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    Default How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    I just took over as DM of a campaign that I'd been playing in and discovered that one of the players, who plays a rogue, has a character with an a starting ability score array of:

    17, 16, 16, 11, 11, 10.

    I haven't seen two of the other player's character sheets yet (the former DM and another player), but the other two current players have PB-legal characters, as did I when I was playing.

    What do you guys think the magnitude of the impact of this player's stats would be, gameplay-wise? What do you think I should do?

    He is a drow, brutal scoundrel.

    A few details:

    I joined the game later than the other players, and was explicitly never told (and never asked) the method we were using for rolls, and just did a PB as I'm philosophically opposed to rolling anyway and didn't want to bother with it. I know the same is true for at least one other player. I think before we started playing, the rogue's player might have mentioned to me that he rolled particularly well, which I probably didn't comment on at the time.

    If I start talking about the personalities/types of all the players of the game I will be rambling forever, but suffice to say that the rogue is an honest, upstanding guy, though he's definitely got the most forceful personality at the table. He's not above doing a little bit of rules lawyering (not completely inappropriate, as our DM is somewhat new to the system and at times exhibits a bit of a lack of concern about the rules, in ways that may or may not advantage the party) and sometimes the rogue will do a bit of cajoling the DM a little to gain little advantages here and there.
    Last edited by Tukka; 2011-03-31 at 02:45 AM.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Is that after the Drow racial bonuses? If so, he's only spent 1 extra point. If not, he's got 10 extra points.

    Obviously, if it's the former it's not such a big deal.

    If it's the latter, then he did roll really well. At least it's not such a huge deal. Honestly, I'd rather take the standard point buy so I could get my starting 20 in the primary score. The 3rd 16 would be nice for the NAD, but that's only +3 above whatever. And he certainly picked a class where the 3rd ability score isn't extremely beneficial (Wizard and pre-reqs for feats is an example where having a 3rd high score is very nice).

    Is it frustrating as a player? Yes. When I run games, I have everyone use the point buy. The perceived imbalance can be frustrating for players when one player rolls really well, but at least it's not really that big of an imbalance. If he had rolled a starting 18, then I would be concerned, but he didn't. At best he gets a starting Dex 19, which, frankly, isn't nearly as good as Dex 20.
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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Are those stats pre- or post-racial adjustments? They're a little high if post-but honestly having a 17 instead of an 18 for a primary attack stat should balance things. In fact, if there's a level up bonus somewhere you're missing, it looks legit and entirely unoptimized.

    If they're the preracial rolled, let it stand as an example of why point buy tends to be preferred. The stats aren't too far from the 16/14/14/11/10/10 spread, so he shouldn't be too unbalanced. They'd allow him to pick powers that normally run on an off stat, but that's not too hard to do in Heroic. And the nature of level-up stat boosts focuses your characters later on, no matter their initial numbers.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Thanks for the response, guys. The stats given are for his base rolls, before racial or level-based adjustments.

    If I let the rolls stand as you guys recommend, how do you recommend I handle it with the other players? I have one player that I know will raise a bit of a fuss when she finds out that some players rolled for stats, and rolled unusually high. She was never actually told that rolling was an option, though of course if I give her the option, she will likely not end up any better off than she is with her point buy, and would not be placated by the unfair outcome via a "fair" process. What might add some drama to this scenario is that this player is my girlfriend.

    And as if that weren't enough, the plot thickens ... I just got the character sheet for the former DM of our game and I'm afraid that I won't be able to let this one slide. His pre-racial/level array is:

    18, 17, 14, 12, 11, 10

    So the mitigating point you guys made about "at least there's no 18" doesn't hold true here, and the point buy discrepancy is even larger than was true in the rogue's case.

    What's makes the situation even more dubious is this character is a copy of a character the player is playing in a different game (which involves most of the same players as in our game, sans my girlfriend and I).

