Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, like many other tabletop roleplaying games, often starts with players creating their characters. A part of that process is determining a character’s starting capabilities through stats or Ability Scores in 5e. By default, players roll dice to figure out their character’s statistics during the character creation process.
But, how do you roll stats in D&D? What are some other ways of rolling up a character? And, what are the pros and cons of rolling?
This guide outlines everything you should need to know about rolling for Ability Scores in D&D 5e.
Let’s start with how you’ll usually roll for stats in D&D.
How to Roll Stats in 5e
The default way to roll for stats in D&D 5e is by rolling 4 6-sided dice (4d6) and adding together the 3 highest numbers for each Ability Score. This means rolling 4d6 6 times, once for each stat, during character creation.
Many games of Dungeons & Dragons start with the players creating their characters. As part of this process, sometimes called "rolling up characters," a lot of Game Masters have the players roll for their characters’ stats or Ability Scores in 5e. In fact, rolling for stats is the default method for calculating a characters attributes.
The rules for rolling for stats in 5e come from the Player’s Handbook in chapter 1:
In short, the process for rolling for stats in D&D 5e is as follows:
- Roll 4d6
- Add the 3 highest numbers rolled
- Assign that total to one of your 6 Ability Scores
- Repeat 5 times for each other Ability Score
Let’s look at an example of how rolling for stats in D&D works.
Let’s say I want to play a Fighter. During character creation, I start rolling for my character’s stats using 4d6 and here’s what I roll:
- 3, 6, 1, 4
- 5, 1, 6, 2
- 3, 5, 6, 3
- 3, 3, 5, 1
- 2, 5, 6, 6
- 3, 6, 3, 5
By default, I’ll drop the lowest number from each set and add up the remaining 3 numbers:
- 3 + 6 + 4 = 13 (drop the 1)
- 5 + 6 + 2 = 13 (drop the 1)
- 3 + 5 + 6 = 14 (drop one of the 3s)
- 3 + 3 + 5 = 11 (drop the 1)
- 5 + 6 + 6 = 17 (drop the 2)
- 3 + 6 + 5 = 14 (drop one of the 3s)
So, these are the numbers I get to use for my Fighter’s stats. I’d most likely assign the 17 into either Strength or Dexterity depending on the build I want; the the 14s into the other (Strength or Dexterity) as well as Constitution; a 13 in Wisdom; a 13 in Intelligence; and the 11 in Charisma (I rarely play charismatic Fighters).
From here, I’d add in my character’s Ability Score Increases for their race (or the +2 / +1 or +1 / +1 / +1 from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything), racial traits, and finish building them out with their class and background features for 1st-level.
It’s honestly as simple as that. However, there are some variations to make character creation a bit more unique for your table.
Variants of Rolling for Stats
There is basically no limit to creating or using variants of stat rolls in D&D. Generally, variants of rolling for stats increases or decreases variance in rolls for characters.
Of course, as with many things in D&D and TTRPGs in general, you’re not beholden to this method of rolling for stats. Quite a few Game Masters and groups use different rules for rolling up characters and you’re pretty much only limited by your imagination and what your players like.
Some variants on rolling for stats in Dungeons & Dragons include:
- Roll 7 times and drop the lowest of those totals
- Roll 3d6 instead of 4d6 for each stat
- Reroll 1s on your d6s
- Roll 1d20 instead of 4d6 for each stat
- Roll in order of Ability Scores instead of allocating stats
- Create a shared pool of rolled totals and distribute
Don’t worry, we’ll go over each of these so you get a better idea of how it works.
Roll 7 Sets & Drop the Lowest
This method of rolling for stats expands on the idea of dropping the lowest number rolled and generally means higher Ability Scores for player characters. Essentially, a player rolls per the default rules (4d6) but they roll 7 times instead of 6. They then drop the lowest total roll, giving them their character’s 6 Ability Scores.
Basically, this is an expansion on the default idea of rolling for stats. In theory, this method of rolling for stats makes character’s a bit more powerful at 1st-level as it gives you another chance at rolling better while removing the lowest total from your totals.
