Your character has six ability scores that represent her basic attributes and raw potential: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These scores are factored into nearly all of your character’s capabilities—for instance, Dexterity determines her agility and the steadiness of her aim, Intelligence represents education and reasoning ability, and so on. (For more information on what each ability represents, see Ability Descriptions) Ability scores generally range from 3 to 18, and an average score is 10.
Different abilities will be more or less important to you depending on what sort of character you want to play, and each class has a key ability score that is central to that class’s features to help you make sure you get the right abilities to succeed in that role. Table: Key Ability Scores by Class lists the key ability score for each class; the first page of each class entry also lists the class’s key ability score, as well as other abilities that are helpful for that class, if not quite as important.
Presented below is Starfinder’s default method for generating ability scores, referred to as the buying ability scores system. These rules allow you to customize your abilities to build exactly the character you want. Additionally, we present two optional systems: ability quick picks lets you choose from several predetermined arrays for speed and convenience, while advanced players may be interested in the rolling ability scores system, which gives you the fun of randomly generating a character, sometimes with dramatic strengths and weaknesses. You need to use only one of these systems—check with your GM to see if she has a preference for which one you should use. When in doubt, use the buying ability scores method.
Buying Ability Scores
In this method, you customize your ability scores by “buying” them using a pool of points. Since the purpose of this system is to help you build exactly the character you want, before starting to customize your ability scores, first decide what you want your character’s race, class, and theme to be. Once you’ve got those firmly in mind, follow the steps below in order.
Step 1: Start with a score of 10 in each ability. On your character sheet or a piece of scratch paper, write down all six abilities—Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma—and put a 10 next to each of them.
Step 2: Add and subtract points for race. Races in Starfinder are often naturally gifted in some abilities and less so in others. The first page of each race entry lists these advantages and disadvantages in terms of points you add or subtract from specific starting ability scores; you can also look at Table: Ability Points from Race and Theme to see all the racial advantages and disadvantages at a glance. For instance, a shirren starts out with +2 points in Constitution and +2 points in Wisdom, but –2 points in Charisma (meaning you’d add 2 points to your starting Constitution and Wisdom scores, but subtract 2 from your starting Charisma score). Some races, like humans, are so versatile as a race that they get points they can put in any single ability. Once you know your racial modifiers, add or subtract those points from your starting scores of 10.
Step 3: Add points for theme. Each theme gives you a single ability point to apply to an ability score. For instance, choosing the ace pilot theme gives you +1 point in Dexterity, while the themeless option lets you apply an extra point to any ability score you choose. The points granted by each theme can be found in its description or on Table: Ability Points from Race and Theme. Once you know your theme, add that point to the designated ability.
Step 4: Spend 10 points customizing your scores. Now that you’ve got your baseline scores, which incorporate modifications for class and theme, you get a pool of 10 extra points to assign to your ability scores as you see fit. You apply these to your existing ability scores on a 1-for-1 basis—if you have a Dexterity score of 12 and you add a point from your pool, you now have a Dexterity score of 13. You can divide these points up however you want, but you can’t make any individual score higher than 18. (Later on, as you level up and gain ability-boosting gear, your ability scores may rise above 18, but 18 is the highest value any character can start out with.) Be sure to spend all 10 of your ability points—you can’t save them for later.
Step 5: Record ability scores and ability modifiers. Once you’ve spent all your points, you’re done. Write your final ability scores in the appropriate boxes on your character sheet, then check Table: Ability Scores and Modifiers to find the corresponding ability modifier for each one, and write those down as well. Modifiers are explained in Ability Modifiers and Ability Checks.
