Before you begin, first have an idea of who you wish to play. Don’t think about what they are going to be good at and what their mastery is. Please think about who they are. What their loves are. What they hate and feat. Their personality. You should build a PERSON before you build a sheet. Once you have some ideas of who you are going to play, continue below to determine what that person will become as a results of who they are.
Also keep in mind, the rules below are the most middle of the line rules with no customization and no homebrew included. This is A very basic newbie tutorial and odds are unless your DM is a newbie, or is running a newbie specific game, this won’t be the exact list of rules you will use for your own character creation. BUT this is a newbie friendly tutorial to get you used to the general process.
[expand title=”Step 1: Determine your Ability Scores(Click to expand)”]
Your ability scores determine your character’s general attributes. There are 6 basic abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. There are a number of ways of determining the score for each ability, and your DM will assist you in making this determination. I call this Step X because there is no best time to determine your ability scores. Some people like to determine them first and build their characters around their ability scores. Others like to determine them after choosing other aspects of their character and work within the limitations of their abilities. The following are basic descriptions of each ability.
Strength – This ability measures the power of your character’s muscle. It determines how accurately and how powerfully you can swing a weapon, how well you can trip and wrestle, and how well you jump, climb, and swim.
Dexterity – This ability measures how agile, nimble, and accurate your character is. It determines how accurately you shoot a bow or throw a knife, how well you dodge blows, how well you tumble or balance, and how well you can manipulate small objects. It also affects your reflex save and how quickly you can act at the beginning of a combat.
Constitution – This ability measures how tough your character is. It affects how many HP you have, your fortitude save, and how well you can concentrate amid distractions.
Intelligence – This ability measures your character’s intellect. It affects how many skill points you have to allocate, how many languages you speak, and how well you can analyze and recall information. If you are a wizard, it is also important for your spell-casting ability.
Wisdom – This ability measures how aware and perceptive your character is. It affects your will save and your ability to observe and perceive. If you are a cleric or druid, it is also important for your spell-casting ability.
Charisma – This ability measures the force of your character’s personality. It affects your ability to persuade or fool others. If you are a sorcerer, it is also important for your spell-casting ability. This also extends to Bards as well.
Your base ability score is somewhere between 3 and 18 and is modified by a number of factors including your race and any magic items or spells affecting you. Your ability score determines your ability modifier, or the number added to rolls that depend upon that ability. For example, you add your strength modifier (not your strength score) to your melee weapon attack and damage rolls. A score of 10 in any ability grants you a modifier of +0. Your ability modifier increase to +1 for scores of 12-13, +2 for scores of 14-15, +3 for scores of 16-17, +4 for scores of 18-19, and increasing in that pattern. On the other hand, the modifier decreases to -1 for scores of 8-9, -2 for scores of 6-7, and decreasing in that pattern.
[expand title=”Step 2: Choose A Race(CClick to Expand)”]
D&D enables you to choose to play a character of a variety of fantasy races. Your choice of race will impact the type of character you play. Below is a list of the standard races and a brief sketch of the type of character to which they lend themselves. Note that it is always possible (and can be a lot of fun) to play a character that goes against the grain.
Human – The baseline race, humans are adaptable and can be a good choice for almost any character.
Dwarf – Dwarves are tough but gruff and slower than other races.
Elf – Elves are graceful and quick but less hardy than other races.
Gnome – Gnomes are small and tough but not as strong as other races. They have some simple magical abilities and an affinity for illusions. They are also slower than larger races.
Half-Elf – Existing between elven and human worlds, half-elves are consummate diplomats with some traits from both their human and elven heritage.
Half-Orc – Half-orcs are strong but not as intelligent or charismatic as other races.
Halflings – Halflings are agile and dexterous but not as strong or fast as larger races. They excel at stealth and acrobatics.
Note that your race determines your base speed, unless the class you choose grants you a bonus. Fill in this portion of your character sheet now as well.
