Last week I discussed the very basics of what DnD is and what you need to play it. At the end of the post, I asked you to roll 6 sets of numbers and told you these would be your character’s stats.
If you did that. Great!
If not. Not a problem, I’ll go over it again.
It definitely helps to have a character sheet nearby for this process. If you don’t have one, follow along on a piece of paper.
Step 0: Inspiration
When you play a game like DnD, it’s about Role Playing. You are becoming a person different than yourself in a world more fantastic than our own. As such, you should probably enjoy your time when traveling in your character’s shoes.
Before you make a character, try to think about what kind of character you want to play with. Take inspiration from any of source you find. If you are having trouble with finding inspiration on your own, then I’ll go over alternative ways to make your character that can help you to make decisions.
If you truly don’t care about what kind of character you’ll be playing as, perhaps ask your party about their characters. DnD is a group game and if your main goal is to provide the most help to your group you should think about playing a character that could shore up any weak spots your group may have.
If you’re in the mood for being truly random and going at the game for fun I’d like to suggest a few method for inspiration:
- Who the f*ck is my DnD character a fun random generator that gives you the race, class, personality, and motivation of a character
- Hit random Trope 5 times on TvTropes. Those tropes define your character.
- Listen to a song and pretend it’s your character’s theme. What type of character would it describe?
- Try your best to make you in DnD. Or make the exact opposite of you. It’s fun to branch out of what’s normal.
- Roll randomly on all charts for Race, Class, and Background. Then come up with your character’s story based on those rolls.
Whatever method you use, be sure that you can see yourself enjoying the character. There’s nothing worse than pretending to be something you hate.
For the character example:
A Scottish warrior who loves combat as much as he loves making new friends. He wants to make the world a better place for his people. Loves to play the bagpipes when not fighting.
Step 1: Race
Now that you have the rough idea of your character fleshed out. What race will they be? There are numerous of playable races out there and I’ll try and dedicate a post for each one to describe their unique flavor and lore. This list will just show the races and where they’re sourced from.
Remember to ask your DM if they have any restrictions on races in the campaign because some races may be homebrewed or might not fit in the narrative of the story. If I miss any races, I’m sorry, I’ll just be going off of WotC official material. These choices may seem overwhelming at first, and if they are, I’d recommend sticking with races in the PHB until you are more comfortable with trying out more exotic races.
- Aarakocra (EE, only with supporting campaign documentation)
- Aasimar: Basic (DMG, only with supporting campaign documentation)
- Aasimar: Protector, Scourge, Fallen (VOLO)
- Deep Gnome/Svirfneblin (EE, SCAG)
- Dragonborn (SRD, PHB)
- Dwarf: Mountain or Hill (PBR, SRD only Hill, PHB)
- Dwarf: Duergar (SCAG)
- Elf: High, Wood, or Drow (PBR, SRD only High, PHB)
- Elf: Eladrin (DMG, only with supporting campaign documentation)
- Firbolg (VOLO)
- Genasi (PotA, EE)
- Gnome (SRD, PHB)
- Goblin (VOLO)
- Goliath (EE, VOLO)
- Grung (UA)
- Halfling: Lightfoot or Stout (PBR, SRD only Lightfoot, PHB)
- Halfling: Ghostwise (SCAG)
- Half-Elf (SRD, PHB)
- Half-Elf: Variant (SCAG)
- Half-Orc (SRD, PHB)
- Hobgoblin (VOLO)
- Human: standard or variant (PBR, SRD only standard, PHB)
- Kenku (VOLO)
- Kobold (VOLO)
- Lizardfolk (VOLO)
- Orc (VOLO)
- Tabaxi (VOLO)
- Tiefling (SRD, PHB)
- Tiefling: Variant (Winged only with supporting campaign documentation) (SCAG)
- Tortle (The Tortle Package, charity supplement to Tomb of Annihilation)
- Triton (VOLO)
- Yuan-Ti Pureblood (VOLO)
- PBR: Players Basic Rules, Chapter 2: Races
- SRD: System Reference Document, 5e, “Races” at pp.3-7
- PHB: Player’s Handbook, Chapter 2: Races
- DMG: Dungeon Master’s Guide, “Creating New Character Options” at pp.285-287
- PotA: Princes of the Apocalypse, Appendix A: Genasi
- EE: Elemental Evil Player’s Guide, Chapter 1: Races
- SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
- VOLO: Volo’s Guide to Monsters
- UA: Unearthed Arcana articles
With our character inspiration guiding us, I decide to be a human. Be sure to write down the various perks and bonuses that are included in your race. Humans, for instance, gain +1 to every ability score and can speak common and one extra language of your choice.
Step 2: Class
Now that we have our race chose (human) it is time to choose a class that would best fit the play style we’re looking for. In the basic rules, there are 12 classes, each with unique subclasses that provide various bonuses when you reach higher levels. Take some time to read through the options in order to choose the best one for your character. Just like the races, I’ll provide more information on the various character classes.
