience. You’d invite the gaming group over and often you’d spend an entire session making PCs. One of the reasons for this was to keep everyone honest. If I was lucky enough to actually roll and 18 or two I wanted witnesses. I didn’t want anyone doubting that my ability scores were indeed what the dice gods provided me with.

Even the way I made decisions during character creation was different when I rolled my scores. Today I usually choose class first. Then I find a race that has suitable racial modifiers in the abilities I think I’ll need most. Then, using point buy, I assign the points to the abilities that I need for my class. The result is usually one score that starts at 18+ and one that starts at 16+. Of course there are times when I simply want to play a race/class combo that doesn’t mesh perfectly, but I again make up for the shortfall when I’m assigning my ability scores.

When abilities are determined by the dice, I do all the rolling first. If I’m using the method where the stats are recorded in the order rolled than I need to see where the dice fall before choosing a class. I’m less likely to play a Fighter if my first total is only a 9. Usually I wait to see where the highest number ends up and then choose a class that relies on that ability. A high Wisdom means a Cleric, a High Dexterity is a Rogue or Ranger; you get the idea. If the numbers are relatively flat then this is when race can help make a good score a great score or to shore up a low number in a secondary ability. If we use the method where we roll the six scores and then assign the numbers to the six ability scores as we see fit, then I’ve got a lot more options when it comes to class and I’m less likely to pick a race just because it will bump a low score.

When you rely on the dice to determine ability scores it’s entirely possible that the party won’t have anyone with a high Strength. Does this mean you play without a Fighter or that someone plays a less optimized Fighter? By making character creation a social exercise you can figure these things out as a group.

The social experience that accompanies character creation is certainly a strong argument for using rolling over point buy, but there is an even better reason – character diversity. As I mentioned above, characters with average numbers, or even below average numbers, tend to be more interesting. They’re not perfect. They may be really good at one thing but terrible in most others. And isn’t this a more accurate representation of real life? I realize that many people play fantasy role-playing games to escape reality but I want to have fun when I play. If everyone PC is the very best at what they do it often makes for a less exciting experience.

Look at the characters in Harry Potter as an example. The stories take place in a school full of Wizards. If these characters were all created using the 4e point buy then they’d all have an 18 or higher Intelligence at the outset. However, it’s clear that Hermione has a much higher intelligence than Harry, and Harry probably has a higher Intelligence that Ron. Had all three been equally intelligent the stories would have been pretty boring. The fact that they all have different strengths and weaknesses makes them a more interesting adventuring party, despite the fact that they’re all Wizards.

The greatest disadvantage of rolling dice to determine ability scores is that it’s impossible to ensure equality between characters. While diversity is actually something to be encouraged during a home game, it can be a nightmare during public play. And this is where point buy has a clear advantage over dice rolling methods – point buy levels the playing field. This is vitally important during public play. Any elements left to chance will be abused. You know that you’d constantly see characters with six 18s. “I swear that’s what I rolled. My dice were red hot that night. Ask my mom, she witnessed it!”

With the next iteration of D&D currently being developed and play-tested it will be interesting to see how ability scores are determined. Will players have the choice to use point buy or roll dice? Will the system support both methods equally or will point buy still be the preferred way to determine ability scores? If Wizards of the Coast is truly looking to bring back the best elements of previous editions then I for one hope they do encourage the old 3d6 method for determine ability scores. Looking at the bigger picture I see this as an important element of D&D that was lost with 4e. Point buy works for the game that 4e is today, but with changes on the horizon I think there’s room to bring back this tried and true method of character creation.

What are you thoughts on using the 3d6 method to create ability scores? Do you think bringing it back will help D&D or do you think that point buy is the way to go? Can you see a system that allows players using either method to sit at the same game table and feel like their on level playing field? Do you think there any method that involves dice rolling should have qualifiers like no more than one 18 or reroll any ability score under 8?

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1 Jer January 24, 2012 at 10:29 am

Random die rolling works when ability scores are of lesser importance to the game than selection of class. Random die rolling does not work when ability scores are the most important element of the game.

