RPGBOT.Podcast – How to Play Dungeons and Dragons, Part 2 – Characters

Show Notes

In this 4-part series, we teach new players with absolutely no exposure to the game how to play Dungeons and Dragons with the help of our special guest, Jodie, who prior to recording with us had never been exposed to Dungeons and Dragons. By the end of this series, you’ll be ready to build a character and play your first game.

In our second episode in this series, Tyler and Jodie build Jodie’s first character, discuss the steps for doing so, and fill in her first character sheet.

The Full 4-Part Series

  1. Part 1 – Concepts and Themes
  2. Part 2 – Characters
  3. Part 3 – Playing the Game
  4. Part 4 – Questions and Answers

Materials Referenced in this Episode

Transcript

Randall

Welcome to this very special episode arc of the RPGBOT.podcast. Yeah, so in this arc, we’re going to take our special guest, Jodie, through learning about how to play tabletop gaming. In particular, we’re focused in Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition. We’re going to do this in four episodes. So the first episode we’re going to talk about concepts and themes in tabletop gaming. The second episode, we’re going to work through building a character for playing D&D 5e. The third episode, we’re going to do a one-shot in D&D 5e. And in the fourth episode, we’re going to gather and to kind of talk through everything that Jodie experienced. Give her an opportunity to ask any questions you might have about the game. So yeah, if you’re a regular listener, if you’re super into D&D 5e, this art might not be super useful for you, but we’re hoping it’s something you can bring to folks who want to come to the game. And if you’ve been away from tabletop for a while, and you want to come back to it, we’re hoping this is a great resource for you to kind of get familiar reacquaint yourself and come back into the game. Thanks a lot.

And now, Episode 2 with Tyler and Jodie, working on building characters for D&D 5e.

Tyler 

Hey Jodie.

Jodie 

Hi, how are you?

Tyler 

I’m doing well. Thanks for joining me.

Jodie 

Glad to be here.

Tyler 

Today, we are going to build your first character. Your first Dungeons and Dragons character. So this is one of the first steps that people take on their journey into the hobby is building the character that you’re going to play. If you stick with the game, and if you play for a long time, you’ll do this few times. And you get better at it over time. It’s definitely a skill. So today, we’re going to take a kind of slow. We’re going to go through the basics. We’re going to pick out some options. But when we’re done, you’re going to have a full character who’s ready to play. Are you excited?

Jodie 

Yeah, that’s awesome!

Tyler 

All right. So in front of you, you have your character sheet, yes?

Jodie 

Yes, I do.

Tyler 

All right, and how many pages is that?

Jodie 

Three pages.

Tyler 

Okay, so we are, we’re going to come back to the character sheet in just a couple minutes, but I’m gonna start you with the Player’s Handbook. So the Player’s Handbook is the core rulebook for all the players, and that has most of the rules for the game. So this is probably not something you’re going to read cover to cover. A lot of it is reference materials. But the first intro chapter is very good and then the chapters after that are all about building your character. So there’s lots of cool information in here. If you ever have some free time, the art is also very pretty. So I’m gonna have you open up your Player’s Handbook. And if you just go to the table of contents, we’re going to start there. And I know that sounds super boring, but bear with me. People listening at home, if you don’t have a Player’s Handbook, the basic rules or a copy of the system reference document will also suffice, and we’ll have links to those in the show notes. So the player’s handbook. In the table of contents, you’re going to see some chapters. So there’s, there’s the introduction, there’s three parts, part one, part two, part three. Part one is all about building your character, and that’s where we’re going to focus today. So the the first section of part one is step by step, building your character. So we’re essentially going to go through that process today. But rather than going through it in the process that is described in the book, we’re kind of going to go through things all at once, which feels a little maddening. But it’ll make sense once we’re done. So before we actually build the character, I want to talk about the building blocks of your character. So you’re going to have a few decision points as you build your character and that’s going to find who your character is, and what they do. The three biggest portions of your character or your race, your class, and your background. Your race is something like human or elf or dwarf. So if you’re familiar with Lord of the RIngs, all of those classic fantasy races are all in there. In other books, there’s things like goblins. In… and just in the core rulebook, there’s some more interesting races. I shouldn’t say more interesting. More unique to D&D, like tieflings, which are demon people, and then dragonborn who are dragon people. So we’ll we’ll go through the races in more detail later. Then you’ll also decide your class. Your class defines your character’s capabilities. Like, looking at two good examples: a Fighter is a really good martial character, like they’re your soldier. They use weapons, they wear armor, and they fight stuff. And then there’s your Wizard who is a bookish scholar who uses their knowledge of the world to cast magic. Building block number three is your background. That’s a little bit less mechanical than your race in your class. But it tells us where your where your character came from, what was their life experience before they became a character? Deciding those three things are the largest decision points when you build your character. So if we can jump back to the character sheet for just a moment. The first page, it’s the one that’s separated in three columns. Do you have that in front of you?

