Yesterday, I had a brief discussion about rolling ability scores in D&D compared to point buy or array with Bartoneus of Critical Hits fame on twitter. He is going to start random ability scores in his game.

In my D&D 4^{th} edition campaigns, I have players who enjoy rolling their ability scores while others who prefer point buy. They mentioned concern about one player rolling great stats and another being unlucky with their rolls. I established the following technique to get balance within the group.

First, all the players roll their ability scores using 4d6 drop the lowest or decide to use point-buy or an array. You ask the players who rolled their ability scores to give their values.

Second, as a DM, you calculate the point value of their ability scores. If they rolled a value less than 8 then it is worth -1 per value under 8. If there is more than one 8 or 9 then the extra are worth -2 (for 8) or -1 (for 9).

Third, with all the point values, you calculate the average point value of the group. You determine a range equal to the average of the group -2 up to the average of the group +2. You can adjust the size of your range as you wish. I picked plus or minus 2 because it gives a range for variety amongst the party to satisfy the random players but it is close enough to prevent extreme luck influencing character power.

First, on a individual basis, you adjust a PC’s ability scores. If the PC’s ability scores are worth less than the average -2 then the player get extra points equal to the difference to spend to increase their ability scores. If the PC’s ability scores are worth more than the average +2 then the player must reduce his PC’s ability scores by a number of points equal to the difference. A PC within the range does not need to change his ability scores.

Here’s an example:

We have five players: Albert, Brenda, Catherine, Donald and Eric.

Albert rolls the following: 14, 15, 13, 11, 9, 12

Brenda rolls the following: 11, 15, 16, 16, 12, 8

Catherine chooses the specialists array: 18, 14, 11, 10, 10, 8

Donald chooses to go point buy.

Eric rolls the following: 10, 15, 13, 6, 14, 12

The DM takes the ability scores of Albert, Brenda and Eric to calculate their point value. For Albert, she gets 5 (14) + 7 (15) + 3 (13) + 1 (11) + 1 (9) + 2 (12) = 19 points. For Brenda, she gets 1 (11) + 7 (15) + 9 (16) + 9 (16) + 2 (12) + 0 (8) = 28 points. For Eric, she gets 0 (10) + 7 (15) + 3 (13) – 2 (6) + 5 (14) + 2 (12) = 15 points. Catherine and Donald are both worth 22 points. The average of the group is 21.2 points. The range will be 19-23.

Of the group, Albert, Catherine and Donald do not need to change their ability scores. Brenda needs to lower her scores by 5 points. For Eric, he gets 4 points to increase his ability scores.

I also read comments by Springbaldjack on twitter about the rolling and arrange as desired. When I’ve been playing lately, the DM told me to roll and arrange as desired. The others player rolled and rearranged their scores. I chose to roll and arrange them in the order that I rolled them. I enjoy giving the option to rearrange the scores as desired as it permits players with a character concept to arrange their scores to support that concept. Additionally, a player with no concept or too many concepts can arrange them in order rolled to focus their imagination toward a character concept.

What do you think of my technique to balance ability scores within the group? Where do you stand on the arrange scores as desired issue?

Back in the day of the cleric as the dump class (new guy shows up, told “we need a cleric”) I knew people who forced you to roll 3D6 each stat and keep them where they were

No one wants to play the 9 Strength (best stat) fighter!

Your standard deviation is pretty high, 4.26, but all values are well within 2 SD

Adding up straight numbers (i.e. not using the escalating costs in the rules), totals for the 4 listed are 70, 71, 74 and 78. Which is pretty damn close to an average of 73.25

Personally, I prefer a point buy because it allows me to focus in on what I need for my vision and I avoid the dump class syndrome of randomness