Random vs Non-Random Char-Gen

TJS

Legendary Member
Joined
May 5, 2018
Messages
2,262
Reaction score
4,691
Of course something like mountain climbing can just all be handled by the GM presenting certain decision points.

There's a cliff-face you could climb but it looks like a difficult and dangerous climb; however, it would be relatively direct. On the other hand, there's a long ridge you could take which would be a less dangerous climb, but it would be exposed to the weather the whole way, and it looks like there's a chance the weather could turn bad. Which do you take?
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
Of course something like mountain climbing can just all be handled by the GM presenting certain decision points.

There's a cliff-face you could climb but it looks like a difficult and dangerous climb; however, it would be relatively direct. On the other hand, there's a long ridge you could take which would be a less dangerous climb, but it would be exposed to the weather the whole way, and it looks like there's a chance the weather could turn bad. Which do you take?
Yea, I think this is the best way to handle it. Each path can be resolved with a single roll if you want.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
This is almost getting into a different topic, but I think the Wargame legacy is key here. Combat is tactical (although often barely). This means it contains an element of player skill and decision making. Mountain climing can only ever be interesting as a mini-game if it's similarly tactical.

This lends itself to a few approaches.
1) Make a non-tactical minigame. In this approach you just roll dice in an extended resolution. Without any real scope for player skill all this really does is introduce a bell curve to resolution. It's not particularly interesting.
2) Make it an interesting tactical simulation. The problem here is most nerds have a better idea of what would be tactically useful in combat than they do of mountain climbingg. Sure the system could teach how to make good mountain climbing decisions, but is there really an audience to care about that? You'd also need a different mini-game for each different thing you'd be simulating, unless your focus is on one particular tactical option, i.e the game is all about mountain climbing in particular. This is how A Song of Ice and Fire rpg handles social intrigue.
3) Make it tactical but non-simulationist. This would mean that you could have basically the same kind of tactical options for each thing covered. The downside that this is likely to become so abstract as to be disengaging - and likely miss a lot of the reasons why people are playing a RPG rather than a board game in the first place.
4) Make the mini-games not tactical all all, but dramatic. This is basically similar to one in many ways, but adds the narrative element of seeing how things unfold from a story perspective, with some element of interpretation and improvisation to keep things interesting. This approach has the benefit of actually working and not needing a whole lot of different mini-games for different situations, but is not what many want (baby/bathwater etc). More narrative games handle everything this way, but there are also games like Savage Worlds which has a traditional tactical combat system but also has a dramatic task resolution for other situations that works more this way. (This kind of hybrid, tactical mini-games in some spaces, dramatic skill challenges in others, actually works quite well in my experience).
Good extended analysis of what I was angling at.

So what is Savage World's dramatic resolution? Just want to understand what it is for comparison.
 

TJS

Legendary Member
Joined
May 5, 2018
Messages
2,262
Reaction score
4,691
Good extended analysis of what I was angling at.

So what is Savage World's dramatic resolution? Just want to understand what it is for comparison.
I may get this slightly wrong, because it's been a while since I used it.

Basically, there's a number of successes that are needed to accomplish the task within a set amount of rounds.

Everyone gets an initiative card like usual for Savage Worlds. On their turn they may attempt to progress the task or to help another. If you succeed on progressing the task you get one additional success per raise. If you attempt to help then you give someone a bonus depending on how many raises you get. If your initiative card is a club, then there is some complication arising which needs to be resolved and which can lead to the whole task failing (So everyone who can should give this player an assist to make sure they don't).

It's a pretty basic framework but I find it works quite well. It's probably modelled off the skill challenges in 4e D&D but it works a lot better because raises make assisting others more meaningful, while, now that I think about, the use of clubs for complications does add a very basic tactical element to the system (even if it's most a narrative thing).
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
I may get this slightly wrong, because it's been a while since I used it.

Basically, there's a number of successes that are needed to accomplish the task within a set amount of rounds.

Everyone gets an initiative card like usual for Savage Worlds. On their turn they may attempt to progress the task or to help another. If you succeed on progressing the task you get one additional success per raise. If you attempt to help then you give someone a bonus depending on how many raises you get. If your initiative card is a club, then there is some complication arising which needs to be resolved and which can lead to the whole task failing (So everyone who can should give this player an assist to make sure they don't).

It's a pretty basic framework but I find it works quite well. It's probably modelled off the skill challenges in 4e D&D but it works a lot better because raises make assisting others more meaningful, while, now that I think about, the use of clubs for complications does add a very basic tactical element to the system (even if it's most a narrative thing).
Does it genuinely feel different than a "race" game (those board games with a path made of spaces, some of which may have special effects). It does sound like there are some choices and I assume role play can affect the odds in some way.

Of course D&D combat CAN degenerate to a race game.
 

TJS

Legendary Member
Joined
May 5, 2018
Messages
2,262
Reaction score
4,691
Does it genuinely feel different than a "race" game (those board games with a path made of spaces, some of which may have special effects). It does sound like there are some choices and I assume role play can affect the odds in some way.

Of course D&D combat CAN degenerate to a race game.
Well yes, because you have to do specific actions in the fiction.

These sort of rules though tend to work best when they're used as loose frameworks to build upon. If all the things the characters specifically is just a meaningless excuse to roll the dice then they don't work well. If you allow the players to skirt or warp the rules by doing specific things then they work better. Something should automatically advance progress, other things might be double or nothing, risky things that might double successes but failure means failure for the whole thing etc.

