D20 Mechanic: Abilities

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Each character has nine ability scores that represent his character's most basic attributes. They are his raw talent and prowess. While a character rarely rolls a check using just an ability score, these scores, and the modifiers they create, affect nearly every aspect of a character's skills and abilities. Each ability score generally ranges from 3 to 18, although racial bonuses and penalties can alter this; an average ability score is 10.

Ability scores - commonly simply called "abilities" - represent the core building blocks of your character. They are the foundation upon which the mechanical aspects of who your character is rests.

Generating Ability Scores

Ability Score Costs
Score Points
7 -4
8 -2
9 -1
10 0
11 1
12 2
13 3
14 5
15 7
16 10
17 13
18 17

Trinity universally uses what is known as "point buy," a method in which you spend points on ability scores at character creation. We do this to ensure that you can create the character that you envision, without being subject to the whim of the dice (of which there will be plenty during actual play).

Each character receives 32 points to spend on increasing his basic attributes. In this method, all attributes start at a base of 10. A character can increase an individual score by spending some of his points. Likewise, he can gain more points to spend on other scores by decreasing one or more of his ability scores. No score can be reduced below 7 or raised above 18 using this method. See Table: Ability Score Costs for the costs of each score. After all the points are spent, apply any racial modifiers the character might have.

Bonuses and Penalties

Once you have assigned points to your ability scores and adjusted them for your race, you can then calculate your ability modifiers. To do so, take the score, divide by 2, round down, and subtract 5 (this can result in a negative number for scores of 9 or lower). This ability modifier is used quite often by class features, Force abilities, and many actions; in fact, the ability score modifier is used significantly more often than the actual ability score itself.

A positive ability modifier is called a bonus, and a negative modifier is called a penalty (though may sometimes be referred to as a "malus," if the author is feeling particularly pretentious that day).

Core Abilities

What follows are descriptions of the nine core ability scores. Each ability partially describes your character and affects some of his actions.

These descriptions are intentionally brief; they are intended to give a rough idea of what each ability score is used for, rather than a full list of everything that each ability impacts. If you are considering a particular class, read that class's description for information on what abilities you should focus on. More complete descriptions of abilities, and what impact they have on game mechanics, follows after the table.


Core Abilities
Ability Abbrev. Defense Description Lower than average... Higher than average... Tomatoes
Strength Str Fortitude Measures muscle mass and physical power. ...has difficulty pushing an object of their weight. ...can break objects like wood with their bare hands. You can crush a tomato.
Constitution Con Fortitude Measures health, stamina, and physical resilience. ...bruises easily, prone to illness, easily winded. ...is able to stay awake for days on end, rarely sick. You can eat a bad tomato.
Dexterity Dex Reflex Measures agility, reflexes, and balance. ...is a significant klutz, very slow to react. ...is light on their feet, able to often hit small moving targets at a distance. You can dodge a thrown tomato.
Perception Per Reflex Measures situational awareness, attention span, and sense acuity. ...rarely notices important or prominent items, people, or occurrences. ...can rapidly pick out important details, seems to have eyes in the back of their head. You can see a tomato.
Intelligence Int Will Measures learning, reasoning, and memory. ...has trouble following trains of thought, forgets most unimportant things. ...is able to understand new tasks quickly. You know that tomatoes are a fruit.
Wisdom Wis Will Measures willpower, common sense, and intuition. ...forgets or fails to consider options before taking action. ...reads people and situations fairly well. You know not to put a tomato in a fruit-based salad.
Charisma Cha Determination Measures personality, personal magnetism, and appearance. ...has no awareness of the needs of others, almost no sense of empathy. ...is interesting, almost always knows what to say. You could sell a tomato-based fruit salad.
Bravery Brv Determination Measures courage, ability to lead, and personal conviction. ...is cowed easily, often fearful of offending others. ...can inspire others to take up their cause, is utterly unfazed by fear. You would eat a tomato despite your lycopersicoaphobia.
Luck Luc --- Some people are born lucky. Some are lucky to be born. ...if lost in a desert, is likely to die by flash flood. ...if lost in a desert, will happen upon the only oasis. You bite into a tomato and find a quarter inside.


Strength (Str)

Ability Scores and Modifiers
Score Ability Modifier Dice Code
1 -5 0
2 -4 0
3 -4 0
4 -3 1
5 -3 1
6 -2 d2
7 -2 d2
8 -1 d4
9 -1 d4
10 +0 d6
11 +0 d6
12 +1 d8
13 +1 d8
14 +2 d10
15 +2 d10
16 +3 d12
17 +3 d12
18 +4 d12+d2
19 +4 d12+d2
20 +5 d12+d4
21 +5 d12+d4
22 +6 d12+d6
23 +6 d12+d6
24 +7 d12+d8
25 +7 d12+d8
26 +8 d12+d10
27 +8 d12+d10
28 +9 2d12
29 +9 2d12
30 +10 2d12+d2
31 +10 2d12+d2
32 +11 2d12+d4
33 +11 2d12+d4
34 +12 2d12+d6
35 +12 2d12+d6
36 +13 2d12+d8
37 +13 2d12+d8
38 +14 2d12+d10
39 +14 2d12+d10
40 +15 3d12

A measure of your muscle and physical power.

Your Strength impacts the following game mechanics:

  • Most melee attack and damage rolls.
  • How much you can carry.
  • Your ability to perform physical actions, such as breaking down doors and climbing.
  • Can be used for your Fortitude defense.

Constitution (Con)

A measure of your physical health and stamina.

Your Constitution impacts the following game mechanics:

  • Your hit points.
  • Your ability to perform endurance tasks, such as holding your breath or focusing on a task.
  • Can be used for your Fortitude defense.

Dexterity (Dex)

A measure of your agility, reflexes, and balance.

Your Dexterity impacts the following game mechanics:

  • Most ranged attack rolls.
  • Your ability to perform agile tasks, such as balancing or getting out of bonds.
  • Can be used for your Reflex defense.
  • Can be used for your Initiative checks.

Perception (Per)

A measure of your situational awareness and attention span.

Your Perception impacts the following game mechanics:

  • Most firearm attack rolls.
  • How far you can see (and how far other senses extend).
  • Your ability to perform awareness tasks, such as noticing hidden creatures or finding hidden items.
  • Can be used for your Reflex defense.

Intelligence (Int)

A measure of your learning and reasoning.

Your Intelligence impacts the following game mechanics:

  • How many languages you know.
  • How many skill points you gain.
  • Your ability to perform knowledge tasks, such as knowing the answer to a question or researching a problem.
  • Can be used for your Will defense.
  • Can be used for your Initiative checks.

Wisdom (Wis)

A measure of your common sense, willpower, and intuition.

Your Wisdom impacts the following game mechanics:

  • Your ability to perform intuition tasks, such as determining when someone is lying to you.
  • Can be used for your Will defense.

Charisma (Cha)

A measure of your personality, personal magnetism, and appearance.

Your Charisma impacts the following game mechanics:

  • How long you can be dead before you can no longer be revived.
  • Your abiliy to perform social tasks, such as convincing others to like you or bluffing your way out of trouble.
  • Can be used for your Determination defense.

Bravery (Brv)

A measure of your courage, ability to lead, and personal conviction.

Your Bravery impacts the following game mechanics:

  • How many reactions you can take in a round.
  • Your ability to perform leadership tasks, such as convincing others to follow your orders or intimidating creatures.
  • Can be used for your Determination defense.
  • Can be used for your Initiative checks.

Luck (Luc)

Some folk are just lucky. Others, not so much.

Your Luck impacts the following game mechanics:

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