An ability score, sometimes called a stat, is a number indicating how skilled a creature is in a particular area. The higher this number is, the better they are at it. Almost all rolls are based on ability scores. There are six abilities: strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma.
Strength measures physical prowess. How much a character can carry is determined by their strength, and many weapons use strength to determine the force of their strikes. Strength is used in the Athletics skill.
For feats of agility, dexterity is used. This includes the skills Stealth, Sleight of Hand, and Acrobatics. Dexterity is also used for weapons with the finesse property, or any ranged weapon. Perhaps most importantly, though, dexterity helps determine armor class, making it relevant to almost every character.
The hardiness of characters is measured in their constitution. While not used for any skills, constitution adds to a character's hit points and holds great importance as a result.
Intelligence is frequently confused with wisdom, but speaks of a character's deduction, reasoning, memory, and capacity for learning. Many creatures at 2 or lower intelligence are incapable of speech and are immune to spells that rely on intelligence, such as Detect Thoughts and Psychic Scream. Intelligence is used for the Arcana, History, Investigation, Nature, and Religion skills.
The ability to properly gauge one's surroundings, the intention of others, and act with caution can be found in wisdom. It's known by players as the most common save against spells despite dexterity actually being the most common, beating wisdom by 11 more saves. The skills Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Perception, and Survival use wisdom.
Best described as the force of a character's personality, charisma involves social skills. Deception, Intimidation, Performance, and Persuasion all use charisma. Tools such as the Disguise Kit also tend to rely on charisma. The ability is all about how a character presents themselves to the world.
Determining Ability Scores
When a player character is created, they will need to generate six numbers to use as their starting ability scores. There are three main methods to doing this: rolling, using point buy, and using the standard array.
In the Adventurers League, players aren't allowed to roll for stats.
The most common way of determining starting ability scores is to roll dice. To do this, roll a d6 four times. Then, add the numbers together while ignoring the lowest roll, meaning that you add only the highest three. This will produce a number between 3 and 18. Repeat this process until you have 6 numbers for your ability scores, then assign them as desired.
Between players, this is often explained as "rolling 4d6 then dropping the lowest number."
If you're unhappy with your scores, you may ask your DM if you can try again. Many DMs allow players to roll for stats twice then choose which set the player prefers.
Another method for determining stats is point buy. For this method, each score is set to 8. Then, players can spend points to increase the score. The maximum number of points that can be spent varies, but 27 is the most common limit. Through this method, a starting score can be no higher than 15.
The following table shows how many points it costs to set a score to a certain number.
The last method is the standard array. In this method, players are given six numbers. They assign each number to one ability score until all have been assigned.
The numbers in the standard array are: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8.
Every race is particularly adept in certain areas. This is represented as an ability score increase, applied immediately after starting scores are determined. The bonus is one-time only and can't be changed in any way short of the Reincarnate spell.
Most races will net a total of +3 to ability scores, giving a +2 to one score and a +1 to another. The additional +1 is frequently distributed through subraces, which are different groups within the main race. Characters can only be one race and one subrace within said race unless otherwise noted.
Ability Score Increase
As characters gain levels, their class will allow them to increase their ability scores to show that they have grown stronger through their adventures. An ability score increase is shortened as ASI. These increases allow a character to increase two stats of their choice by 1 point, or to increase one stat of their choice by 2 points. If a DM allows it, players can opt to forgo their ability score increase in favor of a feat.
Every class gains an ability score increase at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19. Fighters gain increases at those levels, and additional ones at level 6 and 14. Rogues likewise gain increases at those levels, but get an additional one at level 10.
Ability Score Modifier
Each ability score comes with a modifier, based on the number the ability score is. This modifier is applied to rolls that use the ability score, such as attack rolls (both with weapons and spells), saving throws, and skill checks. Occasionally, a spellcasting ability modifier is mentioned. This is an ability score modifier, but refers specifically to the ability score used for that character's spellcasting. The term is used due to the fact that different classes use different ability scores.
The following table lists ability scores and their corresponding modifier.