D&D Character Creation Guide

Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D, is a fun roleplaying game that has become a popular pastime for tabletop gamers everywhere. One of the most exciting parts of D&D is character creation—building an immersive, unique avatar for yourself or your friends to play. It’s a fantastic way to exercise imagination and explore stories together. 

Character creation is the first step in any D&D campaign (hopefully after your group has had a solid session zero to set expectations). While it might seem daunting at first, creating a character is one of the game’s most satisfying and rewarding parts. 

But how do you go about creating a D&D character? Here, you will learn the basics of D&D character creation. We also include step-by-step instructions for creating a unique and dynamic character that will captivate your fellow players and engage your imagination. 

But first…

Materials for D&D Character Creation

  • D&D 5e Player’s Handbook
  • D&D 5e Character Sheet, which you can find on D&D’s Official Website
  • A Pencil
  • One d6 (or four d6 to speed up the process)
  • Bookmarks (optional)
  • Eraser

If a digital character sheet is more your speed, you can also find a fillable PDF here.

Step 1: Choose a Race

Before anything else, you need to think about the type of adventure you want to have. You can be anything from a skulking rogue to a courageous fighter or a flamboyant wizard to a fervent cleric. You could also choose an unconventional character, like a sharpshooter who likes to stay out of the action or a brawny rogue who prefers hand-to-hand combat.

Once you have a D&D character concept in mind, it’s time to choose your race. Race, in this essence, refers to the character’s species. Each has unique abilities, physical attributes, and characteristics. 

Some of the D&D races in the Player’s Handbook include:

  • Elf
  • Human 
  • Gnome 
  • Half-Orc 
  • Dwarf 
  • Halfling 
  • Dragonborn 
  • Half-Elf 
  • Tiefling 

There are more options in other sourcebooks, such as a bird-like aarakocra, but for this guide we’ll stick to what you can find in the core rulebook.

Ensure you read the racial traits of each of these D&D characters in the Player’s Handbook. These traits provide valuable bonuses and advantages to your character, so take advantage of them.

The newer rulebook Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduced some optional character creation rules that allow for a bit more flexibility with your ability bonuses based on your chosen race. You can check out that book if you’d like more details beyond what the Player’s Handbook has to offer.

Once you have chosen your race, it’s time to move on to the next step. Oh, and remember to record everything you choose on the character sheet, of course!

Step 2: Choose a Class

The next step in your DnD character creation process is to choose a class. In this case, the class refers to your character’s specialization—what they can do and how well they can do it. 

The class also determines what unique talents or tactics your D&D character will have. For example, they could employ negotiation, stealth, brute strength, or magical abilities when exploring a dungeon.

The core D&D 5e classes include:

Barbarian: The barbarian is a fierce warrior with raw power and a thirst for battle.

Bard: Bards are the ultimate entertainers—deft with words, instruments, and magic.

Cleric: Clerics are pious warriors who combine divine magic with martial prowess to hinder their enemies or aid their allies.

Druid: Druids are guardians of the wild who call upon primal powers to both heal and harm.

Fighter: Fighters are formidable warriors and masters of martial combat.

Monk: Monks hone their body, mind, and spirit to become powerful melee combatants. 

Paladin: Paladins are holy warriors wholly devoted to a cause, be it justice, honor, or even vengeance.

Ranger: Rangers are hunters who specialize in tracking and taking down their chosen targets.

Rogue: Rogues are clever scoundrels who use their wit and stealth to get what they want.

Sorcerer. Sorcerers draw upon their innate mystical powers from their bloodline or gifts to cast powerful spells.

Warlock: Warlocks are mysterious spellcasters who have made a pact with an otherworldly being to gain power.

Wizard: Wizards are scholars of the arcane arts and masters of learned magical power. 

While choosing your D&D character’s class, you also need to decide on level, hit points & hit dice, and proficiency bonus. 

Typically, all characters start at level one and advance as they adventure and gain experience points (XP). However, you might start at a higher level if your Dungeon Master decides to do so. This would mean your character has been through some harrowing adventures already.

The character’s class determines which dice you use for Hit Points, and your level determines how many Hit Dice you have. The proficiency bonus also increases as the character levels up.

Don’t forget to record your chosen class on your character sheet.

Step 3: Choose Background

The next step in creating a character for D&D is selecting a background. This is simply the character’s past and upbringing that helps you form a rich backstory for your D&D character.

Backgrounds provide bonus abilities such as extra language skills and proficiency in specific tools or skill sets. Choosing the right background for your character can give them that extra edge on a dangerous adventure. 

