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To reiterate, I am not asking for a "correct"/"objective" measure of fitness, but if there exists a noteworthy attempt at one.

I'm challenging myself and some friends (who are new-ish to 5e) to each build a party using a certain set of restrictions, and see how powerful we can make them be.

By "powerful", I mean no specific thing, but rather general fitness - a party that would hopefully be ready to handle whatever one would expect to see thrown at a D&D 5e party. I recognize that such a loose definition of power or fitness would be impossible to quantify in any precise way. But in order for us to be able to compare results in our challenge, we need some kind of metric--an algorithm, a checklist, something--that we could use to evaluate our parties and come up with a number that roughly correlates with how well one could expect that party to perform.

I've been coming up with my best guess at such a metric, myself--but of course it's a highly subjective endeavour, and it would be easy for my own personal assumptions about what makes a party strong to be given undue weight. It would be much nicer if we could use a metric that already exists, especially if it's viewed as being reliable or "standard", etc.

Novak pointed out that what I'm looking for is something analogous to a Challenge Rating, but for PCs or PC parties.

A CR is imperfect and subjective (I've often seen it called "broken"), but it still correlates to monster difficulty, on average, and is still useful to some extent, and (importantly) is a recognized, noteworthy, and widely used tool. This is what my question is asking for - not a correct metric for general party fitness, but if there is a noteworthy attempt at one.

Does anyone use or know of such a thing?

Note: I would also consider a general-fitness metric intended for individual characters to be of value here, since it could be applied to each character in the party and then either straight-up averaged or be included in further calculations to try to factor in role coverage.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Am I getting this right: you want to optimize a party for some kind of metric, and you ask us, what this metric should be? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Mar 18 at 9:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you want to measure? Highest damage per round? Lowest damage per round received? Lowest number or attacks with the highest damage dealt? Highest/lowest number of spells cast? For optimization problems, you must have a clear objective. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Mar 18 at 10:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ They want something analogous to a Challenge Rating, but for groups of PCs. Answers saying this is fundamentally impossible or too subjective should be prepared to explain why, in the face of the unquestioned existence of Challenge Rating for monsters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Commented Mar 18 at 12:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak Thank you, Novak! I should definitely have referenced Challenge Rating as an analogous metric (or maybe I should say "heuristic", to hang a lantern on the fuzziness). \$\endgroup\$
    – Qami
    Commented Mar 18 at 13:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ We don’t need to signal edits in the text, just revise the question as needed. I rolled it back to your first version, please just revise the question to work in the changes you were trying to make with the Edit block. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 18 at 14:20

4 Answers 4

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No, there is no official calculator for general party fitness, because the goal is subjective

As you realized yourself, what you ask for would be very difficult to create, because there is no objective way to calculate it. There are calculators for just combat encounter balance like kobold fight club, and even those are woefully inexact when it comes to actual character capabilities — they just use PC levels as a proxy for combat fitness, ignoring that different builds can vary widely in how effective they are for combat.

How fit a group is overall is even much harder and much more subjective, to assess. It will depend heavily on the adventure or campaign you play. A megadungeon campaign will reward very different abilities than a city adventure with heavy social and intrigue focus.

There is no defined standard in the DMG, to what proportion an adventure should contain elements of combat, exploration, problem solving, and social interaction, in the way there are guidelines for combat encounter difficulty. Because of this, any such evaluator would be highly subjective, and no official or widely accepted evaluator exists.

That is not to say its a bad idea to think about how well rounded your party is and check if there are any blind spots they cannot handle — for example do they lack anyone with good charisma and social skills that can act as a party "face"? Do they have someone with access to magical healing? Etc. Here is a guide for that, but it is not an official tool.

Here is a tool that tries to do a "party roundedness" check for Pathfinder, but it is based on generic estimation of how good each class on average is in the various tasks, not on specific character builds. While I don't know of such a tool for 5e, I suspect something like that would be about as close as you can practically get. Judging from Detect Balance, wich is trying to just assess how strong race features are, doing this in a calculation based way for all classes, feats and levels for an ill-defined objective function is incredibly complex even for just character input, and prone to arguments if it is any good, no matter what.

