Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cheating Methods

In thinking about the monk class recently, I consulted Philip Meyers's September 1981 article in Dragon, because it presents an alternative take on the class first introduced in OD&D's Supplement II. I like Meyers's approach in the article and it's definitely influenced my own take on the monk (about which I'll talk more in a future post), but what struck me when I was reading the article was the following passage:
Of all the character classes in the AD&D game, the class of monks is the most difficult to qualify for. A monk must have exceptional strength, wisdom, and dexterity, and -- if he or she wishes to survive for very long -- constitution.

The odds of rolling up such a character, even using the various "cheating methods" listed in the Dungeon Masters Guide, are not favorable.
The "cheating methods" Meyers references are those listed on page 11 of the DMG, under the header "Generation of Ability Scores." There, Gygax notes that
While it is possible to generate some fairly playable characters by rolling 3d6, there is often an extended period of attempts at finding a suitable one due to the quirks of the dice. Furthermore, rather marginal characters tend to have a short life expectancy -- which tends to discourage new players, as does have to make do with some character of a race and/or class which he or she really can't or won't identify with. Character generation, then, is a serious matter, and it is recommended that the following systems be used.
Method I is 4d6, discard the lowest, and arrange to taste. Method II is roll 3d6 12 times, pick the six highest, and arrange to taste. Method III is roll 3d6 in order six times for each ability score and take the highest result. Method IV is 3d6 in order but enough times to generate 12 characters and choose the character one likes best.

I've railed against both these methods and the rationale behind them before, so I won't do so again here. What I find interesting, though, is that Meyers explicitly deems these methods "cheating," a feeling I myself shared back in the day. I find it interesting not because Meyers agrees with my, but because it's a case where I think at least part of the culture of D&D players had come to accept a style of play that was not only counter to what Gygax had actually written but that was also counter to the way that Gygax and the Lake Geneva crew apparently played.

As I understand it, many of the Greyhawk players were unrepentant power gamers, rolling and re-rolling until they got the "right" array of ability scores for their characters. This is a behavior I never encountered in my own early days, brought up as I was on the sacredness of the notion of 3d6-in-order, no exceptions. Outside of the DMG, this was the rule in every D&D rulebook I'd ever seen until 3e, which formalized the 4d6-drop-the-lowest. But clearly this was not an approach Gygax continued to find conducive, as it is nowhere canonized in any AD&D rulebook and indeed is noted as being sub-optimal.

67 comments:

  1. I always used "roll 3d6 & place to choice," but I've been (as a wee Mordicai) guilty of rolling character after character until I had a decent result when it came to Rolemaster-- or well, to MERP, where I needed a high Presence to play a Noldor. I've come to exclusively prefer "point buy" methods, since while you lose the surprise of randomized stats, it minimizes friction in character generation. Play what you want to play-- ideas over math, you know? Not that I'm denying the notion that math can force you to have new & interesting ideas-- constraints can creature opportunities.

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  2. There is a strong tendency towards munchkinism in many gamers: the desire to have above average, statistically interesting characters. I see it all the time in the young kids my son plays D&D and other games with. It doesn't help that the AD&D rules provide character classes that can only be accessed with statistically improbable dice rolls: monks, paladins, and so on.

    Instead of providing access to those classes based on stats, perhaps going back to OD&D and allowing them based on levels earned before you can switch to the more powerful class, would reduce the propensity, or pressure, for stat inflation.

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  3. Three considerations:

    What do you do with 3d6-in-order when you want to play a Paladin? The probability of rolling a 17+ Charisma alone, much less the other required attributes, is just over 0.2%, when rolling 3d6 in order.

    On the other hand, rolling 3d6 and *placing* them in order (i.e., selecting where the first roll will go before rolling the second time, and so forth) retains some of the unpredictability of score distributions, but gives you a fighting chance of rolling something you like.

    Also, floating around the web there was a pseudo-random method that guaranteed even point distribution that went something like this:

    Roll 3d6 and re-roll anything less than 9 for the first attribute.
    2nd attribute = 27 - 1st score.
    3rd attribute = 3d6, re-roll anything less than 7.
    4th attribute = 25 - 3rd score.
    5th attribute = 3d6, re-roll anything less than 5.
    6th attribute = 23 - 5th score.

