Last night I was reading about +Erik Tenkar rolling an 18 for a character he was playing at the North Texas Role-Playing Games Convention he had recently attended (see What Makes Rolling 3d6 in Order So Special? for more) and it got me to thinking about how I like to roll my ability scores. For years my friends and I would roll three sets of 4d6, discarding the lowest die result, and arrange each grouping as we saw fit. This method made high ability scores relatively common place and it wasn't unusual to have several players at the table who didn't have an ability with a score lower than 14. In many ways that method feels like the beginner's mode of dice rolling to me today.
In early 2006 I picked up a copy of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide for $3.46 at a used bookstore (it was a third printing for those of you who care about such things). I can still remember the first time that I opened the book and started working my way through it, fascinated by the differences between how I played and how the game used to be played - at least according to the book. After reading through the Dungeon Master's Guide over the course of several weeks I came to the conclusion that I no longer liked the method we had been using for years.
I decided to start experimenting with how we rolled our ability scores. At first I decided that we should roll in hard mode (which even Gary discourages) and had my players use a single set of 3d6, in order, but the results weren't very satisfying. The players who always seem to roll high continued to have good scores, but those of us who the dice gods hate (read me and Icarus) would often find ourselves playing characters without a single score above 10 and most of our results in the single digits. After that initial failure of a change we tried a variety of different methods ranging from going back to our original method, to multiple sets, to even rolling d10s. In the end the method that provided the most satisfying results was rolling two sets of 3d6, in order, and picking the best result for each ability score.
So how do you roll your ability scores?