What are Ability Scores?
Each creature in Pathfinder, including player characters, has six ability scores: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These ability scores define your character’s basic capabilities, such as how much weight they can lift or how naturally charming they are.
- Strength: Ability to exert physical force, lift things, break things, smash things.
- Dexterity: Physical agility, flexibility, grace, ability to avoid danger.
- Constitution: Physical resilience, health, endurange.
- Intelligence: Memory, knowledge, ability to do math and solve puzzles.
- Wisdom: Common sense, intuition, perception, street smarts, willpower.
- Charisma: Natural charm, confidence, ability to communicate.
More important than your ability score is your “ability modifier”. Ability modifiers are the number which you add to rolls like skill checks and saving throws. Ability modifiers are determined by your ability score.
(The gaps in numbers in the table below are intentional. It will make sense when you read the next section.)
|Ability Score||Ability Modifier|
Increasing Ability Scores
Player characters will recieve a number of “Ability Boosts.” The boosts allow you to increase your ability scores. A boost typically increases your ability score by 2. You recieve several boosts at level 1 during character creation (more on that later in these articles), and you recieve boosts to 4 ability scores of your choice at levels 5, 10, 15, and 20, allowing you to improve your ability scores as your character advances.
In addition, players may recieve “Ability Flaws” from their Ancestry. These flaws reduce your ability score by 2. This means that you may have one ability score which starts at 8 at level 1. This is often referred to as your “dump stat” in player discussions, and it’s totally normal. No one is good at everything.
If your ability score is 18 or higher (before modifications from magic items), each boost raises your ability score by just 1. This makes it much harder to improve your ability modifier for those ability scores, but for your Key Ability Score (more on what that means later in this articles series), it’s worth the effort. If you start with one ability score at 18 and boost it at every change, you will reach 20 at level 10, and reach 22 at level 20, increasing your ability modifier at both points.
A player character will start at level 1 with ability scores as low as 8 and and as high as 18. At level 20, a character’s best ability score may be as high as 24 with some help from powerful magic items called “Apex Items” which you won’t see until very high levels.
Ability Scores for Monsters and NPCs
Player characters are unique in the way that they handle ability scores. Other creatures (monsters, NPCs, etc.) only have ability modifiers. Because these creatures never change their ability scores, theres no need for them to have the base ability scores the way that players do.