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DND: Creating a Character

Updated: Feb 9

Table of Contents





Introduction


Imagine sitting down to write your own part in a movie. How totally cool would that be? I'm sure you wouldn't want to give yourself a walk on part or an extra's role; creating a new DND character is a very similar process. In this article DND: Creating a Character, we will walk you, the new player, through the process of making a truly amazing character that fits your vision perfectly.


The trick isn't to create a character so laden by spells, items, weapons and trinkets that it is virtually invulnerable (difficult given the constraints of the rules anyway, but people certainly try).

Great character creation also involves your hero having vulnerabilities and flaws, just as a great movie character would. After all, doesn't your hero need something to battle against, to triumph over on their journey?


D&D is more than just a game; it's a portal to a universe where the limits are defined only by one's imagination, the rules and the cruel fate of random happenstance and dice rolls. The process of creating a character is your first step into this world. It involves making decisions that will define your alter ego in the game - a representation of yourself or perhaps who you wish to be in this fantastical realm. Will you be a noble warrior, a cunning rogue, or a wise wizard? The choices are endless, and each decision shapes your path in the game.


  • If this is your first time creating a DND character, there's a handy flow chart image at the end of this article.





DND Races

As you embark on this journey of character creation, the first decision you'll face is choosing a race for your character. D&D offers a variety of races, each with its unique abilities, traits, and lore.


This is not an expansive list but it covers most of the race options in 5th Edition. You can also check out our bespoke Arclands, Phandrax and Northrealm races in our store here or on DrivethruRPG.


1. Humans: The most versatile and adaptable race, known for their diversity and ambition.
2. Elves: Graceful, long-lived beings with a strong affinity for magic and nature, divided into subraces like High Elves, Wood Elves, and Dark Elves (Drow).
3. Dwarves: Stout, hardy warriors and craftsmen, known for their skill in metallurgy and stone working. Subraces include Hill Dwarves and Mountain Dwarves.
4. Halflings: Small, agile, and lucky beings, often cheerful and friendly, with subraces like Lightfoot and Stout Halflings.
5. Gnomes: Inventive and whimsical, with a natural inclination toward illusion magic and mechanical tinkering. Subraces include Forest Gnomes and Rock Gnomes.
6. Half-Elves: Combining human versatility with elven grace, often charismatic and skilled in diplomacy.
7. Half-Orcs: Often grappling with their orcish heritage, they are known for their strength and tenacity.
8. Tieflings: Bearing the blood of demons or devils, known for their infernal heritage, which grants them unique abilities.
9. Dragonborn: Born of dragons, known for their breath weapons and draconic ancestry.
10. Tabaxi: Feline humanoids, curious and agile, with a penchant for adventuring.
11. Aasimar: Humanoids with celestial heritage, often on a quest to fight evil or fulfill a divine prophecy.
12. Kenku: Avian humanoids, known for their mimicry skills but cursed with a lack of creativity.
13. Goliaths: Giant-kin known for their incredible strength and competitiveness.
14. Firbolg: Gentle forest giants who live in harmony with nature and are adept at magic related to it.
15. Tritons: Aquatic humanoids, guardians of the deep ocean, skilled in combat and magic related to water.
16. Genasi: Individuals with elemental genie ancestry, manifesting traits of air, earth, fire, or water.
17. Lizardfolk: Reptilian humanoids, pragmatic survivors with natural armor and hunting skills.
18. Kobolds: Small, reptilian creatures often seen as weak but resourceful and fiercely loyal to their clan.
19. Yuan-ti Purebloods: Humanoids with serpent-like qualities, often involved in sinister plots due to their snake god worshipping culture.
20. Changelings: Shape-shifters who can mimic other humanoids, often struggling with their true identity.




DND Classes

Next, you will choose a class, which determines your character's abilities and the role they will play in the adventure. Each class - be it the spellcasting wizard, the devout cleric, or the stealthy rogue - comes with its unique skills and playstyle. This choice will significantly influence how you interact with the world of D&D, how you contribute to your party, and the strategies you employ in overcoming challenges.


