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Beginner's Guide to Dungeons & Dragons: Understanding Your Character Sheet

Ever wondered how fun it would be to embark on a fantasy adventure full of epic fights, friendship, and mischief? Dungeons & Dragons may be the game for you! Learn the basics of playing D&D here.

Character Information

This portion of the character sheet displays the character name, player name, race, class, background, alignment, and EXP.

This portion of the character sheet displays your character's name, their class and level, background, race, alignment, and their gained experience points or EXP. As your character completes quests and slays monsters, they'll gain EXP which will allow them to level up and gain more features and skills. We'll go over the details of these categories in the "Building a Character" tab.

Naming Your Character

Naming your character is just as important to their identity as picking a class or a race. If you find yourself stuck on a name, try out this free Fantasy Name Generator!


This portion of the character sheet contains the six stats: Strength, dexterity, constitution, wisdom, intelligence, and charisma.This portion of the character sheet displays the six stats that define your character: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.


STRENGTH: How physically strong your character is.


DEXTERITY: Your character’s ability to be flexible and move quickly.


CONSTITUTION: Your character’s stamina, overall health, and physical well-being.


INTELLIGENCE: How learned/studied your character is. 


WISDOM: How your character uses and applies knowledge and experience.


CHARISMA: How charming/persuasive your character is.



Most of the stats are pretty self-explanatory, but it may be difficult to remember their differences in the beginning (we're looking at you, Wisdom & Intelligence). To help remember the difference, you may want to use this helpful joke:


Rolling for Stats

When rolling for your character's stats, roll 4d6 and drop the lowest number. For example, if you were to roll a 4, 4, 6, and 2, your stat would be 14. (4+4+6= 14)

To calculate your modifier, you will take the base stat, subtract ten, and divide that number in half, rounded up. The 14 stat that we just rolled would have a modifier of +2, for example. (14-10= 4, 4*2=2)

If you have a low stat, such as an 8, your modifier would be in the negatives. (8-10=-2, -2*2=-1).


Box Controversy

There are two boxes for each stat: one for your base stat and one for the modifier, which is the number you will add to all of your rolls. It's up to personal preference which number goes in which box (and there's a lot of petty debate over that), but we recommend that beginners place the modifiers in the bigger box since it will be easier to see and the modifiers are what you will mostly be referring to when making rolls.


Proficiencies can be gained from your class or from your background. When building a character, you will have the option to choose a few from a small pool of proficiencies that are aligned with your class and background. All of these proficiencies represent different types of checks your DM/GM may ask you to roll. You will only have a few proficiencies, but all proficiencies are a subcategory of one of your main stats. So, if you are asked to make a stealth roll, and you are not proficient in stealth, you still get to add your dexterity modifier. 

Your proficiency bonuses are equal to the main stat modifier they are a subcategory of, plus your proficiency modifier. Your proficiency modifier increases by +1 at levels 5, 9, 13, and 17. 

If you have inspiration, you can use that inspiration to roll with advantage one time. This means you roll twice and take the larger number. Inspiration is typically rewarded by the DM/GM for excellent roleplaying and generally just being awesome players. 

Personality Traits

Traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws all define your character. You can choose these based on the suggestions that come with your background, or you can come up with your own!

Personality Traits- What makes your character unique? What do they like? What do they do? What have they done? Choose at least two traits- and be specific!

Ideals- Your ideals are what drives your character. What do they believe in? What are their morals? Consider why they might consider going on an adventure in the first place. Choose at least one ideal. 

Bonds- Creating connections for your character helps them feel more real. What kind of relationships do they have? These bonds can be with people, but they can also be with places, things, and events. Choose at least one bond. 

Flaws- No adventurer is perfect! Your flaws are your character's weak points. This can includes vices and fears. Choose at least one flaw. 

Your Character Sheet

The most important sheet -- your character sheet! This sheet is a tangible representation of your character's life and story. You'll refer to your character sheet to make moves in combat or roll for ability checks.

Armor Class and Hit Points

Armor Class- Your armor class is used to determine whether or not you take damage during a battle. If attacked, the attacker will have to roll higher than your armor class in order to successfully hit you.

Without armor, your armor class is equal to 10+ your Dexterity Modifier. You can add to your Armor Class by equipping armor and/or shields. 

Initiative- When entering combat, all players (and enemies) must roll initiative. These rolls decide the order in which players and enemies take their turns. To roll initiative, you roll a d20 and add your Dexterity Modifier. 

Speed- Your speed is how fast you can run (i.e., how many spaces you can move) in one turn. D&D is played using a grid where each square space represents 5 feet, so speed is always a variable of 5. As an example, if your speed is 30 feet, that means you can move 6 spaces. 

Hit Points & Hit Die- Your hit points are your health. When you take damage, your hit points are reduced. You can calculate your hit points by one hit die (the specific die this is will be determined by your class) and adding your Constitution modifier. 

Temporary hit points are exactly what they sound like- hit points used to extend your health a bit for a predetermined time frame. You can gain temporary hit points from different spells, feats, and items. 

Your hit dice are the dice you have available to regain hit points back during a short rest. You gain one hit die per level.

Death Saving Throws- When your hit points hit zero, that doesn't mean you're dead yet! When this happens, a player will begin making death saving throws. Once per turn, as a death saving throw, you roll a d20. If you roll a 10 or higher, it is considered a success. If you roll lower than a 10, that is a failure. Use this area on your sheet to mark your successes and failures.

Getting three successful saving throws means that your character will be unconscious for the rest of the battle, but they survived. Yay! Three failed saving throws means your character is a total goner, and you should probably start working on a new character sheet. 

Attacks and Equipment

This portion of the character sheet is where you list your character's equipment and basic attacks. There's room for spellcasting, too, if you have a cantrip or two (*hint hint Elf races*), but usually the larger spellcasting classes prefer to have their own separate sheets or sometimes cards with spells on them. In this area, you'll list attacks such as "Dagger" (an attack with small finesse weapon) under the names area, and the modifier that you use to attack with that item in the "ATK BONUS" area. Since daggers are finesse weapons, they use Dexterity or Strength modifiers, so you'll input whichever modifier you chose between those two here. Lastly, you'll list the damage that an attack with this weapon would do. Daggers, in their most basic form, are 1d4 piercing damage. So the entire line would read as follows:

Dagger +DEX 1d4 piercing


In the equipment area, there is room for basic equipment that your character is given according to their background, such as rope or rations. On the left hand side of the box, there are smaller boxes for keeping track of money. 5e uses a small number of currencies, including copper coins, silver coins, gold coins, and platinum.



Feats are awarded to your character as they level up in their respective class. Feats are abilities that your character gains that can aid them in combat. Some traits, such as Darkvision, which allows your character to see up to 60ft in the dark, are available at the very beginning of character creation due to a character's race.

For a full list of feats, see the 5eTools compendium.

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