    You can arrange the pairs of scores as you go, or after all numbers have been generated. Every character therefore has 75 points over all six attributes.

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  4. and how useful is the monk, compared with the fighter, under normal circumstances of dungeoneering?

    I cheated all over the place, shamelessly, back in the 80s. Now I don't, and I'm more accepting of character death. but the way we played back then, if you lost your character there was some chance you'd be out of the game, at least for a while, and you'd certainly lose all your loot to your compadres.

    I say drop the prerequisites. what function do they serve?

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  5. ...or if you're set on playing a particular class, use 12+d6 or any other method that guarantees that this character will qualify. it has to be better than sitting rolling dice for hours.

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  6. When I was a kid, that was the only way we rolled scores - we kept on rolling 'til we got what we wanted.

    Nowadays, I am a 3d6-in-order guy. Not because I think it is "sacred," but because the years have turned me into a bitter old man. Mwuahahaha!

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  7. What do you do with 3d6-in-order when you want to play a Paladin?

    Ideally you experience an epiphany (perhaps involving swelling orchestra music, an angelic choir and/or a beam of pure radiance) wherein you realize that "wanting to play X" is completely incompatible with 3d6 in order. Instead, your heart is opened to the joy of playing the infinitely possible characters available to you, one of whom will eventually soldify out of the quantum foam when you throw the dice. With your new Buddha-like grace you simply play the character you roll.

    Personally I loathe all the canonical cheating methods. I think there are two and exactly two legit ways to generate scores for D&D characters:

    1) 3d6 in order
    2) write down whatever numbers you like

    Anybody stuck on "wants to play a X" should be using the second method. I've used this method before. One guy wrote down all 18's, including 18/00 Str. Somehow, we all survived the experience.

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  8. Back in the day we use to roll 4d6 and keep the three best, but tended to keep them in the order they were rolled. It's always been my preferred way of rolling up characters, although with the latest groups I've played with we allow the placement of scores wherever desired.

    But in my next campaign I am going to go with the straight 3d6 in order, and see what happens.

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  9. And that is why Jeff Rients is a god amongst D&D bloggers.

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  10. I've done this just about every way possible from 3d6 straight to point buy and honestly it works out as long as everyone uses the same method. If people use different methods, then you risk jealousy over perceived imbalance. Imbalance as it arises organically from the fundamental assumptions of the game is fine; imbalance in how rules are applied to different players causes problems, in my experience.

    4d6, drop lowest and arrange is probably the method I've used most. It allows the Lake Woebegone experience of everyone being above average (sic) that players seem to yearn for without entirely eliminating the experience of living with an occasional bad stat or two.

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  11. "Method I is 4d6, discard the lowest, and arrange to taste."

    This was the method I grew up with. We had messed around with D&D a lot when we were younger but we didn't really start playing seriously until our freshman year of high school (1989) so when we all went out to buy stuff 2nd edition was what was on the shelf - and 2nd edition definitely seemed to encourage this method.

    I know this is heresy around these parts, but I really think different editions require different methods. I play B/X exclusively these days (LL but same difference) and I DO think 3d6 in order is the only way to go with that ruleset or OD&D (S&W, whatever).

    But if I were to go back to AD&D, 1st or 2nd, I'd probably go back to 4d6 discard the lowest (die, not stat, as some people did). I just feel like the games were designed to accommodate different power levels.

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  12. @Jeff:

    What if I don't roll a high enough Wisdom to have the Buddha-like grace?

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  13. When rolling up D&D characters for con games, I throw 18d6 and then assign three of the dice to each score. This gives me some leeway ("Hmm. I need a Magic User. And maybe I should have Fighter with a high enough DEX to get an AC bonus ..."), but I'm still using the dice as rolled.

