Attributes, 3D6, Bell Curve and the Average NPC

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A lot of discussions on rolling for attributes centered on what the average roll was and the bell curve of the 3D6 or 4D6 method.  I’m curious about  how people actually play PCs with attribute scores of  3s or 5s.  It occurred to me that I might have completely different assumptions about what a 3 or 5 actually means.  I’ve always assumed that a score of 8 – 12 was average, >12 is exceptional and <7 is="" disabled="disabled" i="" think="" the="" strength="" and="" intelligence="" attributes="" showcase="" this="" most="" p="">


Take a look at what other creatures have a STR of 3.  In 3.5, a cat has STR 3.  In 4e, the same cat became stronger and received a STR 4 while a lot of other small animals stayed at 3.  In DNDNext, the Quasit (a tiny creature) has an STR of 5.  Now look at the historically small and physically weak creatures:  goblins, kobolds and gnomes.  In previous 3.5 and 4e they were rocking STRs of 9 – 11.  In DNDNext they have 7 or 8s.  So I’m curious how people justify playing a PC with a STR of 3 when they are equivalent in strength to small animals?  Do you play a character that is so weak they might not even be able to support themselves or do ignore this and assume that a 3 is just weak and not debilitating?


Now look at intelligence.  An INT of 0 is completely mindless.  In most editions, animals that lived by instinct only had INTs of 1s and 2s.  However, in 3.5 there were some monkeys with an INT of 3.  In DNDNext, there are Ape’s with an INT of 5.  Again, look at the historically less intelligent humanoids: goblins, kobolds and orcs.  They still have scores of 7 – 10 in INT.  So again I’m curious how people justify playing a PC with an INT of 3?  That’s a character that’s equivalent in intelligence to a monkey or a 4 year old human child. In the case of the monkey, they have instincts to help their survival.  A 4 year old human is generally not self-sufficient and most of the time would not survive without assistance.  Do you assume that an INT of 3 is not that bad and that the PC with an INT 3 can still learn to read, learn basic math, etc?


This brings me to the second question which concerns the 3D6 bell curve compared to the “average” population.  In your D&D campaigns, what are the attributes of your average non-heroic NPCs; the NPCs are that shop owners, beggars, etc?  Are they all 10s across the board or are they a smattering of 3 – 18s?  If you think the average common NPC is all 10s or 9s or 8s, then the 3D6 bell curve is completely the wrong shape.  If it was the correct shape then like 90% of all rolls would end up really close to a 10 with only 10% deviating from that and something like less than a fraction of a percent would deviate significantly from that center point.  However, your PCs aren’t common NPCs.  They are supposed to be heroes.  So, should we use a system to roll attributes that consistently produces PCs that are below average when compared to their non-heroic counterparts?


I kind of expect people to have 5 points of views on this:



  1. Monster/NPC attributes and PC attributes aren’t comparable and have completely separate points of reference.  A PC with a STR of 3 is still considerably stronger than a cat with a STR of 3 and a PC with an INT of 3 is considerably smarter than a monkey with an INT of 3.

  2. Monster/NPC attributes and PC attributes should be comparable, but the designers did a horrible job assigning monster/NPC attributes appropriately.

  3. If you don’t like rolling for attributes then use a point buy method. True, but what if you like the idea of rolling for attributes but wonder why we use a system that consistently produces severely below average characters?

  4. The 3D6 or 4D6 method is a sacred cow and we shouldn’t consider an alternate rolling method such as 6 + 2D6, etc

  5. Good point


I'm a 2 category. Strength is harder to define, because a cat is smaller than a human. Both need enough strength to stand, so a 3 should be enough (barely) for a human to walk upright. A Cat should probably have a Str 2; a cat should deal at most 1 damage, even with a crit.

Side note: I remember in a previous edition (I don't remember which one), the best weapon a PC could have was to carry a donkey backwards because the kick attack was like 2d6+3 Damage Laughing
i find about one in 6 people have one really high stat or skill, and then the rest is ordinary. There really should be some kind of "ordinary except in one area" stat/skill system, because that's much more believable and emersive than 10,000,000 people with 9-12s.
Options are Liberating
There are more factors to the numbers than mere chance distribution across the population. For instance, females should get an across the board 2-3 point penalty in strength to make it an accurate system.



