Friday, 30 April 2010

Stats: 3d6

Thinking about character stats and methods, using this chart of cumulative probabilities on 3d6 for the high end. The chance of rolling a ...
18   = 0.5%
17+ = 1.9%
16+ = 4.6%
15+ = 9.3%
14+ = 16.2%
13+ = 25.9%
12+ = 37.5%
11+ = 50.0%

For straight 3d6, and 6 stat rolls per character, having a character with at least one score at:

18 = 2.7%; 
17+ = 10.6 %; 
15+ = 44.2%; 
13+ = 83.5%.

These numbers explain why I like the bonus system:

13-15 = +1
16-17 = +2
18 = +3

I feel this makes the best compromise between players' needs to play a distinct character, ease of use, and focus on player rather than character skills.

It justifies using 3d6, giving a special bonus to the truly rare rolls. (With a flat bonus at 13, you may as well roll d4 for the stat, giving the bonus on a 4 and penalty on a 1)

It makes sure a large majority of characters will have some bonus from stats, which goes a long way toward making players feel special. This is true even if +1 is just a token bonus to a d20 roll, overshadowed by the +2 or more that can be handed out based on player-skill choices. (With bonuses starting at 15, most characters will be unexceptional.)

What makes players obsess about stats is stuff like extra spells at low levels for high stats. A high stat should make a character 15-25% more effective at what he or she does best, not 100% more effective...


  1. I use a similar system
    After, selecting your character’s CLASS then generate your ability scores IN ORDER; roll 4d6 for each, retaining the highest three die results. When generating the primary ability score add +2 to the final result for that ability score (only).

    Twenty is the highest possible ability score for a newly generated character, this implies great aptitude. Players should not panic or despair if their initial scores are not as high as desired, these ability scores will increase with experience or game play (p.48).

    With higher ability scores we get a positive modifier to many die rolls in game play, thereby increasing the character’s chances of success. Low ability scores actually have a negative modifier to many die rolls, thereby decreasing the probability of success.

    SCORE … Description..Modifier

    .. < 3…. dismal.…. -4
    . 4 - 5 … feeble .. … -3
    . 6 - 7 … poor ….…. -2
    . 8 - 9 … inferior ... -1
    10- 12 .. average .….+0
    13- 15 … superior….. +1
    16- 17 .. impressive .+2
    18- 20 .. excellent….+3
    21- 24 .. great …….. +4
    25- 29 amazing ......+5
    30- 34 incredible .…+6
    35+ .. fantastic …....+7

    Since, I am pretty liberal about giving +1 bonuses for training and experience, as scores advance to superhuman levels, the bonus becomes smaller and is easily calculated (divide score by five).

  2. Yep, more bonuses is OK if you are going for a more exceptional feel to the characters (and the depth of that table suggests some very heroic possibilities at that!)

    I'm not sure even a +2 to prime attribute can handle the drawbacks I see in "class first, then roll abilities in order," though. What I prefer is: roll in order, choose class, then switch one pair of abilities. I find that to be a good balance between allowing player choice with viable characters, but leaving some quirkiness in the final outcome.

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