Ability Scores in DnD 5e, Photo Sketch of DnD 5e Player's Handbook and Character Sheet

D&D 5e Ability Scores Explained

What Are Ability Scores in D&D 5e?

Ability Scores in D&D 5e are the basic stats behind everything you do in-game. They affect your dice rolls and how your roleplay throughout your campaign.

But, what do they mean? How do you calculate them? Can you improve them?

If you’re new to D&D, or roleplaying games in general, it can be easy to get lost in everything that goes into your Ability Scores.

This article gives you everything you need to know about Ability Scores for when you start playing Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition.

Let’s start off by explaining what Ability Scores in D&D 5e are.

What Do Ability Scores Mean in 5e?

Ability Scores in DnD 5e, Photo Sketch of the DnD 5e Player's Handbook Chapter 7
Ability Scores in D&D 5e represent a player character’s base statistics

Ability Scores in D&D 5e are your character’s capabilities. Each one stands for some aspect of your character’s abilities. And, your Ability Scores inform how good your character is at a given skill.

The six ability scores in 5e are:

  • Strength: A creature’s physical prowess
  • Dexterity: A creature’s agility
  • Constitution: A creature’s endurance and hardiness
  • Intelligence: A creature’s intellectual capabilities
  • Wisdom: A creature’s intuition
  • Charisma: A creature’s force of personality

Page 173 of the Player’s Handbook describes Ability Scores as:

"Each of a creature’s abilities has a score, a number that defines the magnitude of that ability. An ability score is not just a measure of innate capabilities, but also encompasses a creature’s training and competence in activities related to that ability."

DnD Beyond: Basic Rules for Dungeons and Dragons; Using Ability Scores

So, to put it simply, your Ability Scores are a numerical measurement for each of your character’s abilities.

They’re your primary stats that determine the capability of your character. And, the higher the number, the better your character is with skills and rolls using that Ability Score. Likewise, the lower the number, the worse they are.

Ability Scores in D&D 5e usually range from 3-20. There are situations where you might have a 1 or more than a 20. But, that’s pretty uncommon and usually results from atypical circumstances.

If you hear someone refer to their "stats", they’re talking about their Ability Scores.

So, if Ability Scores indicate your character’s capabilities; how do they work?

How Do Ability Scores Work in 5e?

Now that you know what Ability Scores mean, let’s get into how they work.

Ability Scores determine how good your character is in a given situation. With each score comes an Ability Score Modifier. This modifier affects your skills, attack rolls, and saving throws.

You’ll use your Ability Score to determine your Ability Score Modifier. You use this modifier for your skills, attacks, and so on.

At certain points, your Ability Score Modifier increases. Basically, at every even Ability Score, your modifier increases by 1. So, that looks like this:

Ability Score 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

Does the Ability Score actually matter if all I’m using is the modifier?

Well, yes and no. You need the Ability Score to determine the modifier, after all. So, understanding where your character’s stats are means you know when your mod increases.

Also, some Dungeon Masters, myself included, use the base Ability Score to break ties. For instance, if two players tie on an Initiative roll, I’ll see who has the higher Dexterity score to break the tie.

Now, you’ll use your Ability Score Modifier to calculate a lot of scores in D&D 5e. You’ll use it for:

  • Skills
  • Saving Throws
  • Attack Rolls
  • Armor Class
  • Initiative Modifier
  • Save DCs
  • Spell Attack Modifiers
  • Damage Modifiers

You increase (or decrease if you have a negative mod) each of these elements of play with your Ability Score Modifier. Doesn’t matter if you’re Proficient in the corresponding skills or attacks. Your Ability Score gets added to these rolls or statistics.

Now, that being said, the primary thing about your Ability Scores is when you roll Ability Checks.

What Are Ability Checks in 5e?

Ability Checks in 5e are certain rolls that use a corresponding Ability Score.

Ability Checks are rolls that use an Ability Score. But, not every roll that uses an Ability Score is an Ability Check.