1. Barbarian: A fierce warrior characterized by their rage, which grants them extraordinary strength and resilience in battle.
2. Bard: A versatile class known for their musical and magical abilities, capable of both inspiring allies and debilitating foes.
3. Cleric: A divine spellcaster who serves a deity, wielding powerful healing and support magic, along with the ability to channel divine energy.
4. Druid: A guardian of nature, capable of shape-shifting into animals and wielding nature-based magic.
5. Fighter: A master of martial combat, skilled with a variety of weapons and armor. Fighters are versatile and can specialize in different combat techniques.
6. Monk: A skilled martial artist, whose abilities are powered by their mastery of Ki, a life energy that grants them unique abilities and combat skills.
7. Paladin: A holy warrior bound by an oath, blending martial prowess with divine magic, often focused on protection and healing.
8. Ranger: A skilled hunter and tracker, adept at survival in the wilderness, and often accompanied by an animal companion. Rangers are skilled in both combat and nature magic.
9. Rogue: A stealthy and dexterous character, often a skilled thief or assassin, excelling in stealth, lockpicking, and finding and disarming traps.
10. Sorcerer: A spellcaster who derives their magical abilities from their bloodline, often manifesting in spontaneous and unpredictable ways.
11. Warlock: A wielder of magic granted by a pact with an otherworldly patron, known for their eldritch invocations and powerful spells.
12. Wizard: A scholarly magic user capable of learning and casting spells from a wide variety of schools of magic, with a focus on knowledge and spell versatility.




DND Stats

An essential aspect of character creation is balancing your character’s stats. These statistics, including strength, dexterity, intelligence, and more, define your character's capabilities. Balancing these stats is crucial as they affect everything from combat effectiveness to social interactions. The distribution of these points can mean the difference between a character that feels alive and dynamic and one that struggles to find their place in the adventure.


Beyond these mechanical aspects, character creation in D&D is also an opportunity to craft a unique backstory for your character. This narrative is where you can infuse your creation with depth, giving them motivations, a history, and personality traits. Your character's backstory will guide their actions and decisions, adding a layer of complexity to the role-playing experience.

As you navigate the intricacies of character creation, remember that this is just the beginning of your adventure. The choices you make will evolve as you progress in the game, allowing your character to grow and change. The beauty of D&D lies in its ability to adapt and evolve with its players, making each character's journey a unique and personal experience.


Creating your first D&D character is an invitation to explore a world of endless possibilities. It's the first chapter in a story that you and your fellow players will write together, filled with epic quests, dangerous foes, and memorable moments. So, embrace the creativity, dive into the lore, and enjoy the process of bringing your character to life. After all, this is where your adventure begins.





Choosing a Race and Class

The first decision in character creation is selecting a race and class. D&D features a variety of races, each with its own unique traits, abilities, and lore. Races such as Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and Halflings are classic choices, offering different bonuses and role-playing opportunities. For instance, Elves have keen senses and proficiency in perception, making them excellent scouts, while Dwarves are known for their resilience and craftsmanship.


When selecting a race, consider how its characteristics align with the type of character you want to play. Are you interested in a stealthy, agile character? An Elf or Halfling might be a good choice. Or perhaps you prefer a sturdy, resilient fighter? Then consider a Dwarf. The race you choose will significantly influence your character's abilities and how they interact with the world.

Next, choose a class, which determines your character's abilities and role in the party. Each class, such as Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, or Cleric, has its unique features and playstyles. For example, Fighters excel in physical combat, Wizards wield powerful spells, Rogues are masters of stealth and cunning, and Clerics channel divine powers.


When choosing a class, think about what you enjoy most in a game. Do you like solving problems with magic, engaging in hand-to-hand combat, or supporting your team? Your class choice should reflect your preferred playstyle. Remember, the class you choose will guide your character's development throughout the game, so choose one that excites you.





