PREREQUISITE: Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Handbook
The first time you make a character in Dungeons & Dragons it could literally take hours. Mine did at least. Ideally, you should invest time into crafting your character’s backstory, personality traits, flaw, bonds, and nuances; but sometimes you need a character on the fly or you don’t have the time to invest when you’re in a pinch. Follow this guide and you’ll quickly make a character in under 10 minutes.
STEP 1: DETERMINE YOUR ABILITY SCORES
Every player character in D&D has abilities: Strength (Str), Dexterity (Dex), Constiution (Con), Intelligence (Int), Wisdom (Wis), and Charisma (Cha).
These ability scores are determined by a score between 1 – 20 that translate to abilities modifers of -5 through +5. You take these scores and apply them each uniquely to a single ability score. There are a couple ways to determine these abilities scores depending the amount of time and risk your dungeon master chooses to take. Here are the details of each method.
Point Buy Method (zero risk)
The point buy method provides you with a pool of 27 points. Each ability score from 8 – 15 costs a different amount of points to buy; there’s a table at the bottom of page 13 in the PHB that shows the cost of each ability score. This will allow you to “min-max” your ability scores; as an example: 15, 15, 15, 8, 8, and 8.
The Standard Stack Method (marginal risk)
The stand stack is balanced set of ability scores that can be taken with a goal of keeping all player characters on the “same level.” Since this method is balanced, it will leave you with some low scores, some high scores, and some in the middle; thus it’s has a marginal risk.
The standard stack is the following ability scores: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8.
Roll Method (risky)
This is the most risky method since you are randomly determining your ability scores, but it tends to be the most fun. You will roll 4d6 and drop the lowest roll. Do this 6 times and it will leave you with 6 ability scores to assign to your abilities. It’s very simple, but can provide a fun dynamic to your character if you roll high and low.
Determine Your Ability Modifiers
Go to page 13 in the PHB and consult the table on the top-left corner of the page: “Ability Scores and Modifiers.” Take your ability score and reference the table to find the corresponding ability modifier. I prefer to write my ability scores and modifiers into the character sheet like this:
STEP 2: CHOOSE YOUR RACE
Everyone has a race they originated from that helped shape the person they have become. So, what are you?
Are you an elegant Moon Elf, a stout Mountain Dwarf, or a resourceful Human? Every character is apart of a race. They have a standard for the way they look, what their demeanor is. Every race has natural talents and abilities they are known for, an ancestry that helps shape their motives and beliefs.
Below I’ve listed each race from the Player’s Handbook and Volo’s Guide to Monsters and the page numbers they start on so that you can quickly make a character.
D&D 5e Races and Page Numbers
- Aasmir (Volo, pg. 104)
- Dragonborn (PHB, pg. 32)
- Dwarf (PHB, pg. 18)
- Elf (PHB, pg. 21)
- Firbolg (Volo, pg. 106)
- Gnome (PHB, pg. 35)
- Goliath (Volo, pg. 108)
- Half-Elf (PHB, pg. 38)
- Halfing (PHB, pg. 26)
- Half-Orc (PHB, pg. 40)
- Human (PHB, pg. 29)
- Kenku (Volo, pg. 109)
- Lizardfolk (Volo, pg. 111)
- Tabaxi (Volo, pg. 113)
- Tiefling (PHB, pg. 42)
- Triton (Volo, pg. 115)
D&D 5e Monster Races and Page Numbers
- Bugbear (Volo, pg. 119)
- Goblin (Volo, pg. 119)
- Hobgoblin (Volo, pg. 119)
- Kobold (Volo, pg. 119)
- Orc (Volo, pg. 120)
- Yuan-Ti (Volo, pg. 120)
There are alternate additions to races that were introduced as part of Wizard’s Unearthed Arcana series. Here is an easy to use list of the Unearthed Arcana so you can check them out.
STEP 3: CHOOSE YOUR CLASS
Everyone has a path they have taken that defines what they do and their abilities. What do you do?
Are you a virtuoso bard, a cunning rogue, a weather-worn ranger, or a studious wizard? Your class is what your character does. It defines their abilities, their proficiencies, their saving throw abilities, and the equipment you start with.
Below I’ve listed each class from the Player’s Handbook and the page numbers they start on.
D&D 5e Classes and Page Numbers
- Barbarian (PHB, pg. 46)
- Bard (PHB, pg. 51)
- Cleric (PHB, pg. 56)
- Druid (PHB, pg. 64)
- Fighter (PHB, pg. 70)
- Monk (PHB, pg. 76)
- Paladin (PHB, pg. 82)
- Ranger (PHB, pg. 89)
- Rogue (PHB, pg. 94)
- Sorcerer (PHB, pg. 99)
- Warlock (PHB, pg. 105)
- Wizard (PHB, pg. 112)
There are alternate additions to classes that were introduced as part of Wizard’s Unearthed Arcana series. Here is an easy to use list of the Unearthed Arcana so you can check them out.
STEP 4: CHOOSE YOUR BACKGROUND
Everyone has a background that defines their past experiences, a life-changing event in their life, and the mission they have set out on. What’s yours?
Are you a religious acolyte, a womanizing charlatan, an outlandish noble, or a forgotten urchin? These are just examples of the standard backgrounds included in the PHB. Each background has roll-tables to help you determine your personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws. Most backgrounds have a roll-table for your life changing event as well. Backgrounds also come with additional equipment and skill proficiencies.
Below I’ve listed each background from the Player’s Handbook and the page numbers they start on.
D&D 5e Backgrounds and Page Numbers
- Acolyte (PHB, pg. 127)
- Charlatan (PHB, pg. 128)
- Criminal (PHB, pg. 129)
- Entertainer (PHB, pg. 130)
- Folk Hero (PHB, pg. 131)
- Guild Artisan (PHB, pg. 132)
- Hermit (PHB, pg. 134)
- Noble (PHB, pg. 135)
- Outlander (PHB, pg. 136)
- Sage (PHB, pg. 137)
- Sailor (PHB, pg. 139)
- Soldier (PHB, pg. 140)
- Urchin (PHB, pg. 141)
There are alternate additions to backgrounds that were introduced as part of Wizard’s Unearthed Arcana series. Here is an easy to use list of the Unearthed Arcana so you can check them out.
STEP 5: CHOOSE YOUR STARTING EQUIPMENT
Each class has a set of options for starting equipment. In each starting set of equipment there is a weapon or set of weapons, armor of some sort, an option of an equipment pack, and possibly a trinket of some sort. Here is a short list of these types of equipment and the pages you can find them on.
- Armor (PHB, pg. 144)
- Weapons (PHB, weapon properties pg. 146 – actual weapons pg. 149)
- Adventuring Gear (PHB, pg. 150)
- Equipment Packs (PHB, pg. 151)
- Tool kits and Tools (PHB, pg. 154)
- Food, Drink, adn Lodging (PHB, pg. 158)
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve made a character!
STEP 6: WRITE A BACKSTORY AND DEVELOP YOUR CHARACTER
Now you have a character with a race, a class, a background, some equipment, a pool of health, and the tools/skills to survive. Roleplaying is a huge part of Dungeons & Dragons and a character without a decent background won’t fit in very well. I usually work backwards in order to develop my written background. I start with my personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws; define them, then write a background that fits those descriptors. I usually try to accomplish three goals with my written background: an origin, a tragedy, and a mission. These three story arch points can provide your dungeon master with more than enough to work in an arch specific to your character and their goals within their campaign. This will not only be a very cool moment you for you, the player character, but it will give you dungeon master more to work with and less work to do at the same time!