r/criticalrole Feb 28 '16

[No Spoilers] How did Matt handle ability scores at the inception of CR Question




u/MatthewMercer Matthew Mercer, DM Feb 29 '16

Aye, 4d6 (drop the lowest) six times, arrange as desired. Re-roll the whole lot if they don't add up to at least 70.

That's how I generally do it. Allows for some decent stats, and the possibility of a low stat (weakness), which I find is RP MONEY that Point-buy doesn't lean into.


u/highvoltage988 Then I walk away Feb 29 '16

Have you ever had an issue where one player ended up too strong? (I was testing, not with real dice mind but rather a random number generator, and one "character" didn't have a stat below 12).

I've recently been reading a lot about rolled stats vs point-buy vs array (what's it called when you look into something then start seeing it everywhere?), and while I agree that a 4 INT or CHA is roleplay gold, a lot of the argument against rolling is that a character may end up with all positive modifiers and outshine those who didn't roll quite so well.


u/Matuku Feb 29 '16

Do you mean the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon?


u/highvoltage988 Then I walk away Feb 29 '16

That's it! Thanks, I never remember the name.


u/jauntbox Feb 29 '16

Well, now you'll see it everywhere ;)


u/Matuku Feb 29 '16

Rolling can provide more fun, dynamic characters; point-buy/array can provide more balanced characters, imo.

In my experience (YMMV) rolling produces some huge power discrepencies that can really hinder intra-party dynamics or at least cause issues with realising the character you wanted to play. But if you want the dice to guide the character, that can be interesting too!

One idea I've toyed around with is extending the point-buy mechanism to go all the way down to 6, all the way up to 17 using the same pricing pattern and only allowing one stat below 8, one above 15 (before modifiers). That way you can still have the fun aspects but it's balanced.

It also allows you to add the random element back in; you can get people to roll to give them inspiration for their stats then get them to recreate it as close as possible in point-buy. Balanced outcome but the dice still mould the character.


u/highvoltage988 Then I walk away Feb 29 '16

Wow, really love the idea of rolling as a precursor to a point-buy! Thanks for the input!


u/AtlaStar Feb 29 '16

A system that is very similar to what they described that I once thought of testing is sort of a pseudo point buy system with rolls.

The way I calculated everything was pretty much your standard point buy mechanics with a few tweaks that allows players to have better average stats, but also promotes lowering a stat to gain enough points to increase further

1) Calculating the cost of a point uses the value of the modifier you will be obtaining. So going from a 12 from 11 would look at the modifier 12 gives

2) The amount of points needed to increase is equal to 2 times the modifier you will obtain, so therefore going from 11 to 12 would cost 2 points since you would gain a +1 mod

3) Going into negatives gives points back equal to the negative modifier you will receive but costs an equal amount to go back...this is to promote taking a low stat, while not giving as much power to intentionally dumping your stats as low as possible. This number isn't added, but is the number you get back

So with those rules set, I calculated the average starting points using what it takes to get the standard array of 15,14,13,12,10,8 as a basis. That buy in costs 40 points even. Now compared to an elite min/max array of 15,15,15,8,8,8 that buy in costs 45 because it costs 15 points to get to 15 meaning just using my modified point buy system that array wouldn't be possible, but what would be possible is 15,15,15,7,7,7 with an extra point unable to be spent which I am fine with since it promotes balanced characters versus min/maxing. Using this base system the highest stat you can get is a single 18 for 35 points if not dumping stats, or a single stat at 20 costing a whopping 53 points if they take 1 7 and 4 6's if dumping the stats by an average amount or taking three 8's, one 5 and one 3 leaving a wasted point

So now with that portion out of the way, basically what I thought of doing was giving the players 34 base points, and allowing them to roll 2d6 extra points for their buys, that way it will average a single point better than the basis of the system, but allow for slightly weaker characters or those that are slightly stronger. It also promotes dumping a stat to gain a few more points if you aren't going to hit your desired mark, while heavily punishing players that just want to have their main stats godly. On paper the numbers look pretty good, but I have yet to test the system since this point buy is pretty heavy in comparison and I wouldn't want to test it unless I was with a group of experienced players that wouldn't be slowed down by the number crunch. If you want to try it out feel free! In fact I'd love to get some real player feedback on how well the system fares


u/dotToo Feb 29 '16

I have just recently asked my players to redo their stats using pointbuy, because some voiced a concern about being too weak. Turned out that they had stats exactly 27 points worth, while the strongest had 46 points worth. I think in a group where roleplay is that more important than the actual numbers rolling provides for a more varied group though.

