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I've recently started a new D&D 5e campaign that is mainly roleplaying focused. One of my players is playing a barbarian gnome, and rolled all of their stats... and got a 25 for strength (and 18's and 19's for all other stats). The party is level one. When I asked if they could reroll/balance their character, they said it "didn't work" without it. I want to make the fights balanced, and I can't give any of my players loot at the moment.

The table was using Standard Array stats; problem player used 4d6 stats + racial modifications (according to them). Don't know how they got the 18, 19, etc. though.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh and Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already and see the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mintmochamath You mean they used straight 4d6, not 4d6 with dropping the lowest die? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ well there's yer problem... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 16:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also note that as per PHB the ability scores for player characters can't be higher than 20, so that's another reason his stats can't be correct. \$\endgroup\$
    – RHS
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 8:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ How exactly did they get a 25 by the standard roll 4d6 drop lowest? That’s max 18. Also did they roll in front of you or by themselves and just showed up with the character? Also why are they rolling when everyone else uses standard array? \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Mar 12, 2023 at 20:40

3 Answers 3

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They misunderstood the rules for score generation.

Step 3 of the rules for step-by-step character creation tell you how to determine your ability scores:

Roll four 6-sided dice and record the total of the highest three dice on a piece of scratch paper.

To get numbers like you describe in the question, they must have missed the bit about dropping the lowest value die from each 4d6 roll.

So just ask them to reroll their stats using the correct method. Those are the rules. If their build "doesn't work" without horribly overpowered ability scores, that's tough, but they will get over it. Everyone else at the table will have more fun because everyone will be playing by the same rules.

Alternatively, you might consider allowing everyone else at the table to reroll their ability scores without dropping the lowest die from each 4d6. I generally would not recommend this solution to most DMs, as it can make balancing combat even more difficult and eliminates Challenge Rating as a useful tool for balancing encounters, but if you are an experienced DM who has run some tier 3 and higher games (party level 11+) where primary and secondary ability scores tend closer to 20 anyway, you might consider it.

Either way, the important thing here is that everyone builds their characters using the same rules. That is the only way to keep things even close to fair and balanced.

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    \$\begingroup\$ discussed this w the player and they said they realized their mistake and said they would use standard array!! thanks so much :) \$\endgroup\$
    – metror
    Commented Mar 10, 2023 at 16:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ That is why you roll in front of the DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Mar 11, 2023 at 8:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mintmochamath - you can always use point-buy method ( dndbeyond.com/sources/basic-rules/… ) to allow more flexibility in builds \$\endgroup\$
    – Sarge
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 5:35
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The method for determining the scores was used incorrectly

There are multiple methods in the official rules which you should not deviate from unless it is a conscious choice and was discussed with the group beforehand. Your question implies that neither is the case for you so sticking with the official rules is probably best.

Rolling for the scores is one method described and it uses 4d6 but discards the lowest result. The maximum achievable this way is 18, the same as with 3d6, the method used just makes the scores somewhat higher on average than with 3d6. The scores you describe indicate that 4d6 was used without dropping the lowest die. In which case base scores as high as 24 can result - plus ability score increases (ASIs) which explains the 25.

Another important point to notice is that player character ability scores are generally assumed to not surpass 20. That cap is not absolute but you can assume that it applies unless otherwise noted. See this question for some context.

The game balance between monsters and player characters in D&D 5E is rather loose and does favor the PCs anyway. All characters being strong is often not a problem and if it is, it is generally easy to fix by occasionally making encounters harder (adding more or stronger monsters).

The problem in your case is an unbalance between the different characters which does a) create an unfun play experience in most cases because the less powerful characters may feel “useless” for example and because it makes it harder for you to supply appropriate challenges, i.e., if all characters are very strong you can use harder encounters, but if one characters is much stronger, making appropriate encounters for them can easily be deadly for others.

There are not really any good options to fix this other than bringing all characters on a similar power level. The easiest option is to have the player in question make new stats. Tell them, assuming it was an honest mistake rather than any kind of ill intent, why it is important that characters have a similar power level. Also explain how to correctly determine stats and ask them to do that.

I have some more detailed explanations on balance below.

Discussing concerns of balance

The balance of monster stats in D&D 5E is pretty loose anyway and one or a two points of attack modifier won't change this too much. After all, the system assumes that no magic items are used because they're strictly optional but giving players weapons with a +1 or +2 bonus doesn't ruin the game. When I run games I also tend to be rather loose with the rules, e.g. I allow players a +3 ASI instead of +2/+1 to two different scores. I have found that neither has negatively influenced my game. That said, the difference from about 18 to 20 which is the typical maximum to 25 is equal to a +2 or +3 additional attack bonus which can have a significant impact. It is also better to stick closer to the rules the less experienced you are. The longer you run games the better your ability to foresee the impact of allowing or modifying certain things. You have to decide for yourself whether you feel ready, if you are unsure stick with the rules.

Concerning balance between characters, it is typical that characters are not on equal footing in all situations and it is good that way because a) it creates team play and opportunity for everyone to really shine and b) customization is an important reason to play RPGs. Taken to the extreme, however, like in your case, unbalanced parties will almost always create unfun gameplay, because a too powerful player can “monopolize” the game by resolving most challenges leaving no space for the other players, and because challenges will often be either trivial for the powerful player or problematically hard for the others. Therefore, all players need to adhere to the same rules to avoid this. It is important to note, that rolling for stats, even with the same rules for everyone can always create the same problem if someone rolls particularly high or low values. Many people like rolling scores and it is traditional but the potential of this happening needs to be considered when deciding how to determine scores. I can remember a case of this happening, I was a player in this case and it was D&D 3.5 but the same problems could appear in 5E: I dont’t remember the exact numbers but we rolled stats and I got lucky with I think no score under 10 and most over 14 and another player got rather low scores and it created feels-bad moments because my character was so strong in combat and the other one often felt useless in combat.

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It’s entirely possible to have a minimum of 16 in every stat and I tend to let my players choose to use array, rolls or point buy.

BUT I am able to trust my players however there’s is no way they are starting with a legit 25 in any stat at level 1.

Also the starting with a max of 20 is BEFORE racial ability score increases. But that would still only get them to 22 or 23 max.

If they are an experienced ttrpg gamer stop playing with them, they are a cheater. If not let them know they accidentally forgot to drop the lowest.

And in the future always make any rolls that happen, happen in the group.

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    \$\begingroup\$ there is no racial that would get you to 25 and no proper application of the method of rolling 4d6 and discarding one can get you any outcome of above 18 before racials. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 10:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems factually incorrect. The maximum before ASI is 18 and the maximum RAW racial ASI is +2. The answer would also benefit from having more of a structure I think. \$\endgroup\$
    – Anagkai
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 12:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Technically, you could use Custom Lineage to get +3 racial mod to one stat. But it still wouldn't be able to go above 20. \$\endgroup\$
    – RallozarX
    Commented Mar 17, 2023 at 22:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RallozarX Where are you getting that from? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 1:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Custom Lineage gives you +2 to an ability score of your choice as well as a feat. You can take a feat that gives you +1 to the same ability score to get a total of +3 to it. \$\endgroup\$
    – RallozarX
    Commented Mar 18, 2023 at 7:27

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