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  14. "Leomund's Tiny Hut", a Dragon Magazine column by Len Lakofka, once covered his ideas about how to start a campaign. He detailed his way of rolling a character, a method I used for many years. It went as follows:

    1. Generate 7 stats using the 4d6-lowest method. Preserve the order.

    2. These are applied to the character's six stats in the standard 1st edition order (Str, Int, Wis, Dex, Con, Cha). Any one of the seven rolls may be tossed (not necessarily the lowest). Two stats may then be switched.

    Examples:
    A roll of 13 12 7 16 10 9 17 could become a...
    cleric with S13 I12 W16 D10 C9 Ch17
    thief S17 I12 W7 D16 C10 Ch13
    magic user S12 I17 W7 D16 C10 Ch12

    Character stats thus allow most class choices, but aren't always optimal.

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  15. @John: I like that! Very sneaky, with a nice game-within-game element.

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  17. "When rolling up D&D characters for con games, I throw 18d6 and then assign three of the dice to each score."

    I've allowed players to do this in the past when running 1st edition. It gives them a chance to get 17's or 18's in one or two stats that they really want, but then they have some truly heinous dump stats elsewhere. Or they can distribute the dice in a more "average" fashion if they choose. And there's still a considerable amount of luck involved.

    Usually, though, I go with "roll 3D6 six times and arrange as desired." That lets players get the race and class they want MOST of the time, while still retaining a random element, so I find it an acceptable compromise.

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  18. Jeff Rients you couldn't of said it any better.

    As for myself, just roll 3d6 for five or eight new PC's (with the commitment of eventually playing each and every one no matter how " bad" their stats may be) as chances are one out of those new character's will fit the requirements for whatever class you want to play.

    As for anyone wanting to play a PC's with all 18's. Sure, I have no problem.So long as he knows what Dave Hargrave called his" power attracts power" rule, that is the more powerful your PC's are, the more powerful things will be interested in you; a first level Paladin with all 18's might ended up fighting a few additional orcs at the Caves of Chaos in the course of the game or encounter that rare random Wight who entered the Caverns of Quasqueton just the other day. So basically, the odds of survival have just gotten a bit lower for your "mighty" character.

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  19. Are you implying the Tomb of Horrors stalks 1st-level characters with all 18's?

    That's pretty sweet. Your PC wakes up one morning, and outside the inn a hill with three tunnels has appeared...

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  20. My comment made more sense when crowking's post mentioned Tomb of Horrors instead of Caves of Chaos. Didn't know you can edit comments after submission...

    Being stalked by the Tomb of Horrors is still awesome though.

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  21. I will say that, while I have no problem with allowing players to arrange stats as desired, any method that rolls more than 18 dice to generate six stats crosses the line into what I would consider lame munchkinism and "cheating." Just my opinion of course.

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  22. The 1996 Lankhmar box set includes a complete rules set (80 pages) for simplfied 2e that covers levels 1-6. The only method of stat generation it has is 4d6 drop the lowest. That may be the first D&D rules set to make this the official method.

    I just know this because it came in the mail and I was pleasently surprised by the rules set so I'm working on a review.

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  23. Jeff - my secret agenda behind wanting to drop all prerequisites was to enable people to play paladins who were a bit crap. After all, it's what's in your heart that counts, right? Heroes are heroes because they step up, not because they go to hero school. You don't fight evil because the woman down the job center said that was what you had an aptitude for, you fight it because you see it mus be fought.

    So I'm in favour of low int magic users (get your friends to give you their scrolls!) and weakling fighters and clumsy thieves. It's an opportunity. You are the little goblin that could!
    (and no, I'm actually not being sarcastic)

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  24. Not true. 2nd edition AD&D encouraged players to use different methods of rolling up characters. When I was introduced to the game, in 1986, both groups I played with used their own versions of a roll 4d6 and drop the lowest method of character generation. I think what 2nd edition tried to do, and what 3rd edition succeeded in doing, was to take all of these house rules that a majority of players had developed over time and they just began incorporating them into the official rules.

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  25. I don't have a copy of the 2e PHB handy, so can anyone who does tell me how it describes the process of generating ability scores?

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  26. 3d6 in order. The DMG contains the other methods.

