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How to Use Point Buy in 5e D&D + Pros & Cons!

The point buy system is one method for assigning ability scores to a character during creation in D&D 5e. It allows for total customization, so if you’re interested in point buy, you probably have some brilliant builds in mind!

Is your style perfectly combat optimized? Awesome cosmic powers and a glass chin? Whatever your flavor, the point buy method can help you get there.

This article gives you the tools to use point buy in 5e Dungeons & Dragons. Read on for a lay out of the rules, examples, and suggestions to help you effectively build any class your heart desires!

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Point cost and stats on a dnd character sheet with coins

What is Point Buy in 5e?

Point buy is a method for assigning ability scores during character creation in D&D 5e. You have a set pool of points which you can use to ‘buy’ corresponding ability scores.

When you’ve spent all your points, you can’t increase your scores anymore.

How to Use Point Buy? 

The basic rules of the point buy method are:

  • Each ability score begins at 8
  • Ability scores above 8 cost a certain number of points
  • You have 27 points to spend to increase scores
  • Maximum ability score before racial bonuses is 15
  • Minimum ability score before racial bonuses is 8

The ability score point cost table shows what you can spend your points on.

Ability ScorePoint Cost
80
91
102
113
124
135
147
159
Page 13, Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook 5th Edition.

Examples of How to Use Point Buy

Point buy gives you the freedom to customize your character’s stats exactly how you want them. For most players that means one of two things: maximizing important stats at the expense of inessential ones, or assigning stats for added flavor and personality.

Say you’re creating a Barbarian.

You could go the minmaxer route and spend all 27 of your points buying three 15s for Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution so they’re a veritable dynamo of physical prowess. But don’t expect them to ace any History checks – with all the points spent, their mental stats will all be 8s!

Or maybe you have a specific roleplaying experience in mind that isn’t the stereotypical all brawn, no brains sort of Barbarian. Like Ayla, a historically based Norse berserker that uses psychedelic plants to bring on powerful, trance-like rages.

With point buy you can give her the physical stats to be effective in battle, but also increase stats otherwise ignored by classic Barbarian builds. A higher Wisdom would showcase her background as an herbalist and wisewoman and she’ll really shine for Survival, Medicine, and Insight checks.

A possible build for Ayla could look like the one shown on the character sheet below.

Character sheet showing ability scores and point costs. Strength 14 (7 points), Dexterity 14 (7 points), Constitution 13 (5 points), Intelligence 11 (3 points), Wisdom 13 (5 points), Charisma 8 (0 points).
Character sheet showing ability scores and point buy costs

On the other hand, if you don’t have a specific build in mind and are just looking for a balanced spread of ability scores (no muss, no fuss, no math), then go for the simplicity of the standard array method. More on that in a moment.

Set of ability scores

Point buy leads to sets of numbers such as:

  • 13, 13, 13, 12, 12, 12
  • 14, 13, 13, 12, 12, 10
  • 15, 14, 12, 12, 10, 9

For a full list of all the possible number sets, see the end of this article!

Point Buy 5e Calculators

Point buy calcualtors make keeping track of points easy. You can play around with the numbers you enter until you settle on a combo you’re happy with.

Here are a couple of our favorites:

Suggested Point Buys by Class

There’s no “best build” for a class with point buy. It depends on what you want for your character. In the examples coming up, you’ll see how to use point buy to create your ideal character! 

This table in the Player’s Handbook gives you an overview of important stats for each class.

Page 45, Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook 5th Edition.

Primary Ability

Start by checking out which abilities are key for your class, or their primary ability. This ability is what really allows your character to do what they do!

For example, a Warlock’s primary ability is Charisma. A Warlock is a magic class, and uses the Charisma bonus to determine the accuracy and power of their spells. To effectively Eldritch Blast your foes in the face, you want to make Charisma the highest score to give you a high spellcasting ability.

Saving Throws Proficienies

Next, consider the saving throws proficiencies. These represent the challenges your class is specially equipped to handle – another great guide for prioritizing ability scores!

Your Warlock’s saving throw proficiencies are in Wisdom and Charisma. They are strong of will, socially savvy, clear thinking and perceptive, and not suggestible. With the boost to those saves he can do things like withstand intimidation, spot liars, and see through a foe’s Hypnotic Pattern.

Hit Points and Armor Class

Want to play more and worry about death saves less? Then a final consideration before hauling off and maxing out your favorite stat should be hit points and armor class.

Putting some of your points into Constitution gives your Warlock a robust starting HP so they don’t go down like a wet pile of leaves to the first Goblin shanking. And that Con bonus will keep improving your HP at every level.

If you’d prefer to avoid getting hit at all, Dexterity is a solid choice too. A good Dexterity score boosts your AC so your character can dodge attacks while slinging spells or swinging swords. As they say, the best offense is a good defense.

Racial Bonuses

Finally, remember that your racial bonuses can make a good score even better or pad out any low ones. Almost every race has two abilities that they have built in +2 and +1 bonuses for. 

Tieflings get a +1 to Intelligence and +2 to Charisma, so maybe you can save a few points when buying for those abilities. For example, if you buy your Warlock a Charisma of 14 (7 points) instead of a 15 (9 points), his total Charisma score is 16 because of his infernal heritage.

Pros of Point Buy

Seasoned players almost unanimously prefer the point buy system for the simple reason that it is the most customizable stat generation method. 

You have the power to make exactly the character you want with less rules to trip over. After all, if you have a basic grasp of gameplay and/or the class you’re making, the structure of the other systems can become strictures.

