How to Create a Character in Dungeons and Dragons - 5th Edition

How to Create a Character in Dungeons and Dragons - 5th Edition

Starting out, you're going to need a few items and resources.
I have collated a list of resources so you can source your reading online and start thinking about your Character.

1.0 Materials
You'll need the following:
Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes (MTF) -

OK .. so all these resources are NOT free. But with some interesting Google-fu, you might find otherwise.

Feel free to read them, if you get bored... 邏

2.0 Character Creation Process

So now you need to get down to brass tacks. Here is the "general creation process" run-down:
Grab a Character sheet.

2.1 Choose a Race: Human?

    • From PHB - Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human, Dragonborn, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Halfling
    • From ERLW - Changeling, Goblins, Kalashtar, Shifter, Warforge, DragonMark
    • From GGR - Human, Elf, Centaur, Goblin, Loxodon, Minotaur, Simic Hybrid, Vedalken
    • From MTF - Elf, Dwarf, Githyanki, Halflings, Gnomes
  • In this example we will choose Human, so referring to the PHB we have this entry:

2.2 Choose a Class: Wizard?

    • From PHB - Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
    • Expanded Class definitions  can be found in XGE - Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
Now this is where the fun kinda starts. Crack out your dice or type "roll 4d6"  in your browser Google search bar.


2.3 Roll Dice for Attributes/Abilities:

    • Grab four (4) of your six (6) sided dice or 4d6.
    • Roll the 4d6 (between 4 -24) and write it down somewhere.
    • Do this 4d6 five more times and write them down. For a total of six numbers between 4-24.
So for this example, we rolled quite high, giving results of 16, 14, 19, 22, 19 and 17, respectively.

2.4 Assign Attribute/Ability values:

  • Go back to the PHB and take a look at the entry for your class, for example under Wizard:
  • If you don't know where to assign your values you can always follow the "Quick Build". In this case a Wizard generally prizes Intelligence, Constitution and Dexterity and, if you want to join the School of Enchantment, use Charisma over Constitution.
  • What does this mean?
      • Go back to your six attribute score, that you just rolled - 16, 14, 19, 22, 19 and 17. 
      • Assign the highest Score to Intelligence.
      • Assign the second highest to the Constitution.
      • Assign the third highest to Dexterity or Charisma, if you want to.
      • Keep on going down the list until you have assigned all six attribute scores, writing them in the little  circles.
  • You should end up with something like this:
      • Strength (STR) - 14
      • Dexterity (DEX) - 17
      • Constitution (CONS) - 19
      • Intelligence (INT) - 22
      • Wisdom (WIS) - 16
      • Charisma (CHAR) - 19
  • Now, remember that original table from when you have chosen your race. It will contain additional Attribute/Ability modifiers. In the example for a Human, “Your ability scores each increase by 1”
    • So after applying these additional modifiers, you should end up with something like this:
  • Strength (STR) - 14 +1 = 15
  • Dexterity (DEX) - 17 +1 = 18
  • Constitution (CONS) - 19 +1 = 20
  • Intelligence (INT) - 22 +1 = 23
  • Wisdom (WIS) - 16 +1 = 17
  • Charisma (CHAR) - 19 +1 = 20

2.5 Assigning Attribute/Ability Bonus modifiers

  • Referring to the PHB now assign the relevant modifiers

    • You should end up with something like this:
      • Strength (STR) - 15 = +2
      • Dexterity (DEX) - 18 = +4
      • Constitution (CONS) - 20 = +5
      • Intelligence (INT) - 23 = +6
      • Wisdom (WIS) - 17 = +3
      • Charisma (CHAR) - 20 = +5

  • Now record this on your Character sheet, like below:

2.6 Build out your Character's Proficiency, Saving Throws and Skills.

  • All Level 1 Characters start out with +2 Proficiency Bonus. Add this to your Character Sheet.

2.6.1 Saving Throws

  • Going back to the PHB entry for your Class's entry. Check the Proficiencies section:
  • Find the "Saving Throws" portion and mark the dots on your Saving Throws section Character sheet. In the case of a Wizard, you’d mark the dots next to Intelligence and Wisdom.
  • Assign the bonus modifiers to the relevant Saving Throw category:
      • Strength (STR) - +2
      • Dexterity (DEX) - +4
      • Constitution (CONS) - +5
      • Intelligence (INT) - +6
      • Wisdom (WIS) - +3
      • Charisma (CHAR) - +5
  • You will also need to add your Proficiency Bonus to the highlighted Saving Throw categories, i.e. Intelligence and Wisdom:
      • Strength (STR) - +2
      • Dexterity (DEX) - +4
      • Constitution (CONS) - +5
      • Intelligence (INT) - +6 +2 = +8
      • Wisdom (WIS) - +3 +2 = +5
      • Charisma (CHAR) - +5