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  27. Matthew,

    Thank you. That was my recollection as well but I wanted to be sure I wasn't misremembering.

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  28. Oh, actually the PHB contains the additional methods, but 3d6 in order is Method I. The meory plays tricks!

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  29. Memory, that is. Anyway, yeah, methods II-VI appear as optional "ask your game master" methods in the PHB, whilst the DMG goes into detail as to the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

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  30. Many of the games I played in (and some of which I ran), were each player having independent moves in an overall campaign framework. Unless player characters actually met up in play, it tended to be a one-on-one game.

    This meant that you were perfectly free to not play the character you just rolled, but then that also meant you lost out on your place in the rotation and had to wait until your next scheduled time before you could play. And considering the larger games could have 30 or more active characters (although most games had less than 10), this could take some time.

    [Disclaimer, myself, and a few others, used 4d6, take any 3 (and yes, someone did take the lowest 3 a couple of times). Others used straight 3d6, especially if they tended to run pre-Greyhawk original D&D games. In all cases though, the numbers were what you rolled for each stat (no swapping or boosting stats, and no trading for prime requisite).]

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  31. So I'm in favour of low int magic users (get your friends to give you their scrolls!) and weakling fighters and clumsy thieves. It's an opportunity.

    I totally agree with this. That's why I like versions of the game that have no prerequisites for the basic classes.

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  32. So now we're calling alternative attribute generation methods "cheating"? Yeesh. Is a DM fudging a few rolls to save the party's skin cheating? How about selecting magic items instead of rolling randomly when stocking a dungeon? Uh oh, the DM didn't roll for wandering monsters! He must be cheating. I don't think it's really anyone's business how stats are rolling in an individual DM's campaign. If he wants to use 9D6-drop-6, you can certainly call that "a seriously skewed curve" but it's certainly not cheating.

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  33. Cripes, if someone's heart is set on playing a Paladin, just give him the base 17 CHA and let him roll the other stats in order.

    That's what I always felt should be done, not that I or my friends ever considered Paladinhood for a character.

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  34. To me, the point of random ability score generation is that you don't control the outcome: the dice dictate whether your character is strong, smart, agile, etc. and you play the hand you're dealt. Fate plays a role in determining what sort of character you play this time around. The resulting inequality of ability scores among characters is a negative but arguably acceptable side effect of this method: the point of randomness is to make players play a variety of characters, not to make some characters flat-out better than others.

    The alternative methods seem to be designed to do away with the virtue of the system (fate's hand in character creation) while keeping its downside: anyone who wants to be a paladin can be, but some paladins will be just plain better than others. To make things worse, the systems themselves are generally inelegant with a "use the dice, but keep re-rolling until you get the right result" kind of feel to them.

    If you don't want a player's class/race selection to be determined or guided by fate or chance, why not just let the character's ability scores be a consequence of the player's choices, rather than the other way around. For example, a character's ability scores (and money and hit points) could be determined based on the class, race, weapon proficiencies, and other selections.

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  35. Brad, I didn't know you dirty rotten cheater types were so sensitive! But seriously, in a world of open campaigns with characters migrating from one DM's table to another, I could see why Philip Meyers took umbrage at the practice in 1981.

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  36. My experience with stat rolling has been very different from yours, James. When I started playing with 2e rules, not only did my buddy and I use all sorts of shenanigans to get sweet stats, but I remember passing idle moments alone by rolling stats. I would roll d6s until I got two good scores in a row, then scribble them down, and then roll four more. If I got a 'decent' set of six (at least two 17+'s and another two 15+'s), I'd save that paper scrap for my next character. It was silly; I might as well have just written down six 18s, but I was a kid and I rolling those dice was fun.

    And from the games I've played and the conversations I've had with other stat-rollers, I've found that my experience isn't unique. Just recently I met a real old skooler, and we had a good laugh over cheating methods and actual outright stat cheating. He told me how, if he somehow got stuck with 'unplayable' stats, he would immediately kamikaze his character in order to roll again. Again, this is all very silly, but then again I've never met a DM willing to just let a player have that 17 Cha to play a paladin. Strangely though, a lot of DMs are perfectly willing to believe that every one of their players honestly rolled well enough at home to get into the 'good' classes.

