Welcome to Saving Throw! A recurring article where we traverse deeper into the world of Dungeons and Dragons together. There are lots of moving parts in D&D and it can get overwhelming at times. So we will work step by step to explore the nooks and crannies of our favorite pen and paper game! Today let’s make a character! I should make a note, we are assuming you have not invested any money so far into D&D, so I will only use resources that are free and easy to find.
What’s in a name?
This is where I love to start every character I make. It helps me wrap my head around them and have a feeling of what they will be like by the end. Names can be very difficult to come up with, luckily there are a literal TON of random name generators or fantasy name generators to help you out. Just find one that jives with you and start to get an image of who they are and what they are going to look like. For today’s purposes, we are going to pick the first name that comes to mind… Handsy McSnowdrift. Yup, that’ll do. I don’t know about you guys but this feels like the name of a Thief, perhaps from a northern climate? This is where Google is your friend. Since we don’t have a wealth of knowledge on this particular subject we will do a quick google search on humans and we wind up with this. I am thinking Handsy will be an Illuskan Human. Don’t toss the page away yet, as we will need all those traits at the bottom to help build our character, just jot down a few notes and we are on to the next step.
Who says I don’t have class?
Get it? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. We know we want our beloved Handsy to become a thief, so the first step is to make him a Rogue Class. So we are going to jot that down along with his race (Human Illuskan) and we are going to pick the background of Charlatan. There is a lovely primer on building Rogue types over at D&D Beyond. They have lots of great information, however, they will ask for purchases. I would recommend getting as much free info out of them as possible and for your purchase locked questions do some specific google searches for what you are looking for. If you don’t want to make a Rogue there are so many classes and types out there. One of the more interesting ones that I DM for is an Artificer. They have some really neat abilities and you can have lots of fun with them. Of course, it’s all your decision on the type of character you want to be. I don’t stress about Alignment too much in my games as long as you have a good idea of how your character will react to certain things, but for those who need it here is a really good explanation of what it all means! We will say Handsy is Chaotic Good for this purpose.
Let’s Spend Some Points!
There are three ways to figure out your stats. In the Classic Method, you would let the dice decide your stats, which is a little sadistic if you roll as I do. In 5th Edition D&D, you take 4 d6’s and roll for each stat, assigning your best rolls to the most important stats. For a Rogue, those are Dexterity and either Intelligence or Charisma. I like talking my way out of most things so we will focus on Dexterity and Charisma for Handsy. Then there is the Point Buy Method in which your DM will give you a set number of points to spend as you see fit. You get a total of 27 points to spend, the more you put into the stat the more points it costs (see above chart for costs). The final way is the Standard Array, it is the most simplified version of allocating points. The array is [15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8]. To keep things simple we will plug in the Standard Array for Handsy. Because Handsy is a Human we get an extra point into all of our stats. How nice! So everything will be bumped up by one. Now to calculate our modifier. WTF is a Modifier you say? Well, it is going to affect almost everything we do. It is a little helping hand with our rolls that determine what we get to do and what we fail at. Below is a handy little chart to help assign your modifiers. So we are going to plug that into the little circle under our stats.
Check out my skills!
So because we picked Charlatan as our background we already have Sleight of Hand and Deception. We get to pick 4 more like a Rogue class. I think we will go with Acrobatics, Investigation, Persuasion, and Stealth. That sounds about right to me. Flippy? Check. Can sniff out traps? Check? Convince someone to buy snake oil? Check. Sneaky Mcsneakerson? Check. One of our perks is that we get a Double Proficiency in 2 skills OR one skill and Thieves’ Tools. So I will go with the tools and Stealth. I want to open all the locked doors and chests ever. Let’s jot down our Proficiency bonus (at 1st level it is +2) This will affect the skills we are proficient in. So now we are going to fill in all the modifiers for our skills. You are just taking the modifiers from your stats and moving them over. If you are proficient in them you add your bonus which is 2. A quick note on Saving Throws. These numbers are your modifiers, just slide them over. We will cover what all this does in our next article.
Hit me, I dare you!