Never.  Never ever.  The numerous reasons why not should be obvious.

There are more factors to the numbers than mere chance distribution across the population. For instance, females should get an across the board 2-3 point penalty in strength to make it an accurate system.



Never.  Never ever.  The numerous reasons why not should be obvious.




The designers have already emphatically stated that there will not be gender-based attribute modifiers, so we can sink that entire moronic idea here and now.
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Never.  Never ever.  The numerous reasons why not should be obvious.




If you actually read the rest of his post, he was just saying that in terms of simulation, that is something that has science behind it for humans.

He was not suggesting that the game should actually do it, and in fact, gave a few simulation-based reasons why it shouldn't be done.
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
The designers have already emphatically stated that there will not be gender-based attribute modifiers, so we can sink that entire moronic idea here and now.



Can we instead shoot it in the knees, see it bleed out and then light it on fire when it's still just barely alive? Pretty please? I'd pay for the honors!



Why be so merciful?
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There are more factors to the numbers than mere chance distribution across the population. For instance, females should get an across the board 2-3 point penalty in strength to make it an accurate system.



Never.  Never ever.  The numerous reasons why not should be obvious.




Yeah, yeah, go stand on someone elses soapbox because you're factually incorrect. Political correctness is a plague and post-modernism is ignorance in celebration. Besides, I wasn't calling for its return. Reading comprehension for the win.



Political correctness and post-modernism isn't my point.  My point is that we're playing a fantasy game where fantastic characters in fantastic adventures are commonplace.  It isn't unheard of of a 6'5", 250 lb. muscular woman.  Is it common?  Certainly not, but it's not unheard of.  Not only that, but the idea of a stat penalty for gender disincentivizes a player from pairing a gender with a class.  With D&D Next, while using the stat array, if I invest my 15 in strength for my fighter, being my primary stat, add the extra 1 for the boost from being a fighter, and take a -3 penalty for being female, I get to be a 13 strength fighter.  I'm statistically terrible at what I do, even though I specifially statted out to decent at that.  Major stat penalties for minor choices is never a good idea.

Oh look! A trap door hmmm it has a trip wire running through the pull ring and a large boulder precariously balanced above it? Maybe I will find another way in to this dungeon.

Re the bell curve: I kind of enjoy having a low score somewhere, it provides great direction for character development and makes for some funny moments in the game. As long as the system can handle numbers on the ends of the curve I'm good with putting them on a character sheet. 



 
  Major stat penalties for minor choices is never a good idea.




Stat penalties are never a good idea period.
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Howdy folks,

The gender and ability score issue was laid to rest months ago.  Let's not resurrect it.

Thanks.  

All around helpful simian

  Major stat penalties for minor choices is never a good idea.




Stat penalties are never a good idea period.



I agree wholeheartedly.  On a somewhat unrelated note, I'm not particularly a fan of stat bonuses through race either.  I think that races should be flavorful enough where they don't need a +2 to (insert ability score here).  I think the physical and mental capabilities of a single race can be emulated by other races, even if only in extreme cases, therefore, I don't think core ability scores should be race related at all.

Back on topic, I think that monsters, NPCs, and PCs should share the same standards for ability scores.  Score capabilities should determined by the game system, so the capability of a strength 3 cat should be similar to the capability of a strength 3 human PC.  Not that a strength 3 PC would be particularly useful in an adventuring party.  Then again, a common house cat wouldn't be much of a character either.



Back on topic, I think that monsters, NPCs, and PCs should share the same standards for ability scores.  Score capabilities should determined by the game system, so the capability of a strength 3 cat should be similar to the capability of a strength 3 human PC.  Not that a strength 3 PC would be particularly useful in an adventuring party.  Then again, a common house cat wouldn't be much of a character either.




House cat is an awesome character! You can sneak around and get into all kinds of places. Almost as good as being invisible all the time. And a cat that can cast spells! Thats a great package, maybe a little bit too good come to think of it, no cat RCC's in my game! 

