The Cheat Sheet to Character Design

Our little Smashface Family kicked off a new D&D 5e campaign this weekend just gone (6th Feb). We’ve been discussing it for a while, but at the beginning of the year we started sorting out dates and  I had to actually think about pulling my character together.

Now ever since I can remember my online/gaming/rpg persona is a redheaded tall woman by the name of “Sai Rei”. If you have seen any reference to this name in forums or on FF14 then chances are that is me. I loved identifying with a strong, powerful yet slim and attractive woman (don’t all women everywhere?) who had a fucking big gun.

But this time I decided to switch it up. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to play as but it I wasn’t sure how to flesh out my ideas – do I figure out the full background and squeeze the stats to fit, or do I decide how I want to play the game and then make the person match? Or is it completely a 50/50 approach?

Our band of merry adventurers took a variety of approaches to character creation (some writing their backgrounds at the table during the big introduction), and I thought I would share a little bit about mine (because I was actually ridiculously proud of my dwarven fighter).

So, as I said before I had a *vague* idea of what I wanted. I still love to hack and slash (I just don’t enjoy fighting from the back) so I knew I was going to be either a fighter or a barbarian, and I knew that I was going to play a female dwarf. But a picture began to fill in the more I thought about it, and I decided that for me at least, the best way to flesh out this character was to think about her in terms of personality and background, and then the stats could be moulded to fit.

This was by far the most fun I have had with a character for a long time. I saw this kind and motherly figure in my head and just knew that was what I wanted to play. For those that have read Terry Pratchett I basically wanted a Nanny Ogg warrior. I saw her waddling round the countryside with pockets stuffed full of rock cakes (that could be used as rocks), her hammer strapped to her back and the medieval equivalent of a photo wallet crammed with illustrations of her many children.

Think this, but less witchy…

 

Dwarf Picture
Like this! (Original by AnekaShu)

The background and history for my motherly dwarven warrior was fairly easy to pull together. I googled some Dwarven names and picked some out I liked, I even went so far as to google basic Dwarvish to create a name for her Warhammer (no judgement people). What I found hard was the last part – making the stats fit.

If any of you readers have gone to the trouble of filling out a character sheet for D&D you will realise it is not the easiest of endeavours. So many numbers to roll and boxes to fill it – I genuinely found it hard to keep track of what stat affected what bonus and as a result needed ticking in which box. During our initial game our group was still arguing over the finer points on calculating successes for various skill checks or attack rolls.

Normally when playing a character I try to keep my stats fairly balanced. This time I decided to be more creative, and I think having a fully fleshed out character beforehand game be some additional confidence to do so. In the end I made her a full fighter – strong, dexterous yet not at all bright. I gave her some charisma (she did manage to have 8 children afterall), and put some points into wisdom (raising children means you know when they are up to no good and you learn when someone is trying to lie to you.) Therefore the skills I picked were Athletics and Insight (at 284 she’s bound to have gotten insight into something!)

My main focus when pulling these stats together was to create someone I wanted to actually *play* rather than someone that would be useful to the group. To be honest my impression of D&D is that if you enjoy playing a character and put your effort into playing them properly, the DM should reward that and as a result you will help your group.

So after this experience what would my advice me to anyone creating a character from scratch?

  • Pull together a couple of key points you think would be fun to play. I picked motherly, wise, warrior
  • Have a fun side note to flesh out the character – mine was a terrible cook, and will literally go talk to any Bard to see if they have news of her children
  • Don’t worry about the stats until the end – if you have a good idea what type of person you are playing, you will have a good base to figure out which skills fit them best and will give you the most to work with

Most of all – HAVE FUN WITH IT. If you enjoy the process, you will create a fully thought out and interesting character. Seeing a person in your head helps you bring them to life, helping you bring them to the table. Don’t worry about what your group needs or what someone else wants you to play, a good DM will tailor a campaign to fit your needs. So enjoy yourself!

What characters do you like to play? Let us know in the comments below!


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