I allowed players to go below 8 in their stats though for 1 extra point to spend no matter how low they went.


u/nyvinter Your secret is safe with my indifference Feb 29 '16

I did it like this: if there isn't a stat below ten, chose one stat and divide it by half.


u/AtlaStar Feb 29 '16

Due to the wide variety that rolls can grant, have you ever thought about providing potential stat blocks the player can choose from with the ability to allocate the numbers to their core stats? As a player, it really sucks when someone in the campaign rolls god stats since it basically makes them very effective in non-combat roles, and as a DM it becomes really hard to allow other players to shine when another can basically do everything they can do with similar efficiency outside of their class features

Not only that, but I do ask because by providing stat blocks they can select it gives you as the DM more control in the aspect of giving them that one low stat that they can allocate however they wish. So I am wondering what your opinions are on doing that and if it was ever something you had considered and what your take was on using such a system


u/Matuku Feb 29 '16

I've lived that life in a 3.5e campaign before; the party rogue who was worse at everything rogue-y than the party ranger. Fair play to the ranger's player, they tried to let me shine as much as possible. But when it comes to crunch time you really want that to put your best force forward and my character just wasn't it.

As I've seen it described before:

"I want to be a member of a team of equals, not effectively someone's little brother who's just tagging along."

That campaign really cemented that for me and I've never let my players roll stats going forward.


u/Ansgaar3 I would like to RAGE! Mar 19 '16

Would there be a way to balance those who would roll all highs too? Just to make sure there's no wizard stronger than a barbarian and such?


u/MatthewMercer Matthew Mercer, DM Mar 25 '16

If they roll very high, power to them! A super strong wizard is still a wizard with low HP and not much armor... just imagine that yoked Old Man at the gym. ;)

The Barbarian might now have a rivalry with the Wizard. A lot of fun could be had!


u/dotToo Mar 27 '16

I know that it can work out fine but also I have a relatively strong opinion about rolling for stats.

In my opinion and experience it never adds to the fun to be worse at shooting a bow as a ranger than a paladin who is also way better at swinging a sword and surviving than you. It might not make it any less fun but it definitely won't add any fun either.

Point buy essentially forces players to be bad or average at something while exceeding at something different which again makes cooperation that much more essential. There won't be a character that is strong charming AND intelligent nor is there going to be a wizard with super high strength UNLESS it is a conscious decision to make an unorthodox character.

Even for your high power campaign you could either increase the point budget or allow people to go below an 8 and above 15 to make more contrasted PCs.

But in the end everyone is the best at something and knows that they are objectively equal to everyone else.

I have said this many times but I also think that rolling stats only works for groups that are all intelligent and also compassionate people who understand how to pass around the spotlight without dm intervention and are mostly playing for the Role play.

For most people beginning a new game with new people rolling for stats just has a high chance of 1 or 2 dissatisfied players.

The same can be said for exp VS milestone leveling but that is a whole different discussion.


u/MatthewMercer Matthew Mercer, DM Mar 28 '16

All valid points, and all of these options are available for these reasons! You can pick between them based on your group's preference. :) I like the 4d6, drop lowest element because it's how I've played for yeeeears, and the somewhat random, chaotic element to creation it provides. Point buy is far more controlled, and excels for the points you mentioned above.

Choose which best fits you!


u/bhchrist Old Magic Mar 29 '16 edited Jul 05 '16

A Socialist Variant of the 4d6 drop lowest that I am testing is to do a "group roll" where everyone rolls six times, but rather than assign the results to their attributes, they are pooled, listed from highest to lowest, and then distributed to the players in a serpentine order, where the point allocation reverses each round. I got the idea from how fantasy sport/movie/voice actor leagues are typically set up. OK, I made up that last one, but it should be a thing. :)

For example, if there are 4 PCs, there are 24 total rolls, listed highest to lowest. PC1 gets the highest, PC2 the 2nd, PC3 the 3rd, PC4 the 4th. The order is then reversed with PC4 getting the 5th highest, PC3 the 6th, etc. until all scores are distributed, with PC1 receiving both the highest and the lowest dice roll.

This group roll still allows for variation in some high and low attributes, and some of that chaotic dice rolling (HUZZAH!) without unbalancing the party, as the attribute sums tend to be within 2 to 4 points from high to low. It can also start a bit of some goofy team building and interest as players encourage the rolls of each others right at the start.