Of course I'm noticing that once I start doing this I'm bringing in more tactical concerns.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
Well yes, because you have to do specific actions in the fiction.

These sort of rules though tend to work best when they're used as loose frameworks to build upon. If all the things the characters specifically is just a meaningless excuse to roll the dice then they don't work well. If you allow the players to skirt or warp the rules by doing specific things then they work better. Something should automatically advance progress, other things might be double or nothing, risky things that might double successes but failure means failure for the whole thing etc.

Of course I'm noticing that once I start doing this I'm bringing in more tactical concerns.
Cool, so yes, so long as the system offers plenty of meaningful choices, then things remain interesting.

Also, sometimes it doesn't actually take much smoke and mirrors to hide the race game... Still hopefully there's some actual choices. But with the right consequences for a failed roll, and the possibility of a critical success advancing faster, there can be drama even if it's ultimately just a race game.
 

AsenRG

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
10,818
Reaction score
12,137
That's a particular artifact of the way Traveler gates access to some careers, though; most games don't have that kind of issues.
We Traveller fans tend to refer to it as a "perk", not "issue":shade:.
And even if it was, why should any given GM be forced to run a system where character build is available if they have plenty of players who are happy with random chargen? And if there aren't enough players happy with random chargen, then the GM will just have to offer character build.
Or, you know, conclude that players aren't happy with your campaign concept, shrug and close the ad, looking to be a player instead. Which is what I'd have done, if such a problem had ever arisen - and yes, it means one less game is being run, and one more player is looking for a game (both of which aren't good things in online play).
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
That's an interesting way of doing it. I think I've considered doing that with d6s. I have considered roll 18d6 and then spread them out. Hmm, you COULD even allow putting more than 3d6 in one attribute (thus only 2d6 in another) so long as you don't exceed 18 or go lower than 3. But at that point you've basically rolled a random number of points for point buy...

Yeah, since I found no need to vary the total points available, it wouldn't be useful to me; my only purpose to having any randomness was to break up the breakpoint hitting (which I'll freely admit was more an aesthetic preference, but there were at least some mild game balance issues too).

You've played a lot more BRP games than I have, and it's been a while since you played RQ2. I have run RQ1 every decade since 1978 and have an active campaign. I should have a better memory... And yet, I still didn't know the right rule. It's amazing the rules you don't know because you didn't play that way when you first played and just assume you know what a given section says so you don't really read it, even when you DO read it...

This comes up all the time; people will internalize house rules (whether actively presented that way or not) as the actual rules because they did it that way for so long. Its one of the reasons to look at people who claim, for example, they played AD&D1e by the book with a bit of a jaundiced eye. Chances are overwhelmingly that they didn't, but have simply forgotten that (or if only a player, may never have known).

I think it really does depend on play style.

It does, but then, some people either don't care about much decision making even in combat, or are perfectly willing to toss it the completely arbitrary decisions of the GM. They're not the people I'm talking about.

But you also call out lore skills. I have come to the opinion that those are horrible skills in most games. Once I started running Fantasy Hero, I loaded every game up with them. And they NEVER were actually used or made any real difference.

There are ways to actually get good value out of them, and I've seen it done in some campaigns. But they're kind of the low-hanging fruit for my point, because its almost impossible to make them engaging in a game sense, and its not even easy in a narrative sense, since they primarily are just information gates.

A play style some folks use with Burning Wheel is the ONE time I've seen them actually be interesting in play. In that style, a player may offer an assertion about the world. The GM can either say "yes, that's the way the world works" ("say yes or roll the dice") or say "no, the world doesn't work that way" (this is actually "say yes or roll the dice" also, "say yes or roll the dice" doesn't mean players can propose any cockamamie thing, make a dice roll, and have it be true), or the GM can say: "hmm, that's interesting, roll you're XYZ lore." (Now in the old days, I might have just assigned some percentage to something like that, but having a character skill factor in is cool). It helps that the RQ skill list is heavily tilted towards adventuring and not representing the skills of the farmers and townsmen of the world (though some of those skills have been added by RQ2 cults).

Yeah, obviously the dynamic is a little different in games like BW or some of the PbtA games here.

One other place I thought they were a little better was the third edition of Chill. Since that was an investigative horror game, they were more central than in a lot of genres and campaigns; but more to the point, they always gave you some information; the question was whether it was complete, or even partly wrong (but even when that occurred it was mixed with information that was right), so it made you think about what you might be missing or had wrong but still moved you forward. But that was pretty much all after-the-roll engagement, the actual use of the skill was still pretty uninteresting.

At least in theory, this doesn't have to be done with as many skills as are (which are usually the same sort of roll, or roll multiple times, but nothing much really is involved or if it is its entirely in the GM's lap as to whether it matters) but having, say, a bunch of actual decisions in Climbing takes up more rule space and time than most designs want to bother with. If there's areas that get any attention here, its combat, maybe intrusion (especially in cyberpunk games and the like) and to one degree or another magic if it exists. Everything else turns into "Here's a skill, here's (maybe) some output results or modifiers, move along".

Certainly there is no doubt, everyone (who can contribute) will be engaged in combat. And my answer to that has always been to allow a player to pass on a random set of rolls that makes for someone useless in combat. I'm not going to make you run STR 6, DEX 10, CON 8, SIZ 11, POW 12, INT 15, CHA 13 unless you really want to.

