Just about every die roll you make is going to be modified based on your character’s abilities. A tough character has a better chance of surviving a wyvern’s poison sting. A perceptive character is more likely to notice bugbears sneaking up from behind. A stupid character is not as likely to find a secret door that leads to a hidden treasure chamber. Your ability scores tell you what your modifiers are for rolls such as these.

Your character has six abilities: Strength (abbreviated Str), Dexterity (Dex), Constitution (Con), Intelligence (Int), Wisdom (Wis), and Charisma (Cha). Each of your character’s above-average abilities gives you a benefit on certain die rolls, and each below-average ability gives you a disadvantage on other die rolls. When creating your character, you roll your scores randomly, assign them to the abilities as you like, and raise and lower them according to the character’s race. Later, you can increase them as your character advances in experience.

Creating Ability Scores

To create an ability score for your character, roll four six-sided dice (4d6). Disregard the lowest die roll and total the three highest ones. The result is a number between 3 (horrible) and 18 (tremendous). The average ability score for the typical commoner is 10 or 11, but your character is not typical. The most common ability scores for player characters (PCs) are 12 and 13 (that’s right, the average player character is above average).

Make this roll six times, recording each result on a piece of paper. Once you have six scores, assign each score to one of the six abilities. At this step, you need to know what kind of person your character is going to be, including his or her race and class, in order to know how best to distribute the ability scores. Choosing a race other than human or half-elf causes some of these ability scores to change.

If your scores are too low, you may scrap them and roll all six scores again. Your scores are considered too low if the sum of your modifiers (before adjustments because of race) is 0 or lower, or if your highest score is 13 or lower.

Ability Modifiers

Each ability, after changes made because of race, has a modifier ranging from –5 to +5. The table below shows the modifier for each score. It also shows bonus spells, which you’ll need to know about if your character is a spellcaster.

The modifier is the number you apply to the die roll when your character tries to do something related to that ability. For instance, you apply your character’s Strength modifier to your roll when he or she tries to hit someone with a sword. You also use the modifier with some numbers that aren’t die Rolls - for example, you apply your character’s Dexterity modifier to his or her Armor Class (AC). A positive modifier is called a bonus, and a negative modifier is called a penalty.

Abilities And Spellcasters

The ability that governs bonus spells depends on what type of spellcaster your character is: Intelligence for wizards; Wisdom for clerics, druids, paladins, and rangers; or Charisma for sorcerers and bards. In addition to having a high ability score, a spellcaster must be of high enough class level to be able to cast spells of a given spell level. For instance, the wizard Mialee has an Intelligence score of 15, so she’s smart enough to get one bonus 1stlevel spell and one bonus 2nd-level spell (she will not actually get the 2nd-level spell until she is 3rd level wizard, since that’s the minimum level a wizard must be to cast 2nd-level spells).

If your character’s ability score is 9 or lower, you can’t cast spells tied to that ability. For example, if Mialee’s Intelligence score dropped to 9 because of a poison that reduces intellect, she would not be able to cast even her simplest spells until cured.

Score Modifier Bonus Spells By Level
0 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
1 –5 Can’t cast spells tied to this ability
2–3 –4 Can’t cast spells tied to this ability
4–5 –3 Can’t cast spells tied to this ability
6–7 –2 Can’t cast spells tied to this ability
8–9 –1 Can’t cast spells tied to this ability
10–11 0 - - - - - - - - - -
12–13 +1 - 1 - - - - - - - -
14–15 +2 - 1 1 - - - - - - -
16–17 +3 - 1 1 1 - - - - - -
18–19 +4 - 1 1 1 1 - - - - -
20–21 +5 - 2 1 1 1 1 - - - -
22–23 +6 - 2 2 1 1 1 1 - - -
24–25 +7 - 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 - -
26–27 +8 - 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 -
28–29 +9 - 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1
30–31 +10 - 3 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 1
32–33 +11 - 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 1 1
34–35 +12 - 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 1
36–37 +13 - 4 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 2
38–39 +14 - 4 4 3 3 3 3 2 2 2
40–41 +15 - 4 4 4 3 3 3 3 2 2
42–43 +16 - 4 4 4 4 3 3 3 3 2
44–45 +17 - 5 4 4 4 4 3 3 3 3

The Abilities

Each ability partially describes your character and affects some of his or her actions.

