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A few of the members of our gaming have had the probably-not-unique idea of statting ourselves as if we were player characters in a campaign. Our problem is trying to find a basis of comparison for each stat so we can properly assign our scores. Like, what would a STR of 10 indicate? Or a 10 in any other ability, since we're not messing with race.

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Are you assigning these ability scores based on personal estimation, or are you trying to use a point-build system? –  Jadasc Oct 9 '11 at 0:10
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Something to consider when selecting a method for doing this, is do you want to model the real world people in your group, or do you want to exaggerate them? Does the strongest person get an 18 Strength (exaggerating their real world stat) or get a more likely correct 13, 14 or 15? –  Simon Withers Oct 10 '11 at 14:55
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7 Answers

Instead of looking at what exactly a strength of 10 indicates (like being able to lift a certain amount of weight or so), try looking at it as a place within the population at large. A score of 10 in any stat means you're just about average; a score higher than 16 means you're in the top few percent of the population.

There are two approaches we could take here. One is to look at the distribution of ability scores in D&D and compare it to the distribution of that ability in the population at large. This is approach I'm taking here. The other approach is to use the correlating factors published in various different D&D sources. This is the approach many other people have taken (such as the fun quiz made by Kevin Haw).

Assuming you're using 3d6 for each stat, here's a rough guide for you:

  • <2: Extremely low. 0.15% of the population.
  • 2 to 4: Very low. 2.5% of the population.
  • 5 to 7: Low. 16% of the population.
  • 8 to 13: Completely normal. 68% of the population.
  • 14 to 16: High. 16% of the population.
  • 17 to 19: Very high. 2.5% of the population.
  • >19: Extremely high. 0.15% of the population.

To get these numbers, I'm looking at the results of rolling multiple 6-sided dice and adding them together. As you add more and more dice, the result gets closer to what's called a normal distribution. It's a curve that's well-populated in the middle and sparsely-populated on both ends. In other words, there are lots of people who are typical, some people who are either high or low, a few people who are very high or very low, and a few extreme examples at both ends.

So let's take a look at intelligence and see what these numbers would mean. IQ is calibrated so the average is 100 and the standard deviation is 15. This lets us correlate D&D stats with IQ scores, as well as some common terms (found here):

  • <2: IQ below 55 (highly retarded)
  • 2 to 4: IQ from 55 to 70 (moderately retarded)
  • 5 to 7: IQ from 70 to 85 (moderate intellectual functioning)
  • 8 to 13: IQ from 85 to 115 (average)
  • 14 to 16: IQ from 115 to 130 (mildly gifted)
  • 17 to 19: IQ from 130 to 145 (moderately gifted)
  • >19: IQ above 145 (highly gifted)

Unfortunately, not all stats can be quantified so easily. Information on intelligence is easy to look up; info on charisma or wisdom, less so. Hopefully you can use the ideas here to estimate the scores you're looking for.

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This is the only reasonable approach; D&D does not model reality closely enough to stat an even remotely accurate portrayal of a real person. –  KRyan Sep 5 '13 at 16:44
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And IQ is, itself, famously flawed as a real measure of intelligence. –  SevenSidedDie Sep 5 '13 at 16:45
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@SevenSidedDie General intelligence, yes, but INT as the key score for reasoning, certainly. –  Metool Sep 5 '13 at 16:54
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@Metool Nope. IQ hasn't been an accepted standard among those who developed it (research psychologists), even for reasoning ability, for a few decades. It suffers significant and multi-dimensional confounding variables in its design, and since it's standardised, it can't be updated. It's largely been discarded, except, ironically, by schools and employers. It's so bad that research done using it as a metric is worthless. –  SevenSidedDie Sep 5 '13 at 16:56
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The online survey What Kind of D&D Character Would You Be? calculates your ability scores based on answers to questions.

The trouble with basing character stats on the members of a D&D group is that it tends toward high Intelligence and lower physical attributes, so you often end up with an entire party of wizards. You can still do this: read Complete Arcane's section on how to run a balanced game when all players are arcane spellcasters.

