How I Randomly Generated My New Character

The other day, I thought I’d try an (interesting) experiment in character generation.

By William McAusland (Outland Arts)
By William McAusland (Outland Arts)


Regular readers may recall I hate the point buy system for generating statistics with the fiery passion of a thousand blazing suns. Perhaps I’m an old fart. Perhaps I’m stuck in my ways, but my preferred method for generating stats involves four (normally cursed) six-sided dice. (And if you are like me and are often cursed with bad stats check out this article where I discuss what to do with crap stats).

However—back to the point of this article—I wondered what would happen if I left more than just the character’s statistics to random chance.

(For the purposes of this experiment I only used the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook—partly because I’m a fan of core-only campaigns and partly because I couldn’t be bothered to include other options).

As you’ll see—if you read on—I ended up with rather an interesting character!

Race (d8)

I flipped to the front of the core rulebook and rolled a d8 to determine the character’s race. (I would have re-rolled if I’d got an 8). I rolled a 6 and I discovered my character is a halfling. I noted down the racial modifiers (-2 Str, +2 Dex, +2 Cha) and moved on.

As an aside, if I was planning to use this character in my Borderland of Adventure campaign I would have used a slightly more sophisticated table to determine the character’s race. Here’s the table I would have used (based on the Living Greyhawk Gazetter’s racial breakdown of Ratik):

  • 1-79%: Human
  • 80-87%: Dwarf
  • 88-93%: Halfling
  • 94-96%: Elven
  • 97-98%: Gnome
  • 99%: Half-elf
  • 100%: Half-orc

Sex (d6)

I decided on 50/50 odds for the character’s sex. I rolled a 5 and so she is female.

Stats (4d6)

I was feeling brave. I rolled two sets of stats using 4d6 and noted them down in order and then applied the halfling’s racial modifiers. (If I was feeling foolhardy, I’d have rolled only one set!)

Class (d12)

Because I got a very capable set of stats—the character could literally qualify for any class—I decided to randomly determine class as well. I rolled a d12 and discovered my halfling is a fighter!

Alignment (d6)

Given I’d rolled pretty much everything else randomly I thought I might as well do the same for alignment. Obviously—as this is intended to be a PC—I discounted the three “problematical” alignments: neutral evil, chaotic evil and lawful evil. Obviously (and typically) I ended up with chaotic neutral.

Background Skill (d20)

I’m a huge fan of the secondary skills table in the 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. When I created the Old School Pathfinder character generation guidelines I  included a similar table. It seemed natural to use the table for this experiment and I discovered my character was skilled at Handle Animal (I allocated one of my fighter’s precious skill points to the skill to simulate her previous life).

Cora Shadowstaker

So—what did I end up with?

CN female halfling fighter 1 (Str 14, Dex 15, Con 16, Int 12, Wis 14, Cha 14; hp 13)

Once a stable girl to a local human lord her wild nature saw her constantly in trouble with her master. Her sarcastic personality and acidic tongue got her into many fights with customers and fellow stablehands alike. Eventually, she was thrown out of her position and cast adrift in the world. Wild, carefree and somewhat unpredictable she is nevertheless fiercely loyal to those she calls her friends.

Her skills include Acrobatics, Climb, Handle Animal, Perception, Stealth and Swim.

She is skilled (Precise Shot, Point Blank Shot) with the sling staff (a surprisingly epic weapon I’d never really looked at before) and uses a scimitar in close combat.

My Thoughts

This was a fun, interesting experiment. I’ve not played many halflings and fighter isn’t exactly my favourite class. However, the process of randomly generating her details—and deciding how they all fit together—brought Cora alive in my imagination. it was fun to answer questions like, “Why is she chaotic neutral?” and “How and why is she skilled at animal handling?”

It made me want to play her. Perhaps not for an entire campaign—my fighters often die, anyway—but I’d happily play her for a one-shot or short adventure arc. That said, she’s the sum of a series of rather sub-optimal choices. She couldn’t hold her own in a group of super-optimised characters who are using loads of options from all the optional Pathfinder books.

And for me, that’s okay. I think she’d be fun!

What Do You Think?

Is this stupid? Would you hurl yourself across the table and stab me in the eye with a d4 if I suggested it in a game you were playing? Or do you think this looks like fun? Let me know in the comments below! (Or perhaps even post up your own randomly generated character!)


