May 2, 2020

Stat Rolling Methods and Power Level



I greatly prefer rolling up characters rather than using point buy systems or standardized arrays, but I still want characters to be reasonably balanced among themselves and against the opposition they will face. Many games like D&D and Pathfinder provide power level guidelines for use with point buying but don't offer much in the way of help when rolling dice for stats. So I whipped up a program to help me see how different stat rolling methods ranked in terms of power level.

I used every dice rolling method I could think of that just used straight dice rolling or just dice plus or minus a set number. For power level comparisons, I used the point buy system and power levels given in Pathfinder. I did add two new levels to what they have- Gritty Fantasy (~5 points) and Super Hero Fantasy (~30 points).

Notes on the different rolling methods:

  • Drop high (drop the highest roll, count the rest)
  • Drop low (drop the lowest roll, count the rest)
  • Reroll < # (reroll the dice if you roll less than #)
  • AD&D Method 1 - 4d6 drop lowest
  • AD&D Method 2 - 3d6 roll 12 times, take 6 best
  • AD&D Method 3 - 3d6, roll 6 times per stat

The Ranges are the limits of scores possible. The Avg. Stat is the mean score you would expect to roll. The Deviation is the standard deviation of the point values rolled for characters - the lower the better if you want your party to be fairly balanced. And the Avg. Cost is the average point buy value of characters.

Gritty Fantasy - 5 points

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
1d10 + 2d4 3 - 18 10.5 13.0 2.5
3d6 3 - 18 10.5 11.5 2.6
5d6 drop high & low 3 - 18 10.5 11.0 2.7
5d4 - 2 3 - 18 10.5 8.7 2.8
2d8 + 2 4 - 18 11.0 13.1 7.7
3d6 reroll < 7 7 - 18 11.0 8.8 8.4

Low Fantasy - 10 points

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
3d6 roll 7 times, take 6 best 3 - 18 11.2 10.0 9.1
3d6 reroll < 8 8 - 18 11.4 8.3 11.1
2d6 + 1d4 + 2 5 - 18 11.5 9.8 11.8
1d8 + 2d4 + 2 5 - 18 11.5 10.3 12.1
3d6 roll 8 times, take 6 best 3 - 18 11.6 9.6 12.7

Standard Fantasy - 15 points

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
4d4 + 2 6 - 18 12.0 8.1 15.2
3d6 roll 9 times, take 6 best 3 - 18 12.0 9.4 15.4
3d6 reroll ones 6 - 18 12.0 9.2 15.9
1d8 + 1d6 + 4 6 - 18 12.0 11.3 17.3
3d6 roll twice each, keep best 3 - 18 12.2 9.4 17.3
1d10 + 1d4 + 4 6 - 18 12.0 12.2 18.1
4d6 drop lowest 3 - 18 12.2 11.5 18.7

High Fantasy - 20 points

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
1d6 + 2d4 + 4 7 - 18 12.5 9.2 20.2
3d6 roll 12 times, take 6 best 3 - 18 12.7 9.5 21.2

Epic Fantasy - 25 points

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
1d12 + 6 7 - 18 12.5 15.0 25.5
2d6 + 6 8 - 16 13.0 10.6 25.7
3d4 + 6 9 - 18 13.5 9.0 28.8

Super Hero Fantasy - 30 points

Method Range Avg. Stat Deviation Avg. Cost
5d6 drop 2 lowest 3 - 18 13.4 11.7 30.6
1d10 + 8 9 - 18 13.5 13.9 34.1
3d6, roll 6 times per stat 3 - 18 14.2 9.5 36.7

And the Winners are...

My favorites for each power level are:
  • Gritty Fantasy: 3d6 Reroll < 7
    This method curbs a lot of the harshness of rolling up stats for an iron-man old school game. It's low deviation and high minimum of 7 should make for decent, if average, player characters.
  • Low Fantasy: 3d6 Reroll < 8
    Lowest deviation and a high minimum score of 8 should produce very playable characters.
  • Standard Fantasy: 3d6 reroll ones
    Technically, the 4d4+2 method is superior but I just hate rolling d4's.
  • High Fantasy: 3d6 roll 12 times, take 6 best
    Again, I choose this one just because I hate d4's.
  • Epic Fantasy: 2d6 + 6
    This one comes closest to 25 points while also giving a decent deviation.
  • Super Hero Fantasy: 3d6, roll 6 times per stat
    The best for creating a balanced group of super heroes.

April 29, 2020

What version of D&D comes closest to Goblin Slayer?

I love me some Goblin Slayer.  It shows what life would be like for an adventurer in a real world of Dungeons & Dragons - nasty, brutish and short.  But seeing how the actual Goblin Slayer table top rpg will probably never get translated to English, I'm wondering which version of D&D I could use to best emulate the setting found in Goblin Slayer.


Ok, so why is D&D the ideal game to use for GS?  GS is obviously based on roleplaying games and D&D in particular. It features a lot of uniquely D&D tropes like classes, levels, and Vancian magic. And it's the Vancian magic that gives us the best key for matching a particular version of D&D. 

The first major clue is the Priestess.  She is a 1st level Cleric and can cast 3 spells per day.



This narrows down the choices a lot.  OD&D and Basic D&D don't even give 1st level clerics any spells.  Most retroclones based on classic D&D have similar limitations.  Labyrinth Lord gives one spell.  Basic Fantasy gives none.

How about AD&D?   Both 1st and 2nd edition AD&D allow up to 3 cleric spell slots at 1st level (clerics with at least 14 wisdom).  OSRIC also allows up 3.  Both HackMaster 4e and Castles & Crusades allow up to 5 1st level spells.

D20 versions?  Both 3rd edition and Pathfinder allow up to 6 1st level spells for a starting character.  And yes, I do count cantrips as 1st level as Light is usually listed as a cantrip in newer editions.

4th and 5th editions with their unlimited cantrip use and ranged healing are both poorly suited for GS.

Now consider wizards.  The 1st level wizard girl in Goblin Slayer can cast 2 spells per day.


Versions of D&D before 2nd edition AD&D only allow 1 spell for a starting character.  2nd edition allows specialist mages 2.  3rd edition is up to 5.  4th and 5th allow unlimited cantrip use.

It looks like AD&D 2nd edition is clearly the game that emulates the world of Goblin Slayer the closest except for a couple of class related things...


Kung Fu girl here is clearly a 1st level monk.  AD&D 2e doesn't have a monk class.  1st edition does.  Also, and probably more importantly, the Goblin Slayer himself is best portrayed by the ranger class in 1st edition not the nature loving version in 2nd.

So, my choice for the game that would best fit Goblin Slayer would be 1st edition AD&D with a minor house rule to allow magic users to get bonus spells for high intelligence like this-

  • 13-14 One 1st level
  • 15-16 One 2nd level
  • 17 One 3rd level
  • 18 One 4th level