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Thoughts on Ability Scores

14-Jul-08

Some more variant rules here. This time, it’s my thoughts on ability score generation methods. I propose a distinction between ‘old-school’ and ‘heroic’ methods, and recommend a different approach to Pure Humans in Mutant Future.


In the core Mutant Future rules, the default method for ability score generation is to roll 3d6 for each ability, then either assign them in order or assign at will, depending on the whim of the referee. Once scores are determined, Pure Humans add +3 to CON, INT, and CHA (although INT and CHA may go up to 21, CON is limited to 18).

This works well enough, but I propose two refinements.

First of all, I believe that referees should make a distinction in their game whether it’s being run ‘old-school’, or with ‘heroic’ PCs. In a campaign with hard-core ‘old-school’ cred, characters are just average joes who must prove their worth, while in a ‘heroic’ campaign PCs have been drawn to a life of adventure due to their above-average capabilities. It’s up to the referee what type of campaign they want. (For the record, Barrier Peaks is a ‘heroic’ campaign.)

In an ‘old-school’ campaign, characters are subject to the whims of fate. Players have limited choice in ability generation, and the scores themselves are quite average. In a ‘heroic’ campaign, players can choose their strengths and weaknesses, and most PCs are better than the average wasteland scav.

Second, I have a problem with Pure Humans. I like the idea of an ability score range of 3 to 18 representing the ‘normal human’ range. Compared to most characters, Pure Humans end up with super-human capabilities and – in particular – a high number of Hit Points.

I propose that instead of getting a flat ability score bonus, Pure Humans get to roll an extra die for each ability and drop the lowest value. That way, they’re still in the 3-18 range but on average have superior scores than other characters.

Old-School Ability Scores:

Select a race. All characters except Pure Humans roll 3d6 six times and assign to each ability, in order. Pure Humans roll 4d6 and drop the lowest die, assigning each score in order.

Once ability scores are rolled, players have the option of swapping any two values (but are not required to do so).

Heroic Ability Scores:

Select a race. All characters except Pure Humans roll 4d6 and drop the lowest die, repeated for a total of six scores. Pure Humans roll 5d6 and drop the two lowest dice. In either case, the resulting scores can be assigned as desired to each ability.

As you can see, the ‘old-school’ approach produces very random characters, while the ‘heroic’ method allows a larger degree of player control. In either case, Pure Humans end up with generally higher scores, but still have a minimum of 3 and maximum of 18. In addition, you need to pick a race before rolling for abilities, which I concede is a drawback to this approach.

Thoughts? Opinions?

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5 comments

  1. As before, I’ve been sneaky and adjusted the date of this post so that it appears beneath the current in-game post.

    And, for the record, I consider Barrier Peaks a ‘heroic’ campaign.


  2. I take the same approach in my game when rolling ability scores, as I dont really like all the bonuses.

    I also use d6s for PSHs and monster HD, but I mostly do it to counter the fact the PSHs are subject to mutations form radiation exposure, and to keep things inline with the original GW game.


  3. If I recall correctly the “4d6 drop lowest” method is also one of the default methods presented in MF rulebook.

    We use that one and I’m happy with it as it provided some good ability spreads.

    I like random chargen because it is faster, avoids munchkinism, powergaming, “character builds” and generaly provides more organic characters.
    The problem is making sure the system does not generate unplayable PCs that are crippled mentally or physically.

    To prevent this, the only house rule I have made in relation to Ability Scores is that the player is entitled to re-roll his character (assuming he wants to) if the sum of Ability Scores is bellow 63, the average number obtained when rolling 18d6.


  4. Pure Human proposal: I like the idea of dropping the bonus, but that cuts heavy into the benefits of being Pure Human. I like the idea for the dropping of low die rolls on character gen, but that doesn’t feel like an adequate substitute for me. (Note: I’m not playing a PH, so I can’t say this with a lot of authority.)

    I’d like to piggy-back on your proposal K. I’d like to propose that the get the altered ability rolls for character gen and one of the following mental mutations for free:

    -Bio-Feedback Meditation Training (Acute Hyper Healing): While growing up, the PH has learned the healing arts of meditation passed down through their family.

    -Radiation Tolerance (Accumulated Resistance: Radiation): Over the generations, the PH’s bloodline has developed additional resistance to radiation. In addition to the PH’s benefit of never mutating from radiation exposure, this PH’s bloodline takes reduced damage from radiation as well.

    -Passive Genetic Memory (Intellectual Affinity): Having kept their bloodline pure, PH’s of this stock have been able to develop a slight genetic memory that allows some trades to be learned easier.

    -Conditioned Mind (Mental Barrier): This PH bloodline has developed the awareness of mental mutations and resistance to them through generations of meditation and mental exercise. It is a sensation rather than a conscious thought. (example: “That person doesn’t feel right.”)

    —–

    I don’t know how you all will respond to this idea, but I’m hoping you’ll like at least part of it. :P


  5. Actually, if you crunch the numbers I think letting Pure Humans roll an extra d6 and drop the lowest di(c)e gives them higher average stats than just the flat +3 to CON/INT/CHA…

    As mentioned in the House Rules, I also give Pure Humans with INT 9+ literacy and the ability to attempt repairs on technological relics.



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