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Nine awesome Dungeons and Dragons character concepts and ideas





This is an article about creating awesome d&d character concepts and building characters but what we’re going to discuss here is applicable to virtually any role play game. Interesting characters that can develop throughout full campaigns, replete with character flaws and back stories that connect them to a wider world are the lifeblood of role playing.

Before we start, a quick question, prospective creator of a d&d character.


How many characters in your life as a role play gamer or dungeon master have you created? 10, 50, 100? Some are so memorable they become indelible parts of us, they speak with our voice and articulate a side to us that is often hidden.


Others are just walk on parts in the great adventures we create and the quests that our amazing GM friends devise for us.


Not every character is going to be our Aragorn, our Han Solo, our Tony Stark, not every roll of the dice will create a unique character. Whether we want to create a gnome monk or an elf ranger, a barbarian character or just some ridiculous concept we've dreamed up, the rules of d&d character creation are the same and without them, we create empty vessels with swords.


It’s worth reflecting on what it was in the first place that took a few words and numbers on a character sheet and turned them into the amazing protagonist in our minds. Odds are, it was one of the following factors that we’re going to talk about in this article.


They can be summarised as:


Concept: Starting with a clear idea of who your character is and what they want. This can be a unique personality trait, a moral code, or a life goal.


Background: Developing a rich history and backstory for your character that informs their motivations, skills, and abilities.


Personality: Defining your character's personality traits, likes, dislikes, and quirks to make them stand out and add depth.


Goals: Giving your character clear and achievable goals that drive their actions and add purpose to their story, does your character do the right thing.


Conflict: Creating internal and external conflicts that challenge your character and force them to grow.


Relationships: Developing relationships with other characters in the game, both positive and negative, to add complexity and depth to your character.


Mechanics: Using the mechanical elements of the game, such as race, class, skills, and abilities, to support and enhance your character concept.


Imagination: Allowing your imagination to run wild and create a character that is truly unique and stands out from the typical D&D archetypes.


Physicality: Paying attention to your character's physicality, including appearance, body language, and mannerisms, to bring them to life and make them feel real.


Mystery: Giving your character an air of mystery by leaving some aspects of their backstory, motivations, or abilities unclear, allowing for unexpected twists and turns in the game. This can add intrigue and depth to your character, and make them more memorable to other players.


  • By the way, if you are a completely new player and have never create a character, cast a new spell and don't yet know what a proficiency bonus or eldritch blast is, please read this article, because even if you haven't created a character before, this blog will enhance your role playing from the start.



Concept

Let’s imagine you have a new idea for a character and want to create a thief; you’ve played warriors and spell casters with magical powers and now you want a character that uses skills like subterfuge, deception and stealth. This kind of skill demands a different type of role playing if you want to survive, and a different type of role playing requires us to think up a different type of character.


You might have a highly defined idea of the sort of thief you want to create or it might be more lose to begin with. In some ways, the latter is a better starting point, because as you add skills, items and background to your character a picture of them will start to emerge. You might decide that a particular weapon, say a bow, isn’t really consistent with their life or story. If you can start to see that then it indicates that a character concept is starting to emerge.

Your initial character concept might simply be a ‘sense’ of the character, you might see them as proud, defiant, angry, bitter, playful or cynical. That core emotional energy to the character can often be enough to start developing them and can help inform what skills and items they end up with.

When creating a character concept, it's important to consider what sets them apart from other characters in the game. This could be a quirky personality trait, a strong moral code, or a singular life goal. For example, a character may have a strong sense of justice and always do what's right, no matter the consequences. Or, a character may have a goal to find a lost artifact and will stop at nothing to achieve it.


Having a clear idea of who your character is and what they want gives direction to the rest of your character creation. It influences their backstory, personality, goals, and even their relationships with other characters. It makes it easier to make decisions about your character's actions in the game, as you always know what drives them and what they're working towards.


In short, starting with a clear idea of who your character is and what they want is a crucial step in writing a great D&D character and sets the stage for an engaging and memorable role-playing experience.


Without a core concept, we can end up with a directionless party member, which is no fun for anyone.


Role playing a directionless character can be problematic for several reasons:


  • Lack of engagement: Without a clear goal or direction, a character may lack motivation and become passive in the game, leading to a lack of engagement for both the player and other players.


  • Boredom: A directionless character can quickly become boring for both the player and other players, as there is no driving force behind their actions or decisions.


  • Difficulty in role-playing: A directionless character can be difficult to role-play as their motivations and actions are unclear, making it challenging to stay in character and remain consistent.


  • Lack of conflict: A character without a clear goal or direction is less likely to experience conflict, either internally or with other characters, which can lead to a less dynamic and less interesting game experience.


  • Reduced impact on the story: A directionless character is less likely to have a significant impact on the story, as they lack a clear motivation or purpose. This can result in a less memorable character that lacks meaningful relationships and experiences, and little or no character development


Backstory


You have a backstory, I have a backstory. We tell it to others when we get to know them (or to people who don’t know us, but this is really boundaryless stuff and can be weird). The reason why our stories are important is because they explain how we got to ‘now’.

