Monday, September 22, 2008

Noodling with Stats

One afternoon about two years ago I was noodling around with the statistics involved with the various player abilities, and came up with an interesting formula. It involves the manner in which abilities are acquired from birth.

Now, I must take a moment to firmly establish that I play only the AD&D books; I haven’t seen any articles which might apply in this instance, I’m not familiar with anything from 3e or 4e which might apply, and if you’re not familiar with the simple character generation of 3d6 for player abilities then you might not get this. I don’t care, really…I just felt a disclaimer at this time was appropriate.

My suggestion is this. A baby is born with 1 ability point (I’ll explain why later). Each year, as the baby grows older, 1 to 7 ability points are added (2d4 minus 1). These might be distributed randomly or not. In the beginning, you could decide that each ability has to be filled by 1 point before any further randomization could occur.

What I mean is, until strength, intelligence, wisdom, etc. are each at one point, none of them can equal 2. If, as it happens, you roll 1 point to be added in the baby’s first year, it could mean that the baby’s strength and constitution (or any other two attributes) would equal one (don’t forget we started with one) and all other abilities would still equal zero…which would mean the baby was a sickly child, not likely to live past its first disease.

On the other hand, if the baby rolled a 7 in its first year, allocate one point to each ability and the allocate the two extra points randomly (d6). This would be a robust child.

I’m an advocate of the random delegation for each point, as I believe this would make the child more interesting. Particularly as 1-7 points are added for each year, or a total of 10 times for a child of 10. As the average of 1 to 7 on 2-four-sided dice is “4”, the total average for a 10-year-old would be 41. If we add 1 point at the age of 10, this makes it a nice, round 42.

This is coincidentally the same average you would get if you rolled 2d6 for each ability stat.

However, the above system is more random. It could be that a 10-year-old child might have an unlikely 18 strength (each point after adding 1-10% or possibly 1-20%, depending on the DM) or other ability, or be severely lacking in some characteristic. You could establish a maximum of 18 or 19 for every ability (future points would be allocated elsewhere), and a minimum of 2 points in each ability at the age of 10 (or not).

From this pool of 10 year olds, schoolmasters might pick their students for training as fighters, thieves, mages or monks. The best students would be those who wound up with freaky totals, such as being 10 with a 14 wisdom or a 13 dexterity. Those who got all average rolls, with nothing above an 8, would be discarded as bad apples.

You might even make the argument that bad genetics returns constantly bad apples, so that among peasants the return is consistently low rolls amounting to an addition of only 32-41 during the course of a child’s first 10 years, while an increase of 43-53 is more common for a member of the nobility. You could muck around for awhile creating tables along those lines…that’s up to you.

At any rate, a particular child whose average at 10 is in the 43+ range gets selected for training. Some that are trained are dropped for attitude or lack of funds, or otherwise fail, while a small percentage rise to leveled class.

The difference between 2d6 per ability and 3d6 per ability is a total of 21 points. If we presume that the over the age of 11 to 15 the individual continues to gain 1-7 points of ability per year, and we add 1 point for the reaching the age of 15, this conveniently works out to the same number of points gained: 21.

Unlike the first 42 the individual gains, these are ability stats gained through training. No training, no gain in stats.

Now, in terms of the distribution of those 21 points, you may again opt for a completely random system, or you may devise a die roll for particular classes. For example, a thief rolls a d8 for each point gained; 1-5 indicates each of the other abilities besides dexterity, while 6-8 indicates dexterity. A ranger could roll a d12: 1-3 strength, 1-2 intelligence, 1-2 wisdom, 1-3 constitution, 1 dexterity, 1 charisma. It’s up to you.

The result would be, by the age of 15, the individual would have his or her normal average ability stats…a maximum of 108, a minimum of 18. Work it out if you like. Its not very likely that you’ll roll six “3”s or six “18”s on 3d6, but the average, the minimum and the maximums are the same as the system above.

Fascinating, huh?

I personally wouldn’t use this system to roll up characters (takes too long, for one thing), and I use the old method of rolling 4d6 and ignoring the lowest die anyway. However, I would use this system to roll a child, and I would certainly use it year by year if a player of mine had an offspring (alas, when a player of mine did about fifteen years ago, this system never occurred to me).

What I find particularly interesting is the way the system breaks down the various potential classes of society.

Look here. Suppose we consider that peasant class, giving them 2d6 automatically, making them weaker in both body and mind than virtually every educated or healthy person. This would be a good reflection of the actual state of the peasantry during the late Middle Ages—more subsceptible to disease (lower ability means lower ability check), less robust, less likely to have ever read anything or know anything, more likely to have idiots as part of their population, generally less attractive on account of their lifestyle…and so on.

This doesn’t mean that a peasant might not be leveled; all that is required for fighter is a 9 strength. A thief merely needs a 9 dexterity. It would eliminate the chance for a paladin, however, or an illusionist.

Now let’s consider a class above ordinary serf: the laborer. Not an extraordinary example of humankind, but possessing a particular skill above and beyond the typical peasant. Let’s suppose that during their teenage years they received some training…in only one ability. This might mean that a coolee would have 2d6 in five of his ability stats, but 3d6 in strength. A courtesan might have 3d6 in charisma; an actor in intelligence; a juggler, in dexterity.

(I never liked the idea of actors, dancers and such being classes. These are not particularly difficult professions to enter; if you don’t believe me, go join an acting troop and ask yourself how bright these people are).

Now, lets take the next social class, that of artisan. These are individuals who have not just a particular trait, but dual traits enabling them to perform more difficult tasks. A cabinet-maker needs intelligence and dexterity; a blacksmith needs strength and constitution; a con-artist needs charisma and wisdom. Whatever the particular needs, assume that the individual has two ability characteristics of 3d6, and four of 2d6. A truly dedicated artisan, like a stonecutter (strength, dexterity and constitution), might have three abilities of 3d6.

The point being, each social class is partially defined not just by its likely hit points, but also by the range of abilities it possesses. Thus, a full-fledged leveled individual would have 3d6 for his or her abilities in each characteristic.

This is not the end, however. What about characters better than ordinary leveled persons?

We already presume that player characters have a better average than just 3d6. Why not a given ability of 4d6 (with maximums or not, depending on the deity-status of the individual)? Either with the player condition of the top three of the four dice, or just all four dice added together to give an average of 14 and thus a common 17 or 18 ability in their primary stat?

We could easily presume that zealots, adventurers, heroes, commanders, lesser nobility and greater nobility would have, progressively, 1 to 6 of their characteristics equalling 4d6 instead of 3d6. Thus, ordinary leveled persons, guardsmen, sages, unadventurious priests, embezzlers and such would have lower stats, while ship captains, dukes and overlords would be expected to have their abilities overloaded with 17s, 18s and even 19s.

I’ve tried it. Gets good results.

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