3d6 or 4d6, Concluded

For previous posts on this topic, see this and this.

First, the thread I started on the Goblinoid Games Labyrinth Lord forum sort of took off. A lot of great discussion there. Here are a few things I particularly liked:

What I like for a retro game like LL is 3d6 assign in order. To do a quick sample:

1st roll = 9

Before I go any further, I have to assign this to one of the six. It’s not what I want for a prime ability score, so I’ll go elsewhere. Always good to have at least average Con, and Con 9 will keep Dwarf and Halfling an option, so I assign this to Con.

The idea is that you have to slot your roll before making the next roll, which seems like a workable compromise between “in order” and “arrange to taste.” If you’re set on playing a magic-user, you wait until you get a good roll to fill the Int slot. Though, of course, you may not get a good roll. Or, you may get a better one later. As in Yahtzee, it’s up to you if you use that roll for ‘4 of a Kind’ or for ‘Threes’.

I like to have humans roll 5d6 (dropping the lowest two rolls) to make them larger-then-life types, but non-humans roll 4d6 (dropping the lowest roll).

From the comment it sounds like demi-humans do NOT have level limits in his game. This seems like a decent idea for mere humans in such a game.

But the first thing I’d consider to “power down” B/X/LL would be to scale back the ability modifiers*. Something like this, maybe:

(sample Strength mod)

3-4 …… -2
5-6 …… -1
7-14 …… 0
15-16 .. +1
17-18 .. +2

I actually think I prefer bonuses to start at 15, but changing the ability modifier scheme is a bigger change than altering the method of rolling up abilities in the first place. Though I’m not at all a dead-on by-the-book player by any means, I also don’t like to tinker with things more than I feel is necessary. The low power curve of Swords & Wizardry White Box (based on OD&D with no supplements) made it just fine for PCs to usually have no bonuses at all, but LL is designed with at least some bonuses in mind. If bonuses are lowered, PCs are at an unfair disadvantage unless abilities are actually RAISED to make up for it. This problem is summed up here:

It’s been my experience that lowering the ability score modifiers actually just encourages the players to only accept higher scores. I’d rather give a +1 at 13 and have PCs with high stats of 15 than have players all refusing to play a character that doesn’t have at least one 17 or 18.


Here’s an interesting idea:

I just had a weird thought for combining 3d6 and 4d6. Give each ability a starting and potential maximum stat. It would work like this:

For each ability, roll three regular dice and one die of a different color – the potential die. The starting level of an ability is the total of the first three dice. The maximum level of the ability is the total of the three highest of all four dice. For example:

Rolling for Strength, a player rolls 4, 3 and 3 on the first three dice and a 6 on the potential die. Starting Strength is 4 + 3 +3, or 10. The potential maximum is the highest three of the four die (4,3,3,6) or 4+3+6 or 13. So the character would list Strength as 10/13. His staring Strength would be 10 but over time he could raise it to 13.

To raise abilities, every time a character goes up a level, he can raise one ability of his choice by +1, provided the ability is below its maximum.

I’ve long thought about how to allow ability increases in a reasonable manner. It’s something that we’ve never done, but I can see it being worth thinking about. This particular method sounds sort of cool.

If you’re interested in the topic of rolling up abilities, I heartily recommend reading through the entire thread. Add your own thoughts, too.

As for me, reading through the feedback here and on the board has got me pretty much convinced that 3d6 is the way to go. With bonuses available at 13, 4d6 just gives out too many pluses without enough minuses.

My plan is to use 3d6, though I haven’t decided if it’s going to be:

  1. 3d6 in order, with 2-for-1 adjustment allowed as per the rules, or
  2. 3d6, arrange as desired, or
  3. 3d6, let the player choose one of the above options before rolling

Either method will allow a player to create the class of character he or she desires, which is something that I do think is in the best interest of everyone at the table.

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