One of the things I love the most about Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games is that every new table I sit at has a set of house rules. This speaks to the flexibility of the game and I think we should always keep that in mind. The rules are but a framework, a skeleton if you will, the game is the meat that sits upon the bone. That being said, there is no one right way to play Dungeons & Dragons. If you’re having a good time, and your players enjoy it, and you’re enjoying it, that’s all that matters.
Our gaming group is no different. We have our own house rules some of them on our related to game mechanics and some of them are just logistical necessities. One of the things that I started doing a long time ago was assigning point pools based on the type of game I was going to be running. These point pools were strictly for the purpose of character creation.
Here’s why I started doing this:
back in the old days we would take three dice and roll them and those were our stats. Good, bad, and often times ugly, that’s the character we would be playing, especially if you are at the "Venerable one's" table. You know who I’m talking about. Sometimes these terrible characters that you roll up on the fly were the most enjoyable ones to play. Other times they were what the game rules called in the early days, “hopeless characters”. Those adventurers who had no business whatsoever adventuring, they were better suited to be farming, knitting, or any other profession less taxing than adventuring. Most often, these hopeless characters sucked the fun out of the game because you sat there watching everybody else have a wonderful time playing their characters when you’re constantly missing, couldn’t memorize spells, or even worse would end up dead.
Enter the point pool. Everybody gets a pool of points, it’s the same number of points. You can put these points wherever you want in whatever order you desire so you can have whatever character you wish. These points cover racial bonuses as well. That way, if you want to have a nimble dwarf you can. Want an elf that spends a lot of time in the gym and picks things up and puts things down, you got it? How about a clumsy halfling that could drink anyone under the table because the Constitution is through the roof, yeah, the point pool has got you covered on that to.
What this does is opens up a certain degree of equality in the characters, in that they all are built with the same number of points. Now, I know I’ll have some detractors out there and everybody is entitled to their opinion, and if you do things differently and they work for you super. Just be understanding that I do things differently and this has worked for me so far.
I do this from first level, and at that point in time as the players level they can start diverging, adding more points to the scores of their choice when they get their ability score increase, maybe they want to take a feat instead of the ability score increase. That’s fine too, this is when they really start diverging.
I can send players home with a number of points and tell them to create their characters. They can return at a session 0 and hand me a copy of their character. I know there’s no cheating because everybody has the same number of points. This saves me a tremendous amount of time because I don’t have to watch everybody roll their characters at the table. I simply have not the time to do this, and this is something that could be handled by the players without my interference. They are told what kind of characters they can have in the campaign and what the pool of points is. Simple.
I can adjust these point pools based on what type of campaign I’m running. Every year when we go away, we run something big. This is a save the world type of big. There is a bigger point pool when we’ re running our week-long game because this is an epic level of hero that is going to be needed to save the world. We throw a lot of tough monsters, they are often outnumbered by multiple opponents, and it’s so fast-paced that they don’t have an opportunity to get many long rests.
So, how do I figure this out. Well, at our weekly game, when I run, I see this as a standard D&D game. This is a more traditional game where it’s not necessarily world saving stuff. We have a whole year to develop characters so what I do is use the standard array:
15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8
This is found in the players handbook and is very easy. I convert this to a point pool which works out to is 72 points. I then add four points to cover racial bonuses and the players have 76 points to work with. No starting score can be higher than 18.
When we go away, and we're saving the world, I bump those 76 points up to 82. For these games you can have one ability score above 18. Now I imagine upon hearing this, heads are exploding out in the ether, it’s okay it’s just a game and yes, these characters do seem overpowered because they really are, and that is by design they are all equally overpowered but this week-long game is fast-paced, challenging, and there is a lot that is covered in those five and half days.
However, you as a DM decides to run your character creation, please always keep in mind that it is the enjoyment of the game that is most important.
Now there are many ways in which you can create characters and this is just one.
See you next time in the Dojo.