I was mostly just making my argument for why even most people who theoretically don't care about combat (because they want to play a faceman or a sage or an intrusion type) usually, in the end, kind of do. In a few kinds of situation-resolution games (i.e. where a whole fight turns on just one roll) this is probably less true, but I don't think that's such a common design approach that it changes the common situation much; as long as one thing takes up a lot of time and engagement, its going to be something people tend to disproportionately care about, and most of the fixes for it would end up doing exactly what most people don't want; taking up a lot of time with parts of the game that only a limited number of people can participate in meaningfully. (A caveat on the latter; its theoretically possible to set up negotiation systems or some others where lesser skilled PCs are something other than just an impediment, but if there are many games that work that way by-the-book or even as most people run them, I haven't seen much sign of it. This is as much a contributor as the just-roll-and-get-it-done design that usually goes with such things).

A reasonable point. But if there's more people who want to play character build systems than GMs, again, it's a people problem not a rule set problem. But I suspect given D&D started to shift to attribute array (and thus totally a build system), that the majority of games are actually using character builds.

You still hit games every so often that actively avoid that, but usually you can at least import arrays to those; that doesn't suit my particular taste here (but as I've made clear, that's because I'm super picky in this area) but it absolutely sidesteps both of my critique areas (well, as long as the array doesn't produce notably worse characters than the random rolls do.) But every so often you'll hit a game where even that's kind of a pill to do. And I agree that to some extent the other is a people problem, its still a people problem based on, honestly, people placing their priorities over others in an area its not clear why they get to do that (I mean, seriously, I can understand the objection to build-points; I don't agree with them, but I get it. But when people aren't willing to even let other players use an array rather than random roll, my sympathy completely evaporates. At that point its "play as I do, because I say so.")

Yea, maybe that's a problem for SFRPG though I wonder how much Star Wars there is compared to Traveller? But again, if there's not enough GMs running SFRPGs that use character builds (including optional rules for Traveller) for the demand, then we have a people problem again.

But again, its a people problem because, for the most part, someone has to use the random roll. There's a version of character gen for Mongoose Traveler for example, but if a GM demands you use the random variant (and may not even have the flexibility you indicate you provide), while that's a people problem, its one of someone projecting their own expectations on others to my view.

I'm not going to say anyone should feel obliged to fix matters because of This Guy, but its still absolutely creating a problem for him, and a big part of it is just that this particular part of the hobby is so random-centric.


So this does actually start to approach the problem I have with modern games. Trying to actually represent someone's knowledge and capability with a skill system seems doomed to me.

I really don't think so, honestly, if you set it up right. At the very least its one of those areas where having templates can be very useful even if you don't make them mandatory. They show expectations about what, say, a space marine is expected to know to do his job. At that point if someone doesn't invest in that minimum, well, that's not a game system problem.

So I embraced the idea put forth for Classic Traveller that the skills are NOT the character's resume, but things they are good at in emergency situations. Now some of the rules for penalties for not having the skill maybe should be re-examined with that idea in mind (maybe just -1 or -2 instead of -4). But note that a Scout ship is supposed to be operable by a single Scout, who can be granted a ship after one term. The ONLY sure skill said Scout has is Pilot. He must be able to make a reasonable number of repairs (though the low survival rate may reflect unskilled repairs made in an emergency...) and navigate, etc. etc. Even a Scout with several terms is unlikely to have ALL the reasonably necessary skills.

Is that a problem with skills, or a problem with the fact Traveler was traditionally really stingy with them, though? I mean, honestly, they could have said "A Scout gets all the following skills at +0" and it'd be, if not completely a non-issue, one where the situation makes sense.

So with this philosophy it's easier to assume almost any character can contribute. And then add in the offer to roll multiple PCs (which I have seen MUCH more commonly with Traveller than any other game). Oh, and technically by the rules, a player COULD choose to play a 0-term character with thusly no skills at all, this section after naming the character in 1977 Book 1:

"ACQUIRING SKILLS AND EXPERTISE

A newly generated character is singularly unequipped to deal with the adventuring world, having neither the expertise nor the experience necessary for the active life. In order to acquire some experience, it is possible to enlist in a service."

Note the last phrase and the use of "it is possible". That's not a requirement or force... Though the section also argues for enlisting in a service so you DO have expertise and experience.

Well, you could (and some readings by some people were that it was presented as intended option) RQ characters as green teenagers with no experience, but except as a novelty, who's going to do it?

Considering how many times I've heard people talk about how awesome last week's session was in some game their playing because the dice were never rolled, I'm not sure how many campaigns have so much combat...

Of course if that's the primary focus for the campaign, I've argued its not what anyone is talking about in this thread anyway, as your attributes then likely don't matter at all. It becomes kind of a tautology.

My personal opinion though is such games with no dice rolls (at least as a regular thing) suck. Yea, I've had an occasional RQ session with few if any rolls. Partly that's due to 2 hour sessions which can easily be eaten up by planning or role play without hitting much that needs a roll. The thing is that at least in my campaigns, I have had almost no PCs that couldn't contribute to combat. I DO have one player complaining about that right now - he joined in the middle of a multi-session attempt to take out some high powered enemies in a constricted cave setting, many of the other combats run in the campaign, he would be in there with his spear (he is better with spear than the 2nd longest running PC in the group) or slinging, or casting spells. His Detect Undead was critical to understanding what they are up against (though the longest running PC DOES have Detect Undead, this particular PC was the one who cast it). But he also CHOSE to play an alchemist, now granted, he (and I) had no idea how that would actually play out. He would be more effective in almost any other scenario the PCs have been involved in (right now they are in the back ass end of nowhere - well not quite, they are just in the Condor Crags of Prax not The Wastes...). And I've offered to have a one on one conversation with him so we can change up his character. So sure, it's possible to end up with a combat weenie. If so, let's talk and fix it. In the meantime, no everyone doesn't need to be equal in combat as long as other stuff is important also.

