Using Ability Scores
Six abilities provide a quick description of every creature’s physical and mental characteristics:
- Strength, measuring physical power
- Dexterity, measuring agility
- Constitution, measuring endurance
- Intelligence, measuring reasoning and memory
- Wisdom, measuring perception and insight
- Charisma, measuring force of personality
Is a character muscle-bound and insightful? Brilliant and charming? Nimble and hardy? Ability scores define these qualities—a creature’s assets as well as weaknesses.
The three main rolls of the game—the ability check, the saving throw, and the attack roll—rely on the six ability scores.
The book’s introduction describes the basic rule behind these rolls: roll a d20, add an ability modifier derived from one of the six ability scores, and compare the total to a target number.
Ability Scores and Modifiers
Each of a creature’s abilities has a score, a number that defines the magnitude of that ability. An ability score is not just a measure of innate capabilities, but also encompasses a creature’s training and competence in activities related to that ability.
A score of 10 or 11 is the normal human average, but adventurers and many monsters are a cut above average in most abilities. A score of 18 is the highest that a person usually reaches. Adventurers can have scores as high as 20, and monsters and divine beings can have scores as high as 30.
Each ability also has a modifier, derived from the score and ranging from −5 (for an ability score of 1) to +10 (for a score of 30). The Ability Scores and Modifiers table notes the ability modifiers for the range of possible ability scores, from 1 to 30.
To determine an ability modifier without consulting the table, subtract 10 from the ability score and then divide the total by 2 (round down).
Because ability modifiers affect almost every attack roll, ability check, and saving throw, ability modifiers come up in play more often than their associated scores
Advantage and Disadvantage
Sometimes a special ability or spell tells you that you have advantage or disadvantage on an ability check, a saving throw, or an attack roll. When that happens, you roll a second d20 when you make the roll. Use the higher of the two rolls if you have advantage, and use the lower roll if you have disadvantage. For example, if you have disadvantage and roll a 17 and a 5, you use the 5. If you instead have advantage and roll those numbers, you use the 17.
If multiple situations affect a roll and each one grants advantage or imposes disadvantage on it, you don’t roll more than one additional d20. If two favorable situations grant advantage, for example, you still roll only one additional d20.
If circumstances cause a roll to have both advantage and disadvantage, you are considered to have neither of them, and you roll one d20. This is true even if multiple circumstances impose disadvantage and only one grants advantage or vice versa. In such a situation, you have neither advantage nor disadvantage.
When you have advantage or disadvantage and something in the game, such as the halfling’s Lucky trait, lets you reroll the d20, you can reroll only one of the dice. You choose which one. For example, if a halfling has advantage or disadvantage on an ability check and rolls a 1 and a 13, the halfling could use the Lucky trait to reroll the 1.
You usually gain advantage or disadvantage through the use of special abilities, actions, or spells. Inspiration can also give a character advantage. The GM can also decide that circumstances influence a roll in one direction or the other and grant advantage or impose disadvantage as a result.
Characters have a proficiency bonus determined by character level. Monsters also have this bonus, which is incorporated in their stat blocks. The bonus is used in the rules on ability checks, saving throws, and attack rolls.
Your proficiency bonus can’t be added to a single die roll or other number more than once. For example, if two different rules say you can add your proficiency bonus to a Wisdom saving throw, you nevertheless add the bonus only once when you make the save.
Occasionally, your proficiency bonus might be multiplied or divided (doubled or halved, for example) before you apply it. For example, the rogue’s Expertise feature doubles the proficiency bonus for certain ability checks. If a circumstance suggests that your proficiency bonus applies more than once to the same roll, you still add it only once and multiply or divide it only once.
By the same token, if a feature or effect allows you to multiply your proficiency bonus when making an ability check that wouldn’t normally benefit from your proficiency bonus, you still don’t add the bonus to the check. For that check your proficiency bonus is 0, given the fact that multiplying 0 by any number is still 0. For instance, if you lack proficiency in the History skill, you gain no benefit from a feature that lets you double your proficiency bonus when you make Intelligence (History) checks.
In general, you don’t multiply your proficiency bonus for attack rolls or saving throws. If a feature or effect allows you to do so, these same rules apply.
|1st – 4th||+2|
|5th – 8th||+3|
|9th – 12th||+4|
|13th – 16th||+5|
|17th – 20th||+6|
An ability check tests a character’s or monster’s innate talent and training in an effort to overcome a challenge. The GM calls for an ability check when a character or monster attempts an action (other than an attack) that has a chance of failure. When the outcome is uncertain, the dice determine the results.
For every ability check, the GM decides which of the six abilities is relevant to the task at hand and the difficulty of the task, represented by a Difficulty Class. The more difficult a task, the higher its DC. The Typical Difficulty Classes table shows the most common DCs.
