Back in the heady days of first edition D&D, you rolled 3d6 six times for your stats, and created a character around them. Your scores ranged from 3 to 18, and you worked with the strengths and limitations of those numbers to create a three dimensional personality. Usually, if you rolled an 8 or less, you were given the option of rolling a new set or playing with what you had. That evolved into rolling 4d6 seven times and dropping the lowest result. In any case, however, the set of rolled stats defined your character.

You worked with the stats you rolled. If you rolled a 6 intelligence, you played an imbecile. If you rolled an 18 dexterity, you played a cat burglar. I remember a game where the player wanted to play a barbarian. He rolled an 18 intelligence, so I ruled he could talk to animals. The numbers defined the possibilities. Sometimes you got super powerful characters with lots of stats in the teens, but those characters were no fun. There was no challenge. The diversity of the numbers created the personality, and the role-playing that randomly generated personality was past of the fun.

Today, point buy has become the norm. The paying field has been leveled. Every character is practically the same. The scores are optimized toward a preconceived concept defined by myriad other statistics, and the numbers are all that matter. There is no personality in the numbers anymore. Now they are just vehicles to other statistics. Many games are played these days whe the characters have no personality at all. The goal has become the collection of power and epic level numbers battles.

I have played in many games over the years where my attempts to introduce personality into my characters has been received with animosity, my lengthy character backgrounds ignored, and the emphasis placed on advancing characters to face statistically more challenging opponents. In recent years, I have moved to stat light games based on the Fate system or Savage Worlds. I see the trend moving back toward creativity and personalities.

I prefer role-playing to roll-playing. Though I must confess that I don’t like diceless systems. I need a little structure to my randomness.

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