How to Roll Ability Scores in DnD 5e


When creating a character, one of the first things you do is roll dice for your character’s stats i.e their Ability Scores. It is one of the most important steps in the character creation process. Not only does it determine what the stats for that character will be, but it also dictates what the modifiers will be.

This really serves to define your preferred method of playing the game. Along with your character’s ability. In other words, determining if you’ll have capable player characters or not.

Now, before we get into the nitty-gritty of it; we need to understand what they are.

What are Ability Scores?

Simply put, ability score determines how proficient your character will be at a certain thing. What this specific thing is, is determined by its particular ability score.
To phrase it another way. Your ability score modifier increases and denotes your mental abilities, physical capabilities, and your preparedness to engage in a challenge.

Simple to understand right? Now comes the nitty-gritty of ability score modifiers.

Modifiers aren’t as simple as just applying a one-to-one from your ability score. They range from -4 to +5. How this is calculated is as follows:

  1. Each player starts with a certain amount of Ability Score
  2. You then take this Ability Score, remove 10 from it and then divide it by 2.
  3. The new number you’ve received is your modifier for that specific ability score.

Sounds silly right? I think so too, but the developers apparently thought it was the best system that can be put in place.

Let me give you an example. Say you have an ability score of 20. You remove 10 so you’re left with 10, you then divide it by 2 and you’re left with 5. So your modifier for that ability score will be a +5.

That’s about all there is on what ability scores are, now comes the important part. How you can go about calculating ability scores. Your characters ability scores are the most important part of the game some would say- so let’s find out how it’s done.

How to Roll Ability Scores

Players have created multiple methods and ways to roll for your ability scores. Some are more straightforward – while others are riskier. So, in essence. The game can begin right from the get-go, why wait for the stress and risk to kick in later right?

There are a few ways by which you can determine ability scores. Just remember, when you calculate ability scores it’s just relevant for the beginning of the campaign. Over time you can improve ability scores – and maybe pick up a few skills along the way.

Without further ado, here are the ways that you can roll for your ability scores.

Buying Them

Let me be clear, you don’t buy them from like a vendor in-game. The points buy system is just a measure that guarantees fairness when creating your character and their different ability scores. At the start of every game, each player has a points pool, what this amount is is entirely up to your dungeon master. With the points that you have, you can allocate into your desired skills.

Score cost is always flat, as determined by the mechanic or your DM. So the cost of a single ability score increase will always the same, depending on how much you are increasing by that is.

The Common Way to Roll

If you want to skip the point pool method then you can use the common rolling method. Take 4d6 dice and roll them 6 times. After the roll, remove the lowest dice result and add up the remaining dice into a number. You can allocate these however you like.

By the end, you should have six ability scores. This can be considered one of the “popular methods” of rolling for your scores.

The Uncommon Way to Roll

This method is the same principle as the previous one, just more hardcore. Instead of 4d6 dice you now have only 3 at your disposal. Roll those and the result you get is now your ability score.

This method is notorious for creating weak characters with garbage stats. But hey. To each his own.

The Epic Way to Roll

This method is only for the greatest of risk takers. It will either be the stupidest – or the best decision you’ve ever made. To do it, just take a d20 dice and roll it 6 times. You can get a character that either has 1s in all stats – or a demigod who has 20s in everything.

It’s risky. As the lowest score you can get is a 1. And there is no saving throw in real life if you mess up.

Standard Array Method

This is the most beginner-friendly method and probably the fastest for creating a character. At the start, you have an array of 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8 points to allocate however you like. Of course, to make it the most optimal it’s best to allocate the higher ability scores to your desired stat for the class you’re playing.

Other than the points buy system, this is the other “newbie friendly” method of character creation. As you are guaranteed two ability scores that are good and one ability score that is mediocre.

In Conclusion on Ability Scores in 5e

That’s about everything there is on how to roll for your ability scores in DnD 5e. Ability scores work because they are so well integrated into the larger system of DnD. For any further details, you might want to know I always advise you to consult the Player’s Handbook or another article on this site.

The principles behind the mechanic are simple. You need to determine how good you are at something to know how well you can perform it. If you’re bad at something, let another party member do it instead, who has the relevant ability modifier needed for the task.

It’s important to mention that most of these things are determined by your dungeon master. If he insists on certain rules or methods then you adapt them to his whim – lest you invoke his ire.

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