This is pretty much a random idea that popped into my head for no very good reason. So why not blog about it? :) The idea is to preserve random generation of Abilities, but which would be balanced in the sense that all characters have the same total number of points.
Start with the B/X scheme of Ability Modifiers (my favourite scheme of Ability Modifiers based on 3d6). This should be hard-wired into your brain, but just in case it isn't:
Average roll for 3d6 is 10.5, while the range of average (i.e. no modifier) Ability scores is 9 to 12. We have to decide what we would want the Ability scores of the PC's to average out to. Let's pick 11 (pretty damn average). If evenly applied to all 6 Abilities, that would be a total of 6x11=66 points. If we wanted a more heroic game, we would pick a higher number, but let's just try this for now.
We roll 3d6 for all Abilities in order and deduct the points from the total as we go. So I get:
STR: 11 (leaving 66-11=55 points)
INT: 9 (55-9=46 points)
WIS: 14 (46-14=32 points)
DEX: 14 (32-14=18 points)
CON: 5 (18-5=13 points, so...)
That's a nicely-mixed character, with slightly above-average (+1) WIS, DEX, and CHA and moderately below-average (-2) CON. He's definitely not a Fighting-Man; probably a Thief.
Now that randomly-rolled example turned out easy because I didn't run out of points. Let's fake it now and push the system with an improbable bunch of high rolls:
STR: 15 (66-15=51)
INT: 15 (51-15=36)
WIS: 15 (36-15=21)
DEX: 15 (21-15=6)
CON: 15 (6-15= -11. Oops)
Alright, I don't have enough points left to pay for that CON. So here's what happens now: we circle around and subtract the required number of points from STR. We need 11 points to make up the difference and our strong-man suddenly goes down to STR 4. Who said this was going to be fair? It's still random generation.
But that leaves us with 0 points and we still have to roll CHA. OK, so let's roll and - mirabile dictu - we get another 15. Who'd a'thunk? Now we circle back to the second stat, INT, but we can't take all 15 points because you have a minimum of 3. So we take 12 points from INT (leaving us now weak and dumb) and then move on to WIS, where we take the final 3 points outstanding. That gives us a final of:
That's one hell of a weird character which is a good thing in my opinion. But, if it seems too harsh, you might stipulate that no more than X number of points can come off of any one Ability (maybe 5?). If you did that, you would end up with this instead:
He's certainly not the ubermensch he would have been with the usual method, but he's a more interesting character for that.
One alternative that I considered was using total modifiers rather than total Ability Score. I quickly decided against that, even though it would be much quicker, since it would mean that all characters will be much more samey.
Is this system worth using? I have no idea. Like I said, random thought.