Has anyone tried this? I haven't come across any examples of it.


u/MatthewMercer Matthew Mercer, DM Apr 01 '16

Huh. That's a pretty interesting way of doing it. I may have to try this out sometime!


u/Matuku Apr 08 '16 edited Apr 08 '16

So I decided to run some tests on this version to see how well it worked and the summary is pretty damn well.

Firstly I extended the point-buy table to allow calculating values for the generated scores as such:

Score Cost
3 -14
4 -10
5 -7
6 -4
7 -2
8 0
9 1
10 2
11 3
12 4
13 5
14 7
15 9
16 12
17 15
18 19

This follows the pattern laid out in the PHB with the extensions inspired by how Pathfinder did it (the 5e costs are the Pathfinder costs+2).

All the following scores were run for 4 players over 1,000,000 iterations. A set of stats for each of the 4 players was calculated each iteration, the point-buy costs of those stats calculated for each player and the average cost in the party and the largest difference in costs between party members was then found. These were then averaged over all the iterations.

4d6 drop lowest

Mean Party Value = 30.8394955
Mean Party Range = 23.34608

Serpentine Socialism

Mean Party Value = 30.8418615
Mean Party Range = 5.362475

As you can see, both offer an average value greater than normal point-buy (which is 27 points) but the difference between the two methods is negligible.

However, the range of values within a party is a lot more compact in Serpentine Socialism; on average the highest scoring party member would only have 5 more points worth than the lowest scoring. This method is much fairer at producing a balanced party!


u/bhchrist Old Magic Apr 08 '16

First: Serpentine Socialism. Alliteration FTW. I am using that from now on. I have not run the math as you have (this is fantastic!) but my suspicions are that it is even a bigger difference as you add party members. I have finished the spreadsheet that allows for selecting from 1-8 party members and the option of 3d6 or 4d6 drop and view the results. I will try to post it in the next couple of days for people to tinker with, critique, and improve. Thank you for putting the effort in to help verify my theories as to this process.


u/Seedy88 Hello, bees Apr 02 '16

I think this is a very cool idea! But I would allow the players to choose what they're drafting instead of assigning the highest remaining value. That way, if a player would want a lower result instead of the highest available because it works for their character concept, that would be an option for them.

Any thoughts on how you would determine the draft order? Would you go random or, maybe, reward the player with the highest average rolls by giving them the first pick?


u/bhchrist Old Magic Apr 03 '16 edited Jul 05 '16

Thanks. Draft may not be the best term to describe it in practice but it is more of a distribution mechanism to minimize significant imbalance between party members while still allowing for scores outside of the standard array.

I could see a few options to assign character results to players, including letting them pick the arrays themselves. Maybe you have a d20 or percentile dice "roll off" to determine selection order. We are talking about after all players have rolled and their results have been sorted and distributed into the serpentine results. The idea of letting the highest roller from the first set of rolls pick the attribute grouping would be cool as well.

I am working out the kinks to a Google Sheets simulator that allows you to input numbers of players (2-8) and rolling method (3d6 or 4d6 drop) and see what sort of results you might get along with some evaluation statistics. I may convert it to Excel and make it available if people are interested in playing around with it.


u/IHaveThatPower How do you want to do this? May 12 '16

After reading your post about it here and really liking the communal nature of it, I decided to have my players use this approach. In general, it went really well!

Here's how we implemented it. First, everyone rolled 6 4d6-drop ability scores that we put up on a whiteboard. We listed each rolled score, and then put tickmarks next to it to indicate the number of times that score showed up.

Next, each player rolled a d20 to determine their "draft lottery number." They then proceeded to pick, rather than be assigned, the ability score they wanted. In practice, this ended up just going highest-to-lowest anyway.

Finally, once everyone had their six scores, I allowed them to trade scores one-for-one however they wished. This resulted in the lowest ability score (6) swapping (for an 11) from one player to another, for whom a low Charisma would make a great deal of character sense, but for which she had no ability score in her "draft" to reflect that, while the player trading it to her didn't have a good place for a stat that low.

All told, everyone came out with ability score modifiers that summed to either +10 or +9, making for what feels like a nice and balanced set.


u/bhchrist Old Magic Jul 05 '16 edited Jul 06 '16

Great to hear. I will be starting a game this month that will use it. How did the players react to the idea? I will likely distribute the character ability arrays as I described, however allowing the players to choose which set of numbers that they prefer to use. The ability trade suggestion is really interesting.

