I hate the concept of the dump stat with the blazing passion of a thousand fiery suns. To me, it smacks of this new fangled concept of character design, min/maxing and our obsession with the game’s mechanical aspects.
I much prefer the old-fangled method of rolling dice to determine my character’s stats. True, rolling dice puts my fate in the hands of the capricious gods of chance. I might not get the stats I need to play the character I want to play. Such is life. I’ll struggle through.
And in any event, part of the joy of gaming is the creativity it sparks. Didn’t get the stats I wanted? Can’t play the character I’d planned? What shall I do? Deploy my creativity!
What I’m surprised at (outside organised play) is the rise of the point buy system. I get that people want to play the character they want to play. That’s human nature. But I think designing every aspect of your character ironically can actually stifle creativity.
I also think the rise of point buy is to do with min/maxing. Since D&D 3.0, it seems D&D (and Pathfinder) has moved toward being more of a skirmish game. We have become obsessed with making our characters as “hard” as possible. We forget they are actually people. If I see another clumsy cleric, ugly fighter or impressively weak wizard, I’ll scream!
How I Like to Do It
It’s pretty simple. Roll 4d6 and list the stats in the order rolled on the character sheet. Decide on a race and apply racial modifiers accordingly.
This method often creates an interesting mix of stats that forces me to be creative both in terms of the character’s mechanics and its history, personality and future development.
Bob the Wizard
To illustrate my point, here’s a Pathfinder character. I rolled the following stats:
- 14, 18, 12, 15, 10, 9
That set of rolls screams rogue or wizard. Given I love playing spellcasters, I’m going with wizard. I shall call him Bob.
Behold, Bob if I assign the stats in the order I rolled them:
- Bob #1: Str 14, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 17 (includes human’s +2 stat modifier), Wis 10, Cha 9
Now here’s Bob if I assign my rolls as I see fit:
- Bob #2: Str 9, Dex 15, Con 14, Int 20 (includes human’s +2 stat modifier), Wis 12, Cha 10
Sure, the second version is “better” in that I’ve got higher modifiers in the stats that are important for a wizard. However, I’d argue (voraciously and at great length) that the first character (the “sub-optimal” one) looks more interesting. Blimey—Bob’s a strong, dextrous fellow! Why? That simple question forces me to think about his background, upbringing and proclivities. If Bob is better “qualified” to be a rogue, why didn’t he go down that route instead?
As I ponder these questions, Bob becomes more than a set of statistics; I’m beginning to see him as a person and not just a killing machine. Elements of his background might already be emerging in my fevered brain. Already, he is beginning to become more distinct than the last wizard I ran.
In this particularly instance (where for me I rolled insanely well—typically there was no one around to witness the actual rolls) I also get some unexpected benefits. Turns out, Bob is pretty good with ranged weapons and can hit pretty hard if he must. He can even carry more in his backpack than his spellbook! Perhaps I’ll even multi-class if his experiences warrant it. We’ll see.
If you like this in no way revolutionary idea, but really want a bit of flexibility, here’s a compromise. Roll the stats and assign them in the order you rolled. Then, swap one pair. This gives us a slightly different version of Bob:
- Bob #3: Str 14, Dex 15, Con 12, Int 20 (includes human’s +2 stat modifier), Wis 10, Cha 9
As you can see, I elected to swap Dexterity and Intelligence. He’s still dextrous and strong, but now he’s a mental colossus!
(This compromise method also helps the creation of the so-called balanced party, which is rather handy for D&D and Pathfinder groups and enables players who absolutely must play a certain class to fulfil their dark desire).
The Final Word
While Bob #1 may be less great at casting spells than his designed alter-ego he is already more distinct to me. And, if he’s already more distinct to me—and assuming I roleplay—he’ll be more memorable and fun to play at the table.
To me, that’s the point of the game.
Let me know what you think, in the comments below. (And if you want to read the counter argument, check out Stephen Radney-Macfarland’s counter argument).