    Anyhoo, I'm no expert on OD&D, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Meyers was being snide when he put quotes around "cheating methods." He could have called the other methods any number of terms -- nonstandard, types I-IV, generous, etc. -- but he chose "cheating." He also could have left the quotes out, and let his term stand as a matter-of-fact statement, but he didn't. I could easily be wrong, but it appears that he used the term cheating, in quotes, as a sort of snide pass at purists who fuss about ability generation.

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  37. James said: "'Leomund's Tiny Hut', a Dragon Magazine column by Len Lakofka, once covered his ideas about how to start a campaign..."

    Hey, thank you for that reference! I use a "swap two" option myself (seems very elegant), first saw it in 3E, was wondering where that first came from.

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  38. @Jeff: Well, that's the issue, isn't it? I can understand AD&D having the straight 3D6 listed as the default method so that characters could enter tournaments, play in other campaigns, etc. This means you'd NEVER see a Paladin or Monk without thinking the player was cheating. And I'm sure those characters were played in plenty of campaigns and at GenCon tournaments. The real problem is AD&D doesn't work worth a crap with a standard 3D6 bell curve. D&D, yes. Moldvay/Mentzer, a 3D6 is perfect. But AD&D, you are just asking for serious pain.

    The real problem here, I think, is that AD&D itself created most of the power creep. Before, there was no concrete reason to have an 18, but in AD&D, that meant a ton. The newer versions are even worse. I remember legitimately rolling up a character with two 18s with 3D6 down the line for a Mentzer game. The DM saw me roll it, told me I had to start over because another player might think I was cheating. I cannot remember any game I played in after I started with AD&D that every character didn't have at least one 18. C'est la vie.

    Oh, I'll also point out that my best characters always had the crappiest attributes. STR 9 fighter with all stats below 12, got that sucker up to 9th level over a summer when we played every day. My 18/00 STR, 18 CON and DEX barbarian died the first session.

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  39. The real problem is AD&D doesn't work worth a crap with a standard 3D6 bell curve. D&D, yes. Moldvay/Mentzer, a 3D6 is perfect. But AD&D, you are just asking for serious pain.

    I just plain don't understand what you are saying here. Is the system non-functional if most proto-PCs only qualify for a few classes?

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  40. When one of my players loses a character I provide them their choice of a new one from a pile of pregens.

    I didn't roll a single dice when making up those pregens. I just jotted down some whimsical numbers.

    They play those characters like they had rolled them up themselves!

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  41. I use a different method . . .
    FIRST select your race and class
    and THOSE two factors determined what is rolled for specific stats . . .

    if your abilities are LOW,
    stop whining, ability scores increase with experience and training . . .

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  42. Meh. Like your Ability scores mattered after character creation in orthodox D&D? It's not like any of the important game mechanics relies on them - they just provided modifiers. You could actually play a PC with no defined ability scores - just assume he is "average" = no modifiers.

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  43. Captain Jack nails it, I think.

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  44. Geez, what a bunch of nancy boys. If you roll up a crappy character, do like we did back in the good old days: Gird your loins, buck up your courage, get a firm grasp on your sword, and run screaming bloody murder straight into the first evil critter you see as you walk into the dungeon (preferably, a group of such critters). You'll soon be rolling up a new character, hopefully with much better stats.....

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  45. @Jeff - No, I simply mean that the game ASSUMES there will be high ability scores, as stated in the books themselves. Thus, the rules are written for that power curve. Monsters, spells, etc., all are written with more powerful characters in mind.

    Don't misunderstand me, I'm not advocating doling out 18 STRs like candy, and when we played AD&D it was usually 3D6, arranged. But you can't ignore the fact that a D&D character with all 9s in his ability scores is much different than an AD&D character with all 9s, especially for spell-casting classes. The D&D character isn't limited whatsoever, but the AD&D character is.

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  46. @ Jeff Rients
    "I just plain don't understand what you are saying here. Is the system non-functional if most proto-PCs only qualify for a few classes?"

