Character generation — a dream within a dream

I've used at least one oodle, and probably many oodles of character generation methods across a multitude of roleplaying systems. I've even built a character for a game called Space Opera (I think) which had a character generation system so convoluted that by the time we'd finally finished, we were too exhausted to actually play the game.

What I want to concentrate on right now are some of the methods I've used to create characters for my various D&D campaigns, in no particular order.

1) 4d6, drop the lowest, in order

This is the system I was first introduced to when I started playing AD&D in 1981. As far as I could see, from the fairly tiny pool of D&D players in Palmerston North and Wellington in those days, it was pretty much the default method for everyone.

It's a pretty decent method that is reasonably good at not producing a string of crippled gimps, but exceptional characteristics (i.e. anything in the 16–18 range) were still rare enough to be special. We seldom discarded a stat-block as rolled, unless it was really, really bad.

To begin with, we just rolled the stats in order and built whatever character class would fit them. In a revolution in player-enablement, our DM actually started allowing us to swap two of the stats around so that we weren't necessarily forced into (or out of) any given class. Wow! The power!

It was under this system that was born a character whose every stat was either 10 or 11. Naturally, he had to be called Mean Norm the Average Ranger. (That's a statistics joke, folks. They're few and far between, so make the most of it).

2) The 6x6 3d6 matrix

This is a system I came up with all by myself, though the chance of me being the first person ever to have this particular blinding flash of inspiration is pretty small.

In this system, the player rolls 3d6 36 times, writing the results in a 6x6 grid like the one shown here. The order in which the stats are laid out is unimportant as long as they're the same horizontally and vertically.

The player can choose one statblock from any of the rows or columns, or, at a pinch, from either diagonal. The stats can't be rearranged, so if you want to play a specific class you may have to make some compromises — for example, in the set shown here, if the player wants to play a magic-user and get the 16 result into their INT slot, they're going to have to accept a CHA of 6.

This is a fairly decent system for pumping out characters that will perform pretty well. It gives the players a certain amount of freedom to choose which class they want to play, but being limited to 3d6, doesn't often produce terrifying Übermenschen.

3) The 12 x 3d6 decoder ring system

This is another system of my own invention. The player rolls 3d6 12 times and writes the results in a row. Then any contiguous set of six stats can be chosen, depending on which class the player wants to build

The stats wrap around, so if you fall off the right-hand side you complete your set of six from the left — as shown in the animation, the red set (fighter or thief) starts its statblock 5 places from the right, so its 6th stat is taken from the left-most. The statblock, once chosen, can't be rearranged.

Again, it's a system designed to allow for a degree of player freedom without tending towards mega-stat monsters.

4) 3d6 in order, and suck it up

I include this although I've hardly ever actually used it. I would only use it these days in a high-mortality one-off game in which character replacement is going to be very frequent. I know it has a certain masochistic appeal to some grognards, but in my experience most people prefer to play reasonably capable characters; the novelty of having to deal with a weak, clumsy, sickly, stupid, foolish, hideous character wears off pretty quickly for most.

Yet another miniature painting WiP post

If I ever get back to DMing my own campaign, I might have the need for a half-orc or two. Fortunately, I got a half-orc or two (or three...