The first thing you need to do when playing D&D is to make a character, so you’ll want to learn how. There are quite a few rules for making a character in D&D, which can be a bit overwhelming for new players. This guide will show you how to make a character for Dungeons and Dragons.
My personal advice when you are just starting is to use a pre-made character (see our article on the best places to find pre-made characters) as the character creation process can be a lot of rules for a newbie, but of course if you do that, it’s not really your own.
Eventually, you are going to want to play a character that you’ve created, or if this is the main appeal to you of D&D then you may want to create a character straight off the bat in your first game.
Fear not, follow our guide and you too will soon be rolling up your very own character!
How Do You Create A Character In 5e – Step By Step
This is a step-by-step guide to creating a D&D character. While it might seem a bit difficult at first as there are a lot of rules for creating a character, each step is in itself easy enough to follow, so if you follow each of these simple steps, you should have a fully-fledged character to play with.
1. Get some Rules
The Free Basic Rules or the ones in the Player’s Handbook are the way to go when starting, as they keep things simple and contain the rules for character creation. We’ll keep to the races and classes from the Free Rules, as these cover the most simple characters and are accessible to everyone, but you get more options in the PHB and other official sourcebooks.
2. Get a character Sheet
The official printable D&D character sheet is a great choice for beginners, as it’s the most popular so you’ll easily be able to get help with it if you need it.
Give your character a name, and since you’ll be creating a 1st level character give them a level of 1 and a proficiency bonus of +2 (that represents the bonus you get on rolls for things you are proficient at).
2. Choose a Race
The race you choose gives you some natural characteristics, such as the languages you know and how fast you can move, as well as affects the way you look. Some races are better suited to certain classes than others (for example, a light halfling makes an excellent rogue, and high elves make powerful wizards).
If you are unsure of what race to choose, check out our great flowchart about picking the race that suits you best, and also look at chapter 2 on page 13 of the free rules for a deeper description of what each race entails.
If you are using the free rules, you can choose between:
- Dwarf – are sturdy and hardy. They have two subclasses: Mountain Dwarves, who are hardier, and Hill Dwarves, who have keen senses and intuition.
- Elf – are ethereal, dexterous, and magically powerful. They also have 2 subclasses: Wood Elves, who are very dexterous and have keen senses, and High Elves, who are skilled at magic.
- Halfling – are small and dexterous. They also have 2 subclasses: Stout Halflings, who are more resistant, and Lightfoot Halflings, who are very dexterous and sneaky.
- Human – are great all-rounders.
When you pick your race, write it down on the character sheet along with any characteristics the Free Rules say you get (check out chapter 2 for these), such as your speed and language proficiencies.
3. Choose a Class
The class you choose affects your abilities, spellcasting, and items you start with. The class you pick will really make a difference to how you play, as a wizard with spell casting is going to play very differently to, say, a melee fighter. See chapter 3 of the free rules for more details on each class’s features and pg 22 for a great summary table of what you get for each class.
If you are using the free rules, you can choose between:
- Cleric – religious priests that are both good healers and warriors.
- Fighter – good at combat.
- Rogue – resourceful and stealthy.
- Wizard – great at spells.
When you pick your class, make sure to note down your hit points and hit dice, which indicates your health and how much you get to roll when you rest and regenerate health.
Also, make a list of your proficiencies, including weapons and saving throws, as well as specific skills that your race excels at.
If you are a cleric or a wizard, you’ll also need to pick some spells (three cantrips for clerics, three cantrips and six 1st level spells of your choice for wizards), which you’ll want to write down on your character sheet. See chapter 11 for the spell lists and chapter 12 for the descriptions of each spell.
4. Determine your ability scores
There are a few different ways to do this. The one I like to use is a standard array where everyone gets the same numbers to choose their ability scores with. I like this method because it’s easy to understand and isn’t luck-based (as opposed to rolling up character scores using dice), which means everyone will get fairly decent characters to start with.
You use the following scores to pick what you are good at, by giving a higher score to the skill you want. You’ll want to pick skills that match the race and class you have picked, for example, a Halfling Rogue will want to be dexterous, while a Dwarf fighter will want good strength. Once you’ve allocated these points, you get the ability score modifier (the number that is added to your dice when you try to use this ability) for each ability:
You get to pick which abilities you want to be best at from the following:
- Strength – how strong you are.
- Dexterity – how physically agile you are.
- Constitution – how good your stamina is.
- Intelligence – how much you know and can think through problems.
- Wisdom – your awareness and insight.
- Charisma – your confidence and charm.
Note that it’s a little confusing at first, as you are giving out ability scores to determine what your ability modifier is, but all you really care about is the modifier as that’s the number that will get added to your dice roll to make you better or worse at an ability.
You also get some ability bonuses from the race that you have picked, so make sure to look these up and add this to your ability scores too.
5. Give your Character Personality
You want your character to have a personality as that’s what makes them really fun to roleplay. Try to think through who your character is as a person and make the personality traits align with how you imagine your character.
You’ll want to give your character the following:
- Alignment – chaotic evil to lawful good. This describes the morals that guide their decisions (see page 36 for an alignment chart with an explanation of the different alignments).
- Ideals – what they believe in, which helps them make choices.
- Bonds – who they are loyal to.
- Flaws – characteristics of their personality that could lead them to make bad decisions.
- Background – where they came from, how they grew up, and what their past is.
6. Pick Equipment
You get this from the class and background you have chosen, so note your starting equipment down (including weapons, gold, and other items). You’ll also note down any additional equipment you earn as you play here.
