D&D 5e Character Creation Guide

D&D 5e Character Creation Guide

Ahoy! This guide is for 5th edition D&D character creation and is handy for creating characters in big groups when there is only a single Player's Handbook to pass around. As the DM you can direct your players to this page or print out a copy for each player, then walk the group through the steps of character creation—providing them with all the extra details they'll needed from the Player's Handbook along the way. If you are creating a character on your own, without the guidance of your DM, this guide will provide you with detailed step-by-step directions.

The goal of this article is to consolidate the information in the Player’s Handbook for character creation that is spread out across several hundred pages into an easy to follow step by step guide.

What You'll Need

Things To Note

  • The info presented here is specific to creating a character on first level
  • This guide assumes you are using the optional Feats rules
  • This guide assumes you are rolling Ability Scores instead of the variant point system—I've always found rolling characters more exciting
  • This guide assumes you are rolling for starting gold and purchasing all your starting Equipment (instead of the default equipment based on Class and Background)

Step-by-step character creation

  1. Record Your Name (that’s your real name not your character’s name) on the first sheet (top right) and record your name or initials on sheets two and three (top right in the margin)
  2. Choose and record your Character’s Name (sheet 1 & 2, top left)
    • Feel free to delay choosing a name for your character until you have flushed out your character's qualities, appearance, and background
  3. Record your Level: 1, and XP: 0 (sheet 1, top right)
  4. Record your Proficiency Bonus: +2 (sheet 1, top left)

Race

  1. Choose and record your character's Race and Appearance
    • Choose and record a Race (sheet 1, top right)
      • If applicable choose a Subrace
      • If you choose the Dragonborn Race see page 32 of the Player's Handbook for the different types of Draconic Ancestry Subraces
    • Choose or roll then record your Height and Weight (sheet 2, top right)
      • If rolled, the initial roll is used to calculate both Height & Weight and a second roll (for most races) is also used to calculate Weight
      • For example if you are rolling Height and Weight for a Hill Dwarf you would roll 2d4 (let’s say you roll a 6) and add the result to 3’8" (for a Height of 4’2”), then roll 2d6 (let’s say the result is 5) and multiply the result by your first roll (6 × 5 = 30) and add that to 115 (for a Weight of 145 lbs)
    • Choose and record an Age (sheet 2, top right)
    • Choose and record Hair, Skin, and Eye color (sheet 2, top right)
    • Optionally, choose and record any distinguishing Physical Characteristics, such as a scar, tattoo, or limp (sheet 2, top left)
    • Record your base Speed (sheet 1, top middle)
    Race Roll Height (ft in) Weight (lbs) Age (yrs) Speed
    Dwarf, hill 2d4 3’8” + roll 115 + (roll × 2d6) 50–350 25
    Dwarf, mountain 2d4 4’ + roll 130 + (roll × 2d6) 50–350 25
    Elf, high 2d10 4’6” + roll 90 + (roll × 1d4) 100–750 30
    Elf, wood 2d10 4’6” + roll 100 + (roll × 1d4) 100–750 35
    Elf, dark 2d6 4’5” + roll 75 + (roll × 1d6) 100–750 30
    Halfling (lightfoot or stout) 2d4 2’7” + roll 35 + roll 20–150 25
    Human 2d10 4’8” + roll 110 + (roll × 2d4) 16–100 30
    Dragonborn (dragon ancestry) 2d8 5’6” + roll 175 + (roll × 2d6) 15–80 30
    Gnome (forest or rock) 2d4 2’11” + roll 35 + roll 40–500 25
    Half-elf 2d8 4’9” + roll 110 + roll × 2d4 20–180 30
    Half-orc 2d10 4’10” + roll 140 + (roll × 2d6) 14–75 30
    Tiefling 2d8 4’9” + roll 110 + (roll × 2d4) 16–90 30
  2. Record your racial Traits (sheet 1, lower right)
    • For Subraces record both Race and Subrace Traits
    • Reference the Player's Handbook for specific details of each Trait
    Race Page Traits
    Dwarf 18–20 Darkvision, Dwarven resilience, Dwarven combat training, Tool proficiency (artisan), Stonecunning
    Dwarf, hill 20 Dwarven toughness
    Dwarf, mountain 20 Dwarven armor training
    Elf 21–24 Darkvision, Keen senses, Fey ancestry, Trance
    Elf, high 23–24 Elf weapon training, Cantrip
    Elf, wood 24 Elf weapon training, Fleet of foot, Mask of the wild
    Elf, dark 24 Superior darkvision, Sunlight sensitivity, Drow magic, Drow weapon training
    Halfling 26–28 Lucky, Brave, Halfling nimbleness
    Halfling, lightfoot 28 Naturally stealthy
    Halfling, stout 28 Stout resilience
    Human 29–31 Choose 1 Skill Proficiency, Choose 1 Feat
    Dragonborn 32–32 Draconic ancestry, Breath weapon, Damage resistance
    Gnome 35–37 Darkvision, Gnome cunning
    Gnome, forest 37 Natural illusionist, Speak with small beasts
    Gnome, rock 37 Artificer’s lore, Tinker
    Half-elf 38–39 Fey ancestry, Skill versatility
    Half-orc 40–41 Darkvision, Menacing, Relentless endurance, Savage attacks
    Tiefling 42–43 Darkvision, Hellish resistance, Infernal legacy
  3. Record the Languages spoken by your Race (sheet 1, lower left)
    Race Languages
    Dwarf Common & Dwarvish
    Elf Common & Elvish
    Halfling Common & Halfling
    Human Common & Any
    Dragonborn Common & Draconic
    Gnome Common & Gnomish
    Half-elf Common, Elvish, & One of choice
    Half-orc Common & Orcish
    Tiefling Common & Infernal

