The Six Ability Scores
One of the most important aspects of your character is their ability scores. These scores represent your character’s raw potential and influence nearly every other statistic on your character sheet. Determining your ability scores is not done all at once, but instead happens over several steps during character creation.
Ability scores are split into two main groups: physical and mental. Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution are physical ability scores, measuring your character’s physical power, agility, and stamina. In contrast, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma are mental ability scores and measure your character’s learned prowess, awareness, and force of personality.
Excellence in an ability score improves the checks and statistics related to that ability, as described below. When imagining your character, you should also decide what ability scores you want to focus on to give you the best chance at success.
Strength measures your character’s physical power.
Strength is important if your character plans to engage in hand-to-hand combat. Your Strength modifier gets added to melee damage rolls and determines how much your character can carry.
Dexterity measures your character’s agility, balance, and reflexes. Dexterity is important if your character plans to make attacks with ranged weapons or use stealth to surprise foes. Your Dexterity modifier is also added to your character’s AC and Reflex saving throws.
Constitution measures your character’s overall health and stamina. Constitution is an important statistic for all characters, especially those who fight in close combat.
Your Constitution modifier is added to your Hit Points and Fortitude saving throws.
Intelligence measures how well your character can learn and reason. A high Intelligence allows your character to analyze situations and understand patterns, and it means they can become trained in additional skills and might be able to master additional languages.
Wisdom measures your character’s common sense, awareness, and intuition. Your Wisdom modifier is added to your Perception and Will saving throws.
Charisma measures your character’s personal magnetism and strength of personality. A high Charisma score helps you influence the thoughts and moods of others.
Ability Score Overview
Each ability score starts at 10, representing human average, but as you make character choices, you’ll adjust these scores by applying ability boosts, which increase a score, and ability flaws, which decrease a score. As you build your character, remember to apply ability score adjustments when making the following decisions.
Ancestry: Each ancestry provides ability boosts, and sometimes an ability flaw. If you are taking any voluntary flaws, apply them in this step.
Background: Your character’s background provides two ability boosts.
Class: Your character’s class provides an ability boost to the ability score most important to your class, called your key ability score.
Determine Scores: After the other steps, you apply four more ability boosts of your choice. Then, determine your ability modifiers based on those scores.
An ability boost normally increases an ability score’s value by 2. However, if the ability score to which you’re applying an ability boost is already 18 or higher, its value increases by only 1. At 1st level, a character can never have any ability score that’s higher than 18.
When your character receives an ability boost, the rules indicate whether it must be applied to a specific ability score or to one of two specific ability scores, or whether it is a “free” ability boost that can be applied to any ability score of your choice. However, when you gain multiple ability boosts at the same time, you must apply each one to a different score. Dwarves, for example, receive an ability boost to their Constitution score and their Wisdom score, as well as one free ability boost, which can be applied to any score other than Constitution or Wisdom .
Ability flaws are not nearly as common as ability boosts. If your character has an ability flaw—likely from their ancestry—you decrease that ability score by 2.
Once you’ve finalized your ability scores, you can use them to determine your ability modifiers, which are used in most other statistics in the game. Find the score in Table 1–1: Ability Modifiers to determine its ability modifier.
Alternative Method: Rolling Ability Scores
The standard method of generating ability scores that’s described above works great if you want to create a perfectly customized, balanced character. But your GM may decide to add a little randomness to character creation and let the dice decide what kind of character the players are going to play. In that case, you can use this alternative method to generate your ability scores. Be warned—the same randomness that makes this system fun also allows it to sometimes create characters that are significantly more (or less) powerful than the standard ability score system and other Pathfinder rules assume.
If your GM opts for rolling ability scores, follow these alternative steps, ignoring all other instructions and guidelines about applying ability boosts and ability flaws throughout the character generation process.
Step 1: Roll and Assign Scores
Roll four 6-sided dice (4d6) and discard the lowest die result.
Add the three remaining results together and record the sum. (For example, if you rolled a 2, 4, 5, and 6, you would discard the 2 and your total would be 15.) Repeat this process until you’ve generated six such values. Decide which value you want for each of your ability scores.
Step 2: Assign Ability Boosts and Ability Flaws
Apply the ability boosts your character gains from their ancestry, but your character gets one fewer free ability boost than normal. If your character’s ancestry has any ability flaws, apply those next. Finally, apply one ability boost to one of the ability scores specified in the character’s background (you do not get the other free ability boost).
These ability boosts cannot raise a score above 18. If this would happen, you can put the ability boost into another ability score instead, as if it were a free ability boost, or you can put it into an ability score of 17 to reach 18 and lose the excess increase.
Step 3: Record Scores and Modifiers
Record the final scores and assign the ability modifiers according to Table 1–1. When your character receives additional ability boosts at higher levels, you assign them as any character would.