The thirteen starter background options in the core rulebook include:

  • Acolyte 
  • Charlatan
  • Criminal
  • Entertainer
  • Folk Hero
  • Guild Artisan
  • Hermit
  • Noble
  • Outlander
  • Sage
  • Sailor
  • Soldier
  • Urchin

Step 4: Assign Ability Scores

Much of what your new character will do in your D&D adventure depends on the core abilities of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Each of these has a score associated with them.

But what determines these ability scores? Well, you have the power to decide! As a player, you can roll dice and assign a number to each ability of your D&D character. Alternatively, you can go for the default numbers (also called “standard array”). Keep in mind that your character’s race may also modify some ability scores.

Follow one of the following examples to generate your character’s ability score.

Rolling Method

  • Roll 4 six-sided dice (your results should be four numbers)
  • Discard the lowest roll 
  • Add the remaining three numbers to get your ability score
  • Write your number somewhere on a scrap piece of paper
  • Repeat the process five more times to get six numbers
  • Assign each one to an ability score of your choice

Standard Array Method

Assign the numbers 15,14,13,12,10, and 8 to the six abilities.

Ability Modifiers

After assigning your ability scores, it’s time to determine your ability modifiers. The ability modifiers are the numbers you add to your dice rolls as you play. For example, if you have a modifier of +2 in Strength and roll a 12 on a Strength check, the final score for that particular check is 14. The higher the results, the better your character’s chance of succeeding in the attempted task.

To figure out an ability modifier, use this table:

  • Ability Score = Modifier
  • 2-3 = – 4
  • 4-5 = – 3
  • 6-7 = – 2
  • 8-9 = – 1
  • 10-11 = + 0
  • 12-13 = + 1
  • 14-15 = + 2
  • 16-17 = + 3
  • 18-19 = + 4
  • 20-21 = + 5

Step 5: Describe Your Character

Once you set your character’s basic elements, it’s time to craft a backstory and description that will bring life and meaning to your character. First, they need a name. Think of something that would fit in with the region, race, personality, or background of your character. Or you can always just pick a name that sounds cool to you!

Next, you should think about their physical appearance and personality traits. Consider your ability scores when it comes to physical appearance—is your character very strong and burly, or are they slight and slender? Try to come up with one or two noticeable details about their appearance, like a scar or wild hair, to help paint a picture for your group. 

For personality, you can use the sections on your sheet to fill out personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws. There are pre-written tables with suggested options for these if you want some help, or you can come up with your own. Try taking inspiration from the real world or your favorite movies and shows! Putting thought into these traits can set you up for fun roleplaying moments throughout the campaign.

Your character also needs an alignment. This means the moral compass that guides their decision-making. Alignment is broken into two elements: what the character thinks of order vs chaos and what they think of right vs wrong. “Lawful” would refer to a character who has a high regard for the law or abides by a strict code, whereas “Chaotic” would refer to a character who frequently ignores or bends the rules. Similarly, a “Good” character tries to do the right thing and help others, while a “Neutral” character might be more focused on looking out for themselves. Below are alignment options to choose from:

  • Lawful Good
  • Neutral Good
  • Chaotic Good
  • Lawful Neutral
  • True Neutral (Neutral Neutral)
  • Chaotic Neutral

While you may want to play an evil character, most D&D games aren’t designed with villains in mind. You should always check with your DM and fellow players before settling on that decision to make sure a truly evil character would fit into the story (plus it’s just good etiquette).

Finally, you can fill out your backstory section with where your character comes from, their occupation, and their place in your group’s D&D world. Feel free to brainstorm with your DM to further flesh out descriptions and details that will fit well in their game and help bring your character to life.

Step 6: Choose Equipment and Spells

You’re almost done with the D&D character creation process at this point! All you have to do now is equip your character with items. 

Depending on the class and background you picked in step 3, your character might have some starting equipment, including armor, weapons, and some adventuring gear. Make you record all this on your character sheet.

There is also an option that allows you to purchase some equipment with gold pieces (GP) instead of taking the default starting gear. The number of GP available for spending depends on your class; you can see it in the Equipment section of your class description. 

Final Step of D&D Character Creation

The last bit in your D&D character creation is joining a party

Every great character needs a group of heroic companions to adventure with, so find a party that works together and has fun. Get your ragtag heroes together and work toward your common purpose, whether that’s slaying the evil dragon or building an empire.

No matter how you go about creating your D&D character, remember to have fun, take risks, and enjoy the journey. That’s what makes roleplaying games great! Good luck, and happy dungeon-ing!