Class

  1. Choose your Class and record your Hit Dice and base Proficiencies
    • Record your Class (sheet 1, top right)
    • Record your Total Hit Dice with the die type in parentheses and your current Hit Dice, both of which are 1 on first level (sheet 1, center)
      • For example, a Cleric would record Total: 1 (d8), and Hit Dice: 1
    • Mark your Saving Throw Proficiencies (sheet 1, left)
    • Record your Armor & Weapon Proficiencies (sheet 1, center)
      • For a list of Light, Medium, and Heavy Armors see page 145 of the Player's Handbook
      • For a list of Simple and Martial Weapons see page 149 of the Player's Handbook
    Class Hit Die Saving Throws Armor & Weapon Proficiencies
    Barbarian d12 Strength & Constitution Light & medium armor, Shields, Simple & martial weapons
    Bard d8 Dexterity & Charisma Light armor, Simple weapons, Hand crossbows, Longswords, Rapiers, Shortswords
    Cleric d8 Wisdom & Charisma Light & medium armor, Shields, Simple weapons
    Druid d8 Intelligence & Wisdom Light & medium armor, Shields (nonmetal), Clubs, Daggers, Darts, Javelins, Maces, Quarterstaffs, Scimitars, Sickles, Slings, Spear
    Fighter d10 Strength & Constitution All armor, Shields, Simple & martial weapons
    Monk d8 Strength & Dexterity Simple weapons, Shortswords
    Paladin d10 Wisdom & Charisma All armor, Shields, Simple & martial weapons
    Ranger d10 Strength & Dexterity Light & medium armor, Shields, Simple & martial weapons
    Rogue d8 Dexterity & Intelligence Light armor, Simple weapons, Hand crossbows, Longswords, Rapiers, Shortswords
    Sorcerer d6 Constitution & Charisma Dagger, darts, Slings, Quarterstaff, Light crossbows
    Warlock d8 Wisdom & Charisma Light armor, Simple weapons
    Wizard d6 Intelligence & Wisdom Dagger, Darts, Slings, Quarterstaff, Light crossbows
  2. Record your Class' Features (sheet 1, lower right)
    • Reference the Player's Handbook for specific details of each Class Feature
    Class Page Features
    Barbarian 47–49 Rage, Unarmored defense
    Bard 52–54 Spellcasting, Bardic inspiration
    Cleric 57–59 Spellcasting, Divine domain
    Druid 65–68 Druidic, Sepllcasting
    Fighter 71–72 Fighting style, Second wind
    Monk 77–79 Unarmored defense, Martial arts
    Paladin 84–85 Divine sense, Lay on hands
    Ranger 90–92 Favored enemy, Natural explorer
    Rogue 95–97 Expertise, Sneak attack, Thieves’ cant
    Sorcerer 100–102 Sepllcasting, Sourcerous origin
    Warlock 106–108 Otherworldly patron, Pact magic
    Wizard 113–115 Spellcasting, Arcane recovery
  3. If applicable, record your Class' Tool Proficiencies (sheet 1, lower left)
    Class Tool Proficiencies
    Bard Choose 3 musical instruments
    Druid Herbalism kit
    Monk Choose 1 type of artisan’s tools or instrument
    Rogue Thieves’ tools
  4. Choose and mark your Skill Proficiencies (sheet 1, left)
    Class Skill Proficiencies
    Barbarian Choose 2: Animal handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, & Survival
    Bard Choose any 3 skills
    Cleric Choose 2: History, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion, & Religion
    Druid Choose 2: Arcana, Animal handling, Insight, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Religion, & Survival
    Fighter Choose 2: Acrobatics, Animal handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, & Survival
