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D&D 5E How quickly should ability scores increase in 5e?


Ability scores were mostly static in earlier editions of D&D. At character creation, players usually had some scope to adjust their ability scores though racial bonuses and penalties, or (as a variant rule in Basic D&D) reducing other ability scores to increase their prime requisite. However, once play started, the only options to increase ability scores were wishes and magic items such as various tomes.

The Unearthed Arcana cavalier (and the cavalier-subclass paladin) were, as far as I know, the first characters that could increase their ability scores simply by levelling up.

3e took this further, by allowing all characters to increase any ability score they wanted by +1 every four levels, and 4e had the most generous ability score increase rules to date: +1 to all ability scores at 11th and 21st level, +1 to any two ability scores at 4th, 8th, 14th, 18th, 24th and 28th level, and the possibility of gaining further ability score increases from an epic destiny. On the other hand, 4e also cut down significantly on other avenues for ability score increases - as far as I know, wishes and magic items that boost or increase ability scores are practically non-existant.

Given the importance of ability scores in 5e, and hints that there will be a general flattening of bonuses and limits to ability scores that cannot be exceeded without magic, it seems likely that the rate of ability score increases will be scaled back from the 4e rate. On the other hand, there is something appealing about an ability score increase (at least for me) - apart from gaining levels, it is the most tangible and organic sign that your character is growing and becoming stronger, wiser and tougher.

I know we haven't got much information yet, but it's still fun to speculate. What would be your preferred rate of ability score growth? How much of it should be from levelling up and how much from magic?

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Mark CMG

Creative Mountain Games
I prefer Ability Scores to remain the same from character creation but Ability Score Bonuses to be potentially increased during leveling depending on the focus of the player/character during gameplay and advancement.

Falling Icicle

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I think it makes sense that as people learn, they increase in capability. On the other hand, I think that ability score increases, especially as they were done in 4e, were highly problematic. People just ended up putting them into their primary stats, always, rather than ever using them to improve weaker stats (though this was more a symptom of 4e's designing classes to allow characters to excel with two ability scores, ignoring the rest).

It also creates a widening gap between low ability scores and higher ones as play increases. Wizards will get Int scores in the 20s, likewise with Fighters and Str, Clerics and Wis, etc. Given how central ability scores are supposed to be in this edition, that could be a big problem. That wizard casts a paralyzing spell on me using his 28 Int, but my Str is still the 10 that I had at 1st level, and Str might be what I use in 5e to save against his paralysis. Ouch.

Perhaps one solution to this problem would be to allow ability score increases, but to put a cap on how high they can go without magical aid (say, 18 +/- racial modifiers). That way, players will not be able to increase their primary ability score(s) into the 20s, and will be forced to put them in other scores instead. It would also in a way discourage people from min-maxing at character creation, since they could just raise their primary ability score to the racial maximum later, and won't forever be behind those who put an 18-20 at char gen.
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First Post
This is one of these "At first I thought it was great" things. When 3e came out I thought "Fantastic, stats go up now". Then 4e "Wow, look at THESE increases".

Now, Im more for the static approach. You can have things go up AROUND them, but the stat itself stays static.

Bit oif a tase thing though, Im sure other will disagree with me.


First Post
Ability scores are supposed to be relatively tangible commodities. The most obvious example is that carry weight is a straight expression of strength.

You can say that your half-orcs get a little extra strength, your fighters get a little strength, or that any character can get a little extra strength by leveling, but it's very important that this doesn't change much. Your half-orc fighter shouldn't be Hercules; at least not until epic levels.

On the whole, slowing down the rate of advancement can help a lot of things.


First Post
I would like to see no increasing BAB stat (and saves etc.). Instead I'd like to see the abilities improve even more often than in 4E. In fact, I'd like them to be one of the only sources of stat improvements for the characters. Let's say over the course of 20 levels, every two levels you'd be able to increase one attribute for +1 (results in a +0.5 attribute mod, every two levels). So Characters improve because their attributes improve.

BUT there would be a natural limit of max 20 for an attribute score to prevent one trick ponys.

What feels neat about this is the narrative side effect of the protagonist changing and improving because of his Hero's Journey. He starts with flaws and and strengths (no Mary Sues) because rolling attributes with 4D6 is standard, and he gets the chance to improve his flaws while on his Hero's Journey. Narration 101. :)



Mod Squad
Staff member
I know we haven't got much information yet, but it's still fun to speculate. What would be your preferred rate of ability score growth? How much of it should be from levelling up and how much from magic?

I could not say without seeing the rest of the math, looking at the scores in context. I can say that I'd like the scores to change to give some mechanical backing to character growth and change over time, but I can't say how many points per level, or the like.


Please silo this off. I know 3e & 4e had AS advancement built in, but that can be made into an option.

This can be done via magic and training. It doesn't require unavoidable increases. What would be the rationale? Are we even to get aging affects to ability scores then?


If ability scores are replacing skills, then they kind of have to go up with levels; or you need some other mechanism to have them improve with level. They haven't told us much yet, but I'm thinking there won't be a lot of stat increases. I think you'll have your Dex stat, with your dancing ability. As you go up in levels you'll be an expert dancer, then a master dancer, then a grand master dancer. You'll be able to do most dances without a roll. You'll have a slightly easy chance with your slightly higher Dex when you do have to roll, but you just won't have to roll most of the time.

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