Jodie 

Yes.

Tyler 

Awesome. Right across the top, there’s a horizontal ribbon. Yhere’s a big space that says character name, and you can name your character, whatever you want. Bobblin the goblin. Melf the elf is a real, famous character. That’s a thing. Name them whatever you like.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

The rectangle in the upper right corner, you’ll see class and level, background, player name. That’s that’s you. Race, alignment, and experience points. Alignment is a general impression of your character’s philosophical outlook on the world, but a lot of people just choose to leave that blank until they figure out who their character is. Experience points are what you’ll accumulate as you adventure, and that’s how you gain levels. And your level is an indicator of how powerful your character is and how experienced they are in the world. Generally, a character will start at level one in one class. And as you advance levels, you can continue in the same class or you can multi-class itno other classes, but we’re not going to worry about that today.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Alright. So now that we’ve talked about the building blocks, we’re going to go ahead and build your character. And I’m throwing a lot of information at you kind of quickly, so feel free to stop me if you have any questions. I do have a question.  Oh! Please, go ahead.

Jodie 

So when you’re starting to build a character, do you think ahead to what kind of game you’re going to be playing? I mean, there’s different roleplaying games, and there’s, like different adventures you go on, right?

Tyler 

Yes, absolutely. So every game will have a different style. And a lot of it depends on your Dungeon Master and the personal preferences of the other people you’re playing with. It’s pretty rare to play with just one player and one Dungeon Master, but that does happen. I’ve run those games, they can be a lot of fun. Knowing what you’re going into is more of a normal situation. So a lot of the time when you’re building a character, you have a rough idea of what adventure you’re going to be playing.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So the, the first venture that came out for the current edition of dungeons of dragons was called Wrath of the Dragon Queen. And it was about going and fighting a bunch of Dragon worshippers. So you kind of had a general idea, like, we’re going to be the heroes, we’re going to go fight some clear bad guys up to some very clear evil mischief. And that’s kind of the premise of the game. So that gives you an idea of the kind of story that you might walk into.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So for this, since we’re building your first character, and we’re, we might not have a specific adventure in mind, we’re just going to build what seems interesting to you.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

