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Looking at starting an AD&D game for a bunch of players who haven't played for a while and have never played together so there are no common house rules.

To maximise playing time we want character generation to happen in advance so what rules can people suggest to cover the random elements which will end up with fair characters that people want to play.

By want to play I mean by that no-one would be wild about playing attributes of 7/12/9/10/11/13 and if we come up with a "fair" way of settings things people might be willing to stick to it as opposed to trying to get round things (or generating three dozen characters by the book and picking the best).

Ideally something that would cover the key elements - attributes, hit points and starting money.

As I say, it's AD&D (aka 1e) but happy to hear from anyone with ideas from other games (so long as you give any background that's needed to understand what you're suggesting - I played a lot of things 25 or 30 years back but I'm not sure my memory is up to recalling the various systems that were about then and anything more recent and I'll be completely lost).

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It's worth saying that high stats are way less important in AD&D. If that stat set is considered disappointing, your players might have misplaced expectations. –  SevenSidedDie Feb 2 '11 at 0:29

11 Answers 11

up vote 11 down vote accepted

We often faced these problems while generating 1e tournaments during the early 1980s. To quickly handle attributes, hp, and cash here's what we did:

  • Allot 75 points to be distributed in ability scores as the player wishes (and encourage them to have good Dex & Con; also remind clerics that high Wis means bonus spells)
  • Give maximum hp at 1st level, or 80% of maximum if starting at L2+
  • Give each PC a set of typical equipment (skip the tedious purchasing routine at first) and 10 gp; remind players to take 1 suit of armor, 1 hand-held weapon, and 1 missile weapon with ammo

  • Give each magic-user at least 3 spells (offense, defense, and misc) without rolling chance-to-know, so they have options

  • Optional: Give 1 'inherited' potion of healing for group use as needed

...and skip encumbrance entirely until they try to carry a bulky treasure out of a dungeon. ;>

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No problems with folks taking a couple 18's? If they took it in strength did they get to roll %? –  Pat Ludwig Feb 1 '11 at 22:40
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@PatLudwig: btb, yep they get % if Ftr/sub. With 75 total that means dumpstats lol... No prob tho, imho it gets them into more trouble/combats via arrogance, self-balancing. ;> –  ExTSR Feb 2 '11 at 15:20

I'd say use a point spending/buying system. Start all attributes at 10 to start with and give them 21 points to spend. They can up an attribute by 1 point for each point spent up to a maximum level of 18 in one attribute and 17 in a second. No negative point buys (can't buy a 10 down to nine or less to get more points). This should give each player a character they want to play. If you are using 1e D&D they can spend 2 points to get the %100 roll for strength. You would need to witness the roll.

Give each character the maximum Hit points allowed for first level. No 1 hp characters that way.
Starting money could be either a base amount plus a random, a flat set amount for each class or max by class. Which ever would make the most sense for what you want to do story wise. I would let each player select character equipment and spells as this should help them refresh their memories. You may want to give some guidelines for this, but I think you are wanting everyone to come in with a character and refreshed memory of how to play.

This should let everyone generate characters easily and still keep it verifiable.

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So according to your system no character can ever have below 10 in any stat? Don't you think it's fun to play a character with at least one weakness? Sorry but this is munchkinism. –  Modern Hacker Feb 4 '11 at 4:57
    
You bet, but that was not the question asked. These are players who have been out of the loop awhile so I figure give them a static common point so they can refresh themselves with the game. Later on they can 'experiment' with character building if they want to. –  Acedrummer_CLB Feb 4 '11 at 15:10
    
BTW: This is not my standard way of generating a character, this is a way to let people gen a character on their own time and being able to verify their accuracy once you get together. –  Acedrummer_CLB Feb 4 '11 at 15:18
    
Cool, I'd try this but personally I'd start each attribute at 7 to avoid stat inflation. –  Modern Hacker Feb 7 '11 at 20:39

I would suggest that you use Dungeons and Dragons Online's point-buy system. You can find it here. Just go to Step 4, and use that. It creates balanced characters, and you can simply adjust the power level by giving more or less points than the standard 28. Make a few attribute sets to see if that is the range that you want.