Step 2: Choose a Base Class
Your base class determines what abilities you will gain over the course of your adventuring career and how you will fit into a party. A base class contains 20 levels with a number of abilities spaced out over the progression. It also determines your BAB, saves, HP, and your skill usage. I’ve outlined the basic features of the standard base classes below, referencing the party roles we discussed previously.
Barbarian – One of the primary direct combat classes, barbarians are marked by their speed and their ability to rage, boosting their power and toughness. Barbarians rely on high HP to survive combat rather than heavy armor.
Bard – Often highlighted as the classic 5th wheel class, a bard has some arcane casting ability, significant skill ability (especially social skills), can wear some armor, and has some combat skill. They are also able to use their musical abilities to assist their comrades. If built correctly, bards can fill almost any party role.
Cleric – Clerics are divine casters and some of the strongest healers in the game. They can also wear heavy armor and have substantial buffing capability and can serve as melee combatants or caster combatants.
Druid – Druids are divine casters focused on the power of nature. They can heal (though not quite as well as clerics), buff, summon allies, and deal damage. They also have the ability to assume the forms of various animals, giving them substantial combat abilities and enabling them to serve as in melee. That said they likely should never be the primary or only melee.
Fighter – Perhaps the archetypal combat class, a fighter has high BAB, high hit points, and access to all types of armor. They have the ability to customize their fighting style and become skilled in a number of types of combat. There is no form of physical combat they cannot master making them perhaps the single most adaptable class available. From the generic meatshield trope where they block all the hits with their face so the party doesn’t have to to the swordsmaster dancing through the enemy hitting everyone and prancing away, to the artillery firing an irrationally huge bow from an irrational distance. The fighter can do it all.
Monk – Monks are mobile fighters who rely on unarmed combat. They gain a number of abilities related to this role and have perhaps the highest saves in the game. They also excel at skills related to movement and acrobatics. However, they aren’t quite tough enough to fill the primary melee role and are perhaps best suited to the 5th wheel or skill monkey role.
Paladin – Holy warriors whose skills are powered by their faith, paladins are formidable combatants well able to fill the melee roles. Their limited healing abilities give them staying power in addition to their more conventional defenses. They gain the ability to smite evil foes, making them especially skilled at combating evil.
Ranger – Rangers are martial characters focused on wilderness environs. They gain many druid-like abilities to interact with nature and excel at tracking and fighting on the move, especially when fighting their favored enemies. They have significant skill ability and can chose to focus on ranged combat or fighting with a blade in each hand. They also gain very limited divine spellcasting ability.
Rogue – Perhaps the archetypal skill monkey class, rogues have unparalleled access to skills and are the only standard class with the ability to disarm traps. They can also be formidable combatants, especially when fighting distracted or surprised foes.
Sorcerer – Sorcerers are powerful arcane casters, though they have little conventional combat ability. They gain their magic through innate talent and have access to a limited number of spells that they can cast whenever they want (within limits).
Wizard – Wizards gain their arcane power through study and knowledge. They carry ponderous books of spells and must prepare each spell they cast at the beginning of the day. They have access to more spells than a sorcerer and are generally more versatile, but they can cast fewer spells per day and are limited by the spells they choose to prepare in the morning.
Other – A number of supplementary books include new base classes. Discuss options with your DM if you are interested in any of these other classes. Be careful though. The added options can be overwhelming even for experienced players.
Once you have selected your class, read up on your class abilities and enter them on your character sheet for ease of reference.
Step 4: Select your Feats
A feat represents a significant ability your character has. It might be increased skill with a certain weapon or the ability to strike more forcefully at the expense of accuracy. It might be an innate mental toughness that helps you overcome attacks on your mind. It might be familiarity with a certain type of spell.
There are a bewildering variety of feats available and choosing them can be a daunting task. It helps to consult with an experienced player, outlining what you want your character to be able to do and working with him or her to select appropriate feats. Your DM should be able to assist you with this process. It may also help to limit yourself to a certain number of sources instead of combing through every book looking for the perfect feat.
