I'm kidding of course. The original implementation was that most people would have neither a bonus or penalty to their ability scores. That made the bonus something special.
However, the expectation that players should have a bonus threw everything whopperjawed, because now systems were implemented to favor those high ability scores. Qualification for classes encouraged this trend, even though the intent was to make the classes rare. Setting was keyed into the rules, and a lot of people wanted a different setting.
Later on, in order to address this trend, ability scores ceased to be representative of the action ability, and instead became representative of skill. Having a 28 strength as a fighter in Pathfinder doesn't mean you're the size of the hulk. It means you are very good at hitting things and causing damage. (Of course by RAW, it does actually mean you're that strong -- but what does that say for your intelligence 30 wizard?)
What I'm interested in today is the long term campaign, started with an ability score auction.
Ability Score Auction
There are two methods I am familiar with, but they both work in the same way. Players are given a resource to spend on various statistics, the winner gets the statistic they want. The non-winners get the next selection in descending order.
The two methods are the experience point auction and the statistic point auction.
For the statistic point auction, players are given 10 points. Every player bids from 1-10 points on each stat. The winner receives an 18 in that stat, the second player receives a 16, the third player receives a 14 and the rest of the players receive a 10. For every point that is left over in the end, the player may raise one statistic by one point. Common variations include not being allowed to use points to raise statistics over 14 or 16, and ties causing both players to get the next lowest statistic i.e. if two players tie for second place, they will both receive a 14 instead of a 16.
The experience point auction has each player roll a set of statistics. They are given so many thousands of experience points to bid with (usually 2,000) These stats are rolled and applied in order. You should have one strength score for each player. Each player then bids for control of that strength score.
How to prevent shenanigans like the players all deciding to bid 1xp to get a head start on the game? Well, by getting everyone on board first. I think it's perfectly fine to start the event off with a discussion on what everyone wants to play so they are all on the same page. However, once the auction starts, traditional bidding for the high score or everyone writing down their bids and having a blind auction with no talking is the way to go.
Hack & Slash