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In my youth, we always used

  • 7 rolls of 4d6k3, rerolling 1's on the first throw. Roll all then place as desired amongst the 7 atts (we did use Comeliness).
  • 1st HD, any rolls below half the sides on the die were rerolled.
  • Spell choices for wizards always included Read Magic, 1 spell of choice, and 1d4-1 random ones.

However, if you really want to do it right, find Dark Sun for 2E, and use the attribute method there (5d4 IIRC).

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It's important to use Dark Sun Revised, otherwise you get some massive strength out of that. –  migo Mar 15 '11 at 21:50
    
The massive strength in 1e was supposedly intentional... –  aramis Mar 15 '11 at 22:48

For me, this is beginning to be reminiscent of the grade devaluation that's taken place in UK school examinations over the last 20 years.

14 is a decent strength. On an unbiased 3d6, only 10% of the population will have STR over 14.

If you, as the GM, conduct a campaign that treats 14 as abnormally high, and 16 as downright exceptional, then playing a character with 7/12/9/10/11/13 becomes feasible, and the old method of 4d6 (discard lowest) for each stat is feasible.

If you, as the GM, behave as if only a 17 gives you the slightest chance of pulling off a feat, then the players will clamour for high stats across the board, because 7/12/9/10/11/13 is a dead man walking, and probably walking quite slowly.

For advance remote generation, I roll the stats and give them in size order to the players, who can parcel them out as they see fit. I roll money, and they spend it as they please. I roll HP (and I admit to fudging that one from time to time, as for first-level characters it can be a worryingly wide range of abilities).

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I see what you're saying but having a 16+ in certain attributes (DEX, CON and STR in particular) offers significant benefits which players aspire to. I guess part of the issue is that there is no mechanism for advancing attributes over time (other than Wish which is mentioned but way beyond most characters for some time). –  Jon Hopkins Feb 2 '11 at 19:46
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Aspire to? Yes, but they're not entitled to them, and it may be unwise to suggest that they're easily attainable. There are other methods to bump stats, like the various librams, and if the GM wants to allow the party to pursue (eg) increased CON, then surely all manner of interesting quests to far-off temples with strange demi-human body building experts beckon. –  MadHatter Feb 2 '11 at 22:04
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@MadHatter - Look at it another way. Piling into dungeons full of monsters is meant to be tough. Should it really be something that someone outside the top 10% can manage? –  Jon Hopkins Feb 4 '11 at 21:09
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I had a rather flip answer for that, and then I thought more about your question, which I now believe to be a really good one. I think there are two ways to think of PCs: ordinary humans who get lucky and toughen up into heroes, or people special from the get-go who are destined for greatness. I guess from our answers that I think of them as the former, and you as the latter, but it's just a guess. Your thoughts, sir? –  MadHatter Feb 4 '11 at 21:47
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People make houserules to fix problems with the system. Stats in OD&D rarely did anything, with perhaps a 14 giving a +1. AD&D shifted that up to 15/16, which on 3d6 is incredibly unlikely. Basically, it's AD&D that created the stat inflation. Looking at effects, a 16 strength in AD&D is the same as a 13 strength in BD&D, and a 17 strength in AD&D is the same as a 15 strength in BD&D. Not even 18 is as good as 16 in BD&D, and you need 18/76 (the strength of a Vampire or Korred) in AD&D to match 18 in BD&D. It's even worse for Intelligence, with limitations on spell level. –  migo Mar 15 '11 at 21:48

Simplest way: let each player roll 1 or 2 stats as 2d6+6, and compensate by rolling 1 or 2 other stats as 2d6+1. That way you don't get all stats 9-12 but have a distinctive character with strengths and weaknesses. Once players realize it's just as fun to play a character who has a 4 or 5 in something, this works really well.

If it's taking you more than 10 minutes to roll up an AD&D character... ur doin it wrong. in my personal philosophy, let the character develop during play, instead of frontloading the work during chargen.

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Most stats have no difference from 8-14, aside from incremental benefits from strength, and extra languages for intelligence. If you use henchmen then charisma also matters. For the most part though, if you're using most normal rolling methods, you might as well just not bother.

