Monday, January 11, 2010

"...And Quite A Few Complete Losers."

"... I wanted the kind of freaks you'd see in an actual campaign, so I generated a bunch of stats randomly by using the random number generator in the spreadsheet. This resulted in a couple kickass PCs, some decent ones, several mediocre characters and quite a few complete losers. This is completely acceptable to me, as every campaign that uses random chargen will show a similar distribution."

- Jeff Rient/Jeff's Gameblog
I use straight 3d6 in my Planet Algol campaign. Initially it was an experiment in "Gygaxian Archaeology," a luddite/radical traditionalist thought experiment. If it turned out to suck, we could go back to 4d6/your choice I thought.

It wasn't very long before many of the players and myself came to appreciate the results. Firstly, less math. With AD&D ability score modifiers and the bell curve of 3d6 generation, ability score modifiers are rare. With all the fumbling over math by the less numerically inclined in the previous 3.5 campaign, this was a breath of fresh air.

It also made characters with good ability score stand out. Being a tough guy in 3/4E is nothing special, neither is being a ninja-esque olympic acrobat. In my game, a character who has high strength and constitution, is a real tough guy straight out of the gate. The rest of the party and the players know this guy is "Extra Tough." He acquires a reputation in the party for his toughness.

You know how in classic ensemble action/caper flicks how the characters had their roles? "The Face," "The Brawler," "The Jewel Thief," "The Genius," etc. Although 3/4E explicitly had allowances to build your character to fit such a vision, ironically enough I find that using 3d6/straight down and a ruleset makes for more "Organic" and "Archetypical" examples of such cliche characters.

In a game where any character can be a strongman or a genius, it doesn't end up meaning that much. But when strongmen and geniuses are rare, than they become truly special.

As well, many in my group and I have come to absolutely love "Loser Characters." In Sean/Dudebird's AD&D Wilderlands game that the Planet Algol players and I game in, he allows 4d6/place them where you like method. When making a new character I decided to "walk my talk" and rolled my ability scores in the orthodox 3d6 method. He came out pretty average, aside from a low charisma and a dismal wisdom.

Enter "Jeryk the Unwise. " With an unpleasant, small lipless scowling mouth; eyes like a guilty ashtray; and the character traits of two of the most annoying people I've known. Within minutes of joining the group Jeryk began flapping his jaw about how he was an expert about this or that, usually due to an uncle. When the party came to a set of doors in some ancient ruins Jeryk proclaimed:

"I'm actually kind of a door expert. My uncle made doors, the fancy kind that rich men and nobles had. I spent a lot of time with him at his shop and helped him out. I actually would have become a master door crafter but I decided to be an adventurer instead." And than he started making a big show of using lamp oil to lubricate the rusty hinges and handle. The electricity trap on the door handle nearly killed him.

Loser characters are hilarious, usually the awesome players in my campaign play their ability-score deficient character to the freaking hilt! Jeryk's jackass antics had a couple of us helpless with laughter. With the lowered emphasis on ability score in AD&D, it really doesn't make it a huge handicap in most instances, and it seems like the characters with ability scores that are a genuine liability play smarter as a result and those characters tend to be survivors as well as having a lot of heart.

1 comment:

  1. I much prefer the randomness of rolling stats to more controlled methods, mainly because the numbers then give me an idea of what kind of character I've got. With something like a point-buy system, you have to have an idea in mind before you get to the table, and that's not as much fun for me. I like being surprised by the character's statistics, and then seeing what kind of personality those numbers suggest; it's somehow more fun for me that way, and it doesn't even have to be a "loser" character either, although they are fun.