Pathfinder for Beginners: Ability Scores Explained

Mythic Sorcerer Seoni

Starting out with Pathfinder roleplaying game can be daunting, especially if you don’t have someone knowledgeable to guide you. If you’re looking for a simple guide on getting the hang of basic combat, check out this post. If you’re ready to create a character but aren’t sure how to start, this is the place for you.

While the Pathfinder Core Rulebook does a good job of explaining what the ability scores are and what they do, when I was starting out and attempting to make my own characters, I found that I had no idea which ability scores were important for which class. What you’ll find below is a brief description of the six ability scores in Pathfinder.

The Ability Scores

Every Pathfinder character has six ability scores that determine their, well, ability to perform certain kinds of tasks. Generally, combat-focused characters need good physical ability scores to do well in combat, and spell-casters need good mental ability scores to be able to cast spells. Which abilities are most important will vary from class to class, and it can be quite hard to know the importance of each when you’re just starting out. Check out d20PFSRD or the official Paizo Pathfinder Reference Document for more detail on ability scores.

Physical Ability Scores

Strength (Str)

SwashbucklerWhat it means: Strength is the physical power of your character.

What it affects in the game: Characters with high strength will have a higher chance to hit with melee weapons like swords or hammers, and will do more damage. They can also carry heavy loads.

Dexterity (Dex)

What it means: Dexterity determines to the agility, gracefulness and reflexes of your character.

What it affects in the game: Characters with high dexterity will react quickly to combat situations, are harder to hit, and will have a higher chance to hit with ranged weapons like bows. They’re also good at things like sneaking, stealing, acrobatic moves and disabling traps.

Constitution (Con)

What it means: Constitution is how healthy and tough your character is.

What it affects in the game: Constitution affects how many hit points your character has, and makes it easier to resist poisons and diseases. All characters will benefit from a high Constitution score by being able to stay alive longer.

Mental Ability Scores

Intelligence (Int)

BardWhat it means: Intelligence is associated with learning, logic and reasoning.

What it affects in the game: Intelligence directly affects the number of skill points your character gets. It also determines how many languages they know at the start of the game, and boosts knowledge and crafting skills. It also determines the spellcasting ability of several classes.

Wisdom (Wis)

What it means: Wisdom determines how much willpower and common sense your character has, as well as their awareness, intuition and ability to read people.

What it affects in the game: Wisdom helps a character resist the effects of spells attempting to take control of them. It affects important skills like perception, as well as several others. It also determines the spellcasting ability of several classes.

Charisma (Cha)

What it means: Charismatic characters have strong personalities, are natural leaders, and are generally good looking.

What it affects in the game: In roleplaying situations, Charisma is extremely helpful in influencing other characters. It also determines the spellcasting ability of several classes.

And just for fun, here are the ability scores explained with tomatoes (from Reddit):

Strength is being able to crush a tomato. Dexterity is being able to dodge a tomato. Constitution is being able to eat a bad tomato. Intelligence is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put a tomato in a fruit salad. Charisma is being able to sell a tomato based fruit salad.

What now?

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comment section below! Later this week I’ll share a list of the most important ability scores for each character class to help you get started building a character.

Day five of the 7 Day Feel Good Blogging Challenge.

Images by Rhineville on DeviantArt. Iconic character art by Wayne Reynolds.

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