Everyone has done it at least once. In order to prevent the Dungeon Master from using his character’s past against him, players make their Dungeons and Dragons the characters have a tragic history and have motivated them by nothing more than the prospect of wealth. They give them dark, mysterious characters to fill a need to be nervous, or they let their characters fall into in-game stereotypes just because it’s easier.
It quickly becomes boring for everyone involved. In the more intriguing games, there isn’t much to do with the same cookie-cutter character that has been played throughout the Nine Hells and vice versa. So you might as well have fun with the next one by shaking it up a bit and doing something a little more unique.
ten Enrich their family life
Everyone had to come from somewhere, and that includes the player character. When trying to make a character more unique than one where everyone is dead and no one likes them, let them have parents, siblings, cousins, even spouses and kids waiting for them at home. .
After that, flesh out their relationship with them. Maybe they’re on great terms with their siblings but haven’t spoken to their parents for a decade. Maybe their great-grandmother was a hero in her own right and they got their +1 longsword as an inheritance. Little things like that help add a little more depth to the character.
9 Give them more friends than what’s at the party
Not everyone is an introverted hermit, especially bards who are well known for trying to seduce anyone and everything. Somewhere around there they must have had friends. Maybe they’re still doing it somewhere, people who can be called in for information or a little relaxation session.
Also, let some of those friends be exes the player is still on good terms with. Let them have a significant other, a best friend, or someone they would just be willing to help under any circumstances and it will become a little more fulfilling in their life.
8 Let them have a job before they venture out
Chances are the character is an adult. They must have been trained to acquire the necessary classroom skills, but perhaps they weren’t immediately thrown into it. Perhaps this thief was originally an appraiser or a trader who learned to cook the books and defraud their customers. Maybe this fighter was once a blacksmith and now they are using their own weapon. Maybe this bard was once a minstrel for a lord and now they want to go see the world.
Letting them have experiences that weren’t just adventurous gives them another layer of realism and helps explain how they are as they are. It can also help decide where to put those skill points lagging behind or decide exactly what languages they might possibly know.
7 Think about why they chose their class
Basically, the character has that class because that’s what the player wanted to play. However, in their life there is no player. It’s just them. So decide why they chose their class.
It could have been a family tradition, maybe they had a hero they idolized, or maybe kleptomania had come in handy in a thug career. This bard could have loved the spotlight or gotten good at an instrument in an attempt to seduce someone at the time. Maybe this paladin always dreamed of being a knight in shining armor, or this wizard accidentally found a spellbook while they were in college for something completely different.
6 Decide on their religious beliefs
The 5th edition removed many religious systems put forward by previous generations. They’ve been blunted, merged, and even removed entirely. That’s not to say that they still can’t be used and considered, and not just for holy classes like Clerics and Paladins.
In addition to all this, not all practices will be the same. Figuring out how strict a person is in their religious beliefs, what it allows and prevents them from doing, and how ready they are to fight for these systems can really help in deciding how to approach issues. In a world loaded with divine magic, there might even be someone more scientific and desperate to find a more solid reason than the gods have said. Alternatively, in those who are weak in divinity, it could be someone who is looking hard for a higher calling. Maybe the ranger has a ritual they do before they go hunting, or this pirate keeps some superstitions close to them.
5 Find out what motivates them
When trying to be more unique than having an adventure that only craves gold, it’s extremely important to understand why the character comes out in the first place. Perhaps there is a religious quest calling them, the calling of an ancient artifact, or the quest for answers.
Maybe this bard wants to get famous, or this thief wants to become a guild master, or this druid wants to cleanse the area of all unnatural impurities. This wizard may have heard of an ancient relic, or this fighter wants to prove to his former father general that he deserves his praise. The possibilities are limitless.
4 Choose skills based on their experiences
One thing that is always painful is choosing skills. There are only a limited number that can be added at a time, and it always seems like there are some leftovers that just taunt the player. While it may be tempting to choose only those skills or feats that would give a serious tactical advantage, instead consider putting points into the skills that they would have logically honed. Granted, not all editions have so many options for this, but they can still be used.
Someone who was previously a trader might have better skills in valuation and information gathering, while a pickpocket who has always lived on the streets might not be really good at talking to people. Someone who had a parent carpenter might be good at fixing things up, and maybe throughout the game it feels like the character has tried to do something more often than before.
3 Ask lots of questions of who, what, when, where, why and how
The easiest way to go deeper into the characterization is to ask lots of questions about who, what, when, where, why, and how. Find ways to ask them questions about the concepts, then find ways to answer them. Suddenly the character becomes a little more complete when they are all filled.
Then take one more step and ask them again. Build from questions, get curious about their life, explore them to the fullest. Bring the concept to someone else and also ask them to ask questions so that they can fit in and answer them. It really works.
2 Know that it’s okay not to have a tragic story
Lots of more inexperienced players will make tragic stories so that they can be nervous, cool, or to stop the DM from using something that was meant to be kind and harmless against them. The point is, a good DM can use anything against the player if they want to, so the player might as well have fun creating something unique that they can invest in.
While some Dungeon Masters enjoy drinking their players’ tears and collecting stacks of character sheets, not all of them do. Even if it does, being invested in a character makes the player want to play harder to try and keep them from the demon who is the DM. It’s much more satisfying when they’re fleshed out and still manage to conquer whatever the DM throws at them.
1 Don’t hesitate to give them more interest than loot
While everyone wants loot, letting a character have more interests than getting rich really helps give them a bit of something they otherwise would have lacked. Nobody cares about a single thing, neither do the characters.
Maybe they’re interested in a specific type of loot, like Gems, Ancient Artifacts, or Tomes, and this prompts them to seek it out. Maybe they’re the scholar type and they venture out to try and research dungeons, or maybe this ranger has this favorite enemy because they find them absolutely fascinating. Maybe this bard is trying to get as many fans together as possible, or this druid wants to see how many cats they can get to keep up with them. Experiment and have fun with it. It will certainly make the game more enjoyable.
NEXT: How To Play D&D With Just Two People
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