you must be this lucky to play (a paladin)

This blog post started out as a puzzler, but then I just sat down and did the work.  I’ve got a provisional answer to this one, but maybe you can beat me using some obscure publication that no one has ever seen.

Rolling 3d6 straight down the line, what is the hardest class for a human to qualify for in TSR-era D&D?

Humans & 3d6 straight because the probabilities are really easy.  I’ll work up how to do the math for 4d6 drop lowest arranged, but not today.  If you are curious about 3d6 Probability Charts, I used this one.

james, wordpress makes your charts look terrible.  can I download some readable copies?

Sure thing, baby!  If I’ve done this right, you can just click to download these as PDF’s…

Class Qualification Charts – 3d6

Qualification Chart for LBB + Greyhawk + Blackmoor

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Cleric none Any* 100.00%
Fighting-Man none Any 100.00%
Magic-User None Any 100.00%
Paladin Cha 17 Lawful 1.85%
Thief None Not Lawful 100.00%
Assassin Str 12, Int 12, Dex 12 Neutral 5.27%
Monk Str 12, Wis 15, Dex 15 Any 0.32%

* = The 0e Cleric must align herself with either Law or Chaos upon reaching Level 7.

Check out how out of place the 0e Monk is.  Most classes: 100% entry requirements.  Paladin, ~2%.  That’s crazy.  But the Monk is even crazier: 3 characters out of every 1,000 would qualify.  The fact that these are being offered in 0e–particularly the Monk, which receives a ton of space in Supplement II: Blackmoor yet is almost mythically rare–indicates that cheating on stats, or at least a total indifference to rolling stats, started pretty early in the hobby.  (Understandably, maybe, given that stats are close to meaningless in 0e other than as an XP accelerant.)

Qualification Chart for BECMI (and BX as a subset)

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Cleric None Any 100.00%
Fighter None Any 100.00%
Magic-User None Any 100.00%
Thief None Any 100.00%
Dwarf Con 9 Any 74.07%
Elf Int 9 Any 74.07%
Halfling Dex 9, Con 9 Any 54.86%
Avenger None; Fighter 9 Chaotic 100.00%*
Druid None; Cleric 9 Neutral 100.00%*
Knight None; Fighter 9 Neutral 100.00%*
Mystic Wis 13, Dex 13 ** Any 6.72% **
Paladin None; Fighter 9 Lawful 100.00%*

* = These classes, introduced in the Companion rules, have no stat requirements beyond reaching Name Level.  This is a crazily high barrier to entry—over 200,000 XP in the case of the Druid, and 240,000 XP for the Fighter-variants.

** = These requirements come from the Rules Compendium; seemingly the Master rules would let anyone play a Mystic.  Since the Monk has been rare across all editions, I chose to go with the Rules Compendium’s requirements.

I love this chart.  I use with some house rules on alignment (Clerics can’t be Neutral, Elves can’t be Lawful, Dwarves can’t be Chaotic) but this version of the game is soooo generous.

Qualification Chart for 1e

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Cleric Str 6, Int 6, Wis 9, Con 6, Cha 6
Not True Neutral 61.28%
Druid Str 6, Int 6, Wis 12, Dex 6, Con 6, Cha 15 True Neutral 2.87%
Fighter Str 9, Wis 6, Dex 6, Con 7, Cha 6
Any 58.30%
Paladin Str 12, Int 9, Wis 13, Dex 6, Con 9, Cha 17 Lawful Good 0.10%
Ranger Str 13, Int 13, Wis 14, Dex 6, Con 14, Cha 6
Any Good 0.16%
Magic-User Int 9, Wis 6, Dex 6, Con 6, Cha 6
Any 61.28%
Illusionist Str 6, Int 15, Wis 6, Dex 16, Cha 6
Any 0.37%
Thief Str 6, Int 6, Dex 9, Con 6, Cha 6
Any Neutral or Evil* 61.28%
Assassin Str 12, Int 11, Wis 6, Dex 12, Con 6
Any Evil 6.39%
Monk Str 15, Int 6 Wis 15, Dex 15, Con 11, Cha 6
Any Lawful 0.04%
Bard Str 15, Int 12, Wis 15, Dex 15, Con 10, Cha 15; Fighter 5, Thief 5 Any Neutral 0.00%**

* = A Thief may rarely be Neutral Good

** = The odds of the 1e Appendix II: Bard is actually 0.0017%.  That is, if you rolled 1 million AD&D 1e characters using 3d6, you could expect to see 17 Bards occurring in nature.  But these characters would have to survive through 5 levels of Fighter and then 5 levels of Thief before beginning Bard training.