3rd edition shifted the focus heavily away from class and onto ability scores. 4th edition continued with that idea. Moving saving throws from a class based score to an ability score based one, for example, shifts the focus away from class and onto individual ability scores. Of course you need to optimize your ability scores in a 3rd edition or better game – bad scores are going to lead to bad saves/defenses, bad hit points, bad attacks and so on.

And 3rd edition had a tighter balance than earlier editions (a trend 4th edition continues) so that those extra bonuses REALLY MATTER. Prior to 3rd edition suppose you had a fighter with a 12 Strength. He loses out on a bonus of +1 to +3 to hit, and he loses out on an XP bonus (in games where the DM actually used the XP bonus system), but it’s not going to mean much to your survival because the AC of monsters didn’t really scale with level much. AC was in a range from roughly -2 to 8 for most monsters you would face for the first 10 levels. What made monsters survive longer wasn’t their high ACs – it was their extra hit points. And an extra +1 to +3 on damage might be meaningful there, but not as much as the extra +20% that a Strength 18 fighter has in 3rd edition where AC scales more with level (and hit bonuses increase in a ridiculously quick manner that FORCES AC to scale quickly with level or else AC becomes meaningless – a trend that continues in 4th edition).

So this comes back to the same ancient argument – Should ability scores be mechanically meaningful in the game, or should they be more “flavor” to suggest how your character should be run and have less influence on the mechanics? (an argument, I might add, that seems like it was an old one when I started playing the game back in 1980 and I doubt will be solved by another iteration of the game). If you downplay the importance of ability scores to mechanics and make them primarily a “role playing” framework, then random ability scores can be awesome. If ability scores drive the core of the character then random ability scores suck. Finding the balance between those two poles might be a worthwhile task (and frankly I’d prefer to see ability scores de-emphasized in the next edition in favor of class again), but I doubt you’ll ever find much agreement…

2 Frank January 24, 2012 at 10:29 am

I think this is a very good point. In 4E, it tends to be one’s role or class that defines who you are when you play. My characters are Paladins or Warlocks, but they are not defined as individuals. They tend to be more “Generic Paladin”. Back in my 2E days, the ability scores came first, and truly defined my character as an individual. I was a wizard with a 6 Constitution? What did that mean? I could play that as a character quirk–I was a hypochondriac. A fighter with only average strength (say, 14), but an equally high charisma? I could use that to play a more diplomatic fighter, instead of the typical meat shield. Etc. etc.

3 Sentack January 24, 2012 at 10:37 am

My thoughts are that this article is flame bait but, I’ll indulge the author.

3d6 was an interesting concept back in the day but it was only viable because the expectation was that players would burn through characters like popcorn, often having one or two backup characters a night if necessary to drop in when the old one inevitability died. I’ve never seen a group EVER follow that rule. At worst, it was the “4d6, Drop Lowest, roll 6 times and allocate” by even the most hard core DM. But I suspect I know what you’re really trying to get at. You want characters with quirks and ‘penalties’ that they can overcome. You want to see less then perfect characters at the table. Maybe characters who are just ‘average joe/jane’ who becomes exceptional via deeds then stats.

Well I’m not sure what’s the best solution for that, but one concept I had was the idea of having characters with real flaws associated with them that the players could try to ‘overcome’. Like a wizard who was sickly, so he has a lame leg or gets ill more easily in place of a low constitution score. Perhaps an ugly rogue (low charisma) might be a decent thief but has the charm of a wet mangy dog. He swears like a sailor and makes regular offensive comments to anyone of the opposite sex but develops a real knack for pickpocketing just the right person at the right time. A lot of these are better defined as personal character quirks or ‘disadvantages’ that you see in some other systems but not often expressed in D&D.

The problem with rolling stats is that most players I know, pick a class first, or class concept, THEN roll dice to see if they can make it happen, if the DM insists on rolled stats. By forcing rolled stats, you’re denying players options, and that goes against everything We’ve gained in the last 30 years of this industry.

4 Matthew January 24, 2012 at 10:38 am

Optimization is a mentality that is supported by the rules, but not required by them. If you can get your players to break the habit and use scores to help describe the character instead of the role then you can use any method you want. If breaking that habit takes forcing 3d6 on yourself, then go with it.

