Alternatives for Rolling for Stats

Oct 5, 2021 5:20 am
I recently ran into a different system for rolling for stats on 5E. Roll 4d6. Eliminate the lowest. Subtract that number from 27 so you can get two of your stats. For example, (4,5,3,2) makes 12 and 15. In case of a very low roll like (1,1,1,1), which would normally give a 24 and a 3, there is a max of 18 for a stat, which makes a 3 and 18. Any thoughts?
Oct 5, 2021 5:28 am
I would up the 3 to a 9. Other than that, it's fine. Not sure I would choose it over some other options.
Oct 5, 2021 5:32 am
raven_179 says:
which would normally give a 24 and a 3, there is a max of 18 for a stat, which makes a 3 and 18.
Why not make that 9 and 18? Subtract as many as you can without letting the higher number go over 18.

This does seem like it will result middle-of-the-road PCs, very average and possibly boring. If you are going to roll for stats, then it should be exiting and give wild results, no?
Oct 5, 2021 5:46 am
I do kind of like the idea because the rolls will always average out to the same. So while one PC might have more average stats across the board while another has more highs and lows, nobody will just be better in everything. Not sure why you'd do 4D6 drop lowest for this method rather than straight 3D6, though

Or why you would subtract from 27, rather than 21


Oct 5, 2021 5:54 am
Yeah, it's interesting. I'll have to think about the math more carefully to really decide.

At first glance, you have more ways to roll a really good stat: you can roll it the natural way, or you can roll a bad stat. Anything 9 or lower will generate an 18 alongside the bad roll. The reverse is not as bad; rolling high will get you a lower stat, but the floor is pretty high. Like, if you get a natural roll of 18 it will also produce a 9, which isn't terrible.

So, you'll probably get overall higher stats but with the possibility of a few weak stats and very low chance of producing completely unusable stats.


Oct 5, 2021 6:02 am
I don't think you'll get a lot of lukewarm PCs from this method. The most "bland" PC you can get is from rolling three 13s, which gives you the array 13,13,13,14,14,14. This is beyond what you can make with 27 point buy (would cost 36 points). With racial bonuses gets you at a 16 in your primary stat and would make a pretty great character.

From poor roles, you could get as a worst case 3,3,3,18,18,18. There would definitely be people that would consider this playable, but also some that would not.
Oct 5, 2021 6:16 am
Yea, looking it over again, this seems to be less a method of "Let's balance everyone's stats" like I originally thought and more a way to get some stronger characters with some balance
Oct 5, 2021 2:53 pm
Origins for Five Torches Deep has this thing where some lineages roll 5 dice keeping the 3 middle ones.

But personally, my favorite has always been the organic character generation from 3.5's DM's Guide.

- Roll 4d6, drop lowest in order.
- You are allows to re-roll 1 stat, but must keep it even if it is worse than the original (so a bit of press your luck element here).
- You then get to switch two.

This still allows you to pick up the class you wanted to, but might leave you to deal with a weakness you did not plan on had you placed all your scores where you wanted them, sort of like in real life.
Oct 6, 2021 4:06 am
A gaming pal of mine, Jim Ingram, came up with this -- I think it's pretty cool.
Oct 6, 2021 5:52 am
step 2 is selectively placed, where step 3 is randomly placed?
Oct 6, 2021 6:01 am
I do like this card method. I'll have to try it out some time
Oct 6, 2021 6:11 am
I do like the 'random element followed by a choice and then another random element', is allows for (the semblance of) some control while still be random enough to justify the effort.


Oct 6, 2021 6:43 am
I like it a lot, thanks for sharing Harrigan!

I wonder if there's a bit of a card counting aspect to it. Since you can see which cards have been dealt, you have some information of what cards are left that you might be able to use to your advantage. For example, if you know a bunch of low numbers are left for step 3, you might want to shore up a weak score while you can in step 2. Not sure how much it matters, but it give nerds something to think about.
Oct 6, 2021 12:28 pm
That is very cool.

One advantage of point buy is it ensures that no character has much better scores than another character.

That benefit could be duplicated here by:
Discarding all clubs at the start. Now everybody's scores will sum to 63. The probability of a character starting with the elusive 18 becomes 1 in 11 (rather than 1 in 36.4).

But the players will prefer point buy as that gives a total ability score of between 69 and 75.
Wait! This system can do that too.

Discard the ace and two of spades, club and diamonds. So the random deck is 3,4,5,6 of spades, clubs and diamonds.
Deal six cards, do the placing hearts thing, then deal the last six cards.