Alright, so, here’s the deal; you have ability checks, saving throws, and attack rolls. Even though the latter two use Ability Score Modifiers, saving throws and attack rolls are not Ability Checks. Basically, Ability Checks are for any roll that isn’t an attack or save.

If this sounds like it’s a matter of semantics, you’d be right. But, the distinction is important because of certain in-game spells and effects.

For example, the guidance cantrip states "…the target can roll a d4 and add the number rolled to one ability check of its choice." While the 1st level spell bless states "Whenever a target makes an attack roll or a saving throw before the spell ends, the target can roll a d4 and add the number rolled…."

Guidance affects ability checks while bless affects attacks and saves.

This demonstrates that each of these rolls are, in fact, different from each other. So, it’s important to understand the difference between ability checks and the other types of rolls.

Wizards even addressed this in a Sage Advice article asking if attack rolls are ability checks. So, don’t just take my word for it.

Basically, skill checks or other rolls that use an Ability Score Modifier that aren’t saving throws, attack rolls, or spell effects are Ability Checks.

With all this in mind, you need to know what the different Ability Scores are.

What Are the 6 Ability Scores in 5e?

Photo Sketch of the Six Ability Scores in DnD 5e on a Character Sheet
The 6 Ability Scores in D&D 5e are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, & Charisma

There are 6 Ability Scores in D&D 5e. Each represents either the physical or mental capabilities of a player character.

  • Strength
  • Dexterity
  • Constitution
  • Intelligence
  • Wisdom
  • Charisma

You use each Ability Score for different reasons. Now, there is some overlap such as when you make attacks rolls in 5e. But, each of these stats has different uses.

And, they also tell you a little bit about your character.

Is your character strong? Are they quick? Are they smart?

Your Ability Scores help you roleplay your character. While you use them a lot for rolls and skill checks, they aren’t just a mechanical element.

With that in mind, let’s go over each of D&D 5e’s Ability Scores.

D&D 5e Ability Scores: Strength

Strength in D&D 5e measures how physically strong your character is.

Fairly straightforward. A high strength score means your character is very physically capable. You use Strength for the Athletics skill (usually) and for melee and Thrown weapon attacks and damage.

Some examples of when you’d make a Strength ability check would be:

  • Making an attack with a longsword
  • Lifting a heavy boulder
  • Kicking in a door
  • Carrying a wounded ally
  • Throwing a javelin at a target

D&D 5e Ability Scores: Dexterity

Dexterity in D&D 5e informs you of how quick and agile your character is.

This Ability Score has a bit of a reputation because it affects so many aspects of your character. It affects your Initiative Modifier, Armor Class, certain skill rolls, and ranged and Finesse weapon attacks.

A high Dexterity means your character is more agile. They’re able to act quicker in combat. And, they affect a few skills.

  • Acrobatics
  • Sleight of Hand
  • Stealth

So, some examples of when you use the Dexterity Ability Score include:

  • Making an attack with a longbow
  • Increasing your Armor Class for light and medium armor
  • Rolling out of a short drop to reduce fall damage
  • Sneaking past a group of guard
  • Picking the pocket of a drunk nobleperson

D&D 5e Ability Scores: Constitution

The Constitution Ability Score affects how hardy your character is.

Constitution is a bit more of a passive Ability Score for D&D 5e. It doesn’t have any associated skills. So, you use it mostly as a Saving Throw against certain affects.

The biggest aspect of Constitution is it determines how many hit points you have in D&D 5e.

That being said, spellcasters use Constitution to make Concentration saving throws for certain spell effects.

Some examples of when you use Constitution are:

  • Adding your Constitution modifier to your hit point increase at level up
  • Making a saving throw against an ingested poison
  • Rolling a Concentration save to maintain a spell’s effect

D&D 5e Ability Scores: Intelligence

Intelligence in D&D 5e is how smart your character is.

Usually, this means "book smarts." Your character gained knowledge through tutelage or academic learning. So, the Intelligence Ability Score covers quite a few skills in 5e:

  • Arcana
  • History
  • Investigation
  • Nature
  • Religion

Each of these skills use Intelligence as each one requires some form of education to understand.