The real key to breaking it is to that all the players and the DM have to be on board with it. If one guy keeps optimizing and gets real in-game benefits from it, or worse, the DM runs adventures that are balanced for optimized characters (or even just combat-heavy ones) then everyone will keep doing it.

5 Shane January 24, 2012 at 11:55 am

The only problem I have with rolling dice for ability scores, is the inequality it can create among characters. If someone with really hot dice rolls three scores over 15 and another player rolls nothing above a 13, it sucks to be Player B.

Dice rolling can also have the opposite effect — instead of creating a character with a few quirky low scores, it can facilitate the creation of a character that is a veritable super hero with exceptional scores in everything.

I have attempted to make the standard system a bit more interesting by giving very low point buy numbers, and letting players sell one or two stats to numbers below 8.

6 Taed January 24, 2012 at 12:54 pm

I’m of two minds over rolling dice in D&D. I liked the 3d6 when I originally played D&D in 1978 or so, the 4d6 (drop lowest) in AD&D, and the current building points method in 4e. They each have their place, and as long as all the players are doing it the same way (and honestly), then there’s not a problem. Creating a sucky character in early D&D due to rolling poorly has both good and bad attached to it. If you’re creating a playing a character just for a session or so, then I’m all for rolling and letting the dice fall where they may. But no one wants to have a character for years of play which is not as good as someone else’s due to your luck during that 5-minute stretch when you were rolling ability scores.

But what I’d really like to talk about is other character creations systems that I’ve liked.

Even though it’s been about 30 years, I have to say that I have a love for the Traveller mustering system, whereby you create a quick character and progress them through a military career and after 15 or 20 minutes, you have your character fresh out of the space corps and ready for adventure. The character creation was, in a sense, a mini-adventure. A system like that for D&D would be interesting. What’s interesting is that I remember very little about the actual game of Traveller (even though we played on and off for 2 or 3 years), but have many memories of the character creation, so that’s clearly something that they did right.

The Critter Commandos system was also nice and simple, using just 1d6 for 4 abilities (luck was one), as I recall. 1d6 was also used for all combat. I played that a few times with my then 6-year-old son and a bunch of others (and a great GM), and a good time was had by all. We played it as a mostly-serious game of military missions, not as a cartoony game.

The Tunnels & Trolls system was nice in its simplicity. I forget most of it, but I think there were only 3 abilities, and d6s were also used for combat. My son (10 at that point) and I played the Free RPG Day version and liked the simplicity, but it was harsh and characters died easily.

The latest Doctor Who RPG system is also nice and simple, but it has many abilities and skills, so its very similar to 4e but with fewer dice. We only played that RPG once, and used pre-gens, but it seemed like a nice system for focusing on the story.

It’s also been about 30 years, but I did like TSR’s Top Secret. As I recall, you didn’t have any ability scores, but had many skills (computers, marksmanship, driving, etc.) which were determined with percentile dice. I assume you got to choose some number of them to train on. I remember it giving a nice flavor to the character since you understood their role in the mission.

Does anyone have their own opinions on other systems to share?

7 Matthew January 24, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Forgot to add: The drive to optimize is part of the overall desire to have an awesome character. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if that’s all your players want out of the game then optimization will rule. You can try to make other aspects of the game more interesting than personal awesomeness, but some players still won’t bite.

It always comes back to the fact that people want different things out of their games. You can learn to live with the disconnect or try to find a group that’s closer to your alignment.

8 Jacob January 24, 2012 at 1:42 pm

I love 4d6 drop lowest. If I didn’t care about what class I played, I would just put them down in order. We always had a system set up that the character had to make a minimum total modifier between their scores, and if it wasn’t high enough, the player could reroll.
I think the rolling of ability scores would be less of a big deal if the primary stat wasn’t attached to ALL attack rolls and ALL damage. I really like MADness, too. It has you use your other ability scores for doing specific things, which allows you to specialize in a specific aspect of your class.
Low numbers are my favorite part of my characters.

