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Allow me to explain. I am a new DM figuring out 1e for a group of players. Some of them have expressed their desire to play classes that are difficult to roll the criteria stats for, like the paladin or the monk. Is there a way I can satisfy the game's rules and allow them to play these classes? It's likely they will be unable to qualify with their dice rolls, after all. I'd like to retain the fair feel of the character-creation process, however.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide provides alternate methods of generating ability scores on page 11 under the heading Creating the Player Character. Some of these produce much higher average results than others. But it sounds like ability scores have already been generated.

AD&D Is Fair as Written
Ignoring the possibility of favoritism and loaded dice and other shenanigans, by-the-book AD&D is actually incredibly fair. Everyone had the same opportunities to roll dice as everyone else, and everyone could have rolled anything. That is fair.

That isn't a lot of fun, though.

But one of the premises of AD&D is that you're supposed to play what you roll. If you roll poorly you're playing a fighter, and if you roll well you're playing a paladin or ranger. If your fighter dies, you take out another index card and roll up another character. Low-level characters with low ability scores in AD&D are disposable, and monsters will eat them, and then you'll get a new character who might be more survivable, who has better ability scores and a better class.

And if that character with a bad class and bad ability scores, through luck, skill, cowardice, strategy, and more luck, actually survives long enough, how he did so are stories you can tell.

That how is the fun.

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Thank you! Quick Q though, say this unfortunate soul with bad stats dies at level 3 while the rest of the players survive. Do I have the player roll a level 3 character? –  ComradeYakov Mar 25 at 3:13
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@ComradeYakov Gygax disapproves (really, he says so on page 12 of the Dungeon Master's Guide), but he says that if the remainder of the group is beyond 1st level you can start incoming players as high as 4th level (and you can almost hear his heavy sigh) if you must. –  Hey I Can Chan Mar 25 at 3:17
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But wouldn't they just keep getting killed and killed and killed at higher levels if they started at level 1? –  ComradeYakov Mar 25 at 3:18
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@ComradeYakov That's up to you. The way AD&D works, making their new character start at level 1 won't be a huge issue; It takes about as many experience points to reach a given level as it does to go from that level to the next, so the new character will be able to 'catch up' in level without much difficulty. Or you could start them at level 3 - but the player will be missing out on the 'organic growth' process. It depends on what you want. –  GMJoe Mar 25 at 3:18

I don't know in which edition they introduced alternative dice-rolling methods but it sounds like this is what you're looking for.

In ADND-2E the main method is to roll 3d6 and assign it to the first ability. Then the second 3d6 go to the second ability; and so on.

The alternative methods listed in ADND-2E are:

  • Roll 3d6 twice; choose one for the first ability. Repeat.
  • Roll 3d6 six times; choose which result goes to which ability.
  • Roll 3d6 twelve times; choose you favorite 6.
  • Roll 4d6 but drop the lowest dice; assign them in order.
  • Starting each ability at 8, roll 7d6 and distribute the resulting roll as you like (but no ability over 18).

Other alternatives I've seen (can't recall where) are:

  • Roll 3d6 but reroll 1's.
  • Give players a pool of 80 points to distribute as they like (no abilities under 3 or over 18)
  • Give them standard set of numbers to assign as they want: 16, 16, 14, 14, 12, 10.

If you go for the point-buy (pool of 80), I'd suggest you don't let them have scores of 3 either... go maybe up to 6 for minimum.

Of course, you can mix-and-match as you like. I usually let them roll 4d6 six times and assign as they want. Their characters may be a bit higher-than-normal, but as a DM you should be able to balance it.

Each method proves to be fun in some way or another; but for new parties, I'd let them have some sort of control over the rolls they choose. IMO, it lets them grow fondness for their PC.

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As others have noted, the default assumption of AD&D 1E is everyone is going to play based on what they roll. It's worth noting though, that very old D&D/Chainmail assumed each player had multiple characters, so odds were you probably had 1 special type out of the bunch.

That said, one alternative rule you could do is let the players bring their characters up to minimum stats to play a class, for a one time XP debt - for example, maybe they have to pay off 1,000 XP before they can earn XP normally. This will put them about 1/2 a level behind everyone else (well, sorta, 1E classes level differently by the class), while still letting them have the classes they want.

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