Character creation in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition can be a widely different process. There’s a ton of ways to get races, classes, features, etc. The most common and official optional process is how you get ability scores. Normally, you’re asked to simply roll ability scores to see what your stats are. If your DM asks you to use Standard Array instead, then you might not know off the top of your head what that means. Thankfully, it’s extremely simple! Learn what Standard Array 5E is, and how to best use it for your character.
What are the Numbers for Standard Array?
“Standard array” means that there are no variables in character creation. No randomness, no change. You have 6 numbers that you slot into your character sheet before you add your racial bonuses. The numbers are as follows:
You can place these numbers wherever you’d like; 15 can go into Strength just as easily as Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma. What’s more, you have to use all of these numbers. You cannot intentionally lower the stats, even if it would work better for your character (always ask your DM, though; they are the final arbiter of the rules!). Again; these numbers are applied before racial bonuses. So a human would increase all of those numbers by 1. Or, if a Goliath puts a 15 into Strength, it becomes a 17, thanks to the Goliath’s +2 to Strength bonus. Your ability scores correspond to the all-important ability modifiers. Keep in mind, these scores can be increased by your racial bonuses.
Benefits of Standard Array
The Standard Array is extremely simple to explain to new players. Without needing to show how to roll dice, making calculations, removing the lowest, etc., a new player can construct a character. That can be super useful if a player doesn’t quite understand how to roll and then place.
The standard array makes all characters the same. No longer does someone need to deal with Captain Peasant while their friend rolls 3 18s. Everybody has the exact same start, and that’s fantastic for making players feel important. And, unlike point buy, players don’t need to be math whizzes to make things work out well for them. It has the big 15 for your important stat, the 8 for the stat you need to lower (Intelligence or Charisma, usually), and middling numbers for everything else. No need to figure out additional numbers!
Which is also a really good way to teach players the importance of finding a middle ground. For new players, they get two +2s, two +1s, one +0, and one -1. Awesome! Players have a ton of positive options and can experiment with bonuses to their dice rolls.
Downsides for Standard Array
While I believe new players will prefer this over dice rolling or point buy, it’s admittedly a ton of information. You’ll still need to explain stat priority (like putting a 15 in the most important stat, and the 8 in the least important stat). And the massive pile of numbers can be a little bit frightening, since they’re all up-front. It’s an introduction that you’ll need to take relatively slow, depending on how used to TTRPGs the player is.
In addition, the Pro that I mentioned above may also be a con. All players are the exact same (other than race) which can be a little… strange. Gone are the Barbarians with -1 to all mental stats. Gone are the Wizards that have 15 Strength and 15 Intelligence. You don’t get the extremes, or the unique builds of talented players. So, while better for the new players that might have trouble with stat priority, you might want to transition to rolling or point buy once the players are used to it.
How to Use It Best
Unsurprisingly, you should organize your statistics in order of preference of the dice rolls. I know, very helpful, but each class and each build has a preference and it can be difficult to pin down exactly what you, as a player, needs.
First of all, the 15 should go in your basic attack statistic. For spellcasters, this is your mental stat that your spells are based on. For example, a Sorcerer should put the 15 into Charisma. And for melee damage dealers, the 15 should go into Strength or Dexterity, depending on your weapon preference – A Rogue should consider putting it into Dexterity, while a Barbarian should put it into Strength. While Constitution is important, your 15 should never go into it, if you wish to be efficient.
The 8 is the other important one. Put the 8 into a statistic that doesn’t matter at all. For most, that is either Strength, Intelligence, or Charisma. Intelligence does nothing for non-Wizards except boost a few skill checks. Charisma is much the same, but Bards, Sorcerers, and Warlocks use it for their casting. Strength is only useful for carrying capacity if you aren’t brandishing a huge axe. Make sure that you have next to no use for that skill check (other than the saving throws) and dump it down to 8.
The other stats should be spread at your leisure. The 14 should be put into a secondary stat (i.e. Intelligence for an Eldritch Knight) or, if you have none, put it into Constitution or Dexterity! Those are great defensive stats and will keep you alive for a long time.
Try to keep a +1 (12 or 13) for Wisdom. Having even a small chance of succeeding on a Wisdom Save is really important for the mid-to-late game. Dominate spells are devastating for parties, and you should avoid them whenever possible! The other +1 should be in Constitution or Dexterity, if you haven’t gotten one of them boosted yet.
15 and 13 are weird. They don’t have any specific bonuses at level 1, since they’re odd numbers. But, you can increase them by a whole +1 by just adding 1 to an ability score. That means, when you get to Ability Score Improvement milestones, you can spread your stat bonuses, or take a Feat that gives just a +1 to a stat. You’ll get all the benefits of increasing a score by 2, for half the price!
Other Ways to Calculate Starting Ability Scores
Standard array is only one option for calculating starting ability scores in D&D. This is arguably the simplest option, but it is not for everyone. There are two other common approaches to calculating these scores, which include:
- Point Buy. Point Buy is the most complicated of the three options, but it also gives you the power to customize your ability scores without facing the randomness of rolling. The way Point Buy works is that you are given a pool of attribute points to distribute, and you can assign them to any ability as long as an individual score does not exceed 15. This approach has similar results to Standard Array, but it give you the option of dumping more than one stat to round out others.
- Rolling for Stats. The traditional way to determine your ability scores is by rolling for stats. There are multiple ways you can go about it. Some DMs will let you 4d6 for each ability and drop the lowest roll. In other games, you might simple roll six d20 and see where fate takes you! This approach can be fun, but it can also be time-consuming and result in uneven results among party members.
This is a really good way to ensure that all players will be treated equally, and is the most common stat score spread. But, once you as a player, or your players, get used to using this array, consider trying another style. Point Buy will keep things balanced while allowing players to explore new character builds. Dice rolling will be completely random, but your experienced players will find a way to make it work.
Even experienced players love Standard Array, however. It’s a solid, consistent character creating tool, and nobody gets too mad when they use it. If you’re looking for a very “normal” way to build characters, there’s no better choice! And if you’re working on a new character, see our Starting Gold 5E Guide!
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