If your thief is sat in a tavern in a small village with other adventurers, some of whom they might have known for an hour or two, there has to be some coherent reason why they are there. If we fall back on the line that ‘my thief is a thief and likes thieving, and that’s all there is to it’ - which, by the way, there’s nothing inherently wrong with, we’re missing out a big part of the business of role playing.

Part of role playing is the inhabiting of the character, understanding their motivations and drives. This can only be done by understanding their past.

Developing a rich history and backstory for your character is a key aspect of writing a great D&D character. This history and backstory should inform their motivations, skills, and abilities and help to create a well-rounded and believable character.


When creating a character's backstory, consider their childhood, family life, education, and any significant events that have shaped who they are today. Think about what experiences have moulded their personality, shaped their moral code, and influenced their skills and abilities. For example, a character who grew up in poverty may have developed a strong sense of resourcefulness and cunning, while a character who grew up in a wealthy family may have a strong sense of entitlement and privilege.

In addition to helping to flesh out your character, a well-developed backstory can also provide opportunities for role-playing and conflict. For example, a character who has a tragic past may have an intense inner struggle that affects their actions and decisions in the game, while a character with a strong sense of loyalty to their family may find themselves torn between their duty to their family and their duty to their companions.


Sometimes the business of understanding your character’s past uncovers aspects of the character that might even present them with problems in the future. The character might have been accused of a great betrayal, or even be a fugitive. Don’t fear this, these are opportunities to give the character depth and substance, instead imagine that you are a movie screen writer creating a complicated but relatable protagonist.





Goals

Whatever your character is or isn’t, they can’t be devoid of motivation. They are about to participate in some great drama with the rest of the group, some epic story of life, love, adventure, betrayal, fire, blood, loss and triumph.


They have to have things they are striving towards, even if these goals aren’t immediately recognisable to the likes of you and I.


Giving your character clear and achievable goals is a key aspect of writing a great D&D character. Goals provide direction and motivation for your character, giving them purpose and making them feel more real and engaging.


The goals have to make sense, however, and fit in with the wider context of the character, and they shouldn’t be contradictory (ideally), but if they are then that also adds to the complexity of the character’s story and might even present the character with a dilemma.


When creating goals for your character, it's important to consider their personality, background, and motivations. For example, a character who is driven by a strong sense of justice may have a goal to bring a notorious criminal to justice, while a character with a thirst for adventure may have a goal to explore uncharted territories.


Having clear goals also helps to drive the story forward and creates opportunities for conflict and growth. For example, a character's goal to find a lost artefact may bring them into conflict with other characters who also seek the artefact, while their journey to achieve the goal may lead to personal growth and development.


It's also important to make sure your character's goals are achievable within the context of the game. Setting unrealistic or unachievable goals can lead to frustration and a lack of satisfaction for both the player and other players.


Part of the fun is that we’re giving the GM something to work with here. If the PC is driven by the desire to reclaim a family heirloom, lost to the evil ruler of another realm then the GM might be able to weave this into the next campaign.




Conflict

Just as a character needs to have motivation, they should also have experienced profound conflict or struggle, either internal or external in their backstory. This doesn’t mean that the character must necessarily have endured warfare, but a character that has struggled is always more compelling and interesting than one who has not.


Creating internal and external conflicts for your character is an important aspect of writing a great D&D character. Conflict provides challenges and obstacles for your character to overcome, which can lead to personal growth and development. An example of an external struggle might be the battle with a nemesis that has shaped the character’s journey. It might be the fall of some great project that the character was involved in, such as the collapse of a nation, a citadel, a secret society.


Internal conflicts refer to the struggles and dilemmas that your character faces within themselves. For example, a character who is torn between their loyalty to their family and their loyalty to their companions is experiencing an internal conflict. Sometimes players shy away from creating these sorts of contradictions in their character, they simply imagine that getting the character to their optimum level of power to go dungeon delving is the name of the game.


Well kinda, and kinda not. Whilst creating inner tension is by no means compulsory, it is the kind of complexity that creates characters in the first place. Every great dramatic figure from Hamlet to Michael Corleone was the product of internal tension and conflict. If you want to do great role playing, think of how to create great dramatic energy around your character.

Developing relationships

How do all the characters know one another? Are some of them related? Are others old friends? Do some have master-servant relations to one another? Are some of the characters strangers and if so do they get on with one another or do they clash? Is there a love interest?


Sometimes as a player or a GM you have to tread carefully when introducing intra party dynamics, people can get very attached to their characters and might not necessarily appreciate connections with other characters being imposed (it’s something to discuss with other players and if you really want to create a family for your PC to adventure with, make a couple of additional characters of your own).


with other characters in the game is an important aspect of writing a great D&D character. Relationships, both positive and negative, add complexity and depth to your character, making them feel like a real and fully realized person.