    Monk Choose 2: Acrobatics, Athletics, History, Insight, Religion, & Stealth
    Paladin Choose 2: Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Medicine, Persuasion, & Religion
    Ranger Choose 3: Animal handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Stealth, & Survival
    Rogue Choose 4: Acrobatics, Athletics, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Perception, Performance, Persuasion, Sleight of hand, & Stealth
    Sorcerer Choose 2: Arcana, Deception, Insight, Intimidation, Persuasion, & Religion
    Warlock Choose 2: Arcana, Deception, History, Intimidation, Investigation, Nature, & Religion
    Wizard Choose 2: Arcana, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, & Religion

Ability Scores

  1. Roll your Ability Scores
    • On a piece of scratch paper record the result of rolling 4d6, discarding the lowest die
    • Repeat this roll five more times for total of six Ability Scores
    • If desired discard and re-roll all new scores (house rule: you can't change your mind and go back to a previously rolled set)
    • Note the primary Ability Score(s) for your class and then assign your rolls to each of the six Ability Scores (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intelligence, Charisma), typically assigning your highest roll(s) to your Class' primary Ability Score(s)
    Class Primary Ability Score
    BarbarianStrength
    BardCharisma
    ClericWisdom
    DruidWisdom
    FighterStrength or Dexterity
    MonkStrength & Wisdom
    PaladinStrength & Charisma
    RangerDexterity & Wisdom
    RogueDexterity
    SorcererCharisma
    WarlockCharisma
    WizardIntelligence
  2. Next, still working on the scratch paper, adjust your Ability Scores according to your Race
    • For Subraces combine both Race and Subrace adjustments
    Race Ability Score Adjustments
    DragonbornStrength + 2, Charisma + 1
    DwarfConstitution + 2
    Dwarf, hillWisdom + 1
    Dwarf, mountainStrength + 2
    ElfDexterity + 2
    Elf, darkCharisma + 1
    Elf, highIntelligence + 1
    Elf, woodWisdom + 1
    GnomeIntelligence + 2
    Gnome, forestDexterity + 1
    Gnome, rockConstitution + 1
    Half-elfCharisma + 2, Any two other ability scores + 1
    Half-orcStrength + 2, Constitution + 1
    Halfling, lightfootCharisma + 1
    Halfling, stoutConstitution + 1
    HalflingDexterity + 2
    HumanAny two different ability scores + 1
    TieflingIntelligence + 1, Charisma + 2
  3. Record your Ability Scores in the small oval for each ability (sheet 1, left)
  4. Calculate and record your Ability Modifiers in the large squares of each Ability Score (sheet 1, left)
    • Subtract 10 from each score then divide the result by 2 rounded down
    • For example an Ability Score of 3 has a -4 modifier, 10 has no modifier, and 15 has a +2 modifier
  5. Record your Hit Point Maximum and Current Hit Points which are the maximum value of your class' Hit Die (on first level only) plus your Constitution Ability Modifier (sheet 1, center)
    • For example a Cleric with a Constitution of 15 would record 10 for their Hit Point Maximum and Current Hit Points on first level (the maximum value of their class' hit die, 8, puls 2 for their Constitution Ability Modifier)
    • Note if you are a Hill Dwarf you add an additional 1 for the Dwarven Toughness Trait

