There’s a certain enchantment to rolling dice. I’m not talking rolling a single solitary d20, but the rattle of multiple dice where the bones clickety-clack in the palm of your hand before rebounding and rolling across the table, just waiting to be added together and turned into something special. Like attributes, for instance.
In the latest edition of D&D, the recommended (but not only) way to generate a characters’ stats is to use an array – a pre-selected list of numbers that you’re free to arrange as you like. I’ll confess that we did the same for Third Edition too, using 10,12,13,14,15,16 for all of our PCs. Using an array is, we are told, a “good thing” as it ensures a level playing field where all of the PCS will have high scores where they need them (STR for a Fighter, INT for a Wizard, etc) but not be penalized for having a low score elsewhere.
Of course there’s nothing to stop you mixing things up – having a high STR Wizard or a high INT Fighter, for example – and very often doing just that is more fun then merely playing to type. One of my favourite characters from our Middle Earth 4e D&D campaign was a Beorning Wizard with STR 18 and INT 13, and his stats were straight from the standard array.
But if you really want to make fun characters, nothing beats rolling dice. I’m not talking namby-pamby 4d6 & drop lowest neither. That’s for wusses who don’t like the challenge of character generation and would rather take an early step along the road to munchkinhood. No, I’m talking about rolling 3d6 in order and playing however the dice fell.
The key is to learn how to read the dice. It’s a fine art that’s sadly dying in this computerised Character Builder age, and it’s a darned shame. It’s a shame because 4e D&D is the first edition of D&D where you could feasibly generate a character with low rolls right across the board and he’d still have a reasonable chance of survival. Rolling 3d6 for stats also has the happy side-effect of taking the high-power edge off 4e D&D – it’s a rare and lucky Rogue with DEX 18 (let alone DEX 20!) and the players will need all of their wits to play the game. Again, I’m banging my “old school with 4e D&D” drum loud and clear.
But back to the dice.
Roll 3d6 and allocate them in order. In 4e’s case, that means STR, CON, DEX, INT, WIS, CHA. Then (and only then) decide the Class. The obvious route is to pick the Class based on your highest stat, but the best way to do it is interpret what the dice mean, then choose a character class based upon that. It might mean that the most important stat for the class could well end up only being your second or third highest score (or even lower), but the goal is to create a FUN character, and that’s not necessarily an optimal one.
Add a Race according to taste and character concept, and I guarantee you’ll end up with a character you’ll enjoy playing far more than your average boilerplate Character Builder auto-built maximised munchkin fodder, or your money back.
Here’s a handful of examples using Actual Dice rolls. Actual Dice are available from all good RPG stockists. As for them by name.
13, 9, 13, 10, 10, 13
Stronger and more agile than average, and quite likeable too. Constitution is a little on the weedy side but nothing debilitating. Perhaps it’s a sign he’s been living rough on the streets for too long. That’s why he’s had to toughen up a touch too. He’s on the run! He’s A Half-Elf Sorcerer/Rogue who was indentured to an evil master until he found his chance and fled. Now, he’s afraid he’ll be recaptured and would welcome being part of a big, strong adventuring party.
13, 3, 11, 11, 11, 14
Ouch. 3 CON! Good CHA and decent STR though, which speaks of a skill at pleasing crowds and a talent for combat. He’s an ex-gladiator (Dragonborn Fighter) who is recovering from a horrific injury inflicted by a rival stable. Rather than bring shame and be a burden to his manager he’s set out on his own, eager to find a way to regain his health and reputation. Then pound the opposing gladiatorial stable into the ground.
9, 15, 8, 11, 6, 7
The dice hate me, but that’s all a part of the fun – making viable characters from even the most difficult of rolls. Lemme see…..
High CON, average INT and low everything else. This is a Dwarven survivor of a dungeon expedition that went horribly wrong. Being a Dwarf gets his CON up to 17 and WIS to 8 (which is a darned site better than 6!). His mind is shattered – he was once a Cleric of Moradin but that’s long gone. Now he’s an Infernal Pact Warlock and his previous ties to his god have been severed. Only a battered and burned holy symbol hanging around his neck speaks of times past. Good luck with this one.
Now it’s your turn.
Roll them dice, keep them where they fall and tell me what they say. Practise, as they say, makes darned interesting characters.