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:
- 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.
- Monster/NPC attributes and PC attributes should be comparable, but the designers did a horrible job assigning monster/NPC attributes appropriately.
- 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?
- The 3D6 or 4D6 method is a sacred cow and we shouldn’t consider an alternate rolling method such as 6 + 2D6, etc
- Good point