Rolling Stats

I was just listening to an old-school D&D podcast (Save or Die!) while at the gym, and in the episode the hosts were talking about the rolling schemes that they use to generate stats. Everything from roll 4d6 drop the lowest and assign as desired to point-buy (and some interesting ideas in-between). None of them take the standard approach (3d6 per stat in order). Frankly though, that’s my favorite. You roll your stats and choose your class based on what you rolled. It makes you stretch a little.

And it works quite well in my preferred flavor of D&D (B/X) because really the only important stat is Charisma and you really only need one person in the party with a decent Charisma. Most classes are pretty forgiving as far as stats goes.

So I started thinking: How would I do it in Torchbearer? In designing the game, I opted to assign raw abilities based on Stock because there are only two and it’s easy. So here’s what I came up with; it’s completely unplaytested, but it seems solid enough:

  1. Instead of Choose Class and Stock, the first step of character creation is Roll Raw Abilities.
  2. Roll 2d3 to generate a number between 2 and 6. Apply the result to Health.
  3. Subtract the number you generated from 8 to generate another number between 2 and 6. Apply the result to Will.
  4. You may always play a human of any class, regardless of the allotment of your Raw Abilities. You may play a Dwarf if your Health is 5 or 6. You may play a Halfling if your Will is 5 or 6. You may play an elf if your Health is 4.
  5. Record your skills and trait based on the class/stock you’ve selected.

What do you think?

Interesting… can’t see anything wrong with it, mechanically. In terms of flavor, I think one of the fun things about rolling stats in D&D is the number of stats and therefore variations you can get, so TB wouldn’t have that… What about also rolling starting skills randomly? Is that too much randomness :slight_smile:

Also, stats don’t change much in D&D so they define the essence of your character. Whereas in TB your stats adjust to what you are doing, so it’s less “who you are” and more “how you start”. Though the restrictions on Stock do affect “who you are” so there’s that.

I really like that you’d always have a choice of playing a non-human but you’d also never have a choice of which one specifically.

I dig it. It feels consistent with the gritty feel of the world: this is what you’ve got, make the best of it.

It does also do something interesting to larger groups, potentially, where you get conversations like, “Who’s going to be the mage? Do we have one? I could be, though I was also thinking of being a ranger.” Now, the group size grows, and the group desperately needs another fighting man, but he fluffs his Health roll.

Although, now that I think about it, most of your skills still flow from your class.

What if you went a bit further, with randomized parents and so on?

Want to take a stab at it?

My first instinct is to have you roll 1d4 (alternately, roll 2d6. A result of 2-3=1; a result of 4-6=2; a result of 7-9=3; and a result of 10-12=4)

  1. if you get a 1, you start with Circles 1 and you’re a loner.
  2. if you get a 2, you start with Circles 2 and you have a friend but no parents, mentor or enemy.
  3. If you get a 3, you start with Circles 3 and you have a friend and choose one: parent, mentor or enemy.
  4. If you get a 4, you start with Circles 4 and you have a friend and choose two: parent, mentor, enemy.

The other nice thing about these approaches is that unlike D&D where it can result in very weak or very powerful characters, all these randomizations just lead to characters equivalent to ones you could make normally anyway. Basically this would be a good approach for any campaign where you can’t decide what you want to play.

I was thinking this’d be a great way to make up characters for a demo/one-shot.

That’s great. Roll d6 to see where you were raised? Dwarves and Elves subtract 1 from the roll.

  1. Elfhome (elves only) / Dwarven Halls (everyone else)
  2. Religious Bastion
  3. Bustling Metropolis
  4. Wizard’s Tower
  5. Remote Village
  6. Busy Crossroads

Then roll d3 to see what your parents’ trade was; if you do have parents, you take their skill (MG style). (This has some problems in that it’s out of order from the RAW chargen procedure, parents come after you’ve picked your home skill.)

If Dwarves and Elves subtract 1 from the roll, I’d put remote village last… that’s a human/halfling thing. You also might do a 2d6 thing, so that it’s weighted:

2: Elfhome / Dwarven Halls
3-4: Religious Bastion
5-6: Busy Crossroads
7-8: Bustling Metropolis
9-10: Wizard’s Tower
11-12: Remote Village

This way you’re more likely to be born in places with more people.

I had that exact thought! But… there are many villages for every metropolis. With an agrarian economy, the balance might need to be shifted in favor of the village, rather than the metropolis!

sure, but before refrigeration and locomotion, all those villages had to be near the city, that’s why cities develop on fertile lands near rivers. A remote village, on the other hand, is much less common. Particularly as it is likely to be at the mercy of orcs, goblins, dragons, and other things that go bump (crash, roar, chomp) in the night.

eta: okay, not I’m on Wikipedia looking up the history of agriculture, cities, and empires. So yes, the biggest cities, like Rome, did import large amounts of food from abroad. Still, I wonder what the history of pastoral vs. urban demographics looks like…

One of the things I enjoy with B/X is character darwinism… if you get lousy stats, dying gives you the opportunity to re-roll. Lousy characters can be more fun, because you are more willing to take big risks with them. A purely balanced approach like Will = 8 - Health removes this. Otherwise seems pretty good. I was considering doing a 2D6 parentage table for the town origin, but I was going to go by skill (7 = Peasant) and back-fill from there.

I’d go whole hog and use 2d3 for both Health and Will. Allow rerolls for hopeless characters with 2s in both.

Flipping a coin for the answers to Nature questions seems obvious, and also an interesting randomization. You may find that you’re a very typical person thrust into the life or a total weirdo, who everyone knew would end up wandering into places forsaken by decent folk.