Standard Array 5e vs Other Character Creation Methods

Published on January 16, 2023

What ability score generation method will you choose when creating your character for D&D 5e? In this article, we’ll explore each method in-depth so you can decide which benefits your character and your party!

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Using Standard Array

Standard array lets you assign the following six numbers:

  • 15
  • 14
  • 13
  • 12
  • 10
  • 8

To your character’s primary abilities:

  • Strength
  • Dexterity
  • Constitution
  • Intelligence
  • Wisdom
  • Charisma

You can only assign each number to one ability. So, if you’re building a barbarian and want to make your strongest stat Strength, you would assign 15 to Strength. Next up, you likely want to pump your Constitution for more HP. Seeing as your 15 has already been used, you’d have to assign 14 as your Constitution score. You follow this process until you’ve assigned all 6 numbers to your ability scores, at which point you can move on with character creation.

Check out our class guides for more suggestions if you need help determining which ability scores to increase for your build.

Modifiers Associated with Standard Array

It’s important to note the modifier you’ll receive with each option you have to choose from in Standard Array. See the table below for a quick reference:

Option Modifier
15 +2
14 +2
13 +1
12 +1
10 +0
8 -1

Remember that your racial bonuses will impact your final ability score and, therefore, the modifier you’ll start with after character creation.

When To Use Standard Array

Standard Array is best used for novice players and DMs, as it helps expedite character creation and removes the random chance associated with other methods. This method also allows each party member to start the campaign on the same power level, ensuring that players don’t feel overshadowed by their teammates.

It’s also the fasted method of assigning ability scores, which can be a bonus if you’re strapped for time creating a character or having to create a character on the fly.

When Not To Use Standard Array

Standard Array may have its benefits, but it isn’t without fault. The first and most crucial issue with this ability score generation method is the lack of variability. Under Standard Array, build types begin to look and function ‘samey,’ which can be uninteresting for more advanced players.

The other issue more advanced users will run into is that it doesn’t allow you to min/max your character. Let’s stick with the example above and say you’re creating a barbarian. For your barbarian, you want to rule the battlefield and don’t care much about Wisdom, Intelligence, or Charisma. Under Standard Array, you’d still have to invest resources into those stats, whereas, with Point Buy, you could ‘dump’ your off stats and start with a 15 in Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution.

You might not be a particularly thriving conversationalist, but at least you’ll be able to punch whoever is trying to mock you in the mouth.

Tips for Using Standard Array

When using the easiest method of assigning ability scores, you wouldn’t think that there are many factors to take into consideration. Granted, there are fewer choices to make than in the Point Buy or Rolling methods, but there are still things you can do to optimize your character when using this method:

  • Use uneven ability scores to your advantage: When you end character creation with an uneven ability score, you can make the most of it by choosing a half-feat. This will let you pump your ability score by one, thereby upgrading your modifier while still picking up a new ability.
  • Strategize your racial abilities: Usually, races provide a +2/+1 ASI upon character creation. If the race you choose provides a specific bonus, think about how that will affect your Standard Array ability scores. Maybe you don’t want a -1 ability modifier. Therefore you should assign the +2 ASI to that slot. Otherwise, assigning the +1 ASI to your 15 and the +2 ASI to your 14 will allow for a +3 modifier in your two most important abilities.

Other Methods of Assigning Ability Scores

Point Buy

The Point Buy method works by allowing you to ‘buy’ ability score increases.  Each score starts at 8; the more points you buy for a specific ability, the more expensive points become. You start with 27 points and can increase your ability score by spending the following amounts:

Score Point Cost
9 1
10 2
11 3
12 4
13 5
14 7
15 9

Usually, I recommend using a point buy calculator to ensure you get your math right. This method is best for advanced groups that want to avoid the randomness of the Rolling method and want a step up in complexity and variability than the Standard Array method provides.

Rolling

There are several on the Rolling ability score generation method, but the most widely used is the 4×6 drop. In this method, you roll 4×6, drop the lowest die, and add the remaining dice to make up your ability score. You do this six times for each of your ability scores until all have a number assigned to them.

Even though the average roll of a d6 is 3.5, you are at the mercy of random chance when using the Rolling method. You can end up with six higher-than-normal ability scores, six lower-than-normal ability scores, and anything in between. I personally never use this method for long-term campaigns because of the disparity it can create among the players. However, if I’m going to be playing in a short campaign or one-shot, I like this method because it can provide interesting options for a unique build.

Can I Use More Than One Method For My Campaign?

Because you can recreate the Standard Array using the Point Buy method, you could easily allow players to use either generation method. This will let players that want more control over their character tweak their ability scores using Point Buy, whereas the players with less focus on ability scores can slot in the Standard Array and get on with it.

I would hazard against using the Rolling method in conjunction with either Point Buy or Standard Array as it can create unfavorable scenarios. Let’s say, for instance, you have one player using the Rolling method, and the other three are using Point Buy/Standard Array. If the Rolling player rolls low, they’ll be envious of the players that took the less risky options. If they roll higher, the rest of the party may find that their characters underperform compared to the Rolling player’s character. It’s best to avoid this scenario altogether and agree on either Point Buy/Standard Array or Rolling before the campaign starts.

Standard Array 5e vs Other Character Creation Methods FAQs

Can you start with lower than an 8 with Standard Array?

The only way you can start with less than an 8 in an ability is if you chose the old, unerrataed version of the kobold or orc, which provide -1 to Intelligence.

How do I increase ability scores with Standard Array?

You increase your ability scores when you level up. Based on your class, you'll be provided Ability Score Improvements (ASIs) at certain levels. Once you reach those levels, you can choose to increase one ability score by 2 or two ability scores by 1.

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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