Rolling 2d4 - 4 for modifiers?


I was thinking the other night about how to simplify rolling for stats. I wanted to find something that didnt have to take an initial result and then convert that into something else like the 3d6 setup. I won’t necessarily use this only for ICRGP, but I thought this could be a good spot to post.

I ended up kind of liking 2d4-4 and would like to hear some feedback. It seems like it would give enough variation while statistically not getting out of hand

  • it rolls an average of +1
  • it gives a range of -2 to +4
  • it has a 18.75% chance to roll a negative, or greater than +2 (that’s the chance for each range)
  • that leaves a 65% chance to be in the 0, 1 or 2 range

here is a link to the stats on such a roll

The Joy of Bad Stats
The Joy of Bad Stats

It would work. If needing a good analog for OSR.

Or you can use your preferred build system and just note the pluses.

But this is quick.


Your timing is perfect,

i’m making my new players roll random stats for their randomly generated characters and was gonna use the 3d6 system then convert over, but your 2d4-4 is so simple which makes it ICRPG flavored.

Thank you for sharing.


i really like this. it would be great to use instead of a point buy system and i love the random chance of rolling stats. im gonna use this for my games from now on :slight_smile:

having the stat range from -2 to +4 can also be good for using static number distribution. -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4. i mean there are 6 base stats and 7 numbers there, so depending on your group and how hardcore you wanna get you can just delete one of the choices. get rid of the -2 if you want your characters to be strong, remove the 0 for medium, and remove the +4 if you are a devilishly cruel GM ;).

alternatively, you can add 4 extra numbers of your choice to cover the effort/ armor as well. really, this was a pretty cool idea for stat generation. thanks a bunch!.


We had an interesting discussion about this formula on the Immortals discord server last night. To recap, I saw this post yesterday and pulled out some dice and rolled up some quick stats, straight down the line, using the 2D4 - 4 formula. And here‘a what I rolled:

Str 0, Dex 4, Con 3, Int 4, Wis 1, Cha 3

It was super lucky, to be sure, but I was struggling because that off-the-cuff character ended up being the equivalent of a 15 point build. Someone else, using that same formula, could easily end up with the equivalent of a 4 point build.

So, I had two other guys also roll up characters using that formula, and we ended up with the equivalents of a 10 point build and a 4 point build.

At that point, we had a wild party in terms of stat disparity, and I had to wonder if the 4 point player might not get a little jaded if the 10 point guy and I excelled at nearly every task while he struggled.

I’m not knocking this method by any means, and my test case is a rare one, no doubt, but it caught me off guard and really got me thinking about this method. Because if the potential for a 15 point build exists in the same spread as a 4 or lower point build, I think DMs have to be prepared to answer that disparity when Joe crushes through everything while John struggles.


Yes results vary as I rolled up about 20 test rolls and some were all negatives with a +4 in CON.

I think to temper this, I think the GM should make the 4 point build rollers have more chance to earn ability modifier bonuses through roleplaying and repeat successes.

Maybe the 4 point person is the Bilbo Baggins of the group while others are more vetted adventurers and through sessions become more adept earning that +1 here and there


For sure. But I see this as a bit of the DM having to continually fix the sins of the past as the game progresses. If at level up time, Thorin Oakenshield gets a milestone, but Bilbo gets a milestone AND a stat point to catch him up to Thorin, you’re just fixing an issue that started at the jump with the stat creation method. Or even, under your example, the player playing Bilbo has to focus on RP moments (maybe unlike other players) to try to bump their stats, or if s/he gets extra stat bonuses as the game goes along to compensate (when the other players do not), then again I see that as the DM having to try to fix something that could have been solved at the jump.

Whichever way you “fix” it going forward, it’s still accounting for disparity built into the stat creation method from the start. You can do that, of course, but maybe it’s worth seeing if there isn’t a formula with tighter outputs.


All fair points Alex.

I guess the easiest “fix” from the jump would be to have a minimum point value lets say 6 as an example.

If you don’t get at least 6 points, then start over.


And if nothing else, a glorious death will lead to a new character haha


An elegant solution.