The description of each ability includes a list of races and creatures along with their average scores in that ability (Not every creature has a score in every ability, as you’ll see when you look at the lists that follow). These scores are for an average, young adult creature of the indicated race or kind, such as a dwarf tax collector, a halfling merchant, or an unexceptional gnoll. An adventurer - say, a dwarf fighter or a gnoll ranger - probably has better scores, at least in the abilities that matter most to that character, and player characters are above average overall.

Strength (STR)

Strength measures your character’s muscle and physical power. This ability is especially important for fighters, barbarians, paladins, rangers, and monks because it helps them prevail in combat. Strength also limits the amount of equipment your character can carry.

You apply your character’s Strength modifier to:

  • Melee attack rolls.
  • Damage rolls when using a melee weapon or a thrown weapon (including a sling). Exceptions: Off-hand attacks receive only one half the character’s Strength bonus, while two-handed attacks receive one and a half times the Strength bonus. A Strength penalty, but not a bonus, applies to attacks made with a bow that is not a composite bow.
  • Climb, Jump, and Swim checks. These are the skills that have Strength as their key ability.
  • Strength checks (for breaking down doors and the like).
Average Strength Scores
Example Race or Creature Average Strength Average Modifier
Allip, shadow, will-o’-wisp - -
Lantern archon, bat, toad 1 –5
Rat swarm 2 –4
Stirge, monkey, Tiny monstrous spider 3 –4
Grig, Small monstrous centipede 4–5 –3
Hawk, cockatrice, pixie 6–7 –2
Quasit, badger 8–9 –1
Human, beholder, dire rat 10–11 +0
Mind flayer, dog, pony, ghoul 12–13 +1
Gnoll, dire badger, baboon, manta ray 14–15 +2
Black pudding, choker, Large shark 16–17 +3
Centaur, displacer beast, minotaur 18–19 +4
Ape, ogre, flesh golem, gorgon 20–21 +5
Fire giant, triceratops, elephant 30–31 +10
Great wyrm gold dragon 46–47 +18

Dexterity (DEX)

Dexterity measures hand-eye coordination, agility, reflexes, and balance. This ability is the most important ability for rogues, but it’s also high on the list for characters who typically wear light or medium armor (rangers and barbarians) or no armor at all (monks, wizards, and sorcerers), and for anyone who wants to be a skilled archer.

You apply your character’s Dexterity modifier to:

  • Ranged attack rolls, including those for attacks made with bows, crossbows, throwing axes, and other ranged weapons.
  • Armor Class (AC), provided that the character can react to the attack.
  • Reflex saving throws, for avoiding fireballs and other attacks that you can escape by moving quickly.
  • Balance, Escape Artist, Hide, Move Silently, Open Lock, Ride, Sleight of Hand, Tumble, and Use Rope checks. These are the skills that have Dexterity as their key ability.
Average Dexterity Scores
Example Race or Creature Average Dexterity Average Modifier
Shrieker (fungus) - -
Gelatinous cube (ooze) 1 –5
Colossal animated object 4–5 –3
Purple worm, ogre zombie 6–7 –2
Ogre, basilisk, fire giant, tendriculos 8–9 –1
Human, triton, boar, giant fire beetle 10–11 +0
Bugbear, lammasu, hobgoblin 12–13 +1
Displacer beast, hieracosphinx 14–15 +2
Blink dog, wraith, lion, octopus 16–17 +3
Astral deva (angel), ethereal filcher 18–19 +4
Arrowhawk, bone devil 20–21 +5
Elder air elemental 32–33 +11

Constitution (CON)

Constitution represents your character’s health and stamina. A Constitution bonus increases a character’s hit points, so the ability is important for all classes.
You apply your character’s Constitution modifier to:

  • Each roll of a Hit Die (though a penalty can never drop a result below 1 - that is, a character always gains at least 1 hit point each time he or she advances in level). If a character’s Constitution score changes enough to alter his or her Constitution modifier, the character’s hit points also increase or decrease accordingly.
  • Fortitude saving throws, for resisting poison and similar threats.
  • Concentration checks. This is a skill, important to spellcasters, that has Constitution as its key ability.
Average Constitution Scores
Example Race or Creature Average Constitution Average Modifier
Ghoul, mummy, shadow - -
Centipede swarm, locust swarm 8–9 –1
Human, imp, dire weasel, grick 10–11 +0
Rust monster, medusa, otyugh, nymph 12–13 +1
Light horse, merfolk, troglodyte 14–15 +2
Tiger, chimera, assassin vine 16–17 +3
Polar bear, gargoyle, umber hulk 18–19 +4
Elephant, aboleth, tyrannosaurus 20–21 +5
The tarrasque 35 +12

Intelligence (INT)

Intelligence determines how well your character learns and reasons. This ability is important for wizards because it affects how many spells they can cast, how hard their spells are to resist, and how powerful their spells can be. It’s also important for any character who wants to have a wide assortment of skills.

