Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crunchy Corner: The Inheritance of the Meek

Don't pick fights with drunk old men nor PCs with low stats.
With a handful of exceptions, all experienced DnD players fear the dreaded Rolling of 3d6 Straight. Allow me to explain. When making a character, there's a lot of variation on how to roll up the primary stats. Most people favor options that A) Allow the player flexibility in what numbers they assign to what stat and B) ensure a middling-to-high average.

3d6 Straight gives no promises. 3d6 is the cool hand of the green-eyed Lady. Feel her breath on the nape of your neck as she guides your dice-hand. Was that the sound of high-impact resin clattering together, or a soft giggle at your expense? Ah, look there... three ones.Write it down. No, not there... start at the top, with Strength, and work down.

Personally, I find something a bit... thrilling... about the idea. But then, maybe I'm a little jaded. I've seen enough characters with 10 or higher in most stats, and it's been so long since I've been a player instead of a DM that, you know what, let Luck tell me what class I'm going to be. If my stats are low across the board, I'll have to be all the more clever for it.

And there is a part of me that sometimes... just sometimes... wants to inflict 3d6 on my players as well. I see it as the best cure for a poison MMORPGs have unleashed on gaming. "Oh, we already have a damage-dealer and a healer, Clarice. We don't have a heavy spell-caster, though. Why don't you be a wizard?" Ick. I'm certain there's a lot of entertainment to be had from a party of nothing BUT barbarians against an evil sorcerer, or mostly clerics thinking up a smart way to defeat a dragon. Situations that make one think about "defeat" and whether it can only be defined as "slay."

But in DnD, I will never do this, because I can understand why players - especially new ones - want a promise of non-miserable stats and a bit of choice in who they'll be. But musing on this made me think of something that could be incorporated into a new system: What if there was a score that was higher the lower one's stats were?

This score would have to be carefully weighted in usefulness - the setting I have in mind has a spirit world, so my version is mainly useful there. I wouldn't want to make it pointless to have high stats, just... let's say that if you role high on your main stats, great, you are good at those things and bad at this other thing. If you role low, too bad but at least you're good at this other thing.

I'm thinking it's a set number that you subtract each stat from. It's probably a body of spendable points. A lot of people will no doubt find this laughable and player-coddling - and I don't care. After all, part of the intention is to make players more comfortable with rolling their stats straight with no do-overs - nothing coddling there. I'm not removing negative consequences of bad rolls; a low strength means you are not strong. I'm just adding a new variable to ensure the character is useful and enjoyable to play no matter how Luck shapes them.


  1. Hrm.... very very interesting Chris.

    Indeed, I am going to steal some of this idea.

    In Errant, I have a stat called Luck. It represents the raw luck that some have over others; serving several functions not the least of which is to help people who occasionally find themselves in danger of dying from something stupid, like falling down 10 feet.

    If I allow anyone with a Stat total of 53 or less to add to their starting luck a value equal to 54 minus the total of all your Stats. So if you have a State total of 40, you would get an extra 14 luck to represent your... crappitude.

    What do you think? Might this solve the problem you describe above?

    Errant is a retroclone and I recommend 3d6 with assignment (so not the hardest of hard core, but close).

  2. Pretty close to what I'm doing, Greg. The system I'm building isn't a clone, it uses 2d6 for the primary stats, but there's still 6. You then subtract each from 12, add the results, and that's a score called Spirit.

    One use for it is a lot like your Luck: you can burn it up to escape negative consequences of bad rolls (but you can't get points you spend like that back). It also controls how powerful you are in the spirit world, since the game involves a lot of moving between the two.

    This way, characters that basically suck in one world rock in the other one, and characters with an extremely low Health aren't immediately smeared as they can burn points when things go wrong.

    Of course, none of this is playtested yet. Hell, I wrote it night before last. But do let me know how your similar concept works out, Greg.

  3. "If my stats are low across the board, I'll have to be all the more clever for it."

    Thing is, you can't be more clever if your Int is 3. Can you?