Examples of Buying Ability Scores
You start out with 10 in every ability, like any character. You already know you want to be a vesk, and looking at Table: Ability Points from Race and Theme, you see that her race grants her +2 points to Strength and +2 points to Constitution, but –2 points to Intelligence. You apply those to your starting scores of 10, so now your scores look like this:
STR 12, DEX 10, CON 12, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 10
Next, you apply a theme. You know you want her to be a mercenary, and you see from the table that the mercenary theme gives her +1 point to Strength, making your scores these:
STR 13, DEX 10, CON 12, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 10
So far, you’re spot on for your concept—plenty strong but not particularly bright. Now it’s time to take your 10 discretionary points and assign them. Table 2–3 tells you that a soldier’s key ability score is either Strength (for fighting hand-to-hand) or Dexterity (for shooting projectile weapons). You’re imagining her charging into combat with a big assault hammer, so you go ahead and spend 5 points to get her Strength from 13 to 18, the strongest anyone of her level can be. At the same time, though, you know there will be situations where she wants to use guns, so you spend 4 more points to bring her Dexterity up to 14. With 1 point left to spend, you consider adding it to Intelligence to offset her racial disadvantage there, then decide it’s more fun to add it to Charisma—she may be a brute, but she should be charming in her own way. So these are your final scores:
STR 18, DEX 14, CON 12, INT 8, WIS 10, CHA 11
You write those down on your character sheet, then locate the appropriate ability modifiers on the table above and write those down in the boxes marked for them next to each ability score—an 18 equals a +4 modifier, a 14 equals a +2, and so on. Now you’re ready to move on to the rest of character creation!
Table: Ability Scores and Modifiers
|Ability Score||Ability Modifier|
Table: Ability Points from Race and Theme
Table: Key Ability Scores by Class
|Class||Key Ability Score|
|Soldier||Strength or Dexterity|
Optional Rule: Character Flaws
The buying ability scores method makes sure that your character is always at least close to average—your race might push you slightly below the average of 10, but you won’t be severely hampered. Sometimes, however, it’s fun to play a character with a major flaw. If you want to reduce any ability scores for your character below what this system would normally allow, that’s fine—playing a brutish soldier with an Intelligence of 5 or a noodle-armed technomancer with a Strength of 4 could allow for some fun roleplaying opportunities—but you don’t get to reassign those lost ability points elsewhere. Beware making your scores so low that your character can’t keep up with the rest of the party!
Pro Tip: Ability Modifiers
Ability modifiers are the values you’ll use most often in gameplay to modify rolls and checks—positive modifiers add to your results, while negative modifiers subtract. As you can see on Table 2–1, however, ability modifiers increase only with each new even ability score you reach. While odd scores are still good to have—they can enable you to qualify for feats and get you that much closer to the next ability modifier threshold, making it easier to achieve higher scores when it’s time to level up—some players try to customize their ability scores to have as many even ability scores as possible, thus making sure they’re not “overpaying” for a particular ability modifier.
Optional Method: Ability Quick Picks
Sometimes you’re making a character in a hurry and don’t care about precisely customizing your ability scores. If that’s the case for you, you can pick one of the arrays below and assign each value to the ability score of your choice—for instance, if your array is 18, 14, 11, 10, 10, 10, you put the 18 in one ability score (probably your class’s key ability score), the 14 in a different score, and so on until they’ve all been assigned. Under this method, choices like race and theme don’t affect your ability scores—you just choose which score goes in which ability, and you’re good to go. The focused array creates a specialist, the split array makes someone with multiple talents, and the versatile array makes a jack-of-all-trades.
Once you’ve chosen which abilities to put your scores in, write them down in the appropriate boxes on your character sheet, then check Table: Ability Scores and Modifiers to find your corresponding ability modifiers and write those down as well—they’re explained in Ability Modifiers and Ability Checks.
Example of Ability Quick Picks
Let’s say you’re making a ysoki technomancer with the outlaw theme. With the quick picks system, you don’t need to know anything except which abilities are most important for your character. Fortunately, all the classes offer guidance in this regard in their Key Ability Score sections—you can find a quick summary on Table: Key Ability Scores by Class.
In this case, let’s say you decide you want your character to be fairly specialized, so you select the focused array, and the technomancer class advises you to put your best score (18) in Intelligence, and your next highest (14) in Dexterity. You decide to put the 11 in Constitution, to help you better survive the rigors of adventuring, and put the three remaining 10s in Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma. And that’s all there is—you write those values down on your character sheet, look at Table: Ability Scores and Modifiers to jot down the corresponding ability modifier for each ability score, then move on to the rest of character creation.