    I think it is, kind of, if you have limited opportunities to play. If I play once a week for a few hours, I can REPEATEDLY use badmike's method:

    "If you roll up a crappy character, do like we did back in the good old days: Gird your loins, buck up your courage, get a firm grasp on your sword, and run screaming bloody murder straight into the first evil critter you see as you walk into the dungeon (preferably, a group of such critters). You'll soon be rolling up a new character, hopefully with much better stats"

    Otherwise, I could be waiting a long ass time before I get to play a Monk or whatever. Beyond that, as a ref, I don't want to have to run the game with players who are unhappy out of the gate, or with players who just want to kill off their characters so they can make a new one. That shit is funny sometimes, but it can take hold of a campaign, turning the whole thing into a farce and then it gets boring fast, for me at least.

    Like you, I prefer versions of the game without prerequisites, but I don't see why AD&D can't be that game. The problem is no more than a really, really simple house rule away from resolution.

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  47. Setting aside the propriety of different rolling philosophies, out of pure curiosity, I plotted the probability of what the 6-stat average would be for both the 4d6 and 12 x 3d6 (take top 6) methods. The results are at

    http://augustcouncil.com/~tgibson/dice.pdf

    Based on the plot, the 12 x 3d6 method will get you higher stats on average.

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  48. After the first couple of years (which used straight 3d6), my game never used prerequisites.

    One of the reasons for this was you had a choice of choosing your class before or after you rolled the dice. If you choose before, you got to keep all 4 dice in the appropriate prime requisite stat (note the singular); if you choose afterwards you had 4 dice take the best 3 in each stat, but could choose a class where you might be better suited. Whereas if you took the first option and rolled a 5 (as happened once), that was your characteristic.

    [Technically there was a 5% XP penalty for every characteristic that failed to make the minimum grade, but I never actually implemented that in play (just as I tended to ignore xp bonuses). I generally found that having a low characteristic (as I would on occasion make rolls directly against the characteristic for performing certain actions) was penalty enough.]

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  49. "Damn, the woman down at the job center said I had to be an Abjurer. What did you get stuck with, Kevin?"

    "Barbarian."

    In my game I do 3d6 in order, you roll your 6 stats plus your money. You then swap any two.

    Note that low stats in general means the referee can put in cool things like the special brew you can drink at the Fire Giant festival that, if you survive it, grants a permanent +1 CON or something. Magical fountains, boons from demigods whose altars you fixed up, gypsy blessings for good deeds, magic tomes, crystalline meteors that bonk you on the head, etc. Just because you don't start with an 18 STR doesn't mean you can never get one.

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  50. Just to clarify: I didn't mean to imply that 4d6 drop the lowest was the default method in 2nd ed - only that, as I said, the game (top to bottom, power level wise, monsters and all) definitely seemed to encourage what the authors called, in the discussion of ability scores in the PHB, "truly heroic" characters. I've come to prefer the lower power levels of B/X and OD&D myself but I still think 4d6 drop the lowest is a good fit for AD&D. But to each his own of course.

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  51. If the guy who writes the rules presents an alternate method to generating your ability scores, how is that cheating? It's in the official rule book.

    The stats for AD&D characters were a lot different from OD&D. In the Basic Game you started getting bonuses at 13, specifically 13-15 +1, 16-17 +2, 18 +3. The version I use for an example was from 1981 so the earlier edition might be different. Feel free to correct me. For AD&D You needed much higher stats in most cases, to gain any bonuses to anything. Strength required at least a 16 to gain a measly +1 to damage. Dex of 15 gave your character a -1 to AC while Con of 15 gave you a +1 to hit points. Most characters couldn't benefit from the high stats though. Only fighters (and their subclasses) could have % strength. Hit point bonuses from Constitution scores could not be better than a +2 unless you were a fighter. If you ask me, the whole AD&D stat system was just jacked-up. In Basic/expert D&D your Magic user with the 13 Intelligence could go all the way to the upper levels, fighters with marginal strength scores were still viable and success in any of the classes really depended more on what you did with your character AFTER you rolled it up.

