This is a delicate thing to pull off as a GM, because it involves finessing the subtle aspects of a player's agency vs the rest of the imagined world.
The usual model of player agency is that the player has agency as far as their character and character actions are concerned, while the GM has agency for everything else in the world. It's a good model and ...
Don't allow Stealth checks until there is a chance of failure
This is the solution that is mentioned in your post-script.
If a player is just trying to stealth in an empty field with no enemies nearby, then they just automatically succeed, because they are hiding from nothing.
If a player is attempting to "conceal themselves from enemies, slink past ...
Option One: Non-Random Ability Score Generation
Rather than giving up control of how powerful player characters are to the whims of fate, you can instead use systems that attempt to consistently produce ability scores at an established level of quality. The two most popular schemes for doing so are standard arrays and point-buy systems.
Standard arrays ...
Nerfs dex classes, buffs everyone else
Well, let's start with the obvious. A rogue will usually try to hit 20 dex, so this change will give them -5 AC. Due to bounded accuracy that's a huge nerf. While many players do prioritise constitution as a secondary stat, it is unlikely they will bring it up to 20 too--and if they do they are making quite a sacrifice....
It is better to take the array.
There are several reasons for having all players start with the same points then choose their stats:
Consistency - You'll never have to worry about a player who rolls poorly being stuck with bad scores across the board.
Fairness - You won't end up with any players rolling really well and having multiple high scores. ...
Honestly, it depends. If we're talking vague things like "he is/isn't charismatic", it would depend on his personality. For example, Johnny Bravo thinks he has high Charisma. He doesn't, but he was convinced he did because of how he saw himself. If you're playing an egocentric character, this may be the case for him as well. If your character is down-to-...
You're missing the most important part of the Hiding rules.
The DM decides when circumstances are appropriate for hiding.
The players can propose hiding in a particular way but the DM has discretion to say whether it will work.
So here's how to adjudicate this. If you have someone else helping you hide by standing some distance away and telling you if ...
This answer includes a frame challenge.
0. Let go of the fallacy of perfect balance
What I am looking for is a good resolution, or compromise, so that my
players don't feel slighted and no one ends up with very high or very
low numbers, creating overshadowing or spotlighting issues.
Oddly enough, over the years that I played "roll 'em up" since ...
You're not gonna die when you level
With the following release of PHB errata it has been clarified that you will gain a minimum of 1HP when you level:
add the total (minimum of 1).
This new rule ensures that when levelling up, you will not lose HP or create a situation where you are unconscious and unable to gain a HP because your max is zero.
By itself, an odd number in an ability score does not offer any bonus to modifiers (13 is no better than 12). However, it does allow the character to increase it's bonus easier when they have the opportunity to increase their ability scores. (13 to 14 means +1 to +2)
Some such occasions would be
Ability Score Increases (Gained at level up): Choosing 2 ...
From the description of Charisma in the Basic Rules:
Charisma measures your ability to interact effectively with others. It includes such factors as confidence and eloquence, and it can represent a charming or commanding personality.
You can say the sweetest laced words in the world, but if you say them condescendingly or without the presence to gain ...
Ability scores can decrease.
See, for instance, the shadow and its strength drain ability. Even with score-generation methods that floor scores at 8, it'd only take two drains to threaten a PC with a strength below 3.
Other answers point out feeblemind, wild shapes that could have a stat below 3, and monstrous races with negative racial modifiers were found ...
Ability scores cannot go over 30
Rules As Written (RAW) and Rules as Intended agree.
The PHB defines a general rule which says that the ability score maximum is 30.
A score of 18 is the highest that a person usually reaches. Adventurers can have scores as high as 20, and monsters and divine beings can have scores as high as 30. (PHB p. 173)
It then ...
Casters become much stronger
The largest problem I foresee is Save DC.
By RAW, Save DC is soft-capped at 19. 8 + Proficiency + Ability. Without the 20 cap, that goes to 24 or more, raising the save DC to 21, plus bonuses from magic items, specialized builds, etc.
This is a problem because Save DC is tied to a single ability score but can force saving ...
There are no general rules for ability damage, almost certainly because ability damage in 5e is incredibly rare.
With that said, there are some sources of ability damage, so it's worth taking a look at them. The following effects are the only sources of ability damage I can find:
The Intellect Devourer's Devour Intellect ability (MM 191), which can reduce ...
