# Rolling/buying/dealing ability scores

#### Trodax

##### Mongoose
I was just wondering which methods people use for determining ability scores in their campaigns.
Roll 4d6, discard the lowest? d10+8? Point buy? Other versions?

Personally, I recently heard about a variant that I'm really digging right now (at least in theory - haven't tried it out yet). It uses cards, regular cards from a normal 52 card deck that is.
The idea is that you put together a small deck of 18 cards with values between 1 and 6, and then deal them into six piles of three cards each. The sum of each pile then becomes one of your six ability scores.
For Joe-average characters this deck would be comprised of 3 sixes, 3 fives, 3 fours, 3 threes, 3 twos and 3 ones (which gives an average of 10.5), but obviously the balance between high and low cards can be altered to give more high-powered characters.

The nice thing with this method is that it preserves randomness, but still ensures that you get characters that are (approximately) of the same power level. If you like to have the chance to roll really high (or low), it might not be your thing, but for me thats not a big deal.

The deck I've been toying around with has 6 sixes, 3 fives, 3 fours, 3 threes and 3 twos. It gives an average ability score of 13, and excludes the really low values (6 is the lowest possible).

So, two questions; which method do you use, and what do you think of this card-dealing method?

Trodax said:
I was just wondering which methods people use for determining ability scores in their campaigns.
Roll 4d6, discard the lowest? d10+8? Point buy? Other versions?

Personally, I recently heard about a variant that I'm really digging right now (at least in theory - haven't tried it out yet). It uses cards, regular cards from a normal 52 card deck that is.
The idea is that you put together a small deck of 18 cards with values between 1 and 6, and then deal them into six piles of three cards each. The sum of each pile then becomes one of your six ability scores.
For Joe-average characters this deck would be comprised of 3 sixes, 3 fives, 3 fours, 3 threes, 3 twos and 3 ones (which gives an average of 10.5), but obviously the balance between high and low cards can be altered to give more high-powered characters.

The nice thing with this method is that it preserves randomness, but still ensures that you get characters that are (approximately) of the same power level. If you like to have the chance to roll really high (or low), it might not be your thing, but for me thats not a big deal.

The deck I've been toying around with has 6 sixes, 3 fives, 3 fours, 3 threes and 3 twos. It gives an average ability score of 13, and excludes the really low values (6 is the lowest possible).

So, two questions; which method do you use, and what do you think of this card-dealing method?
The Deadlands rpg creates stats from a deck of 52 cards. It is interesting because it fits the tone of a wild west/cthulhu-esque game. I personally will stick to die rolling in my game, still random but goes a little more IMHO w/ the idea Conan has stated that Crom gives each man strength at his birth, and it's up to each person to make due with such a gift.

I use the d6 character creation for my group, although one player couldn't roll any stats above 12, so I told him to discard the rolls and re-roll one line of d10+8, which worked for him. In this game, I allow characters the chance to roll very well, but likely roll up better-than-average stats. By the way, in a dnd game we're using point-by (28 pt), but I'm sticking w/ rolling, because I just prefer it.

So long as your group is pretty happy with the characters they create, you've got a good start.

Vincent addressed this in an S&P article a few months ago, arguing that Conan characters should always be rolled. I agree.

I've never experimented with a card system like you describe, but I don't care for point buy systems at all. To my mind, they enforce mediocrity - no powerful characters, no weak characters, just a bunch of PCs with stats of 10 and 12 (plus maybe one 14). Certainly none of them will have an odd number as a stat.

Some people love point buy, but I can't stand it. Give me a few rolls on the dice every time.

Bregales said:
The Deadlands rpg creates stats from a deck of 52 cards.
Aha, that was news to me. Do you know any details of that system that you could elaborate on?

GregLynch said:
Vincent addressed this in an S&P article a few months ago, arguing that Conan characters should always be rolled. I agree.
Interesting, haven't read that article. What, specific to Conan, makes you (and Vincent) think that?

GregLynch said:
I've never experimented with a card system like you describe, but I don't care for point buy systems at all. To my mind, they enforce mediocrity - no powerful characters, no weak characters, just a bunch of PCs with stats of 10 and 12 (plus maybe one 14). Certainly none of them will have an odd number as a stat.
Yeah, thats the problem I have with point-buy as well; they just give to "inorganic" arrays of abilities. 16,14,14,12,10,8 just feels very nonrandom to me. Other than that, point-buy would sit fine with me; I like to be able to control the power level, and my group also prefers equally powerful characters.