I've found 1d6+12 works well, as it gives you a decent chance of landing 15+ for Dex, Con and Wis and 16+ for Str and Int (the latter is particularly important for Wizards). 'Cause really, what's the point of rolling for stats if you don't get any modifiers most of the time? 50% of results give you a modifier using 1d6+12, so there ends up being actual variation and significance to the stats.

If you were using BD&D, 4d6k3 works fine as you consistently get modifiers starting at 13 (and for the most part in the same range).

I always went with maximum HP and starting GP.

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Here's how I used to do it for 3rd Edition, but this would fit in with other editions as well. Basically I'd rather have success and failure be in the hands of a player's handling of a character, rather than dumb luck with Stat and HP rolls. So I simply got rid of them.

Stats: All stats start at 10. Players get additional 4 points to distribute to the stats as they see fit. Then they may 'trade' up to 2 more points between stats. Gives a starting range of 8 to 16. Characters then got to add 1 point to a stat when they leveled up. Moving from 16 to 17 cost 2 points, 17 to 18 cost 3 points. This let players really customize their character as they develop.

Hit Points: Maximum at every level.

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I know, I know; some of these are house rules that take effect in play and not at character creation, but they interact with the randomness of character creation, so maybe they're something for you to consider:

  • On each odd level-up (3rd, 5th, 7th, etc), you can select an ability score you want to raise, roll 3d6, and if the roll is higher/equal, you can raise it by 1 point permanently. On every even level-up (2nd, 4th, 6th), you can even roll 4d6 instead. Characters with low scores will raise them quickly and often, those with high ones rarely.

  • Max HP at first level if that's where the game starts out at.

  • HP can be re-rolled by taking time to have training with a fighting instructor. Pay some money and cut to a training montage scene, re-roll your entire set of hit dice, and if the total is higher than your current one, you can keep it.

  • Fix the starting money—assume die averages. 1d6 = 3.5; so 1d6*10 would yield 35 coins. If you'd prefer, just assemble the equipment according to each class/background and leave them with something like 3d6 coins of cash to start with.

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I quite like the idea of improving ability scores though I'm not sure that at the frequencies you're suggesting it wouldn't overpower characters relatively quickly. Similarly HP - I can see that you want to avoid very weak characters but other than saying reroll ones (just once, roll a one again and live with it), I'd personally stick close(r) to the rules as written. –  Jon Hopkins Sep 12 '11 at 9:15

"Roll and Share" Character Creation

I've seen a number of people online using various variations of this rule for OD&D, BD&D, and AD&D games. It's a simple hack that lets you make any random character generation method "fairer" without totally removing the randomness:

  1. Pick any stat-rolling method (probably not "roll in order," though).
  2. Have each player roll for stats. Write down each player's results.
    • Alternative if you're dead-set on not having a character-creation session: have the GM roll for stats several times before the game begins, and present the list to each player.
  3. You now have a series of "attribute arrays."
  4. A player can use any of the arrays to create a character. These aren't exclusive: two players can pick the same array if they feel like it.
    • For a slightly "tougher" version: a player can use the stats he or she rolled naturally, or can pick any of the other arrays at the cost of a small penalty to one of the stats.

Generally everyone in the group will end up using only the best one or two of the arrays. But that's fine! You still get quite a bit of the game's traditional unpredictability, but no one's got a crappier set than anyone else.

It can make for a fun little group exercise because you're all super-psyched when anyone rolls well.

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I'm a traditionalist about rolling stats when playing older editions, and yet this appeals to me. +1 –  SevenSidedDie Jan 10 at 16:09

My group uses the 6 4d6 rolls, and allows the player to arrange to their satisfaction. The player can also choose to roll a second one character, however they must keep that one. So this is sometimes a gamble and encourages people to be happy with a couple of 16's.

If a player rolls a crappy character after that, they are encouraged play it up- if their character dies in noble way appropriate to your character, we sometimes give a bonus to their next starting character such as +1 con or something.

We get decent characters this way and only rarely one that truly sucks.

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