A bit of a simple idea this week as I recover from GenCon and gear up for PAX.

As a GM, I tend to favor point buy over randomly rolled D&D/Pathfinder character creation primarily because it leads to imbalance among the PCs. Inevitably, someone’s going to roll a character with stats much lower than someone else’s (and even lower than he could have gotten in point buy) and resent either his character or the player with the best rolls. Since I don’t run games with much lethality, getting stuck with a subpar character has enduring ramifications over the course of a whole campaign.

This system is designed to allow players the thrill of random rolls, but to distribute those rolls among the party so everyone comes out at a similar point buy total. However, rather than rolling them and distributing them totally equitably, there’s an element of strategy involved that may result in players putting higher or lower scores in different abilities than they would have if they got all six rolls up front…

The process is:

  1. Have each of your players roll two sets of 4d6 (drop lowest) and put the results in the middle of the table (either just leave the dice there, or write down the result if you don’t have enough sets of d6s). If you have four players, there should be eight ability scores on the table.
  2. Randomly decide an order among the players for the first turn.
  3. The players each pick one number from the table in their sorted order (which will leave a number of sets on the table equal to the number of players once they’ve all taken one).
  4. Each player goes ahead and assigns the chosen number to an ability score (this is where the strategy comes in; if you grabbed a 16, do you go ahead and assign it to your prime requisite, or do you put it somewhere else and hope that a 17 or 18 comes around for you on a later turn?).
  5. Once everyone has picked and assigned a score, have each player roll another 4d6 (drop lowest) and place it in the middle of the table (returning the number of sets back to where it started).
  6. Have each player total up what their current set of ability scores would be worth in point buy (e.g., someone that currently has an 18 and a 13 has 20 points).
  7. Change the player sort order from lowest point buy total to highest (this is another point of strategy; a player might deliberately take a low number rather than the highest one available hoping to get first pick on a later round with better rolls).
    1. Break ties based on who has the smallest big number (e.g., an 18 + 13 goes after a 16 + 16, even though they both have 20 points).
    2. If that’s still tied, break based on who has the smallest low number (e.g., 13 + 15 + 16 goes after 10 + 16 + 16).
    3. If they’re still tied, just go in the original sort order for the first round.
  8. Repeat steps 3-7 until everyone has five scores and there is only one set per player left on the table.
  9. For the last round, simply repeat steps 3 and 4 (i.e., don’t roll another set; on the last round, the players have to fill in their last score from the leavings of the whole process).
  10. Continue with the normal process of making a character.

For example:

Turn Pool Amy Brad Cora Dan
1 8, 9, 12, 12,
12, 13, 13, 16
STR –
DEX –
CON –
INT –
WIS –
CHA 16
(Point Buy 10)
STR –
DEX –
CON 13
INT –
WIS –
CHA –
(Point Buy 3)
STR –
DEX –
CON –
INT –
WIS 9
CHA –
(Point Buy -1)
STR –
DEX –
CON –
INT 13
WIS –
CHA –
(Point Buy 3)
2 8, 9, 10, 12,
12, 12, 15, 17
STR –
DEX 15
CON –
INT –
WIS –
CHA 16
(Point Buy 17)
STR –
DEX 10
CON 13
INT –
WIS –
CHA –
(Point Buy 3)
STR –
DEX 17
CON –
INT –
WIS 9
CHA –
(Point Buy 12)
STR –
DEX –
CON –
INT 13
WIS –
CHA 9
(Point Buy 2)
3 6, 8, 11, 12,
12, 12, 14, 14
STR –
DEX 15
CON 12
INT –
WIS –
CHA 16
(Point Buy 19)
STR –
DEX 10
CON 13
INT –
WIS –
CHA 14
(Point Buy 8)
STR –
DEX 17
CON –
INT –
WIS 9
CHA 12
(Point Buy 14)
STR 14
DEX –
CON –
INT 13
WIS –
CHA 9
(Point Buy 7)
4 6, 7, 8, 10,
11, 12, 12, 15
STR –
DEX 15
CON 12
INT 11
WIS –
CHA 16
(Point Buy 20)
STR 12
DEX 10
CON 13
INT –
WIS –
CHA 14
(Point Buy 10)
STR –
DEX 17
CON –
INT 12
WIS 9
CHA 12
(Point Buy 16)
STR 14
DEX –
CON 15
INT 13
WIS –
CHA 9
(Point Buy 14)
5 6, 7, 8, 9,
10, 12, 14, 15
STR –
DEX 15
CON 12
INT 11
WIS 10
CHA 16
(Point Buy 20)
STR 12
DEX 10
CON 13
INT –
WIS 15
CHA 14
(Point Buy 17)
STR 12
DEX 17
CON –
INT 12
WIS 9
CHA 12
(Point Buy 18)
STR 14
DEX 14
CON 15
INT 13
WIS –
CHA 9
(Point Buy 19)
6 6, 7, 8, 9 STR 6
DEX 15
CON 12
INT 11
WIS 10
CHA 16
(Point Buy 14)
STR 12
DEX 10
CON 13
INT 9
WIS 15
CHA 14
(Point Buy 16)
STR 12
DEX 17
CON 8
INT 12
WIS 9
CHA 12
(Point Buy 16)
STR 14
DEX 14
CON 15
INT 13
WIS 7
CHA 9
(Point Buy 15)

