When filling in the ability scores section of the standard character sheet as used in the D&D 5e Player's Handbook, I've seen a lot of people put each ability score in the large box, and the corresponding ability score modifier in the small oval below it. This makes sense to some because that's the order you're writing it from top to bottom.

However, it seems more practical to put the ability score modifier in the large box, since that's almost always the number you need to look at, and the ability score in the small oval.

Is there any official ruling on this, or other evidence to suggest which approach (if either) is official, standard, or more correct?

  • \$\begingroup\$ The bigger "circle" is actually more of a rectangle (maybe with rounded/tapered corners)... \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 25 '18 at 1:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how this is opinion based. He is asking for the ruling on it. If there is no ruling, then the answer is "there is no ruling and it doesn't actually matter". None of these cases is opinion-based. It's similar to how "up to the DM" is not motive for closing. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Oct 25 '18 at 3:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've seen at least 4 "official" character sheet formats (as in: distributed by WotC) besides the custom one my own groups use. I assume you're talking about the one that's distributed with the Tyranny of Dragons and is used for the starter set examples. This is nitpicking, but should imo be clarified. \$\endgroup\$ – DonFusili Oct 25 '18 at 8:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Updated question to clarify that I'm asking about the character sheet as depicted in the PHB, that the shapes are really more of a box and an oval respectively, and that I'm asking for all evidence rather than only rulings. \$\endgroup\$ – Quadratic Wizard Oct 25 '18 at 16:39

Modifier in the big circle

This is the way the character sheets for the starter set are filled out. Also makes the more frequently used modifier bigger and easier to read, so I would also recommend it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that this placement makes more sense, but I don't know if that qualifies as an "official" ruling. For example, D&D Beyond gives the option for either direction, defaulting to modifiers on top. It mostly comes down to preference. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Hep Oct 25 '18 at 2:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisHep: I agree; I'd suggest leaving that as your own answer to the question :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 25 '18 at 5:32

No official ruling, so it's down to personal preference.

Although Szega has mentioned that in the Starter Set the modifier goes into the big space, no actual ruling about is is made, according to my knowledge, in any published book or from Crawford. As mentioned in a comment by Chris Hep, D&D Beyond allows either. Roll20 uses the modifier in the big space, at least in the sheets my online table has been using. Pre-gens for other campaigns also use the modifier in the big circle, as a note.

The placement in the big circle has more advantages than drawbacks - the modifier is the number you are usually interested in, not the actual value (exception for some mechanics that reduce your attribute). But, ultimately, the player chooses where he wants to write it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To reinforce that it's down to personal preference - dndbeyond allows the user to swap them. Character sheets are a guide to help you track your character - they are not actually part of the rule-set. \$\endgroup\$ – Shadow Oct 26 '18 at 4:49

Both are considered acceptable, in my experience it is most common to see your "Score" on top and your "Modifier" on the bottom, but Wizards of the Coast seems to be favoring Modifier on top in 5th. I have seen third party modules that use "Score" on top and D&D Beyond allows for both so it really is prefrence how you want it displayed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "some of" - do you have any example of premade character that has modifier on the bottom? \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Oct 25 '18 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot after going over my sheets, only from non WotC sources, they seem to of adopted the <opinion>backwards</opinion> method. \$\endgroup\$ – hehe3301 Oct 31 '18 at 10:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ So both official and 3rd party premade characters use method you consider backwards? \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Oct 31 '18 at 10:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ no, @Mołot most of my 3rd party use "ScoreTop", WotC seems to be mostly using "Mod Top" \$\endgroup\$ – hehe3301 Nov 1 '18 at 11:45

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