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Beginner's Guide to Dungeons & Dragons: Building a Character

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.

D&D Introductory Video


Classes in D&D are similar to jobs or professions that we might have in real life. Choosing a class is integral to creating your character since it determines their abilities, stat distribution, skills, and sometimes personality traits such as ideals or motivations. There are 12 official classes for D&D available in the player's handbook, with the Artificer class being a later addition in Tasha's Cauldron of EverythingThe classes available in the player's handbook are available for all players to use as well as the Artificer class. Homebrew classes, or classes made by players, are unofficial classes but can be used in a campaign if the DM allows it.

List of official 5e classes:

...And more at D&D Beyond!


Drawing of a halfling bard playing on a lute.

(Wizards of the Coast)

The races in D&D are vast and many. Each race has in-depth lore and attributes which may assist your character in their journey. For example, elven races are popular because they have Darkvision, which grants sight in dimly lit places, as well as innate connections to magic which grant them spells in addition to whatever spells they may have (or not have) from their classes. Tieflings are also popular due to their overall aesthetic; as descendants of devils, tieflings can have a variety of physical attributes including, but not limited to, horns, tails, burning eyes, and long claws.

There are official races and homebrew ones, each with unique attributes and looks. Make sure to talk to your DM before choosing a home brew. 

For a full list of official 5e races, see the D&D Beyond Character Races list.

Putting it All Together

There are many ways to build your character sheet once you've rolled all your dice and selected your feats. If you're playing in-person, you may want to opt for the old-fashioned print and fill! Or, if you're playing digitally, you may want to sign up for a Roll20 account and create a sheet there.

Here is a list of resources for creating your own sheet, and the pros and cons of each one.


Name Description Pros Cons
Old-Fashioned Way Print a blank character sheet and hand-write Free, tangible, preferred for in-person Updates require occasional re-printing, not ideal for digital games
Digital PDF Keep a fillable PDF copy of your sheet (Adobe or other PDF editor) Easy to mange updates, can be used in-person or digitally Requires software for editing, such as Adobe
Roll20 Fill out a digital sheet that is kept in the game's cloud system Information is easily accessible via Roll20 website, sheet is easy to fill and update Requires a login (free) and a game to be made for the sheet to exist
5e Tools Reference tool for filling out a sheet elsewhere Information is easy to find in a pinch Must be paired with another method; no ingrained system for character sheets
D&D Beyond Official D&D site for reference, character sheet making, and more Can be used either on PC or mobile app. Accessible, easy to update and transfer Requires paid subscription
Foundry Like Roll20, fill out a digital sheet that is kept in the game's cloud system Same as Roll20, but has better graphics and tools for game-building Requires paid subscription to use



Backgrounds provide extra proficiencies as well as armor and equipment for your character. They're extremely important! A background can also help give context to your character's personality and history. For example, a cleric acolyte is a faithful follower of a chosen deity and will have holy relics on hand as well as a proficiency in insight and religion. It's very important to consider backgrounds alongside class. For example, “Charlatan” is a good background to have with the “Rogue” class because it grants proficiency in sleight of hand and deception skills.

Backgrounds also supply information for your character's ideals, traits, bonds, and flaws. Something to remember about role-playing games, though, is that it's important to really get into character. If the backgrounds from the official list aren't doing it for you, don't be afraid to talk to your DM about making some custom personality traits! The more you're able to relate and perform as your character, the more in-depth your games will feel.

For a full list of backgrounds, see the D&D Beyond Backgrounds list.


Alignments determine the moral characteristics of your character. If they see someone in need, are they going to help without question? Or only if a reward is involved? Or will they simply walk away and not attend to the stranger at all?

A lawful good paladin will always choose to spare their enemies when they surrender and ask for mercy. A neutral evil rogue may spare their enemies but only after forcing them to give up all of their valuables.

Alignment is important in D&D to determine the actions and consequences your character will face during their journey. Characters aren't the only things that have alignments -- NPC's, monsters, and even gods have moral alignments! Alignments are important for character building and roleplay, but it’s important to remember when picking an alignment to consider your character’s story and your fellow players. Don’t stick to alignments so thoroughly that it ruins the game for others. If your party is full of kind do-gooders, it may ruin the game if you are playing a merciless, murderous villain. Balance your alignment with the vibe of the group when playing. It’s a good rule of thumb to use alignments as a guiding moral compass but not set in stone rules. Remember, characters are people. They're complex, changing, and you can’t box them into just one category. 

Alignment Chart Example and Explanation

  Lawful Neutral Chaotic
Good Lawful Good Neutral Good Chaotic Good
Neutral Lawful Neutral True Neutral Chaotic Neutral
Evil Lawful Evil Neutral Evil Chaotic Evil

Lawful characters have strict rules, whether self-imposed or imposed by society/religion. Whatever those rules may be, good or bad, lawful characters will stick to them even in tense situations. Lawful good characters may abide by a religious set of rules while lawful evil characters might be bound by the morals they picked up living on the streets: a gang of thieves that operate on a strict code would be lawful evil.

Neutral characters are self-interested. They don't want to cause trouble, but they don't want to put themselves in danger for others, either. A true neutral character will likely have few moral boundaries they aren't willing to cross, but don't expect them to side with any one character or faction often.

Chaotic characters embody their characteristics to a fault. Chaotic good characters aim to please, help, and assist in any way they can -- even if it's objectively not a good idea to do so, or puts themselves in harm's way. On the other side of the spectrum, chaotic evil characters are evil with no boundaries. They are willful and often unreasonable. Chaotic neutral characters are often the most chaotic of the bunch; they're flippant and always choosing actions that will stir the pot.

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