[RPG] The group I DM for insists on rolled stats, but I don’t want unbalanced PCs to cause group conflicts later


I'm going to be running a new campaign for my players, with our session 0 starting tomorrow. I was leaning towards the traditional ability score method of generation (roll 4d6, drop the lowest). I am not concerned with the numbers themselves but the problems that random numbers could create.

Now, I've just gotten into a heated discussion with several of my players because I mentioned the possibility of using a point buy or standard array for ability scores. When I mentioned the option of point buy, the argument made was that this would lead towards min-maxing and remove their creative input on how to make their character. Not only is this logically fallacious, but the point buy system prevents min-max by limiting scores to a min of 8 and a max of 15, not to mention the system itself seems designed to inherently limit the ability to min-max by placing a hard cap of 20 on abilities.

The problem I'm having is, if we were to do a point buy or array assignment, it would be entirely for their benefit. They don't seem to understand the social problems created when abilities are completely randomly assigned. Of course, if they're hellbent on rolling for stats and I oppose them, that is also going to create a social problem in the game, since it seems this is an early sign of the adversarial "players vs. DM" attitude.

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.

Since some of the answers have taken into account my group's long term friendship, I should clarify that with the exception of two players, we've all known each other and been friends (off and on — this is the first time four of us have been at a table together in at least 5; there's a story there but I won't go into it) for 15 or so years, but we haven't been gaming together throughout that time. We used to jam VTM all the time (8 or more years ago), and I've been running a Pathfinder game with some of them for the past 2.5 years (we used a point buy for that game), but this is actually our first serious foray into D&D proper as a group.

Best Answer

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 1975, we somehow managed to have fun without point buy. For decades. Loads of fun, with some characters a bit stronger than others. (Heck, even with point buy, please see "tiers" in 3.5 to see how "balance" can still be an issue).

Current experience: we rolled our characters in the 5e campaign I am in now. No point buy. I've known all of these guys since high school, except my nephew and the DM. That's since about mid 1970's. Differing personalities. Rolling is no obstacle to fun and success.

If all of you attend this game with "let's have fun" as the goal, then let's get to addressing your problem.

As stated, your problem isn't dice rolling or not, per the email extract you provided us. Your problem is the relationship between players and DM.

What problem should you solve first? "Player versus DM attitude."

  1. Find Common Ground

    Before session one, you need a face to face session with everybody who will play to iron out what you expect from the game, and what they expect. Listen, and then share what you expect and why you think point buy is a good idea. Then, as a full table of people, come to a consensus.

  2. Rolling Doesn't Hurt

    Rolling for stats is a 40 year old feature of RPG games that works well enough. If that is what all of your players want, where's the harm in letting them do that? Your forecasting drama and problems is not giving anyone, yourself included, the benefit of the doubt. You will all be able to have fun, regardless. Anyone griping later on gets "the look" and the following response: "you all agreed to roll for stats, let's press on with the game, make the best of the tools you have." Since you mentioned that this is the gaming group you've been with for 2.5 years, and you've been friends with some of them for about 15 years, you all already know how to have fun together. Have some faith in that already established track record.

    If the opinion is divided among the players on this point, go back to point one and the pre-meeting to iron out expectations before character creation. Until you reach consensus, the game is at risk.

  3. Play!

    Once expectations are more or less aligned, play and have fun.

  4. Have Fun!

    If you aren't having fun, you are doing something wrong (as a group). That would be the topic of an entirely different question, after you all begin. I see this question as "an ounce of prevention" effort (a good idea as you know this group). Given that you've known each other a while, up to a long while, I'd be very surprised if you don't have fun if you start on the right foot. Consensus building is a means to that end that's pretty effective.

On a mechanical note, since this is 5e, an ASI (later) or a racial bonus (at start) can take the hard edge off of a low number.