How To: Making a D&D Character

Monday is a great time to learn something new while the new week enthusiam is all still fresh, so enjoy a How-To on this lovely Monday!

If you don’t know too much about Dungeons and Dragons, you might imagine many things. Typically, I used to imagine something like this lovely portrait from Penny Arcade: Cheeto

Considering my husband’s friends, that’s probably a pretty accurate description of his gaming group as well. However, back in the day when we were dating, my husband wanted me to get involved, and being the good, geek girlfriend that I was, I said “Sure, what do I do?”

First of all, if you ever liked the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings and wanted to live in the Elven village and learn to read moon runes (just to clarify, that description is not me at all …), Dungeons and Dragons is awesome. You actually do get to be a character in that world. Then you get to go on adventures!

Anyway, what I’ve got here is a simple how-to not on the details of character making, but how to make it fun, interesting, and have a character that really speaks to you and plays well in a game! Use your handy Player’s Guide to fill in the gaps.

Step 1) Understand the World

Talk to you DM (Dungeon Master) about your world and what they are expecting. Ask about the diversity of the towns in terms of races. Determine whether special skills would be more useful, or if fighting ability would be most helpful. If there is some history on the story or the towns you will be in, make sure you get it ahead of time. Also, communicate with other members of your party. You want to spread the skill set amongst your party members. This means you can’t all be clerics. Deal with it.

Step 2) Character Traits

Think about what traits your particular character should have. What kinds of things motivate your character? Are they after money, power, or simply interested in helping the less fortunate? Consider during this time things like how intelligent your character is, both in terms of book smarts and street smarts. Is your character the type who would be large and menacing or small and easily able to hide. Can your character take a good hit like Rocky or can they easily maneuver and dodge? If you can make a list of what you imagine for your character now, it will be easier to match up to the right types later. Try and have about 10 character traits that are important to you.

Step 3) Appropriate Race, Class, and Alignment

This is the first place where things begin to come together. You need to work within the world provided by the DM to choose an appropriate race, class, and alignment that works well with your character traits. If you want to be a big, scary individual, a human, barbarian, or half-orc might work. If you see your character as smaller, there are halflings and dwarves. I once made a halfling pickpocket, just at the height of most pockets! I know we all love elves, but women tend toward elves, so only choose elf or half-elf if it makes sense with your character.

Class and alignment tend to be well linked, and linked also to your traits. Does your character have a high intelligence and interests in magic or the natural world? Then a wizard or cleric might be for you. If you want fighters of sorts, consider the fighter (duh!) but also the monk and the paladin. Monks and paladins are by nature lawful, so consider that when choosing! If you want a character with more street-smarts or perhaps the ability to survive in the wilderness, look into a rogue or ranger. Consider the world you are in when choosing alignment, as well as your character. If you need to accomplish some less-than-legal things on your quest, choosing lawful might not be smart. On the other hand, if your character values money over life, they might be neutral or evil. I like chaotic, because it gives you some leeway to do strange things! However, if your character has traits such as logical thought and following rules as often as possible, neutral good or true neutral might make sense. Alignment is the closest thing you have to a personality, choose carefully!

Step 4) Backstory

I like to always have at least a partial backstory for my character. You don’t want anything too specific since the DM is creating your world, but some simple childhood stories that have shaped your character can really help you get inside their head for a much more fun game. My current character lost both his parents around age 5 and grew up on the streets. He is a chaotic neutral rogue human with massive hiding, lockpicking, and moving silently skills.

Step 5) Allotting Ability Scores

This is where you numerically determine what you are and are not good at. Consider first what your class requires. For example, monks need dexterity and wisdom, rogues need dexterity, wizards need intelligence, and fighters need strength. These numbers also build back into your character traits. A character who is street smart but not book smart might have a high wisdom and a low intelligence. A fighter with a high constitution can be hit harder than usual and still bounce back. Someone who prefers to dodge a fight might need some excellent dexterity. If you intend to interact with people, either through intimidation or banter, you will want a high charisma score. If you are a loner, you might a lower charisma. So, this who you are, numerically. For the record, I am personally INT 16, WIS 9, CHA 13, DEX 10, STR 8, and CON 14. My current character is more like INT 9, WIS 13, CHA 14, DEX 16, STR 8, and CON 11. Lots of possibilities.

Step 6) Choosing Equipment

This is partially your choice and partially determined by the rules of the DM and costs involved. You need armor of some kind (unless you are a kick-ass who-needs-protection monk!), and consider how much it will help or hinder things like movement if you want to be good at moving silently and dodging. On the other hand, fighters, consider how many hits you might take! Weapon is important, handheld weapons require strength and ranged dexterity, so think about those things. Give yourself options if you can! Sure, a crossbow is awesome, but having a dagger on hand can be important too. Also, look for goodies that are appropriate to you, healer kits, thieves tools, wilderness gear, and other fun things (disguise kit anyone!) can really come through at tough spots.

Some final tips and thoughts for you.

First of all, never assume that as a woman you have to play a woman. It can be great fun to play a male character both in terms of thinking from a different point of view and interacting in different ways with your party members, both in the game and in person. After trying to play a male character, sometimes I think about guys from a totally new point of view!

Always ask questions of your DM about everything! They might not know all the answers, but you can learn lots about the world of your game and sometimes discover hidden gems of D&D that change the game play in interesting ways. Even after a few years of playing, we still come across a new idea that we then need to look up in the guides and often changes aspects of the game play. However, don’t forget that the DM is God(dess), so if they say no, that’s it. Otherwise, you might find yourself under a dying curse!

That is my quick introduction to creating a fun, interesting, Dungeons and Dragons character. I feel like you have more fun playing D&D when you are invested in the game, and it is easier to be invested in the game when you are invested in your character. Now, get out there and have some absolutely fabulous role-playing fun!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Renae
    Feb 02, 2011 @ 21:57:47

    Thanks so much for post a blog about this!!!


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