Like it’s 1981 all over again, part one

We’re sat around the table, and they’re watching me, expectantly. They know this isn’t going to be our usual session as we’re short a couple of players. Little did they expect….

I hand out blank sheets of lined paper with my mostest evilest grin on my face.

“Ok. Roll stats. 3d6, in order.”
“What are we playing?”
“D&D. 4th Edition.”
“You gotta be kidding me!”

I wasn’t. The four of us (me included, I’m generating a character to use as the spare in the event of Sudden Character Demise) start generating characters, only we’re doing it old style. We’re pouring over the books (2 PHBs between the four of us) and there’s not a single laptop, iphone or anything more technical than a pencil sharpener in sight.

Here’s what I rolled:

STR 9, CON 9, DEX 5, INT 12, WIS 5, CHA 7

Hmmm. Maybe there’s a reason why I’m a GM with rolls like that. Thankfully we’re old hands when it comes to Reading The Stats. Inspiration hits.

“I’m playing a Wizard whose mind has been shattered by reading too much Lovecraft late at night.”

The players are rolling equally…. um…… randomly. But y’know what? Random is good. Things have a habit of working out.

“Ok Steve. What you got?”
“11 10 15 11 6 12. That makes me the Rogue then. A very foolish Rogue. I know! He’s a Court Jester!”
“Oh man. I was gonna be the Rogue. 12 13 11 9 8 6. I’ll play the Fighter then. He’s a Thug for the Thieves’ Guild.”
“Cool. Don?”
“13 8 12 8 14 13. Cleric. An old, senile pulpit bashing Cleric.”

Steve decides his Jester is a Halfling – that +2 DEX & CHA was too tempting, and the image of a Halfling in a Jester’s suit just cemented the deal. Mike goes for a Human and takes a +2 to DEX, and snarfs Sneak of Shadows as his free Feat (Thief Wannabe!). Don plumps for a Half-Elf for his Cleric, and I stick with Human for the backup Wizard.

They’re all characters that won’t win any prizes on a Character Optimization Forum Thread, but we love ’em already, warts and all.

In all, chargen takes around 20 minutes, and that includes my Wizard and the Mike’s Fighter both rolling for their Powers. Yes, rolling for ’em. Why not?

I scribble the Wizard’s name – Mahkra – on the top of his sheet, and we’re ready to play.

Incidentally, I love the 4e D&D Wizard class. It’s my second favourite after the Warlock (with it’s three-classes-in-one sugary goodness); of all the classes the Wizard has the most out-of-combat potential thanks to at-will Cantrips. In 3e, the out-of-combat king was the Rogue due to his high skill count. Now all of the classes are skill-capable and the excellent Skill Challenges mechanism means they all get to play a part when solving a puzzle, trying to get past the Kings’ Guard or whatever.

The Cantrips give the Wizard an extra ace up his sleeve, and really put across the feeling that this guy, even at 1st level, Knows His Stuff. The Wizard can conjure up a rose to charm a lady, whisper paranoid delusions into the ear of a Duke, cast Light on an arrow to be cast over a battlefield (or on the helmet of a foe to mark a target), summon a spectral hand or soil the Fighter’s pants (always good for a laugh). Flavourful? I’ll say! The Wizard that is, not the pants.

Next time: The game is afoot!

15 Comments on “Like it’s 1981 all over again, part one”

  1. You’re not going to believe this, but the last time we tried this character creation method at my table (which was a few years ago for 3.5e) we had an alarming number of 16, 17 and 18s rolled. It created characters that were so powerful so quickly that we have to retire the characters after a few levels.

    The one guy who didn’t roll above average was constantly complaining that he was being unfairly punished for having bad dice. His incessant whining was another contributing factor for retiring the characters. Perhaps if everyone had rolled more like your PCs we would have had more fun and played the characters longer.

    I’m incredibly reluctant to try this experiment again in 4e. But if we do try it for 4e it may result in interesting characters for a one night Dungeon Delve. Hmmm.

    Amerons last blog post..Skill Challenge: Defend the Camp

  2. Very cool. The best thing about having the characters roll up like this is the emphasis it puts on creating a character’s story. When you point buy, you are essentially crafting a piece of machinery, that is most players use point-buy to sculpt an efficient character based on whatever specs they think are necessary. When you 3d6 it, you end up thinking more along the lines of “Why does this guy have a 7 Con but a 15 Str?”

    The Last Rogues last blog post..Session 1-2: Wolverines & Dead Dogs

  3. my group’s last experiment with ‘roll 3d6!’ quickly became ‘roll 4d6 and drop the lowest!’, soon followed by ‘and reroll if your total bonus is less than +2!’, later amended by ‘also reroll if your total bonus is greater than +10!’. all of this for a throw-away game before starting the actual 4e campaign, which was point-buy.

    if i seriously suggested ‘roll 3d6!’ for a campaign, i’m pretty sure my group’s response would be ‘die in a fire!’

  4. 4e D&D is the first time I’ve rolled 3d6s for stats in any version of D&D (aside from Classic D&D itself) and actually ended up with a fun, viable character rather than one who is likely to die in the first round of combat. That’s not because of my die rolling skills either – I always seem to suck at rolling high when it comes to character generation.

    In 4th Edition, the (brilliant) idea of pairing the stats up means that it doesn’t matter if your Wizard has STR 5 or his WIS is only 4. He’ll still (hopefully) get decent (or at least average) saves thanks to his CON & CHA meaning the stats become what they should be – triggers for great role-playing opportunities rather than crippling statistical flaws.

    Sometimes it’s fun not to be the hero with an 18 in one stat and superior in everything. It’s fun to be inspired by random numbers.

    follow @greywulf on twitter

  5. Wow! This sounds like a very cool mix.

    I love Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X D&D and I’m totally digging 4e now too, so what you are doing looks like a real fun merger that I’d love to try sometime.

    Not sure on the “roll for powers”. I think I’d rather have a little more control over what the player may have “studied”, but I see why you’re doing it…roll, roll, roll.

    I’ found this thread from your more recent entries on it, but quickly jumped to the beginning thread to get the whole story. Gonna read the rest of it right after I hit submit here.

    Great idea! Especially if you’re trying to get a little “back in ’81” vibe with a modern version. Some will hate it, and scorn it…but I really dig it, bro! Thanx for the idea.

    yoyorobbos last blog post..sweet D&D loot found during weekend getaway

  6. i’ve pitched the idea of 3d6 for my next campaign to three of my players so far. one is okay with it, though he wouldn’t try it in his own campaign. the other two were hesitant, at least. one of them has a history of rolling poorly, so that’s expected. still, i think i could talk them into it, with the promise that if it wasn’t working out i’d axe-murder all the PCs and let them start over.

  7. In mine and my friends’ campaigns, we’ve taken to an interesting system. Supposedly our characters are to be heroic, a cut above, etc. Therefore, we eschew dice rolling for character generation in favor of giving each player an 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, & 13, putting them wherever they want.

    Perhaps it’s a bit overpowering, but sometimes you just want to go out and have fun and not worry about the dice quite so much!

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