So you’ve decided to jump into the world of tabletop RPGs. We’re so excited for you! But that empty character sheet can be pretty daunting. Here are some quick tips for creating a character for any tabletop RPG!
Does the game come with pre-built characters or does it have any recommendations?
Depending on the RPG, the players handbook may have some suggestions for first time players. For example, Monster of the Week has pre-built archetypes, wherein the player simply chooses a few features from a list to complete the character. If you’re playing a game with multiple races (such as Dungeons & Dragons or Dragon Age), you’ll probably want to play as a human for simplicity’s sake the first time.
Ask your Game Master (GM) for help!
You can also ask your GM to build a character’s stats for you, if you feel you really aren’t up to the task and want to jump right into the game! I had one GM for a group of all first-time Dungeons & Dragon players who created a scenario in which the players woke up in a dark room, blindfolded and bound. In trying to escape, he let us choose our gender and race by asking what the other characters see and hear when they escaped from bondage. To narrow down the number of character possibilities, he handed us four cards when he asked the question. Each flashcard had one race and the important stats about that race. When we moved on to the next room, we found symbols on the ground, such as a dagger, a shield, a wand, etc. Choosing the symbol we wanted revealed our character class (such as warrior, cleric, etc). This balanced the party properly by ensuring we had a good group of classes (no one could choose the same class). Certain character classes had to make a choice, such as which deity they served or whether they were ranged or melee focused etc. He again accomplished this by asking questions and handing us flashcards based on our answers. The flashcards contained everything we needed to know and the game was fun and easy. You will need an experienced GM for this particular method, but any GM should be able to help you with tips or a pre-built character.
What is your character’s motivation?
One of the hallmarks of tabletop RPGs is that it is all about choice. Do you go into town and help the people find their lost treasure? Or instead do you simply shop and move on? Do you explore the cave you heard rumors about, or do you ascend a mountain to look for the Chosen One? Making these choices will be a lot easier if you have a strong sense of who your character is. For example, a character motivated by gold or riches would want to seek treasure, perhaps in a foolhardy manner. A character motivated by justice will want to help people. A character motivated by some inner secret will make choices that seem strange to the rest of the group, but that align with their goals. You need to answer the question “Why?” Why are they on this journey? Why do they stay with the group?
Choosing a motivation can happen many ways. You could base your creation on a favorite celebrity or a character from a book, movie, video game or television show. You could base them off of an aspect of yourself. You could also use the suggested prompts included with most tabletop RPG handbooks.
Keep it Simple!
There’s no need for an elaborate backstory the first time around. Keep it simple and leave room for growth. Maybe along the way you’ll realize that bandit captain is probably your long-lost mother, or your character will have a moment of truth in which they realize that the other adventurers mean more to them than gold. Build your stats around the character you’ve created and have fun! When you’re ready to move on, there are plenty of articles and quizzes online that can help you build more elaborate backstories and characters in future playthroughs.