Last Updated on May 8, 2023
Whether you’re a boneheaded barbarian, a frail and sickly wizard, or a socially inept… er, barbarian, it’s hard to play Dungeon & Dragons 5e for very long without coming into contact with the concept of a “Dump Stat.”
But what is a dump stat? Does every character have one? What happens if you end up with the wrong dump stat? And how does a dump stat affect roleplaying your character? Welcome players and dungeon masters to everything you need to know about dump stats.
What Is a Dump Stat?
When building your D&D 5e character, your dump stat refers to the ability score that your character needs the fewest points in to be effective, although it can also simply refer to a character’s lowest ability score.
Most character classes need good scores in the stats that power their main abilities, attacks, or spells.
Everything a wizard needs to be good at (basically just spellcasting), for example, is powered by their Intelligence score, meaning having more points in Intelligence typically makes for a more competent wizard. Conversely, it’s very rare that a wizard would need to use their Strength score (who needs leg day when you have Leg-vitate day?!… seriously, just cast Levitate), meaning many wizard players will elect to “dump” their lowest ability score into Strength in the hope that it won’t come back to bite them down the line.
In more colloquial circles (what up, Reddit?), “Dump Stat” can also simply refer to a character’s lowest ability score, regardless of how useful that ability score is to the character. For example, you might hear someone say they “made a wizard with Intelligence as their dump stat” because “it’s so funny, bro.”
While flawed characters are inherently more interesting than perfect, shiny, square-jawed ones with great hair, the kind of people who think the only way to achieve this is to hamstring themselves and, by extension, their fellow party members in a game that is ostensibly about being really, really good at punching a goblin in the head so hard they explode can stay very very far away from my table, thank you very much. I’m not here to yuck anyone’s yums, but yeesh.
In short, your character’s dump stat tends to refer to the ability score their class makes the least use of. For spellcasters, this usually means Strength; for big, beefy martial characters, it typically means having all the Charisma of an orc’s sock filled with moldy bolognese; for paladins … ah, who am I kidding? They need all the stats.
Do I Have To Have a Dump Stat?
Honestly? It depends.
It depends on how you define a dump stat (is it an objectively bad ability score or just the one that’s worse than any of the others?), your class, and how you generated your ability scores (4d6 drop one, or did you roll 3d6 down the line in order and live with the results like a real gangster?) at character creation.
If you’re using the Standard Array method of generating your ability scores, then yes, you’ll probably have a dump stat in the form of an 8 (and its accompanying -1 penalty). If you’re playing with point-buy rules, you’ll probably have a dump stat, but you don’t have to, seeing as you can make yourself about as varied and interesting as a bowl of room-temperature oatmeal with a hole punch floating in it — if that’s what you’re into.
If you’re rolling your stats (using whatever method you like), then it’s entirely possible you’ll end up with no dump stats — or with the much funnier all dump stats.
How Do I Choose My Character’s Dump Stat?
As I mentioned earlier, each class (and subclass, actually, so keep that in mind) should have decent scores in the abilities that fuel their most important features.
Rogues need good dexterity to power their attacks and stealth but don’t need to be any stronger than a mouse on a heavy dose of muscle relaxants. Fighters need to be strong but can probably get through life without learning to count very high or write anything more complex than their own name — unless they want to become my favorite kind of fighter, the murder wizard.
These are the ability scores that each class should probably not totally suck at. Remember that your subclass may add another ability score that you need to pay attention to, but there are over 100 subclasses in 5e, and I’m not going to list them all out here because it’s Friday night and I want to go eat barbecue and hang out with my girlfriend (who’s totally real, by the way — she just goes to a different arcane academy… in Canada!), so there.
If you look at what your character needs according to their class (and, I cannot stress this enough, the subclass you’re planning on picking later), then it should be pretty easy to figure out which stat you want to be your dump stat.
If you realize you’ve picked the wrong dump stat further down the line, you can always burn an ability score increase fixing the situation, although I’m a fan of more drastic decisions, like going on a grueling quest to steal a Headband of Intellect.
If you’re still not sure or stuck between two choices (do I want my barbarian to be stupid or just insensitive?), think about skills you might want to be proficient in, your background, and which dump stat might be the most fun to roleplay.
How Do I Roleplay My Dump Stat?
Roleplaying your character’s flaws is arguably even more fun than their strengths and quirky personalities. Flaws can form the bedrock of how you think about your character and provide really satisfying growth if and when you can overcome them.
Your dump stat — being the 1/6th of your character’s capabilities they’re objectively worst at compared to everything else — is a great way to get a sense of your character’s flaws.
However, this is dangerous territory for some people. I’ve been running games for new players for almost a decade at this point, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop seeing this happen: player picks their dump stat (usually one of the mental ones, with Charisma being the biggest offender) and not only turns it into the axis upon which their entire character revolves but also gets in the way of their own fun and everyone else’s.
This happens when a player either uses their dump stat (consciously or otherwise) as an excuse to be (excuse the technical term) an absolute sh**head or when they think that being a good roleplayer means that they need to let their dump stat stop them from engaging with the game. A dump stat should hold your character back, not you as a player.
For example, I often see people who end up with Intelligence as their character’s dump stat solve a riddle or mystery or just come up with a good idea for getting past a locked door and then not say anything — or, more likely, say, “I know the answer, but by character wouldn’t.” I think this is a pretty common reading of how to roleplay a dump stat, and it makes me sad.
In these situations, I usually just encourage players to think about a way within the fiction that their character might accidentally solve the problem or solve it with their own sideways thinking, (an exasperated fighter leaning against the very knot in the very tree that opens up to reveal the pit of despair, for example) allowing for the player to feel like they’re playing the game but without violating the sanctity of the dump stat.
I also like to remind my players that even very dumb characters can have a flash of brilliance.
There’s also the particular type of character that thinks a low charisma score means they have free license to be (as I said before, it’s a technical term) an absolute sh**head. Now, if absolutely sh**headery is the name of the game and the goal of the campaign (I ran an evil campaign a while back that transported the retinue of Generic Not-Sauron into a small suburb of Boulder, Colorado in which general sh**headery abounded), then that’s fine.
But, if everyone isn’t on board and you think that the only way you can authentically roleplay your dump stat (whatever it may be) is to sabotage everyone else’s good time, I urge you to reconsider.
Six Ways To Roleplay a Dump Stat (That Don’t Ruin Your Character)
Personally, I don’t think a dump stat should feel like your character is fundamentally incapable in certain situations. I’d consider my own real-life dump stat to probably be Dexterity, but I can still pick up a wine glass without burning the house down and severing my own foot. If I can live a relatively normal life, so can your character… unless you rolled under a 4, in which case it’s time to call your pegleg guy.
To that end, here are tips for roleplaying the six D&D 5e ability scores that don’t ruin your whole character.
You should definitely think about how your character’s dump stat manifests itself in day-to-day life and how to roleplay that in a way that adds depth to them, doesn’t get you thrown in sh**head jail, and is also fun.
That’s everything you need to know about your character’s dump stat in D&D 5e. Until next time, happy adventuring!
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.