When teaching my RPG course last year (So You Want to Slay a Dragon) I encountered the challenge of having many students who had never played RPGs all trying to create characters at the same time! It was a bit chaotic, with Player’s Handbooks and Basic Rules being passed around, and constant questions and confusion. So I went home and developed this little guide just to make it a bit easier the next day. It’s no magic bullet, but I did find it helped, so I’m going to post the same steps here in hopes that others may benefit from it as well, whether DMs with new players to help, or new players themselves. The PHB has instructions too, of course, but I think these are a nice clear companion to the PHB or free Basic Rules (you’ll still need one of those!), and they go in my preferred order.
D&D 5th Edition Character Creation
1 – Who is this character? Background, motivations, goals, personality, etc.
You may want to use a favorite fictional character as reference or inspiration. Optionally, you could write any background info on page 2 of the character sheet in the ‘character backstory’ section.
2 – Select a race and class
Remember that if you don’t have access to a Player’s Handbook you may want to stick to the races and classes in the free Basic Rules PDF.
3 – Determine Ability Scores – 6 numbers needed. Roll for them (4d6 drop the lowest), or take the standard array (see chapter 1). For now just keep them written on a scratch piece of paper.
4 – Record racial characteristics on your character sheet – Find the section on your race (chapter 2) and find the “_________ (your race) traits”. Record the necessary info in the ‘features and traits’, ability scores, and ‘proficiencies and languages’ section of your character sheet. You may not need to write everything down.
5 – Select a background and record any skills, equipment, or other features. Backgrounds can be found in chapter 4. Just pick one that you like and that makes sense to you. You may roll for the characteristics or just choose characteristics that fit your idea of your character. Feel free to tweak what they have written to fit the background and personality you want.
6 – Record Class information – Find your class in chapter 3. Record all the relevant info from the ‘class features’ section. After you do that go to the ‘Quick Build’ and follow the suggestions for where to place your ability scores. Place all 6 of your ability scores now. Don’t forget to add any racial bonuses to them. Determine your ability score modifiers by looking them up on the chart in chapter 1. Alternatively, you can take an ability score, subtract 10, then divide that by 2. Always round down. Example: 13 minus 10 is 3, divided by 2 is 1.5, rounding down gives us 1. Thus a modifier of +1 for an ability score of 13
If your class uses magic you’ll also want to figure out how that work and select your spells.
7 – Equipment – To make it easier, go through the equipment choices in your class section. Write it down in the equipment section. If you have armor and weapons you can now record armor class and weapon damage (attacks).
8 – Skills – Record your skill modifiers and saving throws (based on your ability score modifiers). You also get to add your proficiency bonus if you are proficient with that skill/saving throw.
Passive wisdom will be 10 plus your perception skill modifier. Initiative is simply your dexterity modifier.
9 – Loose ends – Anything still blank? If so, let me know. I’m happy to help!