Let’s talk about Hit Points, Hit Dice and what it all means! Hit Dice are determined by your class. As a Rogue, our hit Dice is 1d8. To figure out our hit points we are going to add the total number of sides on the dice (8) and add our Constitution modifier (2) so our Hit point total is 10! When we level up we can either roll the dice and add that number or we can take the average number of all the sides added together (5). Or if you have a super nice DM they may allow you to add the maximum roll on the dice. So Hit points are how much health you have before you are knocked out or killed off in D&D like most games. The question is how do we determine if we get hit? Armor Class! Armor Class is kind of your Difficulty Check. If your DM is having a goblin attack they have to roll against your Armor Class to see if they hit you or not. So, how do we figure that out? Well, first we have to take into consideration what KIND of armor we can use. Rogues use light armor ONLY. So this will impact our Armor Class greatly. There are some handy charts you can find online that show the calculations for determining your Armor Class. Roll20 has a nice chart with great descriptions. I start with the Leather armor which doesn’t have a disadvantage on sneak which is nice. Personally, as a DM if what you wear is close in stats and plays into your background I will allow you to determine what armor you are wearing WITHIN REASON. Don’t come up to your DM and say you got a Vorpal Blade passed down by your family with Full Spiked Armor. Most DMs will NOT play that game with you. So the Leather Armor adds 11 plus our Dex Modifier (3) So our Armor Class is 14 (not bad, not great).
What’s in my bag?
Since we covered what we are wearing, let’s chat about what we are carrying. There are lots of factors that play into what we have mostly our class and background. As a Rogue, we can pick a Rapier or Shortsword (We picked Rapier because of Princess Bride y’all). We can pick up a secondary weapon as a shortsword or a short bow with 20 arrows. I like ranged attacks so we will go with the bow for now. To find out what kind of damage we are looking at here is yet another handy page from Roll20. Our Rapier will do 1D8+3 (in other words, roll an 8 sided die and add three to the total) in piercing damage. The bow will do 1D6+3 damage. I also have 2 daggers I carry around and if I use them they can do 1D4+3 damage. A word on Attack Bonus. Each weapon has an associated stat. All of these weapons are Dex based. So to figure out our Attack Bonus we will take our Proficiency bonus and add the Dex modifier (or whatever modifier your weapon is associated with). You add your Attack Bonus when you determine if you are going to hit an enemy. Now for the other things Handsy has, this is a long list so I’ll just show the image of my page filled out. All of these items are from our Background and our Class. One note, I get to pick a set of “Con tools” so I will go with the weighted dice. You’ll see a “burglar’s pack”. Here is a nice link with the contents of such packs and what’s in them. It is handy knowledge and can help you creatively get out of some situations.
What makes me tick?
Let’s go over some Personality features. These are basically what makes your character do the things they do. I am going to use some premade ones from the Background page I linked earlier. You can come up with some or all of these on your own, I am just being super lazy with this character. These types of charts come in handy, just roll a dice and pick the one associated or just pick what you think may fit your character. So I like the idea of him having lots of holy symbols on hand for invoking whatever may work in his favor, it jives with me as I am the “I have an app for that “ kind of person. I picked two ideals that reflect his Chaotic Good nature and now to pick a Bond. This is always a sticky place for beginners. What exactly is a Bond? The best way I can describe it is a Bond is that attaches your character to the world and gives them the reason to do what they do. So we will go with the mentor who is probably in jail somewhere. This is what moves Handsy, what drives him to do the things he does. He was probably taken in as a young boy, homeless and starving and used to fleece people for his mentor. They taught him everything he knows and let’s say that they wound up swindling him and he cut all ties, perhaps turned them over to authorities and went about his way, having difficulty trusting others because he knows “how people are”. Flaw? He has to swindle anyone who he sees has more power than him. It gives him some satisfaction to see someone born to “greatness and wealth” lose everything. Now for Features. This is simply all the features of your class and background ( you can find these on the pages linked above).
There you have it
That is how to build your character in the world of D&D. There is more, like spellcasting that we didn’t cover here, so for the sake of giving you as much knowledge as possible, I will link a nice primer on how they work. Cantrips are different than spells. Cantrips don’t take up a spell slot and do not need to be prepared in advance. As a caster, you have a certain amount of spell slots depending on your level, and generally, you pick and choose which you want to know for use in battle. Cantrips are “spells” that you have used so often you know them like the back of your hand. Spellcasting ability is whatever modifier you use for spells, some are wisdom, charisma or intelligence. You will find this information with your Class description. Spell Save DC is generally an 8+proficiency bonus + the associated modifier. Spell attack is generally your Proficiency bonus + your associated modifier. If you guys found this helpful give us a shout out in our Discord or on The MHG Twitter and feel free to follow us on Mixer! You can always find me on twitter @ldycalluna for any help or advice in D&D.