(Edited to add: commenter Olivier Fanton helpfully noted that the ability score section of the 1e PHB imposes certain restrictions–i.e., characters of Strength 3-5 can only play Magic-Users–that are not explicitly listed in the class descriptions themselves.)

At commenter Roger’s request: the expected odds to develop psionic powers in 1e would be about 0.22% using 3d6 straight, or about two characters in a thousand.

Man, wha hoppen?!  Four out of ten core classes occur less than one time out of two hundred, and the optional Bard class is statistically impossible with 3d6 in order.  So what’s the deal?  Well, after I made this chart and several others from the 1e era, it turns out the 1e PHB doesn’t even tell you how to roll stats: you’ve gotta look in the DMG for that.

Quoth Gygax:

As AD&D is an ongoing game of fantasy adventuring, it is important to allow participants to generate a vialbe character of the race and profession which he or she desires.  While it is possible to generate some fairly playable characters by rolling 3d6, there is often an extended period of attempts at finding a suitable one due to the quirks of the dice.  Furthermore, these rather marginal characters tend to have short life expectancy–which tends to discourage new players, as does having to make do with some character of a race and/or class which he or she really can’t or won’t identify with.

In other words: mediocre stats bum people out because they can’t play awesome characters with cool classes.  Gygax then lists four methods of rolling stats, of which 4d6 drop lowest arranged to taste is Method I.  Which kind of seems like an odd response to the problem identified above.  If the problem is that people get lame stats and have to settle for a class, why not let folks play whatever they want?  Any of the methods Gygax supplies could still give you some uninspiring stat arrays, and with Method I you still run a ~70% chance of failing to obtain Paladinhood.  I get that sometimes the dice inspire you, and that there’s something to be said for prestige.  But it strikes me as a weird thing.

so if 1e advises against 3d6 straight, why’d I spend my afternoon making charts?

The New York Red Box group seems pretty firmly in the 3d6 straight down the line camp.  We make it a point to roll stats in the open so we can jeer when you wind up with two 5’s.  I started doing it this way because I grew up with Mentzer; I’m not sure why Eric M. continues with it.  (I believe he’s even disallowed the 2-for-1 point swapping, because he finds it gives Halflings a significant advantage in being the tank.)

One of our players loves to whine about stats, and even quips about using loaded dice for character creation.  He simultaneously craves statistically impossible ability scores, and yet if you offer to give them to him outright, he shuns the offer.  It’s like he’s saying, “I want to earn my ability scores through suffering!  But I don’t want to suffer!”  I don’t get it.  At least in B/X and BECMI high stats mean something: a Fighter with Strength 16 is basically attacking as if she were 3 levels higher…

Anyway.  Moral of the story: 1e is apparently not a 3d6-in-order type of game, but that’s always been my benchmark.  I’ll eventually get around to the Method I comparisons, and we’ll see what it looks like then.

Qualification Chart for Unearthed Arcana

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Barbarian Str 15, (Wis 16), Dex 14, Con 15 Any non-Lawful 0.14%
Cavalier Str 15, Int 10, Wis 10, Dex 15, Con 15 Any Good 0.03%
UA Paladin Str 15, Int 10, Wis 13, Dex 15, Con 15, Cha 17 Lawful Good 0.00%**
Thief-Acrobat Str 15, Dex 16; Thief 5 Any Neutral or Evil* 0.43%

* = As a subset of the 1e Thief, the Thief-Acrobat may rarely be Neutral Good

** = Specifically, 0.0002%.  If you rolled 1 million characters using 3d6 straight, expect to see about 2 of them qualify for UA Paladinhood.