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'Whatever' is far too broad

In order to rank parties, you need an axis on which to measure and compare them, but no such singular axis exists. Instead, 'whatever might be thrown at them' includes challenges along many, many axes and without defining how they are going to be compared, comparisons are meaningless.

Broadly speaking, the game is conceived of as containing three kinds of challenges, called "The Three Pillars of Adventure":

Adventurers can try to do anything their players can imagine, but it can be helpful to talk about their activities in three broad categories: exploration, social interaction, and combat.

A party optimized for combat will likely be bad at social interaction, and vice versa, just as an individual member of the party optimized for one will be bad at the others. One type of optimization is trying to make a 'balanced' party, making sure that it is reasonably capable of handling all three challenges, but such a party, dropped into a campaign that favors one of the pillars over another, will score poorly compared to one that happens to be optimized for the 'right thing'.

Even against one pillar, the kinds of challenges faced will determine optimal builds. If today's fights are against hordes of small creatures, a party that is focused on battlefield control and area-of-effect damage will do well. If tomorrow brings more boss monster fights, the same party may look weak compared to a group optimized for nova damage bursts. You could, of course, just have the parties face one another in an arena - with a round robin tournament style experiential evaluation of who is 'the best'- but being optimized against other groups of PCs is yet again a different build.

Have a look at other 5e questions tagged "optimization". Successful questions are extremely narrow in what they ask, as they need to be. The only way to meaningfully compare parties or individual characters is over a small and well-defined challenge space.

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It's certainly possible to quantify subjective criteria

People do it all the time. I mean, they rate potato chips on "mouth feel", right? So you can come up with some criteria. See the other answers.

And if that's what you really want, go for it

You're going to get some side-eyes

At a guess, I think you're going to get some side-eyes with this question, because on the surface it seems a little silly, "can't be done, and why would you want to, go on and just play the game, will you?" seems the obvious answer.

Don't worry about it, fun is fun

But don't worry about that. If you're having fun, you're having fun. There are a lot of ways to play D&D. People spend countless hours making adventures, maps, building PCs an NPCs, reading lore. For some strange reason I like reading questions on this board and spending sometimes an absurd amount of time researching and writing answers. I think someone who does that has no room to judge how someone else plays D&D.

A frame challenge

Thanks to Eddymage for suggesting this is actually a frame challenge, and to Novak for his comments about monster CR.

You can quantify PC's like potato chips. You might even spend a month and come up with a PC rating system as broken as monster CR.

And if that's fun for you, go for it.

But PCs are Player Characters because they are characters (like from a story) that players make. Monsters have a Challenge Rating because they are "challenges", as in challenges for the players to overcome.

Monsters have a CR because they're just stock images for the DM to build challenges with.

Read the introduction to the Player's Handbook. It's full of phrases like "The Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game is about storytelling in worlds of swords and sorcery".   Sure, D&D is a big tent, and plenty of people only ever play their characters as interchangeable sets of numbers "fighting" other interchangeable sets of numbers and if that's fun, then that is fantastic.

The first chapter of the PHB says "Your character is a combination of game statistics, roleplaying hooks, and your imagination." The statistics are only part of the character. An important part, to be sure, but just one part.

There is room in D&D for characters to transcend their stats.

I'm not sure rating even "fun" or "satisfying" or "fulfilling" on a scale of 1 to 5 is enough for such characters.

A story

I one time joined a campaign at 9th level with an arcane trickster. It was a pretty good build. I vaguely based the personality in part on a character in a book I read many years ago, and there was one scene when the character rode a donkey as part of a scam, pretending to be a kind of wandering fool. I thought it would be a cool way to introduce the character to the party. I asked the DM if I could have a donkey. They shrugged, and said, "sure".

I didn't realize I'd be meeting the party in the middle of a dungeon, but that's where I joined them, this guy leading an extremely reluctant donkey -- "excuse me, do you know the way out of here", kind of thing. It was great. That donkey was never a mechanical advantage, not once. When the monsters showed up, the donkey just somehow had a knack for not being there. It couldn't (or wouldn't) carry any more than the character could. I would even cast fly on the donkey sometimes, but mechanically it was the same as casting fly on myself. By any measure of party power that donkey just didn't even exist.

