Level 1 ability score boosts -- can you apply more than one boost to the same ability score?


Playing the Game

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

My wife and I had a disagreement about how this works, and the example isn't helping!

Step 4: Four Free Ability Boosts
After you’ve chosen your character’s ancestry and
background, you have four free ability boosts you can
assign to her ability scores as you see fit. These represent
your character’s variety of experiences growing up
before she became an adventurer.

I read this as meaning that at level 1, if I wanted a dwarf to multiclass into wizard, I'd be able to drop a bunch of ability boosts into Intelligence until he (or she) qualified.

My wife doesn't think you can, based on this, though:
When your character receives an ability boost, the rules
indicate whether it must be applied to a specific ability
score or one of two scores, or whether it is a “free” ability
boost that can be applied to any ability score of your
choice. When you gain multiple ability boosts at the same
time, you must apply each one to a different score.

Has anyone heard anything official one way or the other?

Liberty's Edge

You cannot raise any one score more than once at any specific stage of character creation.

You can, however, get any one score (other than the one you get a peanlty to from Ancestry) to 16 by focusing on it through multiple stages. For example, say you want to play a Dwarf Cleric and Multiclass Wizard as soon as possible. You can do the following:

Ancestry: You pick Dwarf and assign your free ability up to Int (along with the set ones in Con and Wis).

Background: You pick any Background that adds either Wis or Int, and add to both of those.

First Level: You choose to add to Dex, Int, Wis, and Cha.

Class: Cleric adds to Wis.

So you now have the following stats: Str 10, Dex 12, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 18, Cha 10.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I had to reread this section a few times to double-check this issue. I think your wife is correct, due to the cited text on free ability boosts. You can stack free ability boosts from Ancestry, Background, and Level 1, but you can't stack the ability boosts within the same category.

I agree that this could be explained more clearly.


I believe your wife is correct based on the "when you gain multiple..." clause.

For a Dwarf Fighter-Wizard, I believe the critical path would be taking an Int bonus from your background and the final ability step to start with a 14, then increasing that to 16 at level 5 then retraining an earlier feat, or waiting for 6th level but I think the "Retrain one earlier feat, then take 2 spellcasting feats at 6 and 8" will be popular.


Terminalmancer wrote:

My wife and I had a disagreement about how this works, and the example isn't helping!

Step 4: Four Free Ability Boosts
After you’ve chosen your character’s ancestry and
background, you have four free ability boosts you can
assign to her ability scores as you see fit. These represent
your character’s variety of experiences growing up
before she became an adventurer.

I read this as meaning that at level 1, if I wanted a dwarf to multiclass into wizard, I'd be able to drop a bunch of ability boosts into Intelligence until he (or she) qualified.

My wife doesn't think you can, based on this, though:
When your character receives an ability boost, the rules
indicate whether it must be applied to a specific ability
score or one of two scores, or whether it is a “free” ability
boost that can be applied to any ability score of your
choice. When you gain multiple ability boosts at the same
time, you must apply each one to a different score.

Has anyone heard anything official one way or the other?

Yes, you can only apply one bonus to one attribute at any given moment you are granted an ability boost, even if you are granted multiples. The "as you see fit" must still follow the restrictions originally posed on free ability boosts, which is "one per attribute per instance of acquisition."

In addition, you can't apply free boosts to an attribute that has a fixed boost.


I agree with your wife's reading of the rule. This is how my group did it when we made a small party last night.


Your wife is correct. Here is a good video from Paizo on character creation.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LI7Wo5Jtms


So basically you can apply a boost towards Intelligence each time it's offered, you just can't stack it in a single offering. It's +2 in each step but can't be +4 in a single step. That's how I'm reading it anyways.


Playtest pg. 18 wrote:
At 1st level, a character can never have any ability score that’s higher than 18.

Just curious why this is here. If we can only, at most, boost a stat to 16 at level 1, why put this in at all?