    So if I meet resistance with my objections to this scenario, I may have to resort to taking a "try to please everyone approach" of allowing everyone to rebuild with a beefed-up array, which I suppose would dictate that I compensate by throwing more challenging encounters at them ... sort of defeating the whole purpose. I'm not sure if there is an explicit rules provision/guideline for "high powered campaigns" in 4e but I suppose I better start looking for it.

    Maybe it won't be a big deal though. I am composing an email to the two players with the high stats (there is still one player whose character sheet I have not seen, but I played his character during one session when he was absent, and did not see anything that looked too out of the ordinary to me) and I think most of the members of the group are pretty reasonable.

    Thanks again for your comments. Of course, any other thoughts or comments would also be appreciated.
    Last edited by Tukka; 2011-03-30 at 11:48 PM.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Yeah, in that case I would put my foot down and tell them that you are using the point buy system. However, because you understand that they are losing power because of this, you are giving everyone 2 free feats: Improved Defenses and 1 free Expertise feat.

    (Which, really, any home game should be doing anyway since they are math fixes.)

    That's how I'd handle it. I wouldn't let one player (or two in this case) have vastly superior stats, even though, honestly, it's not a huge difference. The only area it really matters is the other players perceptions. Sure, the high stats will be able to have good skills (at first), but those will trail off as everyone levels up. And they will have a higher tertiary NAD, but that also trails off as you level up. The main problem is the other players will feel their characters are inferior. And really, they are (if just a little bit). 4e is about balance and rolling is against the spirit of that.

    Some players are very strongly against point buy. I know I have a couple of people like that in my group. I just had to tell them: "Sorry, but I'm switching to point buy. You have three options: play with the point buy, run the game instead and do character creation how you choose, or don't play. This is a deal-breaker for me, as I refuse to allow characters to become imbalanced at character creation." I don't mind character power imbalances when the game has progressed: choices you make should determine how powerful your character is (feats, powers, items, etc), but character creation is not one of them.
    Last edited by tcrudisi; 2011-03-31 at 12:15 AM.
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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    I was in a game where the DM explicitly gave permission for over spending on the points buy, and I would have to say it made the whole campaign worse overall...

    Since all the players where 'stronger' than normal, the encounters became harder, then half the party couldnt hit anymore cause they target different defences etc...

    So, long story short, as a DM I require that all players use points buy... if they 'buy' more points then they should, I recreate their character sheet with the proper values and give that one to them.
    I lose more minions to that Starting Tavern than from any other. I mean come on! Give a guy a chance!

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    If you're taking over the game long term I would ask the Drow player to redo his character with standard Point buy,

    If he's unwilling to do that, kill him , nah just get the others players to use the same stats and adjust the combat a little.

    They not stupidly overpowered but imho everyone should have the same stats, bad juju otherwise.

    Happy Rollin'

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    I may be thinking a different system, but I think the PHB had guidelines for rolled stats that included a limit on what was an acceptable total bonus. You may want to check into that to have some RAW backing for your rebuild requests.
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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ignatius View Post
    I was in a game where the DM explicitly gave permission for over spending on the points buy, and I would have to say it made the whole campaign worse overall...

    Since all the players where 'stronger' than normal, the encounters became harder, then half the party couldnt hit anymore cause they target different defences etc...

    So, long story short, as a DM I require that all players use points buy... if they 'buy' more points then they should, I recreate their character sheet with the proper values and give that one to them.

    There are ways to up the difficulty of encounters without running into problems. For example, you can increase the amount of monsters instead of increasing the level by a large amount. Modify your monsters slightly so that the PCs can still hit them but they are tougher and do slightly more damage. Also, make sure to use monsters that are using the new math such as those found in the monster vault or monster manual 3.
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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wizard_Tom View Post
    I may be thinking a different system, but I think the PHB had guidelines for rolled stats that included a limit on what was an acceptable total bonus. You may want to check into that to have some RAW backing for your rebuild requests.
    On page 18 of PHB 1 it states:
    "If the total of your ability modifiers is lower than +4 or higher than +8 before racial ability adjustments, your DM might rule that your character is too weak
    or too strong compared to the other characters in the group and decide to adjust your scores to fit better within his or her campaign preferences."
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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillric View Post
    On page 18 of PHB 1 it states:
    "If the total of your ability modifiers is lower than +4 or higher than +8 before racial ability adjustments, your DM might rule that your character is too weak
    or too strong compared to the other characters in the group and decide to adjust your scores to fit better within his or her campaign preferences."
    Yeah, that's the line I was thinking of.
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    GnomePirate

