In DnD4e essentials you have a choice of 3 arrays. However in the rules compendium they mention a point buy system.

I know from previous versions of the character builder that it will not allow you to have more than 1 stat below 8. However, an argument came up as to whether this is RAW. (Rules as Written)

After much pondering and arguing with my friend, I suggested that since the rules state you start with an 8,10,10,10,10,10 and 22 points. and you then improve the scores, I argued this means that you can't subtract from these numbers. My friend was unconvinced, and argued that improving one of my stats involves making the others worse.

I also argued that the table for the point costs doesn't display -1 or -2 for the values of 9 and 8, which it would if you could actually do that. Again, my friend was not convinced arguing that listing such a cost would just be confusing in the table, but it was obviously implied by the cost of values that start at 8.

Are there any other clear rules on this? Who do you believe has the correct reading here and why?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The answers below have it well covered. From a houseruling perspective, I would allow any number of stats to be sold down as low as 8 at the listed price (i.e. lowering a stat from 10 to 8 gets you 2 more points to spend). Since the point buy table starts at 8 I would say that going below 8 doesn't get you any more points to spend but does impose further penalties upon the modifiers (6-7 is -2, 4-5 is -3, 2-3 is -4, 0-1 is -5). \$\endgroup\$
    – Murphy
    Nov 1 '11 at 10:12

You have the correct reading, ability scores may not be lowered during character creation.

The Rules Compendium has the latest character creation information published on page 78, which sheds a bit more light on the subject. Point buy is method 2, now called "Customizing Scores" Other than nomenclature changes, the rules are exactly the same.

Start with these six scores: 8, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10. Then spend 22 points to improve them. The cost of raising a score from one number to a higher number is shown on the Ability Score Costs table.

Ability Score Costs

Score      Cost
  9        -(1)*
 10        0(2)*
 11         1
 12         2
(rest not shown - no surprises here)
* If a score is 8, it costs 1 to make it 9 or 2 points to make it 10.  That score must be raised to 10 before it can be improved further.

Things to note:

  • There is no cost for ability scores of 8 (or lower).
  • The cost for a score of 9 is '-' when coming from a score of 10 (not 0, or -1 or +1 but a dash. To me that means "Not/Available"
  • You spend points to improve scores
  • There are no mention at all of any method to reduce scores for any reason.

Taken together, this all builds a strong case for not allowing 2 scores below 10 (outside of a house rule, of course).

I've done a non-exhaustive search and could not locate this question being asked on the wizards forums. I also could not find any example character with 2 sub-10 scores. This is also very strong evidence against your friend. If multiple sub-10 scores were allowed (and generated more points to spend) then I am positive that many builds would take advantage of this. The 4e CharOp boards would be all over this like a dwarf on a tankard of mead! They are not, something this obvious to optimize would not be overlooked for so long.

The onus is on your friend to explain how this works in his mind and offer strong proof.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Perfect.. thank you. 4e CharOp boards is a really good counter point! :) \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Dec 24 '11 at 16:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMNoob Glad I could help! \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat Ludwig
    Dec 24 '11 at 16:35

For an official DnD Function such as Encounters or most events at a Con the answer would be No. The RAW is as stated by Pat Ludwig. He nailed it. The game designers do this to promote each character taking on primary role such as striker or defender and maintaining a balanced level of strengths/weaknesses across the party.

For your own game, feel free to do what you want. Character Builder allows you to use the point buy system any which way you want. It does flag your character as House-Ruled once you drive a stat below 8, put a second stat below 10, or give yourself too many or too few points, but it's your house so do what will be fun.

Keep in mind the idea of balance of you do allow/ask to lower multiple stats below 10. If only one character does it out of a party of five, they will be noticeably more effective than the other four. They will have some more weak points, true, but a savvy player can arrange stats to minimize that impact.

In the end, have fun. The rules exist because some pretty smart people believed that the rules would do the best job of making sure the most people could have the most fun with this game. That doesn't make it law, just a really good suggestion.


I don't remember any specific rule about this, but in both the old offline character builder and the new online one if you attempt to put more than one stat at 8 or 9 or any stat below 8 it will flag your character as house ruled.

This of course doesn't mean you can't do it if your DM will let you, but its not RAW.

You are correct in the 8,10,10,10,10,10 w/22 points there is no mechanism for subtraction.

If you start 10,10,10,10,10,10 w/20 points you can subtract 2 from one score but not more so its better to think of it as starting with 8,10...

  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed, but does the "character builder" count as RAW? \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Oct 29 '11 at 18:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I would argue yes that the CB counts as RAW as it is officially published and everything else in it is RAW. It wouldn't make since for the CB to use anything other than the rules as written as it makes use of the compendium. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 31 '11 at 1:02

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