Well, the problem of "this particular scenario or part of the game, however long it is, absolutely makes one character effectively unnecessary" is one largely outside this problem; almost no character generation method that makes a character better or worse in whatever fashion is going to completely avoid that. If people have a problem with it, it largely has to be addressed at the campaign/scenario design end.

I've had players who build very non-combat oriented concepts. And some of them have been resistant to my guidance that they are heading down a path of unhappiness. Back in my Hero days I also had players who would refuse help with optimizing their character. But continuing my harping, those are people problems not rule system problems... OK, Hero (and to not quite the same extent GURPS) ARE problematic for the fact that optimization makes such a huge difference in effectiveness. D&D 3.x had the same problem with class level progression and feat selection. But optimization can be addressed by the players and GM. People problems can too... :-) - If you refuse to engage with the game as offered and the guidance offered and you rage quit, that's on you, not on the GM or the other players. The main way randomness can be a problem there is a hard nosed GM who insists on you playing exactly what you rolled no matter how much you don't want to or how much the character sucks. I've learned not to play with hard nosed GMs. I bailed out of a Traveller campaign because the GM was kind of a jerk about things and I kept having characters killed without any real opportunity to do anything about it.

You certainly can buffer ineffective character generation in various ways in a random roll game (you've mentioned several of them). As I've said before, my view is, the less you're leaving to chance there I have to return to "What purpose is it serving, then?" And I agree in character build systems if someone just stubbornly ignores people telling them they're asking for a bad experience in what they're doing, that's on them (but that's true with any game system that doesn't straightjacket what you'll do out the gate. I kind of rolled my eyes when one of the complaints I saw about the new version of Alternity was that it tried to make sure you had some capability on a character for any general sphere of play you might be in because this was a great offense apparently).
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
See my previous post for players shooting themselves...

Communication breakdown about play style and campaign direction/goals happens a lot. Some players roll with it well. Many players at least have a functional character, maybe a different choice would have been better, but at least this PC can function. And sometimes you need to adjust a PC or roll/build a new one. Starting with Hero, I started allowing players to rebuild after a session or two (and honestly would allow it even later if something significant only became apparent much later). That kind of grace and allowing re-rolls or roll several characters and pick one go a long way.

Absolutely. Even with build systems, its usually a good idea to be a little flexible, especially a first, with letting someone do some reworking because something doesn't work out the way a person pictured it in their head.


I think Book 4 characters are pretty likely to get some Vehicle skill. If you're doing a merc campaign with Book 4 characters, you don't expect to have a ship specialist. Classic Traveller has no science skills (Supplement 4 scientists get lots of technical skills). And Traveller rarely produces a character who is JUST a shooter, even Book 1. In a play by post I'm in, we recently finished a mercenary ticket and we did just fine with random Book 1 characters.

Well, I wasn't assuming it was going to be a forced effect; as you say, you can pick up some ancillery skills just off various Army or Marine tables.

Bargain is added in Cults of Prax. I'm not sure when Fast Talk was introduced (I DO use it, but I could have taken it from anywhere, not necessarily even RQ).

Like I've said, I was probably retro-projecting it on the earlier versions from RQ3, which I technically ran longer than either of the others.

Well, at least you support my assertion that RQ and build doesn't work very well...

I might not like it, but its really hard to argue against all the heavy breakpointing being a problem there. It'd probably be less severe with a proper array, though you run into the issue of what to do with the attributes like INT and SIZ that aren't quite to the same scale.

Yea, I just wonder what kind of characters come out of random in Hero. I think it wouldn't be so unworkable in GURPS. The problem in Hero might be the number of points "wasted" on non-optimal attributes. And how would you do random for Champions where some high attributes are effectively powers?

You'd absolutely get some wastage there if rolled straight. But then again, you don't have to roll it straight, either. If you want to actually care about the (sometimes fairly strong breakpointing) in some of Hero you can just roll among those breakpoints. For example, using pre-6e Hero, there were strong attractions with Dex to 8, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18 and 20 (I'm going to assume for the moment you really don't want a Dex much lower than that even for a non-combatant oriented character). So you could just randomize among those seven spots. Yeah, you're going to get some compression of stats that way, but not any worse than you do normally in the system.

As for Champions--well, I've already expressed my opinion of much randomness in character generation in superhero games, but you could go through and do the same as you would elsewhere, and then use something else to determine "powers" (its going to be a pill and produce weird results, but that's going to be true with any random gen superpowers system). For example, you randomly generate the base Strength and get a 13. Then you roll for powers, and get Super Strength as one of them, and the value it applies is +40 Strength. You end up with a total of 53.

I'm sure there would be some, others would be hard pressed to make sense.

But when they didn't, they often don't in other games, either. High Strength and low Con looks odd in almost every game.

Yea, RQ3 previous experience has almost no randomness (other than origin/social class type stuff). I used RQ3 style previous experience in the 1990s and 2000s.

