Attributes govern your character's innate physical and mental resources. The bonuses and penalties associated with high or low attributes will affect your character's combat acuity, skill usage, and the efficacy of your Force powers. If you choose to create a quick character, your attributes will be distributed automatically, but if you wish to create a custom character, you'll be able to choose all of your vital statistics individually using a pay-for-points system.
An unmodified character is initially a tabula rasa, and is, in fact, slightly below average in each attribute. In order to increase your attributes, you'll have to buy each additional point using a pool of 30 purchase points. The initial increases to a skill are on a one-for-one basis, but as you progress towards the upper limit of your initial attributes (during character creation, no attribute can be raised above 18), each additional point begins to cost more; purchasing a stat of 15 or 16 will each cost your character two purchase points, while the elite stats of 17 and 18 will each cost three purchase points.
Luckily, you aren't going to be shackled by your initial attribute allotment for the rest of the game: your character will gain one extra point to allocate to any attribute every time you gain a level that's a multiple of four. So, upon reaching level four, you gain an attribute point, and again at level eight, level 12, and so on. These points are simple additions to an attribute; you can raise a score of 18 to 19 just as easily as you can go from 10 to 11.
All of your attributes possess the same bonuses and penalties associated with high or low scores, as shown on the following table.
In addition to the extra attribute points you get at your level-ups, you will also occasionally come across items that will add to one or more of your attributes. Some of these, such as stimulants, are merely temporary boosts, but many items can be equipped to lend a constant bonus to a statistic as long as they are worn. You should be sure to distribute these items where needed among your NPC friends; a soldier probably won't have much use for something that gives a bonus to intelligence, but a scoundrel party member would most certainly benefit from it.