D&D 5E How does your group determine ability scores?

Which method of determining ability scores is the most used in your D&D 5E group?

  • Roll 4d6, drop lowest

    Votes: 43 29.5%
  • Default scores (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8)

    Votes: 24 16.4%
  • Customizing ability scores variant (point-buy)

    Votes: 60 41.1%
  • Mix of rolled and default

    Votes: 1 0.7%
  • Mix of rolled and customizing

    Votes: 6 4.1%
  • Mix of default and customizing

    Votes: 8 5.5%
  • Mix of all three

    Votes: 10 6.8%
  • Other (please specify)

    Votes: 22 15.1%

  • Poll closed .
I find myself wondering how much of that "samey-ness" is really down to Point Buy (or standard array), and how much is down to the ability to place the six scores as desired. Because when you roll much of the time you're going to get an array that isn't all that far off something you could buy anyway (after all, that's why the array/point buy was constructed the way it was). So you're not necessarily going to get something wildly different anyway.

I wonder, therefore, if the antidote to the "samey-ness" isn't rather to allow the player to assign, say, the top 2 scores to their chosen attributes, but then randomize the placement of the others. That would mean the player could always play their chosen class without issue, but one Fighter might be intelligent but not dextrous with another is wise but not charismatic.

Just a thought.

Yeah in general when there's choice rather than RNG you're going to get similar results. So at one extreme is roll-in-order (random numbers and random locations), somewhere toward the middle is roll-then-assign (random number, selected locations), and at the other extreme is Point Buy and Standard Array (choose everything).
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
I would actually be fine with randomly-assigned standard array. So you have some of the fun of randomness that could prompt outside-the-box characters, but you’re still assured that your character is fundamentally viable and not OP compared to the group.
 


I'm not seeing any samey-ness in my games, so I think that might be something other than the point buy.

Maybe. I see it the games I play in. I see it in games I observe. I see it in characters posted online.

So maybe we're defining "samey-ness" differently.
 


Oofta

Legend
Maybe. I see it the games I play in. I see it in games I observe. I see it in characters posted online.

So maybe we're defining "samey-ness" differently.
If you care about optimizing for combat and you allow people to put scores where they want, you're always going to see the same pattern. A barbarian is always going to have their highest score in strength. Second and third best will go in con and dex. After that it just depends what people value. Nothing really changes, just the scale.
 


If you care about optimizing for combat and you allow people to put scores where they want, you're always going to see the same pattern. A barbarian is always going to have their highest score in strength. Second and third best will go in con and dex.
even this... I have seen 3 players argue this point... the second best in dex or con (better to not get hit or to be able to be hit?) but I had a third say the smart play is 2nd best in wisdom since those saves (especially charm/dominate) are the worst.

15 14 13.... can be 15 Str 13 dex 14 con or 15 str 14 dex 13 con... but as I have seen 15 Str 12 dex 13 con 14 Wis as a possible build...

last year I made a pregen set of characters (not useing defualt array but a slightly higher) and I had a barbarian with a 20 con. and 16 str
 

If you care about optimizing for combat and you allow people to put scores where they want, you're always going to see the same pattern. A barbarian is always going to have their highest score in strength. Second and third best will go in con and dex. After that it just depends what people value. Nothing really changes, just the scale.

Yeah that’s basically what I observe. Not every single character, of course, but enough that there’s…samey-ness.

I’m not judging the players, mind you. Just saying that given the rules and incentives, it’s not surprising.
 


I kind of like the idea that if you are rolling, and if you commit beforehand to rolling in order, you get a feat.

EDIT: or doing a similar thing with Standard Array by randomizing assignment.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
In campaigns I've played in, we've done mostly variations on 4d6, drop lowest, arrange to suit. I haven't played a game with roll in order since 1981.

1) Roll 4d6 drop low until we got at least a 16, then we took that and the next 5 rolls. Arrange to suit. This was 2e AD&D and it guaranteed PCs had at least one really good score.

2) 4d6 drop low for 6 scores, arrange to suit. But if we got 4 of a kind, we kept all 4 dice. 1e AD&D. One player did hit a pretty good jackpot with 4 5s or 6s (I can't remember which). He put them in strength and played an adolescent giant adventuring with smaller folk.

3) 4d6 drop low for 6 scores, then roll a 7th. That 7th could swap in for any of the initial 6 results. Arrange to suit. 3e D&D.

4) 4d6 drop low for two sets of 6 scores. Take the set you prefer. Arrange to suit. 3e/5e D&D.

5) 4d6 drop low for 6 scores. Each player reports the set they got. Each player then picks any set they want from the group. Arrange to suit. SWSE and 5e.
 

