3. Determine Ability Scores

Much of what your character does in the game depends on his or her six abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Each ability has a score, which is a number you record on your character sheet.

The six abilities and their use in the game are described in chapter 7. The Ability Score Summary table provides a quick reference for what qualities are measured by each ability, what races increases which abilities, and what classes consider each ability particularly important.

You generate your character’s six ability scores randomly. Roll four 6-sided dice and record the total of the highest three dice on a piece of scratch paper. Do this five more times, so that you have six numbers. If you want to save time or don’t like the idea of randomly determining ability scores, you can use the following scores instead: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.

Now take your six numbers and write each number beside one of your character’s six abilities to assign scores to Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Afterward, make any changes to your ability scores as a result of your race choice.

After assigning your ability scores, determine your ability modifiers using the Ability Scores and Modifiers table. To determine an ability modifier without consulting the table, subtract 10 from the ability score and then divide the result by 2 (round down). Write the modifier next to each of your scores.

Ability Score Summary

Measures: Natural athleticism, bodily power
Important For: Barbarian, fighter, paladin
Racial Increases:
Mountain dwarf (+2)
Dragonborn (+2)
Half-orc (+2)
Human (+1)
Measures: Physical agility, reflexes, balance, poise
Important For: Monk, ranger, rogue
Racial Increases:
Elf (+2)
Halfling (+2)
Forest gnome (+1)
Human (+1)
Measures: Health, stamina, vital force
Important For: Everyone
Racial Increases:
Dwarf (+2)
Stout Halfling (+1)
Rock gnome (+1)
Half-orc (+1)
Human (+1)
Measures: Mental acuity, information recall, analytical skill
Important For: Wizard
Racial Increases:
High Elf (+1)
Gnome (+2)
Tiefling (+1)
Human (+1)
Measures: Awareness, intuition, insight
Important For: Cleric, druid
Racial Increases:
Hill dwarf (+1)
Wood elf (+1)
Human (+1)
Measures: Confidence, eloquence, leadership
Important For: Bard, sorcerer, warlock
Racial Increases:
High elf (+2)
Drow (+1)
Lightfoot Halfling (+1)
Dragonborn (+1)
Human (+1)
Tiefling (+2)

Ability Scores and Modifiers

Score Modifier Score Modifier
1 -5 16-17 +3
2-3 -4 18-19 +4
4-5 -3 20-21 +5
6-7 -2 22-23 +6
8-9 -1 24-25 +7
10-11 +0 26-27 +8
12-13 +1 28-29 +9
14-15 +2 30 +10

Building Bruenor, Step 3

Bob decides to use the standard set of scores (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8) for Bruenor’s abilities. Since he’s a fighter, he puts his highest score, 15, in Strength. His next highest, 14, goes in Constitution. Bruenor might be a brash fighter, but Bob decides he wants the dwarf to be older, wiser, and a good leader, so he puts decent scores in Wisdom and Charisma. After applying his racial benefits (increasing Bruenor’s Constitution by 2 and his Strength by 2), Bruenor’s ability scores and modifiers look like this: Strength17(+3), Dexterity10 (+0), Constitution 16 (+3), Intelligence 8 (-1), Wisdom 13 (+1), Charisma 12 (+1).

Bob fills in Bruenor’s final hit points: 10 + his Constitution modifier of +3, for a total of 13 hit points.

Variant: Customizing Ability Scores

At your Dungeon Master’s option, you can use this variant for determining your ability scores. The method described here allows you to build a character with a set of ability scores you choose individually.

You have 27 points to spend on your ability scores. The cost of each score is shown on the Ability Score Point Cost table. For example, a score of 14 costs 7 points. Using this method, 15 is the highest ability score you can end up with, before applying racial in creases. You can’t have a score lower than 8.

This method of determining ability scores enables you to create a set of three high numbers and three low ones (15, 15, 15, 8, 8, 8), a set of numbers that are above average and nearly equal (13, 13, 13, 12, 12, 12), or any set of numbers between th ose extremes.

Ability Score Point Cost

Score Cost Score Cost
8 0 12 4
9 1 13 5
10 2 14 6
11 3 15 9