Yep, that’s right: Unearthed Arcana devotes 12 pages to classes which, combined, would account for 0.60% of all characters rolled with 3d6 in order.  I guess it doesn’t matter that the Cavalier class is broken if only 3 guys out of 10,000 would qualify.

Qualification Chart for Dragonlance Adventures

Yeah, I’m doin’ it.  Shut up.  Minotaur Rangers 4eva!

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Knight of the Crown Str 10, Int 7, Wis 10, Dex 8, Con 10 Any Good* 18.56%
Knight of the Sword Str 12, Int 9, Wis 13, Dex 9, Con 10; Crown Knight 2 Any Good* 3.33%
Knight of the Rose Str 15, Int 10, Wis 13, Dex 12, Con 15; Sword Knight 4 Any Good* 0.05%
Tinker Gnome Gnome only**; Int 10, Dex 12 Any 23.12%

 * = I strongly recollect that all Knights of Solamnia must be of Good alignment, but I cannot find the citation now.

** = If you want to be a Tinker Gnome, you first gotta qualify to be a Krynn Gnome: Strength 6, Constitution 8, Wisdom no higher than 12, and you get a +2 adjustment to Dexterity.  This has all been factored into the “Odds to Qualify” category.  But trust me: you do not want to play a Tinker Gnome.

Qualification Chart for Oriental Adventures

This book is so weird, arbitrary, badly edited, and uncomfortably close to yellowface–yet I really want to run a few sessions with it.

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Barbarian Str 15, (Wis 16), Dex 14, Con 15 Any non-Lawful 0.14%
Bushi Str 9, Dex 8, Con 8 Any 52.02%
Kensai Str 12, Wis 12, Dex 14 Any Lawful 2.28%
Monk Str 15, Wis 15, Dex 15, Con 11 Any Lawful 0.04%
Ninja-Bushi Str 9, Int 15, Dex 14, Con 8, Cha 14 Any non-Good 0.15%
Ninja-Sohei Str 13, Int 15, Wis 12, Dex 14, Con 10, Cha 14 Lawful Neutral or Lawful Evil 0.01%
Ninja-Wu Jen Int 15, Dex 14, Cha 14 Neither Good nor Lawful 0.24%
Ninja-Yakuza Str 11, Int 15, Dex 15, Cha 16 Lawful Neutral or Lawful Evil 0.02%
Samurai Str 13, Int 14, Wis 13, Dex 13 Any Lawful 0.28%
Shukenja Str 9, Wis 12, Con 9 Any Good 20.57%
Sohei Str 13, Wis 12, Con 10 Any Lawful 6.08%
Wu Jen Int 13 Any non-Lawful 25.93%
Yakuza Str 11, Int 15, Dex 15, Cha 16 Any Lawful 0.02%

Yes, that’s right: even with the easiest class to qualify for, the Bushi, you still might flunk out ~50% of the time using 3d6 in order. But again, Oriental Adventures explicitly declares that you should use 4d6 drop lowest arrange to taste.

Qualification Chart for 2e

Class Min Stats Alignment Odds to Qualify
Fighter Str 9 Any 74.07%
Paladin Str 12, Con 9, Wis 13, Cha 17 Lawful Good 0.13%
Ranger Str 13, Dex 13, Con 14, Wis 14 Any Good 0.18%
Mage Int 9 Any 74.07%
Hard Specialist Stat 16 * Any 4.63%
Easy Specialist Stat 15 ** Any 9.26%
Cleric Wis 9 Any 74.07%
Druid Wis 12, Cha 15 Any Neutral 3.47%
Thief Dex 9 Not Lawful Good 74.07%
Bard Dex 12, Int 13, Cha 15 Any Neutral 0.90%

* = The “Hard Specialists” are the Diviner, Enchanter, Illusionist, Invoker, and Necromancer.  By the strict rules as written, these do not have an Intelligence requirement, and I haven’t factored that in.  If you assume they must also have an Intelligence of 9 or greater (because the PHB doesn’t list a chance to learn spells for those with lower Intelligence), the odds to qualify become 3.43%

** = The “Easy Specialists” are the Abjurer, Summoner, and Transmuter.  Again, the rules don’t explicitly call for an Intelligence requirement, though one is probably implied.  If the Intelligence must be 9 or greater, the odds to qualify become 6.86%.