    The alternate methods for Character Generation were a band-aid to fix a problem that the game designers had created with their sub-classes and more intricate rules systems. Even the guys at TSR were "cheating". Take a look at the stats of their characters from the 1st edition Rogues Gallery and tell me they rolled straight 3d6 in order.

    ...okay maybe Sir Robilar was generated that way but I doubt that most of the others were.

    Incidentally, 3rd edition made all the stats uniform in their bonuses and made those bonuses more accessible to lower scores. Much more in keeping with the original rules, no?

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  52. You guys cheat like pussies! You wanna see some real cheating, check out this...

    I find it unbelievable for all the stats to be completely unrelated to each other.

    I think Strength and Constitution should be strongly related to each other because you can't get extremely strong without being or getting quite healthy too, you can't be or get extremely healthy without also being or getting a bit strong too, if you're extremely weak then you can't stay very healthy, and if you're extremely sickly then you can't get very strong.

    I think Dexterity should be related to Strength and Constitution because you can't be extremely dexterous if you're too weak or sickly.

    I think Comeliness should be related to Strength, Constitution and Dexterity because you can't be extremely good-looking if you're too weak, sickly or clumsy.

    I think Charisma should be related to Strength, Constitution, Dexterity and Comeliness because you can't be extremely charismatic if you're too weak, sickly, clumsy or ugly.

    I think Charisma should also be related to Intelligence and Wisdom because you can't be extremely charismatic if you're too stupid or foolish either.

    I think Intelligence and Wisdom should be related to each other because you can't be extremely intelligent if you're too foolish, and you can't be extremely wise if you're too stupid.

    So I do this...

    Strength has 1 die of its own, 1 die in common with Constitution, and 1 die in common with Constitution, Dexterity, Comeliness and Charisma.

    Constitution has 1 dies of its own, 1 die in common with Strength, and 1 die in common with Strength, Dexterity, Comeliness and Charisma.

    Dexterity has 2 dice of its own and 1 die in common with Strength, Constitution, Comeliness and Charisma.

    Comeliness had 2 dice of its own and 1 die in common with Strength, Constitution, Dexterity and Charisma.

    Charisma has 1 die of its own, 1 die in common with Strength, Constitution, Dexterity and Comeliness, and 1 die in common with Intelligence and Wisdom.

    Intelligence has 2 dice of its own and 1 die in common with Charisma and Wisdom.

    Wisdom has 2 dice of its own and 1 die in common with Charisma and Intelligence.

    That’s 14 dice total that I let players roll and arrange however they want.

    How's that for cheating?

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  53. crystalline meteors that bonk you on the head etc.
    My favourite way for a PC to acquire 18 strength is to have them body-swapped with a stone golem or something.

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  54. The moralizing language in this post and thread is absurd. I know "old school" attitudes encourage such purism and sectarianism, but come on. By The Sword nails it on the head above: "If the guy who writes the rules presents an alternate method to generating your ability scores, how is that cheating? It's in the official rule book." Back in the day, my gaming group allowed any of the official methods in the 1e DMG for AD&D games.

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  55. The moralizing language in this post and thread is absurd.

    Agreed. The only thing that would be more absurd would be to moralize about it.

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  56. By The Sword said: "The stats for AD&D characters were a lot different from OD&D. In the Basic Game you started getting bonuses at 13, specifically 13-15 +1, 16-17 +2, 18 +3. The version I use for an example was from 1981 so the earlier edition might be different. Feel free to correct me."

    Totally different: OD&D and Basic are not the same game. (Although OD&D is the common root of both Basic & AD&D.) In original D&D/LBBs, abilities only modify missiles, hit points, and XP; nothing else. As of Sup-I you get ability tables that are basically the same as AD&D.

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  57. Michael is correct. People are moralizing with their "cheating" comments. Gimme a break. This kind of talk gives us old guys a bad name. But we're not all such curmudgeons.

    Just play how you want to play.

    :)

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  58. I think there are two and exactly two legit ways to generate scores for D&D characters:
    1) 3d6 in order
    2) write down whatever numbers you like


    Wow.