Using the same stats from the example above, with this method, I’d roll 1 more time and get 6, 1, 2, 3 as my 7th set. Dropping the lowest number, this set gives me another 11 (6 + 2 + 3). At this point, I’d simply drop one of the 11s.
Roll 3d6 in 6 Sets
This method increases the variance in a character’s stats by removing the 4th d6. This generally makes characters’ stats lower on average.
Rolling only 3d6 and using whatever numbers you roll generally means lower Ability Scores. With the 4d6 method, you have usually get higher totals since your chances of rolling bigger numbers, even with only 1 more die, are better. Using only 3d6 means you’re stuck with whatever numbers you roll.
Look at it this way, according to AnyDice, the average of rolling 4d6 and dropping the lowest number is 12.24. However, the average of rolling 3d6 is 10.5; that makes the default method for rolling up stats almost 2 points better.
Reroll 1s on d6s
Your Game Master may have you follow the default method for rolling stats but reroll any 1s you roll on any d6. This usually means characters start the game with higher Ability Scores.
Now, there are 2 sub-variants to this method. The first only allows rerolling 1s once, so if a player rerolls one of their d6s and gets a 1 again, they’re stuck with it. The second allows players to reroll 1s until they roll something different, so they keep rerolling any result of 1 on a d6 until they get a 2 or higher.
Both methods result in generally higher stats (assuming you’re still using 4d6 and dropping the lowest, or even 3d6 flat) as this gives players more chances at getting higher totals for their Ability Scores.
Roll 1d20 for Each Score
Generally, rolling a number of dice gives a relatively set range and average for stats. However, for a greater level of chaos and randomness, rolling a single 20-sided die (1d20) is an option Game Master may use during character creation.
This is one of the more chaotic methods of rolling for stats.
Essentially, you follow all the regular rules on rolling for Ability Scores except you use 1d20 for each stat instead of a number of d6s. Bear in mind, there’s a curve when it comes to rolling multiple d6s, but each number on a d20 is equally likely to get rolled (5%, to be exact). So, a player is just as likely to roll a 1 for a stat as they are a 20. Compare that to the curve of 3d6 where you have a 67.58% chance of getting a number between 8 and 13 with a less than 1% chance of getting either a 3 or 18 (0.46% chance).
Just as an example, here’s the array I got from rolling 1d20 6 times for a potential character’s stats:
I actually rolled these numbers with 6 different d20s. So, you can see the range your character’s stats can fall between. If you use a d20 to roll for stats in D&D your and your friends’ characters are probably going to end up with wildly different scores.
Roll In Order of Ability Scores
Rolling for stats in order of Ability Scores means players have little choice in the class they get to play. This adds a level of randomness to party composition as making an effective character is largely out of the players’ control.
This isn’t so much a modification of how you roll but restricts how you allocate your stats.
Ordinarily, players are free to distribute their rolled stats between each of their Ability Scores as they see fit. This allows players to build the character they want according to optimal stats for their desired class.
However, Game Masters and players may elect to roll in order of Ability Scores. This usually means rolling stats in descending order according to the characters sheets, so players determine their characters scores in the following order:
Using their variant of rolling for stats means taking away some control from the players. That said, it may be useful if a player isn’t quite sure what they want to play and wants to randomize their character a bit.
Aside from the order, this variant can use any other method of rolling for stats from those previously mentioned.
Create a Shared Pool & Distribute
This way for rolling stats in 5e is a little less random. It uses the standard 4d6 and drops the lowest, but instead of players assigning their individual rolls to their character, the numbers are pooled together. The players then allocate and distribute all pooled rolls across each other’s characters.
Using a stat pool is an interesting way for players to interact with each other even during character creation.
Essentially, you’ll roll for each characters 6 Ability Scores equal to the number of players at the table. For example, if you have 4 players, you’ll roll 24 times; once for each Ability Score for each character. You’ll take those numbers and note them all down. From there, the players then discuss which character gets which totals to allocate to their stats.
