Point Buy or Dice Rolls?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


So, I was getting into an argument with my brother over various parts of Pathfinder, when he suddenly said that he loved the random rolling for attributes and thought it was superior to point buy.

His reasoning was that point buy was too boring, leading to game after game of players having similar arrays of ability scores. When I pointed out that doing so would lead to imbalance between the players, he said that it was actually good because it made thing more realistic, and gave the poor guy who roll a max 14 an incentive to become as good as the guy who lucked out with 2+ 16's.

I didn't get much further into that debate, since any of my attempts to argue mechanical imbalance were shot down by his annoying version of the "ROLEplay, not ROLLplay mantra".

So, the purpose of this thread is to posit this question to the boards, which method is superior, point buy or dice rolling, and why do you believe so?


depends on the campaign


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

There are a number of reasons I prefer rolling:

1) you get to discover your character as you roll it up, which can spark creativity in ways you didn't expect

2) it does a better job at balancing multi-attribute dependent classes with single attribute dependent ones

3) each rolled stat is independent of the others, no dumping one to boost another

4) it seems to me that other players are more sympathetic about a low stat and the complications it leads to if it's rolled than if it's bought and more willing to help you compensate for it

Grand Lodge

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Point buy, if not array, if not just selecting stats.

Players should only have as much randomness to char gen as they want.


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Neither is objectively better. Point buy is better for you, rolling is better for your brother.

Deciding which to use in a game is like choosing between systems, genre or power. It's part negotiation and part just being reasonable with the other players.


Fine with both.

Got some good ideas from some of the past point buy vs. rolling threads.


Point-Buy.

Allow a sliver of chaos through and it shall destroy you!

Honestly though, whatever you want. I do a lot of theory-crafting, which requires a consistent ordered process. This means Point-Buy. I would recommend rerolls though if someone has really bad (or good) luck.


I'd love to have rolled stats again. but my group moved away from them.


Let me expand a little more. I mostly play PbP, and of the fifteen or so Pathfiner games I've been in, there have been more than 10 at least players who roll with their highest rolls being something along the lines of three 12's or a single 14. I've seen several people give up on applications because they don't want to have what they see as character designs that are gimped from the start.

And something my brother also defended was being unable to assign rolled stats. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

Bill Dunn wrote:

There are a number of reasons I prefer rolling:

1) you get to discover your character as you roll it up, which can spark creativity in ways you didn't expect

2) it does a better job at balancing multi-attribute dependent classes with single attribute dependent ones

3) each rolled stat is independent of the others, no dumping one to boost another

4) it seems to me that other players are more sympathetic about a low stat and the complications it leads to if it's rolled than if it's bought and more willing to help you compensate for it

1. Rolling can also gimp a character concept you already had in mind and make it so that you don't get a chance to go as the character you wanted to.

2. I'll give you this one, until I actually crunch the numbers.

3. This one is also a fair point.

4. Uh, I do get this, but when I'm plying an RPG I want to be pulling my own weight and not be the guy the GM has to throw bones to in order to feel like they're contributing.


the issue with the standard rolling method is that you often get rerolls until you are at least getting point buy of X. And sometimes you have to reroll if you get over point buy Y worth of stats. So it's really only giving randomness between X and Y point buy values.

So like set all stats at 10 and roll 2d4 for stats as this sets the lower bound and gives nice arrays.

This is of course if you need it. My preferred method for home games is the GM creates 2 or 3 stat array choices and the players use one for their character.


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Saithor wrote:
And something my brother also defended was being unable to assign rolled stats. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

That's my preference - 6 stats rolled in order (occasionally I'll switch one pair if some character occurs to me based on that, but generally I go with the order I roll them).

I don't think it's superior, it's just how I like it (no doubt because that's how we started doing it).

Obviously, if you're going to take the stats in the order you roll them you can't go to a game thinking "I'd like to play this kind of character." since who knows how viable (or even possible) it will be to do so. Rolling in order implies the game starts from there and that there's no 'pre-planned build' you want to play in the campaign, you're just going to roll and see what eventuates.

FWIW, I think it's often a better compromise to go with pointbuy, since you can randomly generate an array for any given pointbuy and then randomly allocate those numbers to stats. So I can get what I want and the player who likes working up a character concept from scratch gets what they want too.

The issue of "dead weight characters" is one of playstyle preferences - it's not an issue at our table. The rest of them don't mind when I play a caster with a 14 casting stat (or whatever). If the rest of the table has a desire for well optimised PCs in the group then any kind of randomised character generation is unlikely to be useful. (But I'm unlikely to be the player they want anyhow - so it's probably a bigger issue than rolling vs pointbuy!)


