PS0237 – Generating Ability Scores (Crunch)

Ability scores, the six numbers, between 3 and (roughly) 20 define the principal aspects of your character. There are a surprising number of options for how to determine your character’s ability scores, and Ryan and Cathy weigh their pros and cons.

 

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Listener Philipp Kévess wrote us, saying he recently convinced his group to try out Pathfinder, after 5 years of 4e. He was wondering what experienced Pathfinder players are doing with rolling ability scores and hit points.

To answer the first part of his question, ability scores, we have to flip to the Getting Started chapter of the Core Rulebook. Five different methods of determining ability scores are offered: Standard, classic, heroic, dice pool, and purchase. However, these methods can be clumped into two categories: random or balanced.

PC vs NPC

Before we look at generating ability scores for PCs, it’s worth noting that NPCs do not get their ability scores randomly generated. According to the Creating NPC rules in the Core Rulebook, the standard race NPCs you’ll encounter in a campaign will have the following stats:

Basic NPCs: 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, and 8.

Heroic NPCs: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8.

Random

Dice are involved, and the majority of the different methods fall into this category. The random methods of determining ability scores are:

  • Standard: Roll 4d6, discard the lowest die result, and add the three remaining results together. Thanks to a post on the Catlike Coding Blog, we actually know what our statistical average ability scores to expect.
  • Classic: Roll 3d6 and add the dice together. This randomness can be taken one step further, with the totals applied to specific ability scores in the order they are rolled.
  • Heroic: Roll 2d6 and add 6 to the sum of the dice.
  • Dice Pool: Each character has a pool of 24d6 to assign to his statistics. Before the dice are rolled, the player selects the number of dice to roll for each score, with a minimum of 3d6 for each ability. Once the dice have been assigned, the player rolls each group and totals the result of the three highest dice. For more high-powered games, the GM should increase the total number of dice to 28. This method generates characters of a similar power to the Standard method.

Balanced

The only balanced (ie diceless) method of generating ability scores is the Purchase method, aka points buy.

Ability Score

Cost

Campaign Type

Points

7

-4

Low Fantasy

10

8

-2

Standard Fantasy

15

9

-1

High Fantasy

20

10

0

Epic Fantasy

25

11

1

12

2

13

3

14

5

15

7

16

10

17

13

18

17

Generating hp

Much less variety here. Full hp at 1st level. After that, you either roll, or you take the average expected value rounded up.

 

 

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Jefferson Thacker

Before Perram joined Know Direction as the show’s first full time co-host, the podcast could have best been describe as a bunch of Pathfinder RPG stuff. Perram brings a knowledge of and love for Golarion to Know Direction, something any Pathfinder podcast is lacking without. On top of being a man on the pulse of the Pathfinder campaign setting, Perram is the founder of the superlative site for Pathfinder spellcasters, Perram’s Spellbook, a free web application that creates customized spell cards.

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