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Troy’s Crock Pot: Roll ’em if you got ’em

What’s the Crock Pot? Just a simmering bowl of lentils and herbs, with a dash of DMing observations. Don’t be afraid to dip in your ladle and stir, or throw in something from your own spice rack.

Characters with class

One of the new online features for Fourth Edition, once Wizards of the Coast gets the DDI rolling, is supposed to be a character creator. But in addition to generating stats and rules information, you’re supposed to get a 3D (but not 3E, apparently) representation for the D&D Game Table. Now that sounds cool …

Sorry, Mac

… except I’m a Mac user and DDI doesn’t support Macintosh. Well, I’ll just put that on the shelf next to the PC generator disk I got with my Third Edition Player’s Handbook, which I also never got to use because I was on a Mac. Oh well.

Fourth Edition? No, I said Forrrrrrrrrre!

Talk about teeing off on character generators. My favorite character generator comes with my Tiger Woods golf game for the PlayStation. (I know, I know, you all thought I was completely unplugged in my gaming habits. Sorry to disappoint. I do dabble in the sports games on my gaming console. When the new Madden football comes out, you may not see me for a while.). But the Tiger Woods character generator is really neat, and there’s all these golf shirts to buy. And clubs. And balls. Some of the balls come in different colors, too.  No gnomes, though.

3d6, arrange in order

Still my favorite character generator ever, especially with the Basic/Expert set. The fact the Fourth Edition rules consider 3d6 an undesirable way to go is going to require some pondering. Point buys are well and good, and fair for everyone — but, there’s something to be said for the mystery of dropping those three dice and seeing what materializes.  


13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "Troy’s Crock Pot: Roll ’em if you got ’em"

#1 Comment By Micah On July 17, 2008 @ 9:52 am

Point-buy = fair.

Roll-em-up = exciting!

I usually let my players choose to go either route. I just try to understand the point-buy system well enough to choose the correct rolling scheme that has roughly the same score distribution.

I have never done the “3d6, rolled in order” though. That just seems too harsh and means that you’ll have to choose race/class/abilities based on the dice, rather than preference and backstory. I think it’s always a bad idea to quash players’ ability to control their story. It’s hard enough as-is to get them into the game without restricting who their character can be.

#2 Comment By frostryder On July 17, 2008 @ 11:03 am

I always have my player roll, as well, but with a slightly more generous system than it recommends. Worst case scenario, there are no warriors with an 8 strength 🙂

I have my players roll 4d6, keep the best 3, re-roll 1s, 6 times. If the set of 6 has a total amount of bonuses of less than 4, they get to re-roll. 🙂

Works pretty well for my players. 🙂

#3 Comment By Scott Martin On July 17, 2008 @ 11:07 am

We used an interesting variant for my current 3.5e game. I have everyone roll up characters (4d6, drop the low). Then I had everyone add up their score totals. The highest character’s total was named the lead. Everyone got 1/2 the difference between their total and the lead to add to stats as they liked at 1:1.

Players who rolled well got good stats, while players who rolled lower got more choice in shaping their stats. It worked out pretty well, though it is on the inflationary end of options.

#4 Comment By rekenner On July 17, 2008 @ 1:03 pm

Honestly, I prefer 8 d10+8, use top 6 for char gen rolls.I know it’s incredibly unrealistic and gives PCs an insanely high set of stats… But that’s what the group I play with wants. We want characters that are amazing at what they do, starting from scratch.

#5 Comment By panicbutton42 On July 17, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

Yeah, the fact that it sounded like they were poo-poo’ing the dice system perplexed me too.

As for generating stats I use yet another variant on the d6’s: 4d6 drop the lowest die, roll 7 times drop lowest score. Roll this up 3 times take whichever set of rolls you prefer.

#6 Comment By Patrick Benson On July 17, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

Troy – You can use Parallels to run Windows on a Mac. Here is the link:


I’m fine with the points system until everyone learns the game. I was surprised as well that they were suggesting not to use dice rolls. So un-D&D like…

I’m very disappointed with the DnDInsider site. Although there is some great material for free in the form of Dungeon and Dragon online magazines, the site itself is poorly designed IMO and has a serious lack of useful material. Maybe once they have features like the character generator and online gaming experience available I’ll change my mind, but the features had better be seven flavors of awesome if they want $15 a month from me.

#7 Comment By LesInk On July 17, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

We pretty much do 1 of three things: 4d6 (highest 3), order as you wish. Or 2, the GM premakes the characters (balancing as he sees fit). Or 3, use the standard point buy system.

We’ve just recently got into doing the point buy system, and as a GM, I think I prefer the point buy system because it is fairest. The downside is you get stereotype characters: all rogues have 16+ dex and all fighters have 16+ str. 4e even makes this more annoying — you can’t get lower than an 8 score (by PHB).

The real reason I like the point buy system is the “roll vs. role” issue. “Roll” is far more important than past editions.

In 2nd edition, the GM had much more latitude on “role” playing being used to overcome obstacles. You tended to let each character capitalize on any strength they had and if they “role” played it well, you went with it.

In 3rd edition, the game turned more into “roll” playing and a rule for everything. Generally, I felt like that was a good move, but slowly grew tired of the mountain of rules that players would put in my face (Thank God for Rule 0).

Now we have 4e which somehow feels more like 2nd edition (less specific rules) but still has pieces of 3rd edition (there ARE skills and rolls for everything, but the power is back in the GM’s hands — at least for now).