Oofta

Legend
Yeah that’s basically what I observe. Not every single character, of course, but enough that there’s…samey-ness.

I’m not judging the players, mind you. Just saying that given the rules and incentives, it’s not surprising.
Yeah, I do it to in AL games or campaigns where I don't think my ability scores will come into play outside of combat. If the DM never has you make an int roll outside of the rare save in combat, there's no logical reason to put anything into int for my barbarian no matter what the generation method is. I prefer that it makes a difference, but often it doesn't.
 


I always use some sort of point buy. My current one uses heavily modified one.

Assign 14, 12, 12, 12, 10, 8. Add 10 points, up to a maximum of 16. (No escalating cost. One point per ability point.)

No racial bonuses, these are replaced by different species having different favoured and strongly favoured abilities.
Favoured ability may start at 17.
Strongly favoured ability may start at 18, must start with at least 10.

And this is combined levelling ASIs always being two +1s, no single +2 allowed, so it is not stupid to start with an odd score.

The aim was to get more well rounded characters with some decent stats in their non-main scores, and it mostly worked. Though I'm still not perfectly satisfied with this system.

As for sameyness, like several people have observed, it is mainly the ability to assign the scores the way you want that does that. With rolling and assigning you're mostly just randomising the chracter power, not what sort of chracter they are. You might as well randomise the starting level.

So yeah, if you want random characters, a better way would be to randomise the stat placement, or alternatively just choose the race and class randomly.
 
Last edited:

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
One thing I did enjoy back in the day was rolling in order to figure out what I wanted to play. This led to some odd characters, and even ones with a random high ability score in places a character wouldn't normally have, like my 2e Fighter with 16 Charisma. I took the Cavalier kit, made him Lawful Good, and tried to follow the Paladin's code of conduct as best I could- his backstory was that he tried to join a knightly order of Paladins, but didn't make the grade.

Another character from the 2e era was a Dwarven Thief (Locksmith Kit) who had higher Wisdom than Dexterity, who I played as exceedingly cautious and who exclusively used a short bow rather than even attempt melee combat (making their backstab a completely useless ability, lol).

In both cases, it was pretty fun, even if not optimized. That having been said, I'm not advocating Int 12 Wizards or anything like that- I know a few "real role players" who insist that characters who aren't competent are better, but having watched them drag their parties down, I'm not inclined to agree. If you can meet a baseline of competence, and then have some unexpected strength, that can make for interesting characters.

Obviously, the same can hold true for an unexpected weakness, but ability scores have changed a lot over the years. In 2e, an 8 Wisdom wasn't a big deal. Now in 5e, it can lead to a character who gets mind controlled more often than Superman, which is a problem your party will not appreciate.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
I forgot to add earlier the multiple d20 method I recently developed -- if you like rolling a lot of dice.

Quick recap:
  • Scores start at 1 (or 3 or 8 or whatever you want the minimum to be).
  • You roll Xd20's. I suggest 2-4 depending on how high you want ability scores to be, with 3 working well IMO.
  • If any of the d20s roll your current score +1 or higher, you increase your score by 1 point.
  • Continue rerolling all the d20s until you fail to increase your score.
  • Then repeat for all the other ability scores.
 

Ogre Mage

Adventurer
The vast majority of 5E campaigns I have played in have used point buy from 27 points at the low end to 32 points at the highest. Every campaign has limited PB to a max starting attribute of 15 (before racial modifiers and feats).
 

delericho

Legend
Ive heard that like many of the rules Gygax wrote down, he had his own way of doing things despite that. Apparently he liked using 4D6 drop the lowest, but that may have been just for AD&D. shrugs
I don't have my DMG easily to hand, but my understanding is that 4d6-drop-lowest is actually the recommended method in 1st Ed.

2nd Ed had six (IIRC) methods in the PHB, starting with 3d6-in-order and becoming gradually more generous as they went. But the 2nd Ed DMG then had all manner of dire warnings about how 4d6-drop-lowest was a power gamers' paradise and would absolutely devastate any game that dared use it. (I exaggerate, but not by that much...) Of course, 2nd Ed was post-Gygax.
 

Andvari

Explorer
PF2 came up with a seemingly clever "ABC" system. Start with a baseline all 10s. Pick you ancestry (formerly race) get a few stat bumps, pick your background get a few more bumps, pick your class and get your final bumps. It all works out to basically 2-4 different arrays and everyone just skips to it that way.
It makes sense, but I don’t like it in practice as it slows down character creation and makes it too convoluted for the benefit it provides. I’d prefer Point Buy and letting the player decide if and how the character’s background ties into the ability scores.
 
Last edited:

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top