If you’re brand-spankin’ new to being a Dungeon Master, you may be wondering “What are ability scores in DnD 5e?”. That’s a valid question. So, it turns out they’re super important. These ability scores will play a role in nearly everything a character attempts to do. A Barbarian intimidating a prisoner or a Wizard studying arcane runes? Yep. Pitching a business idea to the Goblin King or pretending to be a ghost? Oh yeah, Ability Scores will help determine how successful the characters will be.
Today’s Article Will Discuss:
- What are Ability Scores in DnD 5e?
- How are Ability Scores used in DnD 5e?
- DnD 5e Ability Scores Explained
What are Ability Scores in DnD 5e?
There are 6 different Abilities in DnD 5e, and each of these gets a numerical value, or score, assigned to it:
In 5e, Ability Scores represent a character’s aptitude and how capable they are in various aspects of life and adventuring. Ability Scores are not exclusive to Player Characters, however. Every single creature and monster that exists in your game world will also have ability scores. Generally speaking, an Ability Score in 5e is a value that will range anywhere from 1 to 20. It’s possible for a player character to have an Ability Score that is higher than 20 but this is only achieved through magical items or special abilities.
To put things in perspective a bit, the average person walking down the street can be assumed to have a score of 10 for each of their Abilities. Capable of getting by in everyday life but nothing to write home about. To push things to the extreme, someone with an Ability Score of 1 is pretty fucking useless while someone with an Ability Score above 20 is absolutely god-like and glorious.
How are Ability Scores used in DnD 5e?
Although Ability Scores have a couple of uses in the game, I’d argue that they are primarily used to determine whether the player gets any bonuses when attempting to do something and must roll some dice.
These rolls include but are not limited to…
- Attacking an enemy or rolling damage
- Casting a spell
- Skill checks
- Saving Throws
- Ability checks
Each of these items could have their own dedicated article. I won’t be going in-depth for any of these, but a few more details will be explained for each of the Ability Scores below.
DnD 5e Ability Scores Explained
DnD 5e Ability Score: Strength
“Go ahead and flex, bro”
Strength is the most obvious and straightforward ability score in 5e. It means that you’ve got some big muscles, can move some really heavy shit, and also have a hell of an uppercut. You’re basically an Olympian – massive sex party optional.
A few mechanical perks to a higher Strength Score:
- Better melee weapon attacks and damage
- Higher carrying capacity. Could be important or could be totally useless, depends on the campaign.
Relevant Skill Checks:
- Athletics (pushing a boulder, climbing a rope, etc)
DnD 5e Ability Score: Dexterity
“Gotta be sneaky…gotta be quick”
Dexterity is a bit less straightforward of an Ability Score in DnD 5e. It has to do with backflips, shady shit, and all things that take a little finesse. Dexterity will be especially important if the party is trying to have some Ocean’s 11-esque heist adventures.
A few mechanical perks to a higher Dexterity Score:
- Initiative bonus
- Better ranged weapon attacks and damage
- Better AC (maybe)
Relevant Skill Checks:
- Stealth, Acrobatics, and Sleight of Hand
DnD 5e Ability Score: Constitution
“Grittier than sandpaper”
Constitution represents a creature’s overall durability and endurance. It’s a simple measure of how well you can put up with the physical bullshit that the world throws at ya. This includes things such as how many times you can get punched in the face without dying and how well your body can tolerate harmful substances or conditions. What’s that? You thought you were going to casually slip some poison into my beer and kill me? FUCK YOU I DRINK POISON LIKE THIS FOR FUN!
A few mechanical perks to a higher Constitution Score:
- More hit points
- Bonuses for dealing with effects like poison or disease
- Better at maintaining a spell’s concentration
- Did I mention more hit points?
There are no Skills that are directly tied to Constitution
DnD 5e Ability Score: Intelligence
“Big brain time”
Intelligence is another Ability Score in DnD 5e that is pretty straightforward and self-explanatory (but Imma explain it anyway, just cause). Think Sherlock Holmes, but nerdier. Your memory and ability to recall obscure information – such as the historical and political implications of a clay vase being used in a ceremony instead of a copper one –makes you an absolute legend at the local tavern’s trivia night.
I can’t think of any mechanical perks to having a high Intelligence Score, aside from bonuses to Skill Checks or Class-Specific casting abilities [if I’m wrong, please let me know!]. However, there are a handful of relevant skill checks that can – depending on the situation and campaign – be insanely useful.
Relevant Skill Checks
- Arcana, Nature, Religion, History, Investigation
DnD 5e Ability Score: Wisdom
“R u woke?”
Wisdom is an Ability Score that reflects how well a character is “in-tune” with their surroundings. Although both Intelligence and Wisdom deal with knowledge and information, Wisdom is intuitive and gained through life experience whereas intelligence is purposeful and gained through studying. A very wise character may automatically pick up on things that others fail to notice, such as the fact that the charming shopkeeper is very obviously just 3 kobolds in a trenchcoat trying to swindle the party.
A few mechanical perks to having a higher Wisdom Score:
- Although it’s a skill, I’m giving Perception its own bullet point since it’s so universally and frequently used. I mean come on, who doesn’t want to be better at finding hidden treasure and secret rooms?!
- Bonuses for resisting certain effects that manipulate the mind
Relevant Skill Checks:
- Perception, Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Survival
DnD 5e Ability Score: Charisma
“A silver tongued socialite”
In DnD 5e, Charisma is without a doubt the most useful Ability Score when navigating social situations. If you have high Charisma, you’re probably an incredibly likable individual who has no problem entering a room full of strangers and leaving with a new set of friends. This sort of natural charm is excellent for negotiating better prices, lying your ass off, or entertaining crowds of bored nobles while the rogue steals their coin purses.
Charisma is another Ability Score in DnD 5e that doesn’t have the same type of tangible mechanical perks that other Ability Scores do. Much of its usefulness will rely on the player’s creativity and your discretion as a DM
Relevant Skill Checks
- Persuasion, Performance, Deception
Thank you for reading my article! I hope it helped things make a little more sense or at least made you chuckle a little bit 🙂
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