Last Updated: April 11, 2022
Your character is complete! Now, it’s time to put everything on paper. A number of solutions for recording your character exist, including character builders like DnD Beyond or any number of other digital mediums, but for now let’s assume that you’re using a physical character sheet.
Filling out a real character sheet helps to identify parts of your character which you may have missed, and it’s a good exercise to help solidify your understanding of the game. Physical character sheets are also nice if you find that having electronics at the table is distracting, and you never need to worry about wi-fi or dead batteries if your character is on paper.
A number of character sheets are available online, but we’ll use the official version provided by Wizards of the Coast. You can download an editable PDF of the character sheet for free from the Wizards website. This is the same character sheet which you will find in the Player’s Handbook. The whole sheet is 3 pages, but you’ll only need two if you’re not playing a spellcaster. The PDF is form-fillable so you can enter values into the document, but I recommend only doing that for things that never change like your character’s name, race, and background.
Table of Contents
Page 1 is the most important part of your character sheet because it contains most of the information which you need to quickly reference at the table, including things like your skill modifiers, your attacks, and your hit points.
The first page is split into four sections: the top banner and three columns.
The banner at the top of the first page gives you some of the most defining information about your character: your name, your class, etc. Much of this information is unlikely to change, like your name, so these are good things to write in ink, or to type into the PDF before printing. Your class is unlikely to change, but you may choose to multiclass in the future so I recommend filling the field in pencil.
The first column includes several importan sections related to ability scores and ability checks.
Along the left side of the column are 6 boxes with 2 fields each, and a label matching an ability score. These fields are for recording your ability scores and modifiers. There is some debate about whether your ability score or your ability modifier goes int the large box, so do whatever makes sense to you. I think that putting the modifier in the large box makes sense for quick reference, but again: do what makes sense to you.
To the right of your ability scores are four blocks. The first is a checkbox for inspiration. Remember that you either have inspiration or your don’t; it’s not a number or a pool. Second is your Proficiency Bonus, which will be +2 at first level.
Below the Proficiency Bonus field is a block for Saving Throws. Each row matches an ability score, and includes a small circle and an underline. If you are proficient in a saving throw, darken the circle. Then, calculate your saving throw modifiers for each saving throw and put the modifier on top of the line. For more on saving throws, see Playing the Game: Saving Throws and Proficiencies.
Below Saving Throws is a tall box for skills. Like saving throws, each row features a circle and an underline. If you a proficient in a skill, darken the circle. If you have Expertise (available as a class feature for Bards and Rogues), add some other mark like a ring around the circle. Then, calculate your modifier for any skill in which you are proficient and write the total on the line. You can calculate your modifier for other skills, too, but since it’s just your ability modifier this is tedious and not especially important.
Below the Ability Score fields and Skills box is the Passive Wisdom (Perception) block. Fill in your Passive Wisdom (Perception) score, which equals 10 + your Perception skill modifier. For more, see Passive Skills.
The final portion of the first column is a box labeled “Other Proficiencies and Languages”. Use this field to record armor, language, tool, vehicle, and weapon proficiencies, and any other proficiency which isn’t a saving throw or skill.
The second column is broken up into three subsections, the first of which is a several fields grouped with a gray background. This section includes several important combat statistics: Armor Class, Initiative Bonus (usually your Dexterity modifier), and Speed (if you only have a land speed just write a number, otherwise list each type and speed). The hit point fields (current hit points and temporary hit points) are deliberately large so that you can repeatedly write and erase in the fields with less risk of tearing a hole in your character sheet.
The “Hit Dice” field has a “Total” subfield. On the Total line, write your total number of hit dice. In the larger field, write the total roll for a single hit die. If you have multiple types of hit dice, separate them with a slash. For example, a level 3 ranger with 14 Constitution would write 3d8 under total and 1d8+2 in the larger field, while a level 1 rogue/level 2 fighter with 10 constitution would write 1d8+2d8 for Total and 1d8+0 / 1d8+0 in the larger field.