Using a stat pool and letting the players distribute the scores across each other allows for everyone to ensure all characters are on relatively equal footing. Of course, there’s the chance the numbers skew higher or lower or are unevenly distributed, but this allows the players to discuss what’s fair amongst each other before the game even begins.
Rolling individually may result in 1 player character with inordinately high stats and another with excruciatingly low ones. That’s just how random chance works. Using a pool of stats and letting the players allocate them between each other alleviates some of this unfairness while retaining the fun of rolling for Ability Scores.
You can use any method of rolling otherwise (4d6 drop lowest, 3d6 flat, 1d20, or any other) for the distributed stats.
Pros & Cons of Rolling for Ability Scores in D&D
While rolling for stats in D&D is the default method, it isn’t without its faults. Depending on the Game Master, there are a number of reasons both to roll and not to roll for Ability Scores.
Of course, rolling for stats has both advantages and disadvantages. Depending on who you ask, it’s all a matter of perspective on whether rolling is good or not. That said, if you’re the Game Master for your group, you’ll want to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks if you want your players to roll for their characters’ Ability Scores.
Pros of Rolling Stats in D&D
The greatest advantage of rolling for stats in D&D is the potential for higher Ability Scores, making player characters more capable and heroic.
Here are some of the pros of rolling stats in D&D:
- It’s the classic way for making D&D characters
- Varied stats mean characters can really shine in their chosen class
- Players usually like rolling dice (it’s what we’re here for)
- Higher numbers are possible without stat bonuses
Of course, we can’t ignore 2 comparatively subjective advantages to rolling for stats in D&D; it’s the classic way to do it and players like rolling dice.
Rolling for a character’s stats is the original way of doing things. It’s sometimes called "rolling a character" for a reason. So, rolling a character’s Ability Scores is a way to maintain tradition for many players and GMs.
Likewise, players (usually) enjoy rolling dice. There’s a reason we’re all playing a dice-rolling TTRPG. The click-clack of dice is part of the fun, so rolling for stats is where that all starts.
Cons of Rolling Stats in D&D
The biggest drawback of rolling for stats in D&D is the possibility of uneven Ability Scores between player characters resulting in differing levels of capability between them.
A few disadvantages to rolling for Ability Scores include:
- Unscrupulous players may cheat
- Lower numbers are possible
- Players may roll low stats across all Ability Scores
The most glaring problem with rolling for stats in D&D is you’ll find tables where 1 character didn’t roll under a 12 for any Ability score while another couldn’t roll higher than a 10. So, the latter player feels useless while the former is effectively the main character of the group. It doesn’t feel good to be in that position and can lead to resentment between players.
Alternatives to Rolling Character Stats in 5e
Rolling for stats may be the default method for determining Ability Scores in 5e, but it’s not the only way. The rules for character creation outline 2 other methods: the Standard Array and Point-Buy.
While rolling is the default way for figuring out a character’s Ability Scores in 5e, it’s not the only method. The PHB lists out 2 alternatives to dice rolling:
- Standard Array
These 2 methods remove a lot of the randomness from character creation. This means player characters start the game off on more-or-less equal ground.
The Standard Array for Ability Scores in D&D 5e equal 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8. Players allocate these 6 scores into their characters’ stats for a more even distribution of capability between each other.
If you want less variation between the characters at your table, you can use the Standard Array of stats. These are pre-set numbers players can allocate to their character’s Ability Scores however they like. Being pre-set, this means all player characters start at roughly the same place, power-wise, once the game starts.
The Standard Array of Ability Scores in D&D 5e is:
- 15 (+2 mod)
- 14 (+2 mod)
- 13 (+1 mod)
- 12 (+1 mod)
- 10 (+0 mod)
- 8 (-1 mod)
Of course, the drawback is players don’t have the change at getting higher than a 17 even with starting stat bonuses, so they won’t get that tantalizing 18 at 1st-level. But, this means no one character is leagues better across the board than anyone else.
D&D 5e’s Point-Buy System grants each player a set number of "points" to allocate towards increasing their character’s Ability Scores. The higher the stat, the more points it takes.