I have to go back and read the OP's post again. This thread doesn't seem to be doing much.

Ah, that's why I said a common house cat.
Ah, that's why I said a common house cat.


Why did you say "a common housecat" I don't understand. 
Ah, that's why I said a common house cat.


Why did you say "a common housecat" I don't understand. 



I refer only to your mention of spellcasting in your previous post.  Although, an intelligent talking cat with magic would actually make for a fun game.  I want to play one that wears a giant wizard hat.

Ah, that's why I said a common house cat.


Why did you say "a common housecat" I don't understand. 



I refer only to your mention of spellcasting in your previous post.  Although, an intelligent talking cat with magic would actually make for a fun game.  I want to play one that wears a giant wizard hat.



IMAGE(http://i633.photobucket.com/albums/uu53/sora_stormcrow/cats/wizard.jpg)
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Ah, that's why I said a common house cat.


Why did you say "a common housecat" I don't understand. 



I refer only to your mention of spellcasting in your previous post.  Although, an intelligent talking cat with magic would actually make for a fun game.  I want to play one that wears a giant wizard hat.



Oh I get it now, duh. I'm a bit thick headed sometimes =-)

Aplause for Salla's cat pic lulz even =-D 
2. Monster/NPC attributes and PC attributes should be comparable, but the designers did a horrible job assigning monster/NPC attributes appropriately.

The way I do it, because it makes sense to me, is to look at the 3d6 breakdown and assign various human values as appropriate for the distribution.  If an 18 represents 1 in 216 humans, then I look at what the top 0.5% of humanity can do and use that as my guideline.  

For example, the top 0.5% of intelligence correlates to roughly IQ 140 (according to random internet data).  Roughly 2% of humans have an IQ below 70, so I set INT 4 = IQ 70 and INT 3 < IQ 70 (with this data being much harder to find online).

That means I can play INT 5 just fine, because I'm still sharper than Gump, and he managed to do pretty well for himself - and PCs generally have other PCs to help keep them in check, so it's not a big issue.

I'm not sure which edition actually wrote it down, but I was certain that I read somewhere about a sharp break in the scale between 2 and 3, since 2 is not a number normally attainable by humans and thus they can set its value arbitrarily low.  If that was AD&D, then they could have prevented demi-humans from scoring that low (even if they had a racial penalty) by increasing their racial minimum requirement.


The metagame is not the game.
Ah bloodninja...I'll never look at robes and wizard hats the same way again.
My two copper.
That's why 18/01-00 was such an awesome idea for PC humanoids. They should have done the same for the other stats. It separated the humanoid from the larger creature and made objects like gauntlets of ogre power and girdles of giant strength AWESOME!
"If it's not a conjuration, how did the wizard con·jure/ˈkänjər/Verb 1. Make (something) appear unexpectedly or seemingly from nowhere as if by magic. it?" -anon "Why don't you read fire·ball / fī(-ə)r-ˌbȯl/ and see if you can find the key word con.jure /'kən-ˈju̇r/ anywhere in it." -Maxperson
Howdy folks,

The gender and ability score issue was laid to rest months ago.  Let's not resurrect it.

Thanks.  



I didn't, there was NO ISSUE or call to return it, only people with ZERO reading comprehension trying to harp on it, and me setting them straight.



And yet, you're extraordinarily defensive about it.

2. Monster/NPC attributes and PC attributes should be comparable, but the designers did a horrible job assigning monster/NPC attributes appropriately.

The way I do it, because it makes sense to me, is to look at the 3d6 breakdown and assign various human values as appropriate for the distribution.  If an 18 represents 1 in 216 humans, then I look at what the top 0.5% of humanity can do and use that as my guideline.  

For example, the top 0.5% of intelligence correlates to roughly IQ 140 (according to random internet data).  Roughly 2% of humans have an IQ below 70, so I set INT 4 = IQ 70 and INT 3 < IQ 70 (with this data being much harder to find online).

That means I can play INT 5 just fine, because I'm still sharper than Gump, and he managed to do pretty well for himself - and PCs generally have other PCs to help keep them in check, so it's not a big issue.