Balancing Stats

After selecting your race and class, it's time to determine your character's statistics (stats), which represent their physical and mental attributes. The six primary stats in D&D are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These stats influence everything from combat effectiveness to social interactions.


Distribute your stats based on your character's class and race. For instance, a Fighter might prioritize Strength and Constitution for physical prowess, while a Wizard would focus on Intelligence for spellcasting. Consider your character's background and personality as well. A charismatic Rogue might have a high Charisma score, aiding in persuasion and deception.


There are different methods to assign stats, such as point buy, rolling dice, or using a standard array. Each method has its advantages and is chosen based on the desired balance and randomness in your character's abilities. Discuss with your Dungeon Master (DM) which method is best for your game.


In summary, creating your first D&D character involves selecting a race and class that resonate with your desired playstyle and carefully balancing your stats to reflect your character's abilities. This process is not just about numbers and mechanics; it's about crafting a persona you will explore and grow with in your D&D adventures. In the next part, we will explore crafting a backstory and integrating your character into the game world.


Once you've chosen your race, class, and balanced your stats, the next step in creating your D&D character is crafting a compelling backstory. This narrative element is crucial as it adds depth to your character and influences how they interact with the game world.





Crafting a Backstory

A backstory is more than just a character's history; it's the foundation of their identity. It explains where they come from, what drives them, and how they view the world. Here are key elements to consider when writing your character's backstory:


1. Origins: Where did your character grow up? What kind of family or community were they part of? This aspect can shape their world view and values.

2. Motivations: What drives your character? It could be a quest for revenge, a desire to prove themselves, a search for knowledge, or a need to protect loved ones. Motivations are powerful role-playing tools.

3. Formative Events: Identify one or two significant events that shaped your character’s life. This could be a personal tragedy, a great victory, or a mysterious encounter.

4. Personality Traits: Develop your character's personality. Are they brave or cautious? Optimistic or cynical? Social or solitary? These traits will guide your role-playing decisions.

5. Goals and Fears: What does your character aspire to achieve, and what do they fear most? Goals and fears can create engaging character arcs and plot hooks for your DM to use.

Remember, a good backstory provides hooks for your DM to integrate your character into the campaign. It should be detailed enough to give your character depth but flexible enough to fit into the game’s narrative.


Here are a couple of examples to help get you thinking about your character's story.


Character 1: Elara, the Elven Ranger

1. Origins: Elara was raised in the Silverwood Forest, a mystical place known for its ancient trees and magical creatures. Born into a family of respected scouts, she learned the art of survival and archery from a young age. The forest, with its enigmatic beauty and dangers, shaped her view of the world as a place of wonder and peril.

2. Motivations: Elara's primary motivation is to protect her homeland from encroaching threats, especially from the expanding human settlements. She also seeks to understand the balance between nature and civilization, striving to find harmony between the two.

3. Formative Events: A defining moment in her life was when a wildfire, caused by human negligence, ravaged part of Silverwood Forest. This event instilled in her a deep sense of responsibility to guard her home and an ambivalence towards humans.

4. Personality Traits: She is observant, fiercely independent, and somewhat mistrustful of outsiders. Elara often prefers the company of animals to people, finding peace in the quiet of the wilderness.

5. Goals and Fears: Elara's goal is to become a guardian of Silverwood, a prestigious position among her people. Her greatest fear is the destruction of her homeland and the loss of its ancient magic.


Character 2: Milo, the Halfling Bard

1. Origins: Milo was born in the bustling market town of Breezehollow. His family ran a popular tavern, where he was exposed to a myriad of stories, songs, and cultures from a young age. This environment fostered his love for music and tales.

2. Motivations: His driving force is his insatiable curiosity and desire to collect stories from across the lands. He wishes to compose a grand opus that captures the spirit of the world's cultures and histories.

3. Formative Events: When Milo was young, a wandering bard visited Breezehollow and performed a song that mesmerized him. This encounter ignited his passion for music and storytelling, setting him on his bardic path.

4. Personality Traits: Milo is charming, gregarious, and has an unshakeable optimism. He loves making connections with people and can often be found engaging in lively conversations.

