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).