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Standard Array vs Point Buy vs Rolling DnD 5e – Which is Best?

When creating a character in Dungeons and Dragons 5e, you can choose from three methods to generate ability scores – standard array, point buy, and rolling. But which is the best? Here we outline each method, look at its pros and cons, and choose the best way to assign ability scores to new characters!

DnD 5e character sheet with coins and dice on it representing point buy, rolling and standard array

Standard Array

Standard array presents the quickest and simplest way to choose a character’s ability scores in DnD 5e. With this method, you get a static pool of numbers to assign your ability scores from: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8. Assign one each to strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, charisma and you’re done.

The speedy build allows DMs to toss together stats for that one goblin the party thinks is just too cute and mascot-ready to whack; or let experienced dungeoneers put a perfectly serviceable PC together mere minutes after the last disappears into a dragon’s maw.

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New players can also benefit from the use of standard array. The pre-set selection can uncomplicate decision-making and cut down on the sheer amount of new rules flooding your brain.

Pros:

  • Simpler
  • Quick
  • Lowest base stat 8

Cons:

  • Less customization
  • Highest base stat 15

Good for:

  • New players
  • Fast builds

For suggestions on how to assign standard array points by class and homebrew standard array options take a look at our How to use Standard Array in D&D 5e in article.

Point Buy

The point buy system sounds more complicated at first, but the trade-off of full customization is well worth it. You start with a pool of 27 points and can “buy” exact ability scores, which all have a different “price.”

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.

Though it’s easy to keep track of the math on paper, consider using some techno wizardry to make this process even easier with a stat generator like this one.

 

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Most experienced players choose the point buy system because your only limitation is that the max score you can buy is 15. (And even then, some DMs are willing to waive this rule.)

Do you just love having complete control over your new creation? Or maybe you’re looking for something a bit more extreme, and wanna play an ultra beefed up Fighter by heavily lowering their mental stats? Point buy all the way.

Even if you’re new to D&D, this system is pretty simple to grasp. But as the DM I like to be around while new folks make their first few characters to help field any questions.

Pros:

  • Total customization
  • Min base stat 8

Cons:

  • More complex
  • Max base stat 15
  • Slower

Good for:

  • Experienced players
  • New players with guidance
  • Minmaxers

See all the possible point buy combinations along with suggested stats for different classes in our How to Use Point Buy in D&D 5e article.

Rolling Stats

How did the OG tabletoppers get their stats? By praying to the Lady Luck, the goddess Tymora, and leaving it to a random roll of the dice.

Also known as the 4d6 drop method, it’s simple to roll your new character’s stats.

  1. Roll 4 x 6 sided dice
  2. Remove the lowest dice result
  3. Add up the remaining numbers to get an ability score
  4. Write down this ability score on note paper
  5. Repeat these steps until you have 6 ability scores
  6. Assign a score to each attribute on your character sheet.

The DM will likely want to be present for stats rolled this way to both prevent good-natured cheating and allow for leniency in rerolls in the case of exceptionally poor luck. Because even though an 18 is possible, so is a 3! That’s the beauty of dice roll randomness!

Rolling for your stats can add a little excitement to character creation for both new and long-time players alike. For those new to the game, it can also take some of the decision-making out of character builds and let you jump into the roleplay fun without overthinking.

Or, if you’re feeling wacky, try it without any do overs and create your character around the stats. A Wizard with terrible Intelligence? Perhaps she’s an aging professor of the arcane that has forgotten most of her spells, or a comedic character of the Inept Mage variety. Get creative!

Pros:

  • One or more 18s possible
  • Novelty and variety

Cons:

  • One or more 3s possible
  • Slower

Good for:

  • Old school style gaming

For rolling stats generators and hombrew method ideas see our How to Roll Stats in 5e article.

Which is fairest? 

A winking Rogue with a deck of cards in a dimly lit alley might argue that, by definition, random chance is the most objectively fair thing there is. Whereas the Paladin might say that everyone starting with the same numbers in their stat pool is the very soul of equality.

But in the spirit of fun rather than philosophy, the point buy system is likely the fairest due to the amount of player autonomy. Point buy offers superior customization, and with the right build & guidance that means a higher likelihood of doing things well in game.

Knowing you have the ability to succeed as a player can make a huge difference in gameplay and enjoyment!

Should everyone use the same method?

Using the same point system can be an early way to build camaraderie and teamwork. I like getting all my players to agree to one common system so that no one feels left out or confused.

Because, ultimately, whether players will be using the same point system or not comes down to the DM. Ask your DM which system they prefer and what they’re open to. 

If you want special consideration for your character, be prepared with homemade snacks or a gift. Virtually no DM is immune to the right gift. Check out our Gift Ideas for DMs for some inspiration.

Do different ones suit different situations?

Absolutely! For example, if your players are experienced they may really appreciate having complete control over character creation with point buy.

If your players are all new to the game, maybe paring down their initial set of options by picking the standard array would take a load off their minds. Or perhaps you want to play old school and leave it completely up to chance by rolling for your ability scores. Each has an upside!

Conclusion – Standard Array vs Point Buy vs Rolling DnD 5e – Which is Best?

Though gamers can (and will!) debate the question of which method is better until the owlbears come home, there is a general consensus that the point buy system is best for the largest range of situations.

The point buy system is relatively fair, not overly complex, and allows the player the most control over their character’s abilities scores. And control nurtures player agency, which is why most gamers agree that point buy is the best choice – it allows you to play D&D your way!

How about treating yourself to some shiny new trinkets to go along with your new character? Here are some of my favorite D&D player accessories!

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Emily
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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