This is a pretty easy review, because anyone who has played D&D of any kind since 3rd edition will be very familiar with what an ability score improvement is. After all it’s one of the most basic, and important, mechanics for character creation in a game.
However previously this was always the base reward for a level up, and a feat was a possible alternative to the stat boost. Has turning the ability score improvement into a feat changed things, or is this still the stat boost that players know and love?
The ability score improvement feat in DnD One is the exact same thing as in 5E where a player can add +2 to any one ability score or +1 to any two ability scores, up to a maximum of 20. The main difference is that now Ability Score Improvement is a feat as opposed to a separate mechanic from feats.
Let’s dive in!
Ability Score Improvement Feat DnD One Review
The best way to break down a feat is to check out the exact wording.
From Unearthed Arcana:
You increase one Ability Score of your choice by 2, or you increase two Ability Scores of your choice by 1. You can’t increase an Ability Score above 20.
Unearthed Arcana, Expert Classes
Basically, this “feat” is the ability score improvement from 5E. Instead of having them as an either/or separate thing, each one is now a feat and the ability score improvements are simply another feat option.
As a big picture thing, this seems to indicate that feats are no longer going to be considered an optional rule but a permanent part of D&D from here on out. On the micro level when it comes to ability score improvements, does this really change things?
So while technically a mechanical change, it’s not that large of a change from the practical ways it works.
Benefit #1A: You can increase any ability score of your choice by 2.
This is pretty basic and is a quick way to level up a specific ability score to the next level of bonus it offers all skills, checks, or saves that are associated with that particular ability score.
And another +1 to all of those is nothing to blow your nose at, especially considering another +2 to Constitution also gives +1 HP per level of character.
Benefit #1B: You can increase any two ability scores by one each.
This is a great way to pull two odd numbered ability scores up to an even number, getting the next level of bonus for each of them. This is also good for setting up a future feat. Assuming half feats are still going to be a thing for some future feats, if you know a specific feat later that gives a +1 this allows you to stop at a 19 on the one ability score and up another.
How Does Ability Score Improvement Feat Measure Up?
The mechanic behind having either a +2 ability score improvement or a +1/+1 has always been a good one and there’s no reason to change a mechanic that isn’t broken.
This is going to be a feat that is taken often because at the end of the day most classes require at least two really good ability scores to work. There are the outliers where you need only one really good ability score and one average one, or where you need 3+ to work well, but generally there will be enough demand for ability score improvements that these should make up the majority of feats taken at a table.
This is pretty standard stuff and should be easy for experienced players to understand, though if you’re bringing brand new players to your table it’s worth explaining the importance of ability scores so this does not get overlooked while seeing all the other feat options available.
Why Is the Ability Score Improvement a Level 4 Feat in Dungeons & Dragons One?
The reason it isn’t a Level 1 feat is it keeps players from power leveling right away by grabbing an extra ability score improvement after rolling up a brand new character. But from level four on, those ability score improvements are available to everyone so this was the best way to set up the new mechanics of how ability score improvements will work as feats in D&D’s next edition.
Ability Score Improvement Feat: DnD One Vs 5E
Nothing too special here. For all intents & purposes, they are exactly the same. Because of that there isn’t a whole lot more to discuss since they work the same way they have for multiple editions now.
DnD One Ability Score Improvement Feat Final Grade
I actually kind of like the idea that feats are moving from optional rules to a permanent part of D&D and I’ve never been at a table in 10+ years where feats weren’t allowed. Lucky gets banned on a consistent basis, but that’s pretty much it. So if turning Ability Score Improvements into a feat versus an alternative is the easiest way to make that transition – I’m all for it!
Otherwise take this whenever you really need to best that main ability score stat and go on from there!
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.