Random Stats or Point-Buys?

Hi friends. This is the second blog and it’s time to quit counting for a while, as I try to set up a schedule. This week we’re going to talk about the fundamentals of character creation: point-buy systems vs. random stats. The classic random system is DnD and the most obvious point-buy system is GURPS. Most of us are aware of which game is which, but there are fundamental differences between them that are worth discussing. When you’re making a DnD character and you roll three sixes for your character’s stat you yell in excitement (something like “I got an 18! Wahoo!” or words to that effect). On the other in hand, in RuneQuest, you get about 250 points to build your character. Your first words are usually something more like: “What should I spend my points on?”

In the random generation approach you’re often surprised by the results, and you have to deal creatively with the outcome as it occurs. The point-buy approach, on the other hand, presents you with a series of questions broken into steps, requiring planning and considerable thought. The former experience is a responsive one, and often results in players building their characters completely on the fly. “I rolled an 18 for strength, so I guess I will be a fighter.” The point-buy character builder is proactive: “I want an amazing fighter, so I’m putting a lot of points into fighting. “

Random stat generation often creates a characters who possesses strange sets of characteristics. Given such a strange mix of results, it can take a lot of quick thinking to pull it all together into a strong background that both makes sense AND will be fun to play. Conclusion: This is great approach for storytellers who enjoy pulling loose ends together.

Point-buy systems, on the other hand, help players to create the characters they wish to play. This approach also allows them to create seamlessly logical backgrounds, accounting for the smallest of details. Conclusion: This is perfect for the maligned “min-maxer”. (We’ll cover more of this when we talk about background creation.)

It didn’t take long for designers to try and blend these two approaches, in hopes of discovering a great new taste. The hybrid approach works well in general, allowing players to feel a sense of surprise but preventing incongruous character backgrounds from arising. Next came “splats” – these are “template” approaches in which most of the character’s traits are pregenerated, and players can alter certain characteristics by either making random die rolls, selecting from a list of options, or moving points around. Conclusion: This approach is great for first time players and for one shot/short term games.

These conclusions seem pretty clear even if they’re not written in stone, but I want to point out one more thing. As we move into discussing playing and meta issues within the playgroup, we’ll see how important it is to understand a game’s mechanics and your own approach to gaming. For GMs: It really helps to choose a game system with character design mechanics that support your players’ creative needs and gaming interests. For Players: It really helps to talk with your GM about this. When you use a system that supports your favorite approach, you will create characters you enjoy playing. This will help you become more immersed in the game itself, and that makes for a stronger group dynamic on both sides of the table

Post Type: