Dice, Stats and Unnecessary Complexity

Over on The Wheel of Samsara, Matt expressed a similar notion to one I've had as well - ability score really aren't that necessary for old school D&D. I've gotten rid of the numbers for my games, and Matt was talking about doing away with them completely.

One of the things people say they enjoy about the 3d6 system of character creation is the randomness and the bell curve it creates so that new characters are more likely to be average than have exceptional ability scores. This got me thinking about how much that bell curve really makes a difference in OD&D though where you only have one level of positive or negative modifier from your ability score.

After finding Sham already did the numbers for us it breaks down like this:

Roll 3d6 and add the results
3-8 - 25.9%
9-12 48.2%
13-18 + 25.9%

Which is virtually the same as this:

Roll a d4
1 - 25%
2-3 50%
4 + 25%

Rolling three dice, adding them up, looking up the number on a table - it all seems more substantial somehow... but it's sort of smoke and mirrors. It's just a round about way of doing something that's doesn't need to be that complicated.

What about even more complicated character generation?

Roll 4d6, drop the lowest, add the other 3 results
3-8 - 10.5%
9-12 40.7%
13-18 + 48.8%

That's basically just this:

Roll a d10
1 - 10%
2-5 40%
6-10 + 50%

So all those extra dice rolls... they're really just adding unnecessary complexity.

I think some people really do like the game when it's fussy and accountancy like. Those would be the players who push to add more options, numbers, stats, and fiddly stuff.  Which is great if that's how you're wired and you enjoy it.

For me... that doesn't add anything to my enjoyment of the game. :)