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tukka View Post
    Thanks for the response, guys. The stats given are for his base rolls, before racial or level-based adjustments.
    It's good but not great. But when you having rolling, you get what you ask for. Have everyone redo with the point buy system 4e uses by default.
    But there isn't alot to do in this case if everyone is over level 1.
    Last edited by Cartigan; 2011-03-31 at 09:38 AM.

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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    I don't think having those increased ability scores will break the game. I would talk to your other players about it before deciding anything. This particular player took a risk on rolling stats as it is quite possible to end up with less than point buy or even balanced stats that don't have the two high stats you get from point buy (this is a big issue with 4E). By forcing him to change to point buy you are only punishing him when he took a risk and happened to get lucky.
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    I'd run a vote past the players, explain the situation to each (individually, so there's no group pressure) and explain that 1/2 the group rolled for stats (incredibly well) and 1/2 used point buy. It's gotten to the point where the rolled stats are much better than the point buy stats and you want to even things out.

    What do they want to do? Choose your preferences, labelling 3 as the most preferred and 1 as the least.
    1) All run via point buy? Everyone who rolled has to rebuild using point buy. Possibly with bonus feats for all?
    2) Upgrade the point buy players by giving them enough points to catch up to highest rolled player. The rolled players below him will be given enough points to catch up to him as well.
    3) A middle ground. Figure out a place in between the two extremes where players will have to adjust their stats to fit into. Maybe you design an array of stats the players can use?

    From there, total up the points. Whichever option gets the most votes wins.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Quote Originally Posted by tcrudisi View Post
    Yeah, in that case I would put my foot down and tell them that you are using the point buy system. However, because you understand that they are losing power because of this, you are giving everyone 2 free feats: Improved Defenses and 1 free Expertise feat.
    tcrudisi's suggestion is excellent. :)

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    We have a really fun system.

    You get an 18 and a 14, or a 17 and a 15 or a 16 and a 16, your choice.

    Use a dice to assign the abilities that get these numbers.

    Roll 3d6 for all other abilities in order.


    This makes characters that can always fulfill their roll but often have weaknesses or strengths.

    My current character is Freddy Mercury, human wizard.

    str 5
    con 7
    dex 14
    int 20
    wis 12
    cha 10

    The low strength and con make her challenging to play, but she is still playable. OUr characters are actually fairly balanced for the dm, but they have some weakness that are tied into the backstory.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillric View Post
    This particular player took a risk on rolling stats as it is quite possible to end up with less than point buy or even balanced stats that don't have the two high stats you get from point buy (this is a big issue with 4E). By forcing him to change to point buy you are only punishing him when he took a risk and happened to get lucky.
    Rule of thumb: Players who are diehard rolling enthusiasts make their own "luck" through multiple rerolls, be it mulliganing on their current set or outright disregarding low dice. When you're able to discard the results of your bad luck, there's no risk to rollers.

    I don't think Tukka's players are intentionally trying to game the system, so much as they're enjoying the results of the times they rolled well. Still, it's worth it to bring the subject up before game next time, and put it to a vote whether players want everybody to use point-buy or everybody to roll. It shouldn't be too hard for either side to adjust their character's stats to the appropriate method.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Well its nice to know that you assume everyone that rolls their stats is cheating.
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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Quote Originally Posted by tcrudisi View Post
    Yeah, in that case I would put my foot down and tell them that you are using the point buy system. However, because you understand that they are losing power because of this, you are giving everyone 2 free feats: Improved Defenses and 1 free Expertise feat.
    You should test the waters first to see if you will get some pushback. Some players feel that their chracters will be less special if you increase the stats of the rest of the party to reach pairity with them.

