Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ability Score Generation: Which Method to Use?

Throughout the different editions and variations of Dungeons & Dragons, there have been numerous methods for generating your character's ability scores. Since I've been working on my house rules document for Pathfinder, I've been thinking about what method to use. So, I thought it would be fun to look at the five different methods presented in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook, look at their strengths and weaknesses, and see if this will help me make my final decision.

The "Standard" Method: This is the method that I have used the most during my career of gaming. The standard method has a player roll 4d6, discard the die with the lowest result, and add the three remaining results together. The player repeats this process until six numbers have been generated, then they allocate these scores to their six abilities as they see fit. While this method is less random then some of the other dice-based generation methods and usually creates characters with above-average ability scores, it also has the same problem that any randomize generation will have; sometimes a player will have really bad luck and end up rolling horrible scores.

The "Classic" Method: This method also uses six-sided dice to generate six numbers. However, unlike the standard method, you only roll 3d6 and add the three results together. The six numbers you generate with this method can be placed where you want, or they must be placed in order down the row. This method is probably the most random of the five, and going the truly "Method I" style would be interesting if players didn't mind leaving some of their character choices up to the dice, but I'm not sure my players would really like that.

The "Heroic" Method: For this method, the players only roll 2d6 and add 6 to the sum of the dice. They record the total and repeat the process until six numbers have been generated then assign the scores as they see fit. This method is less random than the standard method, preventing anyone from rolling a score under 8. However, this method also tends to create characters with above-average or high scores, and sometimes I'm not a fan of 1st level characters having a lot of really high scores. However, the method is incredibly fast, which is a plus for me since I tend to have only three or four hours to run a game because of other things in life.

The "Dice Pool" Method: I have actually never seen anyone use this method. Basically, each player receives 24d6 to assign to his statistics. Before the dice are rolled, the player selects the number of dice to roll for each score, with a minimum of 3d6 for each ability. Once each player has split up their pool of dice, they roll the amount for each ability and total the results of the three highest dice. While this method is interesting, I feel it would eat up a lot of time during the character creation session.

The "Purchase" Method: This and the standard method are the two generation methods I see used the most around where I live. This method gives each player a number of points based on the power level of the game. Each character takes these points and spends to raise their six abilities from a base score of 10. If they want more points, they can lower one of their scores to gain more. This method gives the most control out of all the methods, but it also seems to take the longest because players start to really think about if they'd prefer a 15 or a 16 in this one ability.

While each method has its merits, I think I'm going to just stick with the standard method for my games in the near future. However, I'm going to add a caveat to the method. If a player is not happy with the scores they have generated, they can choose to use the heroic array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8) instead.

What method for ability score generation do you use and why?