Alternatively, you can use the following benchmarks to measure your attributes. It may not be entirely scientific, but for the purposes of a D&D game it should be sufficient.

  • Strength: Weightlifting. According to the carrying capacity tables, an average person (Strength 10) can lift 100lbs weight or drag five times that along the ground. An olympic weightlifter (Strength 18) can lift 300lbs. Take care not to injure your back when weightlifting.
  • Dexterity: Reflexes and thrown object accuracy. Drop a ruler and see how quickly you can catch it - there aren't exactly Olympic records for comparison, but you can work something out here. Then, try throwing an object at a target (such as darts) to determine thrown accuracy. If you hit a treble twenty, that's an 18; if you miss the board entirely with three darts, it's a 3.
  • Constitution: Stamina. According to an article by Men's Health, you should be able to run 1.5 miles in 10 minutes. Alternatively, use a beep test for a more precise number.
  • Intelligence: IQ. Take an online IQ test and divide the result by 10.
  • Wisdom: Quite tricky to quantify, but you could ask a series of 18 questions to determine the player's perceptiveness, common sense and wit: for example, "Have you ever put petrol into a diesel car", "have you ever locked your keys in your car", etc. You can also have someone leave the room, and then ask another player what colour shirt that person was wearing, to see how perceptive he is.
  • Charisma: Since Charisma is entirely as perceived, ask each player to rate the player's Charisma from 3-18, then calculate the average.
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Charisma to me is persuasive force of will -- your mental Strength score. So your Charisma ought to be whatever you can argue the other players into giving you! –  Noumenon Jan 25 '12 at 16:18
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Here is my suggestion:

Talk with each other and figure out who would be best suited for each role in the party. Who seems like they would be a Wizard, who would be the fighter? And so on. Then stat the characters as normal DnD characters. You make small adjustments like: "Timmy would definitely be a rogue, but he would be almost as strong as he is quick. He's also not the nicest guy all the time so I'll dump-stat his CHA."

Don't try to get your "actual stats" down on paper. First of all, your characters will not be very successful statistically. If you "realistically" try to stat yourself, you are not going to be getting many, if any, stats over a 14 and you run the risk of having to tell your buddy that he really only has about an 8 in Wisdom (citing recent parties and youtube videos he was in). This can lead to some sad gameplay and hurt feelings.

Remember, in the end it's a game that is meant to be fun. If you want to play as yourselves, the most important thing to bring into the game is your personalities and your friendship. That will make the game fun.

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This is pretty much exactly the kind of answer I was looking for from this question. –  Beska Oct 13 '11 at 20:36
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Spot on. I ran a game of this type in high school and tried to assign "actual stats" to my friends. Talk about a good way to piss off everyone and please nobody. –  Erik Schmidt Jan 27 '12 at 20:45
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A first level human barbarian can out-run Usain Bolt’s fastest sprint.

Continuously for several minutes without getting so much as Fatigued.

While wearing a chain shirt, wielding a greataxe, and carrying nearly 100 lbs. of assorted other gear.

Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 cannot model actual people. Even 1st-level human characters using the standard ability array (11, 11, 11, 10, 10, 10) and restricted to non-magic NPC classes cause problems. Maybe if you eliminated Feats, as well. Anything beyond that is patently unrealistic. Dungeons and Dragons is not the system for that.

If you merely want to play characters inspired by who you are, then it’s easy: just imagine that you were growing up in Eberron or Faerûn or Greyhawk or wherever, and think about what sorts of things you would pursue. Not sure that’ll be too interesting, though, if we’re being honest: for me that would probably mean holing myself up in an arcane university and never leaving.

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I haven't played 3.5, so this is from 4e, but as far as I know the stats are pretty similar, but I have no knowledge on how stats are determined in 3.5.

