Game EducationMechanical Design

Ability Scores and Modifiers: Dungeons & Dragons System Reference Document

First Let's Try to Understand What Ability Scores Are:

Ability scores are a way to measure the physical and mental characteristics of your character! 

Ability checks, savings throws, and attack rolls all use your ability score modifiers.

To explain ability checks, I’m going to use the ever-famous tomato metaphor.


What's your character's physical power? How well could you character crush a tomato?


Is your character agile? Not so much? How well could they dodge a tomato beging thrown at them?


What's your characters endurance? How well could they withstand eating a totally rotten tomato?


Is your character reasonable. Do they have good memory? How logic-minded are they? Do they happen to know that a tomato is technically a fruit?


We all know wisdom is different from intelligence. So while knowing a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not using it as the base for a fruit salad. Amirite?


What's your character's personality like? Could they lead a room? Could they sell a tomato-based fruit salad?

Then Let's Convert Your Ability Score to Your Modifier For Ability Checks

Use this chart to figure out your roll modifier compared to your ablity scores!


For an easy way to calculate your modifier without the chart, subtract 10 from your ability score and then divide that number by two and then round down.


Modifiers will be used more often than ability scores. You’ll want to have your modifiers handy at all times!

Ability Score Roll Modifier
Written by
Beth the Bard (@ItsBethTheBard)

She/Her | Pro DM & Coach | ADHD | Best-Selling DnD Author of Feminist Curse of Strahd Book | D&D in a Castle DM | Creator of TTRPG University

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