Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Reevaluation of House Rules - Ability Scores

It was about a year ago, when I decided "Hey, my table needs some house-rules, that's what all the 'cool' gms do, and ya... I'M that cool..."

In the past year, there have been some successes with those rules, and there have been some failures with those house rules, and now I am considering version 2.  Let's talk about one of those rules I have been using, and what changes I am considering.

The biggest rule as far as how impacts the game, as well as the rule that I want to change the most is the rule governing ability scores.  Right now, our house rules say that each character starts with a 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8.  If they write a back-story, and include relevant traits, they get three free points to distribute however they want.  After racial adjustments, nothing can be higher than 20, there can only be 1 score less than 10, and nothing less than 7.  The original intent of this rule was to create balanced characters that really couldn't be min-maxed.  For those purposes, it has worked.

The problem with this rule, is that is has shoe-horned classes to certain races.  Having a race with a -2 becomes hard to use, as typically you would use a race that has a -2 to an ability score that you don't need.  So, that's where you want to assign the 8 as well.  However, this creates a 6 which is too low.  You can't let the -2 go to your second 'dump stat' and give it the 10, as then you would have two scores less than 10.

As I consider how to address this problem, I am considering two options.  The first is to go old school and roll for those scores.  That's how the Core Rule Book says to do it anyway.  The other option is a point buy, 15 or 20 most likely.  Neither of these options create definite character balance, and point buy certainly opens the door to min-maxing.  As I write this though, I ask myself, so what?  In the real world, some people are better at others at certain skills.  Even in fantasy fiction, some characters do some things better than others.  Balance is widely a myth, both for realism and for fantasy fiction.  Min maxing is the same.  Both methods, point buy, and dice rolling, are the methods advocated in the CRB.  So maybe the house rule that I used to make the game better, didn't really achieve that.  I should have just followed the core rule book all along.

How do you generate ability scores in your game?  What's your advice to a fellow GM?

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