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So, one of my players and I had a bit of an arguement over my House… 
10th-Aug-2004 01:07 pm
So, one of my players and I had a bit of an arguement over my House Rule on ability score generation.

My standard for a while has been roll 4d6, discard lowest, reroll any 1's. So it's a bit higher-powered than the standard game but not really enough to be considered "high powered" either, in my opinion.

For the household game I'm going to start soon, I don't want a high powered game; I'm wanting everybody to start out above-average, but not exactly olympian-gold-medal-winning type; I'm letting players roll their own scores without me hovering over them, but a couple in particular rarely ever seem to have any score below 13.

One of these players wants to be a monk; Fine, right? Well this player insists that monks are more demanding ability-score wise, and therefore if they don't have at least 4 "high" (above 14) ability scores, that it doesn't justify playing a monk over any other class, which I really disagree with.

I don't know about the rest of you DMs, but I consider insisting on high ability scores at 1st level just to make good rolls in-game to be metagaming. Am I the only one who feels this way? I'm having a hard time trying to explain to my players that a PC doesn't have to be high-powered to be fun or rewarding to play, but I'm having difficulty getting this accross. Anyone else have similar problems? If so, how did you deal with it?

( By the way, the game I mentioned starting last weekend was pretty much a success, I was very pleased with the turnout and while it was slow to get things started, once it got rolling it was great. Thanks, guys :D )
10th-Aug-2004 10:26 am (UTC)
Okay, here's the rolling system. 4d6 six times reroll ones. I watch your rolls. go.

player: You don't trust me...
you: Shut up and roll.
player (rolls): I have an 11, that's not good enough
you: tuff. If you can't play a character with one 11 in one ability score, YOu need to learn how.

tuff but fair. And having an 11 makes an 18 more special. I played a monk once who's highest score was 16 and the lowest was 9 and had a great time.
10th-Aug-2004 10:39 am (UTC)
*nodnod* I agree; though the player also mentioned how you only get to up an ability score only 5 times in 20 levels, and only get to use an ability-increasing item once per score; as if to imply that a "substandard" PC will always remain so. Even though comparatively to the average commoner, it's really quite impressive. Justifying it with something like, "well, we're supposed to be heroes, not common peasants".

I'm not really sure what their basis of comparison is.
10th-Aug-2004 10:36 am (UTC)
Why not use one of the point-based methods with a low point total? It's very difficult to get several high ability scores using 25 points. If you want to make it harder, raise the point costs by a point or two for everything above 13.

If players balk too much, consider a compromise: give them an ability score raise every 2 levels instead of every 4. Feel free to forbid them from raising the same ability twice in a row.
10th-Aug-2004 10:42 am (UTC)
While I personally have no problem with point based, all my players seem to be in agreement that it's a travesty; last weekends game required scores generated with the point buy system, and I got more complaints than was appreciated, but it wasn't bad enough to oust the complainers.

As for an ability score raise every 2 levels instead of every 4; that's an interesting idea that I hadn't thought about or expected; I'll mention it to them and see what they think, thanks :)
10th-Aug-2004 10:40 am (UTC)
I'd definately agree that someone doesn't have to be powerful to be interesting and fun to play; but some of the classes, to be as effective as others and to take on certain encounters, do need decent stats; Monks and Paladins are the obvious ones.
I don't think that means that you should let them have the stats they want though, they should possibly consider a different class if they have lower stats though. Character concepts can be fitted to almost any class.

Sometimes you might have to take such things into account when planning encounters or adventures, which is something I've had some issues with in one of my current campaigns, we're keeping levels low, and there is almost no arcane magic or magic items available; this means the challenge rating gets even more screwed than it originally was, as it assumes certain things.

Your standard sounds like it shouldn't be a problem at all, particularly if you also reference the "playable" character section of the rules; pretty much anything should be playable under that situation.
10th-Aug-2004 10:53 am (UTC)
Hm... okay, so in otherwords, if you're playing a monk, using the Default Array of scores would be a bad idea and you'd be better off playing some other class? I'm not really sure what you mean.

Monks have always struck me as a bit unbalanced as a class anyway- compared to the others. They do seem to be more demanding, but I was under the impression that the scores like what are listed in the Default Array would be appropriate for all classes? Why would the monk be any different?
10th-Aug-2004 10:47 am (UTC)
I've done the monk with 16 high and 8 low, myself. It works fine. You sort of get stuck doing that with any of the point-buy systems. with this dice mechanic, you can get higher powered monks, on average, but they're still going to have a low roll. Suck it up and deal.

