Rolling abilities (Reading OD&D from cover to cover)

The rolling of abilities in OD&D is extremely straightforward:
  • The referee rolls for the abilities.
  • The referee rolls 3d6 in order.
That's it.
Interestingly the forefathers of our hobby seem to have started disliking this rather hard approach to gaming pretty quickly which in the end resulted in house rules that made it much easier to start with higher ability scores. If you look at the character sheets of the characters played by Gary Gygax and his companions in the early days, you quite often will note, that many of them had pretty high ability scores... so high that they must either have used special dice or rolled quite often. Something we did, too (rolling very often I mean) when we started roleplaying.

Since this behavior can be seen so often it only seems appropriate to change the rules right away. Thus for 'The Fantasy Game' I will provide two rules variants at various stages of the rules: a realistic set (which basically defaults to the original rules as written in most cases) and a heroic set (which gives various advantages to the player characters). Important to me is that the heroic set of rules is derived from the house rules of the original designers (hey, I pretend having talked to Mr. G. in the spring of 1975 in order to get clarifications on his stuff in the little brown books - so this seems to be appropriate).

As mentioned before I will rely on the collected and known house rules used by Gary Gygax for this. Cyclopeatron and Robert Fisher avidly collected them - thus 'The Fantasy Game' will use the following rules for rolling abilities:
  • Realistic ability determination uses "3d6, six times, in order". Although I will allow the players to roll for their characters by default as implied in my posting on bondage in OD&D.
  • Heroic ability determination will use the house rules of Gary Gygax described here - which means: roll 4d6 six times and always take the best three scores. Match the scores in any order you like to the abilities.
Each referee then can decide whether they are going to use the realistic or heroic approach and whether the player or the referee is going to roll. And if you don't like the options, just invent your own.

1 comment:

  1. I've been thinking about that one line in Men & Magic a lot.
    The best idea I can come up with is that when oD&D was written, the concept of an ROLE PLAYING GAME wasn't totally developed yet. I think that at that point Gygax and Arneson may have still be seeing their developing game as a supplement (or companion) to a Wargame. So maybe the idea of a character wasn't quite what we imagine today. Maybe those first oD&D characters were seen as little more than imaginary "chess pieces" the players used to explore the dungeon.
    Maybe the first challenge the player meet was playing a character rolled up by the referee.