For weapons, you’ll also want to note down the type of die they use to attack and the type of attack they use, e.g. 1d8 bludgeoning (see pg. 48 in the free rules for a table with this information), and the type of attack modifier they use, which is what you add to the attack roll to make it better. Melee weapons will use your strength modifier, and ranged weapons will use your dexterity modifier.
For armor, you’ll want to write down your armor class, which is usually 10 + your dexterity modifier, but for special armor, it will probably be more (see pg. 46 of the free rules for the armor table for what your armor class should be depending on what armor type you are wearing).
7. That’s it – go play!
That’s it! You have a finished character that you can now play with!
As you play more D&D, you may want to look at other races and classes that can be found in other rule books, or at more advanced options for feats, multiclass characters, or even characters with homebrew abilities.
But for new players, use the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid) and keep things as simple as possible so that you can make a fun character that you like, but still get playing as quickly as possible without getting overwhelmed.
How Do I Make A Character Sheet
There are a few options for this:
- Use the official character sheet
- Manage your character sheet completely online using D&D Beyond or Roll20
How Do You Write A Character Profile
To decide the profile of your character, you need to cover the parts we outlined in step 5, giving your character a personality. You’ll want to give your character alignment, ideals, bonds, flaws, and a background. A lot of new players skip this and just play with the skills they’ve got. But I think this is a real shame as it reduces your character to a set of numbers, a set of stats that you play through.
Some people are great at giving their character a profile and deciding who they are as a person, but I find that filling out this section forces new players to think about their character’s profile. This allows them to better understand their character, how they think, and their motivations, making it easier for them to roleplay the character, which adds a new dimension to the game.
It’s a good idea to think about your character and who they are as a person when you’re doing this, and then choose options that correspond to that in order to give them a personality you can roleplay well.
It’s also fun to think through some details of how your character looks, and draw them or use an avatar builder so you have a clear picture of who you are playing.
What Is The Best Way To Create A Dungeons And Dragons Character
There are a few ways to make a Dungeons and Dragons character:
Use a Pre-Made Character
This is my favorite way for new players to start, as they get a quick character that they can just get playing. Some of the options even tell you how to level up your character, so you can concentrate on just learning how to play D&D. If you want a premade character check out our article on the best places to find pre-made characters
The downside of this method is that you are roleplaying a character you’ve been given, so miss out on creating a character of your own and something truly unique that represents who you want to play.
Use The Basic Rules and D&D Character Sheets
You can use the basic rules (or the PHB) and a printable character sheet. This is the method I recommend the most because it allows you to learn what you’re doing and understand the rules, as well as get to know your character. If you’re like me, you’ll feel a stronger connection to your character when you write things down and build them.
The problem with this method is that there are quite a few rules when making a character, and it will take you around an hour or two the first time to figure them all out. There’s also nothing telling you if you’ve done something wrong, so if you are able to then you may want to get your sheet checked by a more experienced player.
How Do You Make A Character On D&D Beyond
D&D Beyond lets you create an account and create up to 6 characters on their free tier using the rules found in the Player’s Handbook. It’s pretty easy, and you can get a random character made for you or work step-by-step through the character options using their character sheet builder. You’ll also need to remember to click on the sections to choose items and spells once you’ve created your character, as last I checked, this wasn’t part of the step-by-step process.
This method is good because you can’t really get the rules wrong, but when I was starting I didn’t feel like I understood where all the stats came from, and I also don’t like the way the sheet looks when you print it (not an issue if you are playing online).
How Do You Make A Character On Roll20
If you are playing online through Roll20, I believe they also provide a digital character sheet with auto calculations. I haven’t actually used this one, but there are pretty detailed instructions on how to use it from Roll20 here.
FAQ When Making a D&D Character
- What is the best D&D character? There is no best character, they all have different strengths and weaknesses. What’s best will depend on your style of play, who you want to be, and the composition of your party. I would really encourage you to not worry about “best”. D&D is about roleplay, and sometimes playing characters that are flawed or aren’t the most powerful is also a lot of fun.
- What should I play as in D&D? Whoever you want to play as! Part of the fun of D&D is being able to use your imagination and play a character that you can’t be in real life. As long as your character fits the rules from the official rule books or what your DM allows, you can play whatever you like.
- How do you make a good D&D backstory? Use your imagination. One tip I like to give beginners is to think about your background, your personality, your alliances, and your connections, and come up with a defining characteristic that makes your character themselves to base their backstory around. Perhaps they have a strong loyalty to their family, so they got an injury protecting them when their hometown was invaded. Or if they are great at lockpicking, perhaps it’s because they grew up in the slums, stealing to survive. You get the idea, make it relatable to who they’ve turned out to be.
- How do you make a dragon character? You can’t actually be a dragon in Dungeons and Dragons (the game is named as such because dragons are one of the main creatures you encounter in the game). The closest you can get is being a dragon born, who are humanoid-like descendants of dragons and look a bit like dragons. But be aware that they have a long and complicated past with dragons, and it’s very different from being a dragon.
There are many ways to go about making a character, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks. If you’re looking for something quick and simple to get started, then my recommendation is to use a premade character.
Your next step up should be to create a basic character as we have outlined in this article, using the Free Rules or the PHB. While you can use character makers such as those found on D&D Beyond and Roll20, I don’t necessarily like them for new players as it means you don’t really understand the rules and everything on your character sheet, but it is quicker to get started and stops you making any mistakes.
If you are playing with some experienced players or a dungeon master, it’s a good idea to get them to look over your character sheet the first time you make a character. If not, then follow the steps above, and once you are done, take a second run through the steps to double-check you didn’t miss anything. It may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s not actually that bad, and after an hour or so of looking at the rules, you’ll very likely get it. It’s worth the time investment to be able to play a character that’s unique to you and to be able to make new, fun characters for any D&D games you play in the future.