And even if you do that in a normal campaign, in a normal game, a lot of the time it is perfectly acceptable just to build a character that catches your interest and that resonates with you. Fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons is a robust enough system that it can handle character, diverse characters who don’t necessarily fill every classic niche and every need in the game.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So if everyone’s playing characters that they’re happy with, maybe you won’t be the most powerful party ever, but you’re still going to have a good time. Okay, so let’s jump into building a character. So if you look at your character sheet, I pointed to that, that rectangle at the top right corner that to lists your race and your class and all those other things. So the first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to try and fill in that box. Like that tells us the first, most high-level information by your character. So I’m going to go through the list of races and the list of classes. And I’m just going to give you like a one sentence summary of each of those races and classes and then we will pick from the list. Now if if you go beyond what’s in the Player’s Handbook, there’s 50+ races at this point, and there’s an extra class that they added. So there’s a ton of options to choose from. So we’re going to keep it real simple today.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So starting from the races, dwarf. They’re stout, sturdy. They have beards famously, dwarfs are resistant to poison, they’re very durable, which often makes them very resilient in combat and very survivable. Elf. Elves are super long-lived. Nimble, graceful, often very good at magic. The ones that aren’t good at magic are frequently in tune with nature. If you’ve seen Lord of the Rings, elves, dwarfs very similar.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Halflings, also called “hobbits” from Lord of the Rings, but we can’t legally use that term and Dungeons and Dragons anymore. So they’re about three feet tall and weigh about as much as a two year old. They are famously sneaky and charming and jovial. They typically make excellent Rogues and Rangers. They’re good explorers, and they’re very lucky.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Dragonborn are dragon people. They have a draconic ancestor who gives them the ability to breathe some sort of damaging thing. Usually fire or lightning or poison or something like that, and they can also resist damage at the same time.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Gnomes are another small race like halflings. They’re about three feet tall. They’re a little more magical than halflings, and some of them like tinkering with gadgets. Half-elves are half human, half elf. They’re very charming. They get extra skills and they’re very versatile, so they can work as a lot of classes very easily. Half-orcs, or half or calf human. Orcs don’t appear as a playable race in the court rules, which is a whole thing. We won’t get into that today. They’re strong and sturdy and very difficult to kill. And they they’re very effective at fighting with large weapons. Tiefling. Tiefling are demon people who I mentioned earlier. They have some innate magical powers from their demonic ancestry, and while I do say “demon people” I don’t want people who run screaming and think that tieflings are evil inherently. Generally it’s just the result of a curse or something like that. But you get cool horns and you might have red skin.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Oh, I did skip over humans. Excuse me. I’m one of those. So humans. You know what humans are. Humans are versatile and ambitious and can learn to do pretty much anything successfully.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So those are choices of races. Now, if you have a race in mind, you can go ahead and tell me, or we can hang on to we’ve talked about classes.

Jodie 

Well, I was thinking, maybe elf, elf, halfling, or half-elf.

Tyler 

Elf, halfling, or half-elf. Those are all great choices. Honestly, all of the choices are great. So let’s keep that in mind. And we’ll look at classes and we’ll see, we’ll see what we can do.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Alright, so starting from the list of classes, you have your Barbarian, they’re a they’re mostly martial character. That means that they fight with weapons and stuff. And their signature thing is they get really angry and really hard to kill in a fight. They’re… they are generally from uncivilized places. They’re very resilient, and they’re very, they’re natural explorers and survivors. They have some cool stuff like they have a subclass option that lets them use like animal totem abilities and some other cool stuff like that. So if you want to be a brave, angry explorer, Barbarian. The Bard is a spellcaster who draws their magic from basically secret lore. They travel the world gather, gathering stories and information and take magic from that. They’re also famously good musicians and performers. They can be a little bit complex to play, but they are very capable at almost everything. They are literally a jack of all trades. They’re good with skills, they’re okay in a fight. They’re good with magic, and they have some some very fun tricks to support their friends.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

The Cleric is the signature divine spellcaster. They draw their power from their relationship with a deity. So deities in Dungeons and Dragons typically work like Greek-style polytheism, where you’ll have named gods who have specific portfolios that they care about, and their worshipers get such and such specific abilities. So clerics are also the iconic healers, so they’re very good at supporting and protecting their allies. But they’re also really good at blowing up bad guys.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Some clerics are also pretty good with weapons so they’re, they’re a very diverse class. Next is the Druid. Druids are similar to clerics in a lot of ways but where Clerics draw their powers from, from the divine, druids draw their power from nature. Druids get cool abilities like the ability to turn into animals and later turn into elemental spirits. They cast a lot of spells and they can do a lot of cool stuff, including just magically making friends with animals and bestowing them with intelligence and things like that. So Druids are also an excellent healer, much like the Cleric. They’re also really good at spells that kind of control the terrain around them.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