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  59. Jeff's awesome post tempts me to convert to Buddhism. ;)

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  60. 3d6 in order was never held sacred by my group, but we did use it for some of our first characters. We were playing ADnD 2nd edition, where the "cheater" methods are in the PHB.
    Eventually, we came up with the house rule of 3d6, re-roll ones. Which tended to give you more middle-of-the-road to average characters, and then we had the option of dropping a point from one stat to add a point to another. This gave us the freedom to play the type of character (not necessarily the class) that we wanted. By the time we stopped playing, who your character was became infinitely more important than what your character was and the numbers just provided the frame work. I will now go drink and sing laments to Krom about my current group of power-gaming players.

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  61. Method IV is 3d6 in order but enough times to generate 12 characters and choose the character one likes best.

    Nothing cheaterous about this method, especially if you keep all 12 characters as your "stable" from which to generate all future characters in the campaign.

    I also have a lot of statistic-boosting magic in my world (pools and what-not), and I rule that if you later qualify for a subclass you can switch to it at any time (i.e. a Fighter becoming a Paladin as implied in Greyhawk) rather than having to qualify for it right from the beginning. —Falconer

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  62. Back when I started playing D&D and AD&D (around 1980), roll 4d6, drop the lowest, and arrange as desired seemed to be the default for everyone I knew. I never encountered anyone who rolled 3d6 straight down. Consequently, the 4d6 method always seemed to be the 'natural' and 'fair' method to me, even today.

    Strange how the local 'D&D culture' in which one begins playing can shape one's perceptions of such things.

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  63. Lately, when I run, I foist a completely new method on my players. I like it a lot, so I'm going to push it here... :D

    Take a deck of 18 cards comprised of some combination of 1s through 6s (distribution effects average stat, adjust for group preference) plus two extra 2s. Deal out six piles of three cards each (assign to stats or not, per DM preference). The player can then add his two 2s to any stat(s), as long as that doesn't make anything greater than 18.

    It's random, so people don't know exactly what they are getting. It's "fair" in that super high scores tend to be balanced with other low scores. It's engaging because players can tweak the outcome a little bit with the 2s if they really want more WIS, or not to have an INT of 3.

    Enjoy!

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  64. I think one of the serious flaws in older RPG’s is unbalanced character types. The reason Gygax et. al made Paladins and Monks hard to qualify for is that they were patently better than standard issue Fighters. Throw in Psionics and it was possible to have a freakishly powerful demi-god type running around with a party of peasants. To me as a GM, there is NOTHING inherently wrong with a PC desiring to portray a Paladin of Monk if that’s what would be fun for him – it’s the Rules System itself that led to Munchkinism just by implying that some Character Types were more powerful than others. While I like the “Swords & Wizardry” approach to old-school gaming, randomly generated characters to me are obsolete. It’s the reason Villains & Vigilantes is not as popular as HERO System / Champions – random heroes are inherently NOT one’s “fantasy”, and these are Fantasy RPGs…

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  65. I like 3d6 in order. And I like that certain exotic classes have higher prerequisites. I'd just like for them to be a bit lower. For instance, I think I'd allow anyone who rolled 13+ in all theier paladiny stats (str, wis, cha-- anything else?) to play a paladin.

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  66. It might also be worthwhile to say that Paladin is just a certificate you get when you have a Fighter or Cleric with qualifying stats.

    There coule be a lot of certificate classes, and you can get a lot of ideas from Dragon Magazine and 3E Prestige Classes.

    But it would act more like a 2E kit, just that you could have multiple kits if you qualified. For example, you might have a Fighter/Thief with really high stats all around, and he could qualify for Paladin or Assassin based on stats, but the Paladin certificate requires Lawful Good while the Assassin certificate requires any Evil. Mutually exclusive.

    This also allows multiple classes to qualify for a certificate. A Fighter or Thief could qualify for Ranger for example. Any non-Cleric might qualify for Bard. But then certain ones might be specific to a class, like Cavalier requiring Fighters only.

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