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Easy Step-By-Step Guide To Building a 5e Character

There are a lot of things that go into building a D&D character, from the hard statistics to the roleplay aspect, plus spells, equipment, and everything in between. It can be a lot to try and do all at once.

But, building a character doesn’t have to be difficult and shouldn’t require you to constantly flip back and forth in the Player’s Handbook. So, here is an easy step-by-step guide to creating a D&D character in 5e that is guaranteed to make that process simple. In fact, once you start using this guide, you should be able to create awesome characters in about 15-20 minutes.

Step 1: Choose a Race

All of the races have different bonuses and features that will change how you play the character. Many of the races also feature subraces which grant additional bonuses or features. From a technical standpoint, there are certain races that are better suited to each class, but don’t let that limit you too much. The important thing is to play a race you find interesting.

Fill out:

  • Race (top of the page)
  • Ability score modifiers (write in pencil next to the relevant statistic)
  • Age
  • Alignment
  • Size
  • Speed
  • Racial/subracial abilities and proficiencies
  • Languages (Check PHB pg. 123 for additional languages)

Note: Be sure to check with your DM about race restrictions, and ask which races are common or uncommon as that may influence your choice. Exotic races, such as those included in Volo’s Guide, may or may not be allowed, so be sure to ask before choosing an unusual race!

Step 2: Choose a Class

In the core rulebook, there are 12 classes to choose from, and each offer their own benefits. The bulk of your character sheet is going to come from your class, so it is easily the most important step in building a character.

Fill out:

  • Class and level (top of the page)
  • Proficiency bonus

Note: There are a ton of features and bonuses that come with your class, but we’re not ready to fill any of that out just yet. At this point, the important thing is to begin building your character concept. We’ll come back to fill out the rest of the hard numbers in a moment.

Step 3: Choose a Background

Your background is one of most overlooked and also coolest parts of 5th Edition. Backgrounds grant your character additional proficiencies, equipment, and a personality. This is done through Characteristics (Personality Trait, Ideal, Bond, Flaw) which are unique to your background.

Fill out:

  • Background (top of the page)
  • Background skill and tool proficiencies
  • Bonus languages
  • Background equipment
  • Background features
  • Characteristics (personality trait, ideal, bond, flaw)

Note: Remember that you aren’t limited to the list of background ideals, bonds, and flaws. If you don’t see anything that fits your character, talk to your DM and see if you can create something that will work better.

At this point, you should start to have something of a character concept going. Be sure to keep that concept in the back of your mind as you build up the more technical aspects of your character. The numbers we’re going to assign in a moment should reflect the concept you have in mind.

Step 4: Assign Hard and Soft Stats

Now that you’ve got the character basics, we’re ready for the numbers that are going to define how this character interacts with everything. The first step is going to be assigning your statistics (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma) then filling out the derivative stats.

Note: There are many different ways of finding and assigning these numbers, so check with your DM to see what method they prefer. Also, make sure you consider which stats need to be highest for your class, and add the racial bonuses we listed in Step 1 above to get the final result.

Fill out:

  • Statistics scores (with racial bonuses)
  • Statistics modifiers
  • Initiative bonus
  • Passive Wisdom

At this point, you may also want to go ahead and ask your DM how they are handling inspiration, or if that is a thing you need to worry about. Each DM handles it a little differently or your DM may choose to ignore it completely and use something else instead.

Step 5: Fill Out Class Info

Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty. This is the most involved step, so take your time and be sure to mark it down all the proficiencies and features properly.

Note: If you’re not starting at level one, make sure you’re writing down the correct features for your level, and don’t forget to increase other aspects like proficiency bonus and hit die. If you’re newer to the game, I recommend creating the whole character at level one, and then leveling them up all at once at the end.

Fill out:

  • Hit die
  • Hit points
  • Armor, weapon, and tool proficiencies
  • Stat saving throw proficiencies
  • Stat saving throws
  • Skill proficiencies
  • Skill modifiers
  • Class features

By this point, you should have everything on the front page of your sheet filled out except for the boxes labeled Equipment, Attacks & Spellcasting, and possibly Inspiration. If you skipped anything else, take a moment now and fill it out.

Step 6: Choose Spells

In 5th Edition, every class has the opportunity to get spells at some point, but only a few start out with them at first level. If you have spells, this is the time to choose them. Be aware that each class handles spells a little differently, so read the spell section on your class carefully before completing this step.

Fill out:

  • Spellcasting Ability
  • Spell Save DC
  • Spell Attack Bonus
  • Spell Slots
  • Spells Known

Note: If your DM allows phones at the table, there are several fantastic apps that can help you track which spells you have prepared, how many spell slots you have left, and other information. I highly recommend this app which you can use for free, or pay for additional features like tracking expended spell slots.

Step 7: Write Down Equipment

You should already have some equipment from your background. Now, you should go ahead and fill out the rest of your starting equipment. At the beginning of each class page, there should be a list of starting equipment. However, some DMs prefer characters purchase equipment, or do a combination of the two. If you’re buying your equipment, be sure to consider these 15 essential items in addition to the standard starting equipment.

Fill out:

  • Starting gold
  • Standard class starting equipment OR roll for your staring gold and purchase weapons and armor, then other equipment
  • Attack Information (including damage and attack bonus) for most-used weapons
  • Armor Class

Note: If you use spells, then you can also write down your most common damage spells in the Attacks & Spellcasting box. It is recommended to have at least one actual weapon listed in there as well, just in case.

Step 8: Fill Out Additional Character Information

At this point, your entire front sheet should be filled out. Now, we’re going to fill out the second (or back) sheet.

Note: Depending on how organized and roleplay-centric your DM is, the Allies & Organizations box may be left empty, so don’t stress if your sheet looks a little blank because you have nothing to put there.

Fill out:

  • Character Appearance
  • Backstory
  • Physical Information (height, weight, eye/hair color, etc)
  • Allies & Organizations (including deities, groups, or allegiances)

If you’re feeling a little lost on writing your backstory, take some of the guesswork out by answering these 4 questions for building a backstory, and also be sure to check out these 3 character backstories to avoid!

That’s it! You should now have a fully filled-out character ready to leap into the world and cause all manner of mayhem.

Have more questions about building your character? Check out our other articles on character creation, or leave a comment below!

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