  • Add this to your Character Sheet, under the Saving Throws, section:

2.6.2 Skills

  • Refer back to your Class entry in the PHB. Note the Proficiencies Section and then the Skills.
  • Most Classes have the terminology “Choose two” from a list. So go ahead and choose two skills from this list of skills. In this example, I choose Arcana and Investigation.
  • Go to your Character Sheet and mark the dots associated with the Skills you have chosen.
  • So now go through and fill out all the Skills Bonus modifiers. Noting that next to each name is an Attribute/Ability tag, i.e. Investigation (Int).
      • Strength = STR
      • Dexterity = DEX
      • Constitution = CON
      • Intelligence = INT
      • Wisdom = WIS
      • Charisma = CHA
  • Like you previously did with the Saving Throws, you need to add the +2 Proficiency Bonus to your two chosen Skills, i.e. Arcana and Investigation. You should end up with something like below:
  • At this stage you can choose to either equip your Character or create their Background.
  • For this example I will cover Equipment, first, as Background is a very personal creative endeavor.

2.7 Hit Points & Hit Dice

  • Referring back to the PHB Class entry:

  • In the Hit Points section, note the Hit Dice entry. For our Wizard example, we have 1d6. Write this down on your Character Sheet:

  • To generate you Maximum Hit Points add together the Maximum of your Hit Dice and your Constitution modifier. In our example we have 1d6 = 6 to CON = +5, therefore our Maximum Hit Points would be 11. Record this on your Character Sheet.
  • You should now have something like below:

2.8 Equipment

  • Referring back to the PHB Class entry and note the Weapons Proficiency. In our example, it shows Daggers, Darts, Slings, Quarterstaffs and Light Crossbows.

  • Now check the Equipment section for your class. Note your options you have to select. In our example I select a Quarterstaff, Component Pouch, Scholar’s Pack and a trusty Spellbook.

  • Record this on your Character Sheet. You should get something like below:

2.9 Wealth / Money

  • Referring to the PHB, generate your starting Wealth as follows:

  • For our example, a Wizard would receive 4d4 X10 gp.
      • CP = Copper Pieces
      • SP = Silver Pieces (10cp = 1sp)
      • GP = Gold Pieces (10sp = 1gp)
      • PP = Platinum Pieces (10gp = 1pp)


  • Roll your dice as described in the table, in our example we rolled 8, hence (8 x 10 = 80gp).

  • Record your total on your Character Sheet:

2.10 Armor Class

2.10.1 No Armor Character Classes

  • Examples are Monks, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard.
  • Previously our example was using a Wizard, which is not allowed any armor. Hence, their Armor Class (AC) would be calculated as follows ( 10 +Dex Modifier). Our example Wizard would then have AC (10 +4) = 14. 
  • Record this on your Character Sheet.

2.10.2 Armored Character Classes

  • If you use a different class for this example, say a Cleric, use the following process. 
  • Grab your Proficiencies from the PHB.

  • A Cleric is proficient in Light, Medium Armors and Shields. Additionally, Clerics are able to select either Scale Mail, Leather or Chain Mail Armor and a Shield. So for this example, we equip Scale Mail and a Shield.

  • Referring to the Armor table in the PHB, note the Armor Class column. For our example Scale Mail has an AC of 14 + Dex modifier (Max of 2). Using Dex = 18 which makes a +4 modifier, we would generate an AC, as follows: 14 +4 = 18. But we can only use a Dex modifier to a maximum of 2, so our AC will calculate to 14 +2 = 16.
  • Now you have to add the Shield bonus of +2. So your AC would now calculate out to (16 +2) = 18.

  • Record this on your Character Sheet:

2.11 Weapons and Weapon Damage

  • Refer to your PHB Character Class Proficiency table. In our Wizard example, a Wizard has proficiencies in Daggers, Darts, Slings, Quarterstaffs and Light Crossbows.

  • In our example, we equipped our Wizard with a Quarterstaff. 
    • Per the PHB, a Quarterstaff is classed as a Simple Melee Weapon - 1d6 bludgeoning damage or 1d8 versatile. 

