My creative process: How I come up with characters for D&D

It’s no secret that making new characters is a bit of a pastime of mine. I love coming up with new ideas and new personalities, even if they never actually see the light of day in our games. It’s always worthwhile to have some spares, I figure!

So today, to keep up the momentum from yesterday’s post, I thought I’d share my process for coming up with all the weird and fun and wacky builds I create for D&D.

What do they do?

The most logical place to look here would be a class, but let’s put that aside for a moment. Pretty much all of my builds start because I have an idea that I want to accomplish—usually something quirky that may or may not fit directly into an existing class or build.

For example, my current backup character for Shane’s D&D campaign is an eldritch knight that started as a way to mess with the fighter class and make it do what no one would expect a fighter to do. And the twilight cleric build I keep recreating was my way of seeing if I could build a white mage from Final Fantasy XIV in D&D.

Once I know roughly what I want to accomplish, I go looking for a class I think will fit the bill. There are a few things I like to consider for this:

  • The base class and its abilities
  • Any archetypes and how they might tweak the class to fit what I want to do
  • Whether it fits the overall nature of my idea

The third one is the most subjective, so it will be up to you—but it’s mostly to rule out things like paladin if I want something chaotic, or something that might similarly limit my roleplay options.

What do they look like?

This is my favourite part. Much like my writing process, my character creation process is all about letting my project tell me who they are, rather than me making the decision for them. So I love finding portraits of what my character could look like, because it helps me start to fill in the gaps in what their overall style will be like.

Though a Google search definitely works, I often end up on Pinterest for this. You’d be amazed how many talented people share their D&D artwork!

It’s also worth noting that by doing this, you will pretty much guaranteed end up with ideas for future characters tucked into the back of your mind.

What’s their story?

Once you know who your character is, you can start to fill in the gaps of who they were before they became your character. For me, a lot of this comes from the character portrait, because there are so many little details that can say something about a character’s background, personality, and life.

For example, when I was building my most recent twilight cleric—one that I decided early on would hate using magic and would use something as close to a gun as I could accomplish—I happened upon a character portrait that was technically for a pirate fighter. I just knew it was going to be my rogue cleric, though, and thus her backstory about being the scourge of the starlit seas (and that now being why she hated using magic) was born.

As a bonus, you’ll find writing out a story like this will also take care of a lot of the essentials on your character sheet, including traits and flaws.

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