To the right of the Hit Dice field is the Death Saves field. Hopefully you won’t need this, but if you fall to 0 hit points you can use this field to track the outcomes of your death saving throws. For more, see Damage, Healing, and Dying: Death Saving Throws.
The second section, almost precisely in the middle of the page, is the Attacks and Spellcasting box. The top half of the box is a table with three columns to record your favorite attacks. Usually these are weapons or spell attacks, so you can write something like “Rapier” in the first column, “+5” in the second, and “1d8+3” in the third. If you are a spellcaster, you can write “Spell Attack” in the first column, your spell attack modifier (proficency bonus + spellcasting ability modifier) in the second, and “Varies” in the third. The bottom portion of the box is free for you to use as you see fit. Write notes about your attacks like other abilities which might affect your attacks, record ammunition, or whatever else you find important.
The bottom section of the column is labeled Equipment, and includes 5 boxes for coins of different denominations and a large open space. Record any money that your character has left from their starting equipment, as well as any items they own, including weapons, armor, tool kits, etc. If you run out of room, don’t worry: the second page has a “Treasure” section which can serve as overflow.
The third column is split into two sections. The top section is the four “Personal Characteristics”. Fill these fields with whatever you decided on while choosing your character’s details.
The remained of the column is the “Features & Traits” section. Here you can record your racial traits and your class features. The section seems small, but there is more space on the second page. I don’t recommend transcribing the whole text of each trait or ability; a summary and a page number is usually plenty.
The second page of the character sheet is less dense than the first, but follows a similar format. The top of the page is a “banner” section, and the bottom is divided into columns. However, this page has one narrow column and one wide column.
The banner contains a duplicate field for your character’s name, plus several fields for character details like age and height.
The first column has two fields. The first is titled “Character Appearance”. How you use this section is up to you. If the details in the banner are a sufficient verbal description, you might choose to leave this field blank, or you might draw a picture of your character. It’s totally up to you.
The remainder of the column is marked Character Backstory. If your backstory is short enough to fit in this field, that’s great. I recommend typing it into the PDF rather than trying to write it all out by hand.
The wide column has three fields. The first field is titled “Allies and Organizations”. This is a good place to record association with any allied NPCs or organizations. The “Symbol” section is a great place to draw the symbol of a major organization which your character might belong to.
The second block is overflow for the “Features and Traits” section on the first page.
The final section is labeled “Treasure”. It’s a great place to list treasure, valuables, unidentified magic items, or any other equipment which didn’t fit on the first page.
The third and final page is dedicated to spellcasting. If you’re not playing a character who can cast spells, don’t bother printing this page. If you are a spellcaster, continue reading.
The first section of the page is another banner. This banner contains important information across all of your spells like your spellcasting class and spellcasting ability.
The first section of the left-most column is dedicated to cantrips. Record any cantrips you know here.
How you fill out the remainder of the sheet depends on your spellcasting method. If you use the Knowledge Method (Bards, etc.), write the number of spell slots you get of each spell level under “Slots Total” for the appropriate spell level, and write any spells you know on the lines below that spell’s level.
If you use the Preparation Method (Clerics, etc.), write the number of spell slots you get of each spell under “Slots Total” for the appropriate spell level, and write your favorite spells of each level on the lines below the spell level heading. When you prepare spells, darken the circle next to the spell’s name to indicate that you have prepared it that day.
Other Character Sheet Options
There’s a lot of dense information on your character sheet, so it’s natural to feel a little bit lost the first time you play.
If you’re having trouble finding things or reading your character sheet, some nice redditors create DnD character sheets for dyslexic players which are available for free. Even if you don’t have learning differences like dyslexia, the character sheets are well formatted and have helpful graphics which indicate what some of the numbers means at a glance, making it easier for new players who are still acclimating to the game.
You might also choose to use DnDBeyond, which is the official digital toolset for 5th edition. While you do need to buy digital copies of source books to use anything beyond the most basic options, it’s still a great tool and automates the process of filling in your character sheet.