Amy wants to play a Sorcerer, Brad wants a Cleric, Cora wants a Rogue, and Dan wants a Fighter. For the example, their initial sorting winds up in alphabetical order.

In turn:

  1. Amy goes ahead and assumes 16 is good enough to put in her Charisma. Brad grabs a 13 and puts it in Constitution, hoping for higher scores later. Cora doesn’t like what’s left, so goes ahead and puts a 9 into Wisdom, assuming that will give her first choice once some better options show up. Dan goes ahead and grabs the last 13 and puts it into Intelligence, knowing that at least he’s covered for the Combat Expertise feats.
  2. Cora’s choice last round immediately pays off, and she puts the new 17 into Dexterity. Dan and Brad are tied, so Brad goes first according to the initial order and takes Cora’s strategy; he grabs the 10 and dumps it into Dex, hoping for better rolls later where he gets first pick. Not to be outdone, Dan grabs the 9; now he gets to go first next turn. Amy shrugs at the guys leaving her a nice 15 and puts it into Dex.
  3. Halfway through, suddenly it’s starting to look like it might be dangerous to count on some more 17s and 18s showing up, and nobody wants to be the one stuck with that 6. Dan goes ahead and grudgingly puts a 14 into Strength, starting to plan for being a generalist Fighter rather than a big pile of Strength. Brad goes ahead and grabs the 14 for his Cha, but is still holding out hope for something better to put into Wisdom. Cora grabs the 12 to put into Cha. Amy puts another 12 into Con.
  4. This is starting to be a pretty bad set of rolls; the whole group starts to wonder whether they should have insisted on point buy as a 7 comes up to add to the 6 and the 8. Dan goes ahead and grabs the 15 for his Con. Brad grabs the 12 for his Str. Cora takes the other 12 for her Int. Finally, Amy’s left with an 11 and also throws it into Int.
  5. The last round of rolls comes up and the best results are a 14 and 15; at least the lowest was only a 9 this time. Brad very grudgingly puts the 15 into his Wisdom. Dan puts the 14 into Dex and starts thinking seriously about a two weapon fighting Rogue multiclass or Whirlwind build. Cora drops the 12 into Strength. Amy agonizes about Strength vs. Wisdom, and finally decides to be weak rather than blind, putting the 10 into Wis.
  6. With only the sub-10 stats left, the table completely agrees that next time they need to totally roll better, but at least they’re in this mess together. Brad gets the 9 for his Int. Cora gets the 8 for her Con. Dan gets the 7 for his Wis. And Amy is, indeed, stuck with the 6 for her Str.

Overall, the whole group wound up within 2 point buy points of one another. Given that the same set of rolls reserved to individual players could have had one player with a character worth well over 20 while another was worth zero or less, at least everyone’s in the sub-standard boat together. And the uncertain placement of scores resulted in some interesting choices that the players might not have made if they’d known in advance exactly what their numbers were.

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