A Beginner’s Guide to Dungeons & Dragons (Part 2)

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on January 14, 2010

Welcome to the second installment of our Beginner’s Guide to Dungeons & Dragons. In our previous article we discussed the history of D&D and what a new player requires to get started in the hobby.

Today’s installment tackles the issue of character creation. There is a lot that goes into this aspect of the game and considering all of the elements carefully will lead to long term enjoyment while running your player character (PC). If you don’t give character creation proper consideration then you may not enjoy the campaign.

This series is primarily aimed at new players, but I would encourage long time fans of the game to chime in with any tips they have when considering character creation.

Article 1:
What Is Dungeons & Dragons
What Do You Need To Play

Article 2:
Creating a Character

Article 3:
Beyond The Basics

Creating a Character

The aim of this article isn’t to instruct you on the process of creating a character, the Player’s Handbook (PHB) covers the intricacies of that procedure. What most new players don’t consider are the motivations behind the decisions of creating a character.

At Dungeon’s Master we’ve written a few resources that may be of great use to new player’s in considering attribute selection. I would encourage player’s to read the following articles:

These articles can assist you in thinking about common questions that come up during character creation. They may also assist down the road as you consider how you will role play your new PC.

One element of character creation to be wary of is min/maxing. Min/maxing is when you sacrificing one aspects of the character to gain the greatest benefit in another (usually the one the PC already excels at). While this might make you the best at one particular element of the game, your PC may suffer during other aspects. You may also find that you get bored playing this character very quickly.

One of the first aspects of character creation that I consider before I even crack open the PHB is what do I want to play? What style of character? Am I aiming to play a melee combatant or a spellcaster? Do I want to absorb damage or dish it out? Answering these basic questions will help determine which role and class you will select.

For example, you may want to play a divine character but the idea of providing buffs and healing doesn’t appeal to you. You’d rather control the battlefield and assist your allies in this way. As a result the Invoker would be an enjoyable class for you to play.

The next question to consider is what motivates your PC? Do they have an ambition beyond adventuring? Perhaps they long to be King, or simply to elevate their status above that of peasant. Is there some injustice that was committed against the PC that needs to be addressed? Perhaps they are a Robin Hood figure fighting for the rights of those who are unable to fight for themselves. There are many motivations to choose from and getting this right will help you role play the character that much better down the road.

During this process you will also want to speak with your DM about what you can expect from the campaign. Some generic background information can assist you with developing a convincing history for your PC.

Other sources you will want to investigate are fiction, film and television. Look for interesting archtypes and character quirks that you can implement with your character. While you may want to avoid certain overplayed character concepts you will find a great deal of inspiration from these sources. Mixing and matching various elements from different fictional characters can be great fun and provide you with a very unique PC.

Below are a series of questions that you should consider when creating your PC. Some, like your PCs name, may sound like an obvious aspect of creating a character, but coming up with a good name can make or break your PC.

  1. What is your character’s name?
  2. What does your PC look like?
  3. Describe your character’s childhood?
  4. Are your parents still alive?
  5. Do you have any siblings?
  6. Did you have any illnesses as a child?
  7. Did you have a role model growing up?
  8. What do you aspire to?
  9. Do you prefer to read books or get your hands dirty?
  10. Did you have a childhood nemesis?
  11. Did you serve in the army or a mercenary company?
  12. Did you fight in a war?
  13. What social class are you from? Lower, merchant, or noble?
  14. Are you in a relationship?
  15. Do you have any addictions?
  16. Have  you done anything that you regret?
  17. Do you belong to an adventuring company or guild?
  18. Do you prefer the city or natural environments?
  19. What is your most prized possession?
  20. Do you have a signature battle cry or saying?

While hardly a complete list of questions, these should get you thinking about your character beyond the basic framework provided in the PHB. The more details you can create, the more you will enjoy playing your PC.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Eldak the Mighty July 31, 2013 at 3:25 am

My only question, which is more of a poll, is that is it better sticking to one or two PCs, or make a new one every time. (I just want to know 1: how fun and 2: how helpful.)

2 Ameron (Derek Myers) August 1, 2013 at 2:02 pm

@Eldak the Mighty
This is really a matter of personal preference. Home campaigns will often span months of real time and many players relish the opportunity to develop a single character over time. With special games like D&D Encounters they are designed to be short and at the end you retire the character and build a new one for the next adventure. There are many examples of when you might want to create a throwaway character that you only plan to use once or twice, just to try a particular race or class. Personally I find playing one character from level 1 up through the levels is a lot of fun.

3 Bre September 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I was wondering if there was anything online that helps beginners understand the character process. I have found pathguy.com and got down the basics but it’s when skill points, weapons, ect come in on there that I kinda stop understanding what to do fully.

Any help would be awesome as I’ve wanted to play this since high school and now found people interested in it.

4 liam July 29, 2014 at 7:12 pm

I was wondering how much freedom you have when creating your character. And what I mean is this, you are given a choice on the class however if there is a class you want, but isn’t available can you just make one up? Creating abilities and such. An Ex: let’s say I want to play as a geomancer (able to shift the terrain and move/control earth) who’s race is a rock elemental, and I want this class to have field advantage boost as an ability. Is something like that possible??? I appreciate any reply

5 Ameron (Derek Myers) July 30, 2014 at 8:53 am

@liam
If you’ve got an interesting character concept that you don’t think fits an existing class talk to the DM and see what the two of you can come up with. Just remember to keep it balanced against the other classes. What I’ve done in the past is taken an existing class and just called the powers and special abilities different things to better fit with the idea I’ve got in my head. Mechanically they work just like the existing abilities but it’s all in how they’re described during game play. Hope this helps.

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