Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Define Hopeless

I appreciate all the discussion around ability score methods from yesterday, and I note the poll has a flaw - for old school methods like 3d6, it doesn't differentiate between 3d6, once-and-done, versus rolling multiple arrays of 3d6 attributes and picking one.  Lots of folks that use 3d6 roll a series of characters (I saw x6 was a common number in the comments), and they'll pick one they like.  The idea is to avoid "hopeless characters".

Two questions come to mind - how do you define hopeless, and where did this idea of "hopeless characters" enter the thought process?  It's not in Moldvay.  The DMG 1E approach, 4d6, purports to avoid unplayable characters, but doesn't define what one would look like.  LOTFP has a suitability check.

I do one of two things - I have the player tally up the ability score modifiers, and any character that nets out at zero or higher is not hopeless.  If it's a "high powered game", I might make the tally +1 or better.  For instance, if the attributes were 13, 10, 11, 7, 13, 12 - the character would have +1 for strength and constitution, -1 for dexterity, and would net out at +1 - not hopeless.  The first "not hopeless" character you generate is a keeper.

I do like the idea of rolling five or six sets of scores that was championed by a number of folks, because you can make the unused sets of scores into NPCs.  Starting groups usually hire mercenaries and torchbearers, so those unused stats can be assigned to the hirelings.  When we play tested ACKS in the city with Tavis and the Mule Abides folks, this was used to great effect.  Speaking of which, ACKs day is getting closer; I keep expecting to see a printing announcement for that one.  Guys are building churches, refurbishing the castle, all that stuff in Gothic Greyhawk, so the final release of ACKS will be a welcome sight.

We have an interesting character in that current game that danced along the line of hopelessness - his initial stats were something like 16, 15, 13, 12, 7, 5 - he netted out at +1 (+2 strength, +1 intelligence and wisdom, -1 constitution, -2 charisma).  Bo made him into "Forlorn the Elf" - freakishly strong for his size, but frail and haughty and unable to attract decent henchmen.  He's since lost a point of wisdom due to one of those old school random things.  But he's survived to level 5 and has become one of the more interesting characters in the group.