11 votes

Tips for making a first DnD character?

I'm starting a virtual campaign with some friends soon, and this is my first time making a DnD character (I have DMed once in the past when we were all starting out). I'm super excited and just kind of delving in now and finding all of it very fun.

We're going to be playing the Tombs of Annihilation campaign which I understand can be a difficult one for beginners. I am right now leaning towards making a Wizard character since I think that is most in line with my irl personality and would be easiest to roleplay, but I'm kind of overwhelmed by the options available to me!

Does anyone have tips on ways to stay organized and make sure I'm building a balanced character? Common pitfalls to avoid for a beginner? Tips for playing a wizard? I'm open to any and all suggestions, both about character design and newbie tips in general.

16 comments

  1. [3]
    NaraVara
    Link
    One bit of advice I can give is to work closely with your DM. In particular, try to make sure that your character has a plausible reason to agree to join the quest the DM wants to put you on and...

    One bit of advice I can give is to work closely with your DM. In particular, try to make sure that your character has a plausible reason to agree to join the quest the DM wants to put you on and that you could reasonably work alongside the other people in the campaign. A lot of times, surly characters or outright evil ones have to do a lot of "because the plot demands it" rationalizations to actually be part of a party and it ends up feeling awkward.

    I'm in a campaign now where I'm basically playing a con artist, but I worked with the DM to figure out a backstory where I might have learned a few key skills that will benefit the campaign. I've also had to soften up some of the more mercenary tendencies I was initially going to give him so that he'd play well with others without having to lose my sense of role playing.

    5 votes
    1. Micycle_the_Bichael
      Link Parent
      I think this is the most often-overlooked aspect of DnD. At least with newer players/DMs. Its how often times you end up in situations like in a lot of TV portrayals of DnD where people go around...

      I think this is the most often-overlooked aspect of DnD. At least with newer players/DMs. Its how often times you end up in situations like in a lot of TV portrayals of DnD where people go around in a circle taking turns reading a script of their backstory that is supposedly "real dialog" between characters. Its because there isn't any logically reason WHY these people should be working together, it doesn't make sense how they meet, etc. It really starts things off on the wrong foot and can make pacing and parts of the game further down the line incredibly awkward and immersion-breaking. Working with your DM to make a cohesive reason why you're all working together makes the flow of the campaign better and infinitely more fun IMO and is overlooked very often because, as you said, sometimes it means sacrificing aspects of your character that you had planned for the good of the campaign.

      3 votes
    2. aphoenix
      Link Parent
      This is super important! I agree, and I'm going to restate in a slightly different way! Generally speaking, if you're relatively new, then try to avoid evil characters or jerks. It's not going to...

      This is super important! I agree, and I'm going to restate in a slightly different way!

      Generally speaking, if you're relatively new, then try to avoid evil characters or jerks. It's not going to make things fun. If you do have an evil character, then give him a compelling reason to be going along with your group - he's fiercely loyal, or he has a set of Dexter-morals, or something like that. In most cases, we're playing to have fun, so you want to facilitate fun, not get in the way of it.

  2. [3]
    moonbathers
    Link
    Wizards have a lot of spells, so even if you're using something like roll20 for your campaign it might not hurt to have some sort of file outside that site to reference your spells. I also like...

    Wizards have a lot of spells, so even if you're using something like roll20 for your campaign it might not hurt to have some sort of file outside that site to reference your spells. I also like writing down things like spell save DC, AC, and (if your setup doesn't do it for you) your attack and damage rolls. It makes it a lot quicker to find what you're looking for than paging through the PHB.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      gpl
      Link Parent
      Yeah this is the thing that has me the most apprehensive. Especially for a new player that is getting acquainted with possible inventory items, stats, etc, the abundance of spells seems daunting.

      Yeah this is the thing that has me the most apprehensive. Especially for a new player that is getting acquainted with possible inventory items, stats, etc, the abundance of spells seems daunting.

      1 vote
      1. moonbathers
        Link Parent
        I would make a spreadsheet with your spells. It's a lot easier to use than roll20's interface. There is a lot to understand and you probably won't have it all figured out right away, and that's ok.

