Content of the article: "Pathfinder 2nd edition ability score creation method: how does it work and why you should homebrew it in your next campaign"
Disclamer: I have only played Pathfidner, so my knowledge of 5e is partial. If I make some wrong assumptions feel free to point them out and corect me.
Ability scores are a very important part of any PC and using different methods to determine them can have a big impact on the characters in your campaign.
Lets see some ability score creation methods and their strengths and weaknesses:
- Rolling for stats: on one hand this method allows for the highest variance of them all and there are several options you can choose to adjust the average, on the other hand however this method can, and on the long run will, screw a player due to randomness and it’s almost guaranteed that not all the PCs will be on the same power level.
- Standard array: by providing the same values to all PCs, this method makes sure that all characters are equally as powerful. The counter argument to the standard array is that it allows very little customization, making all the characters look similar, all with some obvius strong suits and a usually bad one.
- Point buy: this method is a good middleground between the previous two, accounting for both balance and customization. The only weaknesses I could find are that it can be a little complex for beginners and that it encourages dumping one or more stats for mechanical benefits. (This last point is a big let down for me, as I think that stats are supposed to be driven by the character’s concept and not drive it, but you are free to disagree)
- Pathfinder 2nd edition method – aka my favourite: I’ll explain how it works and why I like it down below.
How does the method work:
The Pathfinder 2nd edition (PF2 from now on) method works on boosts, which grant a +2 to an ability score and are fairly common, and flaws, which represent a -2 to a ability score and are very rare.
During character creation, starting from a base of 1 in every ability score, you go through this simple 5 steps to determine your stats:
- Choose a race: each race comes with 2 fixed boosts, a free one, that you can apply to any abiliy score you want, and a flaw. The only exeption to this rule are humans and half-humans, that have two free boosts and no fixed boosts/flaw. (e.g dwarfs have a constitution boost, a wisdom boost, a free boost and a charisma flaw.
NOTE that during this and all the other steps you cannot apply a free boost to any ability score that has been boosted in that same step. So in the exeple above a dworf would no be able to apply his racial free boost to CON or WIS.
- Choose a background: in PF2 background offer 2 ability boosts in addtion to proficiencies, one of them requires you to choose between one of two ability boots while the other is free. For exeple an acolyte backgroud would give you a boost in either INT or WIS and a free one, while a gladiator abckground would give you a boost in either STR or CHA and a free one.
- Pick a class: upon chosing your level 1 class, you are granted a ability boost. Some classes get to choose between two ability boosts, such as fighters, that get a boost in either STR or DEX, while others, such as wizards and druids, ahve a fixed boost, in INT and WIS respectively.
- Choose 4 more boosts: in this step you have 4 free boosts to apply.
- Choose any number of flaws: in the last step you can add any number of flaw to your character, it’s not mandatory and it doesn’t give any bonus, but it’s there to allow the player to create flawed characters on purpose, such as a very dumb barbarian or a physically weak wizard.
Additional rules: at level 1 an ability boost cannot raise a score to a value higher than 18 and ability boosts applied to scores of 18 or more at higher levels (characters get a free ability boost every 5 levels in PF2) will only raise that score by 1.
Why do I like this method:
This method ensures that the power level of all characters is the same, by gving them all the same total ability modifier, it ties backgrouds and ability score without being overly restrictive and allows a very high level of customization; furthermore it’s also very intuitive and requires almost zero math.
How to homebrew the PF2 method in 5e:
This might require some work, as you have to determine all the fixed boosts. Luckily most of them are fairly obvious, like the ones for the classes, and some of them have already been filled by the PHB, like the ones for the races. The only boosts that need to be decided from scrap are the ones related to backgrounds, for this I would suggest thinking about what are the two ability scores that would be key for that kind of background, or maybe taking inspiration from PF2’s core rulebook.
I hope this guide inspires some of you to try this method in one of your future campaigns, because I think it’s quite innovative and I thin it’s compatible with 5e, or can be made so with little work.
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