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I'm thinking of making a finesse melee Wizard leader, which means I'll need good INT, DEX, CON, and CHA, however from my previous understandings of D&D character builds, this would make my character MAD and that would be a bad thing... (or so I'm told)

So I searched the site to see if we had any questions dealing with the definition of MAD, but was unable to find anything definitive.

My understanding is that MAD means that you are dependent on 3 ability scores. My understanding is that this was a problem based on two issues. 1. You did not get many stat increases, or it was difficult to raise stats. 2. Math was tight, so the difference between a 20 and 18 was significant in performance.

However, in 5e assuming the standard array a stat progression for 5 ability increases looks like one of these three options:

(Maximise progression bonus)
15,14,13,12,10,8 - array
17,15,13,12,10,8 - racial benefits
18,16,13,12,10,8
20,16,13,12,10,8
20,18,13,12,10,8
20,20,13,12,10,8
20,20,15,12,10,8

or
(Maximize 16s)
15,14,13,12,10,8 - array
16,16,13,12,10,8 - racial benefits
16,16,15,12,10,8
16,16,16,13,10,8
16,16,16,15,10,8
16,16,16,16,11,8
16,16,16,16,13,8

Does having 16 in my stats "good enough" for higher levels of play allowing me to be dependent on 4 abilities before I run into problems, or do I need those 20s, and so 3 is the number of abilities that makes my character MAD?

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As long as stats you need to attack in are 16's you're probably OK.

As you illustrate in your question you can get four stats to 16, though that will preclude any addition of feats (which are quite important for some classes, like the fighter, but they get more abil score increases so that's ok).

So no, MAD classes aren't exactly a problem in 5e. They still might be difficult to play, but the worst you're going to be is 10% behind everyone else.

The big factor here isn't actually the ability score increases, it's the ability score cap that is (or solves?) the problem. Basically, in previous editions (at least 4th), you started with a primary ability score of 18-20, and took it up to 30. And you only got to raise two scores twice every level up. That meant if you needed to raise 3-4 scores, you were going to have to choose between raising your top ability score less OR your secondary one even less (spliting increases between your secondary and tertiary) OR having your tertiary score fall way behind.

in BD&D, there is only really one (maybe two) PC classes that even use 2 stats, obviously the martial/melee classes in the PHB do as well. And with everyone needing CON, that really to me makes these characters MAD at least in proportion to other 5e classes.

At this point, though, MAD isn't a bad thing. As you illustrate, with a standard starting array, and the right race, you can have attack quality stats in 4 scores with only 5 ability increases. That's not to say you want to do that. I think most folks would prefer to get at least their primary up to 20, and that means forfeiting at least one of those 16s and no chance at feats. 10% doesn't mean much on any single attack, but the cumulative effect on your DPR will show. You might not feel it but it will be there.

Feats are an interesting quandry with MAD as well. Basically, supporting a MAD build will preclude the use of feats unless you are playing a Fighter or Rogue. So you must weigh the opportunity cost of the feats you won't be taking because you are choosing to use more than 2 abilities.

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