Spells

  1. If your Class has the Spellcasting Feature record your Spellcasting Class (your character's Class) (sheet 3, top left)
  2. Record your Spellcasting Ability (sheet 3, top)
    Class Spellcasting Ability
    Bard Charisma
    Cleric Wisdom
    Druid Wisdom
    Sorcerer Charisma
    Warlock Charisma
    Wizard Intelligence
  3. Record your Spell Save DC, Spell Attack Modifier, and Spell Slots
    • Record your Spell Save DC: 8 + your Proficiency Bonus + the Ability Modifier for your Spellcasting Ability (sheet 3, top)
      • For example, a Cleric with a Wisdom of 15 would record 12 for their Spell Save DC (8 plus 2 for their Proficiency Bonus plus 2 for their Wisdom Ability Modifier)
    • Record your Spell Attack Modifier: your Proficiency Bonus + the Ability Modifier for your Spellcasting Ability (sheet 3, top)
      • For example, a Cleric with a Wisdom of 15 would record +4 for their Spell Attack Modifier (2 for their Proficiency Bonus plus 2 for their Wisdom Ability Modifier)
    • Record your Spell Slots for Spell Level 1 in the box labeled Slots Total (sheet 3, left)
    Class Spell Slots
    Bard 2
    Cleric 2
    Druid 2
    Sorcerer 2
    Warlock 1
    Wizard 2
  4. Choose and record your Cantrips from the list available to your Class according to the number of Known Cantrips your Class receives on first level (sheet 3, top left)
    • Reference Chapter 11: Spells in the Player's Handbook, starting on page 207, for spell descriptions
    Class Known Cantrips
    Bard 2 Blade ward, Dancing lights, Friends, Light, Mage hand, Mending, Message, Minor illusion, Prestidigitation, True strike, Vicious mockery
    Cleric 3 Guidance, Light, Mending, Resistance, Sacred flame, Spare the dying, Thaumaturgy
    Druid 2 Druidcraft, Guidance, Mending, Poison spray, Produce flame, Resistance, Shillelagh, Thorn whip
    Sorcerer 4 Acid splash, Blade ward, Chill touch, Dancing lights, Fire bolt, Friends, Light, Mage hand, Mending, Message, Minor illusion, Poison spray, Prestidigitation, Ray of frost, Shocking grasp, True strike
    Warlock 2 Blade ward, Chill touch, Eldritch blast, Friends, Mage hand, Minor illusion, Poison spray, Prestidigitation, True strike
    Wizard 3 Aid splash, Blade ward, Chill touch, Dancing lights, Fire bolt, Friends, Light, Mage hand, Mending, Message, Minor illusion, Poison spray, Prestidigitation, Ray frost, Shocking grasp, True strike
  5. Choose and record your First Level Spells from the list spells available to your Class (sheet 3, left)
    • If your class uses Spells Known chose spells according to the number of spells you know on first level (choose wisely you will only have access to these spells until you level up)
    • If your class uses Spells Prepared chose the spells you currently have prepared (after a long rest you can choose a new set of prepared spells from any spell available to your class and level, with the exception of Wizards who are limited to their Spells Known)
    • Reference Chapter 11: Spells of the Player's Handbook, starting on page 2017, for spell descriptions
    Class Spells Known Spells Prepared
    Bard 4
    Cleric Wisdom Ability Modifier + 1 (level)
    Druid Wisdom Ability Modifier + 1 (level)
    Sorcerer 2
    Warlock 2
    Wizard 6 Intelligence Ability Modifier + 1 (level)
    Class First Level Spells
    Bard Animal friendship, Bane, Charm person, Comprehend languages, Cure wounds, Detect magic, Disguise self, Dissonant whispers, Faerie fire, Feather fall, Healing word, Heroism, Identify, Illusory script, Longstrider, Silent image, Sleep, Speak with animals, Tasha’s hideous laughter, Thunderwave, Unseen servant
    Cleric Bane, Bless, Command, Create or destroy water, Cure wounds, Detect evil and good, Detect magic, Detect poison and disease, Guiding bolt, Healing word, Inflict wounds, Protection from evil & good, Purify food and drink, Sanctuary, Shield of faith
    Druid Animal friendship, Charm person, Create or destroy water, Cure wounds, Detect magic, Detect poison and disease, Entangle, Faerie fire, Fog cloud, Goodberry, Healing word, Jump, Longstrider, Purify food and drink, Speak with animals, Thunderwave
    Sorcerer Burning hands, Charm person, Chromatic orb, Color spray, Comprehend languages, Detect magic, Disguise self, Expeditious retreat, False life, Feather fall, Fog cloud, Jump, Mage armor, Magic missile, Ray of sickness, Shield, Silent image, Sleep, Thunderwave, Witch bolt
    Warlock Armor of agates, Arms of radar, Charm person, Comprehend languages, Expeditious retreat, Helish rebuke, Hex, Illusory script, Protection from evil & eood, Unseen servant, Witch bolt
    Wizard Alarm, Burning hands, Charm person, Chromatic orb, Color spray, Comprehend languages, Detect magic, Disguise self, Expeditious retreat, False life, Feather fall, Find familiar, Fog cloud, Grease, Identify, Illusory script, Jump, Longstrider, Mage armor, Magic missile, Protection from evil & good, Ray of sickness, Shield, Silent image, Sleep, Tasha’s hideous laughter, Tenser’s floating disk, Thunderwave, Unseen servant, Witch bolt
  6. If you have any combat spells, list them under Attacks & Spellcasting (sheet 1, top right) noting the amount of Damage they do and your Attack Bonus (your Spellcasting Ability Modifier puls your Proficiency Bonus)

