Rolling stats is a divisive topic in D&D circles. It’s gone through a ton of permutations over the years and each version of the stat rolling rules seems to have adherents. Additionally, some players have cooked up just about a million different options that TSR and WotC never even thought of. Let’s talk a bit about the different stat rolling options that exist and also my angry hardline opinions about them!
The Way of the True Nerd:
These are the old school options that cool people can be proud of using. Roll up a character like this and rest assured that you are blessed by the powerful spirits of those who have conquered megadungeons before you. These methods are used by the coolest folks on the block; when they walk by, crowds hush and animals gape in awe. Behold their majesty and respect their mighty will.
3D6 In Order: You roll 3D6 and you assign it to the first stat on the character sheet. Then you do it again for the second, and the third, and so on. No moving stats around. This is how you end up with a geriatric swordsman in his underpants with a broken foot and a constant cough who drools when he speaks. Gygax has blessed us. This is present from OD&D all the way forward and is now considered a “hardcore” option. For those of us raised on the Holmes, Moldvay, or Mentzer Basic versions and their -X/-ECMI and AD&D continuations, this is just The Way It Was. 6/5 Possums
3D6 Placed: You roll 3D6 for each stat, but you assign it to any stat on the character sheet as you do so. This is a player-friendly way to hold true to the Old Ways. You wanna play a fighter? Okay, stick your best rolls in STR and CON or STR and DEX, then. You can come into it with a vague plan, but you’re still at the mercy of fickle fate. Truly a good option, formally introduced in AD&D 1E I believe. 5/5 Possums
4D6 Drop Lowest In Order: You roll 4D6 and throw away the lowest die in the group, and you assign it to the first stat on the character sheet. Then you continue down the list in this fashion. You trend towards slightly higher stats. You cannot escape the destiny of a fighter with 5 STR, so it is an acceptable choice. 4/5 Possums
4D6 Drop Lowest Placed: You roll 4D6, drop the low die, and assign it to whatever stat you want. This was also given to us by AD&D 1E and is meant to give us slightly higher stats overall and the freedom to mix and match to try to qualify for some of the rarer classes. This is acceptable because otherwise some of those classes would get rolled approximately once a century. Gygax approved. 5/5 Possums
The Various Intermediate Options:
These came from a variety of games beginning with the various Basic Sets and continuing into the AD&D options and beyond. Some are okay. Some are unacceptable.
3D6 12x Placed: You roll enough stats for two characters and put the six best individual rolls wherever you want, discarding the other six rolls. The AD&D 1E DMG called this Method II. It is weird. 3/5 Possums
3D6 In Order Adjusted: From Holmes Basic. You roll 3D6 in order down the character sheet as you’ve always done, but you can adjust the score of your prime requisite stat by reducing a different stat or stats by a greater number. Classic, old school, but too much like math class with too many rules. 3/5 Possums
3D6 Twice In Order: You roll 3D6 for the first stat on your character sheet, twice, and decide which of those rolls you like better. You record it in that first slot of the character sheet and then you do it again for the next stat, and so on. This is Method II from the AD&D 2E Player’s Handbook, which means it’s probably leaving the spirit (if not the letter) of the OSR arena for most people. I grew up in the era where 2E had taken hold, but I was too poor to afford the new stuff and played with hand-me-down B/X, BECMI, and AD&D 1E stuff. I will accept this as an odd choice but it’s not the weirdest choice. 3/5 Possums
Grave Misdeeds and Traps:
These are the ridiculous rolling methods which are of no use to any just or righteous human being. Some of them are newfangled nonsense. Some are old nonsense that I presume stemmed from Gary finding a case of beer and a quiet evening with nothing else to do. If you use these, I am sad for you, and I want you to know that you can always start over and do it right. There is redemption. Return to the true path.
3D6 36x In Order: What? You roll 3D6 for each stat six times and then assign your best roll for each in order on the character sheet. You’d roll six STR rolls and record the best one and then move on to the next stat. Why? How much time do you have? Just throw the character sheet away and resign yourself to being called a wimp by Big Mike, your DM’s older brother. 2/5 Possums
3D6 In Order For 12: You roll 3D6 in order, repeatedly, to generate twelve characters. So you’d roll 3D6 down the line for the first character, and then do it again from square one for the second character, and so on – until you’ve rolled twelve dudes. You then select the character you like best. Why is this even codified? That’s straight up just throwing away eleven character sheets while Big Mike calls you a wuss again. 1/5 Possums
8+7D6 Split: This was presented as Method VI in the AD&D 2E Player’s Handbook. It dictates that your character begins with 8 in each stat and you then roll 7D6 and add the face value of each die to a stat. For example, you roll a 3 and add it to 8 to create an 11. You would also then be able to add whatever you roll on the 7th spare die to that 11 at the end if you so choose. This is nonsense. 1/5 Possums
24D6 Assigned: You roll 24D6 and assign them at-will to your character sheet slots, with each slot getting at least 3D6 but not more than 6D6 total assigned to that slot. As far as I know, this was given as a new character generation option, Method VIII, in the AD&D 2E book Player’s Option: Skills & Powers, which probably makes it forbidden sorcery all on its own. 1/5 Possums
2D6+6 In Order: Popular amongst sectors of the online D&D community. You roll 2d6, you add 6, and you assign it to the first slot on the character sheet. Then you repeat for the other five slots. Congratulations: you just cheated at Dungeons and Dragons. Dork. 1/5 Possums
2D6+6 Placed: Cheating with some element of fate involved wasn’t good enough for you? Now you wanna place those giant numbers in any way you like? Too good to play a fighter now, Steve? Sit down. 1/5 Possums
4D4+4 In Order: Also popular in some parts of the online D&D community. My take: What? No. 1/5 Possums
Point Buy: So you’re already too lazy to roll some dice? Go home. 0/5 Possums
2D6 Point Generation Assigned: You roll 2D6 and compare it to a chart and that gives you a number of points you can spread amongst your character’s stats in any way you please, along with limitations on the highest stat(s) you can have. Also a generation method provided by AD&D 2E book Player’s Option: Skills & Powers, this was Method IX. It is complete malarkey. 0/5 Possums
Array: Seriously. Go home. 0/5 Possums
Follow these guidelines to achieve true enlightenment through D&D. You must walk the path of the Old Ways to find Nirvana. Of course, at the end of the day, you can do whatever you like at your table so long as everyone has fun, and I’m just kidding about all of this in good humor for the sake of a laugh. Or maybe not. You take your chances.
Do not talk to me on twitter @dungeonspossums if you use any of the methods from the last section.
I believe you missed "3d6 in order, swap one pair", which at least LotFP does. And then there's the question of whether to allow rerolls on a negative sum of modifiers!
Good looking out! I'd give the Raggi method a solid 4/5 trash-chomping possums and rerolling if you're purely negative is acceptable but I reserve the right to call you a wimp, like Big Mike would. 😉
You missed the method from the first Unearthed Arcana. It went something like this: Roll 9d6, take the best three, for one stat, then 8d6, etc…You do have to assign the dice pools to the stats before rolling, so no swapping. I never actually tried this in actual play or allowed it, but there it was in UA.
Oh hey, I have that book. Lemme look when I get home.