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Tales From the Other Side of the Screen #2: Losing the ‘Loser Characters’

Written by MythicParty - Published on February 26, 2013

ID-10085161‘Tales From the Other Side of the Screen’ is a weekly response to Darkwarren’s DM Dispatches column, providing a Player perspective to our DM’s view.

It sucks being the odd man out.  And certainly not fitting in is a position a lot of gamers can identify with.  So I have to feel some empathy for the guy in our weekly Thursday gaming group who had all those mediocre dice rolls that Darkwarren talked about in his last column.  After all, no one wants to end up playing the party’s loser character!  It certainly didn’t help that most of the group (minus yours truly) was rolling out in the open in front of everyone, like some sort of who-has-the biggest contest, with him swimming in cold water.

That being said, Darkwarren’s offer to let people roll then take the Elite Array if the Dice Gods were unkind was pretty generous.  In fact, I’d say it was TOO generous because it essentially wipes the dice away, potentially making them meaningless.  (Full disclosure- I don’t remember that aspect to the process although I rolled for my guy on a different night.)  If you want to go for the reward of higher than the 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 of pre-selected stats, than you need to assume the risk that the numbers may not tilt in your favor this time around.  No guts, no glory right?  To get the former should mandate the latter.

I know it sounds wacky but I’d actually have liked to see an Old School 1st Edition approach: roll in order, no moving the numbers around.  Now granted the way we did character creation for the Runelords campaign I ended up with a super sweet setup but it was admittedly just a Min/Max build all the way with the backstory & roleplay coming out of those numbers later.  The put-in-order process would have resulted in more interesting results because they’d have been 100% purely organic.  Just like ‘nature’ intended.  However as intriguing as that might have been it could easily have resulted the party’s 2nd loser character, so you have to bear that possible craptastic  outcome in mind if you decide to go with Gygaxian tradition.

In the end the expression, ‘You can please all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot please all the people all the time,” most certainly applies to our hobby.  Sometimes a player is just not going to be happy with the character they rolled up.

What do YOU think?  Does it sound fun to roll everyone’s dice together?  How does your group handle so-called Loser Characters or their grumpy players?

Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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4 Responses to “Tales From the Other Side of the Screen #2: Losing the ‘Loser Characters’”
  1. LonePaladin says:

    My preferred rolling method is the Fixed Organic type (I’m not entirely sure on the name). Roll 4d6, dropping the lowest die, taking the results in order. Once all the scores are rolled, the player can make a single swap.

    This method allows everyone to make sure they have a good roll in their primary stat, but can get them results they didn’t anticipate, like a fighter with a high Charisma or a wizard with a high Strength.

  2. Ian Fleming says:

    I tend to GM high risk, high reward style games, so I do give my players a little leeway with their stats. typically I use 4d6 drop the lowest, re-roll any 1s and assign them where you see fit. The characters on average tend to only have one or two mediocre stats. It helps them survive the gauntlet.

  3. Caddoko says:

    Considering I’m a very nice DM on average I usually let my players roll stats that almost guarantee they won’t die – they’ll come close on occasion and once in a while someone does bite the dust, but it’s rare. I think I might change it up for my next campaign though, I think I want them to come to the first session with absolutley no idea who their character will be. I want to make them roll fixed scores and pick their race and class after that. Thanks for the inspiration; I think this’ll be a really different way to play.

  4. Jake says:

    Honestly, I’ve never had more fun in any of my campaigns than PLAYING the loser character. The real issue we’re dealing with here is how to make the player happy and not the character. My drunken halfling monk, who had basically poor stats all around except charisma, found himself profusely puking during most of our campaigns and only really being useful in a handful of situations. But my roleplay of him was downright hysterical. I think it’s the job of the DM to balance the game well enough that all players are crucial in their own regard. Once the PCs are used to how the DM operates, they’ll understand that any character will have a fruitful adventure.

    As a suggestion for DMs to counter the sorry stat rolls, I like to throw in a bit of GURPS style reward for players who, on purpose, give themselves traits that are major disadvantages (for no real reason other than interesting story lines- not to match stats). Wooden leg, colorblindness, three fingers, both left feet, etc. A wooden leg sounds ludacris. Why would anyone willingly let their character be so slow and attract attention. As luck would be it *ahem DM* when they’re attacked by Pirates they might be mistaken for Blackbeard’s rogue crew, peg-legged captain and all.

    As a DM, a subtle wink and nudge to your PCs while they’re developing their character reminds them that they are in good hands. The game will still be tough but rewarding. Lastly, if you really feel bad for the poor bloke who rolls shoddy stats, agree with the entire group that the fates have truly been unkind and reward him with an extra ____ (language, +2 skill points, weapon enchantment, harem of women, lucky pet, ….).

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