Background & Personality

  1. Choose & record an Alignment (sheet 1, top right)
    • Combine your character's attitude towards society, Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic, with your character's morality, Good, Neutral, or Evil
  2. Choose & record a Background or customize your own
    • Record your Background (sheet 1, top right)
    • Record your Background's Feature (sheet 1, lower right)
      • Reference the Player's Handbook for specific details of each Feature (page numbers noted in the table below)
    • Mark your Background's Skill Proficiencies (sheet 1, left)
      • If your background offers a Skill Proficiency that you already received from your Class you can choose another Skill Proficiency of your choice
    • Record your Background's Tool Proficiencies, if any (sheet 1, lower left)
      • If your Background offers a Tool Proficiency that you already received from your Race or Class you can choose another Tool Proficiency of your choice
    • If applicable, choose and record any Languages (sheet 1, lower left)
    • If desired you can customize your Background or make up an entirely new one by choosing one Background Feature, any two Skill Proficiencies, and up to two Tool Proficiencies or Languages
    Background Page Feature Skills Proficiencies Tool Proficiencies Languages
    Acolyte 127 Shelter of the faithful Insight, Religion Any 2
    Charlatan 128 False identity Deception, Sleight of hand Disguise kit, Forgery kit
    Criminal 129 Criminal contact Deception, Stealth One type of gaming set, Thieves’ tools
    Entertainer 130 By popular demand Acrobatics, Performance Disguise kit, One type of instrument
    Folk Hero 131 Rustic hospitality Animal Handling, Survival One type of artisan's tolls, Vehicles (land)
    Guild Artisan 132 Guild membership Insight, Persuasion One type of artisan’s tools Any 1
    Hermit 134 Discovery Medicine, Religion Herbalism kit Any 1
    Noble 135 Position of privilege History, Persuasion One type of gaming set Any 1
    Outlander 136 Wanderer Atheletics, Survival One type of musical instrument
    Sage 137 Researcher Arcanna, History Any 2
    Sailor 139 Ship’s passage Athletics, Perception Navigator’s tools, Vehicles (water)
    Soldier 140 Military rank Atheletics, Intimidation One type of gaming set, Vehicles (land)
    Urchin 141 City secrets Sleight of Hand, Stealth Disguise kit, Thieve’ tools
  3. Roll, choose, or make up 2 Personality Traits, 1 Ideal, 1 Bond, and 1 Flaw and record them on your Character Sheet (sheet 1, top right), see suggestions for each Background in the Player’s Handbook on the pages noted above

