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Considering the standard rolls, is there any reason to pick 13 for Constitution instead of 12? Or similarly, is there any reason to pick 13 for Intelligence instead of 12?

I'm currently creating an half-elf bard, and I can pick 12 (+1) Constitution and 13 (+1) Intelligence. Considering the backstory I thought for him, he would be more logical - he's meant to have spent half his life learning magic but never being able to actually concentrate on the study, yet he's physically weak.

However, I then realised this is quite the silly thing, since both are "rounded down" and only provide a +1 bonus. Making 13 (+1) and 12 just "better" with no draw back?

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By itself, an odd number in an ability score does not offer any bonus to modifiers (13 is no better than 12). However, it does allow the character to increase it's bonus easier when they have the opportunity to increase their ability scores. (13 to 14 means +1 to +2)

Some such occasions would be

  • Ability Score Increases (Gained at level up): Choosing 2 stats to increase by 1 rather than increasing 1 score by 2.
  • Feats: There are many feats which include improving an ability score by 1.
  • Items: You may find a magical item which increases an ability score by 1 point.

Also, 13 is a particularly special number for ability scores, as it is the requirement for many multiclassing options. For example, you must have an intelligence of 13 to multiclass into Wizard. There is no multiclass that requires Constitution in the PHB.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I forgot about MC, good point, even though Con isn't on the MC table. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 17 '18 at 2:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, although you don't get the +1 Modifier, +1 Score still does some things. Although most of them are usually ignored (like time without breathing under water). Also, isn't there any creature with a feature similar to Intelect Devourer's Devour Intellect but for Con? \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 17 '18 at 7:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Shadows drain Strength, and various creatures such as Specters and Wraiths reduce max HP, but I'm not sure anything reduces Con score directly. Searching DNDBeyond for "drain" doesn't indicate any monsters besides the kinds already mentioned. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 17 '18 at 8:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yet if you "level up" starting from 14-12 you can also put two levels in "12", thus increasing stats to 14-14. If you start from 13-13 you also get 14-14. So why would anyone pick 13-13? \$\endgroup\$ – paul23 May 17 '18 at 11:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @paul23 13-13 is cheaper in the point buy than 14-12. 12 costs 4, 13 costs 5, and 14 costs 7. So 13-13 only costs 10, whereas 14-12 costs 11. You could put the extra point into a low skill or be able to afford a higher score elsewhere. (This is all before taking racial bonuses into account.) Of course this requires you to spend an ASI to increase your non-primary skills, but the same logic applies to 17-15 (post-racial) where you can be weaker early but play the long game to have better stats after an ASI or two. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Brown May 17 '18 at 13:28
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For advancement reasons.

PHB p.15 (emphasis mine):

When your character gains a level, his or her c1ass often grants additional features, as detailed in the c1ass description. Some of these features allow you lo increase your ability scores, either increasing two scores by 1 each or increasing one score by 2.

This means that if you have a score of 13 (modifier of +1), you only need to spend one point to increase it to 14 (modifier of +2), and then this allows you to increase another skill by 1 as well.

On top of this, there may be one or two situations (this question* covers this situation) where the ability score itself comes into play (not the modifier). So, having a higher score can always come in handy.


*courtesy of V2Blast

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For all PC races who are not Variant Human ...

A feat can be chosen after racial bonuses are added in, at level 4, if feats are on your game. The same point as noted below about Resilient(Constitution) then applies. When you put your character together, it is sometimes worth while to consider what you'll do with your first ASI, or feat, at level 4.

The Variant Human case ...

If you choose variant human (if it is allowed by DM (it's an option)) and are a spell caster, then choosing an odd number can be boosted by a feat to a even number at level 1.

Resilient is a good example. (PHB p. 168)

  • Increase a chosen ability score by 1 up to a maximum of 20
  • You gain proficiency in saving throws using the chosen ability

If you have a 13 Constitution, and you pick Resilient for Constitution, you get proficiency in Constitution saving throws and your HP bonus goes up one. That helps all the way to level 20.

Why?

You have a better chance to keep your concentration spells up when you take damage since you add your proficiency bonus to your saving throw rolls for constitution.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, but I actually mean "the final calculation after character creation". - So after character racial boni etc. \$\endgroup\$ – paul23 May 17 '18 at 1:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, a feat can be chosen after racial boni. You can pick that feat at level 4, right? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 17 '18 at 1:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Resilient (Con) pretty much says it all. It's an important feat for endgame spellcasters, so planning ahead and getting an odd score for Con is usually good. Most of my wizards had 13 or 15 Con (at the beginning) \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint May 17 '18 at 7:37
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Racial Modifiers

This hasn't been mentioned yet, but Constitution can be increased depending on the race you pick (although you said you picked Half-Elf, I think this list is still important for future reference), which can bump up your score by 1 or 2 points. By doing that, you can get your 13 to 14, or to 15 if you want to increase it at later levels with feats, ability score increases, or with items.

Here is a list of the races from all WOTC sources (offical releases, Unearthed Arcana, and Planeshift) I know of (just including the CON boost, not the other increases a race might have):

PHB

  • Half-Orc +1
  • Hill Dwarf +2
  • Human +1
  • Mountain Dwarf +2
  • Rock Gnome +1
  • Stout Halfling +1
  • Variant Human +1 (if chosen, can add +1 to any 2 ability scores) (PHB)

SCAG

  • Gray Dwarf (Duergar) +2

Volo’s Guide

  • Goblin +1
  • Goliath +1
  • Hobgoblin +2
  • Lizardfolk +2
  • Orc +1
  • Scourge Aasimar +1
  • Triton +1

Elemental Evil Players Companion

  • Air Gensai +2
  • Earth Gensai +2
  • Fire Gensai +2
  • Water Gensai +2

One Grung Above

  • Grung +1

Unearthed Arcana

  • Abyssal Tiefling +1 (That Old Black Magic)
  • Beasthide Shifter +1 (Eberron)
  • Dragonborn Revenant +1 (Gothic Heroes)
  • Human Revenant +1 (Gothic Heroes)
  • Minotaur +1 (Centaurs and Minotaurs)
  • Levistus Tiefling +1 (Fiendish Options)
  • Sea Elf +1 (Elf Subraces)
  • Tiefling Revenant +1 (Gothic Heroes)
  • Warforged +1 (Eberron)

Planeshift

  • Amonkhet Human +1 (if chosen, can add +1 to any 2 ability scores) (Plane Shift - Amonkhet)
  • Amonkhet Minotaur +1
  • Amonkhet Naga +2
  • Innistrad Gavony Human +1
  • Innistrad Stensia Human +1
  • Ixalan Human +1
  • Ixalan Orc +1
  • Ixalan Variant Human +1 (if chosen, can add +1 to any 2 ability scores)
  • Kaladesh Aetherborn +1 ( (if chosen, can add +1 to any 2 ability scores except CHA)
  • Kaladesh Dwarf +2
  • Kaladesh Human +1
  • Zendikar Grotag Goblin +2
  • Zendikar Human +1
  • Zendikar Lavastep Goblin +2
  • Zendikar Tuktuk Goblin +2

(as of 5-18-2018)

If I missed any, let me know.

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