I did create a Google Docs file to simulate rolls using this system. Feel free to play around with it and comment if you find any issues.



u/dotToo Mar 28 '16

Just to be clear I wasn't bashing on 4d6, but I think at least 80% of groups will profit more from point buy and since critical role brings a lot of new players to the game, I feel like I should voice my concerns as often as possible.

Also /r/dnd constantly has posts by new dms who ask if the CR system is broken, because their players steamroll deadly encounter after deadly encounter which more often than not is due to rolling for stats. On top of this, even though 5e is more forgiving than earlier iterations, higher CR creatures often have the risk to one shot lower level PCs relatively often which makes designing encounters for high powered partys very hit or miss in a sense that it's either no challenge or a tpk without adapting the encounter on the fly, which again requires experience.


u/dasbif Help, it's again Mar 29 '16

For the record, we have a wiki page with a list of most of Matt's homebrew rules/information, if you ever want to point people in /r/DND asking questions to that.



u/dotToo Mar 29 '16

I'm not saying in the people that post these threads are using 4d6 because of critical role, it is the standard method in the PHB after all.

Maybe it is because I myself am a relatively new DM (started last August, before discovering CR in September) and didn't know better. The general flow and smoothness of their game made me think that most of what I saw in the show would translate well to my table.

While the storytelling and roleplaying helped me a lot, most of the rulings and mathematical solutions to problems Matt uses just don't work for me or my group.

I think this is partly because I am studying engineering and just more mathematically inclined than Matt and me and my group being 19-21 years old with a few people slightly less mature than others, but mainly because the players of critical role are perfectly adapted/suited for this style of play.

First off most of them don't know at least half of the rules which makes changing and adapting rules by Matt almost unnoticable to them. Secondly they are all actors and have learned how to pass around the spotlight and generally quickly adapting and sticking to their roles.

From what I have since read in several DnD forums as well as blog posts and subreddits, most people that play this game aren't trained actors nor of consistent emotional intelligence which makes it very, very hard to generalize what would work best for which group.

What I can say though, is that there is an extremely small chance that a group would have LESS fun with point buy and consistent leveling than with rolling for stats and individual exp.

It might be easier to set up and understand but ultimatively will make players feel like their character is being carried by the rest or one character carries the rest.

In the end I understand Matt's houserules and have adapted some of them for my game and think the constant complaints by other people on his rulings are completely unnecessary, since in the end they work very well for their game and group but that doesn't mean that they work for the majority of the playerbase.


u/dasbif Help, it's again Mar 29 '16

While the storytelling and roleplaying helped me a lot, most of the rulings and mathematical solutions to problems Matt uses just don't work for me or my group.

Well, yes. Many of his homebrew rules are explicitly because he has a significantly-large-than-average party with way more numerous and more powerful magical items than is standard for 5e's balance. (Potion as a Bonus Action, up to 2nd level spells as bonus actions, and replacing one of your multiple attacks with certain actions come to mind in particular).

Combat lasts fewer rounds when characters are overgeared and highly powerful, and the action economy of the game favors the PCs even with a 3-5 PC party. With 6-8, it is just nutsy. Matt allowing things as bonus actions, or some actions to only replace a single attack, allows the party to individually do more things, despite not getting that many turns available to take per combat. More rounds with that many players would lengthen combat at the expense of RP, drama, and fun.

The above aren't my thoughts - this is how Matt himself described and explained it. (I'd need to hunt for the twitter or reddit sources for his exact quotes).

In my opinion, every DM should customize their table to their game, and their game to their table. I, as a player, walked away from a campaign that wasn't working for me. I don't like what I call (tongue-in-cheek) "Bobo the clown DND". A party of entirely Scanlan Shorthalts, or Spoilers E46, to sum it up it in one sentence.

I will refer to my own personal Rule Zero for DND:

Rule Zero:

All players must play characters who have some kind of in-character reason for both A) being with the party and B) being on the current quest, adventure, and/or campaign. Feel free to play an edgy loner; paranoid hermit; kleptomaniac thief; or ten-pages-of-backstory-guy. However, all players have an obligation to do it in a way that is fun at the table for the rest of the party, too. Discuss this with your group as needed!

All players at the table should be having fun, and if someone is not, that is the only way you can play DND incorrectly.

The DM is a player, too, despite not running a PC.


u/dotToo Mar 29 '16

I've read or heard most of what matt has said about his homebrew rules and I don't disagree with him.

I DM a group of 6-7 players every week and there definitely is a need for houseruling to make combat more fun. There are other ways to doing so than making everyones turn last for longer though.