I ended up developing a lot of depth to that character. I had conceived of him as a stone-cold killer with a heart of gold. Over time, I developed his backstory in depth. I initially thought the donkey would just be a fun way to meet the rest of the party, but the story of the donkey grew and grew, the importance of the connection between the rogue and the donkey grew and grew, and the donkey even got its own backstory. Yeah, it was a little silly, but it was a very satisfying part of that campaign. I actually ended up switching to a different character, and the rogue and the donkey continued their story off-stage. We finished that campaign at level 20, and retired the setting. But somewhere in the lands of imagination there is a band of adventurers, now retired, whose lives and deeds became the stuff of legends. Among their number is a stone-cold killer with a heart of gold and his life-long donkey companion, who now nibbles the best parsnips that a very great deal of money can buy, in a very, very, very nice stable. Occasionally they can be seen high up in the sky, against the sunset, patrolling a now prosperous but once devastated and dangerous land.

Power? It really doesn't matter, but let's say 4 out of 5, I mean he was a really great arcane trickster.

Awesomeness? Off the charts.

No power rating is going to find that awesomeness. You find awesomeness by playing.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was going to dv this, because actually is the same idea of the answer by Brondahl. But then I read the last passage, about the arcane trickster and the donkey: it was pure gold and I believe that that should be the answer (as frame challenge), since it explains perfectly why such "fitness" measure has little sense to be constructed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Mar 18 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Lol, you found me out. By the way, thanks for even the potential explanation of the downvote. The downvote is meaningless, I just take them as a tax. The critique itself is valuable though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Mar 18 at 14:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Rewritten to call out the frame challenge specifically. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jack
    Commented Mar 18 at 15:05
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I'm unconvinced by the setup of "compete within a gaming group to make the most powerful party", but that's your premise so I'm engaging with it as stated.


There is not and cannot be any such abstract metric, let alone an official one.

The other answers give a detailed breakdown of why there cannot be an objective abstract metric by which to measure your parties.

So ... given that what else could you do, and how could you produce your own subjective metric?

Well ... you can definitely get experimental results! ...


Run the parties through a gauntlet of challenges

The other answers give a detailed breakdown of why there cannot be an objective abstract metric by which to measure your parties.

But you can definitely get experimental results!

Run each party through an artificial gauntlet of interactions of different kinds. Multiple combat encounters with different kinds/numbers of enemies and scenarios. Social challenge situations. Investigation/Exploration puzzles, etc.

Ideally get a neutral 3rd party DM to design the challenges, or maybe each person in the group is asked to come up with 5 challenges:

  • One from each of the 3 pillars.
  • One challenge that they think is particularly well-suited to their party.
  • One challenge that they think is particularly ill-suited to their party.

Assign some scoring metrics for each scenario (ideally more nuances than just "Pass/Fail", and then just run the parties through each scenario.

No world-continuity, no scenario justification; just "you are all here, the scenario is this, you know you're trying to achieve this outcome ... have at it". And then fade-to-black when the scenario ends.

Maybe you all play one character from each party. Maybe the party-builder gets to quarter-back the whole group.

Keep track of how well each party does, and then declare one person the winner.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Make sure to vary which party goes "first" into each encounter/scenario, so that one party doesn't benefit more than others, from above-the-board knowledge/experience. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brondahl
    Commented Mar 18 at 11:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Probably worth defining some of the encounters to be back-to-back, and others to have short rests and others to have long-rests. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brondahl
    Commented Mar 18 at 11:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Obviously playing out these gauntlets will take a while ... but if you're a group that enjoys the premise ... then you may well enjoy these hyper-isolated scenarios a lot too. YMMV. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brondahl
    Commented Mar 18 at 11:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ This does not answer at all: you are just suggesting "try and see how it works", and you do not provide any useful insights. For example, how do you measure the goodness of a performance in a social challenge? \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Mar 18 at 12:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage sure ... in the sense that the actual answer to the question is "There is not, and can never be such a metric". Unfortunately, whilst correct, that isn't very useful to OP, so I've provided a detailed breakdown of "how could you make your own metric". If you don't think that's useful either, you're welcom to downvote, but I disagree. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brondahl
    Commented Mar 18 at 12:28

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