So… your first D&D session is coming up and you are nervous about making your first character. While you feel stuck in uncertainty, you’re still excited, and you have a few priorities going in:
- You want your first character creation to be simple and easy
- You want someone relatable to role-play
- You don’t want a character that’s basic or boring
- You don’t want someone so complex it prevents you from having fun
First of all, if you are nervous, know we’ve all been there!
Starting out in anything can be intimidating, but especially when that thing involves acting and cooperation with people you might not know very well.
You are not alone; you are in good company 🙂
With that said, be encouraged; you have no need to worry! Not only is there a wealth of resources at your disposal, but it is surprisingly easy to create a character that is fun AND memorable to role-play.
It doesn’t require you to be a storytelling master, drama major in college, or fantasy fanatic.
All it requires is asking yourself a few questions, picking what you prefer, and fitting it all together… easy peasy!
NOTE: If you are looking for a blog post that can tell you what kind of weapons or armor or spells and abilities, what you are asking about are the mechanics, rather than the role-playing aspect of the game. You can find those elsewhere on the internet. Just search “what D&D class should I play?” and many sites will offer you excellent options.
What follows are 11 simple, easy questions to ask yourself when creating your first character. Even if you only implement half of these, your character will stand out as interesting not only to you, but to everyone at the table!What’s the Player Character’s (PC’s) purpose?
1. What’s the Player Character’s (PC’s) purpose?
Just like in the real world, denizens of D&D want to contribute to society. Your character should want to do something good that helps build a better world. Think of some problems in the world: injustice, peace on earth, hunger, environmentalism… choose one “cause” for your character and ask your DM to help you integrate it into the adventure. How does the PC need to change/grow?
2. How does the PC need to change/grow?
This is the most important question you have to answer! If your character is going on a journey, they need to have some inner conflict to resolve along the journey. They may have a purpose to help the world, but that’s not their main motivation. What drives them needs to come from within. Example: Luke Skywalker wanted to defeat the empire, but it was actually more important that he avenge his father that was killed by Darth Vader.What are their values?
3. What are their values?
Everyone, no matter how good, has a shadow side. And even the most evil people have bright and shining spots of their hearts. No matter what your character does or who they are, give them at least one virtue (hope, courage, etc.) and one vice (lust, jealously, etc.). Nothing is as boring as a character that is 100% good or 100% evil! What do they wear?
4. What do they wear?
It’s likely that the characters in your party will be wearing some semblance of medieval attire. And for the most part, no one will refresh the collective imagination by redescribing their character every single turn. So be sure there is a single piece of clothing, something unique that stands out, that everyone can associate with your character. Do they do anything odd?
5. Do they do anything odd?
You can always say “my character is nervous”. But talking as your character while biting your nails, or scratching your head, can make your character come alive. Pick an emotion your character will probably feel a lot throughout the campaign and assign a physical tick to go along with it. Your fellow players will pick up quick! What is their family like?
6. What is their family like?
Lots of characters in D&D are orphans, and there is nothing wrong with that. But if your character has a big loving family, you can be sure that family will come up in the campaign. EVERYBODY remembers family drama, even in imaginary table-top settings!Where does your PC owe allegiance?
7. Where does your PC owe allegiance?
While some people are true hermits, most people have their roots in society in some way. Allegiances can be lowly (local tavern, guilds, underworld thieves) or lofty (nation-states, religions, academies). Consider where your PC feels most at home and what groups might share their values. Do they have any phrases they repeat?
8. Do they have any phrases they repeat?
Are there particular words and phrases your PC uses that most other people don’t? This can be personal catchphrases, cultural idioms, varying levels of manners… Even if its silly, meaningfless, and stupid (ie. Michael Scott’s constant “that’s what she said”)… people will remember it if they are well timed and funny! What are their hobbies?
9. What are their hobbies?
Most people in real life are not blood thirsty murder-hobos! We go to work, get paid, and ALSO enjoy a host of other things. Make your character no different. Give them interests to talk about when they are not fighting. Or pleasures to pursue when they are in town in between adventures.Give them a special weapon or magical thingy:
10. Give them a special weapon or magical thingy:
Being in a fantasy adventure, this goes without saying. Frodo has Sting, Arthur has Excalibur, Harry Potter got the elder wand. Your 1st level character probably should not have the foretold weapon of unimaginable power… but giving a weapon cool name or unique description is never a bad idea! What’s the PC’s backstory?
11. What’s the PC’s backstory?
This is the last step! Do not start here! Looking at the character you have so far that you know you want to play, come up with a short summary of their life that explains why they are the way they are. This is not an excuse to write a 10-page novella, nor is stating “Its Geralt from Witcher” appropriate. Honestly, 5-8 sentences is good. Just a little story explaining where you came from, how you got to wherever the party is meeting up, and a memory your character would have that compels them to adventure. BONUS: How do they talk?
12. BONUS: How do they talk?
For many people, especially beginners, this is the most intimidating part of D&D. And it’s true that people will get a good laugh as you try to figure out exactly how your character talks and sounds.
That said, I really want to encourage you to give it a try! Giving your character a unique voice helps the whole table collectively have a more vivid imagination. Even though they see you in your street clothes, they will hear your voice and see your character rather than you! It’s a part of the mysterious magic that makes D&D amazing.
There you have it: 11 (plus one!) simple questions you can ask yourself to easily build an interesting D&D character!
But that said, there is no “winning” in D&D, so like Captain Barbossa said, think of these as “guidelines rather than actual rules”. Whatever questions you choose to use, it needs to be someone you enjoy role playing! So however you do it, if your character is an imagined, living, breathing person, even the most grizzled veteran will be impressed. And you’ll have a rewarding D&D experience you’ll never forget!