2e brings back 3d6 straight down the line as the default stat rolling method, god bless it.  Note that 2e is far less generous than 0e or BX, yet appears absolutely wild with abandon compared to Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures.

Just for laughs: the odds to qualify for the 2e Psionicist class is 17.36% using 3d6 straight.  The expected odds for human Warrior or Rogue types to develop psionic talents is about 1.21%, and the odds for a human Wizard or Priest type, or any demihuman, would be 1.06%.

Answer to the Puzzle: What’s The Hardest Class to Get Into, Using 3d6 Straight?

Two major contenders: the Unearthed Arcana Paladin (2 characters out of every million) and the 1e Bard (17 characters out of every million).  I’m going to give it to the 1e Bard, because although the stats are over eight times more common, it takes a hell of a long time to accrue 28K points to go to college, especially if you’re earning 10K of those as a Thief.  I think it’s pretty likely that a 1e Bard would get slaughtered, or the campaign would end, before he ever matriculated.

Honorable mention to the Thief-Acrobat (4300 out of every million–common as dirt!, comparatively–but similarly harsh level requirements), the Ninja-Sohei, and the Yakuza, which may be one of the weakest classes ever designed especially given how rare it is.  And especially honorable mention to the BECMI super-prestige classes, where you have to earn over 200,000 XP just to get your foot in the door.  I’m figuring the 1e Bard, though roughly only 10% of the XP requirement, is still vanishingly rare–but that’s mainly because I don’t know how to assess how often people reach Name Level.

Have We Learned Anything?

Well, I can track the entry requirements for certain classes over time:

Class 0e BECMI 1e 2e
Cleric 100.00% 100.00% 61.28% 74.07%
Fighter 100.00% 100.00% 58.30% 74.07%
Magic-User 100.00% 100.00% 61.28% 74.07%
Thief 100.00% 100.00% 61.28% 74.07%
Assassin 5.27% * 6.39%
Bard 0.00% 0.90%
Druid 100.00%** 2.87% 3.47%
Illusionist 0.37% 4.63%
Monk 0.32% 6.72%
Paladin 1.85% 100.00%** 0.10% 0.13%
Ranger 0.16% 0.18%

* = The Master rules contain rules for Thug NPC’s which are functionally almost identical to Assassins, but no rules for using them as player-characters.  I’m always tempted to do so, just to get some Supplement II: Blackmoor into my BX experience: after all, Mystics can be player-characters…

** = Again, 100% is a ludicrous overstatement, given that you’ve got to hit 200K XP for the Druid and 240K XP for the Paladin.  But I don’t know how to assess those odds.


45 Responses to “you must be this lucky to play (a paladin)”

  1. February 11, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Nifty charts — thanks for making them.

    RC Mystic requires Wis 13, Dex 13.

  2. February 11, 2012 at 3:55 am

    Martin, thanks. I’ll edit that in.

  3. February 11, 2012 at 5:48 am

    I use anydice.com for dice probabilities.

  4. 4 Guest
    February 11, 2012 at 8:30 am

    You’re making a pretty good case that qualifying stats should be ignored. That way at least it can’t corrupt the stat generation process. I wonder how much else in AD&D1 assumes super high stats.

    In practice, I don’t remember how strict we were about them, back in the day. I remember once wanting to play a paladin, the DM told me I didn’t qualify, I objected, then he told me to just bump my CHA up to 17.

    Kind of a pain to look it all up anyway, between qualifying for race and class. It’s funny. I imagine a 3e player sitting down at a 1e table and saying “I’d like to be a dwarf paladin”, and the DM responds with “With those stats you neither qualify as a dwarf or a paladin, there’s no such thing as dwarf paladins and you wouldn’t be able to adventure with these guys anyway; their alignments are too mixed. Do you have a backup choice?”

