# How do I balance a party's ability scores?

I'm playing Dungeons & Dragons 5e and while we in the party were rolling dice to determine the ability scores, one of my friends (fighter) rolled really good numbers (like 15, 16, 18, and 13) and the summation of his numbers was 95 while the rest of the party's ability scores were around 70.

So the party tried to convince him to subtract 25, but he was stubborn. Then he only changed one of his ability sores by 12, and he doesn't want to go further. So now he is level 3 and has +5 strength and dexterity modifier while another fighter in our party has +5 strength and +2 dexterity modifier.

So how can I explain to him how party balance works?

• Hold on a second. With the 16 and 18, you'd need two Ability Score Increases plus a racial bonus, or three Ability Score Increases to get two 20s for those +5s. That means level 8 or 12 (or 6 or 8 for Fighters). When are you having the players increase their stats, and by how much? – Joel Harmon Mar 11 '17 at 16:17
• @LegendaryDude the OP also asked whether you get an ASI every level, which really answers my question. – Joel Harmon Mar 11 '17 at 17:47
• – KorvinStarmast Mar 13 '17 at 20:24

If you care overly much about balance in ability scores you shouldn't use dice to determine them. The standard array and point buy systems exist for precisely this reason. I would recommend getting your DM to switch your entire party to point buy and move on from there.

## Both of these methods can be found in the PHB on pp.12-13

27 points to spend, all stats start at 8. Stats can not be reduced below 8, or raised above 15.

Standard Array

Preset stat distribution of 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8. Player picks where to put the stats.

Racial modifiers apply after these stats are put in place, ensuring no player is at or above 18 at level 1. This will ensure characters are all within a specific range, and no player will completely outstrip the others by virtue of good or poor luck alone.

## An Alternative Solution

If you don't want to force the player who rolled really well to reduce his attributes the obvious alternative is to increase the attributes of the rest of the party. Allowing them to use whatever the best set of scores was is a perfectly viable solution, although it is a non-trivial power boost to the party. This is particularly true at early levels, when the additional bonuses from having a high ability score will have a larger impact on whatever the character is trying to do. A whole party full of high ability scores will probably require some balancing work on the DM's part, at least during early levels of the game.

• Another alternative that some people use it to have each player roll a stat array, and then every player can choose which of the rolled arrays to use for their character. If someone rolls an especially good array then everyone just uses that array. – Oblivious Sage Mar 11 '17 at 16:20
• Agree with the start and disagree with the end. If the player is unhappy about adjusting scores downward, I don't think recommending wiping the slate clean and starting over with the array is going to work better. Net zero vote. :) – SevenSidedDie Mar 11 '17 at 16:27
• Yeah, I don't think there's an ideal social answer here. Bumping all the characters up to use the best array would keep the player happy, but it means all of a sudden the DM has to deal with a pile over over powered PCs, which may not be ideal. – Garrett Rooney Mar 11 '17 at 16:46
• @LinoFrankCiaralli Looks good, thanks for the edit! – Garrett Rooney Mar 11 '17 at 17:11
• You're welcome. When citing rules, it's always a good idea to put in the location they can be found in the book. It provides the answer official foundation, increasing the quality considerably. If you don't have the book on hand, don't worry! Many of us are happy to add it in. – Lino Frank Ciaralli Mar 11 '17 at 17:13

## There is no such thing as "party balance"

The player characters are not in competition with one another: they are a team. Like all teams, most members will be journeymen, some will be stars and some will be the useless player who can't run, can't kick and botches tackles. Like every team, they can be functional or dysfunctional in the face of this diversity.

Having unusually high (or low) ability scores does not make a character over (under) powered because all characters are limited by the action economy and limits on how many things they can be proficient in. Yes, this character will hit a little bit more often, be hit a little bit less often, have a few more hit points and/or be slightly more versatile - this is not unbalanced: everyone will be have their moments to shine. Depending on your class, some stats are more useful than others: a fighter with 16 intelligence instead of 12? Ho hum.

The player is quite right to feel aggrieved: he played by the rules you all agreed to and he is now being punished and pilloried for being lucky? I think that this has little to do with "party balance" and a lot to do with "party jealousy".