5. Goals and Fears: His goal is to travel far and wide, experiencing as much of the world as possible. Milo's biggest fear is a mundane life – he dreads the thought of being stuck in one place, unable to see the world and share its stories.

Both characters provide ample opportunities for DMs to integrate them into various campaigns, with hooks related to their backgrounds, motivations, and fears.





Integrating Your Character into the Game World

After crafting your backstory, the next step is integrating your character into the D&D world. This involves understanding the campaign setting and how your character fits into it.

1. Align with the Campaign Setting: Ensure your character’s backstory aligns with the world the DM has created. For instance, if the campaign is set in a war-torn land, you could integrate elements of conflict into your backstory.

2. Connect with Other Characters: Find ways to connect your character with other party members. Shared histories or goals can create compelling dynamics and teamwork.

3. Be Open to Development: As the campaign progresses, your character should evolve. Be open to new experiences, challenges, and changes that occur during your adventures.

4. Collaborate with the DM: Work with your DM to ensure your character fits well in the campaign. They can provide insights and suggestions to enhance your character’s integration.

Creating your first D&D character is an exciting process that combines imagination and strategy. By carefully selecting your race and class, balancing your stats, crafting a detailed backstory, and thoughtfully integrating your character into the game world, you set the stage for a rich and fulfilling role-playing experience. Remember, the essence of D&D is about storytelling and shared adventures, so embrace the creativity and collaborative spirit of the game.


Here, our two characters are integrated into the campaign setting; this is always a collaborative approach between DM and player (sometimes ideas proposed by either side don't quite fit, so there has to be an element of compromise and negotiating).


Elara, the Elven Ranger

1. Align with the Campaign Setting:

- If the campaign is set in a realm where the encroachment of civilization into wild lands is a central theme, Elara's backstory becomes highly relevant. She could be exploring the world beyond her forest to understand the threats and perhaps find allies to protect her homeland.

- In a campaign focusing on exploration or the discovery of ancient ruins, her skills as a scout and her connection to nature can be pivotal.

2. Connect with Other Characters:

- Elara might share a common goal with another character who values nature or has a similar distrust of certain elements of civilization.

- She could have a past encounter with one of the party members, perhaps having once guided them through her forest.

3. Be Open to Development:

- Throughout the campaign, Elara's views on humans and other races may evolve, especially as she works alongside diverse characters.

- Encounters with benevolent human characters or witnessing the destruction caused by other forces might influence her perspective and goals.

4. Collaborate with the DM:

- The DM can incorporate elements of Silverwood Forest into the campaign, perhaps introducing threats or quests that lead Elara back to her homeland.

- The DM might also use her goal of becoming a guardian of Silverwood as a long-term character arc.


Milo, the Halfling Bard

1. Align with the Campaign Setting:

- In a world rich in culture and history, Milo's pursuit of stories and songs fits seamlessly. He could be on a quest to gather tales from each region the party visits.

- If the campaign involves political intrigue, Milo's social skills and knowledge of lore can be invaluable.

2. Connect with Other Characters:

- Milo could have a shared history with another character, like having performed in their hometown or being childhood friends.

- His optimistic and sociable nature makes him an excellent mediator within the group, helping to resolve conflicts and strengthen bonds.

3. Be Open to Development:

- Milo's experiences during the campaign can profoundly impact his worldview and stories. Tragic events or heroic deeds witnessed during adventures can add depth to his compositions.

- Encounters with legendary figures or uncovering ancient secrets can significantly enrich his opus.

4. Collaborate with the DM:

- The DM can weave Milo's search for stories into the narrative, introducing him to unique characters and legends.

- Certain campaign events can be tied to Milo's goal of composing his grand opus, such as finding ancient music in a forgotten temple.

By integrating Elara and Milo thoughtfully into the campaign, they become more than just characters; they become integral parts of a shared storytelling experience. Their evolution over the course of the campaign can provide both the players and the DM with rich, engaging, and dynamic role-playing opportunities.