  5. February 11, 2012 at 8:59 am

    excellent work. You might be interested in the arbitrary-input-but-still-revealing adventurers’ life expectancy charts that Keith Davies put in a comment to my post over here: http://lurkerablog.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/ill-advised-flamebait-post-the-dirty-little-secret-of-level-caps/

  6. February 11, 2012 at 9:06 am

    I totally agree about OA, too. It’s not a campaign setting, it’s a wild mess, and it’s a document of 80s Yellow Menace Japanese gonna Miniaturize us! Americana… but I really would like to play in it – as a wild, uncomfortable, poorly realized mess.

    When it came out I wanted to rewrite it as something that made sense. I never did that either.

  7. February 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Yeah, I remember when I was like 12 or 13 saying, “I’m gonna start a game! And you can play anything! Elf Paladin! Dwarf Monk! Centaur Magician! OMG!” and I felt like I was giving away the candy store. Just letting people play what they want to play seems like a really sensible move.

    On the other hand, I do see an argument for making certain classes prestigious through their rarity. If you can only play a certain class, say, 25% of the time, it feels like a rare treat. But is it that much more of a treat when it only happens 10% of the time? Or 1% of the time? Or 0.01% of the time?

    Thanks for that link. The exact outcomes will depend on that initial probabilities of death/leveling/staying behind, and Keith’s look sort of in the right ballpark though are obviously estimates.

    I’ve also compiled a streamlined, and therefore slightly inaccurate, summary of the Oriental Adventures classes. This probability post actually grew out of that work, wondering if there were any classes harder to qualify for than the Yakuza. I’ll post it up sometime in the next week or so.

  8. February 11, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    I think this is pretty good evidence that 3d6 in order wasn’t very common at all. It’s kind of the historical ideal, but I think I only made a few guys that way back when I played Moldvay D&D. After that, we did everything from 4d6 drop one to 6d6 drop three to the UA method of 9/8/7/etc. d6 depending on pre-selected class. I think that makes us bad people, using that method to ensure high stats and picking race and class first, but it was a great AD&D campaign. My last, but not because of how we rolled stats.

    The analysis really shows stat escalation pretty clearly. Nice work.

  9. February 11, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I suspect your numbers for 1st Ed to be way too optimistic. According to the Strength table (PH page 9), a score of 3, 4 or 5 in that ability implies that the character can only be a magic-user. This means that other classes have a 6 Strength requierment. Ditto for Intelligence (except fighter), Wisdom (except thief), etc.

    The only time I tried to go with 3d6-in-order, I got 4 in Dexterity (my character could only be a cleric) and 8 in Wisdom (he couldn’t be a cleric) !

  10. 10 thezaksmiththatpaints
    February 11, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    No offense, but I feel like you answered and then unanswered your own question:

    “so if 1e advises against 3d6 straight, why’d i spend my afternoon making charts?”

    “Yep, that’s right: Unearthed Arcana devotes 12 pages to classes which, combined, would account for 0.60% of all characters rolled THE WAY NEW YORK CITY RED BOX ROLLS IT WHICH IS NOT RECOMMENDED IN THE GAME. I guess it doesn’t matter that the Cavalier class is broken if only 3 guys out of 10,000 would qualify THE WAY NEW YORK CITY RED BOX ROLLS IT WHICH IS NOT RECOMMENDED IN THE GAME.”

    As for why Paladins were organically limited:

    You roll that, you get a few paladins, but not that many. It’s Gygaxian Naturalism. It’s fun to know you have a character (or item, or situation) in a game that, once it’s gone, is not coming back easily. Creates tension.

  11. February 11, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Thanks for that. I’ve gone about 30 years without ever playing 1e, and little details like that elude me. (Because the book is so ineptly edited. Would it have killed them to list these requirements in the class section? Or have a single, unified table?) I will try to revisit the numbers sometime in the next few days.

  12. February 11, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Well, I played 1e for a long time, but I never used that rule. And none of my DM ever mentioned it. It’s very well hidden, thanks to Gygax talent for editing.

  13. 13 Josh W
    February 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Doesn’t Gygax imply that people rolled 3d6 in order then junked their character and rolled up a new one? The whole “there is often an extended period of attempts at finding a suitable one due to the quirks of the dice.” thing?

  14. February 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    It’s a parable about making assumptions about 1e, I think.