I think you've forgotten how random is was by-the-book. It was based on "X% bonus to Skill Y per year over 15 in age" and the default for that was you rolled 2D6 for that. Over and above the attributes, this meant a starting RQ3 Barbarian Warrior could be adding anywhere from 8% to 48% to his primary combat skill.

Now you could just ignore that and let them pick the age or set it as a standard, but that wasn't the actual rules assumption.

For me random for Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World would be part of the charm of playing those games.

I realize it does for some people, but the power swings in ones much like the traditional are pretty hard to ignore. They take any problems with attribute roll swings and supercharge it.

I agree, random super heroes don't sound very appealing unless you really worked on it and made the randomness really part of the game (the cosmic beam just blasted New York yesterday, you woke up with some weird new powers). But in that case, we're playing to find out just what these new powers mean.

Even with that sort of thing, you have to have a very specific sort of setup so that the result should be truly random; you see people all over the comics that get their superpowers randomly, but having a really random set of unrelated ones is rare. For every Superman you probably get 20-50 people where there's some sort of theme (and that isn't even getting into the issue where things that work in the comics, like characters who are all-offense or all-defense are going to work out poorly in game for the most part).


Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World are definitely strong play to find out games also, so I think random concept works as long as you truly embrace it. And the fun in any of these games is going to be success despite the wacky things the random chargen threw at you, and trying to figure out how to use this random ass set of powers to stay alive. There is a game in there. And it's not for everyone. Even I'm not signing up to play it tomorrow. But I can see how it could be appealing IF approached correctly.

I just think it a bridge too far to ask most people to be okay with the swings you get within those, unless you happen to be the guy who drew the good cards as it were.

(This doesn't mean you can't set it up so the swings are less severe, but that's progressively moving away from the traditional versions of those two which could be pretty ridiculous in that area).
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
That makes sense to me, but then I'm fine with some random elements in char-gen. I don't know how those who are adamantly opposed to randomness would feel about the issue. A lot of the complaints seem to boil down to the fact that random will likely lead to some characters being more powerful or successful than others out of the gate. (I won't say 'competent' since IMO that's one of the weasel-words of RPG discourse). So if that is one of the major problems with random parts of char-gen, then those who dislike it won't care that if those who embrace it took the chance of failure. If any of the random characters are in some way superior, they will still complain.

Its only half the issue though; as I've noted, if I'm interested in playing a dexterous and smart sneaky rogue type, the fact my Strength and Con are both 18 is in no way going to make me feel any better about the fact my Int and Dex are 6.

Some of this makes me wonder if the retreat of randomness in char-gen is the result of what I've come to think of as the 'no mushrooms on pizza' problem. That is, I've found that when I sit down to order pizza with a group of people, there is always somebody who dislikes mushrooms--or more accurately, despises them and can't stand to have them anywhere on the pie. So the order never includes mushrooms.

Likewise, looking over the thread, it seems to me that those who dislike randomness are a good deal more passionate about the issue, and less willing to see any value in randomness, than the reverse. So I suppose that if I were a designer seeking to get a lot of people to play my new game, I'd be more likely to feature non-random than random elements in char-gen, since you'll face a more dedicated and vociferous pushback from the 'non-random only' side than from the 'I like some random' side. No mushrooms, in other words.

Of course, I could just be overgeneralizing from one thread. More likely, games feature non-random char-gen because that's what the majority of players want--or what the designers want--or what designers think players want.

As I've said, you can buffer a lot of these complaints by having your random system also have an array option. It won't suit everyone (I don't find it ideal) but it'll scrape off a large percentage of outright refusal.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
I just had another thought about character types...

A lot of the problem we run into is that RPGs came out of the wargaming hobby. That hobby knows how to make combat games engaging. And spatial positioning and such makes sense and is easy to make interesting. So we can have an interesting mini-game for a battle.

What the heck do we do for lock picking? Or bargaining? Or diplomacy?

There are ways to do it. Marco Chacon in his free game JAGS has a whole section about how to construct subsystems for certain purposes a given game might need.

Why don't more games do it?

It takes up space in the rulebook. And time at the table. And is often going to only involve some of the characters. And that's over and above the hostility some people have to social or intellectual mechanics.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
Of course something like mountain climbing can just all be handled by the GM presenting certain decision points.

There's a cliff-face you could climb but it looks like a difficult and dangerous climb; however, it would be relatively direct. On the other hand, there's a long ridge you could take which would be a less dangerous climb, but it would be exposed to the weather the whole way, and it looks like there's a chance the weather could turn bad. Which do you take?

Yup. But again, you then up the amount of time taken the more you do this.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
I may get this slightly wrong, because it's been a while since I used it.

Basically, there's a number of successes that are needed to accomplish the task within a set amount of rounds.

Everyone gets an initiative card like usual for Savage Worlds. On their turn they may attempt to progress the task or to help another. If you succeed on progressing the task you get one additional success per raise. If you attempt to help then you give someone a bonus depending on how many raises you get. If your initiative card is a club, then there is some complication arising which needs to be resolved and which can lead to the whole task failing (So everyone who can should give this player an assist to make sure they don't).

It's a pretty basic framework but I find it works quite well. It's probably modelled off the skill challenges in 4e D&D but it works a lot better because raises make assisting others more meaningful, while, now that I think about, the use of clubs for complications does add a very basic tactical element to the system (even if it's most a narrative thing).