Pros:

  • Super customizable
  • Great for experienced players
  • Lowest base stat 8
  • No randomness like with dice rolls

Cons of Point Buy

For most, the biggest con of the point buy system is the additional rules and regulations. Let’s face it, D&D does already have a lot of rules for new players to read. 

Point buy isn’t calculus or anything, but sometimes it’s kinder to your brain to whittle down the sheer volume of rules text you need to digest. Completely new to D&D? Then maybe just let the whole process be a bit easier and go with a different stat generation method.

Keep in mind, however, that most of the cognitive burden can be mitigated by using a digital stat generator and a knowledgeable buddy. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help!

Cons:

  • Most complex method
  • Not as accessible for new players
  • Highest base stat 15

Modified Point Buy Methods

Want to open up your options even more and customize everything about your character’s stats? Chat with your DM/players about modifying the point buy rules. House rules can be fun to dream up!

For example, in ye olden DnD days there was no strict maximum or minimum on starting stats. A fan favorite set of homebrew rules from Daniel Lamoureux’s Expanded Point Buy System on the DM’s Guild, expands the possible scores in both directions.

expanded point buy system by Daniel Lamoureux
Image credit: DM’s Guild

Daniel’s expanded point buy system even includes disabilities, weaknesses, and allergies you can give you character in exchange for even more points to spend on stats. Excessive? Maybe. Creative and customized to the max? Definitely!

Alternatives to Point Buy

Wizards has two alternatives to the point buy method: standard array and good ol’ fashioned rolling for stats.

Standard Array

With standard array, you take the standard set of ability scores, 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8, and assign one to each ability.

The standard array is a simplified option that’s great for new players and folks in a hurry. Take a look at the Pros and Cons of Standard Array and some examples of it in use, in our How to Use Standard Array article.

Rolling for Stats

Or, if you want to go old school and use character creation as an excuse to get together with the party and roll cool dice like these skull and moss dice on Etsy, then consider rolling for stats! Get the scoop on How to Roll Stats in 5e here!

And for a brief overview of all three different methods, see our article on Standard Array vs Point Buy vs Rolling!

Conclusion – How to Use Point Buy in 5e + Pros & Cons

Are you a veteran adventurer just dying to try a specific, maxed out build? Or someone who digs roleplaying, so you build characters to match a particular background/personality? Maybe you’re just a control frea- I mean, detail-oriented. 

Either way, the point buy method of generating ability scores is an excellent choice. With some basic gameplay familiarity and/or a little guidance you can customize to your heart’s content. Point buy is power to the people, so you can game your way!

Speaking of gaming your way, take a peek at some of my favorite D&D Gaming Accessories for Players!

All Possible Point Buy Ability Score Combinations in D&D 5e

This was originally posted on the now defunct Wizards of the Coast forum by user overpromises. All credit to them!

15, 15, 15, 8, 8, 8

15, 15, 14, 10, 8, 8

15, 15, 14, 9, 9, 8

15, 15, 13, 12, 8, 8

15, 15, 13, 11, 9, 8

15, 15, 13, 10, 10, 8

15, 15, 13, 10, 9, 9

15, 15, 12, 12, 9, 8

15, 15, 12, 11, 10, 8

15, 15, 12, 11, 9, 9

15, 15, 12, 10, 10, 9

15, 15, 11, 11, 11, 8

15, 15, 11, 11, 10, 9

15, 15, 11, 10, 10, 10

15, 14, 14, 12, 8, 8

15, 14, 14, 11, 9, 8

15, 14, 14, 10, 10, 8

15, 14, 14, 10, 9, 9

15, 14, 13, 13, 9, 8

15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8

15, 14, 13, 12, 9, 9

15, 14, 13, 11, 11, 8

15, 14, 13, 11, 10, 9

15, 14, 13, 10, 10, 10

15, 14, 12, 12, 11, 8

15, 14, 12, 12, 10, 9

15, 14, 12, 11, 11, 9

15, 14, 12, 11, 10, 10

15, 14, 11, 11, 11, 10

15, 13, 13, 13, 11, 8

15, 13, 13, 13, 10, 9

15, 13, 13, 12, 12, 8

15, 13, 13, 12, 11, 9

15, 13, 13, 12, 10, 10

15, 13, 13, 11, 11, 10

15, 13, 12, 12, 12, 9

15, 13, 12, 12, 11, 10

15, 13, 12, 11, 11, 11

15, 12, 12, 12, 12, 10

15, 12, 12, 12, 11, 11

14, 14, 14, 13, 9, 8

14, 14, 14, 12, 10, 8

14, 14, 14, 12, 9, 9

14, 14, 14, 11, 11, 8

14, 14, 14, 11, 10, 9

14, 14, 14, 10, 10, 10

14, 14, 13, 13, 11, 8

14, 14, 13, 13, 10, 9

14, 14, 13, 12, 12, 8

14, 14, 13, 12, 11, 9

14, 14, 13, 12, 10, 10

14, 14, 13, 11, 11, 10

14, 14, 12, 12, 12, 9

14, 14, 12, 12, 11, 10

14, 14, 12, 11, 11, 11

14, 13, 13, 13, 13, 8

14, 13, 13, 13, 12, 9

14, 13, 13, 13, 11, 10

14, 13, 13, 12, 12, 10

14, 13, 13, 12, 11, 11

14, 13, 12, 12, 12, 11

14, 12, 12, 12, 12, 12

13, 13, 13, 13, 13, 10

13, 13, 13, 13, 12, 11

13, 13, 13, 12, 12, 12

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Hi, I’m Emily, the tabletop gamer behind My Kind of Meeple. If this article helped you, I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.

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