    0e: roll 3d6 in order
    BX: roll 3d6 in order
    2e: roll 3d6 in order

    1e: We’re not gonna tell you how to do this in the PHB (pssst, 3d6 in order is dumb)

    In spending most of my evening making those stupid charts, it literally never occurred to me that in 1e, Gygax at his most Viking Hat, would repudiate that method. (I never played 1e back in the day.) Shows what I know!

    So these charts are pointless until I can work the odds of, say, rolling four scores of 15+ out of a set of six stats, which I hope to do later. Still, looking at 3d6 straight helps you appreciate just how rare it would be for humans among the general population to qualify for Paladin status (or Bard status or whatever).

    I agree that the “blink and you’ll miss it” aspect lends these classes some tension, but I’m ambivalent about that as a matter of design.

  15. February 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    @Zak: even though 3d6 in order is not the recommended method, it’s useful as a benchmark, to see how expectations inflated and dice-rolling drifted from earlier editions. Also, the multiple optional dice-rolling methods offered all give different probability curves for different attribute values – compiling comprehensive charts would be time-consuming (but worthwhile), and it still wouldn’t change the order of improbability for each class, nor the increasing urge to ever-rarer classes.
    I kinda like 3 Cavaliers per 10000 people, though, thinking of the Cavalier as a Musketeer class, I immediately wonder about the population of 17th century Paris and about how many of the Musketeers are therefore mere fighters faking it.

  16. 16 Adam
    February 11, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Huh. I don’t think I ever played in a 2e game that actually used 3d6 in order; virtually every 2e game I played in used either 4d6 drop one, order as you like, or (in the case of Living games) an ill-constructed point-buy system. I had totally forgotten that 3d6 in order was the default rule.

    This also makes me wonder what the odds of a character who doesn’t qualify for any class are in 2e. I guess that’s 8 or less on each of the first 4 stats, so… 0.45%, according to anydice.com and a little bit of multiplication. No mulligan rule in the default method for 2e, either. You’re 2.5 times as likely to roll up a character who can’t take a class as you are to generate a ranger, and more than 3 times more likely to have no class than to be a paladin! (I guess technically a few of those characters can take a specific race and then qualify for a class–a gnome who starts with an 8 Int bumps up to 9, and can be a mage, or start with an 8 dex, play as an elf or halfling, and squeek in as a thief, but I can’t be bothered to calculate those odds.)

  17. February 11, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Yeah, I think 2e is also on a pick-a-method-here-try-4d6-pick-the-highest-then-assign basis if i remember correctly.

    2e was in all ways more forgiving than 1e, so i don’t see why i t wouldn’t.

    This 3d6-in-order business is from the days when it was assumed you had like 10-20 people at the table and/or had tons of henchmen.

  18. February 11, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    About the Unearthed Arcana, the DM section introduce method V which gives 100% chance to have the class you want, provided you got the DM’s approval first.

  19. 19 Adam
    February 11, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    @Zak S. Nope, I looked it up because I was so surprised, but James is right about 2e Rules as Written: Method I is 3d6 in order, and then there’s some “if your DM wants a crazy over the top super heroic feel, here are some other methods” language. (Not an actual quote.) 4d6 drop one is in the middle of those other methods.

  20. February 11, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    James, this is a perfect post. This post is what it’s like to play with James. I just wish they made loaded dice, that matched my chessex color sets so I can win @ D&D.

  21. February 11, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    Scott, you’re just saying that because I agreed to proofread DoomQuest. But can you elaborate on your thing with High Ability Scores? To me as a player & GM, I don’t especially care how stats are rolled, though much respect is accorded to the 3d6 straight Iron Man method. If someone wants to smooth out the game’s incredible difficulty by just declaring straight 18’s, it doesn’t especially bother me–screw it, the dude’s an adventurer, if he wants an easier game that’s fine with me.

    But I think if I said, “Just write down straight 18’s” to you, you’d feel cheated out of the satisfaction of beating the odds, even if you used loaded dice to do it.

    So where’s the sweet spot for you between generating high enough scores that you’re satisfied, yet does it just reliably enough for you to feel special? 4d6 drop lowest arranged to taste generates notably higher averages, but not always anything extremely eye-catching.