Conclusion

Crafting your first D&D character is a journey that epitomizes the essence of creativity and autonomy in role-playing games. It's an opportunity to bring a part of yourself into a fantastical world, to explore facets of your personality in new and imaginative ways. Remember, the character you create is not just a set of stats on a sheet; it's a living, evolving persona whose story unfolds through your decisions and interactions.


Your character is a canvas for your creativity. From their origins to their aspirations, every detail is a brushstroke in a larger portrait. While guidelines and frameworks exist, they serve as your palette, not your limit. The real magic of D&D lies in the freedom to invent and personalize, to build a character uniquely yours, whose journey is as unpredictable as it is exciting.


Embrace the autonomy that D&D offers. Let your character react, grow, and change in response to the game world. This dynamic evolution is what makes each D&D campaign a unique narrative masterpiece, co-authored by you and your fellow players. Whether your character is a hero or an antihero, their story is yours to write.


As you embark on this adventure, remember that the heart of D&D is collaborative storytelling. Your character's journey is not just their own but part of a tapestry woven together with the stories of your fellow players and the world your DM crafts. In this shared narrative, your creativity and autonomy are not just welcomed; they are essential.


So, roll the dice, breathe life into your character, and step into a world of endless possibilities. Your adventure awaits!





Character Creation FAQs

1. What are ability scores in D&D?

Ability scores are the core stats of a D&D character, representing their basic attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.

2. How do hit points work?

Hit points represent a character's health. Damage reduces hit points, and reaching zero can lead to unconsciousness or death. Hit points are determined by the character's class and Constitution modifier.

3. Any tips for new players creating a D&D character?

For new players, start with the Player’s Handbook for guidelines and focus on creating a character that interests you. Don’t worry too much about optimizing; learn as you play.

4. What are personality traits in D&D?

Personality traits are aspects of a character’s personality that help define who they are, like being brave, cunning, or kind-hearted. They guide role-playing decisions.

5. What is the Player’s Handbook?

The Player's Handbook is the essential reference for every Dungeons & Dragons roleplayer, containing rules for character creation, backgrounds, classes, equipment, and gameplay.

6. How do ability modifiers work?

Ability modifiers are derived from ability scores and affect most rolls, like attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws. They range from -5 (low score) to +10 (high score).

7. What is D&D Beyond?

D&D Beyond is an official digital toolset for Dungeons & Dragons, featuring character building tools, digital rulebooks, and interactive features for players and DMs.

8. What's important about a D&D character’s armor class?

Armor class (AC) determines how hard it is to hit a character with an attack. It is calculated based on equipment, Dexterity modifier, and other factors.

9. What does an ability score increase mean?

Ability score increases are moments, typically at certain levels, where players can improve their character’s ability scores, enhancing their effectiveness and skills.

10. What's the essence of Dungeons & Dragons?

Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game where players create characters to embark on imaginary adventures in a story led by a Dungeon Master.

11. How do you define a player character in D&D?

A player character (PC) is the character created and controlled by a player in the D&D game, as opposed to non-player characters (NPCs) controlled by the Dungeon Master.

12. What’s important about a character's background in D&D?

A character's background provides context for their life before adventuring, including skills, experiences, and personal history, which influence their abilities and personality.

13. What are racial traits in D&D?

Racial traits are abilities and characteristics unique to each race, like dark vision for elves or resilience for dwarves, impacting how a character interacts with the game world.

14. Is it a good idea to plan a character’s personality in advance?

Yes, planning a character’s personality helps in role-playing and making decisions that are consistent with who your character is, enhancing the gaming experience.

15. How are attack rolls determined in D&D?

Attack rolls determine if an attack hits. Roll a twenty-sided die, add relevant modifiers (like ability modifiers and proficiency bonuses), and compare it to the target's armor class.

16. What are ability checks in D&D?

Ability checks are rolls made to determine if a character succeeds at a task requiring skill or luck. Roll a d20, add the relevant ability modifier and proficiency bonus if applicable.

