When one levels up and gets an increase in maximum hit points, one can either roll or take the average roll rounded up. Statistically, you're better off with the non-random method.

For ability scores, the standard array is 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8. Using the point-buy system yields scores in this same basic range. But, according to AnyDice, the average rolls for 4d6-drop-one are 16, 14, 13, 12, 10, 9 — slightly better and, crucially, providing the likely possibility of an 18 to start (with a racial bonus of +2) and a 40% chance of starting with at least one ability score at 19 or 20.

It seems odd to me that the designers didn't go the same route as with hit points: make the predictable choice be rounded up from the average. This answer delves into the math and makes the same basic point — and ends up wishing that the designers had picked a slightly higher standard array.

We can all speculate on the pros and cons of this; I'm curious instead about designer intent and official references and commentary.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because Designer Reasons \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ For reference: Designer intent questions are considered off-topic on RPG.SE. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 18:25
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Eh. This question was asked and answered with an actual designer reference before that policy existed. And from the most-upvoted answer to that meta question, Refrain from any campaign to root out and close old questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 0:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm Refraining from a campaign to root out and close old questions is true, but doesn’t amount to a blanket grandfathering order. When someone stumbles across one in the normal course of using the site it’s fair game to close. (I’ve historical-locked this since it is currently off topic and reopening off-topic questions isn’t useful.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


Mike Mearls tweeted the following on 13 Jul 2014:

IIRC, point buy models the most common outcomes of 4d6, drop lowest.

(Emphasis mine. IIRC stands for "If I remember correctly". I didn't know that myself. :))

His tweet seems to imply

  1. That they relied on some other probability calculation tool instead of AnyDice
  2. The designer intent was, indeed, to use the most common outcomes of 4d6, drop lowest.

(The short thread Mearls' answer appears in discusses ways and whys of adding / not having a 16 in the standard array.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hooray! A non-speculation answer for this! Thank you, and great find. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 18:12

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