A Beginner's Guide to Creating a Character
So you've decided to join a gaming group for 3.5 edition Dungeons and Dragons. You're new to the game, so you're not entirely sure how to make a character, but you don't want to appear ignorant to your experienced friends, so you're worried to ask for help. I've been there before and have created a step-by-step on creating a character that will hopefully remove much of the confusion.
1. Get a Character Sheet
You obviously need something to record your data when creating a character. You can just write everything on lined paper, but a character sheet will keep things organized. While you can download a .pdf sheet from the WOTC website, you still have to print it out and write everything by hand.
There are some online resources that can help you create characters and do the math for you. I recommend getting Heroforge. It's an excel-based spreadsheet that works just like a character sheet, but it takes care of a lot of the math for you.
If you need to provide equipment for your character, Redblade will give you the default amount of gold for a character of your level and help you track how much items cost.
Video: Character Sheet Runthrough
2. Choose a Race or Class
Depending on whether your game will focus on role-playing (character-driven) or role-playing (combat-oriented) you may want to choose a race and class combo after rolling stats. If your campaign will be focused more on the character, I would suggest choosing a race and class first.
Read through the descriptions of the races and the classes in the Player's Handbook. Find something that appeals to you. Some characters are fairly common, like a Dwarven Fighter, and these tend to be easier to play. If you want a challenge, you might say that the Dwarf was raised by Elves and is, therefore, a Druid. The point of this process is to find an identity that you would like to take on for the time of the campaign.
Fighting classes (Fighter, Barbarian, or Monk) are generally easier for beginners because you don't have to worry about the magic system for them. Rogues don't deal with magic, but have a greater deal of skills to deal with, and are often very dependent on role-playing ability. Personally, I think a Fighter is the best class for a beginner.
3. Learn Your Stats
Stats are the lifeblood of your character. First, you should establish if your DM is going by a point-buy system or rolling. Either way, it's ultimately up to the DM, and he or she will likely have special rules in regards to finding your stats.
The standard method is rolling for stats. It's best to have someone else from the group witness your rolls so that no one thinks you cheated. The standard system is 4d6-drop 1, which means you roll four six-sided dice (4d6), take the three highest rolls, and add them together. This is a stat number. Repeat the step five more times so that you have 6 stat numbers, and then distribute them into your stats as you see fit.
You will probably want to consult your class's description in the Player's Handbook to see which stats are most important for that class. Don't forget that your race will affect your stats too (most races get +2 to one stat, -2 to another).
Here are the different categories of stats and what they mean:
- Strength (STR): Affects how accurately you hit, and how much damage you do with physical weapons.
- Dexterity (DEX): Affects how accurate your shots are with ranged weapons, your reflex save, your initiative score, and provides an armor bonus.
- Constitution (CON): Affects your overall health and fortitude save.
- Intelligence (INT): Affects your skill points, and is the base skill used for Wizardly magic.
- Wisdom (WIS): Affects your will save bonus and is the base skill used for magic for Clerics, Druids, Paladins, Rangers. It also provides an armor bonus for monks.
- Charisma (CHA): Affects social skills, and is the base skill used for magic for Sorcerers and Bards. Affects the turn/rebuke undead ability for Paladins and Clerics. Generally not needed by the fighting classes.
If you are using a regular character sheet, you will need to figure out the modifiers for these stats based on the scores given to them, and then fill in the relevant data to your DEX bonus, skill bonuses, base attack bonus, grapple bonus, will/fortitude/reflex save bonuses, etc. If you use a tool like Heroforge, however, it will do all of this for you.
4. Picking Your Skills
If you are using a regular character sheet you will need to look up how many skill points your class gets plus your INT modifier. If you use Heroforge, it will compile the data for you.
Here's the step-by-step:
- Look up your class skills in the Player's Handbook (Heroforge will outline them for you already).
- Read the descriptions of the various skills and understand what they do. Remember that you get modifiers to the skills based on your stats, and sometimes based on your race.
- Add skill points to any skill that you want, but skills that are not a class skill (cross-class skills) cost twice as many points, and you can only have half as many ranks as you could a class skill. The maximum points you can put into a class skill is [Character level+3].
- For example, a level one character can have a maximum of four points in a class skill, but only two points in a cross-class skill, but the two points in the cross-class skill will cost four skill points.
5. Learn the Feats
Read the feats chapter so that you know what the various feats are, and if they have any prerequisites. All level one characters get one feat to start (humans get two).
Some classes will come with a bonus feat or two (Heroforge will calculate this for you, otherwise, look at the class description).
You only get to choose more feats at levels three, six, nine, 12, 15, and 18 (plus any bonus feats that your class may get you), so choose wisely.