9 Paul Miller January 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm

4e is imho purely a combat system therefore one has to optimize or fail. There is a lot of things to do outside of combat but to me doesn’t lend itself well to do those things like the previous systems did which I still thoroughly enjoy.

my 2 cents 😀


10 Jacob January 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Oh yeah, i forgot to mention that I hate having to optimize my characters. Two others that I play with are really big on that, so they’re always on my case about my sub par characters, but I like my characters.

11 @olybuzz January 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Too many questions to answer here…

For me, the bell-curve was indicative of the demographics that the founders sought to achieve in their games.

12 Peter January 24, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Ok, so I like the random rolled stats. The “Method I” of AD&D and 3rd edition was 4d6 drop the lowest.

I think randomly rolled stats totally works with 4th edition, and no matter what comes D&Dnext, I am going to be using randomly rolled stats from now on. And I’m more and more swayed towards the 3d6 in order type of generation for 4th Edition. I’ve been using 3d6 in order for LabLord and also my AD&D pregens (even though AD&D itself is far more lenient than just 3d6 in order) and I have to say that it’s not the end of the world to have average or even low stats. It’s interesting. It’s unexpected. I feel like the possibility of having a low intelligence or low charisma character (or low in whatever) is a bit of a fun roleplaying notion..

It does indeed shift the order of chargen from first rolling stats and then seeing what the stats suggest. This is a good thing. I think people are too optimized, too tactical. I think this one simple change along with excsing feats would suddenly put the ball back in court for having characters that were kind of a gamble at low levels. And there are still ways to bump your scores over time. Items might become more coveted again rather than simply expected equipment. yeah, I like the idea already, the more I think about it.

So what does 3d6 in order get you? Well, the first thing I want to point out is that it’s still totally playable. You can play a fighter with a 13 strength and you will end up with a +3 or +4 to hit with a basic melee attack. A 1st level wizard with a 13 or 14 intelligence will be +1 or +2 with attacks that target reflex or fort… Oh, and there will be whiffing and missed attacks and characters could even die! But that brings back avoiding encounters and being strategic about seeking advantage (for example, flooding an area or preparing special defenses, coming up with a special plan to take on an entrenched enemy) and negotiating when necessary.

A 1st level Orc Bolt thrower (monster chosen at random, level 1 artillery) has defenses that look like AC 13; Fortitude 14, Reflex 14, Will 11. The average fighter has an average chance to hit. The wizard is not far off with his reflex-attacking spell. It will be much harder for the mundane fighter to take on higher level monsters before he has levelled.. but you know what? I kinda like it that way.

So yes. Good idea.

13 Chaoticdm January 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm

As a DM, I’d like to see the social aspect of character creation come back. Maybe spend the first session of a new campaign sitting around with books open, everybody discussing their characters and making plans, choices, backstories and plot hooks together. I’d find that way more interesting and entertaining than individually crafted PCs that are the product of a single player’s imagination and are much harder to integrate into a unified party.

Optimized characters are typically overpowered in my experience. They prompt me to have to ramp up the difficulty of each encounter to keep the party challenged. The suggested xp budgets of 4e are woefully inadequate when matched up against a optimized party.

I could see a party filled with +2s and +3s doing just fine in combat.

14 Quirky DM January 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I’m a fan of rolling, myself. There’s always some way to tweak the dice so the chances of getting a horrible character are mitigated or drastic differences are reduced, but you always take a chance when rolling.

Random characters only make a difference when there’s a huge disparity between character power levels due to your abilities. This is greatly reduced by having characters that can specialize in different areas so that the character with awesome die rolls can never be competitive with you in your realm of expertise. No matter how smart or wise Roy is in Order of the Stick, he will never be able to cast spells or heal other players. He’s great with a sword, but that’s it.

In 4E, they made everyone look so much the same with their balanced power structure, that no one was different enough to have a niche. The wizard casting fireballs found out that everyone else has area effect attacks now, and they cast them at the same rate and power level as he does. So then the only differentiation is the ability scores.

Keep the classes sufficiently different and randomness becomes much easier to use, even if it makes a large difference in power level. Players want awesome characters, but awesome is usually being able to do something better than anyone else. Standard 4E might fail here, but later 4E and essentials did a much better job of it.