They’re also one of the simpler spellcasters to play in my opinion. So for new players looking to get into the game, a Circle of the Land Druid is a very, very simple choice.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Next is the Fighter I mentioned the Fighter earlier fighters are the signature martial class. They are skilled with weapons and armor. If you can picture a knight in shining armor charging into battle with a sword and shield and plate armor, that is a good example of a Fighter. They’re just as capable with bows. You can build them in a lot of very fun ways. And there’s a lot of very interesting and diverse character options for the Fighter. So if you want to build a character who’s who gets by on their skill with a weapon, Fighter is a great choice.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Next is the Monk. The Monk is a martial artist. They’re built around the concept of Ki or Chi, so they fight unarmed and unarmored and by improving their skills and their body over time, they become very capable and resilient and gain a lot of cool things like immunity to poison, exceptionally long life, and things like that. They’re also famously really good at punching stuff really, really fast. So if you, if you enjoy kung fu movies, they’re a cool character. If you enjoy, like, eastern-style philosophy, they’re an interesting character. There’s a lot rolled up into the Monk. They’re a very fun class to play and they can do a lot of things like sneaking around, being sneaky, being wise, being clever. Yeah, and they work very well in similar roles to a Fighter or a Rogue. Okay, that sounds really cool. Yeah, monks are cool class.

Jodie 

Yeah.

Tyler 

Next is the Paladin. The Paladin is similar in some ways to both the Cleric and the Fighter. They have a little bit of divine power and a whole lot of martial skills. So they’re, they’re typically going to stomp into combat with a sword and armor. They have some ability to heal. They have some ability to cast spells. Once you gain a few levels, you get the ability to cast Find Steed and you get a magical horse, which is, you know, smarter than your average horse. They draw their power from conviction to an oath that they take. So they’re also very charming, so they’re very good in social situations. It’s a very durable and versatile class. And I frequently recommend Paladins as a, a character in a single-player campaign and I recommend Paladins for a lot of new players who want to learn the system in a hurry. Because the Paladin does a really good job intro, of introducing a lot of character concepts very quickly over the first few levels of the class, but in a way that’s still slow enough that you’re not overwhelmed by it. Generally, if you can play a Paladin, you can play basically anything.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Next is the Ranger. The Ranger is similar… it kind of draws a line between the Druid, the Fighter, and the Rogue. The Ranger is a natural explorer. They’re very good at being stealthy, they’re very good at dealing a lot of damage in a fight. They’re good at exploring. They do have a little bit of magic similar to the Druid. So it’s kind of drawn from a natural source. So you’ll get spells that will, like, let you interact with animals and plants and things like that. They also have they have a very popular subclass called called the Beast Master, which lets you have a pet that follows you around and fights alongside you. And who doesn’t want to have a cool pet? Sounds cool! Yeah. Next is the Rogue. The Rogue is that kind of the signature scoundrel ne’er-do-well, devil may care character. The iconic version of the Rogue is the thief but there’s also the assassin in other sourcebooks there’s a swashbuckler who if you’re familiar woth Zoro and similar characters, swashbuckler. Rogues are really good with skills, they’re really good at being sneaky and charming and deceptive. And there’s… their kind of signature offensive option is called Sneak Attack where if you get a… if you have an advantage over your target, or they’re positioned in such a way, you can deal a whole bunch of damage to them very quickly. So rogues are very good at dealing bunch of damage in a fight. And outside of a fight, they’re very, very skilled at both exploration and social interactions. So if you want to play a character who’s really good in a lot of situations, but isn’t dependent on magic, Rogue is often a good choice. Next, we get into the the three big arcane sources. And these ones are my personal favorite, but I’ll try not to bias your decisions. So they do they do have some overlap here, so feel free to stop me and ask questions. So first is the Sorcerer. The Sorcerer draws their magical powers from a bloodline or some other thing that gave them magical abilities. The signature Sorcerer is the draconic bloodline Sorcerer, so you have a dragon way back in your ancestry somewhere, and you inherited magical power from that. And the Sorcerer is a relatively easy spellcaster to play because you don’t learn a lot of spells. But you get a few special options called Metamagic that let you kind of tweak your spells on the fly as needed. So if you have a few good tools that you get really good at using, and then learn to apply those in a bunch of different situations. Now, depending on how you build your Sorcerer, you could be all focused on combat, all focused on exploration, all focused on social interactions. Or you can find a mix of the three by balancing your skills and your spell choices. So there’s a lot of there’s a lot of room to customize your Sorcerer by customizing the spells that you know.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Next is the warlock. The warlock is an interesting take on spellcasting you gain magical powers by making a pact with some powerful being. So there’s a few different options. The iconic option is the Fiend. You literally make a deal with a devil and get magical powers as a result. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bad or evil, it just means you kind of made a bad deal and now you’ve got cool powers from it. You can also make deals with entities which might be beneficial like Celestials, which are literally angels. Fey, which are fairies, nature spirits, things like that. There’s a bunch of options which are introduced in other books. Within the core rules we have the Archfey, the Fiend and the Great Old One. If you’re familiar with the Cthulhu Mythos or cosmic horror of any kind, Great Old One. It’s a spooky, outer space god, basically.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Yeah. And then finally at the end of the book, Wizard, which is my personal favorite class. The Wizard is the bookish scholar gone on an adventure. Wizards are very intelligent. They have a lot of book smarts, and they use those book smarts to learn magic. So if you can imagine a character in, like, a King Arthur-style tale or Lord of the Rings, going to college to get a four year degree in casting spells, that’s your Wizard. Wizards are famously very capable because of their spel book. A Wizard spellbook contains all of the things that they know. So they learn spells, put them into the spellbook. And you can add to that as you can levels, as you find things on adventures, as you meet other wizards. And as you expand your spellbook, you can change the spells that you use from day to day, which lets you change your skills to fit any situation. Now, that versatility does come at the cost of complexity, so tracking your spell book, a lot of people find that very frustrating, but with just a little bit of work, it’s it’s no more difficult than maintaining a to-do list.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So if you want to be if you want to be very smart, know lots of things about the world that maybe you don’t know in real life, and have access to all of the coolest spells, Wizard.

