Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Balanced, Random Character Generation

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...)
CHA: 13

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:

STR: 4
INT: 3
WIS: 12
DEX: 15
CON: 15
CHA: 15

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:

STR: 9
WIS: 14
DEX: 10
CON: 10
CHA: 15

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.


  1. I think the base idea is great, but it allows for a really high or really low score to get generated too easily (during the equalization). Maybe try spreading out the lost/gained points.

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  3. Another way is to get three cards each of the values from Ace to Six, shuffle them, and deal them into six piles of 3 cards each. The total of each pile is the score for the relevant attribute.

  4. @theredboxblog:

    I'd actually imagine you'd have the opposite problem: Charisma scores would be very clustered around the centre.

    Also there was one thing that was unclear: if you have too few points rather than too many, do you increase Cha, or Str?

  5. I think in the last year or so during the print run of Dragon they had an article where they used the three dragon ante game as a deck for character generation. The idea of random but not luck based character generation seems more appealing to me than luck based random character generation.

  6. The method I've been playing around with is 3d6 8 times in order. You can discard one score and remove another to be starting gold. But the scores stay in order. So you might want to remove that 6 from the second slot, but if that moves that 17 from DEX to WIS and you don't want to play the Cleric; what do you do?