15 Izak Flash Man January 24, 2012 at 6:30 pm

I’ve only played 4e, but this roll for stats deal sounds like a whole pile of fun. I’m down with this idea.
Looking at the Essentials player book now I notice that the last thing it makes you do is pick your stats. I guess the way you were describing it would be the first thing on the agenda.

16 Old Guy January 24, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I stepped away from gaming for quite a few years. When I returned, 4e was out so I gave it a try. I spent a lot of time on the WotC boards. After a while, I became increasingly annoyed at the prevailing attitude that characters had to have extraordinary scores just to survive. To prove a point, we ran a game where all the characters had 10’s across the board (with no racial ability bonuses either). Amazingly, we not only survived but had a great time in the process. Newer players may want to run superheroes, but that doesn’t mean they are necessary.

Rolling 3d6 for abilities works well. Watching each other roll, cheering the high scores and moaning over the low ones is a fun, social aspect of the game. It does present some inherent inequities, but if the group doesn’t mind those inequities, rolling for ability scores definitely has some benefits.

17 Sunyaku January 25, 2012 at 12:17 am

4d6 drop lowest sounds pretty awesome… I think I may have to do this for my next campaign.

18 Naz January 25, 2012 at 12:39 am

Wow, in a sense it is as if you reached into my head and pulled out a conversation I had just had 3 days ago with the members of the group that I DM. You do make a fantastic point, but there are some problems that 4e creates that I feel sadly make the “Nestalgia” aspect of all this pretty much a hollow thing at best.
First and formost, in 4e they made it so that 2 different stats can effect the same types of Bonuses (Dex AND Int for AC as an example) potentially negating a “Bad” role in one spot assuming a decent role in another.
Second, many Classes (Mages being the main exceptions) have builds that rely on completely different bonuses (Fighter with a High Dex Build, or a Cleric build using High Strength), further diluting the need for a better score in one certain area. Sure, this may not be “optimal” but it can sure go a long way towards beating some of the handicaps low scores in one area might otherwise cause.
Third, while at lower levels some low scores may make a character “Feel” more colorful, unless you don’t plan on going past 9th or 10th level, you will eventually find that even scores considered average or maybe good, begin to become much better every 4 levels and so forth. Sure a 15 or 16 seems “not optimal” but after bumping it up a few times, your right back in line.
I like 4e, and I like that the mechanics make the game more accessible and in many cases more understandable to new comers. But I also miss those times when, years ago, at that critical moment at the gaming table, when the next role would make or break the encounter/conversation/puzzle and the atmosphere around the table was like that at the final table of the World Series of Poker. Everyone on their feet, holding their breath, all eyes on that die. These moments seem to be much fewer, and far between in 4e, and to me the main culprit is the “Balance” that this edition has hung its hat on. Yeah you can try and gussy it up with different ways of rolling stats, or putting other artificial “Limits” on things, but at the end of the day you still have a system that at its core wants you to play Over Powered.

19 Alton January 25, 2012 at 9:14 am

LOL! Top Secret HAD to make character creation quick and easy. I remember playing this game and spending half an hour creating the character. Open up the roleplaying, one shot – DEAD! Lotsa fun.

I do not think that the big change with the ability score assignment is the where or how they are assigned. I think the problem is in the powers themselves. In 4th edition, you are basically forced to optimize your character – why? Because any cool effects you would like to use on the enemy are dependant on a hit. Think about it. Most powers in the 4th system have a hit line, followed by an effect line that comes into effect when you hit. So if you miss, you do nothing.
3.5 was different, as a sorcerer, you still did damage with fireball, you still hit with magic missiles, whether you had a Charisma of 12 or 20. You still had an effect. This is the reason the fighter had so many feats – to optimize his weapon, but as posted above, no matter what the ability score was, in other systems you alsways had a chance to hit.

All in all I do love to roll my own dice and love to create characters socially. I do think that rolling 3d6 with 4 columns – take the best one, or 4d6 take away lowest and assign as they roll, or point buy should all be valid options. I think people create different characters for different reasons. We should not limit them.

20 Noumenon January 25, 2012 at 9:35 am

Then, using point buy, I assign the points to the abilities that I need for my class. The result is usually one score that starts at 18+ and one that starts at 16+.