Now, Artificers, Wizards, Eldritch Knight Fighters, and Arcane Trickster Rogues all use Intelligence as their Spellcasting Ability. So, this Ability Score determines these a player character’s Spell Save Difficulty Class (DC) and Spell Attack Modifier.

Some examples of when you use Intelligence in D&D 5e are:

  • Attempting to understand an enchantment on a door
  • Recalling the history of an ancient battle site
  • Sorting through papers to decipher a code
  • Knowing which plants are poisonous
  • Making spell attacks as a Wizard

D&D 5e Ability Scores: Wisdom

Wisdom in D&D 5e is your character’s ability to read and understand the world around them.

This Ability Score is one of the more nuanced ones. It’s difficult to explain exactly what is stands for.

Personally, Wisdom is your character’s perceptiveness. It also represents your willpower, how well your character resists outside forces that attempt to affect their mind, and their intuition.

The biggest thing that Wisdom affects that applies to all player characters is your Perception skill. Basically, this skill is how well you perceive your surroundings. Looking an area over, listening for a patrol, smelling for leaking fumes, and many, many other situations call for a Wisdom (Perception) check. So, having a high Wisdom helps a lot.

There are quite a few skills that Wisdom affects:

  • Animal Handling
  • Insight
  • Medicine
  • Perception
  • Survival

Now, Wisdom is another Spellcasting Ability for some classes. Clerics, Druids, and Rangers use Wisdom. So, if you’re playing one of these classes, you should have a decent Wisdom score.

Some examples of when you use Wisdom in D&D 5e are:

  • Attempting to hear when a patrol returns
  • Reading a shady non-player character to see if they’re trustworthy
  • Resisting a fear affect with a Wisdom saving throw
  • Finding food for the party while out in the wilderness
  • Making saves harder for spellcasters that use Wisdom

D&D 5e Ability Scores: Charisma

Charisma in D&D 5e is your character’s force of personality and how well they interact with other people.

Basically, if you have a high Charisma, you’re good at talking to/with/at others. As such, there are a few skills that Charisma affects:

  • Deception
  • Intimidation
  • Performance
  • Persuasion

Each of these skills represent some form of Charisma. Your ability to lie, subjugate, entertain, or placate all fall under these. If you’re interacting with an NPC, you’re probably gonna roll one of these Ability Checks.

As the last of the "cerebral" Ability Scores, Charisma acts as the Spellcasting Ability for Bards, Paladins, Sorcerers, and Warlocks. So, you should have a good Charisma score if you’re playing one of these classes.

Examples of when you use Charisma in D&D 5e are:

  • Lying to a guard about who started the bar fight
  • Intimidating a captured bandit for information about their boss
  • Playing an instrument for a crowd in the town square
  • Smooth-talking your way into a high-end gambling den

How Do You Determine Ability Scores in 5e?

Photo Sketch of Dice on a DnD 5e Character Sheet
The 3 basic ways to determin Ability Scores in D&D 5e are the Standard Array, rolling for stats, & the Point Buy System

Now that you know the different types of Ability Scores, how to you calculate them?

There are three basic ways to determine Ability Scores in D&D 5e; the Standard Array, Rolling for Stats, and the Point Buy System.

Each method comes with advantages and drawbacks. But, none of them is objectively better than the others. It all depends on your and your table’s preferences.

So, without further ado, let’s get into the different ways to calculate Ability Scores in D&D 5e.

Using the Standard Array for Ability Scores

The Standard Array in D&D 5e is a standardized method for calculating Ability Scores at character creation. It uses a set array of stats that players allocate on their character sheets.

The Standard Array for 5e’s Ability Scores is:

  • 15
  • 14
  • 13
  • 12
  • 10
  • 8

When you’re making your character, you’ll assign one of these scores to each of your Ability Scores.

