Creating A Character Around A Concept

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on August 17, 2010

Character concepts come from a myriad of sources. Sometimes we take an idea that is tried, tested and true. On other occasions we branch out and try new builds. Of course loading up Character Builder and looking for the optimal combination of class, race and feats can be a lot of fun and very satisfying.

For many character concepts we draw inspiration for a variety of sources. Whether this is fiction, personality quirks, or mastery of a weapon this single concept can lead to a deep and complex character.


Novels, movies, and television are all phenomenal ways of researching a character concept. Use what you find and bring it to life in the form of a new D&D character. The beauty of these mediums is that you do not need to confine yourself only to traditional fantasy sources. While fantasy sources are obviously great and require less work, there is no reason why a modern or futuristic character can’t be used to inspire a D&D hero. Just look at how we used the television show Lost as inspiration to create familiar characters in D&D terms, re-imagining them as D&D racees and classes in Lost in Eberron. One of my previous characters was based on Indiana Jones. He was a Bard who taught at university during down time between adventures. You can always “borrow” a traditional archetype and use that as a character concept as we previously discussed in Playing a Recognizable Archetype.

Personality Quirks

Often our inspiration for our characters will come from a single personality trait, quirk or distinguishing feature. A character with a pronounced limp or a limb that doesn’t work properly. Maybe the character has a lisp or a physical disability. From this quirk comes a full fledged description of the character. Perhaps a slumped shoulder is from an old war wound or facial scars from a magic experiment gone awry.


Perhaps it’s the desire to be like Drizzt, but more than one character I’ve developed has been inspired by weapon choices. From dual wielding daggers, axes and short swords I’ve used almost every combination I can think of – except scimitars. Other times I want a Fighter who can use an axe like Druss could in Legend. Perhaps it isn’t weapons at all, but physical perfection that you seek making Bruce Lee or Jet Li the inspiration for your character.

When looking at weapons as a source of inspiration you can take two points positions. First is the cool factor where you aren’t concerned with damage output. Instead you want a concept that is interesting. Perhaps a spiked chain, whip or a character who throws daggers. The second concept is damage output, you are looking for the biggest, baddest weapon you can find. With this in mind it’s simply determining what weapon type you are looking for and then taking the necessary weapon proficiency feat.

There are various ways to design a concept for your character. I’ve only touched on three ways to begin designing a character. There are many other options available to use. How do you design the concept for the characters do you play?

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1 Gestalt Gamer August 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I really liked this post I think its important for characters to be made around a strong concept. I have my own post on using the socratic method of asking questions to come up with a functional personality for a character.

I really like what you are doing and if you don’t mind I am going to add you to my blogroll.

– Gestalt Gamer

2 Wimwick August 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm

@ Gestalt Gamer
I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I agree a strong theme or idea is essential for a long lasting and memorable character. I enjoyed your Socratic method of character creation. Next in this series from me is more of a role playing methodology for creating a character concept.

3 Gestalt Gamer August 17, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Thank you,

clicking through your archives you guys have alot going on, take a look at my stuff and if you like it I’d love to trade links on our pages.

– Gestalt Gamer

4 skywise32 August 18, 2010 at 2:09 pm

How about basing a character concept around a fictional character that is less known than your usual Conan, Drizzt, or Raistlin character? I based a bard character on Pocket from Christopher Moore’s ‘Fool’. Check it out here, at my blog:

5 Vance August 19, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I think it’s perfectly natural for most folks to use fictional characters as their basis.

For the Eberron campaign I’m in, I based my Eladrin Wizard on Mr. Spock. He’s very logical, to balance out the wildly disparate personalities at that particular table.

In another campaign where I play a Goliath Barbarian, I was inspired by a piece of artwork I found when searching Google for a character pic. A massive Goliath covered in a bearskin wielding a large axe. I liked the pic so much I based my character around it. I speak in the voice of Conan for humor’s sake, but that’s about all I borrowed from that character. In my backstory, someone had once told him that halflings were delicious, so I gave him a craving for roasted halfling that he was only just recently able to satisfy.

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