D&D 5E Character Creation





Introduction: D&D 5E Character Creation

This guide was created to help new and experienced Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) players create new characters. Creating a character can be a laborious task and it is very easy to miss steps in the creation process. This guide is tailored for creating level 1 characters and can also be used for DnD 3.5 as well, but certain aspects have changed as the game has evolved.


  • Digital or paper copy of a DnD Character sheet of your choice
  • PENCIL; not a pen if using paper
  • 5th Edition Players Handbook
  • Time and imagination

Character Creation

There are multiple options in the order of character creation, but I have found most success in the following. Also, you can decide your character’s name and alignment at any point of the creation process. For the sake of simplicity we will break the guide up into sections.

Step 1: Preliminary Information

  1. Roll your ability scores. You have 6 Ability scores to roll for: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intellect, and Wisdom. You can either roll 4 6-sided die and record the cumulative total of the highest 3 dice 6 times or take the “standard set” which is 15,14,13,12,10,8. You do not need to assign these scores yet, but you can if you want to.
  2. Decide the race of your character. Write it, and the race’s speed, down onto the character sheet. You can find all the available races on page 17 in the Players Handbook. Each race has racial traits that affect your ability scores, skills checks, speed and/or proficiencies (We will be covering these later in the creation process.) This means that certain races are better suited for certain classes, but you can play as who you want.
  3. Now decide the class. You can find the classes on page 45 of the Players Handbook. Each class will have a primary stat, hit die, saving throw proficiencies, and armor and weapons proficiencies. You can find each of these on the class page. You will want to write these down on the bottom left of the character sheet.
  4. Next you will want to look at the features your class has. Each class starts with features at level one and will gain access to more as they level up. Write down the character’s level one class features under the features section of the character sheet. Also write down your proficiency bonus. You will find it on the class page as well.
  5. Now you will want to decide on a background. Backgrounds are exactly that, background information on your character. Who was your character before now? The list of backgrounds start on page 125. Each background offers proficiencies and a feature, amongst other things.
  6. For each background you are supposed to roll dice to see which traits you acquire from the chosen background but personally I pick and choose or make my own up so I can build the character I want to. The choice is yours.
  7. Write down the chosen traits, ideal, bond, flay, proficiencies, feature, and anything else your background gives you.

Step 2: Creating Your Character

  1. Assign your Ability Scores. You will want to assign your highest score to your primary stat and the rest in decreasing importance. You can find your primary stat either on your class page or the table on page 45. Back on your chosen race page you will find that your race will get a bonus and a negative to certain ability scores. Add these to your assigned scores. You will also want to write down the ability modifiers below the scores. You can find those on page 13.
  2. To the right of the scores you will see your saving throws and skills. Take each of the Ability Modifiers and assign each score to the respective saves and skills. Check your class and fill in the dots next to the saving throws and skills that your character is proficient in. Add your proficiency bonus to each of the scores.
  3. Next write down your initiative which is your dexterity modifier, and your passive wisdom is 10 + your wisdom modifier.
  4. For your hit points you will use your hit die plus your constitution modifier. Hit Points are your life total. If you reach 0 hit points you are rendered unconscious, and if you reach -10 then you die. For example, a fighter’s hit die is a d10. That means you will roll a 10 sided die then add your constitution modifier to it. You will do this each time you level up and add it to your previous hit points.
  5. Your character will also know a number of languages. Each character knows common, the language used in most circumstances, plus his/her intelligence modifier. On the race page you will find what languages you can learn. Certain classes also know additional languages.

Step 3: Armor, Weapons, and Battle

  1. Next is armor and weapons. On the class page there is predetermined equipment that you can choose from. If you want something other than what’s listed you can try to bargain with your dungeon master, but try to choose equipment of similar power. You can find all equipment starting on page 143.
  2. After you have chosen your armor you will calculate your Armor Class. Your armor class is the armor rating + your dexterity modifier, or bonus in this case. Light armor allows full Dexterity Bonus, Medium armor only allows a +2 Dexterity Bonus, and Heavy armor allows no Dexterity Bonus.
  3. Last is Attacks and Spellcasting. We will break this up in two sections. Weapons and spells.
    1. Weapons refer to physical weapons such as a sword or bow. For these your attack bonus will be your strength modifier (melee) or dexterity modifier (ranged) + your proficiency bonus. Damage is what is listed on the weapon page + your strength or dexterity modifier.
    2. Spellcasting is a bit more complex. Certain classes, such as druids and wizards, can cast spells. On the class page you will find what spells you have access to and how many spells you can cast per day. On the spell list starts on page 207. Some spells offer utility while others are attacks. For attacking spells your attack bonus is your spell casting ability modifier (your primary stat) + your proficiency bonus. Damage is listed in the spell description. Utility spells you will have to read the spell description.



