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Point Buy 5e Guide

Rolling for your party’s ability scores to start a DnD campaign is… dicey. But using a standard array is boring. The DnD 5e Point Buy method is a middle ground that keeps your party balanced while letting you build characters exactly how you want. So how does Point Buy in DnD 5e work?

What is Point Buy in 5e?

Point Buy in DnD 5e is an ability score method that lets you spend a total of 27 points to increase each of your character’s abilities. All abilities are set to 8 by default, and each increase costs a predetermined amount of points.

The maximum ability score you can reach through Point Buy is 15, not counting racial bonuses.

How do you use Point Buy?

Don’t worry, no math is involved! Well, maybe a teensy bit.

  1. Give everyone 27 points each to spend.
  2. Assign all ability scores to 8.
  3. From their pool of 27 points, each player “buys” points for each ability using the table below.

DnD 5e Point Buy Table:

Ability ScorePoint CostModifier
80-1
91-1
1020
1130
124+1
135+1
147+2
159+2

Note the “Modifier” section, which modifies in-game dice rolls for each ability. After all 27 points are allocated, your character is set for adventure!

What’s the point of Point Buy? Isn’t rolling more fun?

Rolling can be fun if you roll decently—it can also be a total drag if you roll poorly. Too much bad luck will basically relegate you to NPC status while your high-powered friends slay baddies left and right.

Plus, no one likes groveling to the DM to fudge their rolls. Point Buy saves you frustration—and dignity. Campaigns are big investments, so you don’t want to gamble on anyone’s fun factor. 

The Point Buy system also increases immersion for those who like creating specific, quirky characters. You can invest some Wisdom points into your Barbarian who was adopted by Monks, or some Charisma into your Dwarf who was the mayor of their village. You can also tailor characters to the campaign’s theme. It might make sense for characters in a desert wasteland to have a higher Constitution, for example. 

The main reason players prefer Point Buy in DnD 5e over other ability score methods is because it lets them create “optimal” builds.

DnD 5e Point Buy tips for an optimal build:

Check your class’s skill list. Each class chooses skills that depend on their abilities. If your Bard is a history buff, they’ll need to pass their History checks with Intelligence, for example, so you’ll want to make sure INT is high enough. Checking a character’s class skill list against their race ability modifiers offers the best of both worlds. Prepare for your Point Buy by seeing what abilities you should invest in to maximize your skill set.

Check your race ability modifiers. Most races have a +2 in one ability score, and +1 in another.  Say your race has a +2 in Dexterity, and +1 in Strength. Spend 7 points to bring Dexterity to 14, and 9 points to bring Strength to 15. Spending these 16 points (7 + 9) gives you two ability scores of 16 (Dex 14 + 2, STR 15 + 1), along with a neat +3 modifier. You’ll have 11 points left over (27 – 16 = 11).

Figure out how to spend the rest of your points. After spending 16 out of 27 points to max two abilities, you have to choose how to spread your remaining 11 points over the other four abilities. 

After optimizing your Point Buy to max two stats, there are a few strategies for the other stats:

13,10,10,10 – Avoid negative modifiers

An ability score of 13 costs 5 points and gives +1 to your dice rolls, while an ability score of 10 costs 2 points and has no modifying effect. 5 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 11. This is a safe play with no “weak” abilities. 

13,12,10,8 – Balanced

An ability score of 13 costs 5 points, while a score of 12 costs 4. Both get +1 on their dice rolls. An ability score of 10 costs 2 points and has no effect on rolls.  One unlucky ability remains the default of 8 and costs nothing, but will also give you a -1 to dice rolls. 5 + 4 + 2 + 0 = 11. This lets you “dump” one stat that you don’t care about or don’t think will come up.

14,10,10,8 – Power

Investing an additional 7 points to bring an ability score to 14 nets you a sweet +2 roll modifier. Added to the +3 modifiers for the abilities you maxed to 16 earlier, that gives you powerful rolls for three stats.  Then if you spend 4 points to bring two other abilities to 10, you only have to “dump” one stat.  Some classes like Monks, Paladins, and Rangers are lopsided towards three stats anyways, so it makes sense to go all-in by spending most of your points in them.

If numbers make your head hurt, you can use a Point Buy calculator. The Chicken Dinner Point Buy calculator is a simple and popular option.

There are two other strategies to consider when thinking about how to optimize your Point Buy.

Saving Throw Proficiencies

Saving throws are when you roll for all the sticky situations your DM puts you in, using the ability that makes the most sense for the situation. For example, your DM might ask for a DEX saving throw to duck all those darts that just came out of the wall behind you.

You have to roll higher than the DC (Difficulty Class) of the event, including your ability modifier. Proficiency in Saving Throws gives you a further +2 on your roll to start, and increases every 4 levels to a max of +6. 

Every class in 5e has 2 saving throw proficiencies, listed below:

Investing your Point Buys into saving throws your character is already proficient in makes you super tough against certain threats. Or if you think you know what dastardly tricks your DM has up their sleeve, you can put your Point Buys into the saving throws you think they’ll throw at you often. 

By orienting your Point Buys towards survival and reflex, you might just navigate your way to the BBEG pulling all the strings. Passing difficult saving throws can also get you some spiffy loot. Another option is to beef up your Hit Points and Armor Class to bulldoze your way through any challenge.

Hit Points and Armor Class

A high Constitution gives you hearty HP to power through any mishaps or miscreants that come your way. The higher your ability modifier, the more you boost your HP at every level too. Max out your CON point buy to brave any battle.

Dexterity boosts your AC (Armor Class) to make it a lot harder for your DM’s henchmen to hit you. A higher AC lets you wear more beefy armor as well. The higher your DEX ability modifier, the faster you build your AC.

Max out both HP and AC to get through any jam ASAP.

OK, but what about those other ability score methods?

If you’re curious, here’s how the other two ability score methods in DnD 5e work:

Standard Array

Apply scores 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8 to one ability each. Yep, that’s it. If you don’t want to intimidate new players with yucky math, it’s a great way to go. It’s also nice for one-off sessions, and lets DMs plan their campaign more effectively by knowing all the stats from the start.

Rolling for Stats

Roll four 6-sided dice (4d6) for each ability, removing the lowest dice. Add up the three remaining dice to get your score. The highest ability score you can get with this method is 18, while the lowest is 3 (not including racial bonuses). 

Rolling for stats is classic DnD. It also makes for a lot of random, fun, and hilarious encounters, such as when your Assassin with 3 Charisma has to explain why they were sneaking around the Captain’s Quarters. The risk of the roll is inherent in DnD, so some think mitigating that risk with the Point Buy method is lame. But what’s even lamer is taking a mulligan on a particularly unlucky roll. You would never do that…right?

As a DM, the ability score method you choose can alter your whole campaign. Consider all the pros and cons of Point Buy before you commit.

5e Point Buy Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • Create your ideal character
  • Decrease bad roll frustration
  • Balance your party
  • Lowest base stat 8

Cons

  • Complex, not as fun as rolling
  • Makes the party too strong
  • Intimidating for new players
  • Highest base stat 15

Whatever ability score method you choose, adventure on to the best of your ability!

And while you’re here, be sure to check out these other methods of mayhem… Proficiency Bonus 5e, Dual Wielder Feat 5e, and Familiars 5e.

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