I prefer rolling. To combat unlucky rolls, everybody rolls, writes down results, then anybody can use whichever set of rolls they prefer. A lucky roller benefits the whole party that way.


i prefer rolling our club uses 4d6 reroll ones and twos drop the lowest but our current dm also uses a rule were if you dont roll an 18 your highest roll becomes an 18 this ensures every one has their specialty stat and is atleast some what decent at other stats


Bill Dunn wrote:

There are a number of reasons I prefer rolling:

1) you get to discover your character as you roll it up, which can spark creativity in ways you didn't expect

2) it does a better job at balancing multi-attribute dependent classes with single attribute dependent ones

3) each rolled stat is independent of the others, no dumping one to boost another

4) it seems to me that other players are more sympathetic about a low stat and the complications it leads to if it's rolled than if it's bought and more willing to help you compensate for it

depends, what you say implies rolling stats in order many rollers will roll stats and then attribute them as per concept (i.e. no wizard with 14 INT and 18 Str)

also, unless you're very lucky, rolling in order is bad for MAD classes... I've missed too many paladin and ranger opportunities in AD&D not to remember

9) is fully valid though, of course, one of the reasons I don't like PB is that I hate having to dump a stat to make the others liveable

4) I don't really know, I tend to nix characters with too bad stats, any stats, especially since 3.xx made stats under 10 a penalty

my own preference is for rolls, if I have to roll 20 characterssss to get one I like. Arrays are generally not good, given that you have to dump on a stat or two, and PB is the same... my favored class of character generally is above the number of points allowed... and as said above, I hate to dump and I like characters who excel in thir area of skill, and who are not too bad anywhere else. I like playing heroes, and a character who's penalized somewhere is harder to make into a hero.


In theory I like the randomness of rolled, as I notice I tend to go for similar point-buys, but I can't roll stats. D6es are unlucky for me, I always tend to roll an average of point-buy 14 or so, with never a stat above 15 (I've tried rolling random stats when I was bored, I always end up below average).
I was once in a campaign where I rolled really crap but I had to keep it. I was literally a walking Cure Light dispenser, as my physical stats were so terrible I couldn't fight in melee, and my mental stats were so average everyone could make my save DCs. When the campaign ended, we figured out the stats. I was point-buy 14, two other guys were point-buy 30 and 32.


When I get such disparity in my players' rolls I often fix them by giving some extra point to the weakest characters to keep them balanced.


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I'm currently running WotW, whose special method is an 18, an 8, and you roll in order for the rest (1d10+7). This was in part because one of the players is really gung-ho about rolling (point buy is offered as an alternative). The dice gods rewarded him with an average of 11 on his rolls (8, 11, 12, 13). He regularly complained about the stats because they frequently came up. I actually had to enforce carrying capacity because only one player choose Str for their 8 but all but one player has under 10. It's... actually pretty hilarious, all things considered. I'm not sure I'd want to do it for a different game but it works for that one.

Personally, I've never seen someone who wanted to roll who was actually happy with their result. Sometimes they don't get anything good (go go all 13s!). Sometimes they do get some nice rolls... and a bunch of crippling weaknesses (6/6/8/14/16/18). Other times they get something okay and someone else rolls amazing and ends up stepping on their toes a lot. I've never had that issue with point buy. They might not like the actual points given but the end result is their choice, not random luck.

Frequently I've seen people who do rolling... except not. Rerolls 1s, roll again if you get too low, change anything below 10 to 10, and in this thread change the highest to an 18 and add points to lower rollers. That's technically rolling, but if you're not going to accept the random chance gods why trust it to dice in the first place?

Now, that all being said, it's just personal preference. In a game with point buy I pick my concept first then build for it. In a game with rolling I roll first and see what I can actually build. "straight down" doesn't actually change that much, it just limits you even more on what you can build. I prefer point buy because I want to choose any concept I want instead of whatever subset of concepts I can build with my rolls.

Oh, and rolling (usually) requires a great deal more system mastery. Especially rolling in place. I would never start a newbie with 3d6 straight down without someone helping them.


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Saithor wrote:
So, the purpose of this thread is to posit this question to the boards, which method is superior, point buy or dice rolling, and why do you believe so?

The answer to that question depends on the person and what they want out of their Character Generation Method.

A method we will often use, take cards (18 cards (values 1 to 6), adding up to whatever power level the DM wants. We do about 72 total).
1- randomly divide cards between 6 stats, in order
2- add up each stat
3- add 1 to a stat and 4 (max 18)to another stat
3.5(optional) switch any 2 stats (to allow a specific class/concept)
4- adjust for race

The 1 is to make an odd stat even.
The 4 can make a moderate stat good (or a poor stat moderate), if you really want to play a specific class/concept.
It is fair (everyone gets the same overall total).
It is organic (random distribution).