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    31 Discussions

    Thanks. Geeze I don't remember it being this hard to roll a character 1984! Thanks for these instructions, they alleviated a lot of page flipping to see if what i was doing made sense.

    1 reply

    Easier than in 3E, 3.5E or 4E versions and easier than 2E with kits or Player's Option material. Not as simple as Basic or Advanced, but far less quirky.

    I've played D&D before but I've got a question on creating a unique mix for a race. Basically, the DM has created a very specific story arc that means we all have to have the same background in this village. We all have to be peasants who've never been able to leave this village and know absolutely nothing about the outside world. I'm okay with this, but the problem I'm running into is that it doesn't really make sense for my Elf, who's 115-120, to have gained no additional skills or anything in over 100 years. She's been searching for the truth, secretly, for the past 60-80 years. I want to have the "bonuses" for being a subclass, but none of them work in this villiage. I don't do magic and there's only one type of elf since drow do not dwell above ground. My question is, what are the thoughts about sort of piecing together a subrace for this very particular type of elf? Basically, just adding an additional profiency, perhaps a language, and giving a +1 to one additional ability score.

    What does Inspiration do? I have looked online but not seen it. I have a Human Ranger, if that helps...

    1 reply

    Inspiration is a reward given by your DM. It's an extra die that you can use, depending on your DM, to either reroll a bad check or add to a bad roll.

    Can someone please better explain proficiency bonuses? I still don't understand mine. My character is a Drow Elf, Rouge if that helps.

    1 reply

    proficiency is a value that measures your character's ability to use weapons, tool, and skills. Its value is based on your level. So if you are level 1-4, it is +2; levels 5-9 is +3, and so on. You can find this in the big table in the section of the player's handbook for your class.

    If you are a Rogue, you have Expertise, which doubles that proficiency value for the skills you select for Expertise.

    Normally, your skill modifier for Stealth is Dexterity's modifier plus your Proficiency. If you have Expertise in stealth, it is Dex + (Proficiency*2).

    So a level 1 rogue who has a Dex modifier of +3 and Expertise in Stealth would have a total Stealth modifier of +7. 3+(2*2)

    Make sense?

    There is an error in these instructions and I don't want newbies to be confused:

    Death in 5e is not when you reach -10 (negative ten) hit points but has changed to function like this: When the initial damage reduces you to 0 hit points and there is damage remaining, you die if the remaining damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum. Otherwise, you just fall unconscious and are at 0 hp and start rolling death saving throws.

    So, for example, if your max HP is 20, and you are currently at 2 hp, and you are dealt 22 points of damage, you would die instantly. But if you were only dealt 21 points of damage (making you at a -19 hp, one less than your hp maximum of 20) then you fall unconscious, the additional negative damage disappears and you are at 0 hp instead, and you start rolling death saving throws to see if you are stabilized or end up dying anyway.

    2 replies

    As someone about to DM for the first time ever this is a great help and explnation. Thanks for the heads up!

    Newbie here. I made an account just to thank you. Thank you for explaining and giving an easy to understand example to go with it!

    Try the equipment section? I'm not sure, I'm new to DnD.

    you can't download full PDF copies of the Players Handbook, DMG, or Monster Manual _legally_. You CAN download the Basic Rules available at as a free PDF or browsable HTML file on Wizards website.

    You CAN download anything for free legally, it's ILLEGAL to seed things online. So, the ones breaking the law are the ones providing the files to download, not the ones downloading them.

    The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) criminalizes copying and distribution of electronic copyrighted material. The PHB, DMG, and MM are copyrighted by WoTC, it is a copyright violation to download said material, hence illegal and you open yourself up to being sued if caught. You may find this link helpful http://dmca.ucr.edu/faqs.html