        I would make a spreadsheet with your spells. It's a lot easier to use than roll20's interface. There is a lot to understand and you probably won't have it all figured out right away, and that's ok.

  3. ohyran
    Link
    I've played RPG's since I was 7 which is now... o.O ... 36 years. Damn. My biggest advice is looking at what the gamemaster needs to hook you in to the campaign, what the group needs in terms of...

    I've played RPG's since I was 7 which is now... o.O ... 36 years. Damn.

    My biggest advice is looking at what the gamemaster needs to hook you in to the campaign, what the group needs in terms of skills and what makes sense as a member personality wise, and then what is fun to play.

    My favourite term, which I use in my day job with design btw, is "fun for five seconds, or fun forever?" since I tend to go for gag-characters and they seem fun, but when I try to think 10 gaming sessions down the line I get that its probably gonna get old, stale and boring quick.

    As for the exact rules: you can sit and read through the rules to ensure you peak the character power wise but in practice its not very fiddly and the amount of rules abuse you can squeeze in is only fun for a little while.

    1 vote
  4. Flashynuff
    Link
    If you're looking for character tips, the best guide i've ever seen is Knife Theory. it's essentially giving the DM a bunch of interesting potential story hooks that they can use to draw more out...

    If you're looking for character tips, the best guide i've ever seen is Knife Theory. it's essentially giving the DM a bunch of interesting potential story hooks that they can use to draw more out of your character. I'm not sure how much that will actually come into play in a premade module, but it can still help you flesh things out.

    1 vote
  5. [3]
    arghdos
    Link
    Depends whether your group is into the crunch/min-maxing part of DND, or the role-playing aspects IMO. There are tons of guides out there if you want to go for min/maxing, e.g., Treantmonk's...

    Depends whether your group is into the crunch/min-maxing part of DND, or the role-playing aspects IMO. There are tons of guides out there if you want to go for min/maxing, e.g., Treantmonk's guide. I find that kind boring, my preference is for RP, but whatever floats your boat!

    My favorite way to make a new character is liberally stolen from the All My Fantasy Children podcast. They take a really simple user-submitted prompt (e.g., "A trash bard") and walk through their process of transforming that into a character. Instead of letting "what will give me the best stats / abilities", etc. drive the character creation process, you are letting the idea of the character drive what stats / abilities they have. I find it results in a much richer character for RP. Give an episode a shot, and see if it's for you!

    1. [2]
      psi
      Link Parent
      Could you elaborate on that process? For example, what question would you ask next, once you've established you want to play "a trash bard"? I usually base my character's background off a...

      Could you elaborate on that process? For example, what question would you ask next, once you've established you want to play "a trash bard"?

      I usually base my character's background off a character from some other media, then mold that character to the story and further develop their motives later. For example, I recently watched Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, and since I can't Joseph's theme out of my head, I decided to roleplay a flamboyant wizard with a fabulous, technicolor trench coat who holds a grudge against his siblings. Keeping in that spirit, all of his spells are related to color in some way (prismatic, chromatic, etc).

      1. arghdos
        Link Parent
        Ok, so there's a couple things you might ask there: First, what's a trash bard? A trashy person who is a bard? Someone bad at being a bard? A bard really into trashy romance songs / stories? -> I...

        For example, what question would you ask next, once you've established you want to play "a trash bard"?

        Ok, so there's a couple things you might ask there:

        First, what's a trash bard? A trashy person who is a bard? Someone bad at being a bard? A bard really into trashy romance songs / stories?

        -> I like the last one, that sounds like fun.

        From there, I might go right to the backgrounds. Where would someone in the world live that they would get exposed to enough knowledge that they can develop such a niche interest? It might be fun if they were training to be a priest, but got kicked out for being too horny of a Monk?

        -> So acolyte might be a good choice here.

        Ok, so if they're a disgraced, horny acolyte, what class would they be?