Jodie 

Okay. Well, I have a question if it’s okay. So are all of these characters, they can be either male or female? Or is there even a gender association to the characters you choose?

Tyler 

That’s a great question. That’s totally up to you. There is no restriction on gender or gender identity in the game. It has actually become pretty common these days for people to write their character’s pronouns on their character sheet in place of gender. In official sources, there are non-binary characters, transgender characters. There are, there are races of characters in the game that don’t have a concept of gender. My outlook on it is… my character just walked into a bar. That person’s a dragon. That person’s a robot. That person’s literally a demon. Why should your gender or gender expression matter?

Jodie 

Okay. Okay, so I could pick any one of those characters, even though some of them when I look at him, I think, Well, that seems more male and that seems more female. It doesn’t matter. I could be any one of those. Okay.

Tyler 

Oh, absolutely. If you look through the character, art, wizards has actually done a really good job of portraying diverse races and genders for all of the characters and classes, diversity in real-world human ethnicities like that. There’s still, there’s always room for improvement. And sorry, Dungeons and Dragons does have kind of a rough history with portrayal of gender and race. But we’ve, we have come a long way in the games, almost 50-year history, and fifth edition has made a lot of steps to really improve that. This is a game where everyone is welcome.

Jodie 

Okay. Well, you know, I wasn’t, I was thinking more in terms of when I create a character, I can choose any one of these. And then, because I identify as a female, my character would be a female, or could I create a character that’s a male character that I play?

Tyler 

Your character can be whatever you want. A lot of people will play characters of other genders to explore what it’s like to be a different person. I tend to, I tend to personally play only male characters. But that’s not like that as a personal choice. I have a lot of friends who are very comfortable playing female characters, I have a lot of friends who are women comfortable with playing male characters. Whatever concept for character you have in your head is wonderful and you should play that.

Jodie 

So another question I have about creating a character. So if you create your character, and you start to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons, or whatever roleplaying game, and that, do you call the campaign? The game what you call the…

Tyler 

Some terminology. So a campaign is generally a series of adventures played over multiple sessions for a long time. An adventure might be a subsection of a campaign with a distinct, like, beginning and end. That’s, again, can be played one session can be played over multiple sessions, depending on the length. And then a session is just, we are all here today, we are going to play for a little while, and then we’re going to go do other things.

