There are a lot of people that have an interest in playing Dungeons and Dragons but are either intimidated by the amount of work they think it requires, or do not know where to start. The first thing most players should do when starting out is to make a character
However, the Players Handbook already has an in-depth explanation of what goes in to making a player from a technical standpoint, to I plan to focus on the story and role-playing elements that go into the process while only lightly touching upon the technical elements.
You do not need to do everything on this list, but each step can help flesh your character out more.
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Step 1: Consider Your Character's Race, Class, Alignment, and Background
Assuming you have already finished making your character sheet, you should already have chosen these things by now. However, it merits going back to now so that you can flesh out why your character is like this. How did your character learn the skills of that class? Who taught them? How did their race's culture shape them? What influenced their moral standing? What did they do in the past that is related to their background? The choices you made for your character sheet can deeply impact how you play the character.
Step 2: Thought Process
How does your character solve a problem? Do they try to force their way through, or try to solve it analytically? A problem does not always have a single solution so it is a good idea to figure out how your character thinks and how they might handle certain situations. For instance, say your character needs to get past a dragon. How would they do it? Would they try to fight it? Sneak past? Attempt to negotiate with it? Maybe they might give up and leave rather than risking a fiery death. Your character does not need to handle each situation the same way that you might, and they may weigh each option differently as well. Figuring out how your character thinks plays a big part in how you play that character.
Step 3: Relations
Who does your character know? A big part of making your character believable is figuring out their connections and deciding how they interact with other players' characters and non-player characters.
What kind of people does your character normally associate with? What kind of people do they get along with? Are there people that they try to avoid?
Who does your character know? Does he have a family? Friends? Colleagues? Enemies? Aside from past experiences, personal relationships are the biggest factor to consider when shaping a character's history.
Step 4: Secrets
Giving your character a secret is a great way to add a twist to how other players might perceive your character. Maybe the other players see your character as a virtuous knight with a heart of gold when in reality you and the DM know that not all his intentions are pure. Giving your character a secret can also create a source of tension when playing, especially in scenarios where that secret might be revealed.
Step 5: Fears
Everyone is afraid of something, or at least has an aversion to or dislike of something. It could be the result of an unpleasant experience in the past or just something they find unsettling, but only a fool is truly fearless. Role-playing is a big part of Dungeons & Dragons and making your characters afraid of something gives the DM a chance to introduce new scenarios to the campaign.
Remember, only a fool has no fear, because he does not know to be afraid. It is a brave man that overcomes those fears and continues on despite them.
Step 6: Favorite Things
Finally, give your character some preferences. Not everything about your character needs to have major impact on how they act. Small things like having a favorite color or a favorite time of year can round out your character's personality and make them seem more real.