Friday, July 28, 2017

So You Rolled a 3

Bad dice happen to good people.

When you play in old school games, a lot of folks trick out their stat generation methods, but a lot of people don't.  Whatever the options are, I like to go with the most hardcore method available. In my opinion, there's 3d6 in order... and there's everything else.

Even in my Game, Mythical Journeys (see the Featured Post!), there are other methods to do it. But for me, there's nothing like 3d6.

One reason is the stats are much more qualitative than quantitative.  The best (and worst) you will do is +/- 1 on isolated rolls.  Another reason is that player skill trumps character ability almost every time.

But what happens when you roll that 3?  When the dice gods are trolling you?  When half the table is laughing and the other half is beset by pity?  How do you make the best of a 3 on your character sheet?

My answer: since the numbers are largely qualitative, use them to spur your imagination.  Why does your man have a 3 in a particular stat?  How did that come to be? What does it say about him?  How has he overcome that 3 to become a functional person in his fictional world?

We will talk about specific scores of 3 going forward.


  1. I think what you say is exactly right.

    The other question is what the scores mean. Some take them to track the average across the population - in other words, a strength of 3 would indicate that you're as a weak as a child, or your grandmother, or whatever. I think this is silly. I interpret it as you're in the bottom 1/216 of trained adventurers. To compare it with professional athletics, you're a 5' 8" Basketball guard (are there any like that, anymore?) or a 150 lb. baseball player. And, yes, it doesn't have to make you pathetic. In a sense it can make you more heroic.

    I gave my players a mulligan (or rather a chance to trade points from other characteristics) on charisma, because I felt that this impacted self-worth in a potentially annoying way. Again, people tend to interpret it as an extreme - you have leprosy or are a hunchback, etc.

    Playing characters can be more fun when we're all just folks, not superheroes comparing whose biceps are marginally bigger.

    1. This is a good analysis. You know, I have always thought about the numbers as representative of the population as a whole. But this is a great example of having a different perspective and coming up with a different result.

      While in AD&D, all the strength values correlate to fairly exact amounts of weight, in previous editions you don't need to follow the AD&D formula.