Ignoring that, you're saying a system that has an average ability score of 13.5 isn't high-powered? (4d6, re-roll 1s, averages to 16, your low roll is, on average, a 2.5 -- someone witha better background in statistics can probably be more exact, but that's close).

The 'default' 3d6 has a 10.5 average roll (even with the re-roll rules of more than a +1 total modifier, and no more than 2 below 8, the average is still around 11). The standard 8,10,12,13,14,15 for the example characters is a 12 average (which is also a 25 point buy).

Your system is around the same average as a 32pt buy (on the 8 stat costs 0 pts system), or an 81 attribute point buy (for ability score=point cost). All of which are in the 'high powered' PC categories.
10th-Aug-2004 11:01 am (UTC)
I do suppose my standard would be considered high powered by the book; but it's not so much so when compared with the "high powered" variation in the DMG that says 5d6 discard lowest two.

4d6/discard lowest/reroll 1's still gives an average that I'm comfortable with as a DM; meaning I don't really have to modify adventures to be a higher challenge rating just so the opponents have a chance.

The stats my players seem to be insisting on are stats which, because of the modifiers, I end up having to do things like put a 1st level party against a 4th-level challenge rating encounter just so the PCs don't overcome the obstacle in a single round.
10th-Aug-2004 10:49 am (UTC)
there's a variety of ways to handle metagaming. If you think someone is fudging his rolls, force him to reroll in front of you, or switch to a point-buy system (ObNote: I personally am a fan of random character generation over the "level playing field" point buy; chargen is more exciting when you have the possibility of rolling really well).

One of the greatest concept in character generation I think I've found is from an unpublished (read: found only on the web) game that is quite different from D20 in that it's a percentile based Rolling Low Is Good type mechanic. Their approach is: set your attributes at whatever level suits your character concept.

The comensating factor is rather karma-like. To correct power balance shifts away from super-characters with inflated attribute scores, the number by which their attribute total exceeds a certain "average" value is used as an increased critical failure range, representing the universe taking back some of the karma invested in the character. I forget how they compensated for characters whose point totals were below the average; probably increased skill points?

To put it in D20 terms: total the character's attribute points. Every point over a certain number represents an increased critical failure range (like the opposite of a threat range). Image someone with all 16s having a failure range of like 8; i.e., any natural roll of 1-8 on any skill check or saving throw results in a critical failure of some kind. You could compensate underpowered characters with additional skill points, or something similar.

obviously such a system would need considerable testing beforehand, since arbitrary values must be assigned.
10th-Aug-2004 12:32 pm (UTC)
I mentioned the karma thing to the player(s), and they seem to feel it's not fair because you're "penalized for being exceptional"... I don't see it, but I could be a little clueless on it, too.
10th-Aug-2004 11:04 am (UTC)
These all sound like great ideas to me. My own DM uses the 4d6, drop the lowest, reroll 1's once. A friend of mine who runs online uses 4d6, drop the lowest and his habit is to allow a player to reroll all his stats once if he wants to - but the catch is that that player must ALWAYS keep the second set, even if they are lower than his first set. I've come to adopt his strategy with my players as well. I don't use the reroll 1's in my online games because it's hard to work when you are using online dice rollers.

If you are worried about characters fudging rolls when you aren't around, there is a way to let them roll on their own online but set it up so that they e-mail you their rolls. You know what they rolled, they can't fudge. Most of those roller programs allow you to roll 4d6 and drop the lowest, but it does make rerolling 1's more complicated.

Anyway, those are just a few of the things I've seen done. As far as playing a 'sub average' character, I might point out to your player that it says in the PhB explicitly that characters rolled with the 3d6 system are still, on average, above average. And remind them that while your rules are common among other DMs, they are house rules that you have added to aid your players. Those players are already doing better than if they followed the published rules in the PhB, which is itself better than 'average'. That said, they really have no room to complain.

As far as having fun with a character, no matter the stats, I personally won't play a character unless she has a handicap that allows me to give her a unique roleplay characteristic. Sometimes the handicap is just a personality or historical one, but my present character was mute for the first 23 years of her life. She's a cleric with decent stats, but since she can't talk, she relies entirely on the metamagic silent spell feat, which means she can only cast spells one level lower than other clerics of her level. I voluntarily handicapped her, but I LOVE playing her and that's all that matters to me.
10th-Aug-2004 12:37 pm (UTC)
I completely agree with you. The few times I actually get to play rather than DM, I also insist on having some personality quirk or other handicap, especially if I manage to make really good rolls...