And that’s all you need! That’s why blog of holding’s hybrid roll and pointbuy system works. You buy your top two scores the way 4E expects you to, and then the other stats you roll 3d6 down the line.

It won’t solve your problem of wanting to play a Fighter with 13 Str, but I think that’s a personal affliction.

21 Quixotic Demiurge January 25, 2012 at 1:12 pm

One trick I always use whenever I’m running D&D, regardless of edition, is to have everyone roll an ability score array (usually via 4d6 drop lowest) and record it publicly. Then anyone can use any of the recorded ability arrays to build their character, ensuring that the organic feel of random generation is preserved without the risk of inadvertent intra-party imbalance. Everyone roots for their fellow player’s to roll well, because it benefits everyone.

22 Philo Pharynx January 25, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Point buy does not mean you have to give up social character building. My 4e groups all talk about what we want to play and how it works together. We don’t always build at the table, but we develop backstories and relationships.

Looking at 4e, it does look like most people have a very limited range because nobody can go below 8. You have a functional range of five points (6 with racial mods). If you still allow people to have a good score for their prime requisite, then game balance isn’t affected much.

If you don’t use point buy, one of my favorite rolling methods is to have 20d6 rolled by the group, splitting it up however it works well. Drop two dice and then everybody uses that pool to build their character. Everybody is overall equal (which is the biggest problem with everybody rolling individually). Most characters can have an 18 if they want, but they’ll usually have either a really bad score or several sub-par ones. Or give everybody a pool of 6,6,6,5,5,5,4,4,4,3,3,3,2,2,2 and then roll three more dice to build their stats with.

23 mbeacom January 28, 2012 at 1:36 am

Agree Agree Agree. I’ve never been a fan of point buy. In fact, one of my players and I frequently roll up 1E characters after a session of 4E just for the fun of it. Because we miss it. It only takes a few minutes. We’ll roll them up, look at our scores and say, “well, looks like you got a druid there” or, “hmmm, probably gonna have to be a thief”. Picking powers and feats for a 4E character on the other hand can take hours.

24 Philo Pharynx January 28, 2012 at 10:25 am

But that’s why I make 4e and 3e characters for fun. I’ll sometimes make characters with odd starting conditions – like ‘Try to make a melee spellcaster’ or ‘halfling barbarian’ Just to see what it’s like. I’d get bored of just rolling dice without even getting to yell ‘yahtzee’ every once in a while. 🙂

25 Philo Pharynx January 28, 2012 at 10:30 am

(entering a separate comment because this is a very different idea)

One of the problems with rolling is rolling too well. I’ve had a couple of cases where the dice were hot and kept coming up sixes. It’s a bit of a lose lose situation. If you reroll, then you always think about the great character you would have had. If you don’t reroll, then some of the fun of success is gone because you got so lucky. Plus you have to deal with other player’s frustration that you are so much better than them. In one game it worked out as they channeled the player’s frustration into some great roleplaying about my ‘Golden boy’ character. In one game, it caused a huge rift with a character that was less lucky.

26 Arthur Strum January 28, 2012 at 10:40 am

Rolling 6s is never a problem. It’s awesome. But it rarely happens so there’s almost no reason to be against it. This is why you roll in public like Ameron said. If someone complains about rolls they witnessed, they have other problems.

27 Chad February 11, 2012 at 4:02 am

Gamma World combined the two ideas in a pretty fun way, while keeping the essential power baseline expectations of 4e: you got an 18 for your ‘Primary’, a 16 for your ‘Secondary’, and rolled the rest. If your primary and secondary were the same stat, you got a 20 and rolled the rest. I’ve toyed with it for D&D, and it’s fun.

Even without rolling, though, group chair building is highly recommended. I don’t find the stat-building to be the biggest impediment to group chargen sessions, but the very large number of options that leads to a heads-down, research-like experience. It’s still pretty good to get people together and work as a group on the big decisions, even if people mostly don’t collaborate on the finishing steps. I recommend it, although you might have to coerce your players into it, especially if they’re used to staring at the Character Builder the whole time (and what a terrible UI mismatch that is :/).

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