Your character gains one feat at “x” level and an additional feat at certain subsequent levels levels.* Certain races or classes also grant “bonus feats” (occasionally, but not always, from limited lists) which allow you to exceed the limits set simply by level. For example, human characters can select an additional feat at 1st level while fighters gain a number of bonus feats from a limited list over the course of their career. Feats are a limited resource and have significant impacts on the way your character functions, so choose them carefully.
Step 5: Determine your Initiative Modifier
Your initiative modifier determines when you will act in the combat order. A high initiative score will allow you to act before others, which can be a significant advantage. Your initiative score is the sum of:
Your dexterity modifier + any miscellaneous bonuses (from feats like Improved Initiative or class or racial abilities)
Determine your initiative modifier and enter this number on your character sheet.
Step 6: Determine your Hit Points
The class you choose determines, to a large extent, how many hit points you will have. Each class is assigned a “hit dice,” or the type of die you use to roll for your hit points every time you gain a level. For example, sorcerers and wizards use 4-sided dice (or “d4s”) to determine their hit points. On the other hand, barbarians use 12-sided dice (or “d12s”) to determine their hit points. You automatically gain full hit points at first level and roll to determine how many hit points you gain at each subsequent level, though some DMs use alternative methods for determining hit points. Your hit points gained at each level are determined by the amount rolled on your hit die plus your constitution modifier. For example, a barbarian with a constitution modifier of +2 would gain 1d12+2 hit points at every level up. Your character’s total HP are equal to the sum of HP gained at each level. Certain feats also grant you extra HP, so be sure to include these feats in your calculation.
Step 7: Determine your Save and Attack Modifiers
The class you chose will determine, in large part, what your modifiers for saves and attacks are. The bonuses granted by your class are listed under the appropriate column on your class’ table. Determine what the bonuses are and enter that amount in the appropriate place on your character sheet.
Your attack modifier is the sum of the following:
Your BAB (determined by your class) + your strength modifier for melee attacks or your dexterity modifier for ranged attacks (though in some cases, other ability modifiers will be added or substituted) + any size modifiers (if you are playing a small race, for example, you gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls) + any other modifiers (certain feats, high quality or magical equipment, class or racial abilities, and other effects can grant bonuses or penalties to attack rolls)
Ex: A 1st level human fighter wielding a masterwork sword with a strength modifier of +3 would have a melee attack bonus of +5 (+1 for BAB, +3 for Strength, +1 for his masterwork sword).
Ex: This same fighter with the Weapon Focus feat would have a +6 melee attack bonus (+1 for BAB, +3 for Strength, +1 for his masterwork sword, and +1 for the Weapon Focus feat).
Ex: A 1st level halfling fighter with a dexterity modifier of +4 wielding a masterwork throwing dagger would have a ranged attack bonus of +7 (+1 for BAB, +4 for dexterity, +1 for his masterwork dagger, and +1 for his racial bonus with thrown weapons).
Your save modifiers are the sum of the following:
Your base save (determined by your class) + the relevant ability modifier (constitution for fortitude saves, dexterity for reflex saves, and wisdom for will saves) + any modifiers from equipment + any other modifiers (racial, class-based, etc.)
Ex: A 1st level human fighter with a constitution modifier of +2 and a wisdom bonus of +0 would have a fortitude save of +4 (+2 base save, +2 from his constitution modifier) and a will save of +0 (+0 base save, +0 from his wisdom modifier).
Ex: If that same fighter took the Iron Will feat, he would have a fortitude save of +4 and a will save of +2 (+0 base save, +0 from his wisdom modifier, +2 from the Iron Will feat).
Step 8: Allocate your Skill Points
As we’ve already discussed, skills represent your character’s ability to interact with the world in non-violent ways. A list of the available skills (with a few specialized exceptions) appears on your character sheet.
The class you have selected determines to what skill you have access. You class description lists which skills are considered “class skills” for you. You can increase your modifier for class skills more easily than you can for “cross class skills.”
