Awesomely average

I am starting up a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign using the new 5th edition rules. I’m going to run a group of friends through the first published adventure for the new rules – Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

Accordingly, the players need to generate 1st level characters. I’ve decided to use the random method of stat generation, which is rolling 4d6 and adding the best 3 dice together to form six ability scores, followed by the player assigning them to the ability scores any way they want. As a fallback, if the whims of Fate hand a player horrid bad luck and a hand of awful scores, they can choose to take the default score set listed in the book (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) instead of the rolls. I still kind of like the slight uncertainty of randomness, but this method at least removes the chance of being stuck with an unfun set of scores.

Anyway, today several of the players rolled their stats. Mostly they were a decent spread of scores. But one player managed to roll: 12, 12, 12, 11, 12, 12.

Now, adventurers are above average individuals, and the best 3 of 4d6 method is designed to generate above average scores. Average is nominally the result of a straight 3d6, which has an average score of 10.5. So five 12s and an 11 is actually above average in every single ability score.

While the player was lamenting his luck and trying to decide whether or not to fall back to the default score set, another player came up with the following backstory:

You come from a small village. While growing up, you realised that you were naturally better at everything than anyone else in your village! You were stronger, faster, more athletic, healthier, smarter, wiser, and everyone loved you. Any task you tried your hand at, you quickly mastered and could outperform your teacher. So, you decided you were made to be… an adventurer!

And so you left your little village and went out into the world to seek your fortune. You are supremely confident in your skills. After all, you can fight, you can cast spells, you can sneak and pick pockets, you can do healing – all better than anyone in your home village! So when you joined an adventuring band, you decided that any task that came up was your responsibility. Need someone to sneak around and scout the enemy – you! Be in the front row to protect the weaker fighters – you! Parley with hostile humanoids – you! You are keen and bright-eyed, and eager to volunteer for any and every job the adventuring group needs!

We all ended up laughing so much that I think the player is probably going to keep his very slightly above average scores, and turn it into a roleplaying windfall.

5 Responses to “Awesomely average”

  1. Bob Portnell says:

    And THAT is how it’s done right. Bravo.

  2. kmitcham says:

    I don’t have the math or tools handy to figure out how small a village it would be to have even a 50% chance of having NONE of the ‘normal, 3d6’ villagers having a score over 12. Still, the character hook is excellent.

  3. It’s true, I glossed over the details of the actual mathematics, in favour of a cool story.

  4. Mikko Parviainen says:

    For fun, I calculated the average for the 4d6, drop lowest roll. The mean of the distribution is about 12.24, and the median is (according to my quite rusty statistics skills) 13, so the “5 12s, one 11” character is quite average, for an adventurer.

  5. Nurien says:

    A quick calculation puts the average value for the difference between two dice at just under 2. So this suggests that being able to take the better of two dice would inflate the average value accordingly, so we should go from 10.5 for the average of 3 dice totalled straight, and around 12.4 if we can pick the better of two. (Taking the better of the lower 2 of 4 is a bit trickier, but not likely significantly different.)

    The story is good enough though that if I were GMing I’d probably let him keep the cool backstory and go with a stat set of six 14’s, for instance, keeping each “slightly above average.”

    Alternate idea: many game systems which allow adventurers to roll 4 and drop, to get an above-average result include the internal logic that the population follows the 3d6 distribution, but the adventurers are generally drawn disproportionately from those of higher attributes. In this case, the original set of 12’s works perfectly…the player in questions is a rather average adventurer, but well above average across the board amongst a small sample of the general population.

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