Each player is responsible for creating his character. As the DM, however, your decisions have a huge impact on the process. You have final approval over any player character that is created. This chapter outlines what you should consider about character creation and gives guidelines on how to deal with some of the common problems that arise during character creation.
Giving Players What They Want
Players in most AD&D games use the same character over many game sessions. Most players develop strong ties to their characters and get a thrill from watching them advance, grow, and become more successful and powerful. Your game's success depends on how much your players care about their characters. For these reasons, it is important to let they players create the type of characters they really want to play.
At the same time, watch out for a tendency in some players to want the most powerful character possible. Powerful characters are fine if that's the sort of campaign you want. A problem arises, however, if players are allowed to exploit the rules, or your good nature, to create a character who is much more powerful than everyone else's characters. At best, this leads to an unbalanced game. At worst, it leads to bored players and hurt feelings.
Therefore, before any player in your game creates his first character, decide which dice-rolling method to allow: will you use method I, any of the five alternate methods, or a seventh method of your own devising? Be prepared with an answer right away, because this is one of the first questions your players will ask.
Choosing a Character Creation Method
The following methods are different from one another. Some produce more powerful characters than others (although none produces extremely powerful characters). For this reason, every player in your game should start out using the same method.
If, at some later point in your campaign, you want to change methods, simply announce this to your players. Try to avoid making the announcement just as a player starts rolling up a new character, lest the other players accuse you of favoritism. You know you aren't playing favorites, but it doesn't hurt to avoid the appearance.
The advantages and disadvantages of each dice-rolling method are described below (also see page 13 of the Player's Handbook). Five sample characters created with each method illustrate typical outcomes the different methods are likely to produce.
Method I (3d6, In order)
This is the fastest and most straightforward. There are no decisions to make while rolling the dice, and dice rolling is kept to a minimum. Ability scores range from 3 to 18, but the majority fall in a range from 9 to 12.
Typically, a character will have four scores in the average range, one below-average score, and one above-average score. A few lucky players will get several high scores and a few unlucky ones will get just the opposite.
Very high scores are rare, so character classes that require high scores (paladin, ranger, illusionist, druid, bard) are correspondingly rare. This makes characters who qualify for those classes very special indeed. The majority of the player characters will be fighters, clerics, mages, and thieves. Characters with exceptional ability scores will tend to stand out from their comrades.
Method I Disadvantages: First, some players may consider their characters to be hopelessly average. Second, the players don't get many choices.
Using method I, only luck enables a player to get a character of a particular type, since he has no control over the dice. Most characters have little choice over which class they become: Only one or two options will be open to them. You might let players discard a character who is totally unsuitable and start over.
Method II (3d6 twice, keep desired score)
This method gives players better scores without introducing serious ability inflation. It also gives them more control over their characters. The average ability is still in the 9 to 12 range, and players can manipulate their results to bring the characters they create closer to the ideal characters they imagine.
Exceptional player characters are still rare, and unusual character classes are still uncommon, but few characters will have below-average scores.
Method II Disadvantages: Creating the character takes slightly longer because there are more dice to roll. Despite the improved choices, a character might still not be eligible for the race or class the player wants.
Method III (3d6, arranged to taste)
This method gives the players more choice when creating their characters yet still ensures that, overall, ability scores are not excessive. Bad characters are still possible, especially if a player has several poor rolls. The majority of characters have average abilities.
Since players can arrange their scores however they want, it is easier to meet the requirements for an unusual class. Classes with exceptionally strict standards (the paladin in particular) are still uncommon.
Method III Disadvantages: This method is more time-consuming than I or II, especially if players try to "minimize/maximize" their choice of race and class. (To minimize/maximize, or min/max, is to examine every possibility for the greatest advantage.) Players may need to be encouraged to create the character they see in their imaginations, not the one that gains the most pluses on dice rolls. The example below shows fighters created using this method.
Method IV (3d6 twice, arranged to taste)
This method has all the benefits of methods II and III. Few, if any, characters are likely to have poor scores. Most scores are above average. The individual score ranges are still not excessively high, so truly exceptional characters are still very rare. However, the majority of characters are significantly above the norm.
Method IV Disadvantages: This method tends to be quite slow. Players spend a lot of time comparing different number combinations with the requirements of different races and classes. New players easily can be overwhelmed by the large number of choices during this process. The examples below are arranged for fighters.
Method V (4d6, drop lowest, arrange as desired)
Before choosing to use this method, think about how adventurers fit into the population as a whole. There are two schools of thought.
One holds that adventurers are no different from everyone else (except for being a little more foolhardy, headstrong, or restless). The man or woman down the street could be an adventurer—all that's required is the desire to go out and be one. Therefore, adventurers should get no special bonuses on their ability rolls.
The other school holds that adventurers are special people, a cut above the common crowd. If they weren't exceptional, they would be laborers and businessmen like everyone else. Player characters are heroes, so they should get bonuses on their ability rolls to lift them above the rabble.
If you choose method V for creating player characters, then you agree with this second view and believe that adventurers should be better than everyone else. This method creates above-average characters. They won't be perfect, but the odds are that even their worst ability scores will be average or better. More scores push into the exceptional range (15 and greater). It is easy for a player to create a character of any class and race.
Method V Disadvantages: Like other methods that allow deliberate arrangement of ability scores, this one takes some time. It also creates a tendency toward "super" characters.
Unless you have a considerable amount of experience as a DM, however, beware of extremely powerful characters. They are much more difficult to challenge and control than characters of moderate power. On the plus side, their chance for survival at lower levels is better than "ordinary" characters. (See "Super Characters ," below, for more on this subject.)
One last point about method V: High ability scores are less exciting under this method, since they are much more common, as the fighter characters below indicate:
Method VI (points plus dice)
This gives players more control over their characters than the other methods. A points system makes it quite likely that a player can get the character he wants—or at least the class and race. However, in doing so the player must make some serious compromises.
It is unlikely that his dice are going to be good enough to make every score as high as he would like. In all likelihood, only one or two ability scores will be exceptional, and miserable dice rolling could lower this even further. The player must carefully weigh the pros and cons of his choices when creating the character.
Method IV Disadvantages: This method works best for experienced players. Players who are not familiar with the different character classes and races have a hard time making the necessary (and difficult) decisions. Table 6 shows fighters constructed using this method.