  22. February 12, 2012 at 12:52 am

    Olivier, I’ve added the stat minimums from the 1e PHB ability score section, the stuff that says, in effect, “if you have a Strength of 3 through 5, you can only play a Magic-User.” This has been factored into the blog post and also the downloadable charts.

    Since with 3d6 you have a 95% chance to score 6 or better, adding these additional restrictions doesn’t affect those classes with several different ability requirements–the Paladin needs five different scores already, so requiring Dex 6 or better doesn’t make that much difference. But for a class like the Cleric, which only needed Wisdom 9, you’re now multiplying by 0.95 ^ 4, so the odds of getting into the Cleric class drop considerably.

  23. February 12, 2012 at 2:26 am

    I want the DM to look at my character, fold up his books, look me in the eye and go “Oh, for fuck’s sake. You win, alright? You win at Dungeons & Dragons.”

    Maybe on my birthday we can roleplay this out a few hundred times.

  24. 24 Chris H.
    February 12, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Man Scott, what where your youthful sessions of D&D like to drive this bitter fire in your belly?

  25. February 12, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Scott, I think you have solved the question of how to make D&D a party game with low buy-in, easy drop-in and drop-out, and easy scheduling in between getting drinks and talking about other stuff. The fact that people will be like “I don’t get it, how is this a game” is a feature, not a bug; I heard this said by newbie gamers just last night when we were gearing up to play straight AD&D.

    I saw a paladin rolled that session, by dint of the DM having us roll 3d6 in order but choose the best of six 3d6 rolls for each stat. Interestingly, the only other player with substantial D&D experience – she remembered playing AD&D in college but had more recent 3.X exposure – thought 3d6 best of six was punishingly hardcore; when I said we normally did 3d6 no re-rolls, she looked at me like I had just revealed that I was wearing a hair shirt. I also noticed that on the one character generation roll where the DM didn’t give us some kind of luck protection (we had max HP at first level), she gave herself an unannounced re-roll when she rolled 30 gp for starting gold.

    Not pointing fingers, just observing in the same spirit that I should note that, in the last game with Mike Mornard, I somehow convinced myself and him that my character was 2nd level in the absence of any supporting evidence. Even when Boboric was about to die, I was certain that I simply must have forgotten to roll my new level’s hit points. I was aghast when at the end of the night I added up the new XP and realized I was only 1st level and thus should not have survived!

  26. 26 witness
    February 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I’m going to quote something from Supplement I:

    “Charisma scores of 17 or greater by fighters indicate the possibility of paladin status IF THEY ARE LAWFUL from the commencement of play for that character. If such fighters elect to they can then become paladins…”

    To me, this reads that you can become a Paladin after play begins. Which means you can make it your fighter’s goal to *become* a Paladin, e.g. by seeking out all existing Tomes of Leadership and Influence, which links back to Tavis’s Allegiance post – here’s something to WANT, and a reason to pledge yourself to always doing Lawful deeds even if you came up short on the die rolls in character generation.

  27. 27 Roger
    February 13, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    How about the odds for qualifying for AD&D/1e psionics?

  28. 28 Michael (Gronan) Mornard
    February 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Tavis, I’m not going to punish poor Boboric. It was an honest mistake honestly made. I had forgotten he wasn’t one of the crew that cleaned out the Kobold Mine and got rich.

    To everyone in all the universes who has said, “What happens if the referee makes a ruling that is WRONG?”, here is the answer.

    You shrug and keep playing.

  29. February 13, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    “How about the odds for qualifying for AD&D/1e psionics?”

    I thought about it! Like everything else about the AD&D 1e Psionics system, it makes my head hurt. It’s not too hard to do for 3d6 straight down the line, but I’m still trying to struggle through the math of arrange-to-taste, where you’re not looking at a single stat or two, but rather the six scores in aggregate.

    (The math may not be hard for a person who remembers college-level probability courses, but I don’t, so I’m reinventing stuff as I go along.)

  30. February 14, 2012 at 2:57 am

    Roger, the odds for having Psionic Potential in 1e is approximately 0.22% (i.e., about 2 in a thousand characters) using 3d6 straight. Again, 3d6 straight isn’t the preferred method of character creation in that edition of the game.

