Last Updated: September 26, 2021
Ability scores are your character’s most important numerical statistics. Ability scores determine how talented or capable your character is at a tasks without special training. Checks will nearly always depend on an ability score. Remember that no character can be good at every ability score, so don’t worry if some of your ability scores are low.
Instead of adding your actual ability score to checks and rolls, you typically add a “Modifier” based on your ability score. This modifier can be calculated by subtracting 10 from the ability score, then diving by 2 and rounding down. Remember that this is not a modifier to your ability score. Because the modifier is listed next to your ability score on your character sheet, many new players mistakenly think that the modifier applies to their ability score.
For easy reference, here at the modifiers for ability scores which you might start with:
There are 6 abilities. Each ability has a different purpose. An average human has ability scores of 10 or 11 in most of their scores, but player characters typically have much better ability scores because they are of a higher caliber than the average person.
Strength measures muscle and physical power. This ability is important for those who engage in hand-to-hand (or “melee”) combat, such as fighters, monks, paladins, and some rangers. Strength also sets the maximum amount of weight your character can carry. A character with a Strength score of 0 is too weak to move in any way and is unconscious. Some creatures, especially those with no physical form like Shadows, do not possess a Strength score and have no modifier at all to Strength-based skills or checks.
You apply your character’s Strength modifier to:
- Melee attack rolls, including Combat Maneuver attacks.
- Damage rolls when using a melee weapon or a thrown weapon, including a sling. (Exceptions: Off-hand attacks receive only half the character’s Strength bonus, while two-handed attacks receive 1–1/2 times the Strength bonus. A Strength penalty, but not a bonus, applies to attacks made with a bow that is not a composite bow.)
- Climb and Swim skill checks.
- Strength checks (for breaking down doors and the like).
Dexterity measures agility, reflexes, and balance. This ability is important for characters who wear light armor, medium armor, or no armor at all. This ability is vital for characters seeking to excel with ranged weapons, such as bows and slings. A character with a Dexterity score of 0 is incapable of moving and is effectively immobile (but not unconscious).
You apply your character’s Dexterity modifier to:
- Ranged attack rolls, including those for attacks made with bows, crossbows, thrown weapons, and many ranged spell attacks like scorching ray or searing light.
- Armor Class (AC), provided that the character can react to the attack.
- Reflex saving throws, for avoiding fireballs and other attacks that you can escape by moving quickly.
- Acrobatics, Disable Device, Escape Artist, Fly, Ride, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth skill checks.
Constitution represents your character’s health and stamina. A Constitution bonus increases a character’s hit points, so the ability is important for all classes. Some creatures, such as undead and constructs, do not have a Constitution score. Their modifier is +0 for any Constitution-based checks. A character with a Constitution score of 0 is dead.
You apply your character’s Constitution modifier to:
- Each roll of a Hit Die (though a penalty can never drop a result below 1. A character always gains at least 1 hit point each time he/she advances in level).
- Fortitude saving throws, for resisting poison, disease, and similar threats.
If a character’s Constitution score changes enough to alter their Constitution modifier, the character’s hit points also increase or decrease accordingly, so you gain additional hit points for any levels gained before improving your Constitution bonus.
Intelligence determines how well your character learns and reasons. This ability is important for skilled characters because it grants additional skill ranks, and adds to Knowledge skills. Creatures of animal-level instinct have Intelligence scores of 1 or 2. Any creature capable of understanding speech has a score of at least 3. A character with an Intelligence score of 0 is comatose. Some creatures, like mindless undead (zombies) and vermin, do not possess an Intelligence score. Their modifier is +0 for any Intelligence-based skills or checks.
You apply your character’s Intelligence modifier to:
- The number of bonus languages your character knows at the start of the game. These are in addition to any starting racial languages and Common. If you have a penalty, you can still read and speak your racial languages unless your Intelligence is lower than 3.
- The number of skill ranks gained each level, though your character always gets at least 1 skill point per level no matter how little Intelligence they have.
- Appraise, Craft, Knowledge, Linguistics, and Spellcraft skill checks.
If a character’s Intelligence score changes enough to alter their Intelligence modifier, the character’s skill ranks also increase or decrease accordingly, so you gain additional skill for any levels gained before improving your Intelligence bonus.
Intelligence-based spellcasters like Wizards gain bonus spells per day based on their Intelligence score. The minimum Intelligence for intelligence-based spellcasters to cast a spell is 10 + the spell’s level. For more information, see the Magic section later in this guide.
