Ability Score Improvement (ASI) in DnD 5E explained

Your guide to navigating Ability Score Improvement in 5E.

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Starting out playing DnD can be pretty overwhelming; there are a lot of new terms and numbers that you have to come to grips with. The Ability Score Improvement (ASI) being one of them. So, let’s go over the basics of ability scores and how you can improve them.

What are Ability Scores?

Ability scores are a number that is assigned to how well you can do something. For example, if your character is very muscly, they will have a higher ability score for Strength than a scrawnier character. These ability scores are determined by rolling, standard array or point buy depending on what your DM has decided on for the game. After determining your score, you apply the bonuses granted by your race. For example, with elves, you gain a +2 bonus to your Dex and a +1 to another score determined by your subrace. So if you started with a score of 16, being an Elf would give you a score of 18 for a modifier of +4.

How are Ability Scores improved?

You can increase your scores using the Ability Score Improvement (ASI) feature, which every class gains at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19. Fighters gain additional ASIs at the 6th and 14th levels, and Rogues gain one additional ASI at the 10th level

When you reach those levels, there are three different things that you can choose from.

  • Improve an ability score by two – you can choose a single ability score, such as charisma, and increase it by 2 points. Increasing a score by 2 points guarantees an improvement of the modifier but it is recommended to do this an even score.
  • Improve two ability scores by one – you can assign two ability scores, such as charisma and constitution, by one. It is recommended to do this if you have odd ability scores as bringing them up to the next even number will increase the modifier.
  • Choose a Feat – rather than improving ability scores, you can give yourself a feat that grants you some extra abilities. It is important to talk to your DM about this though as they may have restrictions on what feat you can choose. Some feats will also give you a +1 to a certain ability score, allowing you to increase your stats whilst gaining new abilities. These are commonly known as ‘half feats.’

Is this the same for multiclassing?

Multiclassing is where you have different levels in different classes. Doing so is very fun as you can combine your favorites, but it does impact your ability scores. To explain, I’ll take an example from one of my characters. I have a half-orc with a total of five levels; four of these levels are in the paladin class, and one is in the cleric class. This means that when she reached level four in paladin, she got her ability score improvements. However, if I had given her an extra cleric level, meaning she would have three levels in paladin and two levels in cleric, she would not have improved her ability score despite being over level four.

Essentially, you only improve your abilities when you reach the level landmarks, level 4, level 8, etc., in a particular class. If you multiclass, it’s advisable to do so in chunks of 4 so that you don’t lose any ASIs, and try to avoid delaying them by more than a level or two.

Hopefully, this article cleared up some of your questions about ability score improvements. I wish you all a successful roll!