Monday, May 17, 2010

Child Growth

Sorry. It’s time for a little more arithmetic.

(sounds of mice clicking as readers find other websites)

This bit of calculation occurred to me four or five years ago, when I was attempting to figure out how different a child would be from an adult where it came to ability scores. Without really trying, I stumbled across a methodology for determining exactly that. I felt, in all humility, that it was one of my more brilliant moments.

And then I did nothing about it. I did not write it down, nor make notes about it. In fact, I clean forgot about it. Until last Friday, that is, when it popped unbidden back into my brain.

You understand, I am that sort that gets up from my computer desk to get a drink; and finding the coffee cold in the coffee maker, I’ll put it in the microwave. While it’s heating, I’ll get the cream out of the fridge and as I’m reaching for the sugar in the cupboard, it will occur to me that there’s just one thing I should add to the spreadsheet I'm working on. Then I’ll think of another thing, and then another ... and at some point my wife will come into my study, mention that she’s found the cream in the cupboard - again - and ask if I want the cold coffee I’ve left in the microwave (where it has heated up and had time to turn cold again).

This is my life.

So I had better get this written down before I forget it again.

If we start with a baby, zero years old, we may assess the newborn’s ability statistics as all equal to zero. I know for certain that there would be some who would argue that the newborn’s statistics ought to equal at least 1 point each for strength, intelligence and so on, but I would respectfully disagree. It may be true that the baby has a certain potential for intelligence, wisdom, etc., but I would argue that at the point of birth, none of these things could possibly be known. I would ask the gentle reader to consider this a system which does not depend upon ‘an end result’ being pre-determined, and worked towards. It is one of the things I particularly like.

Now let us move forward through the child’s first year. Suppose that we roll some dice, 2d4 +2 to be specific. This gives us a minimum of 4, a maximum of 10 and an average of 7. These are those points gathered by the baby as it ages to one year. Now let us take a d6 for each point, and assign to each number of the die an ability stat.

If the child is typical, it will gain 7 points, and these points will disperse themselves throughout the infant’s statistics. It may find itself with (let’s say) a 1 str, a 2 int, a 1 wis, a 2 con, a 0 dex and a 1 chr.

A couple of salient points. No doubt some reader would pronounce the child’s charisma as necessarily more, since children are beautiful creatures (which is true and good, otherwise we would drown them) ... but I must argue in response that charisma is not all beauty, and it is not exactly the sort of beauty that one would equate with a full grown adult. We can presume a certain childish comeliness, but let’s not confuse this with charisma.

Secondly, would an infant conceivably have a 0 dexterity? I’d argue yes. Not all babies walk at eleven months of age, even in this modern era; in a medieval setting, some children would suffer from all variety of maladies, and these could account for a baby having a slow growth vis a vis any of the given stats. So let us accept the 0 as a permissible result. (Those out there who disagree could assign 1 point to each stat first, before assigning them randomly ... but this will not help if the infant does not roll at least six points initially).

Now, if we judge that the change from birth to age 1 is the most significant growth period in the human being, we can move on thusly: as the child reaches its second year, we modify the increase in stats by a die roll of 2d4 -1. This generates a number from 1 to 7, with an average of 4. We again distribute these numbers randomly.

It might be interesting if this 2-year-old, like Hercules, rolled the maximum gain possible and miraculously distributed all its points into only strength. This would give our budding strong man a strength of 17 (and zero in everything else). Not very likely ... but one of the things I do like about this system is the degree of wild randomness that could occur.

To control that randomness, I would argue that the maximum any stat could be raised to would be 18. It would seem to make sense that any additional increase to strength, specifically, past 18 would push it up to 18/01, 18/51, 18/76 and so on (AD&D, remember), but there are reasons this shouldn’t happen. I shall explain.

If we give the child as it ages an additional 2d4 -1 stat up until the age of 15, we will find that the total average of all the statistical points given to the child is 63, (7 for the first year, and 4 for each of the years thereafter). This is, coincidentally, the same average that is gotten from six rolls of 3d6 each. What we have done is to work out another method of achieving that average, but doing it one year at a time. We have also allowed for a system to work out the ability scores for any child of any age, presuming that after the age of 15, that child is effectively an adult.

You could, if you wished, play a group of 12-year-old children by this method, rolling up a character normally and then subtracting random stats until achieving the desired age. Why anyone would wish to do this, I don’t know, but here is your method for affecting the immaturity of the players.

This is really just the beginning of a series of articles that I'm writing to answer two questions from two different readers: Carl, who asked how I determine the number of levels in my world, and Jhandar, who asked me how well my population was able to accept magic, and what obstacles might stand in the way of converting a large part of the population into magic users.

You see, I divide my population into types, based not on race, but upon social status.  I believe that, past a certain age, one's ability scores would only increase through schooling ... and not naturally, as suggested above.  The cut off date would be, I believe, the age of 10.  And at that age, I would propose an additional -1 modifier to the gained ability stats ... so that at 10 without formal education, the total added would be 2d4 -2.  This would make an overall average of 7 + 32 (4 x8 years) + 3 ... or 42.  This is the same average that would be achieved by six rolls of 2d6 each.

Why is that significant?  These are the stat totals I assign to my peasant class: a 2d6 strength, intelligence, wisdom and so on ... very much limiting their serviceable usefulness for most everything.  Peasants make up the largest part of the population, have no education and suffer from maladies beyond number.  The DMG does not make any explanation for why an average peasant couldn't chuck his hoe and go be a fighter - but I do make a distinction.

It's not impossible: a member of the peasant class has a strength of 2 to 12; on average, 10 in 36 peasants would have the minimum 9 strength necessary to become a fighter.  They could thus go off to the wars, like Nym, Bardolph and Pistol, and possibly do well for themselves.

Of course, following the Player's Handbook to the letter, if they had the minimum strength, they could not be fighters if they did not have a wisdom, dexterity, constitution and charisma over 5.  The chance for any one of those to be less than six is 1 in 6; calculating out the likelihood, then, 2/3rds of those fighters with the necessary strength wouldn't have the other necessary stats to succeed.  But then, Bardolph was hanged (insufficient wisdom).

If by this time I haven't lost you, I'll get into some numbers and status figures with the next post.


Isle said...

I like it.

There's a typo in paragraph 9: 2d4+2 gives a minimum of 4, not 3 (your average of 7 is still correct).

PatrickW said...

I like this, I like this very much. I may have to borrow this for my games. Possibly write a little VB code to do the random generation but save each year's results so I can de-age a person or know how a kid will develop to adulthood. Might make an interesting pre-quel adventure arc for a campaign - start the PCs as youth in the starting town and run a little adventure to create buy-in to the setting and possibly some foreshadowing for the campaign.

I like that you differentiate peasants versus (for lack of a better term) the upper classes, as it does provide a mechanical reason for an in-story effect.

I look forward to your next post.

Alexis said...



Adam Thornton said...

It gives the same average, but what does the variance look like? My gut says this method will give a set of curves more sharply peaked towards the middle than 6x3d6, but I haven't done any investigation yet.

Anonymous said...

I am attempting to design a similar system with regards to height and weight. Taking the ranges of human height and weight for each gender at most ages, and then randomly generating inside those ranges. I plan on eventually including other statistics and allowing myself to generate all the data required for a bare-bones description. Hair color, eye color, skin tone, and ethnicity. I might even add other physical traits if I can get enough data to satisfy myself. Foot size, limb length, I don't know... Breast size? Hair strand thickness? Fatty tissue distribution (or maybe just body shape type, ala endomorph and ectomorph). I'm wondering if I should put forth the effort to put these into dice tables, or use some other computerized tool.