Disclaimer: Overall I prefer point buy.
For rolled characters in a long campaign, where the PC/PC imbalance can annoy me, this is my preferred solution for keeping a similar level of "fair starting position":
Let everyone roll an unassigned array of stat values. Use any method you like, such as 4d6 drop lowest, in order to help keep the stats in the range ...
This blog post has some AnyDice scripts for the 4d6 drop lowest stat generation. Looking at the results, the average rolled array should be 16, 14, 13, 12, 10, 9.
That's pretty close to the 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 standard array, although slightly better. So really they're likely to give you about the same results overall. Roll if you want the chance for ...
Racial ability score adjustments are only added once at character creation.
The Player's Handbook is explicit about how ability scores improve. The ability score improvement class feature says:
When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability ...
It's unclear but...
Looking at the definitions provided for Wisdom and Charisma on the abilities page, there is not a clear definition of saving throws listed for the abilities.
Wisdom reflects how attuned you are to the world around you and represents perceptiveness and intuition.
Charisma measures your ability to interact effectively with ...
There are no rules, but Int 3 seems like a dividing line in 5e
The following spells seem to treat Int 3 or less as unintelligent:
Animal Messenger: "If the beast's Intelligence is 4 or higher, the spell fails. "
Awaken: "must have either no Intelligence score or an Intelligence of 3 or less"
Detect Thoughts: "If the creature you choose has an Intelligence ...
Monsters can have lower ability scores than player characters, and the same table can be used for their attribute modifiers.
You can see several examples in Appendix D of the PHB. A few selecions:
Both bats and rats have a Strength of 2 and an Intelligence of 2.
A frog has Strength 1, Intelligence 1 and Charisma 3.
The Monsters Manual has many more ...
In this unofficial tweet, Jeremy Crawford states that the prerequisite ability scores for multiclassing are intended to be met by your base score and not a temporary score. As such, we can infer that magic items that don't permanently increase your ability scores wouldn't work.
@mikemearls @JeremyECrawford would a temporary stat bump fulfill a ...
Wisdom: Prime Requisite versus Spell Casting Ability
The thing that originally made Clerics different was the prime requisite being the Wisdom score. Druids, being a sub-class of Cleric, were along for the ride.
TL;DR: originally, to differentiate the (hybrid) Cleric from the (pure)Magic User and the (pure)Fighting Man
How? Via the prime requisite ...
Spell texts seem to suggest that the limit for sentience is 3.
The description of Intelligence in the definition of ability scores says that 3 is the usual minimum for PCs (PHB 7):
The abilities are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma, and they typically range from 3 to 18 for most adventurers.
The Animal Friendship ...
One niche method of doing this is the shillelagh cantrip
The shillelagh spell states:
The wood of a club or quarterstaff you are holding is imbued with nature's power. For the duration, you can use your spellcasting ability instead of Strength for the attack and damage rolls of melee attacks using that weapon, and the weapon's damage die becomes a d8. The ...
Storm Giants are Huge creatures, not Medium.
The encumbrance rules neglect the size of a creature when calculating if it is encumbered or heavily encumbered. While this is true, the maximum capacity of a Storm Giant is not the same that a human would have given it a Strength score of 29.
Quoting the rules on lifting and carrying (Player's Handbook, page 176):...
Seems legit. Real people having a hard time finding meals can eat like that, and hard-luck adventurers are the kind of people who might see a lot of time between meals.
For someone who can afford to eat though, going hungry is foolish. Having a full belly when you have the opportunity to get one is just a matter of being prepared for the worst when you're ...
All I could find that might work was one specific weapon from Waterdeep
There is a weapon in the Waterdeep: Dragon Heist module (p. 201) whose description includes (Spoiler Alert!):
Presumably this unique longbow would have its remaining stats be the same as other longbows: heavy, and two-handed, and has the ammunition property.
Whether this longbow lets ...
I'd recommend Wisdom, based on how that ability is described in the rules:
A character with high Wisdom has good judgment, empathy, and a general
awareness of what’s going on.
Wisdom Measures: Awareness, intuition, insight (p. 8 Basic Rules)
Wisdom, measuring perception and insight (p. 57 Basic Rules)
A Wisdom check might reflect an ...