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My character is a forest gnome and at level 1 I have 34 charisma because I have max charisma stat (25), a +7 modifier, and an enchanted lute that gives me +2 charisma, so 25 + 7 + 2 = 34. Is this right? Is this allowed to have at level 1?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you provide more details about your character build? I'm confused by the statement "I have 34 charisma because I have max charisma stat", which seems a bit circular. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2021 at 19:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov It looks like Tonpa had Cha 25 (referred to as “max charisma stat,” unclear how this was determined), calculated a Cha mod of +7, applied that to the score to get 32, and then added +2 from “an enchanted lute.” \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 9, 2021 at 19:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JMR It seems very clear to me that the querent does not know. It becomes our responsibility to explain how ability scores are generated. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 9, 2021 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tonpa How are you creating your character? pencil & paper? an app? a website? If via an app or website, can you provide a link? Did your DM/GM give your character the lute? \$\endgroup\$
    – Journer
    Nov 9, 2021 at 19:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ While we're dropping lots of comments, allow me to say "welcome," Tonpa =) And regardless of formatting or missing info, I say "good instinct" to you for coming to sanity-check that 34 before it went too far. Happy gaming, and feel free to swing through Role-playing Games Chat with other, little questions or just to chat and say 'hi.' \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Nov 10, 2021 at 1:13

4 Answers 4

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As others have said, what edition you're using matters a lot. But since it sounds like you're new to the game and because this was tagged with "dnd-5e", I'm assuming 5E.

But no, this is not correct - first, you say you have "max charisma stat", but 25 is not possible using standard rules. You typically roll 4d6 and drop the lowest number, so even if you got all 6s, you'd end up with 18 (after dropping one). Some races include boosts to CHA, but Forest Gnome is not one of those (all Gnomes get +2 INT and Forest Gnomes get +1 DEX); newer rules let you re-apply racial bonuses to different traits, but none could get you to 25. In addition, natural scores (without additional items) above 20 are almost completely capped (there are a few exceptions based on class but those likely don't apply here). There is another cap (including items) at 30, as well. So telling us where that 25 came from would help a lot.

But let's say for whatever reason your DM has allowed you to start with a 25 CHA - your modifier is determined by that, it doesn't affect it. So a 25 CHA would have a +7 modifier, but that +7 modifies checks, not the score itself. What that means is when doing an ability check for CHA, you'll roll a D20 and add 7 to it. But if your CHA is actually 18, your modifier is +4 (which is still very good).

The lute gives a +2 to your CHA score, so if it is 25, that puts it at 27, which increases your modifier from +7 to +8 (from +4 to +5 if your CHA is actually 18).

As for your last question, if this is allowed or not, that's entirely up to your DM - the rules are defined in general terms and if your DM wants you to let you have a 25 or 34 charisma score, that's up to them. But it would make your character basically godly in terms of persuasion and wouldn't make for a very balanced game. Probably there was a mistake made here, but it should be easy to fix.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A useful addition might also be to keep in mind the absolute "nothing can go over it" cap of 30 for any given ability score, in addition to the arguments / explanation you already provided. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tobias F.
    Nov 9, 2021 at 21:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Soft cap at 20 is worth mentioning as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Nov 9, 2021 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good callouts, updated the post! \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2021 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ This answer is right, but given the language in the op and the misinterpretation of the rules (or lack of reading them) I feel this needs to be much clearer and could do with covering ways of creating characters. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Nov 10, 2021 at 13:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Honestly the OP probably just needs to sit down with their DM and have the DM walk them through all of this. Several tutorials exist for creating a character and the base rules in the PHB aren't complicated, but none of that helps to address whatever unknown issue the OP had. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 10, 2021 at 17:08
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Is this possible or allowed by the standard rules? No.

Assuming you are playing the fifth edition, at character creation you generate your character’s ability scores in one of three ways, and none of them would allow a score of 25 in any ability. This is also higher than the usual limit for all player characters of 20, though the rules do provide exceptions for that.

However your explanation of your final score of 34 shows some misunderstanding of some rules and terminology. I’ve tried to explain them plainly below, with references to the standard rules found in the Players Handbook and free Basic Rules.

Your Dungeon Master might be using houserules which change some of the below, though they would be pretty unusual ones to change some of the most fundamental rules in the game. You should check in with them as well, though.

Ability scores vs modifiers

All creatures in the game - including your character - have six ability scores, expressed as numbers between 1 and 30. For player characters they’re usually between 8 and 20 (see below). From Chapter 7: Using Ability Scores:

Each of a creature's abilities has a score, a number that defines the magnitude of that ability. An ability score is not just a measure of innate capabilities, but also encompasses a creature's training and competence in activities related to that ability.

Each ability score also has an associated modifier, which is based on the score. From the same chapter:

Each ability also has a modifier, derived from the score and ranging from -5 (for an ability score of 1) to +10 (for a score of 30). The Ability Scores and Modifiers table notes the ability modifiers for the range of possible ability scores, from 1 to 30.

This is the number you add to a dice roll to determine the final result; it modifies dice rolls, not the ability score itself.

As mentioned above, there is a table in the rules which lists the modifiers, but you can also work it out by subtracting 10 from the score, and dividing the remainder by 2, rounding down to a whole number. For a Charisma score of 25, the modifier is indeed (25-10)/2 = 7.5, rounded down to +7. If you had a Charisma of 25, and roll a Charisma check, you would add 7 to the result on the twenty-sided dice.

