I haven't had the chance to be a player or a DM/GM/Ref/Storymaster/Arbiter/bastard/etc in quite a while and I find myself hungry to roll dice.
Hungry to the point where I've been rolling characters just roll dice.
There's a fun exercise in rolling up stats. Should you be rolling up stats with no particular type of character in mind, you can roll your stats in order and use them to decipher what type of person those stats describe.
A couple of examples, rolled 3d6 in order:
STR - 4
DEX - 7
CON - 12
INT - 6
WIS - 12
CHA - 14
The pathetic strength score and dismal intelligence could suggest a life of relative luxury, with no need for the character to flex his muscles or brain. The above average constitution further supports this hypothesis, implying an upbringing of proper nutrition and sanitary conditions. The above average wisdom and high charisma means that despite his low intelligence he's a fairly deep thinker, and quite popular, probably because he's not smart enough to be an asshole. Pretty, too.
What we have here is a cleric or priest. Probably the third son of a noble or wealthy merchant shipped off to join a monastery because, frankly, he wasn't good at anything else. He's not strong or smart enough to win glory in battle or business, but he's insightful enough to comment on philosophy when he's not being confounded by his boot laces. He's a surprising fellow, with only the occasional nugget of wisdom keeping him from being more than just a pretty face.
Essentially, we have Steve Carrell's character from Anchorman with all the wisdom of Silent Bob and the looks of Adrian Brody.
STR - 11
DEX - 7
CON - 8
INT - 17
WIS - 5
CHA - 15
A certifiable genius. All that time studying, however, has come at a price, below average dexterity and mediocre constitution tell us that this fellow didn't spend much time running through green fields and climbing trees. More likely most of his time is spent indoors pouring over his beloved tomes. He is also somewhat disconnected from the "real world" perhaps preferring to lose himself in mathematics or literature. Still, he's fairly strong, those piles of books can weigh a ton, and he's had to lug them up and down many flights of stairs. Of course, he probably hasn't realized this. He's the sort who knows the importance of lacing your boots and can describe multiple ways to do so in evermore efficient ways, depending on the situation, but lacks the foresight to tie his own before going on a walk, if he ever went on a walk. In this interpretation, his high charisma points to an "other-worldliness" about him that people find fascinating. He's so far removed from the world around him that he seems special in some strange way. He literally thinks on another level.
Here we have the beautiful genius, most likely a mage, though a fighter would be an even more interesting choice.
Of course, the above examples are just one way to interpret the numbers. In the OSR, the idea seems to be "play the character you want, numbers be damned", and I think it's the same attitude that leads people to eschew alignment. The numbers, alignment, and other things should not be seen as straightjackets, binding the player to certain mechanics, but as frameworks to be built upon.
Try to figure out what the numbers mean, find out who the character is, get inside their head and branch out a bit. The fuck the torpedoes approach ensures that you will always play the character you want to play, but I find that it also leads you to playing the same characters over and over again. Playing the numbers almost guarantees a huge amount of dissimilarity and, therefore, uniqueness in your characters.
I've had a player who, in literally every game has played incarnations of the same character: Sarion Hawk, bastard sword wielding human warrior obsessed with gaining platemail. Fuck that guy. I want to play with him one more time. I'll start his character with platemail. Left without his tradition and singular driving force, I'd like to see if he becomes paralyzed or if he will finally mature as a player.
This whole post feels too damn sanctimonious. Do what you feel, whatever, I think this is a neat way to do things, but fuck me, right?