Bregales said:
So long as your group is pretty happy with the characters they create, you've got a good start.
For sure. Each to their own.

Trodax said:
Interesting, haven't read that article. What, specific to Conan, makes you (and Vincent) think that? I like to be able to control the power level, and my group also prefers equally powerful characters.

Well, to quote my own article:
Signs & Portents said:
Howardian characters are not created from a 'point buy' system, which smacks of an artificial 'fairness'. Certain RPG's hinge on the artifice of fairness. CR's and point-buy systems are fine for them. Not so for Conan.

Howard's characters, in metagaming sense, would not buy into any sort of constraint designed to create a level playing field. Conan would sneer at any tactic designed to provide a level playing field for the combatants. Conan disdains chivalric notions of fair-play. In Black Colossus, Conan refused to give up advantageous position. Do the same during character creation. Refuse to give up the advantage.

You may not come out ahead, but the advantage is there if you use the heroic system offered in Conan the Role Playing Game. The heroic system is extremely suited in attitude and style to create Howardian characters, who would rather risk a gamble on the dice than be forced to adapt themselves to the limits of the 'point buy' system.

Howard's characters routinely risk everything on the chance of gain. Refuse to submit to the level-playing field mentality.

Trodax said:
Bregales said:
The Deadlands rpg creates stats from a deck of 52 cards.
Aha, that was news to me. Do you know any details of that system that you could elaborate on?
Okay, lemme see if I can set this up: in the Deadlands game, your traits (STR, DEX, etc) are made up by drawing cards. The card you draw determines the TYPE of die you put in for a trait, as such:
Card_____die type
2____________d4
3–8__________d6
9–Jack_______d8
Queen–King__d10
Ace_________d12

Also, note that in Deadlands, instead of using Fate Points, use use poker chips, and depending on what color poker chip you use, the GM either gets a bonus against you or not. Deadlands=wild west/Cthulhu, played as if playing a poker game/dice game, and GM is the House (dealer).

So, it's very different in approach from a game like Conan, which goes more by the saying, "Fate has made us allies" than "I got a lucky hand!"

I'm sure this could easily be adapted for a d20 system. (You also draw cards in Deadlands for Initiative, negotiating, etc, and roll dice to perform skill checks, combat, etc). But maybe the other comments posted here will encourage dice rolling instead of card-picking. Either way, hope that helps.

I personally use a point buy system, the value of which is given equally to each player, but varies between games/campaigns.

I'm not a firm believer in the 'random roll' method, myself.

My players roll 4d6 for each attribute and drop the lowest die rolled from the total. Abilities are rolled in order from Strength to Charisma with the option of switching two base scores once. I am a bit of tyrant at the gaming table, but how often does a person get to choose what they're born with? 8)

Raven

Bregales said:
Okay, lemme see if I can set this up: in the Deadlands game, your traits (STR, DEX, etc) are made up by drawing cards. The card you draw determines the TYPE of die you put in for a trait, as such:
Card_____die type
2____________d4
3–8__________d6
9–Jack_______d8
Queen–King__d10
Ace_________d12

Also, note that in Deadlands, instead of using Fate Points, use use poker chips, and depending on what color poker chip you use, the GM either gets a bonus against you or not. Deadlands=wild west/Cthulhu, played as if playing a poker game/dice game, and GM is the House (dealer).
OK, cool. Thanks for the info.

I can see how using cards can be really appropriate for a wild west game. I sure don't want to turn my Conan game into a poker night, and I might actually use some sort of counters (numbered 1-6) instead of regular cards, just to not get the wrong mood!

Its not the card drawing per se that I like about this method, its the statistical aspects of it. I mean, its actually very similar to a point-buy system (in that everyone gets equal points), its just that you can't decide the exact values you get. Right up my alley!

VincentDarlage said:
Well, to quote my own article:
Signs & Portents said:
Howardian characters are not created from a 'point buy' system, which smacks of an artificial 'fairness'. Certain RPG's hinge on the artifice of fairness. CR's and point-buy systems are fine for them. Not so for Conan.