Positive relationships, such as friendships and alliances, can provide support and resources for your character, while also adding depth and dimension to the relationships between characters. For example, a character who has a close relationship with a mentor may turn to that person for guidance and support, while a character who is part of a tight-knit group of adventurers may rely on their companions for backup in battles.


Negative relationships, such as rivalries and conflicts, can provide challenges and obstacles for your character, forcing them to grow and develop in new ways. For example, a character who has a deep-seated hatred for a rival may be driven to defeat them at all costs, while a character who is constantly at odds with a powerful organization may need to rely on their wit and cunning to outmaneuver their opponents.


In addition to adding depth and dimension to your character, relationships can also provide opportunities for role-playing and conflict. For example, a character's loyalty to their friends may be tested when they are asked to betray their companions, while a character's rivalry with a powerful enemy may escalate into a dangerous and life-threatening situation.


Mechanics

When you come to designing your character, the dice will decide much of what there is to say about them. If you are using pure randomness to determine the character stats, then the PC might turn out to be stronger, weaker, smarter or more dull than you’d predicted. If you character is a ruthless assassin but also has a high charisma score, they might use charm and persuasion to fulfill their goals more than just the tip of a blade. Automatically, we can start to imagine a different sort of character. If you had hoped for a giant and they turn out to be slight, then the way you think and feel about the character (assuming you don’t just roll up something completely different) will change.


Using the mechanical elements of the game, such as origin (we don’t use the word race in this blog), class, skills, and abilities, is an important aspect of writing a great D&D character. These mechanical elements can support and enhance your character concept, making them feel like a real and fully realized person.


Origin can provide important context for your character's background, culture, and motivations. For example, a character who is an elf may have a strong connection to nature and a rich cultural history, while a character who is a dwarf may have a talent for crafting and a deep love of gold. You can also turn these lazy, boring old cliches on their head as well and have dwarves that aren’t motivated by gold and elves that don’t stand around contemplating the beauty of sunlit glades all day long.


Class provides a structure for your character's skills and abilities, as well as a set of rules and guidelines for how they should behave in the game world. For example, a character who is a wizard may have a strong connection to magic and a thirst for knowledge, while a character who is a rogue may have a talent for stealth and a quick wit. Again, there are opportunities to mess with these conventions, what if you had an accidental wizard who was forced to learn magic to save themselves but has little innate interest in it or affinity for it.


Skills and abilities can help to define your character's strengths and weaknesses, as well as provide opportunities for role-playing and conflict. For example, a character who is skilled in archery may be a valuable asset in battles, while a character who is unable to swim may struggle when they are required to cross a river.





Imagination

Allowing your imagination to run wild is an important aspect of writing a great D&D character. This means breaking away from typical D&D archetypes and creating a character that is truly unique and stands out from the crowd. You can do this by exploring different personalities, motivations, and abilities, and by combining elements from different classes, races, and backgrounds to create something that is truly original.


Remember that the character you are creating is to all intents and purposes unique, it is the product of your thoughts and ideas and experiences and so it doesn’t need to be tied down to lazy old cliches (though some of these are quite good fun, if approached in the right way). As long as the back story doesn’t screw up the game play (not using it to make your character unbelievably powerful, for example), make it as exciting and incredible as possible. If your character has stepped out of another reality (and this fits with the tone of the game), then go with it.


Physicality

Paying attention to your character's physicality is an important aspect of bringing them to life and making them feel real. This includes details such as their appearance, body language, and mannerisms, which can help to bring your character to life and make them more memorable to other players. For example, a character who is always slouching and avoiding eye contact may come across as untrustworthy, while a character who is confident and carries themselves with an air of authority may be perceived as a natural leader. Often, one of the first things to be imagined is the physicality of the character, because that’s how we tend to imagine people, tall, short, imposing, slight.


Mystery

Finally, try to retain some mystery. One of the big problems with prequel movies that tell the story of the character’s development is the fact that it makes the character unbelievably boring. If everything is explained (or at least revealed too soon), then it becomes unfathomably dull and any sense of mystery is lost.


Giving your character an air of mystery is a great way to add depth and intrigue to your character, and make them more memorable to other players. This can be achieved by leaving some aspects of their backstory, motivations, or abilities unclear, allowing for unexpected twists and turns in the game. For example, a character who has a dark secret from their past may be hesitant to reveal too much about themselves, or a character who has a hidden ability may only reveal it in a critical moment.


We can even decide that part of our character’s story can remain mysterious or unknown even to us, the player. Think of a character in a movie or a book who fascinates you and you can’t quite stop thinking about, are they a puzzle to be solved, a mystery to be understood? They almost always are.


Allow just a small part of your character’s back story to remain unknown to you and this will bring about a powerful and almost insatiable curiosity within you and others to know all about them.


Conclusion

It’s easy to throw together a character sheet, but the character sheet and the character are not the same thing. It takes time and patience to develop a fascinating character back story and history, and without it the very first scene of the adventure makes little sense. We will know what is happening but not know why our character is there to witness or participate in any of it.


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