A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Dungeons and Dragons Characters

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while (thank you!), then you’ll know just how much I love Dungeons and Dragons. Seriously, I’ve managed to fit it into pretty much all of the major categories I have. I just need to find a way to talk about a D&D anime and I’ll be all set!

There are dozens, hundreds of reasons to love this game. Rolling the dice is tense and exciting! The monsters are cool and interesting! Being able to do whatever goofy shit comes to mind is hilarious! It could even be a single moment, where someone at your table did something incredible or funny. The list is endless!

At the core of it all, though, is the same core as any other storytelling medium: characters. Only this time, you, the audience, is the one writing these heroes.

Or villains. Or murder hobos. It’s probably the ladder.

But where do you start? How do you plug all those numbers and statistics into an actual character that you can roleplay and have fun with? Well, the process can be a bit tricky. So, let’s break it down!

First, you’ll want to get a general idea of what you want to do in the game itself. This is where you decide your class. Wanna be a healer? Wanna just kill shit? Maybe you want to be a pickpocket? Choosing the general role of your character is a fantastic starting point.

From there, you’ll want to role your stats. ‘But what about race’, I hear you asking? Well, yes, you could choose race next. But in my experience, I find it easier to choose a race after I know what my character is capable of. For example, if I know my character is a barbarian with a high strength stat, I would start by considering all the races that fill that bill well, like a goliath or an orc. That, or I would choose something that bucks that image, like a gnome or an elf.

Plus, the stats are an important part in distinguishing your characters personality. Does your character have high intellect and low strength? Maybe he’s a bookworm or a crafty street rat (go back to the class you chose on this, as you’ll likely have allocated your stats to fit that bill the best). Have a really low charisma stat? Make him stiff, awkward, or generally unsociable.

These stats can go a long way in defining how your character acts during a given situation. Maybe your character knows they have low charisma and want to get better at it, so they often get themselves into trouble? Perhaps your stupid barbarian retreats at the slightest hint of an intellectual challenge? Maybe your cocky rogue tries to show off their high dexterity as often as they can by sneaking around and stealing shit? It’s finding answers to these questions that makes fleshing out these characters fun, as well as turning those numbers into something more important than just ‘the things that make the game work’.

Although, one super important thing to remember is to be flexible. You’re not the only one sitting at that table. If your character does nothing but instill conflict with the other players, you might want to adjust a thing or two. If the rest of the party ever genuinely considers leaving you for dead in a situation, you’re doing something wrong. Remember: this is a team game. Write a character that can work with a team, whether they already know or have to learn.

Trust me. There is no quicker way to piss people off than to play a never-changing selfish character.

Alright. Now that you’ve got your characters stats and personality, we can flesh out their backstory. What kind of life would make them the people they are today? Perhaps that big dumb barbarian flees from logic puzzles because he was constantly outwitted and cheated by others in his past? Maybe your too-big-for-his-own-trousers rogue managed to rob some important individual. A character is born from circumstances, after all. Come up with some!

Another thing you can do with that that your DM will love you for is to tell them about it. Help your DM incorporate your characters strengths and weaknesses into the story by providing them with the information they need. Not only does that relieve a ton of stress from their shoulders, but it also leads to a more personalized and enjoyable play experience. Plus, it can make executing a character arc much easier.

That is, if you’re going for that kind of thing. Maybe you just want to write a simple character who’s all about murder and sex and just have fun. That, too, is a completely viable option.

Now, as it always is with my writing advice, this is just how I do things. There are tons of different ways to approach filling out that character sheet. Find whatever works best for you and run with it.

Because in the end, D&D isn’t always about telling a compelling fantasy narrative with your friends. Every now and then, you just need something dumb and fun to do. Whether you want to write a deep character or a shallow and fun one is entirely viable. The beauty of Dungeons and Dragons is, after all, freedom.

Just… try not to be too much of a dick. No point in having a character if you get kicked out of the group.

3 responses to “A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Dungeons and Dragons Characters”

  1. One of my favorite AD&D characters ever (this was back in 1980)… I wanted to roll a Paladin, but I’d reached the DM’s limits for re-rolls* and the best I had was a Ranger. So I played him as a Ranger that had never quite been able to become the Paladin he wanted to be. It was a lot of fun playing him wrestling with the moral dilemmas “as a Paladin” and having NPC’s be confused as to what he actually was. A lot more fun I think than if I’d actually rolled a Paladin.

    * Dave had a fairly convoluted system of re-rolls and stat swaps that markedly increased your chances of a getting a good character of the race/class you wanted. But not a 100% chance! And there were limits to how much you could re-roll and swap. And under his rules, you played what you rolled or your didn’t play.

    Liked by 1 person

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