OR

Online I give stat arrays of about 20 point buy value.

Here are some previous threads to look at;
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2na5r?PCs-using-different-ability-score-generat ion#30
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2nj6v?How-do-you-roll-stats-for-new-characters# 8
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2pj2l?Character-Generation-Methods#19
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2pr5y?Suggestions-for-alternative-attribute-gen eration#10
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2qaqa?roll-or-points-buy-which-is-better#38
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2r46q&page=2?Imbalance-Via-Rolls#73
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2ri4f&page=2?Generating-Stats-tricks-and-pr eferences#59
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2kt3e&page=3?What-is-your-favorite-method-o f-generating#146


I have noticed that most people who want to roll seem to use methods that are likely to favor high rolls. It also seems that most of the times that this often results in a higher spread than a point buy. If a player does get a spread they tend to play the character in a way that gets them killed off so they can roll up a new character. It seems to me that the people favoring rolling are just looking for a way to get higher stats than the point buy allows.

What I would do is to issue your brother a challenge. Have him roll 3d6 (no rerolls of any sort) in order and he has to build his character from that. This means if he rolls a 3 he is stuck with it. You on the other hand get a 25 point buy and build your character. Do this a few times to make sure he gets a character with really bad stats. Then ask him how much fun playing the low stat character was.


Honestly, it varies based off of what kind of build you want. If you want something incredibly MAD (such as a strength monk), you're frequently better off rolling. If you want to play something that is incredibly SAD and needs top-tier stats to be most effective (such as an enchanter wizard), you're better off buying.

For example, I have four characters currently active in PBP games, two point-buy, and two rolled. While, overall, the rolled characters have better stats (I rolled like a god), giving them no effective dump stat, my point-buy characters have stats that better fit them, and have higher scores in their most important abilities, even if their dump stats are well below what my rolled character's are.

Bottom line? For MAD builds, go with a powerful roll formula (4d6, drop lowest, reroll 1s) and hope for the best. SAD builds are frequently better served with top-tier point buys and careful planning.

Personally, I find it's best to build bought stats to an existing character, and build around rolled stats, but that's just me.


I've issued him a challenge, and his reaction was generally one that even if he rolled lower stats than the rest of the group, it wouldn't matter because it would allow him to roleplaying better. I still don't understand why he think lower stats equates to better roleplaying, but never mind that.

My brother has thrown another reason why he thinks that point buy is superior. I had talked to him earlier about how race attribute bonuses pigeonhole them into classes, and his response was that point-buy took care of this since if you can't assign your stats, the +2 Str won't matter if you rolled an11 for strength. Can anybody see the logic with this one, because I can't.


Honestly your brother sounds like someone from the old school days of gaming.

An example of the old days were you had to roll 3d6 in order and you had to QUALIFY for certain races or classes. You had to have the rolls to be those things. Paladin for example wasn't really a base class. Bard was pretty much a funky prestige that required you to be a fighter, rogue, and druid first.

Higher or lower stats does not make good or bad roleplaying. But I feel like your brother uses rolled stats as a tool to help him shape his character. Much like even if a DM ignores alignment, I'll still assign one to my character because its a tool to help shape what the character is.


If anything, point-buy makes what race you choose matter more. I was in a PBP recruitment recently (where we rolled for stats), and one applicant rolled so well that he decided to go with an Elven monk- something relatively infeasible with point-buy, on account of the CON penalty, and needing to put most of your points into constitution if you wanted even a 14.


Both have their place. I started with the red box, so rolling for stats has a special place in my heart, but there are problems with randomness and you're best served mitigating them somehow. Lots of people have lots of ideas how to do this.

The issue I have with point buy is largely that it gives you bonus points for reducing stats, so it encourages optimization in the form of "one of my stats is a seven and one is a five, but my INT is twenty!" Moreover, I don't like that point buy essentially serves to discourage things like "fighter with a CHA of 12" since the fighter with the CHA of 7 has six more points they can spend on being better at fighting. Something like point buy is necessary for organized play (e.g. PFS) to function, however. I strongly dislike like how much this decentivizes/incentivizes races with (in)appropriate stat mods, personally.

Neither solution is perfect, and honestly since I generally play with people I know pretty well and can trust not to abuse this, we generally create stats by "think of a character and what they're like, now write down whatever stats you think best describe that character, then check with me to make sure everybody's at about the same power level."