    • Versatile means the weapon can be used with one or two hands. If used double-handed, the damage is increased, hence the 1d8 damage statistic.
  • To calculate the weapon damage of your chosen weapon add your Strength Modifier and Proficiency Bonus. In our Quarterstaff example we would have two calculations, due to the Versatile condition.
    • Single Hand 1d6 +2 (STR) +2 (Proficiency Bonus) = 1d6+4
    • Double Hand 1d8 +2 (STR) +2 (Proficiency Bonus) = 1d8+4

  • Record this on your Character Sheet:


3.0 Spells and Spell Casting

  • If you have not, skip this portion; Spells and Spell Casting Section. If you have chosen a Character Class that is capable of Casting Spells, read this section. 
  • In the PHB, look for the table associated with your Spell Casting Class. In this example, we have chosen a Wizard.

  • Notice that the entry for a First (1st) Level Wizard has shows three (3) Cantrips, two (2) Spell Slots and a +2 Proficiency.
    • Cantrips - Do not require spell components, can be cast instantly, taking a single (1) action, do not take up spell slots and can be cast repeatedly.
    • Spells - Require Spell Slots (~ fixed amount of knowledge per day) and may require spell components.
      • Verbal (V) - Noise, sound required when roleplaying
      • Somatic (S) - Gestures, hand waving, required when roleplaying
      • Material (M) - Requires an item in one’s possession to be performed
    • Ritual - Spells with the Ritual designation can be cast as a normal spell, following the usual (V,S,M) requirements, or optionally as a ritual over a longer period of time. It doesn’t consume the Spell slot.

3.1 Cantrips

  • Choose up to three (3) Cantrips. Descriptions can be found in Chapter 11, Page 207, in the PHB

  • In our example, we will choose Fire Bolt, Ray of Frost and True Strike.
  • Record this on your Character Sheet:

3.2 Spells and Rituals

  • Choose the two (2) spells from the allowed first (1st) level Wizard spells:

  • In our Wizard example, we would choose Magic Missile and Mage Armor.
  • Fill out your Character Sheet with your chosen spells.

3.3 Spellcasting Ability

  • There are two statistics you will need to generate for your Spellcasting ability
    • Spell Save Defense - Saving throw against Spells from you, the attacking caster
      • To Calculate this, use the following formula:
        • Spell DC = 8 + Proficiency Bonus + Intelligence Modifier
        • In our Wizard example Spell DC = 8 +2 +6 = 16
    • Spell Attack Modifier - Add this to your d20 roll when comparing against an enemy’s AC
      • To Calculate this, use the following formula:
        • Spell Attack Modifier = Proficiency Bonus + Intelligence Bonus
        • In our Wizard example Attack Modifier = +8
    • Spell Casting Ability - The Character’s ability to cast spells.
      • To Calculate this, use the following formula:
        • Spell Casting Ability = Intelligence
        • In our Wizard example Casting Ability = 23

  • Record this on your Character Sheet:

4.0 Background

  • So this is how our Character sheet is currently Looking like:

  • You’ll notice there is still a lot of empty space. In fact, there is an entire page that is empty. This is where you, as an individual get to create the magic of a new character, imbuing it with all the hopes, flaws and wants that you could possibly dream up. This can be very personal, or formulaic. I will now walk you through tables that may help you generate your background, If you are having difficulties.

4.1 Character Details

  • In this section we will refer to the following resource books:
    • Player's Handbook (PHB) 
    • Xanathar's Guide to Everything (XGE) 
  • NOTE: this is intended as a guide. You can create whatever background that you wish.

4.1.1 Name

4.1.2 Sex

  • Your choice to choose traditional stereotypes, Male or Female, or something that is closer to what your Character identify's as.

4.1.3 Height and Weight

  • Referring to the table set out in the PHB, search for your corresponding Race. For this example, we have chosen Human.

  • Roll two (2) ten (10) sided dice (2d10) and those inches to your Race’s Base Height. In our example, we would add 4’8” + 10” = 5’ 5”, a character of rather diminutive stature.

  • As for the Character’s weight, you would again consult the same table. A human would roll two (2) four (4) sided dice (2d4). So for our example we have the following, 110lb x 3 = 330lb

  • So in this example we have a 5’5”, 330lb Human. Which, given their Wizardly background, starts developing a picture of a squat nugget of a wizard.

4.1.4 Origins Parents
  • Does your Character have parents?

    • Referring to XGE Page 61, roll a 100 sided dice (d100), which essentially means roll two (2) ten (10) sided dice, using one dice as a tens dice and the other as singles. For example, this would be sixty two (62), meaning you would know who your parents were. Birthplace
  • Where were you born?