You apply your character’s Intelligence modifier to:

A wizard gains bonus spells based on her Intelligence score. The minimum Intelligence score needed to cast a wizard spell is 10 + the spell’s level.

An animal has an Intelligence score of 1 or 2. A creature of humanlike intelligence has scores of at least 3.

Average Intelligence Scores
Example Race or Creature Average Intelligence Average Modifier
Zombie, golem, ochre jelly - -
Carrion crawler, purple worm, camel 1 –5
Tiger, hydra, dog, horse 2 –4
Gray render, tendriculos, rast 3 –4
Otyugh, griffon, displacer beast 4–5 –3
Troll, hell hound, ogre, yrthak 6–7 –2
Troglodyte, centaur, gnoll 8–9 –1
Human, bugbear, wight, night hag 10–11 +0
Dragon turtle, cloud giant, lamia 12–13 +1
Invisible stalker, wraith, will-o’-wisp 14–15 +2
Beholder, succubus, trumpet archon 16–17 +3
Mind flayer, death slaad, nightwing 18–19 +4
Kraken, titan, nightcrawler 20–21 +5
Great wyrm gold dragon 32–33 +11

Wisdom (WIS)

Wisdom describes a character’s willpower, common sense, perception, and intuition. While Intelligence represents one’s ability to analyze information, Wisdom represents being in tune with and aware of one’s surroundings. An “absentminded professor” has low Wisdom and high Intelligence. A simpleton (low Intelligence) might still have great insight (high Wisdom). Wisdom is the most important ability for clerics and druids, and it is also important for paladins and rangers. If you want your character to have acute senses, put a high score in Wisdom. Every creature has a Wisdom score.

You apply your character’s Wisdom modifier to:

Clerics, druids, paladins, and rangers get bonus spells based on their Wisdom scores. The minimum Wisdom score needed to cast a cleric, druid, paladin, or ranger spell is 10 + the spell’s level.

Average Wisdom Scores
Example Race or Creature Average Wisdom Average Modifier
Gelatinous cube (ooze), animated object 1 –5
Shrieker (fungus) 2 –4
Red slaad, githyanki 6–7 –2
Purple worm, grimlock, troll 8–9 –1
Human, lizardfolk, phantom fungus 10–11 +0
Owlbear, hyena, shadow, remorhaz 12–13 +1
Wraith, owl, giant praying mantis 14–15 +2
Devourer, lillend, androsphinx 16–17 +3
Couatl, erinyes devil, guardian naga 18–19 +4
Unicorn, storm giant 20–21 +5
Great wyrm gold dragon 32–33 +11

Charisma (CHA)

Charisma measures a character’s force of personality, persuasiveness, personal magnetism, ability to lead, and physical attractiveness. This ability represents actual strength of personality, not merely how one is perceived by others in a social setting. Charisma is most important for paladins, sorcerers, and bards. It is also important for clerics, since it affects their ability to turn undead. Every creature has a Charisma score.

You apply your character’s Charisma modifier to:

Sorcerers and bards get bonus spells based on their Charisma scores. The minimum Charisma score needed to cast a sorcerer or bard spell is 10 + the spell’s level.

Average Charisma Scores
Example Race or Creature Average Charisma Average Modifier
Zombie, golem, shrieker (fungus) 1 –5
Spider, crocodile, lizard, rhinoceros 2 –4
Tendriculos, octopus 3 –4
Dire rat, weasel, chuul, donkey 4–5 –3
Badger, troll, giant fire beetle, bear 6–7 –2
Gnoll, dire boar, manticore, gorgon 8–9 –1
Human, wolverine, dretch (demon) 10–11 +0
Treant, roper, doppelganger, night hag 12–13 +1
Storm giant, barghest, medusa 14–15 +2
Ogre mage, pixie, harpy, achaierai 16–17 +3
Greater barghest, nixie 18–19 +4
Astral deva (angel), kraken 20–21 +5
Great wyrm gold dragon 32–33 +11

Example Of Generating And Assigning Ability Scores

Monte wants to create a new character. He rolls four six-sided dice (4d6) and gets 5, 4, 4, and 1. Ignoring the lowest roll (1), he records the result on scratch paper: 13. He rolls the dice five more times and gets these six scores: 13, 10, 15, 12, 8, and 14. Monte decides to play a strong, tough dwarf fighter. Now he assigns his scores to abilities.

