Xanathar & How-To DM: Character Creation Guidelines

First and foremost, before I get into anything else, or do anything else, here he is, in all of his hateful and dreadful glory, The Xanathar:

Isn’t he just the cutest?!

Just…that way he looks like he’s going to either not kill you outright or disintegrate you?

And even from the rear, you just KNOW one of those eye stalks are going to turn any moment and hit you with…I don’t know…SOMETHING…and it’s going to be bad either way…ahem.

SO! That’s The Xanathar. He’s done. Finally. It’s been a journey, Dear Readers, but he is totally done, and I’m mostly happy with the job I did. Sure, I could have done a better job with the shading, and I likely will go back with a light gloss over him later, but for all intents and purposes, he’s done. Speaking of which, did you like the base? I was particularly proud of how I did on the base, and will likely paint the edge around it black. If I do, I’ll post pictures, I promise.

Now, for the “How-To DM”!

There are a lot of ways and means to make a character. But what ways do you allow your players to do so for your characters?

Resources

Which resources do you allow? For some venues, the Player’s Handbook may be all that is needed. For some players, though, that’s never enough! And there are a plethora of resources, just from Wizards of the Coast.

Popular ones include (links to buy online at the end!):

  1. The Sword Coast Adventurers Guide
  2. Volo’s Guide to Monsters
  3. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (very popular nowadays)
  4. The Upcoming Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft (available for preorder only at the moment)

On top of that, there are other entire settings with character options:

  1. Eberron: Rising from the Last War
  2. Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
  3. Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica
  4. Mythic Odysseys of Theros

Add to that, Wizards of the Coast published several things with just racial options:

  1. One Grung Above
  2. The Tortle Package

So what do you allow? Well, depending on your individual campaign, you may allow some, none, or all of it. Do be wary, however, of what you allow. Something balanced for one campaign setting may not be so balanced for yours…you’ve been warned.

Ability Score Generation

I feel like I’m wandering into controversial territory here, but I shall wade the waters carefully…

There are several ways of doing character creation that I have seen.

  1. Standard array: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 then put them where you want them. Easy peasy lemon squeezey.
  2. Point Buy – A semi-complicated system in which all stats begin as 8’s and you have a pool of points with which to buy increases to each stat. You get 27 points and it’s one point per increase. So if you wanted to increase one stat to a 10, it would cost you two points. It nets you the same as the standard array, but gives you a little more customization.
  3. Roll 4d6 dropping the lowest, and do this six times. Easily the oldest and one of the most popular methods of rolling stats, in my opinion. This one goes back many editions. Granted, it used to be sometimes as bad as 3d6 six times, leave them where they lay, in other words, you roll strength first. Roll 3d6. Got a 15? you’re likely playing a fighter-type. Then Intelligence (that used to come straight after Str back in the day). Got a lucky 18 Intelligence? Hoo-boy! Guess who’s playing the wizard! That method fell out of style, but it was interesting.
  4. Some modified form of above. I’ve seen some DMs use a stat array that is higher, like 18, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10 to make his player characters truly superhuman (and scaling everything accordingly), and then another making a small modification: 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10 because he felt that no hero should have even one stat below that of a commoner. You do you but be prepared for the potential consequences.

Races

With Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything racial ability score changes don’t really matter any more. Now you can play a half-orc with an Intelligence bonus if you like. And that’s fine.

Me? I’m a traditionalist. That’s why I generally don’t allow that option. Heck, it was a while before I even allowed the variant human!

Again, you do you, but beware the homebrew. It is very easy to introduce an overbalanced hombrew race, and I cannot stress this enough. Learn from my mistakes…

Classes

Having class options is important. What those class options are, even moreso.

There is a famous bunch of voice actors that play D&D on a streaming service I follow. The first campaign season of these folks had one player playing a fighter subtype class called the gunslinger. The original needed a bit of work, due to the nature of how powerful the class was, and was revised to where it stands now.

Now, they were playing in a homebrew world with this new homebrew class. If you want your party/allow your players to test new homebrew materials to see how well they work, that’s perfectly fine. That said, the caveat should be that, if things don’t balance very well, then everyone should be willing to reassess the class and try to balance it out more.

Backgrounds

These are always fun, especially with players that put some effort into their character’s backstories. There are many and varied backgrounds, even some tailored to fit with a class.

Then there are those that were made for specific campaigns, but fit well in just about any campaign. Some examples include:

  1. Anthropologist/Archeologist (out of Tomb of Annihilation)
  2. Boros Legionnaire (Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica)
  3. Celebrity Adventurer’s Scion (Adventurers Inc.)
  4. Entertainer (Player’s Handbook)

Note that each background comes from a different type of source. The first comes out of an adventure module, in which the players are exploring a near-forgotten jungle land. The next comes out of a completely different campaign world where the whole world is a giant city, the next from a book detailing how to turn your adventuring campaign into a business. The last comes straight out of the Player’s Handbook. You can find background options in many sources, and not all are balanced for the average campaign setting, or, for that matter, even fit into every campaign setting.

Again, beware of homebrew here. It’s very easy to break a background. Remember that a background is not a class nor a race, and shouldn’t be treated as such. If your homebrew background is giving you stat increases, a hundred gold (after equipment purchases), and major class-features, it’s probably not a good idea to use it…

In Conclusion

If there is one takeaway I want you to have from this, it would likely be to beware of hombrew unless your goal is to specifically test a homebrew race/class/background when doing character creation guidelines for your players. I’m not saying homebrew is bad, or that you should never use it, and far from it. Homebrew is one of the ways we got the current incarnation of the gunslinger, and why the blood hunter class is still being tested. Make sure you keep balance.

What do you think, Dear Readers? Was I way off the mark, or was I spot on? Let me know in the comments. Don’t forget to hit that like if you enjoyed this article, and if you haven’t already, subscribe to The Blog to keep getting regular updates!

Until next time, Dear Readers…

P.S. – If you purchase something from one of the links in my blog, I may get a small commission.

Published by The Daily DM

I'm just a DM telling the stories of my tables.

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