Using Dungeons & Dragons for World-building: Characters

By Adeline Piercy & Mack Dechaine

In the final part of the Dungeons & Dragons series, we will be looking at D&D resources for building characters. Building characters with these tools can be a great way to make sure that your characters are distinct from each other and can also help with writer’s block when you need to come up with backstory ideas.

Typically, building a character requires player handbooks or an account with DnDBeyond, but here are a few places you can start without getting too deep into the D&D world. Fast Character is great for a super random character sheet that gives you everything you need — just click the “Click to Create a Character” button at the bottom (feel free to add your own specifics first!) and it will load a fully filled out sheet. From this sheet, you can look at the spells, what they’re good at, and their physical characteristics. If you want more control over building the character, check out The New OrcPub character builder where you can choose specific details.

Since you’re not playing D&D with this character, only a few things are necessary to know.

Stats are separated into six categories:

  • Strength: this is how strong your character is
  • Constitution: this describes how much your character can withstand poison and strenuous extended activity
  • Dexterity: describes how stealthy your character is, if they’d be good at lock picking or pickpocketing
  • Charisma: this describes how good your character is with other people–are they intimidating? Charming? A great performer? A leader?
  • Wisdom: describes instincts and street-smarts, including perception skills, medicine knowledge and survival skills
  • Intelligence: describes how book-smart your character is, including their knowledge of religion, history, magic, etc.

For the purposes of writing, a high score for one of those categories means they’re good at it and low means they’re not, but that doesn’t mean they won’t succeed at that thing, it’s just not likely. Since no one is good at everything, the game is designed this way so that characters are balanced–your character can be really good at some things and not good at others, or they can be mediocre at everything.

By @jacobtonellato

Character development can also include background, ancestry, and goals. The character builders start with some really simple traits that you can definitely flesh out further than the concise statements provided (stay tuned for next weeks character building prompt!).

If you are feeling risky and want to write about a completely random character with backstory and family and more, check out this site which pulls from randomizer charts. This source provides more for the backstory than Fast Character does, but they’re both great resources if you want to challenge yourself to write something based off of a randomly generated character.

If you want to take this character sheet further and use it to determine character choices throughout your plot, you can learn more about stats by watching this video by Critical Role from their playlist titled Handbooker Helper. They’re also a great place to watch D&D games if you’re interested in seeing the game in action!

This might seem overwhelming, but it’s not something you have to dive in the deep end with. Take what works for you and get busy writing. Next week’s Weekend Writing Prompt is about taking this character profile further and fleshing out a good backstory, so save your notes from this post!

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