The Point Buy ability score generation method is just one of a few ways offered for character creation. It removes all of the risk, and the rewards, of rolling the dice for player character stats. This variant method ensures the player characters are created in relative power level.
The rule for the Point Buy ability score generation variant is found in the Players Handbook on page 13.
Point Buy Ability Score Generation: Variant Rule
At your Dungeon Master’s option, you can use this variant for determining your ability scores. The method described here allows you to build a character with a set of ability scores you choose individually.
You have 27 points to spend on your ability scores. The cost of each score is shown on the Ability Score Point Cost table. For example, a score of 14 costs 7 points.
Using this method, 15 is the highest ability score you can end up with before applying racial increases. You can’t have a score lower than 8.
This method of determining ability scores enables you to create a set of three high numbers and three low ones (15, 15, 15, 8, 8, 8), a set of numbers that are above average and nearly equal (13, 13, 13, 12, 12, 12), or any set of numbers between those extremes.
The Point Buy method is useful in ensuring no players are significantly advantaged or disadvantaged by random chance at character creation.
While it can be fun to play a character with in incredibly low charisma or other ability stat, it shouldn’t be mandatory because of bad luck. This method removes the randomness of dice rolls and the extreme values.
Is Point Buy Better Than Standard Array?
Point Buy character ability score generation does allow for more customization than the standard array. It essentially lets the player determine how many ability scores are going to be good (+modifier) and how many are going to be bad (-modifier).
Point Buy also allows the player to chose not to have any bad scores. It is possible to have a (+modifier) in every ability using this method. For example, if you take a 12 in every stat, it totals 24 points leaving 3 points to spend. You can then make one stat 14 or three stats a 13. This gives you (+modifiers) across the board.
Using the standard array method, a character will have a (-modifier). The standard array consists of 8, 10,12,13,14,15. This is the easiest method to use but not the best for customization.
Point Buy: Pros and Cons?
There are some benefits to using the Point Buy method. The first is it’s easy. Everyone gets 27 points to spend as they see fit according to the score/cost table.
Second, it allows for some customization. The players are still in control of how their ability scores shake out. Finally, a player isn’t penalized by bad luck.
The Point Buy method takes out the risk of a bad roll of the dice. It isn’t much fun to roll for stats and end up with 6,10,12, 4, 18,9. Sure, its playable, but a character who is significantly deficient in multiple areas can lose its luster quickly.
Ability generation with Point Buy has its downsides, though. First, it takes the thrill out of rolling some dice. It can be quite fun to build characters together and rejoice as a group at that 18 or groan at a 6. Second, the method doesn’t allow for extraordinary results. The values stay between 8 and 15. This means no player can start with a score higher than 17 in anything.
How the Point Buy Method Affects the Game
Different methods for ability stat generation can be better suited for the type of game you want. In a low magic/fantasy world or one where the characters should face great odds, the Point Buy or Standard Array methods work great.
These methods prevent the players and the game from being unbalanced in the group and in the world. It is more difficult for the group to split up the fewer extraordinary individuals there are.
To contrast, a high magic/fantasy game should provide enough magic items to allow players to overcome challenging stat scores from unlucky dice rolls. A Headband of Intellect can help a character overcome that 6 in intelligence and could be the reason they are adventuring in the first place. Player characters that have a few scores higher than 15 to start are generally able to handle more challenging scenarios.
Higher ability scores allow them to play more aggressive and take chances. It also means letting the dice fall as they may, using the 4d6 keep 3 method.
The Point Buy method is a legitimate, balanced way to create a player character. There are things to keep in mind when using it, though, for both players and DMs.
In a game of imagination and endless possibilities, it can seem counterproductive to instill restrictions right at the beginning.
However, doing so can set up a great, balanced, and, most importantly, fun experience for everyone. Just remember, it isn’t the wrong way if everyone is having fun.