Jodie 

So what I’m gathering is that as you, you create this character, and then as you play through the adventure or the campaigns, your character grows, and changes, and well, grows and increases in strength and skill level and all that. So once a campaign ends and you’re like you’re done with it, you’re not playing that anymore. Do you then take that character into a new game that you play with a different set of people and you start at that level? Or I guess it’s optional?

Tyler 

Great question. So that raises a couple of good questions that we should talk about what happens when you finish an adventure in a campaign? That that’s kind of up to you and the people you play with. In a lot of cases, you’ll finish an adventure and then continue on to the next adventure with the same group. So if you’ve got a party of four, and then your Dungeon Master. Dungeon Master finishes one story, everyone says, Hey, we still really like our characters. Can we go on another adventure with these characters? That’s great. A lot of campaigns work that way where you will play… people play the same characters for years or even decades.

Jodie 

And that answers my question. Okay, good!

Tyler 

Yeah. But in, in some cases, you might play a character for one session, and then never play that character again. And both of those answers are perfectly fine. There is also the question of character portability, which is kind of a confusing concept for newer players. Generally, when you make a character, you’ll make it with some agreed upon rules with the people at the table. So if if you want to… you and I are sitting down, we’re making character right now, and we are limiting ourselves to just what’s in the Player’s Handbook just to keep things simple. Other groups might have other preferences. Other groups might say, like, Hey, we’re playing in some specific story where there’s no dwarves, so you can’t play a dwarf. So in some cases, if you bring a character from a different campaign, from campaign A to campaign B, your character may be welcome in campaign B, you might need to make some adjustments you might need to like get rid of some magic items that your Dungeon Master doesn’t want you to have. Things like that. It’s always a case-by-case basis. There’s no fun police coming to enforce any of this.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

There is also there’s organized play games. If you go online and look for Adventurers’ League, that’s the organized play league run by Wizards of the Coast. They do have specific rules around character portability, so if you play in any Adventurers’ League game, by their portability rules, you can bring your character anywhere and play with random strangers all over the world.

Jodie 

Okay. Sounds good.

Tyler 

Well, are we ready to pick your race and your class?

Jodie 

Yeah, I mean, like I said, I was leaning toward elf, halfling, or half-elf.

Tyler 

Okay.

Jodie 

For the race. Right, race. Okay.

Tyler 

Yes.

Jodie 

And then for the class I wrote down that I thought that Cleric, Druid, and Paladin sounded interesting.

Tyler 

Okay.

Jodie 

Wizard, kind of looking at it, like, to begin with, I like the idea of the heale, part of it and the spellcasting part of it. And that I think some of those other things that sounded really good, I might want to try after I’ve tried one of these.

Tyler 

That sounds great. I’m glad that multiple things caught your eye. That’s awesome. Okay, so you said elf, halfling, or half-elf as races. Okay, so I’m not going to make you flip around in the book too much. But if you look at the table of contents, there are page numbers for all of the races, and people at home, feel free to follow along. If you flip to those pages, why don’t we start with elf just as an example?

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Alright. So if we flip to page 18 Nope, that’s dwarf.

Jodie 

21.

Tyler 

21. Thank you. Page 21. That’s the entry for elf that that splashguard the dude in the green cloak is a famous character named Drizz’t. Oh, look his names on the page, so you don’t have to guess the spelling. Okay, so on page 23, the left column on page 23, about halfway down look for a section that says “elf traits.”