Just make sure he rolls straight 3d6 no rerolls. Even a 4d6 drop the lowest tends to work out close to a 20 point buy and occasionally getting an extremely high set of stats. Just to see what the spread was like I rolled 20 sets of stats using 4d6 drop the lowest and the average was around the equivalent to an 18 point buy. The highest was the equivalent to a 41 point buy and a total of 3 were over a 25 point buy. The lowest was about a 5 point buy.

Or better yet since he seems to think low stats improve role playing make the condition that the character he plays has to have a net negative stat adjustment. Add up the totals stat bonuses and his needs to be at least -1.

I think his logic is that the racial stat modifier becomes less important because of the randomness of the roll. This means you don’t always have a high score in the stat you get a racial bonus.


Point buy is what we use, bit next time I might try a base 8 plus 2d4 before racial modifiers.


Bard of Ages wrote:

Honestly your brother sounds like someone from the old school days of gaming.

An example of the old days were you had to roll 3d6 in order and you had to QUALIFY for certain races or classes. You had to have the rolls to be those things. Paladin for example wasn't really a base class. Bard was pretty much a funky prestige that required you to be a fighter, rogue, and druid first.

Higher or lower stats does not make good or bad roleplaying. But I feel like your brother uses rolled stats as a tool to help him shape his character. Much like even if a DM ignores alignment, I'll still assign one to my character because its a tool to help shape what the character is.

Oh, I'm aware how much he sounds like an old-school gamer. He's seventeen, but the thing is the first set of rules he ever read was our Uncle's set of AD&D. It definitely left an impact on him. And he definitely has a lot of nostalgia for it. During our argument, he brought it up as one of the most 'simple editions of D20 ever'.

PossibleCabbage wrote:

Both have their place. I started with the red box, so rolling for stats has a special place in my heart, but there are problems with randomness and you're best served mitigating them somehow. Lots of people have lots of ideas how to do this.

The issue I have with point buy is largely that it gives you bonus points for reducing stats, so it encourages optimization in the form of "one of my stats is a seven and one is a five, but my INT is twenty!" Moreover, I don't like that point buy essentially serves to discourage things like "fighter with a CHA of 12" since the fighter with the CHA of 7 has six more points they can spend on being better at fighting. Something like point buy is necessary for organized play (e.g. PFS) to function, however. I strongly dislike like how much this decentivizes/incentivizes races with (in)appropriate stat mods, personally.

Neither solution is perfect, and honestly since I generally play with people I know pretty well and can trust not to abuse this, we generally create stats by "think of a character and what they're like, now write down whatever stats you think best describe that character, then check with me to make sure everybody's at about the same power level."

Most games I run or have run go with no stat can be below an 8 after the racial mods. And if someone does have a 5, I'm not going to ignore that. And if they put into INT, well, most people reverse their decision when they realize that I do expect the character to act like a INT 5 character.


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Saithor wrote:
My brother has thrown another reason why he thinks that point buy is superior. I had talked to him earlier about how race attribute bonuses pigeonhole them into classes, and his response was that point-buy took care of this since if you can't assign your stats, the +2 Str won't matter if you rolled an11 for strength. Can anybody see the logic with this one, because I can't.
The OP wrote:
So, I was getting into an argument with my brother over various parts of Pathfinder, when he suddenly said that he loved the random rolling for attributes and thought it was superior to point buy.

Which one does he prefer? I'm confused.


Steve Geddes wrote:
Saithor wrote:
My brother has thrown another reason why he thinks that point buy is superior. I had talked to him earlier about how race attribute bonuses pigeonhole them into classes, and his response was that point-buy took care of this since if you can't assign your stats, the +2 Str won't matter if you rolled an11 for strength. Can anybody see the logic with this one, because I can't.
The OP wrote:
So, I was getting into an argument with my brother over various parts of Pathfinder, when he suddenly said that he loved the random rolling for attributes and thought it was superior to point buy.
Which one does he prefer? I'm confused.

Sorry, that was a typo on my end, he prefers pure rolling. I'll get that edited.


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Cheers. Everyone else seemed to understand, but I'm easily flummoxed. :p

Sovereign Court

Chess Pwn wrote:

the issue with the standard rolling method is that you often get rerolls until you are at least getting point buy of X. And sometimes you have to reroll if you get over point buy Y worth of stats. So it's really only giving randomness between X and Y point buy values.

So like set all stats at 10 and roll 2d4 for stats as this sets the lower bound and gives nice arrays.

This is of course if you need it. My preferred method for home games is the GM creates 2 or 3 stat array choices and the players use one for their character.