This is my preferred method for determining Ability Scores. I feel that it gives player characters a nice, round set of stats. Each character is good with one or two Ability Scores, alright at a couple, and not great at one specific thing.

To me, this gives enough freedom for good roleplay and creates characters that need to rely on the other members of their party for certain challenges.

That being said, the downside of the Standard Array is there can be little variance in characters. If I make two Fighters for different games, chances are they’re gonna have a 15 in Strength, a 14 in Dexterity, a 13 in Constitution, and so on.

Now, your choice in race or lineage plays a part in this as where you place your bonuses changes things.

But, for some players, this might not be enough of a difference to matter.

Regardless, if you’re a new player or DM, I highly recommend you use the Standard Array for your first few games. It reduces the swinginess of rolling for Ability Scores and is less confusing than Point Buy.

How to Roll Ability Scores in D&D 5e

Rolling for stats is the traditional method for determining your Ability Scores in D&D.

If you’ve talked with any long-time Dungeons & Dragons players, you’ve probably heard about how they roll for stats. It’s the oldest method for figuring out Ability Scores. And, it’s still used in many 5e games.

The benefits of rolling for stats in D&D is that each character is different, you can have great Ability Scores, and it can be more fun.

Each character will have a unique set of scores because your rolls are much more varied. As opposed to the Standard Array, you can roll higher than a 15 resulting in more heroic and capable player characters. And, everyone loves rolling dice. So, incorporating that into character creation means it can make your session zero more fun.

…That being said, there are drawbacks to this method.

Mostly, rolling for Ability Scores can result in huge gaps in character capability. Basically, you have no control over who has great stats and who has awful stats.

You might get a player character who doesn’t roll lower than a total of 14 for all of their Ability Scores. While on the other hand, you might get a player who can’t roll double digits to save their life. So, you end up with two characters with a vast power gap between them.

If you have players who don’t care about that and just want to play with their friends, that might not be an issue. But, and this is especially true for new players, rolling low Ability Scores isn’t a fun experience.

So, I’d recommend only rolling for Ability Scores if you’ve played for a bit.

But, how do you do it?

Well, there’s actually quite a few different ways to roll for Ability Scores in D&D. And, to make things even more complicated, there are a couple methods of allocating those rolls.

  • Roll 3d6
  • Roll 4d6 and drop the lowest
  • Roll 1d20
  • Assign stats
  • Roll in order

So, let’s break each of these down.

Rolling Ability Scores: 3d6

The most basic way to roll Ability Scores in D&D 5e is roll 3 6-sided dice for each stat.

This is the traditional way to roll for stats. There’s little fluff to it. What you roll is what you get.

On average, you’ll roll a 10 or 11 (the actual average for 3d6 is 10.5) for your Ability Scores if you roll 3d6. But, you can roll as low as a 3 or as high as an 18. Resulting in characters who are awful at something or amazing at something starting from 1st level.

Rolling Ability Scores: 4d6 & Drop the Lowest

One of the more popular methods of rolling Ability Scores in D&D 5e is rolling 4 6-sided dice and dropping the lowest.

This is much the same as rolling 3d6. But, it results in a higher average and more capable player characters.

But, what does it mean?

Basically, you roll 4d6, take out the lowest number of those, and total up the remaining 3 dice. For example, if you roll two 5s, a 4, and a 3, you’d only add the 5s and 4 for a total of 14.

Now, this skews the average number up from 3d6. The average for rolling 4d6 and dropping the lowest is 12.24. I’m not a mathematician or statistician, so you can see the full breakdown on 4d6 averages here. So, you increase the average Ability score by almost 2 points.

Doesn’t sound like much. But, that 2 point increase means a +1 increase to your Ability Score Modifier.

Rolling Ability Scores: 1d20 (Or, the Chaos Method)

And now for complete chaos.

If you’re feeling particularly spicy, you can roll a single 20-sided die for your Ability Scores.

That’s it. That’s the method.

