Thursday, April 8, 2021

Ability Score Adjustments at Character Creation

 OD&D through BECMI uses a system of ability score adjustment where you can drop a score by 2 points to raise the Prime Requisite of your class by 1. I don't remember if AD&D does this as well. 

It's something we did from time to time back in the day, but a lot of the time we just played what we rolled. Or we did a swap of the highest rolled score for the PR of the class the player hoped to play, with no adjustments beyond that.

I didn't include it as an option in TSR, partly because of the rules I'm using for rolling scores. Players can choose to roll 3d6 six times and arrange the scores as they like. Or they can roll 4d6-L down the line. I feel like allowing players to monkey with the scores on top of that ruins the whole point of forcing players to make this choice. 

Anyway, one of my players was asking if he could do that the other day, and it got me thinking about the practice. 

I'm wondering how often players took advantage of this back in the old days. Or how often players take advantage of it today. Since there aren't a lot of mechanical effects tied to scores, it would make sense to try and bump the PR up for a character. This gets a bonus to XP and bonuses to hit/damage for Strength, bonus languages for Intelligence, bonuses to saving throws for Wisdom, and bonuses to AC and ranged combat for Dexterity. And since the rules state a score can't be dropped below 9 (average), you can't give yourself a penalty in these areas. 

I think it makes sense when rolling straight 3d6 down the line. You've probably got some scores that make you want to be a certain class, and then you can trade down scores your class doesn't benefit so much from to increase the one they do benefit from. 

I'm guessing it was intended to be used by most players, to get "more viable" PCs, but I don't have any evidence, hard or anecdotal, to back that up. Just a gut feeling. If anyone has some insight or just wants to share how you & your group(s) do it, feel free to comment.

Anyway, time to reconsider how I do ability score rolls, and see if I want to bring this back in my games. Or not.


  1. We play OSE-B/X and do 3d6 in order, using the 'lower certain abilities by 2 to raise prime by 1' rule. It creates interesting combinations that you normally wouldn't play.

  2. >"I don't remember if AD&D does this as well."

    AD&D does not, which is why 2nd edition (which backpedaled from 1st edition's default method of "4d6k3 arrange to taste") is the only edition of D&D where stat generation is pure, 3d6-in-order, no-adjustments, Ironman. :D

    (Myself, I use 3d6 in order with the usual 2-for-1 adjustments after then fact when playing BECMI, or 3d6 twice and keep the higher roll in order for AD&D. Keeping the higher of two 3d6 rolls packs ever-so-slightly less oomph than 4d6k3, and I don't much care for arrange-to-taste in any event.)

  3. I've used the 2-for-1 point trade rule in every game I've run, from the "good old days" onward. It gives a little boost if a player wants to play the "obvious" choice for the scores rolled, e.g. maybe bumping a 15 Strength to 16, but it's most useful if you want to play a class other than your highest score would indicate -- if you're willing to tear down your highest score, you can bump an average score in another ability up to bonus range. You can easily make a Str 15, Int 10 fighter into a Str 9, Int 13 magic-user, say. Of course, using it with anything but standard 3d6 in order does seem like overkill ...

  4. When playing Kazamaták és Kompániák (a Hungarian B/X-variant),k we do 3d6 in order and the 2-for-1 trade - most of the people I play with tend to take advantage of it.