I have just used a slightly similar method.

stats start at 10. you get a pool of 10d4 dice to distribute as you wish to each stat. stats cannot end up over 18 after rolling and before racial mods.

str: 10+2d4= 10+(1+3)=14
dex: 10+3d4= 10+(3+3+3)= 18
con: 10+2d4= 10+(2+1)= 13
int: 10+1d4= 10+(1)= 11
wis: 10+2d4= 10+(4+3)= 17
cha: 10==10


Valandil Ancalime wrote:
Here are some previous threads to look at

Thanks for the list. I added url tags for convenience:

PCs using different ability score generation
How do you roll stats for new characters
Character Generation Methods
Suggestions for alternative attribute generation
roll or points buy which is better
Imbalance Via Rolls
Generating Stats tricks and preferences
What is your favorite method of generating

There you will find a lot of ideas how to modify rolling or point buy - but also several GMs who basically said: It doesn't matter too much. Heck, some of them even allowed their players to simply pick their stats.

Personally I am tempted to offer rolling, point buy and free score pick to my players at the next campaign. It's about their PCs - so it should be their decision.


Saithor wrote:

I've issued him a challenge, and his reaction was generally one that even if he rolled lower stats than the rest of the group, it wouldn't matter because it would allow him to roleplaying better. I still don't understand why he think lower stats equates to better roleplaying, but never mind that.

My brother has thrown another reason why he thinks that point buy is superior. I had talked to him earlier about how race attribute bonuses pigeonhole them into classes, and his response was that point-buy took care of this since if you can't assign your stats, the +2 Str won't matter if you rolled an11 for strength. Can anybody see the logic with this one, because I can't.

Stormwind Fallacy, or "Optimization and Roleplaying are not mutually exclusive". Basically, many people seem to think that you can't roleplay if you have a good build. I'd say or vice-versa, but I've only ever seen it that direction. That's wrong, but that's why it's a fallacy.

I honestly can't explain it. I can understand some of it (only so much energy to devote to the character so you focus on some aspect more) but the idea that a fighter with all 6s somehow bestows superior roleplaying powers just makes no sense.

As for rolling making races less pigeonholed... no. It makes them more pigeonholed. If you roll poorly (highest stat 12) you're picking whatever race gives you the stats you need. Every Wizard is an Elf. Every Cleric is a Dwarf. Your Fighter can't have a Con or Str/Dex Penalty.

Is your brother perhaps choosing their race before they actually roll stats? Because that's the only way the statement make sense. And then yeah, the racial stat boosts would be meaningless, because you don't actually know what your stats are ahead of time.


You cant win an argument about role vs. roll playing. Its all going to be a discussion about preference from here on out.


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Bob Bob Bob wrote:
I honestly can't explain it. I can understand some of it (only so much energy to devote to the character so you focus on some aspect more) but the idea that a fighter with all 6s somehow bestows superior roleplaying powers just makes no sense.

Whilst I agree it isn't logically implied, I do find myself more likely to adopt a persona with a suboptimal character than I do if I'm playing an optimised one (as you say, it's more about focus than due to my 'roleplaying abilities' fluctuating).

In my case, it's more that the existence of a 17 strength on my wizard prompts me to think about how to incorporate that in a way that an 8 strength doesn't. There's a question that demands an answer when the burly guy with unspectacular intelligence ended up a wizard that isn't so pressing when he's a weedy but bookish guy.

It's also a psychological thing - if I 'build' a character, I tend to view them as a collection of statistics, abilities and powers that I'm adding together. When I rather roll-and-see-what-happens the endpoint of a living, breathing character remains foremost in my mind and I'm just discovering what his strengths, weaknesses and abilities are.


All I'm hearing is the Stormwind Fallacy at its finest in here.


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Dark Midian wrote:
All I'm hearing is the Stormwind Fallacy at its finest in here.

If you're referring to me, you've misunderstood my post.

To be explicit: I don't believe that creating an optimised character means you are somehow prevented from roleplaying or that your roleplaying of that character will somehow be reduced. (Which is what those advancing the stormwind fallacy claim).

The Exchange

I prefer point buy because its more balanced so everyone has their roll in the campaign so there is no one who has a better advantage because of their higher stats. I also don't prefer dice rolling because usually almost everyone is OP but their's one guy that has very low stats. There was that one time that my rolls were equal to a 35 point buy:
Str 12
Dex 20
Con 12
Wis 16
Int 14
Cha 10


I posted my compromise on another one of these kinds of threads so.
what you do is roll your stats then calculate how many point buy they translate to then increase or decrease till its the point buy you want. needlessly complicated yes but its semi-random that way so there ya go.

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