Your class also determines how many points you can allocate toward skill usage each time you level up. Each class grants between 2 and 8 skill points per level, which you can spend on any skill you chose. Additionally, you gain bonus skill points equal to your intelligence modifier every time you level up. For example, a rogue with an intelligence modifier of +1 would gain 9 skill points every level (8 from the rogue class and 1 from his intelligence modifier). Note that at first level you gain quadruple your normal number of skill points, as outlined in the class description.
You can purchase one “rank” in a class skill by spending one skill point, while one rank in a cross-class skill costs two skill points. You can have a number of ranks in a single skill equal to your class level + 3. Points spent into cross class skills only accrue ranks at half value.
How you allocate your skill points is entirely up to you. Some people like to spread their skill points around, gaining passable ability in a multitude of skills just in case the need arises. Others like to focus their skill points, specializing in a few important skills and keeping as many ranks in these skills as possible.
Your skill modifier (the number you add when making a skill check) is the sum of your skill ranks + your relevant ability modifier + any miscellaneous modifiers. Certain feats, class abilities, racial abilities, pieces of equipment, and special circumstances grant bonuses or penalties to your skill modifier. Additionally, the armor you wear can impose a penalty, called an “armor check penalty” on certain skill checks associated with movement.
Step 9: Purchase Equipment
Your equipment is an important part of your character. Your equipment includes the weapon(s) you wield, the armor or shield you use, and any other gear you deem necessary to carry around. Your DM will tell you, based on your class and level, how much money you have to work with when purchasing your starting equipment.
The following are a few general pointers.
Always have a backup weapon. If you rely on spell-casting, don’t forget that you may run out of spells and be forced to rely on conventional weapons. If you do rely on conventional combat, don’t forget that you can always lose or damage a weapon or that certain creatures may be affected more easily by a club or mace than by a sword. A ranged weapon can come in handy even if you rely on melee combat.
Choosing armor can be difficult. On the one hand, heavy armor can provide great protection. On the other hand, it can impede your mobility. Certain types of armor work better for agile characters while other types are better for more stolid characters. Make sure you take these factors into account when choosing what type of armor to wear.
Ask your DM about his or her preferences when it comes to rations and supplies. Some DMs are sticklers for keeping track of these things, in which case buying rations can be a good idea. Other DMs dislike the extra bookkeeping and assume you can forage for your food.
Some people like to carry everything they can on the assumption that you never know when you’ll need a signal whistle or a clay mug or a crowbar. Others prefer to travel light. The choice is up to you.
Step 10: Calculate your Armor Class
Your AC determines how well you can avoid taking hits. At this point you should be able to calculate your AC and add that number to your character sheet. Your AC is the sum of the following:
The armor bonus provided by your armor or similar protective item
The shield bonus provided by your shield, buckler, or similar item
Your dexterity modifier. Note that certain armors restrict the amount of your dexterity bonus you can apply to your AC.
Your size modifier. If you are medium-sized, this modifier is +0. If you are smaller than medium, you gain a bonus based on your size. If you are larger, you take a penalty to AC.
Your natural armor bonus, if any, which represents the natural toughness of your skin. Most common races do not have a natural armor bonus, but certain exotic races and a number of spells or magic items do.
Your deflection bonus, if any, which represents an ability that turns blows aside. Some spells and magic items grant a deflection bonus to armor class.
Any other modifiers from any source.
Step 11: Spells
If you are a character that casts spells, you will have to select them. If you cast as a sorcerer or a bard, you will have to select the limited number of spells you know and can use. If you cast as a wizard, cleric, or druid, you will have to select the spells you have prepared for the day. Either way, your spell selection determines, in large part, how you play your character. Choose wisely!
Step 12: Final Tweaks
Your character sheet also contains space for a number of more cosmetic (but no less important) details about your character, including physical descriptions, religious beliefs, gender, ethical alignment, languages spoken, and carrying capacity. Determining these details can add a lot to your character and make it easier to play. Fill these in as you desire, in consultation with your DM. Again, some DMs run games where carrying capacity or languages known play a significant role. Others are less rigorous about these details.