6. Get the Right Equipment
Find out how your DM is managing equipment. He may just start you with equipment, or he may have you buy your own. This is where Redblade is handy because it will track how much you spend on equipment. The Player's Handbook gives ideas for starting equipment packages which are usually rather good, but you may want to modify them. Look over the equipment chapter to choose your weapon, armor, and general equipment. Remember to choose weapons and armor that you have a proficiency for.
If you are a fighter who wants a ranged weapon and a physical weapon, remember that it takes one round to switch between the two unless you took the quick-draw feat.
When choosing armor, be sure to weigh the pros and cons. While one suit may have a high AC, it's limit to your DEX modifier may cut down on the overall AC, and you may be better off with lighter armor. Arcane spell-casters, remember that wearing armor gives a percentage chance of your spells failing.
As for generic equipment, you may need to get food and water rations (many DMs don't bother with this though, so double-check). I've also found that it helps to make sure you have 50' of rope, a 10' pole, and a grappling hook. Don't ask why. You'll find a use for them.
7. Learn How to Use Magic
If you've made a magic-using character, you will need to figure out how many spells per day you get, and if you're an Arcane Caster (Sorcerer, Bard, Wizard) you'll need to choose which spells you know.
Heroforge will calculate your spells per day, as well as any relevant spell saves. If you want to play a magic-user, I would also suggest downloading Spellforge from the same site for a more detailed spell list.
If you're using a regular character sheet, you'll have to check the table for your character's class to find the appropriate spells-per-day for your level. Don't forget to check to see if you get any bonus spells for your relevant spell-stat (INT for wizards, CHA for sorcerors and bards, WIS for paladins, rangers, druids, and clerics). Remember, in order to be able to cast a spell, you need to have a spell-stat score of 10+the spell's level (level one spells require at least an 11 in your spell-stat, level two spells require at least a 12, etc.)
Arcane casters will also need to choose how many spells their character knows. This information will also be found in your class description.
8. Creating a Character Description
You're almost done! Now you just have to decide what your character looks like, including hair color, eye color, age, height, weight, and any other features you may want to add.
The Player's Handbook has tables to let you find these by dice rolls, or you can use the tables to find the averages for your race and work from there. It's ultimately up to you.
Congratulations! You've just made a 3.5 D&D Character. Have fun playing.
jaredsliger on July 26, 2020:
Help creating a character in 3.5.
I want to create a character, my initial thought was a monk. I have an extremely strong barbarian in my group and thought it would be cool if I could be a small class, very nimble like an acrobat that he could throw in combat to help with flanking.
John Clay on January 14, 2013:
Adjusting that starting health for constitution, so a Wizard with a Constitution Score of 16 will start with 7 hit points, not 4, and a Rogue with a Constitution Score of 8 will start with 5
Tamwyn on January 09, 2013:
Level 1 health is determined by a player's character's maximum HD (Hit Die). i.e. 4 for Sorcerer and Wizard, 6 for Bard and Rogue,
8 Cleric, druid, monk and ranger, 10 for Fighter and Paladin, 12 for Barbarian.
Jamestar on March 05, 2012:
Dude, thanks for all the help. Seriously.XD
Jamestar on March 05, 2012:
Cool story Dantheil now tell it again -clapclap-
Dantheil on March 05, 2012:
Will saves are the mind saves. Fortitude has to deal with your body, and reflex helps a character dodge a trap for instances, or take half damage (unless your feats/character says otherwise). But what i cannot seem to find in the player handbook is how to calculate starting health for lvl 1 characters.
@allycat on September 15, 2011:
fortitude is the mind savings i think i might be wrong
old DM, 3-5 noob on November 06, 2010:
Thanks, a very good intro to the game. Now I just need to find a step-by step guide for the extra details so I can get by until the Player's Handbook from eBay gets here.
Alex on October 28, 2010:
We have standard adventuring items. So food rations, pole, rope, needle and thread (stupid campaign). Its ok doing it this way so you dont spend days wondering what you should have with you. Bad points are the hour(s) long arguments about boy scouts being prepared having obscure bits of kit. everybody who read this have a look at castle greyhawk. old adventure but funny as hell.
allycat on October 01, 2010:
It didn't answer my question: What's fortitude?
darren on March 08, 2010:
defeintaely good to say about the rope and grpling hook
Tristan on February 24, 2010:
if only there were more ppl like you to help us noobs XD
rusty on February 14, 2010:
you get skills based on class consider the following a lvl 1 fighter has the following skills climb craft handle animal intimidate jump ride and swim at first lvl you get 2 + your int modifier X 4 (2+3)*4=20 skill points to be put into the listed skills of you can cross class in any for 2 for 1 cross class point
ColonelLlama on October 30, 2009:
Very helpful. Requires you to have the players handbook on hand, which unfortunately I didn't, but considering I've made a few characters before it was good to help me remember each step of character creation.
Anonymous on August 21, 2009:
It didn't really help a lot. but some of it did. the part that didn't help was the skills. i was looking for like how much skills you git and what type. i know in v.4 u git 3 at-will and such.