I’ll admit that I’m still very new at D&D. In fact, I haven’t even made it through my first campaign as a player, yet. But one thing that I have really been enjoying is creating new characters. I already have a few extra characters put together for future games, simply because I like the process of character creation. Here are a few things you can do to come up with unique characters.
Randomness. Complete and utter randomness. Eventually, you’ll run out of the typical cliches, like dwarven fighters and elven rangers. If you want to create a totally unique character, roll a die for everything. When we play board games, we do this all the time. We’ll assign die values to various games in our library, or, in the case of Terra Mystica (which I should really write a review on!), we assign values for each race that you can play. Then roll a d20 and find out what game you’ll end up with. It’s easy to apply this same logic to D&D, and you can come up with some seriously interesting characters. Assign a die value to races, classes, ability scores, height, weight, backgrounds, even eye color, if you want. Then roll a die to decide what type of character with which you’ll end up. Who knows? You could end up with a dwarf wizard criminal, or a halfling fighter charlatan, maybe even a barbarian rogue entertainer. Sure, they might be weird, but hey… why not?!
Let’s take the concept of a random character and apply dice to it. There are nine races, twelve classes, and thirteen backgrounds. Sure, they don’t all have perfect matches for dice, but we can make it work. Roll a d10 for races (just ignore any 10’s and roll again), a d12 for classes, and a d12 for backgrounds (just choose one background to leave out, or roll a d20 and ignore anything higher than 13). If there’s another category where you want to randomize the choices, just apply the same method and roll a die!
Randomness doesn’t always have to be only for the big concepts. What about equipment? Weapons? Even trinkets? If you have options for weapons, say between two weapons, you can roll a d4 and pick odds for one weapon and evens for the other. Some items, like trinkets, to have a handy d100 table already. What would you do if your character had a gold monocle missing a lens, or a pipe that blows bubbles? Can you apply a story to that items, or how your character obtained it? If you’re part of a home-brewed campaign, can the DM weave that story into the campaign somehow, even as just a side quest?
There’s also magic. If your character is a magic-user, roll to decide which spells you’ll use. This could create some odd combat moments, but you may end up having to work in spells that you normally wouldn’t have chosen in some really unique ways to help out your party. In this case, it might be more of a way to get your creative side flowing. After all, D&D isn’t just about min/max characters. Why not end up with a character who’s unique and flexible instead?
Probably the most-straightforward method to making your character unique is through the backgrounds. Sure, they fill out some major details for you. But, they’re also pretty general, leaving a lot of room for you to really flesh out details of where characters call home, why they became their class, who they know, what morals and values they have, and if they have any serious character flaws the work around. While some players will simply pick the ideals, bonds, and flaws right out of the Player’s Handbook, this is the area of character creation where some players try to create a truly unique character. If you’re anything like me, coming up with these details can actually be pretty hard. We, as normal people in our normal world, really think mostly in terms of what we know in our own lives. This includes technology, people, places, and other concepts that make our whole world what it is. Those concepts doesn’t always translate well into a fictional world of fantasy and intrigue. But this really gives some of the more creative players an opportunity to write out a background story. If you enjoy writing fiction or daydream about fantasy worlds, coming up with your own unique background can be very rewarding.
If you plan to really dive into writing your own background, try to think about the setting where your adventure will take place. Is it in the Forgotten Realms? Eberron? Greyhawk? The Underdark? What places, cities, villages, and landmarks are there? Are there various tribes or factions of citizens? From which one will your character hail? If you’re familiar enough with these worlds, you could even look back at past adventures and even tie them into your background a bit. Did the character previously work for a shady guild? Perhaps they were once in the military. Did a wealthy baron secretly have a family member murdered, forever shaping your world view?
As you can see, much of writing out a background is about asking questions about your character. It can take time to come up with the details. However, this is certainly something that many players love about D&D and its options for customization.
This post is not final list of all the ways to create unique characters, but hopefully it provides some inspiration into the various methods of which players can take advantage to immerse themselves in their characters and the world in which those characters live. When players find unique uses for random items or can work in an odd part of their background, it can give the game a really interesting twist that makes it fun and memorable.
If you’ve found other ways to really customize your characters, share them in the comments below!