The only problem with it, as you reference, is that it can still be pretty abstract. There's probably ways to avoid that, though.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
Does it genuinely feel different than a "race" game (those board games with a path made of spaces, some of which may have special effects). It does sound like there are some choices and I assume role play can affect the odds in some way.

Of course D&D combat CAN degenerate to a race game.

It can very much be like that, as its often used for things that are time binding (a classic example is disarming a bomb before it goes off).
 

Lofgeornost

Vulpine once more.
Joined
Jul 8, 2020
Messages
1,780
Reaction score
5,046
I also wouldn't take this thread as a representative sample, since I've run into people elsewhere who seem to think that random generation is the one true way, and people who don't conform to random generation are just whiney snowflakes.

Yeah, I've seen that too. It's always struck me as, well, dumb, since people are going to have different playstyles and expectations from games.

It does make sense to me, though, that people who dislike random would feel more strongly about the issue than people who like it. The objections to random that recur throughout the thread often seem to touch on very basic issues: agency (I want to make the character I envision), effectiveness (random generation can hobble my character), and esteem (my random character is mechanically inferior to another p.c.). The pro-random side seems more focused on ease of character creation, or a desire to 'meet their characters' rather than designing them. I guess those could mean a lot to somebody, but they aren't as basic or visceral as the other factors.
 

AsenRG

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
10,818
Reaction score
12,137
Yeah, I've seen that too. It's always struck me as, well, dumb, since people are going to have different playstyles and expectations from games.

It does make sense to me, though, that people who dislike random would feel more strongly about the issue than people who like it. The objections to random that recur throughout the thread often seem to touch on very basic issues: agency (I want to make the character I envision), effectiveness (random generation can hobble my character), and esteem (my random character is mechanically inferior to another p.c.). The pro-random side seems more focused on ease of character creation, or a desire to 'meet their characters' rather than designing them. I guess those could mean a lot to somebody, but they aren't as basic or visceral as the other factors.
Or, more simply, we're more strongly motivated to avoid things we dislike than to chase those we like:thumbsup:.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
Yeah, I've seen that too. It's always struck me as, well, dumb, since people are going to have different playstyles and expectations from games.

It does make sense to me, though, that people who dislike random would feel more strongly about the issue than people who like it. The objections to random that recur throughout the thread often seem to touch on very basic issues: agency (I want to make the character I envision), effectiveness (random generation can hobble my character), and esteem (my random character is mechanically inferior to another p.c.). The pro-random side seems more focused on ease of character creation, or a desire to 'meet their characters' rather than designing them. I guess those could mean a lot to somebody, but they aren't as basic or visceral as the other factors.
This I think hits the nail on the head.

And in a build system I can still play to find out. When I designed my first Bushido character, I had no idea how any of the stuff worked out. I wanted to try the magic system so I created a Gakusho. I did my best to assign the attributes in a way that made sense. I perhaps should have considered aiming for a better movement rate (my character slows down overland travel due to Bushido's rules...). And I had a small number of skill choices. But I'm learning the character as I learn the system. On the other hand, while Bushido is an almost entirely build system (you do randomize social standing and starting wealth), it's not build from the ground up system like Hero or GURPS.
 

Paragon

Legendary Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2020
Messages
991
Reaction score
992
Yeah, I've seen that too. It's always struck me as, well, dumb, since people are going to have different playstyles and expectations from games.

It does make sense to me, though, that people who dislike random would feel more strongly about the issue than people who like it. The objections to random that recur throughout the thread often seem to touch on very basic issues: agency (I want to make the character I envision), effectiveness (random generation can hobble my character), and esteem (my random character is mechanically inferior to another p.c.). The pro-random side seems more focused on ease of character creation, or a desire to 'meet their characters' rather than designing them. I guess those could mean a lot to somebody, but they aren't as basic or visceral as the other factors.

To be fair, you can also get people who want the tendency for random to push you out of your box, or who are suspicious of the tendency of point-build systems to breed for minmaxing (though I'll note some of the latter tend to ignore the existence of arrays or other alternative but still non-random options).
 

AsenRG

Legendary Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2018
Messages
10,818
Reaction score
12,137
To be fair, you can also get people who want the tendency for random to push you out of your box, or who are suspicious of the tendency of point-build systems to breed for minmaxing (though I'll note some of the latter tend to ignore the existence of arrays or other alternative but still non-random options).
Yeah, the extremes on either side would exclude you if you want the opposite of what you they like...that's not exactly news:thumbsup:.
 

zanshin

Legendary Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2021
Messages
607
Reaction score
1,233
Standard array wouldn't work in RQ. It might work in Cold Iron (though then almost every fighter will have the same STR, DEX, and CON). One issue in Cold Iron is what potentials do you provide with the standard array (the raw attribute roll in Cold Iron is 3d6 plus 1d6 of potential - for a total range of 4d6). Each needs one more attribute, so let's make the array 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 8 for a first pass. So let's see, in RQ:

STR 11, DEX 13, CON 10, SIZ 14 (so STR and CON can be increased to 14), INT 15 (can't change, super important), POW 12 (so you have enough that you can be useful and have a good chance of growing), CHA 8 (it will go up, trust me... though your Oratory is -5%). Actually, these are pretty cruddy attributes for RQ... I'd be hard pressed to come up with a good reason to distribute differently. I guess the 13 STR if you want to be able to use bigger weapons from the get go (but with my house rules, you need a 13 DEX to eventually be able to get to 20 and a 12 only gets you to 18, not good enough for DEX SR 0). Hmm, you MIGHT swap the 14 for DEX (eventually gets you to 21 for an additional +5 on any DEX related skills which is all combat skills and a good portion of the other skills. I guess technically you only need a 13 INT to make the break point, but that extra 2 INT is more spells memorized.