Skaldi the Tallest wrote:
Playtest pg. 18 wrote:
At 1st level, a character can never have any ability score that’s higher than 18.
Just curious why this is here. If we can only, at most, boost a stat to 16 at level 1, why put this in at all?

You can get a stat to 18, not 16, if you stack your Ancestry, Background, Class, and 1 of your Free boosts to the same Ability.

As to why that rule exists, perhapse they intend to add Ancestries that get +4 to one Ability in later books? Just a thought.


Sounds plausible. I don't know how I missed that classes give a +2 to a stat. Happy to have missed it. That quoted rule still doesn't make sense, but at least it's a bit closer to relevant I guess.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Thanks guys. Disappointing that you can't get, say, a dwarven sorcerer to Charisma 18, but at least I understand the rules for the playtest now.

Other option for why they included that rule in the first place: if they set expectations then you don't end up with variants accidentally breaking rules they didn't know you meant to have. Like if you're rolling ability scores and then adding ancestry/background/class to that.

That rule was a big part of why I thought you could stack ability boosts together, though.


I’m not finding the wife’s quote in the book. Where is it?


Melkiador wrote:
I’m not finding the wife’s quote in the book. Where is it?

Ability Boosts, page 18.

Grand Lodge

I'm wondering about something a bit similar.

Taking the Dwarf who multiclasses Cleric/Wizard from Deadmanwalking, would it be possible to be a Scholar (which offers both Int and Wis), and then just use the Free boost for the ability score you didn't buff with the background?

Or can you only take backgrounds that offer one of the boosts you want?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I haven't found answer to this though: Can you add a boost in the same phase where you get a flaw?

There doesn't seem to be anything that explicitly denies this. Your Ability Flaw is, well, explicitly not a Boost. So, if you're a goblin, you can't throw your free boost into Dex, but there doesn't seem to be anything preventing you from using the free boost to mitigate your Wis flaw.

Did I miss something?


Bronzemountain wrote:

I haven't found answer to this though: Can you add a boost in the same phase where you get a flaw?

There doesn't seem to be anything that explicitly denies this. Your Ability Flaw is, well, explicitly not a Boost. So, if you're a goblin, you can't throw your free boost into Dex, but there doesn't seem to be anything preventing you from using the free boost to mitigate your Wis flaw.

Yes you can.

See the example on page 19 under "Step 2: Ancestry Ability Boosts and Flaws". It states "An ability flaw reduces that ability score by 2. You can apply your free ability boost to that score to bring your score back to 10."

Also note that the rules say that you can't stack Ability Boosts what you receive from the same source. An Ability Flaw isn't an Ability Boost, it's an Ability Flaw, as such they don't come from the same source. The rules on Page 18 are meant to indicate this (since Ability Boosts and Ability Flaw have different sections in the rules and different sections in the Ancestries page).


In general, with a few exceptions, you can obtain the following Ability Scores with any class or ancestor (using the basic method of generating your Ability Scores)

18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8 (if the race has a Flaw) or
18, 16, 12, 12, 10, 10 (if the race doesn't have a Flaw, i.e. Human ancestry).

You might have to select the right Background to obtain the right combination but in general there are at least 6 of the 19 Backgrounds that will give you the right combination of fixed and free Ability Boosts, no matter what class or race you select.

The times when you can't obtain a 18 in the Ability Score you want, is when your Ancestry Flaw coincides with the Ability you want to achieve 18 in.

This is assuming you want to obtain 18 in the Class's Key Ability.

It's not possible to obtain two 18 Ability Scores, the best you can do is an 18 and a 16. It's also possible to get 16, 16, 16 as an alternate to 18, 16, 14.

There are plenty of other combinations as well but if you want to try and concentrate to get high Ability Scores then the single 18 is the best that's possible without relying on lucky dice throws.

Community / Forums / Archive / Pathfinder / Playtests & Prerelease Discussions / Pathfinder Playtest / Player Rules / Playing the Game / Level 1 ability score boosts -- can you apply more than one boost to the same ability score? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Playing the Game