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So those traits describe the specific benefits you get from being a member of that race. Every race will have some benefits that you get. And they’ll vary by race. Some of these are cultural, some of these are anatomical, some of them are mix of both. So the very first thing you’re going to notice on that list is the ability score increases. So ability scores are your character’s, like, fundamental numerical traits that describe what your character is capable of doing and how good they are at a bunch of different things. Different races are, by default, good at different things. But some later rules that got intro, introduced in a separate book said, Hey, if you want to change those bonuses to something else, do it. So I encourage people to play by those rules because it it makes the game a little more diverse. And it doesn’t lock you into a stereotypical idea of what in any individual race is. Elves will frequently have a plus two bonus to dexterity. If you want to put that somewhere else, yhat’s great, too. Okay. So in addition to picking your race, some races have a subrace which is kind of a heritage within the race. So within the player’s handbook, we have High Elf, Wood Elf, and Dark Elf. Dark Elves, don’t think they’re evil and spooky. We’re trying to get away from that concept. So each, each sub race of elf will have some specific benefits. And we’ll skip around and come back to this later. So High Elf is going to be good at magic, you’ll get a Wizard spell, that’ll be cool. Wood Elf, they’re very, they’re typically very wise, they walk very quickly and they’re good at hiding in natural settings. Dark Elves get some natural magical spells that they can cast, but they also have trouble seeing in sunlight.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

That’s just kind of an example of a race. And we can flip around to other races. Do any of those concepts sound good to you? Or would you like to jump to halflings and see what they’ve got? Well, I was… the Wood Elf, which what you said about the Wood Elf sounded good. I felt, but I would look like to look at halfling and half-elf. Okay. Alright, so if we flip to the very next page, you’ll see the halfling and the halfling traits start on page 28.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

And it’s a pretty small section. That doesn’t mean that they’re any less cool. So like I mentioned earlier, halflings are small, so they’re not great at using big two-handed weapons. That’s perfectly fine. They’re a little bit slower than taller races. You know, short, stubby legs. I’m sure you remember seeing the kids running around at two years old. Short, short, little legs.

Jodie 

Oh, yeah.

Tyler 

Halflings are also lucky. So when you roll a natural one on some things, you get to reveal that and I believe Random explained how dice work intentions and dragons, yes?

Jodie 

Yes.

Tyler 

Okay, so a d20. Roll, very important in the game. If it comes up as a one on the die itself, that’s what’s called a “natural one.” And a lot of times, that’s not a great outcome for you, so the ability to reroll can save you when things aren’t going great.

Jodie 

Okay,

Tyler 

So you can also run through spaces of creatures larger than you, which is nice if you need to run past enemies or run run between your allies’ legs or something. And then there are two halfling subraces the Lightfoot and the Stout Halfling, the Lightfoot Halfling, they’re naturally charismatic. But again, you can change that. They’re also naturally stealthy, which is one of the reasons halflings are famously good rogues is because you can literally hide behind people, which normally most people can’t do. Stout halflings are resistant to poison similar to dwarves, which makes them very durable. And if you want to build a halfling who’s going to be leaping into danger, that’s often a good choice.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

See, and I believe the next race we were talking about was the half-elf. So if we jump to page 39, you’ll find the half elf. Okay, so half-elves don’t have a sub race. They do have variants, which were basically the same as subraces which were introduced in other books, but let’s just stick with stick to what’s here. So half-elves are very rare, they get bonuses to three different ability scores. Most races only get to that makes them very able to succeed in a lot of classes. Let’s see, they get some benefits from their elf, from their elven ancestry. They can see in the dark, it’s hard to put them sleep or charm them. And you also get two bonus skills, which is really nice. In fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons, you generally start with a small number of skills. Most characters start with four. So getting two extra is a pretty big benefit.

Jodie 

Okay. Alright.

Tyler 

I know I threw a lot of information.

Jodie 

Well, if it’s time to choose, I didn’t expect it but halfling was what appealed to me. Halfling, all right! Yeah, yeah, it sounds like a fun character!

Tyler 

That sounds great. Okay, now, would you what do you think between Lightfoot and Stout? So Lightfoot is the the natural naturally stealthy, Stout is resistant to poison.

Jodie 

Lightfoot.