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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

14 thoughts on “How I Randomly Generated My New Character”

  1. This is a really interesting approach. I also like leaving things to randomness, as the game itself heavily relies on random results of our actions based on dice rolls.
    This is something I would like to try the next time around I need to generate a new character, but the only caveat I see with this approach is getting a group that is diverse enough to sustain a long campaign; you may end up with a band of Druids or Wizards roaming the countryside – which I am not saying wouldn’t be fun, but our DM likes a well-balanced group to challenge his twisted & devilish modules… 😉

    1. To remove the problem of everyone being the same thing, only one of you can be any of the classes. If 4 players all roll fighter, each rolls a d20 and the highest roller stays a fighter while the others roll again (with no further fighters allowed) OR you allow any of the 4 who don’t want to be fighters to roll again (takes out a bit of random but not much).

  2. There’s no way you actually rolled those dice, I doubt you’ve ever had a pc with stats like since you started playing! :p

  3. As to the person who thinks those stats aren’t real, my first character was 1st edition AD&D run by an old school DnD 3d6 in order GM. I rolled six 16’s. Using his dice with him watching. So yeah, sometimes the dice-goddess snuggles up on your lap and all goes well!

  4. Well I DO think that this is an old fart method.

    Keep in mind: You could end with a INT 11 Wizard., only able to cast spells from first level (And cantrips)
    Yes, there can be out there people who WANT to be wizards even if they doesn’t have INT for it, or Fighters even if they have a -2 to STR. But You WOULDN’T put the fate of the world on their hands.

    And Heroes… they usually have the fate of the world (Or at least, the fate of a great community) on their hands.

    Remember that most games doesn’t use Hero Points, so being darn good in their trades is the only thing that in D20 games, the PCs have at their side.
    But this could be VERY interesting for creating a community, with NPCs… But of course, with some logic! Should you be a Half Orc, with STR20, CON 18 and INT9 and CHA 15, maybe you want to be a wizard, but you know that you can be a fighter… or a PALADIN.

    On the other hand… you roll for your class and you got a Paladin. But you don’t feel playing a Lawful Good Guy today.
    Or the party is 5 wizards. Nobody can tank, or heal, or be a Skill-Monkey, ANYTHING.

    This is an interesting exercise, but if someone in my gametable uses this generation table… He would receive the same treatment that the rest of PCs in the table. Being Over-Optimized is equally as bad as being De-Optimized.

  5. I too hate the point buy system of Stat generation. I love not knowing what class I can play until after I see what my random stat rolls have given me.

    My one disagreement is with your problematic alignments. I would keep Lawful Evil, since they, in my experience are more conducive to party unity than the alignment I would consider problematic: chaotic neutral.

    I have yet to see a player play that alignment and not use it as a justification for being a character who switches lightning quick between Murder Hobo and Mental Patient. And playing with that personality at the table gets old quick.

    1. i second your assessment of alignments there.

      i have a hard time finding agreement with this, but in my mind a CN character is a bastion of freedom — not whimsy. a righteous defender of individual rights vs the rights & laws of the state. traditional anarchists, to give one set of examples, are not “daffy duck” characters, or The Joker from Batman.

      at least half the problem is in the language itself. “chaotic” is a very poor word choice IMO.

      more than that, even anarchists can work well with others, make plans, and stick to schedules. a lot of time the problem is with interpreting the rules too strictly at the table rather than using them as flavor for a belief system.

      however i think Planescape’s exploration of philosophies added a lot to the possibilities with their beliefs as laid out in all the factions and sects. i find its much easier for some of my players to follow (and creatively play at the table) a planescape belief system rather than “an alignment.”

  6. I like this idea. I would go truly old school and do 3d6 in order for stats and live with them. I have always preferred characters with some bad stats for RP. It makes you work around their shortcomings and creates a more interesting realistic character.

  7. I love it!
    I’m DMing 5e exclusively now but we have random character generation: 4d6 drop the lowest (3d6 is too brutal in the 5e environment!), in order, roll a d8 for races: human, elf, dwarf, halfling, gnome, and half orc. Next is class rolled on a d10. I allow players to switch their highest stat to the prime requisite for the class. Then roll for a background.
    So far one of the coolest characters has been the 16 intelligence half orc wizard with the acolyte background.

    1. We play Hackmaster 5 which is arguably even more brutal that D&D5 and it is 3d6 straight. Like I said above it makes the game far more interesting. You feel more like you are pulling a peasant out of the muck and less like you are twinking a rich kid on an outing.

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