Whether you’re completely new to the world of roleplaying and Dungeons and Dragons, or you’ve been playing since the original edition, character creation can be a daunting task. Maybe you’ve got a great idea for a character sitting in your head, desperate to be let loose on the world, but have no idea how to translate that idea into numbers and skill lists. Or maybe you simply have no idea what you want to play, and are staring at lists of races and classes feeling overwhelmed by the options available.
Or maybe you’re a DM, and one of your players has come to you with an idea for a character so ridiculous that you just know it won’t work – but they’re new to the game, and they’re excited about this idea, and you don’t want to discourage them.
What do you do? It can be hard to know where to start. The Player’s Handbook contains a fantastic step-by-step guide to building a character. If you’re really stuck for ideas it even contains lists of randomly generated backgrounds, goals, flaws and secrets that can provide endless inspiration for characters, but the sheer amount of options available can make it hard to settle on one thing.
Rather than any kind of one-size-fits-all, Buzzfeed-style list (Watch What She Does During Character Creation. DMs Hate Her!) I thought I’d talk about some of the characters that my players created for our new campaign. Although I’ve been playing D&D for a couple of decades now, I’m new to 5th Edition – and all of my players are new to the game entirely. They came with a range of ideas, and I hope that looking at how we turned their weird and wonderful imaginations into fun, playable characters will give you some inspiration for making your own PCs.
Wutang, Half-Orc Monk
We’ll start with the least ridiculous, the character that came to the table most fully-formed and just needed fleshing out a little. Hollie wanted to be a tank, but also liked the idea of being stealthy and agile. She liked the idea of playing a character who had been cast out from her own people for some reason, and when she saw the Half-Orc class she liked the idea of a character who had been raised among Orcs but had always been the runt of the litter, looked down on because of her human blood and smaller size. That naturally led to questions of how the human world saw her, and she realized that she would go from being a good-for-nothing weakling to some kind of monstrosity.
For players who want to be quick, nimble fighters, Monk is one of the best options to take – and the background that Hollie had just developed based purely on seeing the words “Half-Orc” lined up perfectly with that class. Where else would a Half-Orc go after being shunned by both the orcs and the humans?
We still don’t know much about why Wutang left the monastery, but for now that’s fine. As the game progresses we’ll come back to her, and she may find that one day the party returns to the monastery that she left – whether she likes it or not.
Captain Manbearpig, Human Fighter
Ash came up with two very short snippets for characters – “knight elf mohawk”, and ManBearPig – half man, half bear, and half pig. He couldn’t decide between the two – and, honestly, I was struggling to think of how ManBearPig could be anything playable, and was thinking up builds for a “knight elf mohawk” (whatever that is) – and decided to make use of the Backgrounds section of the Player’s Handbook.
He skimmed through the backgrounds, and settled on the Outlander background – which grants him a trophy from an animal he has killed. This, of course, became the pelt of a ManBearPig. He decided that his character was a hunter of the fabled ManBearPig, and the only person known to have killed one. Then he rolled on the Personality Trait table, and we discovered that he was, in fact, raised by wolves.
That’s the bones of a great character right there, even without generating Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws, but how does that translate in to game mechanics? With the Outlander background most people would expect to be playing a Ranger or a Druid, but didn’t really want to concern himself with magic and just wanted to hit things. He also doesn’t really care for the number-crunching, poring over options style of playing – again, he just wanted to get to the table and let his character hit things.
We settled on Fighter, because at level 1 it really is quite straightforward. Here’s your armor, here’s your sword, go hit things. We rolled stats, and without any need for guidance from me he put his highest rolls in Strength and Constitution, figuring that he would need to be strong and able to soak up wounds. I didn’t need to explain that, because he had already internalized what his character was through developing the background. He was a big dude who hit things. And yet hitting things wasn’t all he did; he completely scuppered my planned showdown with a dire wolf by attempting to Intimidate it into submission – and rolling a natural 20.
Next time we’ll take a look at one more example – the player who came to the game with his heart set on playing the most foul, cruel and bad-tempered rodent you’ve ever set your eyes on. Check back on Thursday to see how that turned out.