Here’s Kevin Siembieda in Palladium Fantasy second edition answering this age old question:
That’s up to the Game Master. Many role-playing games allow players to reroll a particularly bad attribute or to roll two or three characters and pick the one they want. Personally, I don’t have a problem with any of this, although I suggest players try creating a randomly rolled, (mostly) unmodified character and “role-play” with what fate gives ’em. However, if a player is shooting for a particular O. C. C. and misses the attribute requirement(s) by 1-3 points, I often let the player bump up those few attributes to the minimum requirement so he or she can play that O. C. C. Having experimented often with different methods of role-playing and character creation, I’ve even allowed players to pick a character class and make up attribute numbers they think are appropriate (subject to my final approval and modification). Don’t forget that physical attributes can be “bumped up” through training/skill selection.
Remember, role-playing should be flexible, so the Game Master can go with whatever works best for him and his players. Just be consistent and fair. The bottom line is to have fun.
Okay, you’re talking about bags of hit points with some combat stats, skills, and special abilities here. That’s it! And this is in a sprawling game like Palladium Fantasy with something like four times the number of character classes as Basic D&D, too. Is it really that big of a deal to be barred from a particular class…?
Actually, it is. In “nobody dies” gaming, it’s very very very important to get the class you want. Why…? Because you want to stand around, vicariously looking cool in the precise way you want to do it. And because you’re not ever going to get a chance to try something different, you’re really going to want have the class you want up front.
Notice the lack of constraints on both sides of the gameplay. The “flexible” Game Master bends the rules in character generation so that players can get what they think they want. Then during the adventure, “whatever works” ends up being more bending of the rules so that the players can avoid the character death that they think they don’t want.
The problem here is the tacit assumption that the constraints of the game are somehow in opposition to the bottom line of “having fun.” But they really aren’t! Constraints are what give the game its definition, its form. They define what’s normal, what’s rare, what’s unique. They create a problem space that players can move around in and take chances in. They’re what make choice and loss and opportunity meaningful in the context of the game.
Consider the archetypal geriatric Merchant character from Classic Traveller that people occasionally insist on playing just so they can get a spaceship. Is it really fair to the referee and the rest of the players that the party should be tied down helping pay off some old dude’s mortgage and hunting for anagathics on the side…? If only we had some sort of consistent and fair means of adjudicating something like this!
And we do. It’s called character generation. And man, I love seeing players like that sit down at the table with their grand visions and then watch them all evaporate with a single die roll. Sorry, old man! You’re playing a one term Army character thanks to that failed enlistment role. Oh, and by the way… because of the draft, you aren’t eligible for commission. Erase that Mechanic-1 there, guy!
And then there’s the guy with lousy stats that joins the Scout Service with plans for failing a survival roll so he can make up a better character… only to go four or five terms before failing a re-enlistment roll…! It’s characters like that that are really fun to play. Stuff like that is better than any back story players are liable to bring to the table anyway. And then there’s the oddities that change the entire campaign on the spot. Bob is a Baron…? For real? What are y’all going to do with that?!
And why are people so hung up on having a character start out with a starship in Traveller anyway? You honestly mean to tell me that their game group is unable to look at their collective Mustering out benefits and then cook up some sort of scheme to commandeer, steal, or hijack one? Really…?
Oh, they’ll figure it out. And if they don’t it’s only going to be because they got distracted by something way more awesome. Unless they end up marooned on Gath and they are lucky if they can scrounge up enough cash in risky knife fights that they can afford to get Low Passage to yet another dead end backwater world. But that’s another story….
Trust the dice. They’re what make all this possible.
And what you think you want is holding back your game.