Like the one character I had who made *really* good ability score rolls (18, 17, 16, 14, 12, 12), and I made her an albino half-drow; came up with a convincing and realistic backstory for her and everything, she was proficient in dual-weapon fighting but had to wear a heavy cloak all the time even in the summer due to her super light-sensitive eyes and skin; which, when your party adventures on a diurnal schedule, can be quite a pain; but she was really fun to play and is probably one of my favorite characters.
10th-Aug-2004 11:06 am (UTC)
As a GM of many moons, I learned early on to have my players roll in front of me. I too use the 4d6 method, rerolling ones.

In this case, where the GM is starting a young class game, I agree with his/her logic. In my games I have started chars roughly around the ages of 15 -17 (or age equivalant for demihumans or elves) and as they progressed their stats went up, depending on HOW they played their characters. This was long before 3d where you get a point every so many levels...

If the player has a problem with playing normal stat chars, then you have to ask yourself if that player is one that can really roleplay that type of character...its easy to use our knowledge to put on our chars....but it takes a better person to look at a mid ranged char and make it shine.
10th-Aug-2004 11:28 am (UTC)
*nod* I had also considered the ability to allow the characters to increase an ability score outside of the level-based increases, if they actively attempt to do so in-character (weightlifting for STR, Studying books for INT, Attending a school of etiquette for CHA, etc.); so they *CAN* increase their abilities more often, but they have to actually earn it, another sort of compromise.

As for the player and roleplaying; I discussed this with them before, and they mentioned that they CAN play characters they consider substandard, they just don't want to and don't like it because it's a pain in their ass. To which I'm inclined to say "deal with it", because I think that if they actually tried to roleplay it rather than roll-play it, it would be more fun for them than they think it would.
10th-Aug-2004 11:16 am (UTC)
As people have pretty much already covered the dice rolling, I'll address the monk :p

Monks do not require '4' high ability scores. 3 would be nice (str and dex for combat, wis for other abilities). But that's still required. Every class would be best to play with 3 or 4 high scores, but it is in no way required.

I think monks are already one of the most powerful classes in the game. They get more attacks than anyone else; they do really really good damage at high levels, and in addition to that they have cool little zen-abilities.

I say let the character be stuck with whatever stats he has, as there is no way certain stats are required to play any class. Period.
10th-Aug-2004 01:00 pm (UTC)
I'm inclined to agree; monks get enough nifty stuff as they level to counterbalance any "unsatisfactory" ability score.

I'm glad I'm not the only person who notices this...
10th-Aug-2004 12:35 pm (UTC) - scores
theses characthers are supposed to representations of real people and real people do not have all great stats. tell him part of role playing is to get by challenges and the first challange is your bad scores as well as using your good scores correctly! besides thers ability acore bosting items you can include fro the players to find, buy, or make!
10th-Aug-2004 01:46 pm (UTC)
Your player is being an ass. Monks are no more demanding than any other of the core classes. It sounds like he thinks monks should be a prestige class.
10th-Aug-2004 03:13 pm (UTC) - Another way of looking at ability scores...
Here's another way to look at things:

If scores are important in your game -- if they're important to you -- then they're important to your players. Let them have high scores.

If scores are not important in your game -- that is, they're not important to you -- then who cares if they have high scores. Give them all 18's or whatever they want. This is the tact I take in my campaign. Do whatever you want. Roll them, reroll them, point-buy them, pick them outright, whatever: I don't care.

Or, if you're trying to run a "concept" campaign and your players aren't into your concept, find another group of players or have one of them DM.
10th-Aug-2004 05:14 pm (UTC) - Re: Another way of looking at ability scores...
Well, they didn't used to be important to me, because usually my games more or less become role-play oriented regardless of how much hack and slash I have planned, because the players are so chatty and curious about the entire universe...

So usually I'd just let them have whatever scores they wanted; but then when combat finally did roll around, it would be some disturbing display of prowess that I didn't think they were capable of; and since I'm relatively new to DMing I go, "I don't think you can get away with that..." and then they grab the books and show me how it's legal, and that floors me.

I'm not the kind of DM that deliberately tries to kill my players; but I *DO* want them to be at least reasonably challenged, and I'm sick of having to modify adventures or use adventures that are several encounter levels higher than they should be able to take and STILL they find some sneaky way around it. It's really very nerve-wracking.
10th-Aug-2004 04:39 pm (UTC)
Something that I see that hasn't been brought up yet is that there is a key problem that lies in a lot of DMs. Players believe they have to have great mods because they'll never be able to make their DM's DCs without it.

Maybe the solution is a compromise or a reevaluation of DM procedure. I know a lot of DMs that believe a jump check over a short ravine needs to be upwards of 25 and that's maybe a bit much.

Maybe players would be more likely to play more "just above-average" characters if their DM's demands weren't so harsh.