        -> Probably at least a level of cleric, before putting anything into bard. That's likely something you'd rarely see recommended in an optimized build, but now we see how it just kinda comes about naturally by looking at your character.

        Hopefully that makes a little more sense? It sounds like you're kinda on that path already! It's not a formal process or anything, I just found their podcast really useful to help me break out of the min/maxing mold :)

        1 vote
  6. [4]
    Amarok
    Link
    Think less about being a wizard and more about what kind of wizard you'd like to play. If you're starting at first level (or even low level) there aren't that many spells to worry about, you'll...

    Think less about being a wizard and more about what kind of wizard you'd like to play. If you're starting at first level (or even low level) there aren't that many spells to worry about, you'll have time to learn them. There are tons of videos for best/worst spells out there.

    Learn to love cantrips and rituals. If you plan to be a blaster look into Spell Sniper as one of your early feats, gives you Eldritch Blast which is your free nuke every round. Using Magic Initiate you can even steal a bunch of cantrips and a first level spell from another class. The Clerics have some great choices.

    Oh, and definitely get yourself a familiar.

    If you haven't read treantmonk's guide before, it's worth a look.

    1. [3]
      stu2b50
      Link Parent
      That doesn't really work very well, though. The EB you get from spell sniper still uses the warlock spell casting modifier, so cha rather than int for wizards, and honestly EB is not that great...

      That doesn't really work very well, though. The EB you get from spell sniper still uses the warlock spell casting modifier, so cha rather than int for wizards, and honestly EB is not that great without agonizing blast.

      Even at low levels you probably have something better to do than eldritch blast.

      1. [2]
        Amarok
        Link Parent
        Double your range on all spells that have a ranged attack roll and completely ignoring less than full cover is pretty important for a blaster. May as well use EB so you don't have to buy another...

        Double your range on all spells that have a ranged attack roll and completely ignoring less than full cover is pretty important for a blaster. May as well use EB so you don't have to buy another ranged attack cantrip. The force damage is far better for blasting locks, enemy weapons to disarm or shatter them, machinery, the healing potion the bad guy is about to drink, etc. Less resisted, and it damages objects.

        That's if you go the blaster route, though. If you aren't then there are better feat selections.

        1 vote
        1. stu2b50
          Link Parent
          Rather, I was arguing that being a "blaster" with a wizard just... isn't very good. You're using EB, but your a wizard, so you better not have dumped CHA when making the character. Now you've got...

          Rather, I was arguing that being a "blaster" with a wizard just... isn't very good. You're using EB, but your a wizard, so you better not have dumped CHA when making the character. Now you've got MAD going on too. Furthermore, it's just really, really bad damage.

          Like, at level 11, the transition to tier 3 powerlevel, you're doing 3d10 for an average damage roll of 16.5. A fighter with archery and sharpshooter can do the same expected damage at level 1 (1d8 + 13, or 17.5 average).

          It works for warlocks because of agonizing blast, allowing you to add your CHA to each ray, and hex, which adds a d6 to each ray. That makes it do quite a bit of damage; 3d10 + 3d6 + 12 with 18 CHA, or 39 damage average. That's more than 2x.


          5e is pretty balanced, and like you shouldn't min-max your character, but a cantrip blaster when you're not a warlock is legitimately going to feel underpowered compared to just average, non-optimized characters in combat.

          Wizards should spend their actions casting lvl1+ spells, at basically every point in the game.

  7. ThatFanficGuy
    Link
    A common advice to building a character – anywhere, anytime – is making them your own. Instead of trying for a particular archetype, or someone else's image that you admire, make your character in...

    A common advice to building a character – anywhere, anytime – is making them your own. Instead of trying for a particular archetype, or someone else's image that you admire, make your character in your image, in some ways.

    Give them traits you can relate to and/or want to explore (e.g. make a religious character if you're an atheist but want to figure out the mindset; make a thief if you're a moral person but want to understand the possible motivations behind it).

    Give them quirks you're able to consistently replicate, which aren't already part of your real-life repertoire.

    Give them a story that makes sense to you, perhaps thanks to something that struck you as interesting in the past.