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I was watching some Critical Role last night, and one of the players had a -3 modifier to Insight (his Wisdom score of 7 didn't help). And that made me wonder:

What would be the lowest modifier you could create while staying within the normal, official rules?

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-28 to all ability checks

I will give this a try and assume for the time being I can bring a nearly unlimited number of friends(or foes). I find it surprisingly hard to really push the modifier down, but this is my shot at it.

Lets start with the easy part, roll unlucky and you get a score of 3 in Dexterity, giving you a -4 for any ability checks you make.

Spells: -10

Now some enemies will cast a number of spells at our target (we assume all possible saves fail):

  • Raise Dead giving you -4 on ability checks

  • Synaptic Static You have to substract 1d6 from every ability check you make during the duration

Magic items: -2

Now we grab ourselves some magic items to even further curse ourselves (quite literally):

Enemies and "friends" abilities: -12

Have a College ot Lore Bard use their cutting words feature on you, giving you a penalty of one roll of their bardic inspiration dice. We assume the bard is at least level 15, so their die is a d12.

End result

With that, we reach a total of -28 to all ability checks.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Some more options/penalties can be found in this answer to "What is the lowest possible Constitution saving throw modifier for a player character?". \$\endgroup\$ Nov 23 at 11:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Most of these questions assume the worst possible rolls, not the best \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Nov 23 at 11:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would assume that too, which is why I voted to close the really unclear question \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Nov 23 at 11:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can only find -12 (-4 from RD, -2 from Slow, -6 from SS) in the spells section. Have I missed something? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 23 at 14:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Slow as linked doesn't seem to give -2 to DEX ability checks only to DEX saving throws \$\endgroup\$
    – SilentAxe
    Nov 23 at 15:34

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