I'm not sure which edition actually wrote it down, but I was certain that I read somewhere about a sharp break in the scale between 2 and 3, since 2 is not a number normally attainable by humans and thus they can set its value arbitrarily low.  If that was AD&D, then they could have prevented demi-humans from scoring that low (even if they had a racial penalty) by increasing their racial minimum requirement.



Saelorn, how do you deal with monsters such as the Ape in the bestiary that have an INT of 5?  Do they also have an IQ > 80 and all the learning potential that could represent?  Are they on a different IQ scale?  Do you even care what the Ape's INT score is because as a DM you would have a monsterous Ape in a fantasy setting behave similar to how you would expect an Ape to behave in the real world?  This line of thought makes me wonder why do we even have attribute scores for monsters/NPCs if they aren't comparable to PC scores.  Mechanically, you could just get away with size, AC, hp, attack bonuses, damage and special effects.  If monster attributes don't actually give you any reference for how smart or strong they are then why not just describe them in text such as, "Apes have animal intelligence and behave mostly by instinct but are much stronger than humans"?
Pheonix, you said you use the 3D6 method to determine attributes.  Does your group actually keep low rolls?  Does the player who rolls a 5 STR pray they roll a decent INT so they can at least play a decent wizard?  Do you allow people to swap attribute scores so they can have a decent score in the primary attribute of the class they want to play?  Do players just keep re-rolling characters until they get attributes that will work for the class/PC they want to play? 

4. In an RPG, where roleplaying and not mechanics are the point, no mechanical rule 'disincentivizes' anything. We don't have people making roleplaying choices based on mechanics, and if you do then I'm DEEPLY sorry for your experiences.

5. Stat array is garbage, only rolling matters (to us). Not only that, we roll 3d6 because we KNOW for a fact that numbers and mechanics absolutely do not matter a diddler's darn in an RPG.


Wait a minute. So you are saying that there is no difference in roleplaying a PC with a Charisma score of 16 and one with 8? What about Intelligence 16/8 or Strength 17/9? These numbers influence the way you have to roleplay these characters, I would think.
And what if I want to play a fighter with great social skills who can dish out halfway decently... and than I roll crap. How does that not influence my incentive to play the character I had in mind?
Or am I misunderstanding something here?
as regards with animals, I think lack of intelligence is not what they show us; it is their lack of freedom ( because they make a deal with God to gain special knowledge about the World and the Meaning of Life )
The roleplaying AND the mechanics are both important in a roleplaying game.  The former is the RP in RPG, the latter is the G.

Ignoring stat arrays is fine if you like 'here's your role, play it', but most players I've met approach their characters from a 'I want to play this specific character', at which point random stat rolls fail miserably.  If you really want to play, say, a brilliant wizard or 'the strongest man in the kingdom' (hyperbolic, yes, but ...) and you get nothing higher than a 11, you're out of luck.  You should be able to play the character you WANT to play, not just get handed a pile of stats and 'make do'.

This is why I will *always* use point buy.
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4. In an RPG, where roleplaying and not mechanics are the point, no mechanical rule 'disincentivizes' anything. We don't have people making roleplaying choices based on mechanics, and if you do then I'm DEEPLY sorry for your experiences.

5. Stat array is garbage, only rolling matters (to us). Not only that, we roll 3d6 because we KNOW for a fact that numbers and mechanics absolutely do not matter a diddler's darn in an RPG.


Wait a minute. So you are saying that there is no difference in roleplaying a PC with a Charisma score of 16 and one with 8? What about Intelligence 16/8 or Strength 17/9? These numbers influence the way you have to roleplay these characters, I would think.
And what if I want to play a fighter with great social skills who can dish out halfway decently... and than I roll crap. How does that not influence my incentive to play the character I had in mind?
Or am I misunderstanding something here?



Well, you play them differently, but there's no set correlation to the FUN of roleplaying them. The fun is playing what you get, not getting what you want. Some of the MOST fun characters at our tables have been the absolute gimps. People with an overall NEGATIVE attribute penalty.