For Cold Iron (oops, need 2 more not one more), let's say the array is (base/potential) 15/20, 14/18, 13/16, 12/16, 12/14, 11/14, 10/12, 8/10. A fighter would be STR 15/20, DEX 14/18, CON 13/16, INT 10/12, WIS 8/10, WIL 12/14, ALT 12/16, CHA 8/10. If you want a talky character rather than a scout, trade ALT and CHA. If you aren't too worried about magic use the 12/14 in something other than WIL. If you really do want to focus on non-combat skills, put one of the 12s in CON and use the 13/16 somewhere useful for your skills. You won't be increasing CON towards potential until 6th level and the 12/14 gives you raises until 7th level. And after that, you get to roll 1d6 and if you get a 6, an attribute increases, or you increase ALT. That's actually a more decent character than the RQ character, but I also gave pretty good potential to the array, though it's also 3 points below average, so heck, spread 3 more points of potential to your choice, potential can't exceed 6. I might distribute it as STR 15/21, DEX 14/18, CON 13/16, INT 10/12, WIS 8/10, WIL 12/16, ALT 12/16, CHA 8/10. The 21 doesn't buy you much, but since you get to start at 1st level with one attribute raised to potential, or spread 5 points, you get that one point for free and it doesn't do MUCH for any attribute BUT is does make it cheaper to increase STR to the next break point (23) with magic. Optionally put it in ALT, one attribute where the value rather than the modifier is often used (so no break points).
You dont have to use D&D's standard array (which is based on average 12). With 4d6 k3 the average is 13? So 17, 15,14,13,12,11,9

Or make up the array you are happy with.

4d6 k3 and reroll if you don't like it seems to negate any speed you gain from random rolls. All it leaves is the possibility of characters with really excellent stats. If you want that, let everyone have excellent stats.
 

TJS

Legendary Member
Joined
May 5, 2018
Messages
2,262
Reaction score
4,691
You dont have to use D&D's standard array (which is based on average 12). With 4d6 k3 the average is 13? So 17, 15,14,13,12,11,9

Or make up the array you are happy with.

4d6 k3 and reroll if you don't like it seems to negate any speed you gain from random rolls. All it leaves is the possibility of characters with really excellent stats. If you want that, let everyone have excellent stats.
In fact I would argue in 5e you shouldn't. It's far too parsimonious and makes certain character concepts hard to manage.

As long as nothing's higher than 15 you can't really mess up balance much.

Something like 15, 15, 14, 13, 12,10, (again average 13) is perfectly fine and opens up a lot more character concepts. (Like you want your Valor Bard to mix it up in Melee as they're supposed to, or you wan't to play a Ranger that's not Dex based - or maybe you just want your Paladin or Ranger to not be dumb for a change.) This also helps delay the point where saving throws stop scaling properly.

I think one reason people like to roll dice in 5e at least, is because it might remove some of the irritating constraints on character creation.
 
Last edited:

VisionStorm

Legendary Member
Joined
May 4, 2020
Messages
630
Reaction score
1,448
In fact I would argue in 5e you shouldn't. It's far too parsimonious and makes certain character concepts hard to manage.

As long as nothing's higher than 15 you can't really mess up balance much.

Something like 15, 15, 14, 13, 12,10, (again average 13) is perfectly fine and opens up a lot more character concepts. (Like you want your Valor Bard to mix it up in Melee as they're supposed to, or you wan't to play a Ranger that's not Dex based - or maybe you just want your Paladin or Ranger to not be dumb for a change.) This also helps delay the point where saving throws stop scaling properly.

I think one reason people like to roll dice in 5e at least, is because it might remove some of the irritating constraints on character creation.

IDK, I always felt like having at least one 16+ stat was something everyone strived for in D&D (specially 3e onward), and getting at least one 16+ when going random isn't uncommon in my experience (at least going 4d6/drop lowest), with usually only a few players who rolled crap. So I wouldn't see it as a balancing issue.

Plus I also HATE odd scores in D&D, cuz they're empty values that add nothing, so I don't use them. Only reason I never did away with scores and went with modifiers alone is cuz they feel traditional in D&D and didn't want to cause confusion with players used to them. But if it were up to me I'd wipe empty scores from existence—in every RPG, not just D&D—and just go with hard values that add something mechanically to the game. But that's just a pet peeve of mine.

My usual array is 16, 14, 14, 12, 12, 10, which is close to what you posted (minus odd scores) and is based on the notion of dividing scores into Primary, Secondary and Tertiary values. That way characters have at least one high main score, a couple of solid (but not too high) secondary scores as backup and the rest are median.
 

Black Leaf

We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
Moderator
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Messages
5,285
Reaction score
14,113
IDK, I always felt like having at least one 16+ stat was something everyone strived for in D&D (specially 3e onward), and getting at least one 16+ when going random isn't uncommon in my experience (at least going 4d6/drop lowest), with usually only a few players who rolled crap. So I wouldn't see it as a balancing issue.
13%, so yeah, when you're rolling six times it's reasonably likely.
 