  1. Step 1: Grab a d20
  2. Step 2: Roll that d20
  3. Step 3: ????
  4. Step 4: Profit

In all seriousness, unless you’re cool with the swinginess of the d20, I can’t recommend this method to determine your Ability Scores.

You’ll get some wild numbers for your player characters. And, if rolling 3d6 has the chance of spitting out power gaps, rolling 1d20 is a much worse offender.

But, if you and your players embrace chaos, go for it.

Rolling Ability Scores: Allocating Rolls

This isn’t a method of rolling for Ability Scores but for assigning your rolls.

Usually, after rolling your stats in D&D 5e, you’ll assign your totals to each of your Ability Scores.

With this method, you have control over how you build your character. And, this is the typical way you allocate your rolled scores.

You’ll roll 6 times (once for each stat) and assign your totals depending on the character you want to play.

That’s it. Easy as that.

Rolling Ability Scores: Rolling in Order

I learned of this method from Matt Colville’s "Making Characters" video a few years back.

Using this method, you roll for your characters Ability Scores in order according to their character sheet.

Basically, instead of assigning your total die rolls, you don’t get a choice in where the numbers go. You start from the top with Strength and go down the list to Dexterity, to Constitution, etc.

This is an interesting way of assigning Ability Scores. It removes some agency (which I’m not a huge fan of), but Matt makes a point that it’s great for new players who want to roll dice but don’t know the archetypes of your typical fantasy-adventure characters.

I think it’s a valid point. And, this method removes some of the confusion that new players might have.

That being said, I’m a big advocate of players being able to make the character they want (within reason). But, I do think this is a good way to introduce players to the idea of rolling dice for Ability Scores.

What is the Point Buy System in 5e?

The last way to determine your Ability Scores in D&D 5e is the Point Buy System.

5e’s Point Buy System is a way to calculate your Ability Scores based on a pool of points you use to buy stat increases.

Basically, you’re given a set number (usually 27) and a list of Ability Score numbers with a specific cost.

The basic Point Buy System gives you 27 points. All Ability Scores start at 8. And, the stat costs are:

  1. 8: 0pts
  2. 9: 1pt
  3. 10: 2pts
  4. 11: 3pts
  5. 12: 4pts
  6. 13: 5pts
  7. 14: 7pts
  8. 15: 9pts

As you go, you determine your Ability Scores based on your "budget," subtracting the point cost from your total for each stat.

I definitely don’t recommend this method for newer players. It requires a bit more math than the Standard Array or rolling. And, it’s kind of difficult to explain.

That being said, I do think it’s a fun middle-ground between the two.

It gives your players more control over their Ability Scores than rolling. It doesn’t go lower than an 8, so your players won’t have garbage stats. And, it allows more freedom than the Standard Array.

Now, why does Point Buy cap at 15?

Honestly, there’s no hard answer. But, capping the Point Buy System at 15 prevents characters from having a 20 (the standard max for any Ability Score) in a single stat at 1st level. You might have heroic characters, but they ain’t that good at the start of their adventure.

At least, not until they start improving their stats.

Ability Score Improvement in 5e

Photo Sketch of an Ability Score Improvement Section from the Player's Handbook
You get regular Ability Score Improvements are roughly every 4 class levels

Every character improves their Ability Scores in certain ways. Usually, your stats increase through four ways; racial bonuses, Ability Score Increases, magic items, and training.

Each of these happen at different times. And, each one comes with different rules.

So, let’s go over each of the ways you improve your Ability Scores in D&D 5e.

Racial Stat Bonuses

Each race in D&D 5e gets a couple Ability Score bonuses. Usually, you’ll get a +2 for one stat and a +1 in another.

Before Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything released, your character’s race (now called lineages) determined which Ability Scores got a bonus. You see this in the TCoE gives players the option to take those lineage bonuses and apply them to any Ability Score they choose.

I will say, check with your DM before you do this. They may not have TCoE or not allow switching these stat increases.

These bonuses take place during character creation. So, you’ll know which Ability Scores get a bonus before determining your stats.