In pre-3rd your attributes had next to nothing to do with your potential in the game. The difference to hit between an 8 strength and an 18 strength is 1. The difference for damage between a 6 strength and a 17 stregnth is also 1. We're talking about a grand total of 5% different mechanics between 6 and 18. It's nothing.


I agree with you that the numbers do not have to spoil the fun of roleplaying. I, too, have made the experience that the lousiest stats made for some of the best roleplaying experiences. But also very high stats.

What I find interesting about the differences in what stats mean mechanically in the pre-3rd era is that there does not seem to be an incentive to play characters differently in a game like that BECAUSE (not in spite) mechanically there is no difference between Charisma 8 and 16.
Your concept of "play what you roll", not "play what you want" is not my style of game, though. I find myself thinking about a certain PC concept and trying to figure out what things mean for that character on a roleplaying level. I put a lot of effort into this and so I would like to have control over the creation of that character to get as close as possible. Min/maxing is not an issue for me here, by the way. 
Also, very strong, very bright, very charismatic or very wise people view the world in a different way. They behave differently and use different mechanisms to deal with situations. So while in 2nd edition, low or high stats might not make a huge difference on a mechanical level, they should affect roleplaying to a huge extent. Because smart people act differently than dumb people. A weak person also will react differently to, say, bullying than a strong person. And a guy who is good at what he does (say a bright student of magic) will watch the world with different eyes than a very mediocre student.

To sum it up: I agree with you on the FUN part, but not on the ROLEPLAYING part. This aspect is very much influenced by numbers and mechanics. And I think that is a good thing. Why have attributes scores at all if the do not mean anything on a roleplaying level?
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The roleplaying AND the mechanics are both important in a roleplaying game.  The former is the RP in RPG, the latter is the G.

Ignoring stat arrays is fine if you like 'here's your role, play it', but most players I've met approach their characters from a 'I want to play this specific character', at which point random stat rolls fail miserably.  If you really want to play, say, a brilliant wizard or 'the strongest man in the kingdom' (hyperbolic, yes, but ...) and you get nothing higher than a 11, you're out of luck.  You should be able to play the character you WANT to play, not just get handed a pile of stats and 'make do'.

This is why I will *always* use point buy.



Why? That's the fun for us.

I mean, sometimes, sure. But mostly our understanding of the game is to 'play what you get'. It takes some skill, but offers higher rewards.

Who is more impressive for taking out a bandit/robber, Superman or Joe the Farmer? Superman can do (effectively) anything, with no fear of failure. Joe is just like you and me. When he does something it's like us being able to do it. It's believable, and relatable, and that's what makes it interesting.

I'm not saying other styles are invalid, only that they're invalid for us (and not objectively necessary).



Why aren't there more players with this mentality?

Anyway, when I have my players determine their ability scores, I actually use an array AND roll for them:

I start with a lower than normal array, like so: 14,13,12,10,8,6.  These could be lower or higher as you like but represent the MINIMUM each score could be.  Assign as desired.

Once assigned roll (4d6 drop lowest) in order for each score.  If you roll higher than what you have from the array you get to keep the higher score.  I guess you could use plain 3d6 instead if you wanted.

Apply modifiers.

Works like a dream, characters are always reasonably effective at their desired role, re-rolls are never needed, yet things are still random.

If anyone likes this (including you, WOTC) you are very welcome for the freebie 

Afterthought:  this is already how the random roll method is, with the difference that the starting array is set to all 3s.

Saelorn, how do you deal with monsters such as the Ape in the bestiary that have an INT of 5?  Do they also have an IQ > 80 and all the learning potential that could represent?  Are they on a different IQ scale?  Do you even care what the Ape's INT score is because as a DM you would have a monsterous Ape in a fantasy setting behave similar to how you would expect an Ape to behave in the real world?  

I haven't yet adjusted to the scale shift with Next, but back when they had INT 3 (IQ ~60), I played them that way.  A fantasy ape is pretty comparable to a very dumb human.  They can use tools, but probably not build them.

Apes (and possibly raptors) aside, though, an animal with INT 3 or higher is just a design error.  They act like INT 2 for all purposes other than ability damage.

The metagame is not the game.