Wisdom describes a character’s willpower, common sense, awareness, and intuition. If you want your character to have acute senses, put a high score in Wisdom. Every creature has a Wisdom score. A character with a Wisdom score of 0 is incapable of rational thought and is unconscious.
You apply your character’s Wisdom modifier to:
- Will saving throws (for negating the effects of charm person and other mind-affecting effects).
- Heal, Perception, Profession, Sense Motive, and Survival skill checks.
Wisdom-based spellcasters like Druids gain bonus spells per day based on their Wisdom scores. The minimum Wisdom for wisdom-based spellcasters to cast a spell is 10 + the spell’s level. For more information, see the Magic section later in this guide.
Charisma measures a character’s personality, personal magnetism, ability to lead, and appearance. It is a very important ability for social characters. For undead creatures, Charisma is a measure of their unnatural “life force.” Every creature has a Charisma score. A character with a Charisma score of 0 is not able to exert himself in any way and is unconscious.
You apply your character’s Charisma modifier to:
- Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Perform, and Use Magic Device skill checks.
- Checks that represent attempts to influence others.
- Channel energy DCs for Clerics and Paladins attempting to harm undead foes.
Charisma-based spellcasters like Sorcerers gain a number of bonus spells per day based on their Charisma scores. The minimum Charisma for charisma-based spellcasters to cast a spell 10 + the spell’s level. For more information, see the Magic section later in this guide.
I am confused! What is the difference between the Ability Scores?
- Str: Crush tomatoes.
- Dex: Juggle tomatoes.
- Con: Eat large quantities of tomatoes.
- Int: Know that tomatoes are a fruit, not a vegetable.
- Wis: Know that even though tomatoes are a fruit, they don’t go in a fruit salad.
- Cha: Convince someone that they should buy this tomato fruit salad. It’s delicious, I promise.
Generating Ability Scores
There are many ways to generate ability scores for new characters. Here are the most common methods.
Purchase (Or “Point Buy”)
Used by many experienced players and by public play groups like Pathfinder Society, Purchase is the most consistent and fair way to generate ability scores. Each player starts with a pool of points, and can purchase their ability scores up to whatever value they want. Higher ability scores cost progressively more points, and you cannot purchase higher than an 18.
Most campaigns use 25 points (“Epic Fantasy”), but your group may choose to use more or fewer points. For ability score costs and ability point brackets, see the Ability Scores section of the SRD.
Roll 4d6, discard the lowest die result, and add the three remaining results together. Record this total and repeat the process until six numbers are generated. Assign these totals to your ability scores as you see fit. This method is less random than Classic and tends to create characters with above-average ability scores.
Roll 3d6 and add the dice together. Record this total and repeat the process until you generate six numbers. Assign these results to your ability scores as you see fit. This method is quite random, and some characters will have clearly superior abilities. This randomness can be taken one step further, with the totals applied to specific ability scores in the order they are rolled. Characters generated using this method are difficult to fit to pre-planned character concepts, as their scores might not support given classes or personalities, so characters are best designed around their ability scores.
Roll 2d6 and add 6 to the sum of the dice. Record this total and repeat the process until six numbers are generated. Assign these totals to your ability scores as you see fit. This is less random than the Standard method and generates characters with mostly above-average scores.
Each character has a pool of 24d6 to assign to his statistics. Before the dice are rolled, the player selects the number of dice to roll for each score, with a minimum of 3d6 for each ability. Once the dice have been assigned, the player rolls each group and totals the result of the three highest dice. For more high-powered games, the GM should increase the total number of dice to 28. This method generates characters of a similar power to the Standard method.
Racial Ability Score Modifiers
Races provide a modifier to one or more ability scores. These modifiers apply after you generate you base ability scores, and are permanent. Most races will apply +2 or -2 to one or more ability scores. The races in the core rulebook typically provide +2 to two ability scores and -2 to a third, but some races provide a +2 bonus to any ability score of your choice.
Increasing Ability Scores
Every 4th level (4, 8, 12, etc.) you increase one ability score by 1. This is a permanent bonus. When increasing your ability scores, be sure to increase your modifier if your ability score hits an even number. If you increase Constitution and your modifier improved, you gain additional hit points. If you increase Intelligence and your modifier improved, you gain additional skill ranks.