Lofgeornost

Vulpine once more.
Joined
Jul 8, 2020
Messages
1,780
Reaction score
5,046
So, my impression is that a significant section of games that insist on random generation of attributes (as opposed to other things) fall into the retro-clone or OSR category. Sure, there are exceptions, but I think that's a major (main?) segment of recent games with this stricture.

No doubt a fair amount of this can be put down to simply an OSR ethos, a desire to get back to earlier approaches to gaming when random char-gen was more standard. But I wonder if something else may not be at play here. Many of these games have very familiar basic statistics and methods for generating them, often some variation (or lack of variation) on vanilla D&D. Which means that alternative approaches to randomly rolling for stats for these systems have been around for a long time, decades.

Maybe one reason that the designers of these games don't bother to include non-random methods for choosing attributes is that they figure their buyers are likely to implement any of a number of other options (semi-random, arrays, point-buy for stats, etc.) if they don't like a purely random approach? The rules for DCC kind of imply this, almost pleading with the gamer to try straight-up random instead:

In DCC RPG character creation, you always roll 3d6, and you always roll and apply the scores in that same order. You do not roll more dice and drop the lowest die, you do not use a point-based buy system, and you do not assign ability scores in any order other than that defined above.

Why are we so explicit in the declaration of ability score process? Because you are an experienced gamer, and you know many other ways to determine ability scores. The open beta process revealed that ability score generation is the very first rule to be overridden by many players...
 

TJS

Legendary Member
Joined
May 5, 2018
Messages
2,262
Reaction score
4,691
IDK, I always felt like having at least one 16+ stat was something everyone strived for in D&D (specially 3e onward), and getting at least one 16+ when going random isn't uncommon in my experience (at least going 4d6/drop lowest), with usually only a few players who rolled crap. So I wouldn't see it as a balancing issue.

Plus I also HATE odd scores in D&D, cuz they're empty values that add nothing, so I don't use them. Only reason I never did away with scores and went with modifiers alone is cuz they feel traditional in D&D and didn't want to cause confusion with players used to them. But if it were up to me I'd wipe empty scores from existence—in every RPG, not just D&D—and just go with hard values that add something mechanically to the game. But that's just a pet peeve of mine.

My usual array is 16, 14, 14, 12, 12, 10, which is close to what you posted (minus odd scores) and is based on the notion of dividing scores into Primary, Secondary and Tertiary values. That way characters have at least one high main score, a couple of solid (but not too high) secondary scores as backup and the rest are median.
You'll end up with at least one 16 once you apply racial modifiers. Also those will generally mean you end up with odd scores anyway if the array is all even.

It depends what you want to do really. Nothing will break. But 5e is basically designed so that there's a trade-off between feats and increasing stats. If you start with really high scores you basically neutralise that trade-off.
 
Last edited:

xanther

Legendary Member
Joined
Jan 6, 2018
Messages
1,979
Reaction score
2,594
....

This comes up all the time; people will internalize house rules (whether actively presented that way or not) as the actual rules because they did it that way for so long. Its one of the reasons to look at people who claim, for example, they played AD&D1e by the book with a bit of a jaundiced eye. Chances are overwhelmingly that they didn't, but have simply forgotten that (or if only a player, may never have known).

...
Sir! I resemble that remark. :smile: Can honestly say we did play AD&D 1e by the book, or at least attempted to for a couple months. BTB initiative...shudder...BTB unarmed combat...on that one all I can say is it put my therapists kid through college. I still don't know if the parry rule was BTB or not. As the rules were clear and complete as written it must of been the inherent satanical nature of the game which lead us into house rule heresy.
Please do not remind me of BTB initiative, it is more maddening than looking into the outer void and upon the face of the elder things, I prefer to believe what we did was true and rght...it must be as the other way lies madness. :smile:
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
1,914
Reaction score
3,183
You dont have to use D&D's standard array (which is based on average 12). With 4d6 k3 the average is 13? So 17, 15,14,13,12,11,9

Or make up the array you are happy with.

4d6 k3 and reroll if you don't like it seems to negate any speed you gain from random rolls. All it leaves is the possibility of characters with really excellent stats. If you want that, let everyone have excellent stats.
Well, I never particularly said I wanted random for speed... I use random mostly because that's how the systems are written. But also to "Play to find out." I use 4d6k3 and allow re-rolls out of recognition that few of us have a need or desire to play to find out how a sub-standard character works out. Yes, your character might be inferior to another, but it will at least have some bonuses. And it will be different than another. Is that perfect? No. Does it work well enough for an enjoyable game? Yes. Is it worth trying to find a workable non-random generation? Not for RuneQuest. For Cold Iron it might be more worthwhile.
 

zanshin

Legendary Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2021
Messages
607
Reaction score
1,233
Well, I never particularly said I wanted random for speed... I use random mostly because that's how the systems are written. But also to "Play to find out." I use 4d6k3 and allow re-rolls out of recognition that few of us have a need or desire to play to find out how a sub-standard character works out. Yes, your character might be inferior to another, but it will at least have some bonuses. And it will be different than another. Is that perfect? No. Does it work well enough for an enjoyable game? Yes. Is it worth trying to find a workable non-random generation? Not for RuneQuest. For Cold Iron it might be more worthwhile.
Sure, not worth it for you. Doesn't mean it would not be workable. But as long as you are all having fun (and I am sure you are), great.
 
Cthulhu Mythos - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com
Top