Nov 9, 2009

Diceless Character Creation for Classic D&D

NornsweavingRolling 3 six-sided dice to determine a D&D character's starting ability scores is an iconic part of the game, and certainly part of the fun for a lot of players. Still, some people do find the randomness of character creation can interfere with their enjoyment of the game if they had a particular character concept in mind that they were hoping to play.

In a recent post I talked about my appreciation for the simplicity of the original D&D character generation method (and lower ability score modifiers), but there are times when you'd like to give people the option of making their character ahead of time. In the interest of fairness it only makes sense that this should be a non-random process.

Here is an alternate character creation method you can use for classic D&D or Swords & Wizardry. It builds on the idea of simplifying RPG attributes - that you only need to record whether an ability is exceptional (either good or bad) and think of a descriptive word for that attribute rather than record the 3-18 score on your character sheet.

Characters begin with one positive exceptional ability. For each negative exceptional ability that the player assigns, they may choose another positive exceptional ability as well. Since there are six abilities in the game, character creation in this manner means a player's character can start the game with:

  • 1 positive

  • 2 positive, 1 negative

  • 3 positive, 2 negative

So without dice I could start creating characters for my next game like this:

Strong (+Strength)

Muscular, Tough, Ugly (+Strength, +Constitution, -Charisma)

Thin, Clever, Determined, Quick, Shy (-Strength, +Intelligence, +Wisdom, +Dexterity, -Charisma)

Characters can be assigned additional negative abilities if the player desires to do so -- and we'll cover why they might in the next post!