For this blog, I’m going to be talking directly to the players. The DMs get a break from constantly being told what to do, and now it’s the player’s turns. I’d like to discuss character creation because frankly, I know there are a lot of pitfalls and educating to be done just to complete the character sheet, let alone all the other good stuff you’d ideally like to know when partaking in some Dungeons and Dragons. I’m going to talk about five tips that should not only help you create a good character from the start, but keep that momentum going well into the campaign. Build a strong foundation here, and you could be in for one of the best campaigns you’ve ever taken part in.
Be realistic about your goals
Before you even consider any part of your character, you should be clear with yourself about what you want to get out of your game of D&D. You don’t necessarily have to tell your fellow players or DM, but you should know if you want to either kill stuff and be awesome, tell the tale of a realistic character with an inner conflict, have a gimmick such as you don’t speak or don’t like using weapons, etc. In whatever way you’re going to get your fun from the campaign, make sure you don’t let anyone tell you differently. If you get the most fun from finding the most broken character, go ahead – just don’t say it’s not true and you’re not a power gamer, because it sounds like you might be…
Likewise be honest about the reasons for playing a roleplaying game in the first place. Are you really that interested in the game, or are you mostly here to hang out with friends? Good test of this is, if the game never starts and everyone just keeps chatting and drinking beer, would you mind? If you’re there to ‘win’ the game, and be really good at it, that’s okay too. A bit of self-awareness can help you to create a character that aligns with what you want, as well as helping the DM know what kind of campaign to throw at you.
Use tools like DnD Beyond
I remember having to make my whole group’s characters using the Player’s Handbook, and it was, in a word, clunky. It took a long time, much page flipping back and forth, and players would have to either borrow the book or google things when they leveled up. Forget tradition, throw pens and paper out the window and use DnD Beyond, or other digital character creation sites. You can fiddle around with your character, it makes sure your character is legal and correct, it exports a lovely character sheet for you, it’s great on mobile for in-game tracking and you can share it with your DM as well!
By all means, have a skim through a PHB to get a flavour of the classes, races and backgrounds, but for building and maintaining a character, digital would be my recommendation.
Talk to the other players
If you’re taking part in a session 0, don’t just let the DM talk. Chat to the other players who you’ll be with, and take into account their characters and the party composition. Not just to make sure you don’t all hilariously take wizards, but to see if you can’t come up with some things your character thinks about the other party members. Perhaps think of one character that your character would really like and learn from, or maybe have friction with at first. You don’t want to come to the first session and meet all the party members for the first time – there won’t be time to think about what your character will think!
Consider the subclasses
Most classes don’t reach their subclass until one or two levels in, so consider how your character is going to make that change 3-5 sessions in. What will drive the change? Talk to the DM to see if there’s something they’re planning that can help accommodate that change in character. Some classes will need to exhibit those traits from the get-go – a arcane trickster rogue may mention how they’re learning magic, or better yet, convince a magical party member to teach them their first steps. A warlock may have just left a mercenary lifestyle, and so becoming a hexblade is a natural course.
This actually goes similarly with multi-classing too. If your character is going to change class throughout the campaign, it’s much cooler if it’s for an in-game reason rather than your out of game reason which will most likely be that the class isn’t as fun as you’d thought it’d be.
Work out your character’s inner tension
Characters are so much more interesting when they’re multidimensional, a good PC should bring a narrative to the party, otherwise they’re just blank protagonist #53. Have a goal, reservations about that goal, a driving force that means your on the path of the adventurer. Everyone in the modern world has a motivation for doing what they do on a day to day basis. It’s normally money, or to have fun. But inside each of us is a driving force to maybe fix an issue we’ve had from our past, stop worrying about something in the future, or solve something we’re struggling with in the present.
Bring that kind of feeling to your character. Yes maybe they’re after gold and that’s why they’re questing, but their driving inner force could be to work out if their religion is relevant at all within civilisation and their adventuring life. That causes an inner tension that can be slowly released out in character interactions, and is a huge connecting factor to the world you’re in. Suddenly anything about religion to your character is highly intriguing, and motivating. And if players ask or wonder why, then you’ve got yourself a nice little ongoing inter-party relationship there.
That’s my five tips for character creation everyone. If you have anything that you wished you’d known or found really useful after the fact, let me know in the comments because surely character sheets aren’t the be all and end all to prepare players for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign?