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Monday, December 17, 2012

Let 'em Pick

I've been following another thread about yet another dice rolling scheme for ability scores. Although 3d6 in order is acknowledged as being at least the default in the old school, people still toy with ways of raising the average ability score, or making it easier to get paladinhood.

A couple years ago, I remember someone saying that alternative dice schemes are unnecessary; the only methods of character generation you need are 3d6 in order or just letting the player pick whatever scores they want. I haven't really considered that second option, especially as an option for individual players, but I think you could make this work and still maintain the "adapt to what you're given" feel for all players.

What I'm imagining here is that each player has an option for each ability score: either roll 3d6 and take what you get, or pick whatever score you want, but roll on some kind of random background table, which may give you bonus stuff or annoying drawbacks. This could be a single table, with one roll per 13+ ability score chosen. Or it could be a unique table for each race.

Or it could be a unique table for each ability. Instead of avoiding the 3d6 roll, the player decides whether a 3d6 roll will be applied to a given score, or to the table, with some kind of modification based on the score the player picks. I haven't decided yet what kind of modification this would be, but there are two possibilities:
  1. Use the bonus/penalty associated with that ability score. If you choose Strength 18 and that gives +3 damage or attack in the rules you are using, then you get a +3 on the background roll instead.
  2. Add the score itself to the background roll.
With the first method, the background roll table would have entries from 0 to 21. With the second method, the entries would be from 6 to 36, so there would need to be more possible results.


  1. This is interesting and I really like the idea, as I get grumbles from players due to my preference for the 3d6 in order methods. The alternative method I offer (just write in all your scores) is also shunned as "cheating." But in attempting to try and construct some tables, I encountered some things I couldn't quite reconcile.

    It started with wondering how the tables should be weighed. would it be low = drawbacks or high = drawbacks. Or should the positive and negative results be interspersed randomly?

    I was operating under the assumption that the intention was for chosen high ability scores to trigger drawbacks while choosing low scores would grant boons. Or should players using the system to raise scores also potentially benefit from a boon for choosing to do so?

    For example: In the first method the only way to receive the lowest entry for the table (0) would be to keep a rolled 3. Only if the player rolled and chose an 18 would the 21 occur. If the opposite occurs, the weighing of the tables becomes less clear: Player rolls an 18, chooses a 3, the net result is 15, but one would also get the same result of 15 if a 12 was rolled and replaced with an 18. If 15 is positive, it rewards the player for raising the score.

    In the second method: Are the high and low end of the table off-limits unless the player initially rolls and a 3 or an 18 and accepts that score? The situation with duplicate ways of arriving at the same table entry can also happen at this method: Rolls 10, takes 18 = 28. Rolls 17, takes 9 = 28.

    Maybe I'm over-thinking this, as most players would be unlikely to intentionally choose a lower score, and the system seems more useful to apply when players are actively placing a higher score, rather than accepting what is rolled.

    Although a boon table to incentivise or "take away the sting" from choosing to keep or intentionally placing a lower score might work. Along with a drawback table for raising the initial roll to a higher score.

    1. I'm not sure, but it sounds like you're assuming everyone gets a roll on the table. That's not what I was thinking at all. Also, I was thinking that the player makes the decision about how to use the roll before the roll is made: either "I'll take what I get" (and no risk of a drawback) or "I want to pick my score" (and roll on the table, with a modifier.)

      Other than that, I'm thinking high = drawback, only the very lowest would involve a boon, and some of the middle results would be mixed. I guess I'll have to put together a sample table.