Friday, January 27, 2017

Generating Ability Scores in B/X D&D, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, etc. (How I like to do it these days)


I've used many methods to generate ability scores in my games over the years.  We started, of course, with 3d6 in order, letting the fates decide what type of characters we would play.  We quickly moved to 3d6, arrange them as we wished, in order to give ourselves the ability to make character whose stats better matched the classes that we wanted to play.  We tried the approach of rolling up 6 characters apiece with 3d6 in order and then choosing the one that we liked the best.  Later, we moved on to 4d6 drop the lowest.  We even experimented with 2d6 + 6 in our real power gaming days.
These days though, I like to use a slightly different approach.  I have players roll up two characters with 3d6 in order, and then allow them to swap one score from one of the characters with any one score of the other character.  This allows them the opportunity to get the prime requite that they want for at least one of their characters, while still allowing fate to play a role.  The caveat here is that they must equip both characters, and choose one to be their starting character and the other to be their replacement character should the first die under unfortunate circumstances (as characters are wont to do at first level).

Example:

Character 1:

STR: 11
INT:   9
WIS:  9
DEX: 11
CON: 10
CHR:  17

Character 2:

STR: 10
INT:   8
WIS:  12
DEX: 11
CON: 14
CHR:  9

The 17 in the first character's charisma is a prime target for moving, so lets say that we swap that with the strength score of the second character, ending up with one character who would make a good fighter and another who would make a good torchbearer. :-)

Torchbearer:

STR: 11
INT:   9
WIS:  9
DEX: 11
CON: 10
CHR:  10

Fighter:

STR: 17
INT:   8
WIS:  12
DEX: 11
CON: 14
CHR:  9

I think that this presents an interesting dilemma for the player.  Do you go with your best character first, or do you test the dungeon with your lesser character, expecting him or her to die and allowing you to trade up?  We've had many instances where a player took their best character first and sadly wound up playing the other after the first encounter.  We've also had at least one instance where the player took an obviously inferior character as their first, and through incredible luck they ended up surviving and never getting around to using the character with better stats.
So what about everyone else?  Do you have a method of character generation that you prefer which you think is a bit off the wall but works for you?
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