    In 2e, the odds of qualifying for the Psionicist class is 17.36% using 3d6 in order. A human Warrior or Rogue type has, on average, a 1.21% chance to be a psionic wild talent at character creation. Human Wizard or Priest types, as well as all demi-humans, have an average 1.08% chance to have psionic wild talents at creation. (In 2e, there’s this thing where you can try again if someone performs psychic surgery on you, but I’m not going to get into that.)

    I’ll edit the post above to reflect this.

  31. February 14, 2012 at 7:34 am

    So if you only just don’t qualify to be a paladin you can now be its cut-price Spanish-speaking equivalent: the Luchador

  32. 32 John
    February 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I wonder which came first. Did the high requirements come first so people felt they had to cheat in order to play a particular class or did people start inflating their stats first through various methods so classes were made that were hard for these people to get into?

  33. 33 Philo Pharynx
    February 14, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Great post!

    All of this just makes me think about how great having point buy is. You get the chance to play the character you want to play without lying or doing “5d6, reroll 1’s, keep three, arrange” or “Roll 15 sets of scores in order and choose one” You don’t have the issue of having to take a mulligan be cause the dice wanted to screw you. You don’t have to deal with the case where one character is a golden boy across the board and another one barely manages to get throuhg the day without injuring themselves. You don’t get the party where people roll decently well, except that nobody rolls high enough wisdom to play a cleric.

    I’ve heard the arguments about why people like rolling, and I’ve played through the years when that was the only option. It’s not my style. I want to play the characters I want to play instead of the character that the dice want me to play.

  34. February 14, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I think there’s a lot to be said for Point-Buy, if you’ve already got a fun character concept lined up. Even then, you may want to fiddle around carefully with your point distributions, since you’re aware of mathematical breakpoints in the game. (“This Fighter will get an extra +1 HP per level if I give him a 16 Constitution, so maybe I’ll knock down Wisdom two points to set that up.”)

    This isn’t a bad thing! But (a) sometimes you don’t know what you want ahead of time, and (b) it takes longer than just rolling 3d6 straight.

    The thing about D&D is that it’s not really character-focused. There’s this hole in the ground, you go in and get rich or maybe die horribly. The fact that your guy has a sister dying of Griffon Leukemia somewhere doesn’t really make much of a difference. In other games, though, that motivation might be very important, so a point-buy type of system where you front-load the conceptual work is far preferable than waiting for a personality to accrete around random rolls over the course of several sessions.

  35. 35 Greengoat
    February 15, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Griffon Leukemia

  36. 36 Philo Pharynx
    February 15, 2012 at 9:19 pm


    That’s one way to play D&D. It goes more with the random rolls and simpler builds of old-school D&D. I like coming up with concepts and developing them both narratively and mechanically. To me the idea of making a character quickly is a drawback. I find it hard to connect to a character that’s just a random bunch of numbers. True, sometimes that connections will come over time, but not always and it’s usually not as strong a connection as with a concept I started with. (or rather a concept that my muse woke me up in the middle of the night to work on). Of course I also prefer games that are less lethal than some of the old-school games.

  37. February 15, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    @ Philo
    Yeah, totally. It’s certainly a matter of taste. I should clarify that I’m talking about early D&D specifically, and even then within the somewhat historically revisionist OSR movement.

    Usually when I want a character-focused RPG I reach for an indie, but these typically work on a point-buy system of some sort.

  38. March 16, 2012 at 11:04 am


    I think your calculations for the Paladin are high. Rolling a 17 or higher with 3d6 alone is only a 1.39% chance. Seeing that you are about 75% likely to roll a 12 or under, having two more stats with minimums of 13 and 12 are (roughly) 6.25% likely, which means with these three alone (Str, Wis, Cha), your chances of rolling one up are 0.087%. Throw in the two nines and the six and you’ve got about 0.044%, or slightly less than one in two thousand characters, who qualify as a paladin with 3d6-in-order.

  39. March 16, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Aw, heck, I moved a decimal place over. That should be 0.44%, not 0.044%.

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Past Adventures of the Mule

February 2012

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