Your ability scores all start at a base value of 8, which places a -1 penalty with any skills associated with that ability. You receive 25 points to allocate to these abilities in order to build a character to your liking. You may not make any score higher than 18, and as you increase the score, you're subject to diminishing returns. It's a 1-1 until the score gets to 14, then 1-2 till 16, and the scores of 17 and 18 cost you another 3 points a piece. With this is mind, a score of 18, which grants a modifier of +4 would cost you 16 points. Leaving you with only a measly 9 points to deal with your severely gimped skills. We'll avoid the min-maxing path this time and go with more traditional character builds.
Now, before we start throwing points around willy-nilly, we've got to figure out what we're playing and how we're going to make that decision work for us. Let's say that you've discussed the party options with your companions, and they've decided that you should play the tank. We're going to go for a more traditional "wall of steel" type of tank for this build, so our racial choice should reflect that. Using the D&D 3.5 Player's Handbook, we'll select the dwarf for our build. Why dwarf? The dwarf receives a +2 bonus to constitution that will bolster our hitpoints, improve our fortitude save. To counterbalance this bonus, the dwarf receives a -2 penalty to charisma. Seeing as how fighter diplomacy should only involve a large weapon of some sort, the hit to charisma doesn't really matter (this is basic min-maxing in action). In addition to these ability modifiers, the dwarf receives a whole host of different abilities and modifiers that add to his utility as a front-line combatant. Dark-vision(self explanatory), ignoring the speed penalties of armor, dwarven weapon familiarity, stability (+4 to resist being tripped or otherwise moved), and the +2 against poisons and spell-like effects are some of the most important racial abilities that the dwarf receives. Make sure that you remember them or at least write them down.
So now that we've got our race, let's work out our scores. There are six primary attributes:
Strength: physical power. determines melee damage and accuracy
Dexterity: agility and hand-eye coordination. determines ranged accuracy
Constitution: toughness and stamina. determines total hit points
Intelligence: book smarts. increases skill point pool
Wisdom: mental acuity. bolsters perception
Charisma: force of will. improves diplomacy and attractiveness
Of these, Constitution and Strength are our biggest concerns(Toughness and melee damage, BIG surprise). Intelligence and Charisma are the least of our worries. So let's assign scores, shall we?
STR: 8 +6 (14)
DEX: 8 +4 (12)
CON: 8 +6 (14)
INT: 8 +2 (10)
WIS: 8 +4 (12)
CHA: 8 +2 (10)
So, spending 24 points in this way grants us a fairly well-balanced fighter that has a respectable level in each attribute. Personally, I'd give up some dexterity and wisdom in order to bolster my constitution, but let's not get too crazy here. We'll assign the last remaining point to wisdom in order to pump up our will save (magic is a big issue later on) and move on to our racial modifiers.
CON: 14 +2 (16)
CHA: 10 -2 (8)
Adding the +2 to constitution gives us a modifier of +3, a very respectable number that'll make sure you have hit points to last you for any encounter. The hit to charisma is not a big issue, and we're not going to be the party spokesperson unless something is terribly amiss.
So now that we have our scores, we'll be assigning hit points, attack bonuses, feats and skills tied to the fighter class. All characters, regardless of race or class receive a feat at first level. Being a fighter grants our dwarf another feat that we can choose immediately. For our two, we'll select weapon focus (dwarven waraxe) and improved shield bash. This build is about reliable protection, so we'll be forgoing more traditional fighter options like power attack. Fortunately for us, the fighter is already proficient with all types of armor and shields, and our dwarven lineage grants us proficiency with the dwarven war axe (a very powerful one-handed weapon), so we'll be marching around with heavy armor, a heavy shield and a big beefy axe in one hand. We won't deal with skills right now, and just skip right on ahead to hit points. At 10 hit points per level, the fighter is one of the toughest heroes available (barbarian and knight have a whopping 12). With our +3 bonus from constitution, our hit points get bumped up to 13 at 1st level, making us more than 3 times as tough as your typical wizard. Add to that the best base attack bonus in the game supplemented by our +2 strength, and you've got a tank ready to take on the world.
So let's talk about gear. You're going to want the heaviest armor and shield you can afford because it usually provides the best protection and you don't have to worry about armor encumbrance. At first level you can't afford plate armor, so we'll have to make do with scale mail(+4) and a heavy wooden shield(+2). This is where our +1 to dexterity will come in handy. Adding the gear bonuses to our dexterity gives us an armor class of 17. Seeing as how most enemies at 1st level don't have an attack bonus better than +3, we're fairly safe from most hits. And our attack bonus of +4 with the dwarven urgosh allows us to punish all those foolish enough to try and pass you.
So there you go. I haven't covered everything about character building, but I've given you a respectable dwarven fighter that can protect even the squishiest of casters. Enjoy smashing those goblins.