EGD Adventures: Character Creation Guide (D&D 5E)
Updated: Mar 24, 2021
Written by Nicholas Uster
Creating a character is the first step of your Dungeons & Dragons adventure. This guide will provide an introduction to basic character creation. I will be referring to the rules in the Player’s Handbook, an essential reference for Dungeons & Dragons character creation.
This is a character sheet. It allows you to fill out and track information about your character as you adventure throughout your games. Click the links below for official D&D resources that you can print and photocopy for your own personal use.
As I guide you through character creation, I will build a character of my own: Grim, a Half-Orc barbarian.
Step 1: Character Race and Backstory
Choosing A Race
Racial choices can be found starting on page 17 of the Player’s Handbook. You can also click here to check out D&D Beyond’s digital list. Each racial description will include age, size, language, and culture. It will also determine your character’s movement speed and ability score increases.
Building Your Story
Whenever you are creating a character, you are really creating a story. Bring the character to life by asking yourself some of these questions:
- Why is your character adventuring? Why join a party to delve through a dungeon or venture into the unknown?
- What are your character’s short-term goals? Are they looking for their stolen spellbook? Do they seek acceptance into a guild?
Morality and Alignment
- Is your character a hero? Why or why not?
- Who are your character’s parents? How did they influence your character? How/where was your character raised?
- Is your character religious? Why or why not? If so, what kind of god or gods do they worship? How does their worship affect their actions?
- Is your character merciful? Will they spare the life of a beast that threatens them, or will they slaughter it out of pride? Would they ever torture someone for information? Would they ever kill?
- What does your character fear?
- How old is your character?
- What is your character’s social class?
- Does your character have any enemies?
- Does your character have family, like a wife or children or siblings?
I imagine Grim being raised within a nomadic lifestyle. His family was part of a small band of Half-Orcs that roamed the land to hunt. He was raised to be a fierce hunter for the tribe. He returned to camp from a hunt, discovering a tragedy took place in his absence. His tribe was nowhere to be found. Their tents and supplies were burned, and a strange insignia was scorched onto a tree within the campsite. On the ground was his mother’s bear-tooth necklace, which he took with him for good luck. He adventures in hopes that his family is still alive somewhere, and strives to uncover what happened on that fateful day. The adventuring party he travels with is his only family now.
I now record the Half-Orc racial information/traits onto my character sheet, which can be found on page 40 of the Player’s Handbook, or on D&D Beyond if you click here. Half-Orcs get an ability score increase of +2 to their overall strength score and a +1 to their overall constitution score (more will be explained in step 2). A Half-Orc has a speed of 30 feet. Their racial abilities include Darkvision, Menacing, Relentless Endurance, and Savage Attacks. For languages, they can speak, read, and write Common and Orc.
Step 2: Designating Ability Scores and Modifiers
Your character has six abilities:
Strength - measures physical power.
Dexterity - measures agility.
Constitution - measures endurance.
Intelligence - measures reasoning and memory.
Wisdom - measures perception and insight.
Charisma - measures the force of a character’s personality.
Each ability will be assigned an ability score, a number that generally ranges from about 3-18. As you play through your Dungeons & Dragons adventure you will have to roll a D20 for ability checks, saving throws, and attack rolls. All of these rely on your character’s ability scores.
How To Roll Ability Scores
Your character’s ability scores are decided by rolling four six-sided dice and dropping the lowest roll. For example: You roll a 2, 3, 4, and 1. Drop the 1 and add up the 3 higher numbers, resulting in a 9. Do this process five more times to have an ability score for each of your six abilities. Hold onto those numbers on a scrap piece of paper until step 3. If you don’t have a pair of dice handy, click here for an online dice roller.
Derived from each ability score is a modifier, which will be added to dice rolls you make throughout the game. To find these modifiers, please consult the chart below, which can also be found in the Player’s Handbook on page 13. To determine an ability modifier without the table, subtract 10 from the ability score and then divide the result by 2 (round down).
Your character would like to sneak past a castle’s guards. The person running the game (a dungeon/game master) would make you roll a stealth check, which relies on your character's dexterity ability score. Your character’s dexterity score is 14, so the modifier is a +2. You roll the die and get a 10, and then add your modifier of +2, making the roll a 12. The Dungeon master then decides if this roll was high enough to sneak past the guards.
I now roll to determine Grim’s ability scores, and record the numbers on a scrap piece of paper. After consulting the chart, I found my ability modifiers, which I put in parentheses.
A table that appears in each class description (more will be explained in step 3) shows your character’s proficiency bonus. This bonus will be applied to multiple rolls you will make for your character, including:
- Attack rolls using weapons your character is proficient with.
- Attack rolls with spells your character casts.
- Ability checks using skills your character is proficient in.
- Ability checks using tools your character is proficient with.
- Saving throws your character is proficient in.
- Saving throw DCs for spells your character casts (more info about spellcasting is detailed in each spellcasting class).