• I agree with this answer somewhat, but the somewhat condescending tone dissuades me from supporting it. – JessLovely Mar 11 '17 at 23:26
• +1 for truth. Most editions of D&D, certain classes were just more powerful, in absolute terms, than others. The game worked anyway, because different classes represented different skillsets and roles, and all of them were useful and necessary in different circumstances. One player having higher ability scores than the other players is a boon to those players, not a bane. (Unless your campaign features PvP, but that's pretty unusual.) – GMJoe Mar 12 '17 at 9:28
• I don't sense any attitude in this answer other than "that's how it works". unbalanced does not mean unfun. As long as the DM makes sure there are challenges that not only one person can accomplish, no issues. – JPicasso Mar 13 '17 at 2:50
• This used to be true in older editions, but with bound accuracy this means the player with the +25 points to stats will be better at everything than everybody else by a fairly wide margin. +1 is significant in 5e, where the most you can get from gear is a +3 at the highest tiers. If this was 3.5 or Pathfinder I could support this answer, but 5e took these numbers in. That's why with the point systems you can't buy above 15 in a stat to start, or below 8. It's meant to be balanced. – Lino Frank Ciaralli Mar 13 '17 at 11:27
• 100% the last point. "We all decided to have random scores, but now I'm upset that your random score was better than my random score!". It's childish and short sighted. – goodguy5 Apr 10 '18 at 14:05

## A Method To Use Before Anyone Rolls Any Dice

My nephew had us roll up characters using 4d6 drop 1 (the default method in the PHB) arranged to fit abilities as desired. His boundaries were:

1. "If your total ability bonus score total is +10 or greater, either re-roll or modify a roll down to get to +10"
2. "If your total ability bonus score is +3 or less, re-roll"
3. "If you do not have at least one score of 16 (or higher) after rolling, you may roll again if you wish, providing 1 and 2 are complied with, but you are not required to."

$\begin{array}{|c|l|} \hline \text{Score} & \text{Modifier} \\ \hline 2\text{–}3 & −4 \\ 4\text{–}5 & −3 \\ 6\text{–}7 & −2 \\ 8\text{–}9 & −1 \\ 10\text{–}11 & +0 \\ 12\text{–}13 & +1 \\ 14\text{–}15 & +2 \\ 16\text{–}17 & +3 \\ 18\text{–}19 & +4 \\ \hline \end{array}$

I ended up with +12, due to a 16, 16, 15, 12, 13, 14 (I was HOT!) I complied with Rule 1 and dropped the second 16 to a 15, and the 14 to a 13. That left me with a +10. (DM okayed this).

My brother (his dad) was ice cold. He barely got the +4, and had one score of 16. He kept his scores. We played and had fun. No worries.

With this method, you can set the +bonus range to anything you'd like, and perhaps make it narrower than what my nephew allowed. (such as +8 to +4, or whatever).

If you use the 27-point buy (page 8. Basic Rules) you can arrive at +6 or +3 (before racial adjustments) in a few different ways (and a variety of points in between).

• You can buy 15, 15, 15, 8, 8, 8 for 3x (+2) and 3x (-1): aggregate +3.

• You can buy 13, 13, 13, 12, 12, 12, for +6,

• You can buy 14, 14, 14, 10, 10, 10, for a +6.

• Also, when you say "re-roll" do you mean all of the stats? – daze413 Mar 14 '17 at 0:43
• @daze413 yes, re-roll the character top to bottom. Fixed the ab/1-2 thing. – KorvinStarmast Mar 14 '17 at 1:49

To my mind there's a good reason that Adventurers League banned rolling for ability scores and hitpoints: It makes players feel envious and unhappy. Why should a handful of rolls, often done before the game has even started, dictate the party balance throughout the campaign? Why should players accept that inequality, any more than they would accept one player being given a +3 weapon or armor at the beginning of the game?

As much fun as it might be for the one player to watch their champion character demolish every encounter while their teammates struggle to be relevant, it's not that much fun for the rest of the table. The end result is typically that either people want to stop playing, or they intentionally kill off their characters in order to roll new ones with equally superpowered stats. It's much better to let people focus on other things at the table. If you really want one character to be better than the rest, then build a campaign around it.

If I were this DM, I'd either have asked the party to convert their characters to point-buy in the interests of general game balance, or have created a plot device to either handicap the superheroes or simply kill them off. "The Dark Lord has responded to reports of a heroic fighter by dispatching a champion of his own who proposes a duel to the death. Will you accept or are you craven?" (If he accepts, give him a battle where he dies heroically, if he refuses to then the ignominy gives him a level of exhaustion).

• I did a quick edit to address a misconception: these pages aren't threads and there’s no such thing as “necroing” a question here. This site works a lot differently from a discussion forum; you can learn more by taking the tour or perusing the help center. Finally: welcome, and thanks for contributing your solution! – SevenSidedDie May 11 '18 at 17:22