Now everybody's scores will sum to the same 75 (same as the best point buy), and there's a chance of getting an 18 (which there isn't in point buy).
Oct 6, 2021 12:56 pm
Another method I've heard of before Involves negatives and positive dice all scores start at 10 you have the following dice to add or subtract from your scores.
Negative Dice: 1d4
Positive Dice: 1d8, 1d8 1d4, 1d6,
Oct 6, 2021 1:39 pm
I've just tried adapting Harrigan's method using GP's dice roller (with the modification to make it the same as point buy).

A) Write down the numbers: 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6
B) In GP roll: 1d12, 1d11, 1d10, 1d9, 1d8, 1d7
C) For each result count along (skipping crossed out numbers), take the number and cross it off. You should now have 6 numbers (and 6 crossed off).
D) Under each number you've taken assign 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
E) In GP roll: 1d6, 1d5, 1d4, 1d3, 1d2
F) Repeat step C.
G) Sum the totals
A) I write down: 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6

B) Now I roll.

C) The first roll is a 5, counting along my list that's a 4 in my first column. I take it and cross it out

Numbers remaining Abilities
3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6 4

Next, a 10, counting along (skipping the crossed out 4) gives a 6.

Numbers remaining Abilities
3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6 4, 6

Repeating for all numbers

Numbers remaining Abilities
3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6 4, 6, 5, 5, 3, 4

The deck remaining contains two 6s. I decide I'm going to go for the 18 and I don't mind about a very low stat.

D) I write down my 1,2,3,4,5,6 under those abilities accordingly.

4, 6, 5, 5, 3, 4
2, 6, 5, 4, 1, 3

E) Now I roll the rest.

F) I complete the assignment as above.

4, 6, 5, 5, 3, 4
2, 6, 5, 4, 1, 3
3, 6, 3, 5, 6, 4

G) Add the columns for scores of: 9, 18, 13, 14, 10, 11

A quick checksum shows that they add to 75, so it's all correct.
Is it a bit of a faff on GP? Yes. But with a pad of paper, it's not too bad. It combines a little bit of steering, with some randomness, and ensures everyone's stats will add to 75. I really like it.

I'm going to allow this as an alternative to point buy (although I might have to help the player make sense of these mad instructions!).
Oct 6, 2021 3:35 pm
That reminds me, For Coin & Blood 2nd edition has an interesting way of rolling attributes, and though some of them are renamed, it still very much uses the classic 6-stats. Their attribute generation is a bit weird and convoluted, but here goes, in case this might interest anyone...

1. Pick your most important attribute and put a 12 in it. Then pick your next two most important attributes and put a 11 in them. Put a 10 in the remaining three.

2. Then roll five six-sided dice, and lay them out from left to right in any order you want. These dice are numbered #1 through #5 from left to right.

3. Then pick your most important attribute. Add the number on Dice #1 to it (generating a number between 13 and 18).

4. Now pick another attribute. Subtract Dice #1 from it. Then add Dice #2 to that same attribute.

5. Pick a third attribute. Subtract Dice #2 from it. Then add Dice #3 to it.

6. Pick a fourth attribute. Subtract Dice #3 from it, and then add Dice #4 to it.

7. Pick a fifth attribute, then subtract Dice #4 from it and add Dice #5.

8. With your last remaining attribute, subtract Dice #5.

Functionally, you'll do this:
• Attribute 1 (12) + D#1
• Attribute 2 (11) - D#1 + D#2
• Attribute 3 (11) - D#2 + D#3
• Attribute 4 (10) - D#3 + D#4
• Attribute 5 (10) - D#4 + D#5
• Attribute 6 (10) - D#5

I feel this makes for very low attributes, even for most OSR games, but keep in mind that for that for FC&B2, what is considered an average attribute ranges from 7-14...
Oct 7, 2021 2:42 am
runekyndig says:
step 2 is selectively placed, where step 3 is randomly placed?
Yup. Step 1 and 3 are drawn from the pared-down deck; you place the hearts where you want in Step 2. And it's not mine! Jim Ingram's -- great guy, playing in his Swords & Wizardry game tomorrow night.

When I ran across the convoluted system in For Coin and Blood I thought NEAT! And then never thought about it again. ;)

Rad-Hack, one of the dozens or hundreds of hacks of The Black Hack, does something neat: depending on your class, you generate attributes differently.

Human: 4d6 drop lowest -- if you roll 15+, roll 3d6 for the next stat instead. Swap them freely.
Mutant: Roll 1d20 down the line, reroll results of 1 or 20.
Psionic: STR, DEX, and CON are 2d6+2, INT, WIS and CHA are 4d6 drop lowest. Swap two stats if you want.
Robot: Point buy. All stats start at 8 and you have 27 points to spend. Stats above 13 cost 2pts, above 15 costs 4pts, etc. Max is 18.

You must embrace the chaos in Rad-Hack. It was a blast when I ran it last year -- the party's Mutant has INT 3 and STR 19. The player made him a barely sentient fungus...
Last edited October 7, 2021 2:43 am

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