So I am a new player of D&D and am making my character. I am not sure how to get the numbers for abilities: (wisdom, strength,..etc).

I read the manual and it did not go into detail about how to get these numbers. I have also looked online and it talks about rolling 4d6 and removing the bottom one but the numbers I have seen are like 1's, 2's or in the negatives when you do the method listed above you get way bigger numbers.

I might just be missing something obvious but I really need help. This is for 5e if you are wondering. I don't really know what I can do to make this more specific as I do not know much about this game.

The character is a half elf, Bard and my background is Outlander if that matters.


You are correct to roll 4d6 and discard the lowest of the 4, as detailed on pages 12-13 of the Player's Handbook1. Add together the remaining three dice results, which will give you a number somewhere between 3 and 18. Repeat this process six times and then assign the numbers you get to the six abilities.
(Racial ability score increases may also apply, check under '[Race] Traits' in your race's description further in the PHB).

Once you have determined your ability scores, look at the table (also on page 13 of the PHB) to find out what your ability modifier is or calculate it yourself2, a number between -5 and +10 (these could be where you've seen negative numbers - it's important to know the distinction between your ability score and your ability modifier).

Specifically for your half-elf bard, once you've assigned the six random numbers from the dice, you should increase your Charisma score by 2, and two other ability scores of your choice by 1 each. You will also be able to increase ability scores at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th and 19th levels.

  1. There are two other methods detailed on p13: you can use the scores 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 (distributed as you please), or (at your DM's discretion) you can use a point-buy system to get specific scores.
  2. To calculate your ability modifier subtract 10 from the ability score, then divide by 2 and round down.
    For example if your ability score is 17: floor((17-10)/2) = floor(7/2) = floor(3.5) = +3 modifier.
    Or if your ability score is 9: floor((9-10)/2) = floor(-1/2) = floor(-0.5) = -1 modifier.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since this is person is new to D&D, I paragraph on the benefits/drawbacks of the three methods would not be misplaced. \$\endgroup\$ – RonV Aug 23 '18 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RonV good idea - I'm not well-versed in that kind of thing. If anyone can expand on my answer please do! \$\endgroup\$ – RichardJ Sep 7 '18 at 9:40

There are 3 ways to determine ability scores:

  1. roll 4d6 drop the lowest, repeat six times;
  2. take the scores 15,14,13,12,10,8 (the "standard array");
  3. generate scores using the point-buy.

No matter which method you choose, you then assign the six resulting scores to abilities however you choose. P.13 of the PHB describes the methods in a bit more detail.

...but the numbers I have seen are like 1's, 2's or in the negatives .

Those are the ability modifiers you're seeing: each ability score corresponds to a modifier, tabulated (again) on PHB p.13. The modifier is actually used much more frequently than the raw score, so you'll see things like "dex +3" more often than "dex 16" in conversation.


The original numbers are your stats, for example: 17, 12, 13, 11, 10, 15. These numbers are based on 4d6 minus the lowest die. For example, if you roll 4d6 and get [4, 3, 2, 4], you drop the die that says 2, making that rolled stat 4+3+4 = 11.

The second set of numbers are ability modifiers (such as +3 for the 17). Stats of 11–12 are usually +0, 9–10 are usually −1, 13–14 are generally +1, and 15 is +2. These smaller numbers that you see are used as modifiers to a d20 rolled for an action you take in game with the appropriate stat modifier as it applies to the rolled d20.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ No one ever commented to explain what's so wrong about this, so here: The OP was asking how to get those ability scores, not how to calculate the bonuses. Also, your numbers are wrong. You get a +1 every time you reach an even number, not odd. 8-9 is -1,10-11 is 0, 12-13 is 1, 14-15 is 2, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – lee A. Mar 25 '19 at 14:49

Roll 4d6 and take the lowest one away and add the other three together and repeat 6 times

  • \$\begingroup\$ While you are correct, it would be great to have some quotes from the rule book! \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Dec 10 '19 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ This also adds nothing that the existing answers haven't already covered. Even the OP seems fairly clear on the rolling mechanism, they're just mistaking modifiers seen elsewhere for the raw scores, and assuming they're doing it wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Dec 10 '19 at 3:17

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