So you’ve taken a hard look at Dungeons and Dragons and decided that it’s time to make your first character for Dungeons & Dragons. First off, welcome to the family. You’ve taken your first steps into a world of shared storytelling and high adventure. We’re going to take a look at the process for building your character and go over the options you have available in the Player’s Handbook (we use the 5th edition, as it’s the most recent, and we think it’s one of the most accessible systems we’ve seen in a long time.). So grab your scratch paper, your pencil, and your character sheet as we explore the magical world of Dungeons and Dragons.
The first step you should really take when building a character is to think about what kind of a character you want to play. Before you make any decisions or write anything down, you need to stop and think what you’re going to enjoy playing. A secondary consideration would be what the party of adventurers you are going to be a member of needs. You may desperately want to break out a brand new half elf warlock, but your party desperately needs a tanky fighter or a healing cleric. You decide what you want to play, and what story you’re going to enjoy telling and playing. Whichever character you decide to make, you’re going to have to make a few decisions. Let’s take a look at the options for the first one of those decisions.
What Race is your character?
Your character’s race defines a lot of the basic physical and mental characteristics. It more than anything else will be the first thing an observer uses to define you. How many times have you read a passage that starts “And we saw the Dwarves standing there in their armor, beards immaculately groomed…” In a fantasy setting Race is a defining trait that gives other people a rough idea of what your character is, and how they can be expected to behave. In Dungeons and Dragons, Race has a couple of other features that we’ll discuss.
The Player’s Handbook offers nine racial choices for a new player to consider for their character. Each one is distinct, and has several subraces to choose from. When you select a Race, the offered selections of a subrace are offshoots of that main racial group. It may change baseline racial features, add new options, or give different physical and mental characteristics. The character creation process starts with choosing your race, so let’s go through the races and see what looks like fun to us.
Dwarves have been a staple of fantasy adventure for decades, and in myths and folklore for centuries longer. They are oft described as shorter in stature than a man, but with wide chests and thick muscles. Male dwarves are also fully bearded and take great pride in their facial hair. The dwarven people are industrious, often mining and building great stone structures above and below ground. They are a clannish people, living in extended family groups that share space, tools and a trade. Dwarves are a sturdy folk, hardy mentally and physically.
Mechanically, in game, Dwarves gain the following benefits.
Dwarves gain a +2 bonus to their Constitution scores (which improves their ability to shrug off a variety of unhealthy things, and gives them a bonus hit point per level).
Dwarves age at a slower rate than humans. The typical Dwarven adventurer starts at around age 50, and they live around 350 years.
Dwarves tend towards a lawful alignment, as it’s part of their ingrained culture of working together to better the clan. They also tend towards good alignments, with a belief in fair play and justice.
Dwarves tend to be between four and five tall, weigh around 150 lbs. They come in at the medium size category.
Dwarves move 25 feet per round, but unlike most races are not slowed down by heavy armor.
Dwarves can see in the dark, treating actual dark like it’s dimly lit out to about 60 feet, and seeing dim lighting normally. Dwarves don’t see the dark in color.
Dwarves are resilient to poison, which means they have advantage on saving throws against poison (Roll 2D20s and take the higher result).
Dwarves are trained from an early age to use a variety of hammer and axe weapons. They are also trained artisans, gaining proficiency with either smithing tools, masonry tools, or a brewing kit.
Dwarves also have a neat ability called Stonecunning. Basically, Dwarves are familiar, as a race, with the properties of stone working. Whenever they make a check to determine the origin of a stone structure, sculpture or thingamjig, Dwarves are always proficient with that check, and add double their proficiency bonus.
Dwarves automatically know the Common language and they of course know their own language Dwarvish.
From those basic characteristics you’re going to have to select one of two subraces, the Hill Dwarf or the Mountain Dwarf.
The Hill Dwarves are renowned for their intuition and their keen senses above and beyond the Dwarves in general. Mechanically, they increase their Wisdom scores by 1, and they gain an extra hit point at every level.
The Mountain Dwarves are strong, rugged survivors who live a hard life in the mountains they take their name from. They gain a +2 bonus to their strength scores, and proficiency with light and medium armor.
So looking at these traits, what kind of a character can we make? Since we have to choose either Hill or Mountain as a subrace, let’s look at what the combinations look like.
The Hill Dwarf is going to have a +2 bonus to its Constitution Score, a +1 bonus to its Wisdom score, and gain an extra hit point per level on top of the other abilities that it has. That means its going to be a resilient character, and you could have a lot of fun thematically with a Hill Dwarf that selects any of the following classes:
- Fighter (the extra hit points mean they’re going to stay in the fight longer than most)
- Cleric (The wisdom bonus will help with spell casting and the extra hit points help out any class)
- Paladin (If you’re going to pick cleric or fighter but can’t decide, you can always opt for Paladin)
Remember that as a Hill Dwarf you have access to the Dwarven weapon training which means that even a Hill Dwarf Wizard is proficient with a battle axe.
A Mountain Dwarf has some slightly different synergies, so let’s look at areas where a Mountain Dwarf feels right.
- Fighter (With the combination of strength and constitution bonuses, Mountain Dwarves excel at the fighting profession)
- Wizard (this may seem counterintuitive, but a Dwarven Wizard represents the sage of dwarven lore and knowledge. Mechanically, a wizard that’s proficient in light and medium armor, several solid melee weapon choices, and has a bonus to both Strength and Con seems like our kind of drinking buddy)
Durability is a good keyword to describe Dwarves, and they have a variety of options and ideas that you can use as either strengths to play up to, or as weaknesses to play down to. You have a lot of variety being one of the Stout Folk, and we think you can make a variety of interesting characters that can tell a lot of stories.
We’re going to cover Elves in our next edition, so keep checking back for updates, Game Fans,