I agree with this a lot! Rolling for stats in other games always felt like you either get screwed over or you’re cheating. Player agency is the king for me when it comes to character choices, and you can always allow newbies to re-distribute their build the next session if feeling like they screwed it.


If I was going to do an old school “you’re stuck with what you rolled” thing for ICRPG, I’d just tell them they have 6 build points and let them roll that many d12.

For each 1 rolled, +1 STR; 2s get you a +1 DEX; … … ; 6s are +1 CHA; 7s are ARMOR; 8s BASIC; 9s WEAPON; and 10s are MAGIC; 11s ULTIMATE; and for 12s… reroll, adding another d12 to your build pool.

That said, I’m with the folks who prefer to pick Stats. This way of doing it would be a one-off at my table.


Happy CakeDay @Nimlouth!


The whole point of rolling for stat is to create variety, or as you call it, disparity. I’m not gonna fault anyone for doing a standard point distribution system if that’s not what makes sense for their table.


Oh, sure. Absolutely. I’m just honing in on three points:

One, the fact that 2D4-4 results in a spread of 24 to -12. And that’s a pretty big gulf.

Two, so if you end up with some characters with 15 point builds while others have 4 point builds, you’re going to have some characters who are super successful at checks and attempts and others who aren’t. We’ve seen enough concern over the speed quiver around here to know that great disparity in damage, for example, makes the less fortunate chafe a little. I suspect it would be the same here. While Mary constantly crushes through every task, Joe might sulk a little. Also, a huge gulf makes it harder on you as the DM to assess a universal target number.

Three, if there is chafing at your table, you may have to regulate it as the DM and feel compelled to play a little “catch up” with your less fortunate characters.

Like anything, I’m not knocking disparity or your idea @RH1N0. I love rolling 3D6 straight down the line. And I think 2D4-4 will work. But from a DM or a game design standpoint, when you end up with a spread of -12 to 24 for stats (not attributes that mitigate a little with a range, but stats/modifiers), it helps to know the cost/benefit analysis: what you’re gaining and what you lose when you change things up.

As we talked through this yesterday, @James_Horn had a good solution for the vast gulf, and that was to ensure all builds are at least 6 point builds, or some variant. But, if you’re good with -12 to 24, rock on dude. If that works for you and your table, press.

The idea of rolling 2D4-4 (also 1D4-1) has been around since the google+ days of the forum, but I never played with it much until you posted it again. And the anecdotal, off-the-cuff rolls I got surprised me. It generated some great conversation about the pros and cons of rolling random stats. But that’s all it has been for me. Conversation.


@Alex The whole debate about rolling vs point buy/distribution will long be a point of contention for a number of reasons. You’re totally right about how and why it will or won’t work for some tables and not for others. However, I was trying to focus more on contrasting the methods for rolling for stats.

That being said, I likely would set a total point minimum where a player would get to distribute additional points to meet the minimum total or simply reroll. However, I did enjoy the comment by @James_Horn about glorious PC deaths.


Hahahahaha. Yes, there’s always that. :joy:


Last Sunday we rolled up 18 characters with this method. As a table we agreed to no min point count.

We got some interesting heroes from across the spectrum of 4 point builds to 12 point builds. We had 6 glorious deaths that night and the group only made it half way through the dungeon.

Everyone said they loved it and can’t wait to roll up some more randomly stated characters.

Thanks again @RH1N0 for sharing this post.


Glad it worked out for you @James_Horn

After seeing some of the comments, I got curious and had to write a python script to see what the percent chances were for the combined totals of 6 rolls. There’s almost 50% chance the total will be in the range of 4-8 and the chance of being in the range of 1-11 is about 85%.

For anyone that’s curious, you can see the google sheet I transposed my results to. I also put my python code on one of the pages in there in case anyone wants to play with it.


there’s also AnyDice out there…


Your absolutely right @Nimlouth. I even used anydice initially to get the stats for a single roll. Of course, being me, I way over thought things and didn’t realize 12d4 - 24 would be the simple way to work it out. Luckily, it only took about 10 minutes and I enjoy writing little scripts as a hobby. To me it’s sort of like working on puzzles in a way.