To make an ability check, roll a d20 and add the relevant ability modifier. As with other d20 rolls, apply bonuses and penalties, and compare the total to the DC. If the total equals or exceeds the DC, the ability check is a success—the creature overcomes the challenge at hand. Otherwise, it’s a failure, which means the character or monster makes no progress toward the objective or makes progress combined with a setback determined by the GM.
With the drastic changes to spellcasting every single class has changed. Classes that didn’t have spellcasting now have a minor version of it while classes that did have spellcasting are now drastically changed in how they obtain spells.
For simplicity, every class now uses the exact same system to cast spells. The system will bring back an older concept called Caster Level to help simplify the system even further.
All classes gain levels in caster level to determine how many spell slots they have, how many cantrips they know, and how many spells they can learn. Each class is given a caster archetype to determine how many caster levels they grant.
Full Casters (Full Caster Level Progression)
Wizards, Arcanists, and Spiritualists are full casters and add their full level to the character's caster level.
Martial Casters (Half Caster Level Progression)
Paladins, Rangers, Totem Warriors, Eldritch Knights, Elemental Fists, and Arcane Tricksters are martial casters add half their level to their caster level. These classes round their class level up when determining caster level.
Partial Casters (One Third Caster Level Progression)
Fighters, Rogues, Barbarians, and Monks are Partial Casters and add one third their level to their caster level. These classes round their class level up when determining caster level.
Spellcasting Ability Modifier
All classes have an associated ability score that represents their capabilities in casting magic.
Innate Casters (Charisma)
Arcanist, Martial Artist, Spellblade
These classes are able to manipulate ki naturally and produce magical effects without effort. With their natural talents they are able to manipulate magic in interesting, self-sustaining ways.
Trained Casters (Intelligence)
Fighter, Rogue, Wizard
Trained casters find it difficult to manipulate ki into magic and as such require a lot of training and study in order to control their ki.
Ethereal Casters (Wisdom)
Ranger, Spiritualist, Warrior
These casters manipulate ethereal energy with their ki to produce magical effects. Doing so requires a lot of discipline and mental sharpening to mix the two types of magic sources. Those that become successful tap find themselves able to sense things in the world around them that others would find difficult.
You use your spellcasting ability modifier whenever a spell refers to your spellcasting ability. In addition, you use your spellcasting ability modifier when setting the saving throw DC for a spell you cast and when making an attack roll with one.
Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your spellcasting ability modifier
Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your spellcasting ability modifier
In order to cast a spell, a spellcaster must have knowledge and the ability to cast a spell. A starting character begins play knowing 3 spells from any branches they have access to. Each time a character increases in caster level they also learn one additional spell.
Some characters have opportunities to increase the number of spells they have access to. This is largely based on the type of caster the character is; Innate, Trained, or Ethereal.
Innate Casters. These spellcasters acquire new spells through personal growth and exploration. An innate caster can learn new spells by choosing a spell they are aware of that exists. They can then spend 20 days plus an additional 6 days per spell level to prepare and practice their spell. Each day the spellcaster must devote 6 hours of practice to learning the spell. Practicing more does not speed up the process. Immediately after the preparation period is finished, the caster may attempt a Spell Knowledge check, (see below).
Trained Casters. These spellcasters acquire new spells through careful practice and discipline. A trained caster can learn new spells by choosing a spell they are aware of that exists. They can then spend 32 days plus an additional 16 days per spell level to prepare and practice their spell. If learning a spell through a book they can halve the time necessary or quarter it with a personal trainer. Each day the spellcaster must devote 6 hours of practice to learning the spell. Practicing more does not speed up the process. Immediately after the preparation period is finished, the caster may attempt a Spell Knowledge check, (see below).
Ethereal Casters. These spellcasters lack the ability to learn additional spells beyond the ones granted to them from their caster level.
Spell Knowledge. Once the preparation period is finished, a spellcaster may attempt a Spell Knowledge check. When making a Spell Knowledge check the caster rolls a d20 and adds their spellcasting modifier plus proficiency bonus. The DC of the check is equal to 15 + the spell level. On success, the spell is learned. On failure, the spellcaster may make another attempt after another day with 6 hours of preparation.
Due to the restrictive nature of magic, it is difficult for a person to use magic while training in a discipline that goes against their initial teachings.
At first level, the attribute a caster uses to cast spells is set for them. If a creature takes levels in a class that does not use the same attribute as their Spellcasting Ability, their levels in that class do not count towards Caster Level. For example, a Wizard who later takes Adept levels does not add their Adept levels to their Caster Level.
Elemental Affinity and Branches
A human must select one element that their character has an affinity for at character creation. This choice can never change.
The element that the creature selects determines which branches they can learn spells from. At first level, a character can select cantrips from their fundamental branch. They may also select one branch from any element they can cast as their branch spells. Once selected, this choice cannot be changed.
At caster level 3 a character gains access to one additional branch they can select spells from. This branch must be selected from one of the elements they have affinity for. A character gains access to an additional branch again at caster level 8 and 14.
Consult the Table below to determine the number of cantrips known and spell slots your character can use.