In CRPGs, perhaps the single most important activity is creating your character. You will have to live with it through the entire game (unless you made some horrible mistakes and have to start over). So coming up with good beginning stats is important.

At the start of CRPG gaming, the most widely-used method was virtual dice rolls. Often – though not always – these were based on 3d6 (the AD&D standard). Typically, you chose race and sex, then hit the “roll dice” button until a set of numbers came up that satisfied you, after which you chose the class.

This could take awhile, as in those days, you were creating an entire party rather than a single character. It could also be frustrating: all the numbers are good, except the main one for the class you have in mind.

I recall vaguely there was at least one Might & Magic where, after rolling dice, you could switch the stats around. So if, say, your fighter had 10 strength and 18 intelligence, you could exchange them. That was handy and helped reduce creation time somewhat.

With the move to single-character games, creation methods changed. These days, there are three main types:

The Diablo/Titan Quest cookie-cutter system. Choose a pre-generated character. Then at level gain, distribute so many points among stats and skills to customize it. Where you can put points – especially skill points – is often limited.

The Elder Scrolls system allows for some versatility, since you can create your own unique class besides taking a pre-generated one. Your choice of race, sex, major skills, favored stats, favored style (combat, magic, stealth), and birth sign all combined to provide the character’s abilities.

All these numbers are fixed; no rolling goes on below the surface. Once you know what they are, it’s not too hard to sit down and work out the best choices for the type of character you want.

In this system, skills go up by in-game usage or training. Stats increase at level gain, and by how much is controlled by skills. Use a lot of dex-based ones, and you’ll be able to increase dexterity by several points.

And then we have the Neverwinter Nights system. Here all characters begin with the same dismally-substandard set of stats. Then, from a fixed pool of points, you increment the stats of choice. The higher you make them, the more points are needed to raise them.

This method usually yields one or two high stats, with most of the others being mediocre, in the 10 or so range. Over time – every four levels – you can increase one stat by a point. It isn’t much, but sometimes is helpful.

These three have one big advantage over dice rolls: they are faster, much faster. That’s an important consideration now, as many CRPGs come with the ability to play online.

Consider NWN online. The first time I entered The Light Reborn, I had to create my character, since all characters are stored on the DM’s server. Who knows how long it might have taken, if the game used dice rolls?

So when it comes to MP, the quickie systems are necessary, especially if you can’t create the character offline first. Most online games don’t allow that, for the obvious reason: to prevent cheating.

When it comes to single-player games, though, is there a reason to keep the dice-roll system? For us veterans, maybe. I’d have no problem sitting there and re-rolling until I was happy with the results (after all, we all know I RTFM first ;).

However, for many gamers these days, patience seems to be at a premium. They want to start playing as soon as possible. And yes, I know, even some “old-timers” might not have the time to do the roll-ups.

Also, with cheat codes enabled in so many products, it’s easy to adjust stats in the game and give your character whatever numbers you want. Especially if you think that, say, the point-buy system is too cheap.

With the trend not only towards single-character games, but “action/RPG” as well, it seems the days of “roll your own” are over. Whether any of the replacement systems are as good or better….well, that’s another matter. Personally, I’d rather have the dice rolls. In the mantime, I make do with what’s there (DebugMode 1…)miniscorp