17. How do hit dice function in D&D?

Hit dice are used to determine a character’s hit points at higher levels and to regain hit points during short rests. Each class has a different hit die size.

18. What is a saving throw in D&D?

A saving throw is an attempt to resist a spell, trap, poison, or other harmful effects. Roll a d20, add the relevant ability modifier, and proficiency bonus if the character is proficient.

19. Can you suggest some D&D character ideas?

Ideas can range from a stealthy rogue with a mysterious past to a scholarly wizard seeking ancient knowledge. Think about what kind of adventures or role you'd enjoy.

20. How do I choose from different classes for my first character?

Consider what play style suits you best: melee combat (Fighter), spellcasting (Wizard), support roles (Cleric), etc. Read class descriptions in the Player's Handbook for guidance.

21. What is the purpose of D&D Beyond?

D&D Beyond is an online service providing digital tools for Dungeons & Dragons, including character creation, rule management, and campaign tracking.

22. How do you create a Dungeons & Dragons character?

To create a D&D character, choose a race and class, determine ability scores, pick skills and equipment, and flesh out your character's backstory and personality.

23. What is the highest number you can roll on a six-sided die in D&D?

The highest number on a six-sided dice (d6), commonly used in D&D, is 6.

24. Can you suggest some D&D character ideas for beginners?

Beginners might enjoy straightforward characters like a brave Human Fighter or a cunning Elven Rogue. Start with a simple concept and expand as you learn the game.

25. How do experience points work in D&D?

Players earn experience points (XP) for overcoming challenges and completing objectives. Accumulating enough XP leads to leveling up, which enhances a character's abilities.

26. What happens as a character reaches higher levels in D&D?

At higher levels, characters gain more hit points, improved abilities, new class features, and sometimes ability score improvements or new spells.

27. What role do dice rolls play in D&D?

Dice rolls in D&D determine the outcomes of actions, from attacking enemies to persuading NPCs. Different dice are used for various actions and checks.

28. What is a stat block in D&D?

A stat block is a standardized format for presenting a character's or monster's statistics, including ability scores, skills, special abilities, and more.

29. What does 'good luck' mean in a D&D context?

In D&D, 'good luck' often refers to favorable dice rolls or beneficial outcomes in gameplay situations.

30. Can you explain what Critical Role is?

Critical Role is a popular web series where voice actors play D&D. It's known for its storytelling, character development, and has significantly influenced the D&D community.

31. What are ability score improvements in D&D?

Ability score improvements allow players to increase their character’s ability scores, enhancing their effectiveness in various aspects of the game.

32. How do death saves work in D&D?

When a character drops to 0 hit points, they make death saving throws on their turns to determine if they stabilize or move closer to death.

33. What should I consider when creating my own character in D&D?

Consider your character's race, class, background, and personality. Think about what kind of stories you want to tell and what role you'll enjoy playing.

34. How is damage calculated in D&D?

Damage is usually determined by rolling a weapon’s or spell’s damage dice and adding relevant modifiers, like ability bonuses.

35. What advice do you have for experienced D&D players?

Experienced players should experiment with complex characters, try different roles in the party, and possibly explore DMing to enrich their gaming experience.

36. What is the middle section of a D&D character sheet used for?

The middle section typically contains vital stats like hit points, class features, and equipment, central to tracking a character's capabilities and status.

37. How is D&D different from video games?

D&D offers more freedom and creativity than most video games. It's driven by imagination and collaborative storytelling rather than predefined programming.

38. What are throw proficiencies in D&D?

Saving throw proficiencies indicate which saving throws a character is particularly good at, often determined by their class and sometimes their race.

39. How do I choose a character name in D&D?

Choose a name that fits your character’s race and background. It can reflect their personality or heritage. Online generators can offer inspiration.

40. What’s the easiest way to learn D&D?

The easiest way to learn D&D is by playing with experienced players or watching actual play series like Critical Role. Using beginner-friendly resources like the Starter Set can also help.

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