After all six characteristics have been rolled and recorded on a separate sheet of paper or other permanent record for the character, the player decides what class the character will be, This decision is based on the character's strongest abilities and the player's preferences.On this model, you roll the dice, take a look at what you've got, and choose a class accordingly. There are class-specific provisions for 2-for-1 and 3-for-1 swapping of points between abilities, but otherwise you get what you get. That's why I still use the term "character generation" rather than "character creation" when talking about rolling up a new D&D persona: until you roll those dice and record the results, there's no way of knowing whether you'll be playing a fighting man or a magic-user.
In the passage quoted above, Holmes states the choice of character class should be based on "the character's strongest abilities and the player's preferences." This comports well with the sample character in Volume 1 of the LBBs, Xylarthen, whose Wisdom is higher than his Intelligence and thus "would have progressed faster as a Cleric, but because of a personal preference for magic opted for that class."
This is a line of thought carried through into Moldvay's rules as well.
To choose a class, a player should first look for his or her highest ability scores. If one of the high scores is the prime requisite for a class, the player should consider making his or her character a member of that class.Again, the implication here is that the choice of a character class is, to a large degree, one makes after one has rolled the dice, not beforehand.
I found myself thinking about this because, earlier today, I'd re-read the original appearance of the barbarian sub-class for AD&D, which Gary Gygax offered up for consideration in issue 63 of Dragon (July 1982). Unlike most sub-classes, the barbarian has no ability score prerequisites. Instead, Gygax offers an unusual method for determining ability scores:
- Strength: best 3 of 9D6
- Intelligence: 3D6
- Wisdom: 4D4
- Dexterity: best 3 of 7D6
- Constitution: best 3 of 8D6
- Charisma: 3D6
As I said, my concept of character generation is heavily influenced by the way we read Holmes back in the day. One did not decide in advance to play a fighter or a thief; that was what one decided after rolling the dice and seeing the ability scores generated. I've always found this approach useful for two reasons. First, it breaks me of the habit of playing the same classes over and over again. Left to my own devices, I gravitate toward fighters or clerics but random rolling occasionally forces me out of my comfort zone into classes I otherwise might not choose. Second, it makes the prerequisites for sub-classes meaningful. Paladins, for example, are clearly meant to be rare -- "born, not made" -- and their rarity becomes increasingly notional outside of a 3D6-in-order scheme.
Clearly, this is an area where Gary had a different opinion from my own. He explains his position in a post to ENWorld from December 2003:
in 1972 we all rolled 3d6, but later when AD&D made the stats more meaningful, players would keep rolling until they got more viable numbers, so then we switched to various systems--roll seven or eight times with 3d6 and keep the six best totals or roll d4d and throw out the lowest die.It's funny to think about the Lake Geneva crew rolling and re-rolling characters until they got the "right" arrangement of ability scores, because, as a kid, I would have considered such behavior "cheating." To my friends and I, rolling ability scores was a bit like finding out which territories you start with in Risk or Illuminati. Will my next character be a fighter or a magic-user? Will he get an XP bonus? Mind you, I like a lot of randomness in my RPGs, so perhaps I'm just weird, but, nowadays especially, that's how I roll.
After all, the object of the game is to have fun, and weak PCs aren't much fun for most players. Even fine role-players want characters with at least one or two redeming stats...