Pretty much everyone’s first taste of Dungeons and Dragons is building a character. It’s a pretty daunting task initially and it puts a lot of people off to the tabletop game from the start. This guide will break down the steps of creating a D&D character.
The goal here is to make the process as simple as possible so that you’re able to get into your first game and really see what makes D&D a great RPG. However, creating the character is one of the most boundless things you can do in the game. Everything is on the table here, so use this as an opportunity to dig into your new character and really flesh them out.
Before you start, be sure to check out our Character Sheet Guide to find the best character sheet or pre-generated character. By the end of this article, you should have a character that is interesting and fun to play.
Step 1: Naming and Background
This is usually one of the last steps in making a character for D&D, but I find it’s beneficial to have this in mind before going forward. Figuring out what your name and background can help guide the choices to make on race, class, alignment, proficiencies, and equipment.
With that said, feel free to save this for later or even as a last step.
Naming Your Character
This is a pretty straightforward step in character creation. Just pick a name that seems cool to you. There are several sites that will even auto-generate names (like here or here), so you can just cycle through them until you land on one you like. There are also some places that have long lists of pre-made names that you can look through.
Overall, picking a name is pretty simple but a name can definitely guide the choice on race or class. You can either fit the race to the name or if you want to have some fun with it, make it completely opposite. Having a halfling running around with the name “Destroyer of Worlds” is fantastic.
Deciding on Your Background
Creating a background for your character is definitely more challenging than figuring out your character’s name. In D&D 5e there are about as many rules for choosing a background as there are for choosing your name.
Since you can come up with pretty much any background you want, it can be pretty difficult to come up with a backstory for your character.
Backgrounds are often tied to proficiency. For instance, a criminal will have deception and stealth. We’ll get to that proficiencies a little later in the article but it’s useful to keep in mind that choosing a background will tie into this later.
For your first character, choosing one of the 60 official backgrounds in the players’ handbook wouldn’t be a bad idea.
However, there are also hundreds of unofficial backgrounds to choose from as well.
Step 2: Deciding on a Race
This part is pretty easy. There is a list of races in D&D, pick whichever one sounds cool to you. Here are the general races in the game:
These races are the basic ones, you can find them all on the official D&D website. There are several more obscure classes that you can choose from. Not to mention, there are subrace you can apply to your character if you choose. For instance, some subraces for elves are High Elves, Wood Elves, and Dark Elves.
There are also tons of homebrew races you can find around the internet, which can either be used as-is or adjusted to your liking.
Your race will define the general look and feel of your character. So take your time to choose what race your character will be.
Step 3: Pick A Class
This is a pretty important step. Your class will determine what you can do in most situations in the game. It will determine if you’re good at bartering, a brute in combat, or can easily find hidden doors.
Your class will also come with some “class features” that are essentially special abilities only your class can use. On top of that, it will determine some of the proficiencies you have. So take your time when choosing your class.
There are 12 classes included in the Players Handbook:
You can read a little about each class on the official D&D website. Of course, just like most things in D&D, there are a ton of homebrew variations floating around the internet. While they may not be as well refined as the base classes, it’s fun to try out a crazy homebrew class once you’ve learned the basics from your first few sessions.
Step 4: Determining Your Ability Scores
There are 6 abilities in D&D:
The scores that each of these abilities has will decide what you can do in the game. Your race will increase certain abilities and your class will determine what abilities are particularly useful.
There are a couple of ways to determine your ability scores. We’ll dive into each of them so you can decide which you would like to use.
The Classic Method
Originally, the way ability scores were determined was by rolling 4 six-sided dice. You would pick the highest 3 numbers and add them together.
This was done for each ability. However, there is some randomness to this. So you could likely end up with a really good roll or really bad roll.
Some of the other methods mitigate the randomness but this is the classic way to do it and there is something special about doing things the way the game was designed.
This method is the least random but that also means it has the least amount of variation. Because of that, it can be a little less fun. However, it’s a great method for your first time playing D&D.
Take these 6 numbers:
Assign each one of those numbers to an ability. Naturally, you should assign the higher numbers to the ability that will help your class out the most.
This method, while not as exciting as rolling for abilities, will ensure you don’t end up with a terrible roll on your abilities.
This method has a little bit of what makes both of the previous methods good. It gives you a little flexibility so that you are not using the same numbers each time but also keeps you from having random ability scores through rolling.
Here’s how the method works:
- Each ability score starts out with 8 points
- You are given a pool of 27 points to put towards your choice of abilities
- No one ability can be over 15 (before race ability increases)
Again, a pretty simple but great way to reduce randomness and still have some variability in your characters each time.
Step 5: Deciding on Equipment
Just like with choosing your ability scores there are a couple of ways to do this. Both are pretty simple:
- Taking your class and background equipment
- Purchasing starting equipment
If you decide to take the equipment that is dictated by your class and background, there isn’t much else to do. You’re ready to get with your group and play.
However, if you decide to purchase your equipment you’ll roll 3-5 four-sided dice and multiply that result by 10. That’s your starting gold pieces. Then you can look through the list of equipment, and their prices, and decide which pieces you will buy.
Wrapping it Up
That’s a simple guide to creating a D&D character. Of course, D&D is a pretty expansive game, so here are some great links for some other information on character creation:
Also, pretty much any information you need in regards to D&D is available at DnD Beyond. I would highly recommend using the website to the fullest extent.