The Best Ability-Score Generation System EVAR!

The fun of Dice, at a predetermined Price!

I’ve been trying to find a method to generate ability scores that simultaneously accomplishes three things I look for in such a system:

1. CHOICE. First, I want to be able to have an idea of what character class I want, without the dice forcing me to choose a class I don’t want to play.

2. RANDOMNESS. At the same time, I dislike how point buy rewards and encourages people to create cookie-cutter arrays. You will almost always see fighters with exceptionally high strength and low charisma, or wizards with high intelligence and low strength. Regular point-buy — even arranging the scores as you wish after rolling — removes the fun you get when you roll in order and get that foolish bard or handsome wizard.

3. PREVENTING GROSS IMBALANCE AMONG CHARACTERS. Still, point-buy seems to be the only way to prevent characters from having wild variations in power from each other. For a long-term campaign such as the Adventure Path I want to run with my group, I want to avoid certain players dominating or feeling useless for months on end.

I do like how the “Organic” Method from the 3E rulebooks (roll 4d6 and drop the lowest in order, re-roll one stat, and switch two stats) strikes a balance between player choice and randomness. At the same time, it still doesn’t prevent the problem of one player having the equivalent of a 45-point buy adventuring next to someone who feels useless with a 6-point buy.

So how to meld everything I like into the ultimate ability-score generation method?

Here’s my humble attempt, which I oxymoronically call “The Organic Point-Buy,” in 8 STEPS:

1. Choose your target point-buy (for example, 15).
2. Roll 4d6 and drop the lowest, in order.
3. Determine the point-buy equivalent of these stats. Compare this to your target point-buy value.
4. Choose one stat and make it “safe.”
5. Roll a d6 to determine which stat you will adjust. If you roll the stat you made “safe,” then reroll. Otherwise, adjust the stat upward or downward to match your target point-buy value. (If you cannot match the target value, then stop short of reaching it.) No stat can be changed to become lower than 7 or higher than 18.
6. If step #5 didn’t reach the target value, then roll another d6 to determine another stat that you’re going to adjust. Repeat this until you reach your target point-buy value.
7. Switch any two stats.
8. Select your race and apply any adjustments.


I want to create an elven wizard. I want to have a high Intelligence, of course, as well as a high Dexterity.

Here is how implement each of the 8 steps:
1. The DM has given me the target of a 15-point buy.
2. I roll: STR 6, DEX 17, CON 16, INT 10, WIS 11, CHA 13.
3. The point-buy equivalent is -6*, +13, +10, 0, +1, +3. This is the equivalent of a 21-point buy.
4. I decide to make the DEX 17 “safe.” My reason? I want to have the highest Intelligence possible for my wizard and I know that steps 5 and 6 will only LOWER the scores. So I choose to make the highest stat “safe” for this reason.
5. I roll a 4 (INT). So I lower the Intelligence from 10 down to 7. We now have a 17-point buy: lower, but not low enough.
6. I roll a 1 (STR). But a stat of 6 cannot be lowered any further. I roll a 5 (WIS). Wisdom is lowered from 11 to 9. I now have a 15-point buy: STR 6, DEX 17, CON 16, INT 7, WIS 9, CHA 13.
7. I switch Dexterity and Intelligence: STR 6, DEX 7, CON 16, INT 17, WIS 9, CHA 13.
8. Being an Elf leads to the following changes: STR 6, DEX 9, CON 14, INT 19, WIS 9, CHA 13.

As a result, I have my high Intelligence, but I don’t have the high Dexterity I wanted. My wizard also has an above-average Constitution and Charisma — which I likely never would have prioritized myself, had I used the Default Method or regular point-buy.

(Also note that, alternatively, in order to try to get a high DEX and INT I could have gambled: I could have kept CON “safe” and planned to switch that with my INT to get a high INT, but this would have risked sticking myself with a low CON score.)

The advantages of using this method were:

1. I had enough choice so that I could choose my character class (Wizard). I’m guaranteed to have a character with a good score in one of its primary stats.
2. There was an element of chance which meant I didn’t create a cookie-cutter character.
3. My character is neither grossly overpowered nor underpowered.

What do people think about this method of generating scores? I admit it’s a bit convoluted and clumsy, but if your character-generation goals are like mine, it seems to do the job.

* To come up with the -6, I extrapolated the lower end of the Core Rulebook’s point-buy chart, which presumed that every gain or loss in ability score involved a corresponding change in point-buy equaling the resulting ability modifier. So the scores below 7 would be: 3 (-16 points), 4 (-12 points), 5 (-9 points), and 6 (-6 points).


About ronaldsf

Grandmaster of the Pathfinders' Guild at Martin Luther King Middle School.
This entry was posted in Rule Rants, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Best Ability-Score Generation System EVAR!

  1. The Bane says:

    There was an RPG rule set, whos name I can’t recall at the moment, let you pick the Race/Class first and then told you how many d6s to roll for each attribute based on those (race/class) selection. Maybe it was BoL? Just thought I’d throw that out there as it seemed to be something like you suggest at the beginning.


  2. ronaldsf says:

    That sounds like a decent system, too. I’m not sure it would prevent some characters from being much stronger than others though. I’m curious to see it though — what does BoL stand for?

  3. TOZ says:

    Way too complicated for me.

  4. I like the old “playing card” method. You take two suits, four through nine, then shuffle and deal them in pairs. You then assign pairs as desired. It’s perfectly balanced, but it prevents min-maxing.

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