    If you think that'll be the case, just increase the stats in game. Like magic fountains or some other "treasure".
    Last edited by evirus; 2011-03-31 at 12:10 PM.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillric View Post
    Well its nice to know that you assume everyone that rolls their stats is cheating.
    This is why all rolls should be made in front of the DM (which may have been the case for the one character). Even if you have completely honest players you always want to stomp out the idea that they could be cheating in everyone's eyes.
    Last edited by Sipex; 2011-03-31 at 12:21 PM.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sipex View Post
    This is why all rolls should be made in front of the DM (which may have been the case for the one character). Even if you have completely honest players you always want to stomp out the idea that they could be cheating in everyone's eyes.
    Wasn't the person who rolled highest actualy the DM in this case? That sounds like a conflict of interest to me...
    Last edited by evirus; 2011-03-31 at 12:26 PM.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Ask characters to be built to point-buy. Should it really be that big of a problem?

    A 16/16/13/11/10/8 is a standard starting array. That's 1 point less dex, 3 points less cha, and 1-2 points off of the remaining stats.

    If you feel generous, you could say "everyone gets a +2 to a stat that isn't a racial stat", which opens up more race/class combination in my experience, and keeps the playing field level.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    I followed tcrudisi's advise, and sent an email to the two players in question outlining what I perceived to be my four main options in dealing with the problem:

    1. Let the imbalance stand.
    2. Let anybody who wishes to do so utilize the same starting array that another player is using/rolled.
    3. Have everyone adjust their ability scores according to the normal point buy rules.
    4. Option 3 + implement the free Expertise/Improved Defenses house rule. (This is the option I lobbied for.)

    The rogue responded saying he felt that it was an elegant, acceptable way of addressing the problem.

    The other player, (the former DM, who would be playing a goliath barbarian) put up more resistance, saying (paraphrased) he doesn't see the problem much problem with rolling for ability scores in a game that is governed by dice in every other instance. He said he didn't see an issue with bringing a character over from a different campaign, and pointed out that one of the other players did the same thing. However, the player/character he is referring to (who plays a dwarf fighter) has ability scores that are perfectly in line with that of a point buy; also, I don't think he's playing that character in two separate campaigns (though that point is fairly irrelevant IMO).

    Still, the barbarian's player said he'd conform to my decision, so I suppose it is settled, unless the one remaining player whose character sheet I haven't seen puts up a fuss (which I do not anticipate).

    Thanks again, guys.
    Last edited by Tukka; 2011-03-31 at 01:14 PM.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    First. Yay, resolution.

    I'll just step in and say this now even though it sounds like you have yourself handled well.

    Don't let the former DM outweigh you. You're the DM now and he sounds like he might have a bit of trouble getting used to the idea of not being the final arbiter.

    You sound like you have it handled but I thought I'd mention it anyways.
    Last edited by Sipex; 2011-03-31 at 02:06 PM.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Glad to hear that everything seems to have worked out!
    Quote Originally Posted by Tukka View Post
    The other player, (the former DM, who would be playing a goliath barbarian) put up more resistance, saying (paraphrased) he doesn't see the problem much problem with rolling for ability scores in a game that is governed by dice in every other instance.
    ...but if the issue ever comes up again, I'd just like to point out that your former DM has very poor reasoning skills. Older editions (OD&D? 1e?) may have randomized everything, from ability scores to hit points to spells, but 4e doesn't. 4e intentionally randomizes short-term stuff (attacks, damage) but leaves permanent stuff standardized for the sake of being fair.

    If he starts fussing again, ask him if he sees a problem with rolling for other permanent stuff like hit points, powers, number and assignment of skills and feats, loot, etc. He may say 'no,' but most players use the "well, it's a random game" argument simply to justify rolling their sweet stats.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    If you really want the game to be balanced, just make everyone use standard point buy. By making you DM they are accepting your rules.