The Player’s Handbook outlines a method for customizing Ability Scores commonly referred to as "Point-Buy," called as such because players start with a set number of "points" and "buy" increases to their character’s stats. The default number of points players start with is 27. Each Ability Score for every character starts at 8 and players then spend from their points to increase each number. Of course, higher stats cost more points, so players can’t have inordinately higher scores than anyone else.
D&D 5e Point-Buy Table
|Ability Score||Point Cost|
The Point-Buy method for determining stats gives players the opportunity to better customize their character without the randomness of dice rolls and restricted numbers of the Standard Array.
Honestly, the biggest problem I’ve run into with Point-Buy in 5e my players usually have a hard time understanding how the system works. Maybe I’m just bad at explaining it, but it’s problem I’ve had anytime I put it out there as an option. So, just be aware of some confusion if you want to use this method at your table.
What Method Should You Use to Determine Stats in 5e?
The method you choose to use for your D&D game is up to you. Your Game Master may determine which method you’ll use during character creation or you may decide as a group which method you like best.
At the end of the day, the Game Master has final say on what method your table uses for character creation. Ideally, it’s a mutual decision between the players’ preferences and what the GM thinks works best, but that may not be the case especially for a table of mostly new players.
Of course, you should consider the pros and cons of rolling for stats (as outlined above) if you’re unsure about that method. Besides, you have the Standard Array or Point-Buy method to depend on should you so choose.
Personally, as both a Game Master and player, I’ve never liked the idea of rolling for stats. I don’t like running the risk of a player rolling poorly and not enjoying their time in the game because of it. I know there are ways around this, a number of which I mentioned in the variants in this guide, but I’d rather just not deal with it in the first place. As such, I usually just use the Standard Array because I’ve had too many players not understand how Point-Buy works.
What’s the Most "Fair" Method of Determining Stats in D&D?
The most fair method for determining stats in D&D 5e is the Standard Array followed by the Point-Buy System. Rolling for stats is the most random method and may be unfair simply because one player may roll well while another doesn’t.
Flat out; the Standard Array is the most fair for determining player character stats in D&D 5e. Every character starts with the same total scores just allocated according to their desired class’s strengths.
Point-Buy is a close second in fairness since players still start with the same number of points. That said, you may still end up with differing levels of capability depending on how your players spend their points and allocate their stats.
Rolling is by far the least fair since everything depends on how well players roll. I’ve seen many a table where 1 player rolls really well and another doesn’t, so there’s greater chances of power disparity when you roll for stats.
D&D 5e Stat Rolls FAQ
What Dice Do You Roll for Stats?
By default, you roll 4 6-sided dice and drop the lowest number for stats in D&D 5e.
Simple as that. You’ll usually roll 4d6 for each Ability Score in 5e. That said, if your Game Master uses a variant of rolling for stats, the type and number of dice you roll may be different.
What Character Attributes Do You Roll for?
The character attributes you roll for in D&D 5e are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma. You may also roll for maximum hit point increases when your character levels up.
You roll for each of the 6 Ability Scores in D&D 5e during character creation. The only other attribute you roll for is maximum hit points when your character levels up, but even then, that’s an optional rule as you can usually take the average if your Game Master allows it.
Can You Reroll Stats in D&D?
By default, you generally do not reroll stats in D&D. However, your Game Master may elect to use a variant of rolling for Ability Scores where you may reroll numbers.
Usually, what you roll is what you roll when it comes to determining your character’s stats in D&D. Of course, if your Game Master allows it, either due to their own homebrew rules or because of changing circumstances over the course of the game, you may reroll stats or even a new character.
Summary of Rolling for Stats in D&D 5e
That about sums up how rolling for stats in D&D works.
Rolling up Ability Scores or stats is the default method for character creation. By default in 5th Edition, players roll 4d6 and add up the 3 highest numbers (drop the lowest) for each of their 6 Ability Scores. That said, there are a number of variants tables may use depending on player and Game Master preference.
What’s your preferred method of determining stats in D&D 5e (or other TTRPG)? Leave a comment below with why it’s your favorite!
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