If you’re reading this, it means you’re interested in adding a little fun and adventure into your life. Perhaps you’ve already decided to finally join your very first D&D campaign. Good job, young Noob, you’re already making world-class, wise AF decisions! Welcome to the tribe!
Now, I know you’ve probably frantically googled “D&D for beginners” and have been met by article after article of technical jargon about rolling “4d6” and something called “stats”. There was even math…. *shudder*
Before you have a complete panic attack, Future adventurer, slow your “role” (hehe, see what I did there?), let’s start you off with something a little more familiar and comfortable, your most important tool in D&D… your own imagination.
Dreaming up your character...
Every D&D campaign starts with one thing: an idea. Similarly, your character will be born from a spark in your imagination. Sometimes the idea will start with nothing but a picture in your head of what you’d like your character to look like and the rest will grow from that. Other times, you might have a thought that playing a circus runaway with an otherworldly connection to animals and mad trapeze skills sounds fun to play. Whatever your idea is and wherever it came from, with a little help, you can grow it into a fully-functional, awesome character in no time.
It might also be a good idea to take to the web in search of a physical representation/s of the character you have in mind. Fantastical artwork can be a great inspiration. Find some pictures and ideas you could play around with that really resonate with you. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for until you see it. Our resident DM recently wrote an article about the physical representation of characters, I recommend checking it out.
If you’re really stuck, with absolutely no idea on your character, I recommend having a chat with your DM about the world you’re playing in. Your DM created the world in which your story plays out within the realms of D&D, and much like your favourite fantasy novels or movies, your DM is the storyteller who can set the scene for you. It’s often very helpful to be able to see the world in your mind’s eye in order to envision your place in it. That might even give you an idea for your backstory before you even have the slightest clue about the physical aspects of your character, but that’s OK. It’s a starting point to build from and now you already know something about your character you didn’t before. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Look at you, starting your very own character! I’m so proud! Before you go “jumping the bow” (I need to stop with the D&D puns) again, we’ll talk more about backstories later.
Character or Avatar?
Why not both? Its natural for us to draw inspiration from what we know and are comfortable with when drawing up an in-game character. At some point, we’ve all dreamed up a fantasy version of ourselves, some vague representation of our real selves but with certain traits we wished we possessed. Bigger muscles, a cuter nose, or a different hairstyle, perhaps even powers and attributes such as the might and physical prowess of a warrior, the magic of a wizard or the ability to communicate with animals.
With our first characters, we tend to mimic the fantasy characters we’ve already created for ourselves because it’s what we know, what we’re comfortable with, and that’s OK too. It’s an idea, it’s a start, it’s a great basis for you to create a character that you will relate to and enjoy playing. Caring about your character and being excited to play them makes it easier to immerse yourself into the world, and makes you more at ease with the role-playing aspect of the game. Don’t ever feel like the character you’ve created isn’t risky or interesting enough, there will be ample opportunity in the future to create new characters once you’ve really gotten into the game and have a better understanding of what your options are.
So what if you’ve always wanted to be an elf but all the experienced players think it’s boring? You go be the best elf you can be and live your dream. All that matters is that you’re excited about it. Let Todd, who’s been playing since the “Mom’s basement” days, play the sentient loaf of bread (yep, someone did that, I dunno what to tell ya…) if he feels he needs to take it that far to elicit the same excitement you get from your good ol’ elf. You’ll both have fun with it, so go for it!
You're a wizard, Noobie!
Once you have a starting point, an idea of who your character might be, it may be a good idea to take some time to really think of what you would like to achieve with your character. Do you see yourself being the infamous thief, shrouded in mystery, that the thieves guild whisper about? Perhaps you wish to be the renowned, heroic fighter, whose name and conquests are known throughout the land. Knowing what your goals are will help you identify your fighting style and which abilities you’ll need to achieve them – and that, dear Noob, is how you decide on your class.
Your class pertains to your traits, abilities and fighting style. It’s basically the what you are and not so much the who you are. Here is where you’ll need to decide if you want to be a thief, a magic user or a fighter, and what kind. Do you want a ranged or melee fighting style? It’s also important to think about what kind of weapons appeal to you most. Do you wish to wield a huge, heavy sword, swing a battle-axe like a viking warrior, or sneak up behind your foe and stick your dagger right in the blood-pump? Maybe, you want to pull some sweet acrobatic moves while pelting your enemy with a flurry of arrows?
Whatever you envision for your character, I recommend checking out the list of classes here, and picking something that really resonates with you and would match the character idea you have in mind. Remember that there are restrictions, a four foot tall elven girl won’t be realistically be able to wield a 6-foot long greatsword and your 7-foot-tall orcish beefcake meatshield probably won’t have have the finesse for delicate, sneaky dagger work, but it’ll all tie together with the selection of your race, and here’s why…
Diversity makes the world more interesting...
Now, I know by now you’ll have some ideas about the look and the feel of your character, so it’s time to think about your race. Here’s where it gets interesting, folks, because I’m not referring to the colour of your character’s skin (or scales, we don’t judge here). Race in the D&D world is a lot more fun than that, as there are many other options other than the only option of human race that the real world offers us. Don’t get me wrong, you very much have the option of playing a human character and depending on what it is you wish to do with your character, it might be the best option for you, but there are so many options to chose from and even different variants of certain races.
When choosing your race there are certain things to consider. By now you should have some idea of what kind of fighting style appeals to you, even if you are undecided. Picking the right race can give you certain feats, bonuses and proficiencies that greatly help certain classes. That’s not to say you have to pick something that works well together as most things in D&D are possible as long as your DM will allow it, but just keep in mind if you’re going to be dead-set on giving your tiny sprite a battle axe, you’ll probably be rolling with heavy disadvantages, if at all. I recommend checking out the list of races in order to make the best decision for your character, as you might just find one you haven’t heard of before that would suit your needs better.
Use your resources...
I can’t stress enough how important it is to talk through your character creation process with your DM. They may be the person trying to kill you in-game, but they’re also a wealth of information and can give you much needed advice and suggestions to make the process easier for you. It’s also very much a necessity to discuss any zany ideas you have with your DM, to make sure if they’ll allow it. Don’t be scared to ask questions, your DM knows you’re inexperienced and is there to guide you, although, be reasonable, there are certain things you can learn on your own without having to borderline stalk your DM. Certain things are easy enough to look up and you may come across something really cool whilst reading up, that your DM may not have thought to tell you about.
I suggest taking a look at the Player’s Handbook, its really helpful to have your own copy handy as it’s filled with all the information you need for races, classes, feats, skills and weapons. There are even some cool ideas and tips I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading about and the artwork is incredible!
I’ve recently discovered a D&D app that helps the user create a character and is quite useful during gameplay with tracking stats, gear, health and even spells for magic users. I’m not going to mention which one I decided on, as everyone has different play styles and needs, but I do recommend taking a look at the different apps available on Android or iOS to find one that’s comfortable for you to use.
We’ll be delving a little deeper into classes and races later on, but until then, if you have any questions, suggestions or want to tell us about your first character or your character creation process, please let us know in the comments. We love to hear your stories!
Enjoy meeting your new character, dear Noobs!