  • Referring to XGE Page 61, roll a 100 sided dice (d100), which essentially means roll two (2) ten (10) sided dice, using one dice as a tens dice and the other as singles. For example, this would be forty seven (47), meaning you were raised at home. Siblings
  • How many siblings do you have?

  • Roll a ten sided dice (d10).

  • Consult the table, looking for the result aligned with 8. Then a six sided dice (d6). This would give the result of three siblings. 

  • Roll a further two six sided dice (2d6), for a total of 8, which would have the result of being the youngest member of the family. Family Life
  • Consulting the table on page 63 of XGE and roll d100.

  • In our example, we have a result of eighty one (81), meaning our Character and three siblings were raised by their parents.

  • Again, consulting XGE, our Character’s lifestyle can then be determined by rolling three six sided dice (3d6).

  • We then generate a roll of three (3), giving a result of a wretched family lifestyle. Note the -40 modifier, too. This comes into play later.

  • Moving onto the Childhood home, roll a d100, consult the table and apply your Family Lifestyle modifier

  • For our example, we have rolled forty three (43) minus 40, due to a wretched family lifestyle. So in our example, our Character and siblings were raised by their parents under wretched conditions on the streets. Life Choices and Events
  • Consulting the tables on page 64-69 of XGE related to your Character’s class, roll a d6. For our example, we have chosen a Wizard.

  • We rolled a result of 6, which generates the choice of being a child prodigy of the arcane arts.

  • Then consult the Life events table on page 69 of XGE. Supplementary/Secondary tables can be found on pages 70-72 of XGE.

  • We then roll d100 and generate a result of thirteen (13), which equates to “A bit of good fortune, rollon the Boons table”.

  • Locate the secondary “Boons” table. Roll d10.

  • In our example, we generate a result of seven, which equates to “You once performed a service for a local temple. The next time you visit the temple you can receive healing up to your maximum”. Alignment
  • Essentially it’s up to you to choose what alignment your Character has.

Lawful Good (LG)
Neutral Good (NG)
Chaotic Good (CG)
Lawful Neutral (LN)
Neutral (N)
Chaotic Neutral (CN)
Lawful Evil (LE)
Neutral Evil (NE)
Chaotic Evil (CE) Personal Decisions
  • To create a Personal Decision you have multiple ways to generate background of your Character:
    • You can simply make up/create your own homebrew Personal Background
    • Cherry pick one from the list in PHB and/or XGE
      • Acolyte
      • Charlatan
      • Criminal
      • Entertainer
      • Folk Hero
      • Guild Artisan
      • Hermit
      • Noble
      • Outlander
      • Sage
      • Sailor
      • Soldier
      • Urchin
    • Or you can first generate your Traits, Ideals, Boons and Flaws, then make up a background. Personality Traits Personality Ideals
  • You can make this one up, or cherry pick one from this list: Personality Bonds
  • You can make this one up, or cherry pick one from this list: Personality Flaws
  • You can make this one up, or cherry pick one from this list

5.0 Other Mechanics

  • Inspiration = Narrative Declaration
  • Wrath or Glory

5.1 Inspiration

  • Fairly new mechanism, awarded when a Character chooses and/or makes a decision that is true to the Character, but not necessarily beneficial to the Campaign, Group, etc.
  • Once awarded, a Character can bank the Inspiration to use at another time, or immediately put it in play.
  • Using an Inspiration Point allows the Character to make a Narrative Declaration, which ultimately changes the entire storyline. It could be something as simple as declaring “they have found the airship which will take them to the next area” or reversing the Player killing blow a Monster has just dealt, changing it to “a glancing blow which shatters the Monster’s weapon, leaving the team member unconscious, but alive, and the Monster weaponless”.

5.2 Wrath or Glory

  • 5.2.1 Wrath = Natural 1 on 1d20

    • A Natural 1 is ALWAYS a FAILURE. But with Wrath the DM keeps a tally of these Natural 1’s and adds additionally worse outcomes to situations.
    • From something as simple as, “your character’s longbow attack misses and they now have run out of arrows”  to something as complicated as, “your persuasion check was so bad, that you not only failed to convince the town guard, but they have also now thrown you into a cell in the Castle Dungeon.”
  • 5.2.2 Glory = Natural 20 on 1d20

    • A Natural 20 is ALWAYS a CRITICAL. But Glory allows for a little extra. The Character keeps a Tally of their rolls of a Natural 20.
    • Characters can spend their Glory to simply add Advantage to their next roll, or they could do more complex things like, “Interrogate the town bully, who then tells them, not just the information, but also the next plot hook and/or where a hidden cache of treasure can be found.”


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