Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I have long played the system whereby 4 dice are rolled, one discarded, six times to create the abilities statistics; then letting the player decide which stat goes to which ability. I will usually let a player toss the six rolls and start from scratch if there isn’t at least one 15 and one 16; and I let players have one veto…the choice of tossing all rolls and getting new six ones, with the provision that they have to live with what they get.

One of the things I like about the secondary skills table I posted is that it creates a meaningful reason for players to contribute a better stat towards their charisma. Players have a tendency to consider charisma a sort of dumping ground for the stat that didn’t get used; I’ve seen that backfire hideously.

A ranger playing in my world decided he didn’t care if his charisma was 8; and it didn’t matter much, when he was level 1 to 3. Later on, as the party got caught up in a war in Spain, acquired a little farmland and started intimidating the local village, our ranger found suddenly that he was on the outside, as no one would make arrangements with him on account of his stifling personality, disconcerting body odor and general all-around unpleasantness.

Now 8th level, he complained and complained about what he could do about it. I was playing with rules then that said if a player spent 5 years concentrating on nothing else, they could raise their charisma 1 point. He agreed to that, but he didn’t want to retire his character for an eon while the party ran…so I offered him this:

For a ridiculous amount of money, he could travel to the astral plane, where time operated differently. There he could study for 15 years, raise his charisma 3 points, and come back older and more tolerable. He had to go alone, of course…no one else in the party was willing to spend thousands of gold pieces to go hang out with him.

Crossing the astral plane by himself, I told him he’d have one encounter from the astral plane encounter table (near the back of the DMG). Because I didn’t want a lot of screaming, I let one of the other players roll the d100 to see what it was. What came up was a “38.”

“38” reads Chromatic Dragon. Our ranger had enough time to say, “Hey babe…”

Sorry about the D&D tale. I hate them too. But I wanted to make the point that players rarely understand that at higher levels they’re going to want that charisma they don’t give a crap about now.

By and large players don’t really care much about intelligence, wisdom and charisma. They’re not as important to the combat system, and so even mages and clerics will often put their best stat under strength or constitution. At present, all the front characters in my campaign have a constitution of 15 or more.

About six months ago I stumbled across an idea that really made a change in that attitude. It’s another series of tables, which I’ll post one at a time, again for each ability score. Each new character rolls on them, which surprisingly takes very little time.

Starting with charisma, which is the most interesting table. It works this way.

The character rolls a d20 against charisma. Details about the character’s appearance or personality depend on whether the result is over, equal to, or below the charisma score. The more it is over, the worse it gets; the more it is under, the better it gets.

Thus, if the character has a high charisma, even a failure won’t result in a particularly nasty description. If the character has a low charisma, even the best roll won’t win the character a too decent result.

But…and this is a big but…if the character has a low charisma, using it as a dumping ground, and then rolls a high number…the result can be quite hideous. Something no one in the party will forget.

I think my particular favorites are the character still being a virgin at the outset of the campaign (and the developing series of mishaps which might occur if the character tries to lose their virginity); the character appearing ten years younger than their actual age (funny with a 16 year old fighter); or the character's body reeking regardless of their level of cleanliness. I recently had a character's half-orc fighter (named "Hig") get the 13 or above roll, with more than 50% of the character's body covered in burn scars. It isn't hard to figure out what Hig's nickname is.

There's no reason their couldn't be more results...along with multiple results for the same amount above or below, given sub-rolls. At some point I plan to brainstorm it and add to the table. So far, I haven't had too many duplicates.


  1. I am assuming that the results are not cumulative.

    I usually have the players explain / defend their attributes. I have gotten answers from "He stutters" (CHR = 8) to "She is missing her left eye". The later was a great combo given the characters low Dexterity (9) and low Charisma(9).


  2. Why make the assumption that the player's have a choice in their appearance? Appearance or our nature is something thrust upon us, which we must adapt to; it is a stronger character who must live with what they get, not choose what they prefer.

  3. I've always felt uncomfortable telling a player his/her character has to appear ugly or smell bad just because they have a low CHA score. I always give players the option to chose their appearance. They can be as ugly or pretty as they like, their charisma score is entirely separate. So you can be an ugly bastard, but still have a charming personality, or you can be a beauty queen but be completely socially unacceptable. These things can happen in the real world, why not the D&D world?

  4. Arcona (or should I say "Jeremy")

    Your answer is part of this same old whining bullshit. Wah, wah, my character smells and isn't cool...wah!!!

    If you want to be a beauty queen or having a charming personality, put the higher stat on your charisma. You might have noticed that it IS possible for one of my characters to have an 18 charisma and still have a bulbous nose; or a 5 charisma and still have extraordinary hair, eyes or skin. Pay attention.

  5. First of all, my name is not Jeremy, but nice try.

    Secondly, tone down the hostility a little, man. You seem pretty high strung for a supposed veteran of 30 years. I did notice what you were doing with your chart. I was merely sharing my own interpretation of the stat. What's the point of enabling blog comments if you can't have dialogues with your readers?

  6. I write an entire blog post, more than a thousand words, about why I have no interest in being "nice" like some tolerant adult, and he just...doesn'

  7. Heh. I just noticed the disparity in the number of comments you get depending upon where you're writing. Interesting.

    I have no idea what kind of humor you really like, but I got a kick out of this D&D "killjoy" article and thought you might enjoy it:

  8. Yes, Eileen...but these are my people. They understand me. We speak the same language.

  9. Oh, shit, that link is FUKKING funny!

  10. Arcona, on the Internet it is always advisable to lurk before you leap. In the future you may want to read more than one article before you post a comment. You will avoid contracting foot-in-mouth disease.

    The article posted immediately prior to this one will answer the 'Jeremy' reference. The article 'Enough Jack' will answer your other question.

    To summarize for you, Jack and Jeremy can be substituted.

    Let me give you an example.

    I was listening to the news on the way to work and the topic was how students feel like they have too much homework. In response, some parent whom I'll refer to as 'Jeremy', organized a group to petition our education system to lower the amount of homework given to students. Whine, bitch, moan... until the system is so slack, we're sending our kids to school to play non-contact, cooperative games, finger paint with non-toxic, environmentally friendly, food grade paint and talk about their feelings all day. I don't want my children coddled, I want them doing homework and studying their asses off. I want them to be as prepared for the mean, ugly, competitive world out there as possible.

    I don't see why the characters in a DnD world should be treated like that either. This is an entirely new opinion for me as a DM, and I started playing 27 years ago myself.

    You might want to stick around and read a few more articles to determine what this blog is about before you stick your foot in your mouth again.

    There be rust monsters here.



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