Characters are given six ability scores. Three physical ability scores- Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution, and three mental ability scores- Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These govern your ability to perform basic tasks, and your relative proficiency with skills, tools, weapons, and magic. The use of each ability score is described below:
Illustration by Max Marcil
There are three traditional ways to determine ability scores- standard array, point-buy, and dice roll. Depending on the style of play, you will use one of these methods to determine your character’s ability scores. Consult your dungeon master for which style you should use when building your character.
A standard array gives each player the same group of numbers to allocate into their ability scores as they choose, depending on the race and class options they have selected. This is a very fair system, which gives each player the same starting scores to choose from. It prevents cheating on character creation, and also equalizes all players on power level. The suggested “standard array” is 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8, but this can be modified by your dungeon master is they are looking for a particular power level.
Point-buy likewise gives each player a similar starting point, however, it gives some additional flexibility in the player’s ability to min-max their character. Ability scores are purchased for each attribute like choosing items on a budget. If you overspend on your Strength, you’re going to look at several other ability scores with low numbers, and potentially negative modifiers.
The dice-roll method is the most variable. Dice are rolled to determine the value of each ability score and the result is almost left completely to chance. It ranges in power level from the restrictive and difficult “roll 3d6 for each stat, in order” to the heroic “roll 4d6, reroll 1’s, keep the highest three, allocate at will.”
In any case, your character will be granted a series of six numbers which will become your ability scores. Given an ability score, you will have a corresponding ability modifier, which will be added to your rolls when conducting an action based in that ability score. Once you determine the values available for your ability scores, allocate them to your Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.
You will want to make sure to put higher values into ability scores that are relevant for your class, and save the lower values for those stats which matter less for the class you chose. For example, a Barbarian should have the highest score in Strength to ensure that they are physically powerful, whereas a Wizard would want to make sure they have a very high Intelligence score to aid in their spellcasting.