4th Level Feature: Ability Score Improvement

The main way you’ll increase your stats is through regular features called "Ability Score Improvements" that happen every 4 class levels. This feature happens at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level.

Each class gets this feature. And, every class gets them at the same time with the exception of the Fighter and the Rogue who each get a few additional Ability Score Improvements, abbreviated as ASI.

Basically, the feature does what it sounds like; it improves you Ability Scores. Roughly every 4 class levels, you get the chance to buff up your character.

I say "class level" because you don’t get ASIs based on your character’s total level.

Say you have a multiclassed character with 5 levels in Fighter and 3 levels in Barbarian. Your total character level is an 8. But, you’d only have one ASI from the Fighter since that’s the only class your character has made it 4th level in.

That being said if you had 4 levels in Fighter and 4 levels in Barbarian, you’d have had 2 ASIs since both classes have reached 4th level.

Make sense?

Now, there are two things that happen when you get an ASI; you either get a straight increase to your Ability Scores or you take a feat.

Ability Score Improvement: +2 in 1 or +1 in 2

The typical thing that happens with an Ability Score Improvement is you either increase 2 Ability Scores by 1 each or your increase one Ability Score by 2.

Normally, you want to use your ASI to increase your Ability Scores.

This reflects a numerical measurement of your character getting better in that chose stat. They’ve gotten stronger, they’re faster, they’re smarter, etc.

Usually, you’ll want to use your ASI to even out your Ability Scores. Remember; your Ability Score Modifier increases by +1 at even intervals. So, if you have a 13 in Dexterity (a +1 modifier), you could use your ASI to add +1 to make it a 14 (a +2 modifier).

There are two things you can do here; you can increase one Ability score by +2 or increase two Ability Scores by +1. The choice is up to you.

Basically, you get 2 points to use and you decide where you want to put them.

For new players, this is the easiest way to use their ASIs. It’s straightforward and only involves basic addition. And, it’s always a benefit for your character.

But, if you’re playing with the variant rule, you can use your ASI to take a feat instead.

Ability Score Improvement: Feats

Some feats give you an increase to an Ability Score as well as another feature. These are sometimes called "half-feats."

If you’re playing with the optional Feats rule, you can instead opt to take a feat when you get a Ability Score Improvement instead of the base stat increases. And, certain feats give a stat bonus on top of a new ability.

For example, the Resilient feat gives you a +1 in an Ability Score of your choice and proficiency in the corresponding saving throw of your selected stat.

No feat gives you a +2 in an Ability Score. So, if you’re looking to max out a stat as soon as possible, you might want to stick with the typical ASI.

But, if you want to add some flair to your character or want to customize their abilities a bit more outside of their class features, half-feats are a good choice for both improving your Ability Scores and building out their abilities.

Magic Items That Improve Ability Scores

This method of improving your Ability Scores depends entirely on your Dungeon Master.

Some magic items in the Dungeon Master’s Guide give you a bonus to a certain Ability Score.

Now, there’s no guaranteed way to get magic items in D&D 5e. You DM decides on which ones your find, if any. So, this way of improving your Ability Scores is completely up in the air.

But, if you’re lucky enough (ie, your DM gives them to you), there are a few items that give you stat bonuses.

For example, some Ioun Stones increase a single Ability Score by 2. Or, the Gauntlets of Ogre Power increase your Strength score to 19.

Your DM should know what a magic item does. So, check with them if they decide to give your character one.

Can You Train Ability Scores in 5e?

You might be able to train to improve your Ability Scores in D&D 5e if your DM allows it.

Now, there’s nothing explicit in either the PHB or DMG. But, the latter does touch on training at a downtime activity.

Page 131 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide outlines rules on training to gain additional levels. And, page 231 outlines special training as a reward instead of physical compensation.

Neither of these pages specifically call out whether you can train to increase an Ability Score. But, I’d say if a player wanted to spend downtime to train up a stat, I’d allow it.

But, remember to check with your DM.

