In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, there are three main ways that stats for player characters can be created: Point buy, standard array, and rolling. Finding the best one for you and your players is an important task that luckily requires little experience. While deciding how to generate ability scores for my own group, I decided to research the differences between the three and provide this guide to which is best.
Between point buy, standard array, and rolling, which is best in D&D 5e? Rolling is officially recommended and the most common of the three. However, there is no clear best answer, as each has pros and cons.
Each of the three methods offers advantages and disadvantages even if rolling is the first recommended method by most players.
Differences Between Point Buy, Standard Array And Rolling
Point buy, standard array and rolling all offer different experiences and character scores from the other. Exploring the benefits and averages of each type will help you to make your own decision about what suits your game best.
The point buy method is an official variant, allowing players 27 points to spend on their ability points. The cost of each ability score point is as follows:
The main benefit of the point buy system is it’s constant creation of balanced characters. Due to the number of points available, as well as some additional caps like a score of 15 being the maximum available and 8 being the minimum, characters with wildly varying ability scores cannot exist.
Point buy will always result in characters that fall into the average category while still allowing for a fair bit of customization. Players can choose to be average across the board, or very good at three abilities and poor at the remaining three.
The standard array format for determining ability scores is meant to provide all characters with slightly above average stats of the same numbers.
The scores for players to choose from for standard array are as follows: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8. Each number may only be taken once. This will result in player characters traditionally having one weak ability score, one very strong, and the rest slightly above average.
Standard array is great for balancing the total power of a group to the same level. In addition, it is the method used in Adventure’s League play, Dungeons and Dragons 5e’s official group play events.
Rolling for ability score stats is the most common form of deciding ability scores in D&D 5e. In theme with the game, rolling allows for numbers across the largest array of all methods so far.
While the average of rolling provides results very close to the standard array numbers, it is possible to create a hero very good at everything – or very bad. Leaving a character’s ability scores to fate can be an exciting time in character creation.
There are a few different rules that can dictate how players roll for stats, but the most common way to do so is often the best. Roll four 6-sided dice and drop the lowest number, adding the highest three numbers. Do this five more times for a total of six. These six rolled numbers are the character’s ability scores to be placed where the player would like.
Rolling for ability scores still provides a floor and ceiling of what can be rolled – 3 and 18, respectively – though the range is much higher.
It is worth mentioning that rolling for stats can result in a group of characters where one is wildly more powerful than the others, or vice versa. It may be worth considering if any action should be taken if that is the case.
Which Is Most “Fair”?
All of the methods can be used to create equally fair play. The average of each method is made to be the same. However, the method that provides the least randomness and provides the most equal playing experience is standard array.
Having all player characters start with the same base numbers will ensure that there is a fair balance not only within the same character but also between group members. In addition, standard array still allows for player characters to choose a strength that fits their class so they feel powerful and useful.
Modifications To Scores and Effects on Fairness
When creating characters for Dungeons and Dragons it is important to account for strengths and weaknesses. For example, most barbarians will always be strong, and their weakness may be intelligence or wisdom. This imbalance is naturally built into the game so that characters play in a wide variety of ways.
The race chosen by players will also come with bonuses to certain ability scores and possibly even weaknesses. This will affect all methods of generating ability scores and there is really no way of avoiding it without fundamentally changing the character creation process.
Some Dungeons and Dragons races have better ability score improvements or features than others, creating an imbalance in play. Usually this is minor and can easily be ignored, as the game is not just about crunching numbers.
Still, if you are interested in creating the fairest gaming experience available, you should consider other factors on ability score such as race selection or magical items.
What Feels Fair?
Despite the lack of randomness in the standard array generation method, some players may also feel that rolling for ability score is just as fair. This is due to the player’s perceived effect on character generation – if the dice fall as they may, then it may come across as fair.
Ultimately, each method will hopefully result in characters that are fun to play and feel powerful. Each method is designed to allow for some outliers and still feel fair in a group.
When Should You Let Players “Re-Roll” Character Stats?
When players roll for stats, after enough attempts, it is inevitable that someone will roll terribly across the board. Depending on what sort of character that player was hoping to create, this could be a moment of comedy or extreme frustration.
Remember that Dungeons and Dragons is a game meant for people to have fun. If a player has lost enjoyment over their character feeling weak, or even too powerful, consider letting them re-roll their ability scores to create a character that matches what they hoped for more closely.
Re-rolling In Character Creation VS Later
If a player immediately wants to re-roll their ability scores at character creation, try to have a conversation with them about what is wrong. If it is only because of one or two bad scores, talk with them about what it could be for the character – this may be an excellent opportunity for character development!
However, if a player is insistent on wanting a change, especially in character creation, consider allowing them to. At this stage, the character is very fluid and it is important that a player feels they can have fun with their character.
If a player has played with a character’s ability scores for some time and suddenly wants to re-roll them, that could be a harder thing to pull off. A sudden mechanical change in the middle of a campaign could feel cheap to other players or make the story of the campaign lose track.
Instead of a re-roll that late, consider introducing magical items or boons to that character so they can fill in whatever flaws they feel they have and match the gameplay closer to expectations.
So What is Best?
Which method is the best for your D&D Campaign? The answer is simple, whatever you decide! Talk to your players and see what they want. Are they the daring “leave it up to the dice” type, or more careful and calculating?
If you have a mix of players, consider letting each player decide what they want to do. Because each method of character creation is fair, allow players some freedom when it comes to creating their characters.
If I have a clear idea for a character in mind, I like to use the Point Buy system as it gives me the more control over the character stats. However, if I don’t know what kind of character I want to make, I enjoy Rolling and seeing what the dice have to say about my character.
Give your players some freedom to create the kind of character they want. Don’t worry. It will all be fair!
Until next time,
May your game have advantage, my friends!
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