Strength gets the highest score, 15. His character has a +2 Strength bonus that will serve him well in combat.

Constitution gets the next highest score, 14. The dwarf’s +2 racial bonus to Constitution improves his Constitution score to 16, which gives him a +3 modifier. This bonus gives the character more hit points and better Fortitude saving throws.

Monte puts his lowest score, 8, into Charisma. The dwarf’s –2 racial penalty to Charisma reduces his Charisma score to 6, for a –2 penalty.

Monte has two bonus-range scores left (13 and 12), plus an average score (10). Dexterity gets the 13 (+1 bonus), which helps with ranged weapon attacks and with Reflex saving throws (Monte’s also thinking ahead. A Dexterity score of 13 qualifies his character for the Dodge feat).

Wisdom gets the 12 (+1 bonus). The Wisdom bonus helps with perception skills, such as Spot and Listen, as well as with Will saving throws.

Intelligence gets the 10 (no bonus or penalty). An average Intelligence isn’t bad for a fighter.

Monte records his character’s race, class, ability scores, and ability modifiers on his character sheet.

Changing Ability Scores

Over time, the ability scores your character starts with can change. Ability scores can increase with no limit. Points at which ability changes occur include the following:

  • Add 1 point to any score upon attaining 4th level and at every fourth level your character attains thereafter (8th, 12th, 16th, and 20th level).
  • Many spells and magical effects temporarily increase or decrease ability scores. The ray of enfeeblement spell reduces a creature’s Strength, and the bull’s strength spell increases it. Sometimes a spell simply hampers a character, reducing his or her ability score. A character trapped by an entangle spell, for example, acts as if his or her Dexterity were 4 points lower than it really is.
  • Several magic items improve ability scores as long as the character is using them. For example, gloves of dexterity improve the wearer’s Dexterity score. Note that a magic item of this type can’t change an ability score by more than +6.
  • Some rare magic items can boost an ability score permanently, as can a wish spell. Such an increase is called an inherent bonus. An ability score can’t have an inherent bonus of more than +5.
  • Poisons, diseases, and other effects can temporarily harm an ability (ability damage). Ability points lost to damage return on their own at a rate of 1 point per day for each damaged ability.
  • Some effects drain abilities, resulting in a permanent loss (ability drain). Points lost this way don’t return on their own, but they can be regained with spells, such as restoration.
  • As a character ages, some ability scores go up and others go down.

When an ability score changes, all attributes associated with that score change accordingly. For example, when Mialee becomes a 4th level wizard, she decides to increase her Intelligence score to 16. That score gives her a 3rd-level bonus spell (which she’ll pick up upon attaining 5th level, when she becomes able to cast 3rd-level spells), and it increases the number of skill points she gets per level from 4 to 5 (2 per level for her class, plus another 3 per level from her Intelligence bonus). As a new 4th-level character, she can get the skill points immediately after raising her Intelligence, so she’ll get 5 points for attaining 4th level in the wizard class. She does not retroactively get additional points for her previous levels (that is, skill points she would have gained if she had had an Intelligence score of 16 starting at 1st level).

Roleplaying Intelligence, Wisdom, And Charisma

You can use your character’s Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores to guide you in roleplaying your character. Here is some background (just guidelines) about what these scores can mean.

A smart character (one with high Intelligence) is curious, knowledgeable, and prone to using big words. A character with a high Intelligence but low Wisdom may be smart but absentminded, or knowledgeable but lacking in common sense. A character with a high Intelligence but a low Charisma may be a know-it-all or a reclusive scholar. A smart character lacking in both Wisdom and Charisma may put her foot in her mouth often.

A character with a low Intelligence mispronounces and misuses words, has trouble following directions, or fails to get the joke. A character with a high Wisdom score may be sensible, serene, “in tune,” alert, or centered. A character with a high Wisdom but low Intelligence may be aware, but simple. A character with high Wisdom but low Charisma knows enough to speak carefully and may become an advisor (or “power behind the throne”) rather than a leader. The wise character lacking in both Intelligence and Charisma is uncouth and unsophisticated. A character with a low Wisdom score may be rash, imprudent, irresponsible, or “out of it.”

A character with high Charisma may be attractive, striking, personable, and confident. A character with high Charisma but a low Intelligence can usually pass herself off as knowledgeable, until she meets a true expert. A charismatic character lacking in both Intelligence and Wisdom is likely to be shallow and unaware of others’ feelings.

A character with low Charisma may be reserved, gruff, rude, fawning, or simply nondescript.

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