(This doesn't apply to everyone, mind you.)
10th-Aug-2004 05:20 pm (UTC)
*nod* Normally I tend to follow what's written in the prewritten adventure I happen to be using (I have a lot of the AEG ones and the freebie ones on the WotC site), because I know I'm not good enough yet to be able to accurately judge what act is exactly how difficult on the number scale given, and more often than not I end up asking one of the players (who has been gaming and DMing far longer than I have) what -their- opinion is; so I doubt that it's too-high of demands on my part.

The player asked me, "Why are you threatened by us being too strong?"

and what I should have answered was "Because you feel threatened by being too 'weak'"
10th-Aug-2004 08:26 pm (UTC)
Like the wookie said, "your players are self-centered min-maxing munchkins". Seriously. He said it with a smile, I'm saying it flat out.

A system I encountered that I really enjoyed. To determine you scores, pick them. Pick whatever you want. If the character is boring and powerful, that's exactly the challenges he will face. If he is interesting, with some flaws, a weak area, and an area of excellence, he will face varied challenges that you can really put some effort into overcoming, he will get lots of face time with the DM, because interesting characters are interesting to DM for. Oh, right, Mr-I-got-6-18's, roll a d20 for me and add your strength modifier. 21? Great, you succeeded in jumping over somethign really tall. Now back to the 9 fingered hooker with the glowing necklace that the guy with the 9 intelligence thinks he's in love with. Make an observation check for me, this is going to be contested....

Always, if the characters are chumping their own encounter level without breaking a sweat, adjust the encounter levels for them. I tend to be generous with magic items, it's a flaw of mine as a DM. I end up adjusting the monsters as we go along, because the parties level stops being an accurate guage of their power. The book says 4 hobgoblins would be appropriate, but I know the party will chump that. One will be level three fighter, another will have two levels of rogue and a dagger of sharpness for his sneak attacks, they will be observant, and their lair is set up with this kick-butt ambush. Now that'll be a fun challenge. No extra XPs, the +3 sword of sharpness and the shadow armor and so on should make up for that extra difficulty. If I do my job right, it'll be a tough but survivable fight that leaves one party member saying "I though I was so dead." That's the goal, for the fight to be a squeaker, that they make it out by the skin of their teeth. When they have uber scores, it's harder to make that tension happen. A long string of perfect successes isn't exciting.
10th-Aug-2004 10:12 pm (UTC)
"Oh, right, Mr-I-got-6-18's, roll a d20 for me and add your strength modifier. 21? Great, you succeeded in jumping over somethign really tall. Now back to the 9 fingered hooker with the glowing necklace that the guy with the 9 intelligence thinks he's in love with"

LOL, very, very good way of looking at it. I had actually considered this but coudln't really think of how to put it into words.

I asked the player, "Why do you feel you need these high ability scores?"
And they responded, "Because high scores allow the character to achieve their goals quicker and more easily".

I don't know, but that sounds an awful lot like metagaming to me, not to mention that if you wanted an easy game where ability scores really matter, go play NWN or Diablo II or some similar game, not D&D.
10th-Aug-2004 09:12 pm (UTC)
looking at all the advice up here, i hardly think i have much to add, but i was thinking: remember in second edition, back in the zeb cook days, when there was a minimum set of scores for each class? one of my players once pointed that out as evidence that his character "really needed" better stats. the great thing about 3e, and this could very well just be me, is that you can more easily make the off-beat, not-quite-as-fit characters who are still awesome to play and even more rewarding when they advance. for example, it's all the sweeter to find a headband of intellect if you play a wizard who made due with 13 int. that, and he's probably a much more rounded character, relying less on the "ownage factor" of class abilities and more on his personality and whole character concept.

and personally, i think monks are munchkin bait. they're just so overpowered, or at least they seem to be, that it's really just annoying. just my opinion, but yeah.
10th-Aug-2004 10:50 pm (UTC)
Maybe it's because I'm too lenient in other respects, they now think I should be super lenient on scores, too -_- I guess it doesn't pay to be nice...

If a DM works themselves into the rut of letting themselves be walked on by the players, can the DM salvage it without having to find an entirely new group of players? Can spoiled players really learn to deal with their sweettreats being taken away?
10th-Aug-2004 10:04 pm (UTC) - If one does...
In your post you only mention the wannabe-monk player. Coming from player experience only here when related to D&D, if you let one player change his/her stat roll, the rest may follow and also want to change their's...that is if they haven't already which just may lead to more work/problems. My personal thought is that they should just have to play with what rolls they got. The end. What you say as a DM goes. But that's just my two cents. ^.^;
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