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Character Creation Outline

(The text below is adapted from another OGL product for use with 5e.)

0) Get Some Dice!

We’ve got dice in the Open Gaming Store! Check these out!

1) Get a Character Sheet

You can either use an online sheet, or a downloaded PDF, or for a true old-school feel, a standard piece of lined paper, whichever is most convenient for you and agreeable with your GM. Many GM’s like to be able to refer to a player’s character sheet between sessions so it is more common now to use some sort of online resource but use whatever works for you and your GM. There are even nice character generator programs available, many for FREE!

For some example sheets, check our Character Sheets & Other Resources page.

2) Determine Ability Scores

Start by generating your character’s ability scores. These six scores determine your character’s most basic attributes and are used to decide a wide variety of details and statistics. There are several methods to choose from for generating these scores so consult your GM to determine which method he is using.

Standard: Roll 4d6, discard the lowest die result, and add the three remaining results together. Record this total and repeat the process until six numbers are generated. Assign these totals to your ability scores as you see fit. This method is less random than Classic and tends to create characters with above-average ability scores.

Purchase: Each character receives 15 points to spend on increasing his basic attributes. In this method, all attributes start at a base of 10. A character can increase an individual score by spending some of his points. Likewise, he can gain more points to spend on other scores by decreasing one or more of his ability scores. No score can be reduced below 8 or raised above 15 using this method. See Table: Ability Score Costs for the costs of each score. After all the points are spent, apply any racial modifiers the character might have.

Table: Ability Score Costs

3) Choose a Race

Pick a race, applying any modifiers to your ability scores and any other racial traits. Each race lists the languages a character of that race automatically knows.

Table: Race and Ability Score Bonuses
RaceAbility Bonus (Subrace)
Dragonborn+2 STR, +1 CHA
Dwarf+2 CON, +1 WIS (Hill)
Elf+2 DEX, +1 INT (High)
Gnome+2 INT, +1 CON (Rock)
Half Elf+2 CHA, +1 any other
Halfling+2 DEX, +1 CHA (Lightfoot)
Half Orc+2 STR, +1 CON
Human+1 to all (Standard), +1 to two (Variant)
Tiefling+2 CHA, +1 INT

4) Choose a Class

A character’s class represents a profession, such as fighter or wizard. If this is a new character, he or she starts at 1st level in this chosen class. As the character gains experience points (XP) for defeating monsters, he goes up in level, granting him new powers and abilities.

If your character is a spell caster that prepares spells (such as a wizard) you will need to determine the spells your character starts with. Consult your GM to determine this list.

5) Determine Starting Hit Points (HP)

A character starts with maximum hit points at 1st level (the maximum number on its Hit Die) or if its first Hit Die roll is for a character class level.

To determine a hit points for levels beyond 1st, roll the dice indicated by its Hit Dice. Creatures whose first Hit Die comes from an NPC class or from his race roll their first Hit Die normally.

Table: Hit Die by Class

6) Get Equipped

Each new character begins the game with equipment determined by his class or background. This gear helps your character survive while adventuring. Usually you cannot use this starting money to buy magic items without the consent of your GM.

The armor or other protective devices you purchase may affect his starting Armor Class (AC), so once you have purchased armor or other protective devices you can determine your Armor Class (AC).

Making a Character Above 1st level

If you are creating a character or creature at a level other than 1st you should consult your GM for how starting wealth and equipment are being handled. The following is offered as a guideline: start with normal starting equipment, and gold according to the Starting Wealth by Level Table.

Magic items aren’t necessary, but a GM might consider allowing each character to pick out one or two uncommon items from level 11 onward, and one or two rare items from level 17 onward.

Table: Starting Wealth by Level
PC LevelWealth
1-40 gp
5-8650 gp
9-121,500 gp
13-166,500 gp
17-2025,000 gp

7) Determine Saving Throws, Initiative, and Attack Values.

Determine all of the character’s other mechanical details, such as his or her saving throws, initiative modifier, and attack values. All of these numbers are determined by the decisions made in previous steps, usually determined by your class choice.

10) Description & Personality

Choose or make up a name for your character (or generate one randomly!), choose a Background, determine his or her age, alignment, and physical appearance (such as height, weight, eye and hair color etc). It is helpful to think of a few unique personality traits as well, to help you play the character during the game.