For the character example, I’m picturing the classic warrior Scotsman, a berserker wielding a great claymore and fighting with nothing but a kilt and warpaint. The class that makes the most sense to me then is the barbarian.
I look at the PHB and remember to write down what my hit dice (d12) is and what my proficiencies are: light and medium armor, shields, all weapons, saving throws (Constitution and Strength), and skills. I also choose what my starting equipment is based on my class.
Step 3: Determine Ability Scores
Now that we have our race and class settled, a barbarian human, it’s time to figure out what his stats are. These are the numbers I had asked you to roll last week. If you forgot your numbers or haven’t done so yet, here’s the process.
Keep the three highest numbers and add them up.
Repeat until you have six numbers.
These numbers represent your ability scores. You then determine where to place each score for your character. The choices are once again:
For our example character I rolled:
- 1,4,2,1 = 7
- 5,4,3,2= 12
- 4,4,2,5= 13
- 6,6,4,6= 18
- 3,2,1,6= 11
- 2,2,2,1= 6
Altogether, not great stats, but not bad ones either.
When looking at your class, determine what abilities are the most important and allocate your points accordingly. Alternatively, you can use the point buy system outlined in the PHB. You won’t get ridiculously great stats, but it definitely keeps you from having garbage numbers.
Now my character is a barbarian who intends to use a greatsword in close quarters combat. As such, strength and constitution are very high on his priorities. Meanwhile, a barbarian doesn’t necessarily need high intelligence or wisdom: after all, he charges into battle shirtless against enemies with swords and arrows, can’t be too smart or wise, can he?
So after figuring out where to put his stats, we come up with this:
- Strength – 13 (+1)
- Dexterity – 12 (+1)
- Constitution – 18 (+4)
- Intelligence – 6 (-2)
- Wisdom – 7 (-2)
- Charisma – 11 (+0)
Remember to also include your character’s racial bonuses and modifiers. Our example character is a human. As such we can choose to either get a +1 to every stat or choose to get +1 to two stats as well as a free skill proficiency and a free feat. More on proficiencies and feats later.
Because I want to choose a feat first level, I will get +1 in two stats of my choice. It is always best to even out odd stats. So looking at my array, I choose to boost Strength and Wisdom, giving us:
- Strength – 14 (+2)
- Dexterity – 12 (+1)
- Constitution – 18 (+4)
- Intelligence – 6 (-2)
- Wisdom – 8 (-1)
- Charisma – 11 (+0)
If you are having difficulties understanding what the number for each ability score means in real life terms, I recommend checking out this site. The author does a great job in putting everything in simple terms.
The numbers in parentheses are your ability modifiers which are used when calculating skills and other important things such as initiative, armor, saving throws, attack modifiers, and damage modifiers.
Step 4: Describe your Character
On the character sheet, you’ll see 4 boxes labeled personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws. These are here to help you better flesh out your character. You can use your character’s background as a source for suitable choices or make up your own.
Remember, the things in the book are merely suggestions. If you want to change something, ask your DM to see if they’ll let you.
With many iterations, I finally got a name I liked: Ulric Wolffang
For background specifics, choose one that makes the most sense thematically for your character. While the PHB has many choices, there are plenty backgrounds online. But, as always, make sure to run it by your DM first.
After giving it some thought, I decide to make Ulric an Entertainer. He was a from a warrior tribe, but he loved to tell stories of wonder and play music in order to entertain those willing to listen. My other choices I was leaning towards were Outlander and Folk Hero, but I just really wanted him to play the bagpipes.
Based on the background description I write down what it gives Ulric as well as choose my personality traits.
-Nobody stays angry at me or around me for long, since I can defuse any amount of tension
-I love a good insult, even one directed at me.
-Tradition. The stories, legends, and songs of the past must never be forgotten, for they teach us who we are. (Lawful)
-I idolize a hero of the old tales and measure my deeds against that person’s
-I’m a sucker for a pretty face.
Based on these choices, Ulric starts to become more fleshed out. He is a man who is honor bound by ancient tradition and doesn’t want those old ways to become forgotten. However, he loves life and all the beauty there is to find in it, whether that be friendship or love.
Step 5: Choose Equipment
Based on your class and background you have starting equipment. Make sure to write these down on your character sheet because if it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.
Class: Greatsword, 2 handaxes, explorer’s pack, 4 javelins
Background: Bagpipes, favor of an admirer (love letter, lock of hair, or trinket), a costume, and pouch of 15 GP
Step 6: Come Together
Your character is made. You are now ready to join your friends in epic quests and adventures.
I covered a lot of information here today and promise to go into depth on the various things that are not fleshed out.
Sneak Peek For Next Week
Feats and why they’re pretty awesome.
May the dice roll ever in your favor.