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillric View Post
    Well its nice to know that you assume everyone that rolls their stats is cheating.
    Honestly, 9 times out of 10, they are. Especially when they come out with an array that's the equivalent of a 30-40 point buy. When you have two characters in one group who both happen to have really high stats from rolling, it should be sending up red flags. Remember, you have a 1/216 chance of rolling an 18, a 1/72 chance of a 17, and a 1/36 chance of a 16. When I see the stats the OP posted:

    18, 17, 14, 12, 11, 10
    17, 16, 16, 11, 11, 10.

    My mind is yelling "Cheating bastards alert, man the harpoons!"


    Sure it is possible for those stats to show up, but the likelihood of two such arrays with no low stats showing up is pretty telling. Seriously go grab a set of dice and see how many times you have to roll to get a set of stats anywhere close to that.
    Last edited by Seerow; 2011-03-31 at 02:48 PM.
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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    4d6 drop lowest doesn't have a 1/216 chance of an 18. That odds only works for a 3d6 system.

    4d6 drop lowest has 1296 combinations of dice, of which 1+5*4 = 21 are 18s, or ~1/62 stats are 18s.

    For 17s... #665[1-4] + #6655 = 4C2*2C1*4*1C1 + 4C2 * 2C2 = 6*2*4+6*1 = 54 combinations are 17s, or 1/24 rolls give a 17.

    ...

    So here is a quick way to weigh how "amazing" a 4d6 drop lowest roll is.

    18: 18 pts
    17: 13 pts
    16: 9 pts
    15: 6 pts
    14: 4 pts
    13: 3 pts
    12: 2 pts
    11: 1 pts
    10 or less: 0 pts

    Add up the points of the characters stats, then divide by 10.

    An estimate of how good your character is:
    1 in 100000 characters rolled would dominate your character: 5.0+
    1 in 10000 characters rolled would dominate your character: 4.0+
    1 in 1000 characters rolled would dominate your character: 3.0+
    1 in 100 characters rolled would dominate your character: 2.0+
    1 in 10 characters rolled would dominate your character: 1.0+

    So let us apply it.
    18, 17, 14, 12, 11, 10.
    17, 16, 16, 11, 11, 10.

    18: 18 pts
    17: 13 pts
    14: 4 pts
    12: 2 pts
    11: 1 pts
    10^3.8 character -- you'd expect it to take 6310 rolls to roll a strictly better character.

    17: 13 pts
    16: 9 pts * 2
    11: 1 pts * 2
    10^3.3 character -- you'd expect it to take 1995 rolls to roll a strictly better character.

    (The above was derived by taking the P(roll X or better on 4d6 drop lowest), mapping it through a log function (so we can add it), then multiplying by about 0.434, which is about 1/ln(10). So the sum corresponds to the odds (as a power of 10) that you beat every roll. Note that the above numbers are rounded down.)

    Finally, to be fair, if you rolled "exactly average" (in the sense of median), the chance that another character rolled would dominate you is merely 1/64, which corresponds to a score of 1.8.

    A better approach could be to look at your stat modifiers. In particular, we could weigh the highest state at 1.0 per modifier, the next stat at 1/2 per modifier, the next stat at 1/3 per modifier, etc.

    Then we could express the probability that someone "scores higher" than you do on such a chart as a better proxy for "cheat likelihood".

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Holy math Yakk...impressive

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    Default Re: How to handle ability score imbalances within the party.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillric View Post
    Well its nice to know that you assume everyone that rolls their stats is cheating.
    Outright flipping dice to their benefit? Rarely. Everybody went through a phase of "rolling" themselves an all-18 character as a kid, but people who stick to that habit tend to find themselves without a group in short order.

    Implementing optional rules like "reroll ones" or "roll 24 dice, toss the lowest six, pool the remaining into groups of three as you see fit"? Fairly often. They're not actively trying to screw the game, they're just used to higher-power rolling options. Still, it does tend to skew the math.

    Discarding poor sets of rolls to enjoy the benefits of randomness while negating the risks? I don't know anybody who doesn't do that when they roll. Even granting pure 4d6 with nothing else, rolling mans your stats are only limited by how long you're willing to invest before boredom kicks in.

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