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One of my players rolled up a character with extremely low stats even after applying all his class and race bonuses: +3, 0, 0, -1, -2 and -3. The player chose Bard as their class.

Considering that the rest of the party rolled average or above average stats, I felt bad so decided to grant him the Lucky feat at level 1 with the idea that he's lucky to be still alive in the D&D world as an adventurer with stats like these!

Are there any foreseeable balance issues by granting feats at level 1 in situations where characters are really under powered compared to other party members?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What balance issues are you worried for? All I can see is "table balance" where potentially your other members will envy the player who rolled badly. Or are you worried about mechanical balance? What goals do you want to achieve by giving free feat? To console the player? To make sure the character will still be useful compared to other characters? \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Nov 29 '18 at 3:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/97315/… \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Nov 29 '18 at 3:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Vylix I was mainly worried about mechanical balance but now that you mention it, table balance could be a thing - and I may have opened up the door to 'nerfing' characters that roll extremely well. I granted the feat because I felt really bad at first (one of the stats started off as a 4!) \$\endgroup\$ – link64 Nov 29 '18 at 6:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ How was their reaction when they know the result of the roll? Have you asked how they feel playing a bad stat character? \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Nov 29 '18 at 6:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ And is Lucky the only feat you are giving to this player? Or do you just give them only a free feat to choose? What books do you allow, if you let them choose? \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Nov 29 '18 at 7:25
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It will leave the character underpowered

Usually characters start with a +3 or +4 modifier to their primary stat and +1 or +2 for their secondary stats. The primary score of +3 redeems a lot, but depending on the class, the low secondary abilities might be a significant drawback. A feat is nominally worth about one ASI, and your character needs two just to get their character to be at the usual starting numbers.

In a nutshell, this manifests as the PC likely having less HP, bad use of their class abilities using secondary ability scores and bad skills, while the PC will be more easily subject to enemy spells because of their overall low scores and will likely have a low AC because of poor Dexterity. Lucky is mechanically a good feat to compensate low scores, but its impact is limited. The character may still perform well in some situations that require less rolls, eg. support magic, but is still pretty weak compared to the expected character of their level. Do note that support magic tend to require concentration, effectively limiting the possibility of basing a character around just support magic.

Another way to compare this is through Variant Humans who gain slightly worse ability scores than more specialized races but instead one free feet. The difference in abilities between them and a specialized race is just a single point in their primary attribute. That's closer to the true value of a feat.

Use point buy/standard array

If you want a balanced party, don't roll for stats. The standard array is a good, well-rounded assignment of ability scores with reasonably focused high stats but no totally dump stats. Point buy is also an option, but it tends to invite analysis-paralysis to some players because it's easy to see as an optimization puzzle.

Give your players the option to switch to the standard array now or during the game after a few sessions, and you don't need to try balancing it with Lucky.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The relevant player has (as I read it) a +3 modifier in his primary stat; it's that everything else is at +0 or below. That doesn't change the core of your answer, but means your first two paragraphs are looking at the wrong issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Danny Cuppen Nov 29 '18 at 6:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman: Oh, I somehow understood that meaning 13. Well, time to adjust! (Ditto to Danny) \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Nov 29 '18 at 6:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Looks good! One minor note: For the vast majority of characters (including the Bard in question), the low secondary scores will manifest as low AC as well as low HP. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Nov 29 '18 at 8:27
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Those are pretty low scores, a feat would definitely help but only a little. If it were up to me I would have them reroll all their stats. If that's not an option, give them extra luck points or let them switch to the standard stats or point buy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer might be improved by expanding on why the scores are so low that a feat would not balance them out (i.e. gameplay implications of the overly low scores, and why a feat wouldn't solve those issues). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 29 '18 at 22:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think I'm veresd enough in the rules to add that information accurately, if you think you know the rules well enough to alter my answer with that information please do so. \$\endgroup\$ – Josiah Riggan Nov 30 '18 at 22:16

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