Friday, March 22, 2013

3d6 All the Way - A New Way to Make Characters

Had a notion about character generation today. So, using the old rules, you roll 3d6 for each ability score, pick a race, pick a class, etc. Nice and simple.

Some people, however, like the idea of ditching classes. Now, I think classes (and monsters) are a brilliant short hand for referees - way easier to use 6th level fighters and owlbears than completely individual, unique enemies. Players, though, might feel constrained with classes.

Well, what's a class? Essentially a collection of bonuses and special abilities. Let's say, though, that you want to run a game without much in the way of special abilities - some pulp fantasy or swashbuckling stuff that's mostly about combat and skills.

Here's my plan. It leaves out experience points and levels, so it should work pretty well for one-shot dungeons or if you just want to assume every character is a competent adventurer and then run through all dungeons without worrying about advancement.

STEP ONE - Roll 3d6 for each ability score. Make a note of the ability bonus. Use whatever system you like, one possible system follows:

0 = -6
1 = -5
2 = -4
3 = -3
4-5 = -2
6-8 = -1
9-12 = 0
13-15 = +1
16-17 = +2
18 = +3
19 = +4
20 = +5
21 = +6

STEP TWO - Roll 3d6 for skills and combat abilities. Each skill and combat ability is tied to an ability score, and the 3d6 roll is modified by that ability's modifier. The exact skills you use are up to you - and example follows:

Strength: Melee attacks, breaking down doors, bending bars, jumping, swimming, climbing

Dexterity: Ranged attacks, reflex saving throws, acrobatics, pick pockets, open locks, hide in shadows, move silently, riding, move without leaving tracks

Constitution: Fortitude saving throws

Intelligence: Legend lore, decipher codes, find and remove traps, appraise value, cast magic-user spells (i.e. invoke)

Wisdom: Hear noises, will saving throws, tracking, avoid surprise, wilderness survival, cast cleric spells (i.e. pray), solve riddle

Charisma: Gather rumors, fascinate crowd, reaction checks, haggle over prices

Essentially, you'll keep tracks of the bonus associated with each of these scores. So, if you roll a 15 for strength (+1 bonus) and then a 16 for melee attacks, the strength modifier bounces that to a 17, giving you a +2 melee attack bonus.

STEP THREE - Roll 3d6 for hit points, modified by the constitution modifier.

Now, how do we use these bonuses? You should be able to run combat just as you always did - roll d20, modify with melee attack bonus and strength modifier, beat AC.

For skill use and saving throws, roll d20 and try to roll beneath the score itself, using whatever modifiers you think make sense. In the case of spells, you'd want to use the spell level as a modifier, probably with some sort of consequence of failing a roll (i.e. cannot attempt that spell again that day, three failures and no more spells for the day).

Here's a sample character, Rodrik the Bold

Strength 16 (+2)
  Melee attacks 10 (+0), breaking down doors 6, bending bars 16, jumping 17, swimming 16, climbing 11

Dexterity 13 (+1)
  Ranged attacks 12 (+0), reflex saving throws 12, acrobatics 16, pick pockets 10, open locks 10, hide in shadows 13, move silently 14, riding 11, move without leaving tracks 7

Constitution 6 (-1)
  Fortitude saving throws 8

Intelligence 14 (+1)
  Legend lore 8, decipher codes 8, find and remove traps 13, appraise value 15, invoke magic-user spells 13

Wisdom 10 (+0)
  Hear noises 5, will saving throws 12, tracking, avoid surprise 8, wilderness survival 10, pray for cleric spells 7, solve riddle 14

Charisma 11 (+0)
  Gather rumors 8, fascinate crowd 10, reaction checks 12, haggle over prices 10

Hit Points 12


  1. Interesting idea. To make sure I'm grokking this, Rodrik's Strength Mod of +2 has adjusted score of every skill in it's group, so Melee was an 8, but with +2 it's a 10 now?

    Does Level factor into this? I only ask because I've always eyeballed a system where Level was a series of Fate Points or bonus dice for each session's use.

    1. Yes. Strength modifies all the strength-related skills.

      Level does not, because this notion doesn't use level.

  2. My idea for something like leveling: everytime you earn enough xp (however you want to determine that amount) you pick one ability score and roll for each ability associated with it (without modifier) and if you roll over the actual score it raises by one.
    Just my 2 cents.

    1. Excellent idea. Some system out there does something like that, doesn't it.

    2. Excellent idea. Some system out there does something like that, doesn't it.

    3. The skills for Call of the Cthulhu works like that, during the game you check of all the skills you've used successfully and after the adventure you can roll for all of those skills. Training could also work in this way; spend 100gp X current score per week and roll 3d6 after each week to raise the skill. Would be a nice money drain for treasure rich dungeoneering campaigns.

  3. This would also be perfect for systems like Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World and Mutant Future, which have D&D-styled attribute scores, powers and HPs untied to character levels (more or less), and with systems of leveling that feels tacked-on their respective systems. Not bad! I like it.

    If I was to use this system, I would alter the terms to make them shorter (to cut-down on paperwork) and to make them sound a little more open-ended. (e.g. Pick Pockets becomes Sleight (of Hand) or Palming to suggest that this skill maybe used for a wider range of trickery)

    1. I look at this as a starting point - lots of ways it could be improved!

  4. I'd really like to try something like this for X-plorers since scfi settings favor skill systems. I'd been toying with DIY classes a while back and this post definitely gives me ideas. Bravo sir!


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