Optional Method: Rolling Ability Scores
The buying ability scores method works great if you want to create a perfectly customized, balanced character. But sometimes you want to inject a little randomness, and let the dice decide what kind of character you’re going to play. For that, you can use this alternative ability rolling method. Be warned— the same randomness that makes this system fun also allows it to sometimes create characters significantly more (or less) powerful than the buying ability scores system does or other Starfinder rules assume. Check with your GM to make sure she’s okay with that possibility before employing this method.
To begin, roll four six-sided dice (4d6) and discard the lowest die result, adding the three remaining results together and recording the sum on a piece of scratch paper. Repeat this process until you’ve generated six numbers, then assign each of these totals to one of your ability scores, distributing them as you see fit—these become your starting scores for those abilities (rather than the standard 10). Once this is done, go ahead and follow steps 2 and 3 from the buying ability scores method, adding and subtracting points for your race and theme. The only difference with this method is that instead of starting with a 10 in each ability score, you start with whatever value you rolled and assigned. You still can’t have any single ability score higher than 18. If points from a race or theme would push you over that amount, you still just get the 18, and those additional points are lost; they can’t be assigned anywhere else. Once you’ve done this, skip straight to Step 5 and record your ability scores and modifiers—you don’t get any discretionary points to assign.
Example of Rolling Ability Scores
Let’s say you’ve decided to create a shirren mystic, and you’ve gotten your GM’s permission to roll your ability scores.
First, you roll your starting scores. Your first roll is excellent: a 6, two 5s, and a 1. You discard the 1, for a total score of 16, and write that down. You repeat this process five more times, and ultimately end up with scores of 16, 16, 15, 14, 13, and 5. Above average in almost every way, but with one big shortcoming!
Table: Key Ability Scores by Class tells you Wisdom is the key ability score for mystics, so you put one of your 16s there, and assign the other to Charisma— you want your shirren to be a leader and be good at making friends with aliens. You put the 15 in Constitution, 14 in Dexterity, 13 in Intelligence, and 5 in Strength (you really should’ve hit the gym more after all that time in zero-g). So now your scores look like this:
STR 5, DEX 14, CON 15, INT 13, WIS 16, CHA 16
Now it’s time to make adjustments for your race and theme. You already know you want to be a shirren, which grants +2 points to both Constitution and Wisdom but –2 points to Charisma. So you include those modifications and the scores become:
STR 5, DEX 14, CON 17, INT 13, WIS 18, CHA 14
You also choose the priest theme, because you like the idea of a bug-headed missionary, which grants 1 point to Wisdom—but you’re already maxed out, so that point would disappear! Instead of letting it go, you opt to go back and swap the initial placement of the 16 in Wisdom and 15 in Constitution, then go through the steps again. Now your race and theme make you hit that 18 Wisdom perfectly, and your Constitution is 1 point higher, like so:
STR 5, DEX 14, CON 18, INT 13, WIS 18, CHA 14
Those are your final scores—there are no points to spend. Note that through rolling, this character ended up with both higher and lower scores than the vesk soldier from our buying ability scores example. That’s the risk of the rolling system—this mystic is going to be excellent at spellcasting and using other abilities relying on Wisdom, and still pretty great in most other areas, but severely hampered by that low Strength score when it comes to how much he can carry or his ability to deal damage in hand-to-hand combat.
Each ability describes a distinct aspect of your character and affects different capabilities and actions.
Strength measures muscle and physical power. A character with a Strength score of 0 is unconscious. Your character’s Strength modifier is factored into the following:
- Melee attack rolls and attack rolls made with thrown weapons (such as grenades).
- Damage rolls when using melee weapons or thrown weapons (but not grenades).
- Athletics skill checks.
- Strength checks (for breaking down doors and the like).
- How much gear your character can carry (see Carrying Capacity).
Dexterity measures agility, balance, and reflexes. A character with a Dexterity score of 0 is unconscious. Your character’s Dexterity modifier is factored into the following:
- Ranged attack rolls, such as those made with projectile weapons and energy weapons, as well as some spells.
- Energy Armor Class (EAC) and Kinetic Armor Class (KAC)
- Reflex saving throws (for leaping out of harm’s way).
- Acrobatics, Piloting, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth skill checks.
Constitution represents your character’s health. A living creature whose Constitution score reaches 0 dies. Your character’s Constitution modifier is factored into the following:
- Stamina Points, which represent the damage your character can shrug off before it starts to be a problem. If this score changes enough to alter its modifier, your character’s Stamina Points increase or decrease accordingly.
- Fortitude saves (to resist diseases, poisons, and similar threats).
Intelligence represents how well your character learns and reasons, and is often associated with knowledge and education. Animals have Intelligence scores of 1 or 2, and any creature capable of understanding a language has a score of at least 3. A character with an Intelligence score of 0 is unconscious. Your character’s Intelligence modifier is factored into the following:
- The number of bonus languages your character knows at the start of the game. Even if this modifier is a penalty, your character can still use her starting languages unless her Intelligence score is lower than 3.
- The number of skill ranks gained each level, though your character always gets at least 1 skill rank per level.
- Computers, Culture, Engineering, Life Science, Medicine, Physical Science, and some Profession skill checks.
- Bonus technomancer spells. The minimum Intelligence score needed to cast a technomancer spell is 10 + the spell’s level.
Wisdom describes a character’s common sense, intuition, and willpower. A character with a Wisdom score of 0 is unconscious. Your character’s Wisdom modifier is factored into the following:
- Will saving throws (for defending against things like magical mind control).
- Mysticism, Perception, Sense Motive, Survival, and some Profession skill checks.
- Bonus mystic spells. The minimum Wisdom score needed to cast a mystic spell is 10 + the spell’s level.
Charisma measures a character’s personality, personal magnetism, ability to lead, and appearance. A character with a Charisma score of 0 is unconscious. Your character’s Charisma modifier is factored into the following:
- Bluff, Diplomacy, Disguise, Intimidate, and some Profession skill checks.
- Checks that represent attempts to influence others, including the envoy’s extraordinary abilities.
Ability Modifiers and Ability Checks
The right-hand column in Table 2–1 shows the ability modifier corresponding to each ability score. This modifier is applied to die rolls related to your abilities, such as skill checks, attacks, and more. Nearly every roll is affected by your abilities in some way, often with additional modifiers from other sources, but they generally involve your ability modifier rather than your actual ability score. When you determine your ability scores, make sure to note their respective ability modifiers on your character sheet. If a change to an ability score ever alters its modifier, be sure to adjust any statistics that rely on that modifier.
Sometimes, a situation or ability might require you to attempt something called an ability check. In such instances, instead of attempting a check involving both your abilities and other factors (such as skills or saving throws that reflect your training and expertise), you attempt a check using just 1d20 + your ability modifier. This represents you trying to use your raw, untrained talent for that particular ability, such as attempting a Strength check to kick down a door.
In the rare instance that you need to determine ability modifiers beyond the numbers presented in the table, such as for extreme high-level play, ability modifiers can be determined by subtracting 10 from the ability score and dividing that result by 2, rounding down if the final result is a fraction. For example, an ability score of 41 would have an ability modifier of +15 (since 41–10=31 and 31÷2=15.5, which rounds down to 15).
Leveling up and Ability Scores
Every 5 levels (at 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th levels), you get to increase and customize your ability scores. Each time you reach one of these level thresholds, choose four of your ability scores to increase. If that ability score is 17 or higher (excluding any ability increases from personal upgrades), it increases permanently by 1. If it’s 16 or lower, it increases permanently by 2. You can’t apply more than one of these increases to the same ability score at a given level, but unlike at 1st level, these increases can make your ability scores go higher than 18.
For example, let’s say you’re leveling up your android technomancer with the following scores:
STR 10, DEX 16, CON 10, INT 18, WIS 11, CHA 10
You might decide to increase your Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, and Wisdom. Because your Intelligence is 17 or higher, it would increase by 1 to a score of 19. The other three scores would increase by 2, giving you these final scores:
STR 10, DEX 18, CON 12, INT 19, WIS 13, CHA 10
The next time you can increase your ability scores, you could decide to increase those same abilities again, or you could pick a different subset. For more details, see leveling up.