What I would do is determine which player would have the highest of each stat. This person would get a 18 for that stat (I would avoid giving more than 1 or 2 to a single player). I would then determine which player would have the lowest for each stat, and they get 8's in those stats (again, I would avoid giving more than 1 or 2 to a single player). I would then rank the remaining 4 stats from highest to lowest for each player, and assign them (from highest to lowest): 14,11,10,10. I would allow players to modify these middle numbers up or down 1 point, but for each one they move up they should move another down one, and hopefully keep them in the same order. None of these should be less than their weakest stat.

What this does is it allow players to show off both their strengths and their weaknesses without having to try and quantify what each number represents in real life. I would really strive to try and avoid ties because this would make each character's skill set unique, and this would affect which class their character would best fit.

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What I like about this method, is that it prevents a party of "average plus or minus a little bit" characters, which realistically should be the case for the majority of people. –  Simon Withers Oct 10 '11 at 14:51
    
@SimonWithers yup, exactly. this way you get to have awesome character abilities, but have them feel as if they're an extension of you. –  DForck42 Oct 10 '11 at 16:25
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It's probably quite difficult to find now, and doesn't quite match your requirements, but...

The first edition of Timelords, by BTRC (and, according to the Wiki entry, the 2nd ed too) had the base assumption that players would play characters based on themselves. It had reasonably detailed rules for generating each of the stats used in the game, including skills. It was a system that used d20s (though long before the d20 system was trademarked), so it may well still work for you with a little tweaking. The only stat missing would be a Wisdom analog.

Note that the 3rd ed of the game appears to have done away with this idea, so likely won't be much use to you.

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I suggest the following method:

Everyone should stat himself (or herself) and all other PCs. The DM will take the average for each stat, and can adjust it by +/- 2 max (per characteristic).

Example:

I stat myself as

STR  12
DEX  12
CON  13
INT  13
WIS  13
CHA  11

the others 3 players think I am actually:

     P1  P2  P3
STR  13  12  12 
DEX  11  11  12
CON  11  12  11
INT  14  13  13
WIS  11  13  12
CHA  12  11  12 

My resulting stats (averaged):

STR  12
DEX  12
CON  12
INT  13
WIS  12
CHA  11

The DM can adjust each stat of up to 2 points upward or downwards.

Rationale: it's not a matter of what 10 "means" in real world. First of all it's too abstract, and also you lack any real terms of comparison (is the average D&D citizen a person who tills the fields all day, so it's much more strong than average modern human? is the average D&D person illiterate and therefore has less intellectual resources at his/her disposal?)

If you are perceived as "strong" or "dexterous" by other players, they know the game enough to "stat" you. And the DM has the final decision.

It works best if you have the initial statting done without communicating with other players (to avoid the risk to change your statting depending on how favourably the others treat you - this may be even subconscious, so it's better to do this "secretely").

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Actually, 10-11 is average human in general, according to the books. It's not tied to particular "citizens" of "the D&D world" at all. –  SevenSidedDie Oct 11 '11 at 18:12
    
Average human from Middle Ages? Modern days? USA average? Third World Average? Are you stronger than "average human"? More intelligent? Wiser? What is the "average human wisdom"? How is it measured? –  p.marino Oct 11 '11 at 23:16
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Average for a resident of Wisconsin in 1974, I'd say. (More seriously: Your difficulty is that you're expecting rigour from a game. 10-11 is definitionally "human average" with no other qualifiers provided to enlighten us. And for the purposes of guesstimating a fellow player's "real life" D&D ability scores, any more precision than that sloppy definition will be far outweighed by the error inherent in the guesstimation.) –  SevenSidedDie Oct 12 '11 at 2:41
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Some mutual misunderstanding, here. I am not looking for "rigour" (especially from D&D and its variants). I was just trying to point out that "real human beings" and "average based on a undefined group of human beings, possibly imaginary ones" cannot really be mixed. This is why I advocated a sort of voting system, which is intended to be more like "I think Bob here is above average - in terms of D&D stats" instead of "Bob can bench-press 140 so it's 14... but I still don't know how to measure Wisdom..." –  p.marino Oct 12 '11 at 7:13
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