When I first started playing D&D, everyone always rolled for their stats. Depending on the DM, you might get three or four d6s to roll and taking the highest values; you might even get to reroll 1s once. For both of these, we would then get to decide which results go to which stats. Others make you assign your results in order and thus what kind of character you would play would also be determined from your stat rolls (it just wouldn’t make sense to play a wizard with an INT of 10). For several years, this is always how I generated my character’s stats.
Point buying is the other way to generate stats for your character. For D&D 3.5, all stats started at an 8 and you had to buy your way up (Pathfinder starts at 10). When I first started, I didn’t like this because 18s were extremely expensive, and all of your other stats suffer because you cannot afford to buy them up as well. So, in my opinion, you only could have mediocre characters.
After a particularly nasty TPK (Total Party Kill), when we were all rerolling our stats, I got hit by the balance train. You see, I had rolled amazing stats. I think my lowest roll was a 15, and I had at least one 18 and two 17s. When you put my rolls into the point buying system, they had a value of around 52, which is well outside the realm of typical point buys. Most point buy campaigns are around 18 to 20 (in Pathfinder anyways) with epic fantasy being a 25 pint buy. My numbers were crazy huge, but I did feel that my character was going to kick all kinds of tail. Another player, who rolled the second best stats, had a point value in the mid-30s.
However, as someone in our party is wont to do at any given time, terrible rolls were made. I think their highest score was a 12 or 13 and they had multiple rolls below 10 (and these were the better set of numbers as we got to roll stats twice). They were going to be extremely weak, especially when compared to my character. I looked over their numbers, looked over everyone else’s, and then looked at mine. I could not, in good conscious, play my character when everyone else would be considerable weaker. If everyone else also got into the mid-30s with their rolls, I might not have complained to the DM, but it was more than night and day between me and everyone else.
So, I flat out said to the DM that we have to switch over to a point buy system. This started us on the point buying train and we have been on it ever since. While I still like the idea of rolling stats, there’s just too much volatility in it where some characters will be awesome, stat-wise, and others will be awful. Point buying allows everyone to start off on equal footing, which I believe is necessary for a group game like D&D or Pathfinder. I think that you set yourself and your character apart from the others by how you play them and the personality you give them; not by playing Superman while everyone else get to play regular citizens of Metropolis. I do prefer Pathfinder’s point buy system over D&D 3.5 as I feel 10s are a better starting point than 8s.
What do you think about rolling stats vs point buys? Do you prefer one system over the other? Have you had an experience similar to mine where you rolled awesome (or terrible) stats compared to everyone else? Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.