At the end of the day, it’s entirely up to them. Since this is something of a homebrew rule (with light guidance from the DMG), you need to make sure it’s okay for your game.

D&D 5e Ability Scores FAQ

What Are the 6 Ability Scores?

The six Ability Scores in 5e are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.

How Do You Determine Your Ability Scores in D&D?

There are three basic ways to determine your Ability Scores in D&D 5e; rolling, Point Buy, and Standard Array. There are a variety of methods for rolling for your Ability Scores but the most common are rolling 3d6 for each stat or rolling 4d6 and dropping the lowest for each one. 5e’s Point Buy system allocates a player character a certain number of points they use to "buy" increases to their Ability Scores during character creation. Finally, the Standard Array method for determining your Ability Scores gives your six set numbers you then allocate into each stat; 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.

Can Ability Scores Be Higher Than 20?

Ability Scores in 5e generally may not be higher than 20. That said, some magic items or class features (like the Barbarian's 20th level, capstone feature, Primal Champion) may allow you to push an Ability Score above 20.

Can You Reroll Stats in D&D?

Usually, you may not reroll your stats in D&D 5e. Once you finish setting your character’s Ability Scores, they may get increased or decreased over the course of your game but you can’t reroll them in their entirety.

What is the Best Stat in D&D 5e?

Dexterity is generally considered the best Ability Score in D&D 5e. This is because it affects Initiative and Armor Class for every character, regardless of their class, it affects the attacks and damage of many weapons, and Dexterity saving throws are some of the most common in the game.


Summary of Ability Scores in 5e

That’s about it for Ability Scores in D&D 5e.


  • Ability Scores inform you of your character’s capabilities
  • There are 6 stats each representing some aspect of your character
  • You use each score for different elements of the game from attack rolls to ability checks
  • There are 3 basic ways for determining your Ability Scores
  • You can improve your stats through a myriad of ways (some at your DM’s discretion)

This all being said, I want to impose on you that your character is not their Ability Scores.

Yes, you want to play a capable character (or not, that can be fun too). But, your character isn’t just numbers on a page. They should have goals, emotions, grievances, things that make them happy, and so on.

You character should be a person with a personality.

What’s your favorite method for determining Ability Scores? Have you played a character with low stats but still had a fun? Leave a comment below!

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4 thoughts on “D&D 5e Ability Scores Explained”

  1. Starting with the default array of 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, I am using point buy to adjust these stats around a little bit. We have 32 points to work with, not 27, and no stat caps.

    Using my variant human bonus’s and the Actor feat plus those extra 5 points, I’ve generated an array of 8, 11, 13, 14, 14, 18.

    My question is: can I reduce that 8 to a 6 or less in order to gain a few more points so that I can boost the 11 up to a 13? or otherwise fluff my necessary scores a little more? If so, what are the point values for those numbers? Does it work like it does when adding points, so that going to a 7 will get me 2 more points, or just 1 and 1 more at 6?

    1. Rules as Written, I don’t think there’s a way to refund points in 5e. The Point Buy method of determining Ability Scores starts every character’s stats at 8.

      So, in this situation, I’d talk with the GM. Especially since it sounds like the system is a homebrewed combination of the Standard Array and Point Buy. Normally, you choose one or the other. So, this is truly the GM’s call.

      1. How do you stop with the feelings of your character being their ability scores? Especially if you get jealous that the other players get awesome/good rolls for their abiliy scores, while you got bad/terrible roles; making your character an incompitent idiot thats worthless deadweight to your party?

        1. There’s no good advice to fight those feelings.

          The best thing you can do is talk with your Game Master. See if there’s anything they can do to make sure you don’t feel like your character is completely incapable. Or, see about finding that one thing your character is good at.

          This is partly why I don’t recommend rolling for stats because characters can end up with bad scores compared with others.

          Aside from that, don’t worry about your bad stats. There’s a saying; bad decisions lead to good roleplay. I’d argue bad stats can also lead to good roleplay. Play becomes more comedic, but if your table is okay with that, it shouldn’t be an issue.

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