Sunday, February 11, 2024

Does the Stat Rolling Method Really Matter?

Does the Stat Rolling Method Really Matter?
This last few weeks I've been seeing a lot of reposts of this picture, almost a meme(?) and it really got me thinking about all of the ways I've rolled up PCs and how much it actually matters.

My conclusion is that it really depends on the game, but players generally want higher-statted PCs, which makes sense because who wants to play a nobody?

Now with the older (I'm thinking B/X) having less than optimal stats weren't a big deal and the difference between a low stat and a high stat wasn't worth getting too worked up over. Of course it felt like there was some stat-creep in later editions and even that made sense to me. With all of this different classes coming out that had specific high(er) stat requirements. It seemed to me that the straight 3d6 (in order) soon moved to a straight 4d6 (drop the lowest) to 4d6 (drop the lowest) arrange as you want. I'm not going to look it up, but I also recall AD&D having alternate rolling methodologies (in the DMG perhaps) to help possibly get players the types of PCs they wanted.

When I migrated to HackMaster (4th Edition) stats went back to straight 3d6, but there was an additional fractional added (so a 3d6 + 1d100%) and you could buy fractional rolls with building points. Of course there was a cost that you maybe didn't want to pay, but it could help you get into that PC class you wanted. Knowing that as you leveled you'd get some fractional increases helped as well and there were some odd circumstances that could build you up as well. For example I really lucked out with my Double Specialist Invoker in that my school results gave me a +3 Intelligence, so I was rocking a 21 Intelligence.

Actually having a PC much, much smarter than me wasn't all it was cracked up to be as I couldn't actually access that intelligence as much as you'd think. Have to answer a riddle? Eff me man, I can't figure it out, but my PC is likely the smartest dude on the continent, if not the planet....he should be able to figure it out.

With the newer version of HackMaster gives you options, but you pay for them: straight 3d6 +1d100% gets you a nice bump in Building Points, swap two stats of the "straight 3d6" for only a 25 Build Point bonus, or just arrange the "straight 3d6" as you like for no Build Points. It also has a rule about if two of your stats are 5 or less or none above 13 you can start over (Shopkeep Rule) otherwise any other valid set of rolls have to be played/used for one session before retiring the PC from play.

For one of my PCs I had just about a set of Gawd-rolls. That kind of sucked actually. I do not remember what the straight 3d6 rolls were, but with the options given I could have conceivably chosen any race/class I wanted. The rolls were good enough that if not for the fact that two other GMs actually witnessed the rolls, I don't think I'd have been allowed to play that PC at someone else's table for fear of being suspected of cheating. The part that sucked about the rolls is that I just had too many options. This was pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I had a bit of decision paralysis about it. Ultimately I didn't make that choice myself. Instead I queried the group as to what they think we needed most, which was a tank. I ended up making the tankiest tank I could: Dwarven Fighter.

I haven't gotten to play this PC in years (kind of sad about it because I had a helluva lot of fun playing this PC, and not because of his ability scores!) but his current stats (mind you he gets some % bumps when leveling) at 9th level are off to the side.

His CON has a +4 bump from race that is offset by -2 bumps to Looks and Charisma. 

Now I'm not bragging about this PC or anything, just I think that there's a lot of range on what can be rolled, methodology-wise and there really isn't a good reason to hate on any particular method. I think the options given are usually there to make playing a PC one wants to play, viable. The simple straight 3d6 worked great when it didn't really matter too much.

Hell, lately...especially at a convention, I've just been rolling some d30's to quick generate stats based on the d30 DM Companion. I think the method used doesn't matter unless it results in too-high of a power level than what the players & GM want to see.


  1. First of all, B/X (1981) isn't older than 1E (PHB was 1978).
    Second, Hackmaster 4E stats are lower, but bonuses start at lower stats. My last 4E character had strength bonuses equivalent to AD&D's 18/00, at a much lower actual strength score.
    Third, the stat generation method does matter, depending on the system. It's very important in 1E, FrEx.

  2. In B/X you can lower some scores to raise your prime request. Basically allow you to help buff the stat that is important for your class. Probably my least favorite part of B/X.

    I think it does matter how you roll stats. In a game where you roll in order, whatever method. Players tend to play wide variety of charachters. If they arrange stats they typically fall into a pattern. 4d6 in order is probably my favorite.

  3. I think large spreads were never good, as I remember a 2e campaign, were I had a ranger without any bonuses to anything useful playing alongside a 18/75 fighter...I felt completely useless in combat.
    If there would have been more character turnover, I wouldn't have minded, but I was stuck for years.

    Same in 5e, were my rolled character with a total of -1 bonus played alongside others with +3 for the weakest.

    For the game it doesn't make a large difference, but for the player it stinks when there is not one thing they can do better than the rest.


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition