The Allure of ASIs: How Ability Score Improvements Shape Character Builds

ELCR Optimization Players

No one gets more ASIs than the Epic Legacy Core Rulebook's Dreadnought!


In the world of Dungeons & Dragons, character progression is a crucial aspect of gameplay, allowing players to develop their heroes and create unique builds. One of the key components of character advancement is the acquisition of Ability Score Improvements. These invaluable improvements offer players the opportunity to fine-tune their characters, enhancing their strengths and mitigating their weaknesses. Today we will explore the impact of ASIs on character building and progression, and how your choices can have far reaching benefits and consequences for your character.


The Mechanics of ASIs: Enhancing Abilities and Gaining Feats

ASIs are awarded to characters at specific levels, depending on their class. Generally, characters gain an ASI at 4th level and every four levels thereafter (8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th). When a character receives an ASI, they can choose to increase one ability score by two points or two ability scores by one point each. Alternatively, they can forgo the ability score increase and select a feat instead (if the Dungeon Master allows the use of feats). Note that in 5E core, feats are completely optional as a rule set. You shouldn’t expect them at every table, and its polite to check at character creation whether they are being used.


ASIs and Class Balance: Comparing Progression

Different classes gain ASIs at varying rates, which can impact character builds and playstyles. For example, Fighters and Rogues receive additional ASIs compared to other classes, giving them more opportunities to enhance their abilities or acquire feats. This can lead to unique character builds, with Fighters and Rogues having greater flexibility in their development compared to other classes. All classes get enough ability score increases to get at least one key score to maximum, with a few in change for other purposes. Most choose to maximize their most important one first, but make sure that whatever you do with it, you have a sense of how long you’ll have to wait for another one. Is that really a choice you can live with for three, four, or five levels?


Ability Score Caps: The 20-Point Ceiling

It is essential to note that ability scores have a maximum of 20 points (unless using specific magic items or class features that allow for higher scores). This cap encourages players to diversify their characters' abilities rather than focusing solely on their primary attributes. As a result, ASIs can be used to round out a character's skillset or to invest in feats that provide unique benefits or abilities. Most choose to maximize their most important one first and that is rarely a suboptimal call. But its also not necessary. A fun exercise is choosing your character’s ability score increases based on their story. What have they been doing the past few levels that may affect their growth? Sure, Dexterity might be optimal for most rogues, but you’ve been the smooth talking, silver tongued trickster for the past few nights. Maybe Charisma is more your style?


The Strategic Use of ASIs: Tailoring Your Character

The strategic allocation of ASIs is crucial in shaping a character's progression. Players must consider their character's role within the party, their personal playstyle, and the campaign's challenges when deciding how to use their ASIs. For instance, a Wizard might prioritize increasing their Intelligence to boost their spellcasting abilities, while a melee-focused Barbarian may opt for a higher Strength or Constitution score. Alternatively, a character may choose a feat to gain new combat options, enhance their survivability, or unlock out-of-combat utility. Whatever your choice, don’t make it in a vacuum. If your party is counting on you to provide powerful crowd control, you need a high save DC. If there is no one to carry all this heavy loot, how will the party pay for their favorite magical items? Its polite to let others know what you are considering and ask for their input. Don’t feel pressured to do what they say, its your character after all. But chances are they may point something out you hadn’t considered and that is always worth a listen.


Feats vs. Ability Scores: The Decision-Making Process

Deciding between increasing ability scores or selecting a feat can be a difficult choice for players. The allure of feats lies in their ability to grant unique abilities or bonuses that can significantly impact gameplay, while the appeal of ability score increases is rooted in their across-the-board improvements to a character's capabilities. Ultimately, players must weigh the benefits of each option and determine which choice best aligns with their character's development and the party's overall needs. This becomes a significant struggle when looking at feats that provide more flavor than power. Those feats can be fun and interesting, but the cost can feel prohibitively high. This is understandable, but that shouldn’t discourage you from sometimes picking one up. Just remember that because these feats are more flavor than fight, its up to you to make them worth it. Your party will be much more understanding if your cooking related feats produce lots of fun story moments.


As a result of all this, ASIs play a vital role in shaping character builds and progression in Dungeons & Dragons. By carefully allocating these improvements and balancing ability scores with feats, players can create versatile and powerful characters that are uniquely tailored to their preferred playstyle. The allure of ASIs lies in the myriad possibilities they offer, allowing players to explore new strategies and optimize their characters as they embark on epic adventures.


Until Next Time,
The 2CGaming Team

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