More Random Thoughts

2008 February 13
by Vanir

I read an article on The DM’s Blog earlier this week that talked about how one of his friend won’t play 4E until they get rid of hitpoints. And since I was writing about random number generation about the same time, that got me thinking about why on Earth hitpoints should be random. I always hate rolling for them because I’m always scared I’m going to roll a 1 or a 2 every level for the life of the character and end up with this anemic dude who is afraid to walk in tall grass for fear it will whip him unconscious if the wind blows.

That got me wondering why we roll for stat points when we create our characters. And that got me thinking about how it’d be super keen if we could just have a pool of stat points to distribute however we wanted. Then I remembered that there were already point buy systems in D&D and I hated them.

Well THAT got me thinking why I hated them. Sure, it’s fair and you can construct your character however you choose. But I don’t like to point buy because it encourages a lot of seriously bland, mediocre characters maximized for a purpose. If you roll your stats at random, you might wind up with some uberstats and some horrible ones, all uber, all crap, all mediocre — you don’t know what you’re gonna get. You can base a character around their strong points and their flaws, and you could do that with the point buy too. But a lot of times, that’s how an idea for a character pops into my head — Lumbar came about when I had high STR and high WIS and a low CON. So I decided he was a powerful warrior who drank heavily but couldn’t hold his liquor (or stay conscious in battle) due to inheriting his father’s “delicate constitution”. You can draw inspiration from LOTS of places — this happens to be one of my favorites.

Life might not be random, per se, but it’s certainly not constant and invariable — sometimes you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get hit with next. Randomness gives us a little taste of that. I’m very very curious to see how 4E is going to handle such things, as they seem to be taking a much more hands-on approach to character development this time around, what with the new skill and ability trees.

Personally, I’m a little worried that they’re going to blandify things. Dante is currently alternating between trying to ease my mind with reassuring words and silencing my nervous bleating with the Official DM Half-Nelson. Stupid carotid artery. Either way, one of these months I will awaken from being rendered unconscious and we will see how this “fourth edition” plays out.

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