An ability score is a numeric representation of one of a character or creature's physical or mental attributes.

Since the original Dungeons & Dragons rules, the six ability scores used in D&D have been strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. The standard order in which they are listed on the character sheet varies between editions of the rules, and some optional rulebooks have added other ability scores.

Additional ability scores of Comeliness, Honor, and Sanity were added as optional rules.

Rules[edit | edit source]

Character generation[edit | edit source]

Traditionally, each of a D&D character's ability scores range between 3 and 18. In the original Dungeons & Dragons rules published in 1974, each ability score is equal to the total of a roll of three six-sided dice (3d6). This gives a bell curve tending strongly toward average scores, with 10 and 11 most common result.Later editions of Dungeons & Dragons use varying methods of generating ability scores, but have always retained the traditional 3-18 range.

Method OD&D 1E 2E 3E 4E 5E
I (3d6 in order) Standard Standard N/A N/A
II (3d6 twice, in order, take best) Variant Variant N/A N/A
III (3d6, place however); AKA Random Average Variant Variant Variant N/A
IV-1E (3d6 in order for 12 characters, keep best character) Variant N/A N/A N/A
IV-2E (3d6 twelve times, take six, place however) N/A Variant N/A N/A
V (4d6 drop lowest, place however) N/A Variant Standard Standard
VI (Each ability base of 8, roll 7d6 and place whole dice however) N/A Variant N/A N/A
Rerolling N/A N/A Standard, if too low N/A
Standard Point Buy (25 Points) N/A N/A Variant N/A
Non-Standard Point Buy (Varied) N/A N/A Variant N/A
Elite Array (15, 14,13,12, 10,8) N/A N/A Variant Standard Adventure League
Floating Reroll (4d6, drop lowest, reroll one low die) N/A N/A Variant N/A
Organic (4d6, drop lowest, reroll one ability score) N/A N/A Variant N/A
Customized Average (3d6, place however, reroll if not meeting minimum standard) N/A N/A Variant N/A
High Powered (5d6, drop two lowest) N/A N/A Variant N/A
Standard Point Buy (27 Points) N/A N/A N/A Standard

For example, the standard in D&D third edition is 4d6 drop lowest: four six-sided dice are rolled, the lowest-scoring die is discarded, and the total of the remaining three. This gives slightly higher statistics than average.

From Dungeons & Dragons third edition onward, all monsters also have ability scores.

Using ability scores[edit | edit source]

Prior to Dungeons & Dragons third edition, there was no core mechanic for rolling dice to determine. A commonly used rule was to roll a twenty-sided die and aim to roll equal to or under the appropriate ability score.

Since D&D third edition, which introduced the "d20 system", all ability checks and skill checks are performed by rolling a d20 and adding a modifier based on the relevant ability score. In D&D 3rd, 4th, and 5th edition, the ability score modifier is equal to the ability score minus ten, then divided by two, rounded down. This results in the traditional average score of 10-11 giving a bonus of +0, while the bonus or penalty of exceptional ability scores is dampened.

Statistics[edit | edit source]

The following table shows the percentage chance of rolling any given ability score using different methods.

Score 3d6 4d6 drop lowest 5d6 drop 2 lowest
3 0.46% 0.08% 0.013%
4 1.39% 0.31% 0.064%
5 2.78% 0.77% 0.192%
6 4.63% 1.62% 0.527%
7 6.94% 2.93% 1.16%
8 9.72% 4.78% 2.19%
9 11.57% 7.02% 3.81%
10 12.50% 9.41% 6.044%
11 12.50% 11.42% 8.552%
12 11.57% 12.89% 11.33%
13 9.72% 13.27% 13.57%
14 6.94% 12.35% 14.85%
15 4.63% 10.11% 14.29%
16 2.78% 7.25% 12.02%
17 1.39% 4.17% 7.84%
18 0.46% 1.62% 3.55%

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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