Ah, that feeling before the start of a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign. You and your friends creating new characters. For some this is a source of endless pleasure and they spend days obsessing over stats and working out perfect combinations. And for others, it’s fucking boring and frustrating.
But pretty much everyone has this one character that they were really excited about trying out. Something experimental and unusual, but that just might work under the perfect circumstances. Or, on the other hand, some half-assedly made piece of crap that he constructed because some idiot coerced him into playing.
Anyhow, certain mistakes occur very often in the process of creating a D&D character. So here are some guidelines and things to avoid. (Especially if you’re inexperienced and just starting out with Dungeons and Dragons.)
Bad Race-to-Class Choice
This is the error that refers to the rule colloquially known as “Jews can’t be Paladins”. Originally the Eleventh Commandment, but it was lost ever since Moses accidentally dropped the third tablet on which it was written.
It happens when, for example, someone decides to be a Half-Orc wizard. The problem is that that race and class are incompatible – has a -2 on Intelligence, which is an important (maybe crucial) ability for the wizard class.
Generally you are stuck with tall, muscled and tusked imbecile dressed in a curtain. He wants to cast a spell, but is unfortunately too dumb to read his spellbook.
Poorly Distributing Ability and Skill Points
The so-called “jack of all trades, but master of none” gambit. This one really sucks, especially because it seems like such a good idea to the less experienced player.
While creating the character, one thinks: “Hmm, a higher CON just might help me out, I don’t wanna bleed out too quickly. But then again a good WIS is awesome because of insight and shit. Though I need INT, I am not going to be an r-tard. And STR is always good…” Before you know it, since you can’t have your cake and eat it too, you left with all-round poor scores.
With the skills it’s worse. One thinks how much more useful it would be to be for his wizard to be trained in Acrobatics or Athletics. He could climb ropes, scale walls or jump over puddles without a fear of dying. Never mind that he has the strength and dexterity of a wet sock.
Wasting a Feat on Something Dumb
What? Imagine your awesome two-bladed Ranger is running towards the enemy? And just as he comes within ten squares, instead of drawing his swords, he takes out his shurikens and hurls them into their eyes?
Yeah, it seems totally reasonable to waste a feat and be able to use that really ineffective weapon. Why should you choose something that can actually benefit you and your party?
After all, as long as it looks cool in your imagination, who cares that the only eye that your character is likely to put out will be his own.
Not Developing Your Background
I saved perhaps the most important one for last. It happens too often even with some experienced players. With neophytes, this is because they invest themselves too much in choosing the right class, race, distributing the scores and similar.
They are not yet aware how important it is to develop the background story. It is precisely your character’s personal history, his mannerisms and motivation that give him life. Without that, it’s just numbers on a piece of paper.
With more experienced player’s this usually happens because of laziness. They played one game too many and they are just not invested. This really sucks; everyone – the DM, his team-mates, and the player himself, end up having a bad time.
Stealing a Character from a Book or Movie
“I am playing Drizzt Do’Urden!”
– D&D virgin
Again, a mistake common among first-timers… Sometimes it stems out of love for a certain character that we read about, sometimes from a lack of imagination – those falling into the second group are usually the ones that play only that one campaign, or, more realistically, that one session.
Now, everyone gets nervous over their first character. The problem here is that they think that modelling their first character and naming them after an existing one from literature or the movies or a game will ensure that they don’t suck. Or they just don’t get how different playing Dungeons and Dragons is from a video game.
You are not supposed to just play or use a character. You are supposed to be that character. Down to his mannerisms and tone of voice. The more that character stems from your imagination, the more comfortable you will feel in his shoes and skin.
It doesn’t really matter if you are using a character builder tool, or going over the whole thing manually. The important thing is to take the time to study the handbook. Re-read it, think about who you want to be. And use common sense, for fuck’s sake!
Perhaps the best thing about Dungeons and Dragons is that it gives your fantasies a sense of realism and tangibility. Don’t spoil that with a half-brained and half-hearted attempt at creating a D&D character.
Stefan is a geek and wordsmith extraordinaire with an M.A. in Philosophy and a professional background in business development, marketing and media. He has a cat called Freya that doesn’t like him very much.