Generating ability scores for new characters

The three ways to generate ability scores are given as step three in Chapter 1: Step-By-Step Characters in the same sources as above. The two default options involve rolling dice or taking a standard set of numbers (usually referred to as the “standard array”). From the source:

You generate your character’s six ability scores randomly. Roll four 6-sided dice and record the total of the highest three dice on a piece of scratch paper. Do this five more times, so that you have six numbers. If you want to save time or don’t like the idea of randomly determining ability scores, you can use the following scores instead: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.

The variant method gives you points to spend on your character’s ability scores, but there are limitations. From the same chapter (emphasis mine):

You have 27 points to spend on your ability scores. The cost of each score is shown on the Ability Score Point Cost table. For example, a score of 14 costs 7 points. Using this method, 15 is the highest ability score you can end up with, before applying racial increases. You can’t have a score lower than 8.

In addition, you will usually add +2 or +1 to two or more ability scores; these bonuses usually come from your character’s racial benefits, but you may also be able to choose where they go, depending on which character creation options your Dungeon Master has allowed. But the most this will add to any one score is +2.

So even rolling randomly, and getting lucky enough to roll three sixes, the highest score you can possibly roll for a starting character is 18. If your character adds a +2 bonus to Charisma from your race or another starting bonus, you still wouldn’t be able to go higher than 20.

The maximum ability score for characters is 20, not 25

Even if the dice could roll higher, though, you are limited by the rules to a maximum of 20 without magical help or special training. From the “Beyond 1st Level” section in Chapter 1: Step By Step Characters:

When your character gains a level, his or her class often grants additional features, as detailed in the class description. Some of these features allow you to increase your ability scores, either increasing two scores by 1 each or increasing one score by 2. You can’t increase an ability score above 20.

And for context, from the Using Ability Scores chapter:

A score of 10 or 11 is the normal human average, but adventurers and many monsters are a cut above average in most abilities. A score of 18 is the highest that a person usually reaches. Adventurers can have scores as high as 20, and monsters and divine beings can have scores as high as 30.

There are magic items and class features that can increase scores above 20, but they specifically say this is the case - an example of the “specific beats general” advice in the opening chapter of the book, that a specific rule (for a particular class or spell, for example) can override a general one that otherwise applies to everyone. In any case these items and class features are usually unavailable to level 1 characters.

As for your lute, there are no official magical instruments that give a bonus to your Charisma score, so it is hard to say if you are interpreting those rules correctly. But if it does give a +2 bonus to your score, and not a +2 bonus to rolls when using the lute (which is powerful but more likely), it would need to specifically say it can break the cap of 20. Even so, the highest Charisma score you could have would be 22, with a corresponding modifier to add to die rolls of +6.

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No

tl;dr:

  • You can have a Charisma of 19 with the standard set or point buy generation
  • You can have a 20 with the 4d6 drop lowest
  • only with a very special magic item that ignores the soft cap of 20 you can achieve a 22.

Reasoning

Assume we have your base charisma at 25. You get a +2 from the Lute. So your (adjusted) charisma stat is 27. That is a possible value, as it is below 30, the max established in the Player Hand Book on page 173, but needs special ways to acchieve:

A score of 18 is the highest that a person usually reaches. Adventurers can have scores as high as 20, and monsters and divine beings can have scores as high as 30.

A charisma stat of 27 would give you a +8 on rolls that rely on Charisma, this is your charisma modifier: +8.

However you are only level 1. This means you generate your stats in one of these ways:

  • 4d6 drop lowest. Thus, the maximum base charisma before modifiers is 18.
    • assuming you are a race with a +2 Cha, you get a 20 and with the Lute (assuming it has the exception to allow this) 22 for a modifier of +6, otherwise, it is capped at 20 for a +5
  • Standard Set: 15,14,13,12,10,8. Thus your maximum base charisma before modifiers is 15
    • that's a 17 after including the race and with the lute 19 for a modifier of +4
  • Point Buy: This allows only to get a 15 before race, so it has the same maximum as the standard set.

Only if you happen to have a racial +3 on charisma, you'd end at 21 (for a roll of 18) and 18 (for a 15 from point buy/standard set) before the item respectively.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does lute allow to ignore soft cap at 20? I can't see why would it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Nov 9, 2021 at 21:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot I don't know if they use the lute as in the book or if the GM has a special one - which is why I said assuming it can: 22, otherwise 20. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Nov 9, 2021 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Technically, a changeling can get a racial Charisma bonus of +3, for a starting score of 21 when rolling or 18 with point buy/standard array. \$\endgroup\$
    – nick012000
    Nov 10, 2021 at 1:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well there are from what I know more than one item that allows you to increase Charisma past 20, although he Deck of Many Things is rather... unpredictable for this. Tome of Leadership and Influence might be a safer bet here. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tobias F.
    Nov 10, 2021 at 6:51
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Is it possible? Sure, via DM fiat. Can you actually roll a character with a 37 charisma? No.

First, 25 isn't "Max charisma." Generally 30 is taken as the max that could be achieved via Tomes, boons, wishes, etc. An ability score of 20 is the highest starting score for a Level 1 character per character creation rules, from an 18 dice roll and a +2 from racial ability modifiers.

A +7 modifier means that the score of 25 gives you +7 on checks or saves or attacks from that score. It does not add to the score.

A magic item can certainly increase your scores as well.

Unless you have some type of God creating your character, your max score would be 22, via a roll, a +2 to charisma via racial, and +2 for your magic item.

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