The Players Handbook has the following optional traits for humans:

Variant Human Traits

If your campaign uses the optional feat rules from chapter 7, your Dungeon Master might allow these variant traits, all of which replace the human's Ability Score Increase trait.

Ability Score Increase. Two different ability scores of your choice increase by 1.

Skills. You gain proficiency in one skill of your choice.

Feat. You gain one feat of your choice.

(Player's Handbook, page 31)

Can I decide to use this variant traits after rolling my stats, or do I have to make that decision before?

I ask because the stats that are rolled could result in big gains in total modifiers if all stats are increased, with a lot of odd numbers, but if you only get 2 or less odd numbers, increasing the other skills will not result in any increase to the total skill modifiers you end up with, and thus taking the optional traits would essentially net you a free feat and skill proficiency.

To illustrate, suppose I rolled 15, 13, 12, 11, 11, 9.
In this example, my modifiers would be +2, +1, +1, +0, +0, and -1 (total 3).
By taking the default trait, I would end up with 16, 14, 13, 12, 12, 10, and my modifiers would be +3, +2, +1, +1, +1, +0 with a total of 8 - a big improvement, whereas by taking the optional traits, I could only increase my modifiers 2, to 5 total. So in this circumstance I would prefer to take the overall increase.

Suppose instead I rolled 16, 14, 13, 12, 10, 10 with modifiers +3, +2, +1, +1, +0, +0.
In this instance taking the default trait I would end up with 17, 15, 14, 13, 11, 11 and modifiers +3, +2, +2, +1, +0, +0. This only nets me an increase of 1 to my modifiers, which would be the same as taking the optional traits.
Hence in this situation, I would want to take the optional traits because the feat and skill proficiency are essentially free.


2 Answers 2



PHB p.11:

… follow these steps in order …

Choosing your race is No 1, determining your ability scores in No 3.

That said, your DM may not care: I don’t.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ The last sentence is important here. I have yet to see a DM that cares. In fact, a vast majority of people I know do the steps out of order (they pick class first, then race, then do stats after picking both (occasionally after background as well)). The reality is that the proscribed order for character creation is actually kind of sub-optimal for creating a mechanically good character (though it's arguably very good for an RP focused character). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 2:54

I have never had a game where character creation was that prescriptive around the order things are done. The rules might say one thing, as Dale M points out, but just ask your DM and they are unlikely to enforce it.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree; every DM I've ever played with has always had stats rolled before any further decisions are made (or at least, any character concepts are not "set in stone" before stats are rolled). \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 15:17

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