In my last post, I talked about building a strong enough foundation for your character so that you could make decisions for them on a whim. A foundation is only half the battle, but it’s a very important half. Without the initial character development process to start, your characters will constantly be badgering you with questions like the puppets in this video from 2006 (Yes, I am old).
So, what is a foundation? How do I build one? Do I need a background in carpentry? No, there is no certification required! All you need is a pen (or a computer) and an idea.
If we were just talking about this from a literary standpoint, this could be an incredibly overwhelming process. There are so many possible options, not to mention so many possible worlds! Being that this is for a tabletop game like DnD, however, it’s a little bit easier because some of the choices have already been made for you by the DM. Not only that, but there are some required decisions you need to make early on in order to participate in combat (the race, the class, etc.).
With all of this in mind, there is one question you must first ask yourself before anything else: What kind of story do I want to tell?
Being that you are only responsible for one character, instead of the usual tyranny of an author with a full cast, you can really focus on bringing this one person to life. Who are they? What do they do? Maybe they’re a prince in a foreign land, a pirate on the high seas, or a secret spy looking to assassinate the king. This is also a great collaborative opportunity for you to get to know the DM, and the magical world they have created, and how your character can fit in there.
Even if you’re not the DM, you have more control over the story you tell than you realize. Your choices help decide the genre, the atmosphere, and sometimes even the plot points. What kind of movie do you want to watch? What kind of book would you want to read? That’s the kind of character you should play. The world is your oyster—that is, if this world you’re playing in even has oysters.
From here, you can naturally start to narrow down features and lock in the logistics. Before you know it, the complexity of building a character will start to look a lot simpler than it originally seemed. Say I am creating that anti-monarchy spy. I know that in order to be a good spy, he would need to be very sneaky, thus he would be well-suited for a Rogue class with high Dexterity. Or perhaps I want to play more of a comedic character! Yes, you can do that, too! He could be a very bad, bumbling spy, incredibly unsmooth with laughably low charisma. Sometimes it’s not just about having the highest skill or being the most useful party member. All in all, the most important thing is just having a good time while playing, whatever that means to you!
To help you get started, I really like DND Beyond’s (Free!) Character Builder Tool. Since it’s stored on their website, it’s great for when you forget the paper copy of your character sheet at home, but that’s just one of the perks. It also automatically applies bonuses that you get for being a various race or class, and as you level up in your campaign, you can gain stat increases without having to learn all of the semantics! This site has really made DnD character creation accessible, and I can’t recommend it enough to new and old players alike. Their stockpile of character background builds is quite nifty, too. Definitely give it a look if you haven’t already. (This isn’t sponsored—do they even sponsor?—I just think it’s really neat).
Until next time, players. Let the good dice roll!