Point Buy in DnD 5E explained

Point Buy is very effective for getting the exact character you want without the unpredictability of rolling and without the restriction of a Standard Array. But it does open up issues with power gamers and players who “must” play the game as efficiently as possible and can’t stand when others don’t. So as with all things, use your better judgment. I don’t know your group(s), so I can’t tell you what would work best. But do experiment with stat rolling methods and see what they like most. You might be surprised by what you discover. I’m going to break down what about Point Buy is essential and why you may consider using/not using it in your games.

The Method

As we explained in our stat rolling article: “…you start with an 8 in everything, and 27 points to spend…” This is the heart of Point Buy. A base score and points to increase those scores with. Of course, this is limited in most rulesets to prevent players from having 18+ after ability score increases (not an age restriction, though that’s also not a good thing to have) on their 1st level character. However, the method that everybody uses (4d6 drop lowest) usually results in better numbers, sometimes allowing you to get a 20 in an ability score that your race grants a +2 towards. It’s bonkers!!!

Tweaks And Ideas

If you want the players to feel a little weaker to begin with, the base rules for Point Buy should work for you. Though depending on how weak you want them to start (establish these expectations first, as well as perhaps some extra ASIs or other fun rewards you might give them if they run with it), you may decrease the number of points they get to spend, or increase the price after a certain amount (e.g., for every increase after 13, the price becomes equal to the new score’s bonus, so 14 would need 2 points, 16 would require 3, etc.).

When To Use Point Buy

If you want the players to steamroll challenges, focus more on what they do instead of how well they can do it, or feel like they really are incredible heroes, you may want to lift or at least increase the point limit on Ability Scores, and if you aren’t worried about powergaming, then you might even consider making all increases cost 1 point instead of costing more after a certain point.

Regardless of the tweaks you make, Point Buy is all about the freedom to fully customize your character. Because of this, Point Buy is incredible when you want the following:

  • Players messing around with what does/doesn’t work.
  • PCs that excel at what they do, and not at what they don’t.
  • Powergaming.

The Issues

However, there are some problems with Point Buy: It’s very easy to Powergame. Dumping points into the one score you’ll use the most, then balancing the rest until they’re at least 10 leaves you with 8 points to put elsewhere (cap of 15, fully balancing the rest results in 15, 12, 12, 12, 11, 11) which results in no negatives, which can be annoying if you want just one check that your players aren’t good at. Lastly, some players might not know what they want to increase and what they want to decrease to make their character awesome. Oh, and you may be tempted to tell them what they need to make high or low, but if you do that, you might as well do a Standard Array. Because nobody wants to be babysat, and babysitting players isn’t fun.

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