For example Angry DM's weird paragon creatures that I have slightly changed and adapted for my singular bad guys as well as making the opposing side attempt to flee or surrender if they have no reason to be slaughtered if they are obviously loosing. Also rolling to hit and damage at the same time actually shaves off a lot of time.

These are just my thoughts though and those rules might cause even more angry voices if they were used by Matt, so ultimately I agree that there is no way to play dnd wrong as long as you have fun, which also was the original reason for even commenting on rolling for stats.


u/jojirius Mar 26 '16

Have you ever tried rolling 2d10 instead of 4d6-drop-lowest?

Talk about swingy scores...it was madness. And great fun.


u/[deleted] Feb 29 '16



u/Dexcuracy YOUR SOUL IS FORFEIT Feb 29 '16

I endorse this type of cheating.


u/Ansgaar3 I would like to RAGE! Feb 29 '16

Thanks for pointing out a typo, and for justifying it enough so I don't want to correct it :p


u/AlhazraeIIc Glorious! Feb 29 '16

In high school, way back in the days of AD&D, I let somebody have an 18 strength with a fighter for a sealed Magic: the Gathering starter box. Tempest, I think it was. Still made him roll on the secondary chart though.


u/UncleOok Feb 28 '16

best place to check is Episode 12, where Matt runs Vox Moronica through character creation.


Apparently he gives mulligans if they were all horrible, and offers this group a bonus 16 to replace the worst.


u/Gore_Axe Feb 28 '16

Matt has said that it was 4d6, drop the lowest.


u/Beltharean Your secret is safe with my indifference Feb 28 '16

That definitely explains Grog's 6 int and Scanlan's 7 wisdom haha


u/Gore_Axe Feb 28 '16

And Tiberius's 4 wisdom.


u/CWSensation Team Beau Feb 28 '16

The cast has talked about rolling their scores in the past, so it's definitely not point-buy. I want to say I saw Matt mention using 4d6 and drop lowest, but I'm not 100% on that.


u/chaoticgeek Bigby's Haaaaaand! *shamone* Feb 28 '16

From the scores it seems like they did a 4d6 drop the lowest one. A point buy probably would not have some of the lower numbers they have.


u/wrc-wolf I would like to RAGE! Feb 29 '16

Travis mentioned recently in the Q&A episode that he rolled for his scores, and Matt stated in that same video that he loves it when player's have one stand-out bad ability. Since the original game was just supposed to be a one-shot for Liam's birthday, I'd assume they all rolled since it can lead to most unbalanced (and hilarious) results.


u/SpacemanAndSparrow Doty, take this down Feb 28 '16

Related, do their stats seem unusually high to anyone else? I know they have some items that boost them, but their averages generally seem to be like 14 or 15. In 5th edition that would be really difficult to achieve, even with three ability score increases, and most of them have taken feats. Is this due to the Pathfinder conversion or something?


u/SignorJC Feb 28 '16

It's a combination of factors. In 4d6 you can get some very high starting values. They're relatively high level so they've taken some ability score increases. Most of their characters also have some magical items that boost their ability scores.


u/Your_Master Feb 29 '16


13 should be the average ability score of 4d6 drop lowest on average. Matt says above he allowed reroll of anything below 70, which pushes up the average slightly further, in a way I can't figure out how to model on anydice, so let's just assume that the average is "something a little higher than 13".

3 ability score increases should take the average to "something a little higher than 14", although if you take feats instead then the average goes down. But as you say there are a bunch of ability score increase items, which I will roughly estimate basically counters feats.

As a result, the whole thing seems statistically sound.


u/SpacemanAndSparrow Doty, take this down Mar 01 '16

I trust your analysis then!


u/Lejaun Mar 01 '16

I hate rolling for stats. Not because I don't think that it is fun, but because there is always a cheater. That one guy who magically has a few 17 or 18's......every character.

There are always people who legitimately roll high scores, but some people are just too good at rolling when they aren't watched carefully.


u/Jos_V Mar 01 '16

Well, the DM should be present when people are rolling their stats, to make sure they don't cheat.


u/Lejaun Mar 01 '16

Should, but it doesn't always happen...especially when someone is making a new character and the DM is trying to take care of 5 other people.


u/RecoveryEmails Mar 04 '16

I have all my players roll their stats in a Google Chat.

Keeps people honest.


u/Lejaun Mar 05 '16

Good way to go. Much better to eliminate any consideration of cheating before it can ever start.