But I’m rambling…. back to my main point.

With 3e/4e being so “roll” based, you NEED the numbers more now than ever. Every skill (saving throws, feats, skills, etc.) rely on the base ability scores. They matter more than just “role” playing. Therefore, a certain amount of fairness starts becoming apparent as you have a character with all mediocre scores sitting next to the guy who got lucky and rolled up a “super hero.” Now, I’ve heard some people argue by saying, “That’s life. Some times you get a bad hand” and I generally agree — but many people end up being forced to play that bad hand for many many weeks in a campaign. Obviously, for a 1 or 2 night romp, this may not matter, but in a campaign, Mr. Unlucky can never quite buy the magic or skills needed to catch up to Mr. Lucky (who is also improving his magic and skills).

However, I agree some randomness is fun and should be encouraged. You can do this in less permanent ways — such as give each player a random magic item (or two) when they start the game. The player may get something he’s not to excited about compared to the next player, but he can at least sell it (albeit at a loss of value) and get something better suited. Heck, in one game, I had everyone take their highest score and trade it with the person to their left who gave them their lowest score in return. It was weird, but it was fun and people still talk about it.

After reading all this, I’m mulling around a point buy system that incorporates a random factor — for example, on the 4e PHB system, use 20+1d6 point buy system (or similar). The player still gets to choose what he wants to maximize, but some people are a *little* luckier than others.

#8 Comment By Martin Ralya On July 17, 2008 @ 7:41 pm

I hate rolling for stats with the fire of a thousand suns.

If I’m playing a one-shot, it’s slightly more tolerable — slightly. Otherwise, it’s just an invitation for me to have worse stats than everyone else at the table. Not “fun worse” either, just “sucky worse.”

I like having the freedom to specialize/maximize a stat or two, as well as the freedom to have low stats in areas I think will be fun. If I need the inspiration that can come from rolling a surprising set of stats, I can always pretend-roll a few times until lightning strikes, then use point buy to build accordingly.

Rolling for stats is one of my absolute least favorite things about gaming. I understand other folks like it, which is cool for them — I’m not knocking anyone else’s fun. But man is it not my fun. 😉

#9 Comment By Lee Hanna On July 17, 2008 @ 8:27 pm

In my heart, I still prefer rolling. 4d6, drop ones, drop lows. Up to six sets. I often have no pre-conceived character ideas in mind, and I will roll them in order. Point buy seems so… un-D&D. It doesn’t bother me in GURPS or Serenity, but it does in D&D. {And yes, I once really honest-to-gosh rolled an 18/00. Of course, the game only lasted one session. But I wrestled a bear and won!}

That said, I loved the “Three Dragon Reading” article in Dragon about 2 years ago, which used the Three Dragon Ante deck as a tarot to make up stats. I’m great for looking connecting the dots on that kind of thing, and I’ve made some neat characters and backgrounds that way.

#10 Comment By Sarlax On July 17, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

It’s no surprise that 4E advises against rolling for stats. They govern how effective you are at almost everything you can think to do, more so than in any previous edition.

In 4E, rolls are almost always d20 + 1/2 level + stat mod + misc. For your first 5 or 7 levels, your experience is counting less than your raw ability for your key rolls. For instance, if you’re an Int 18 wizard, you’re getting +4 from Intelligence, and your +.5L bonus doesn’t even get competitive until level 8 – but by then, you’ve already boosted Int to 20. Even when you’re getting into the 20s, your stats are still going up – the same wizard will top out around Int 26, or a +8 to all Int rolls, which is about half as large as his level modifiers.

Rolling for stats has always been a poor design mechanic, but the problem only worsened across time for D&D. If you rolled great stats, you could go into a class that used them all, but if you had poorer stats, you could still go into classes whose abilities weren’t very stat dependent.

Now, with every spell, prayer, and attack being stat-dependent, random ability generation effectively hands over a PCs total effectiveness to the dice. That may be fine on a round-by-round basis because statistics smooth out the randomness, but the foundation of a character can never be corrected by central tendencies.

#11 Comment By Swordgleam On July 18, 2008 @ 6:01 pm

Martin: I seem to have that same problem. In any given group of people, I will somehow roll the lowest scores. And the person who roles the highest scores tends to also be the most obnoxious person in the group.

I think my problem with rolling is that it exponentially increases the effect of your own particular brand of luck. People who roll poorly will not only roll poorly during the game, but will probably have bad stats. People who roll well will probably have awesome stats, and compound that with awesome rolls during the game. (In theory, the law of averages should even it out for individuals, but it seems to me to work more for the group – it’s not “you win some, you lose some,” but, “the half-orc fighter sitting next to you wins some, and you lose some.”)

While there is something to be said for the fun of playing a cleric with 5 dex (rolled three 1s and a 3 with a “roll 4d6, drop lowest, roll 6 times and arrange as needed” system), it gets pretty old after a while.

I think rolling stats is fun for short games. But point buy makes long games more fun overall.

#12 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On July 18, 2008 @ 10:14 pm

[2] asked the same question back at the tavern: [3].

Got some interesting responses, too… Personally, I like the “straight 3d6, add one point per level” idea; it really encapsulates the “zero to hero” progression.

#13 Comment By Gnomatron On July 28, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

I usually like to let my players feel like they are powerful even at level one: I’ve done – 4d6, drop the lowest x 3 sets, pick the best set, arrange as they see fit. One might be surprised how bad people can roll with 4d6.