Howard's characters, in metagaming sense, would not buy into any sort of constraint designed to create a level playing field. Conan would sneer at any tactic designed to provide a level playing field for the combatants. Conan disdains chivalric notions of fair-play. In Black Colossus, Conan refused to give up advantageous position. Do the same during character creation. Refuse to give up the advantage.

You may not come out ahead, but the advantage is there if you use the heroic system offered in Conan the Role Playing Game. The heroic system is extremely suited in attitude and style to create Howardian characters, who would rather risk a gamble on the dice than be forced to adapt themselves to the limits of the 'point buy' system.

Howard's characters routinely risk everything on the chance of gain. Refuse to submit to the level-playing field mentality.
OK, I see what you're saying. Eloquently put.

I don't know though, that doesn't really work for me. I guess the problem is that, while I totally agree that we should strive to create characters that have a Howardian spirit, me and my players do not have that type of personality (pretty far from it actually :wink: ).
So if I, as a player, roll up a set of mediocre stats while my buddy next to me gets the stats of a demigod, the Howardesque reaction would be to embrace that as a challenge and not whine about it. Knowing myself though, I have to admit that my reaction would more likely be to feel sort of....well....shafted. I guess I'm just small-minded about that kind of stuff.

I guess I just value fairness higher than others, and I also don't really mind if the rules are (slightly) separated from the setting in that way.

Along the same lines, I've heard it argued that its appropriate for the Barbarian class to be slightly stronger than the other classes since "barbarism is the natural state of mankind" was one of Howards themes (not saying thats the case with the Barbarian, I think its fine as it is).
That kind of argument doesn't sit right with me either; if one of my players want's to play a bad-ass mercenary Soldier, I don't want him to feel he's losing out, even though its the destiny of civilization to fall before the pictish hordes.

I also think point-buy systems and their like make it easier to plan a character concept ahead of time; you know what you have to work with.

Trodax said:
I don't know though, that doesn't really work for me. I guess the problem is that, while I totally agree that we should strive to create characters that have a Howardian spirit, me and my players do not have that type of personality (pretty far from it actually :wink: ).
So if I, as a player, roll up a set of mediocre stats while my buddy next to me gets the stats of a demigod, the Howardesque reaction would be to embrace that as a challenge and not whine about it. Knowing myself though, I have to admit that my reaction would more likely be to feel sort of....well....shafted. I guess I'm just small-minded about that kind of stuff.

I guess I just value fairness higher than others, and I also don't really mind if the rules are (slightly) separated from the setting in that way.
Hey, fine - every group of players has their own way of playing any game. Just about everyone says in each of these topic posts to play how you like it best. House rules what you want to adapt from the core books' take on any topic. The whole point is to have fun with friends.
Trodax said:
Along the same lines, I've heard it argued that its appropriate for the Barbarian class to be slightly stronger than the other classes since "barbarism is the natural state of mankind" was one of Howards themes (not saying thats the case with the Barbarian, I think its fine as it is).
That kind of argument doesn't sit right with me either; if one of my players want's to play a bad-ass mercenary Soldier, I don't want him to feel he's losing out, even though its the destiny of civilization to fall before the pictish hordes.
Yes, it is Howard's claim, but remember - your group, my group and every other group which buys the game is setting up a group of player characters, which are by definition exceptions to the mold or norm of the societies in the world, just as Conan was unique amongst his people as he left his harsh homeland to trod the jeweled thrones of the earth beneath his sandaled feet. If your players are destined to do likewise, that's why you all play the game, right? Each of your players' characters are mighty just for trying the life of an adventurer!
Trodax said:
I also think point-buy systems and their like make it easier to plan a character concept ahead of time; you know what you have to work with.
Personally, I hate point-buy, but like I wrote above, it's your group so you do what you think is best of course.

Bregales said:
Okay, lemme see if I can set this up: in the Deadlands game, your traits (STR, DEX, etc) are made up by drawing cards. The card you draw determines the TYPE of die you put in for a
trait, as such

Don't forget that the suit of the card determined how many dice were in the trait.

CosmicCowboy said:
Don't forget that the suit of the card determined how many dice were in the trait.
Yep, good point. I just played Deadlands for the fist time a couple weeks ago, so am still new to this system. Thanks.

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