Equipment

  1. Roll starting Gold (see page 143 of the Player’s Handbook for each Class' starting Gold) and record the amount on your scratch paper
  2. Purchase Armor, Weapons, Adventuring Gear, and Tools, while keeping track of your balance on the scratch paper
    • Armor can be found on page 145 of the Player’s Handbook
    • Weapons can be found on page 149 of the Player’s Handbook
    • Adventuring Gear can be found on page 150 of the Player’s Handbook
    • Tools can be found on page 154 of the Player’s Handbook
    • If desired roll a Trinket, see page 160 of the Player’s Handbook
  3. Record your Equipment (sheet 1, bottom center)
  4. Record any remaining Gold after you have purchased your starting equipment (sheet 1, bottom center)
  5. Record your Armor Class (sheet 1, top center)
    • If you purchased Armor look up its Armor Class on page 145 of the Player’s Handbook and add your Dexterity Ability Modifier if applicable
      • Medium Armor limits your Dexterity bonus to a maximum of 2
      • Heavy Armor negates all Dexterity bonuses
    • If you didn't purchase Armor record 10 plus your Dexterity Ability Modifier for your Armor Class
  6. List your attacks based on your Weapons under Attacks & Spellcasting (sheet 1, center) noting the amount of Damage they do and your Attack Bonus (your Strength Ability Modifier or your Dexterity Ability Modifier) puls your Proficiency Bonus
    • Finesse Weapons use whichever Attack Bonus is better, your Strength Ability Modifier or your Dexterity Ability Modifier
    • Thrown Weapons use your Strength Ability Modifier, unless the Thrown Weapon is also a Finesse weapon in which case you can choose whichever Attack Bonus is better
    • Ranged Weapons use your Dexterity Ability Modifier for your Attack Bonus

Calculate Checks

  1. Now that you have chosen all your Proficiencies, fill in your Skill Checks by entering the appropriate Ability Modifier for each Skill (indicated by the Ability Score abbreviation in parentheses next to each Skill Check on your character sheet) and adjusted by 2 for any Skills you have proficiency in (sheet 1, left)
    • For example if you have a Dexterity of 15 and proficiency in the Acrobatics skill you would record +4 for your Acrobatics check (2 for your Dexterity Ability Modifier plus 2 for your Proficiency Bonus in Acrobatics)
  2. Record your Passive Wisdom: 10 + your Perception Modifier + your Proficiency Bonus if applicable (sheet 1, lower left)
    • For example a Druid with a Wisdom of 15 and proficiency in the Perception skill would record 14 for their Passive Wisdom (10 plus 2 for their Wisdom Ability Modifier plus 2 for their Perception Proficiency Bonus)

Summary

That's it. Hopefully this guide helped you or your group streamline character creation. Let me know if you have any questions or feedback in the comments.

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