Tyler 

Okay. Alright, so we’re gonna go for the naturally stealthy lightfoot halfling. Alright, so now let’s, let’s go back to talking about classes. So we talked about the Cleric, the Druid, and the Paladin. I think we can make a halfling work for any of those. Clerics can be very diverse based on what deity you choose to worship and what domain you pick. Let’s see. Druids can also be pretty diverse depending on which subclass you pick and just kind of how you see your role in the party. And then Paladin, Paladin will be a really interesting build. So I’m sure you’re familiar with RPGBOT.net, we’ve talked about it quite a bit.

Jodie 

Yes.

Tyler 

So I spent a lot of time writing out how to build a character that’s very mechanically effective, but we’re building your first character. Don’t expect this thing to be a racecar. It doesn’t need to be okay. If it’s fun to play at the table, that is success.

Jodie 

All right, I’m thinking druid.

Tyler 

Okay, druid, I love it. Druid is honestly honestly one of my favorite classes. I think they’re very, very fun in fifth edition. You get to do a lot of cool things. Alright, so we’re going to skip to page 65 And the players handbook. That’s the… 64, 65. Let me know when you’re there. You’re there? Excellent. Okay, so if you look at the top right corner, you’ll see a table. It’s white with horizontal green stripes. So that table tells you what you get at each level of a Druid. You’ll notice that it goes from levels 1 to 20, which is the level range in Dungeons and Dragons, fifth edition. So at first level you’re going to start with, with a couple of features and that feature is called druidic and spellcasting. Druid speak a secret language called druidic that only Druids are allowed to know. So if you ever meet another Druid, you can have cool chats about your friends behind their back. Over on the right, you’ll see a bunch of numbers in columns. So that tells you how many spells you can cast. So we will, we will come back to that stuff later. If you look just below that table in the right column, there’s a little heading that says “quick build.” The quick build instructions in every class give you a general idea of how to build this character successfully. Following these instructions is almost always a good answer, especially for new players. So now that we’ve, now that we’ve picked your race, we’ve picked your class, and we’ve taken a quick peek at the Druid, we’re going to start filling in your character sheet.

Jodie 

I’m there.  Okay.

Tyler 

Alright, and I’m gonna flip to the copy of the character sheet at the back of the player’s handbook because my printer decided to give us the ghost today.

Jodie 

Okay, so I’m writing down halfling. With the class of Druid.

Tyler 

Okay, and next Druid, right one, typically characters will start at level 1. But once you’ve played the game a few times, it’s pretty common for people to start at higher levels. Okay, levels, 1, 2, and 3 are generally very fast to get through. And they’re a great way to get to know both the mechanics of the game and your character. So if you’re new to the game, I really encourage people to start at level 1, play a couple sessions advance quickly. And that’ll help you get to know how the game works and how to play your characyter.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

so we filled in race we filled in class and level. Feel free to write down your name if you want to. And we will come back to background in just a couple minutes.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Now if you look at the first page of the character sheet, you’ll notice that it’s split into three columns. Now those three columns are… how would I describe these? Left is like your character’s capabilities and proficiencies. Middle is some numbers and stuff based on those capabilities and proficiencies. And over on the right is a lot of descriptive information about your character. And if you look, if you flip that over and look at the back page, there’s a whole bunch more room for descriptive stuff about your character. So the back is a great place to draw a picture of your character, to write down their backstory. And there’s a great big box at the bottom for treasure. You’re going to need that.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Everybody loves treasure. So we’re going to start on the first page. So over on the left hand column, you’ll see six… a column of six big square boxes with a little oval on the bottom. Now, those are your ability scores, and we’ve talked about those previously. So there’s six of them Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Strength is how muscley your character is dexterity is how nimble you are constitution is how physically resilient you are. Intelligence is book smarts, ability to do math, ability to remember facts. Wisdom is common sense, intuition, insight into the world and the people around you. And Charisma is your force of personality and your natural charm.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

You’re playing a Druid and druids use wisdom for a lot of their capabilities, especially their spellcasting. So wisdom is very important for you. Constitution will determine things like hitpoints. Dexterity will give you your armor class, which is how hard it is for people to hurt you. Sorry, the other ability scores will influence your skills. But we’re gonna use the easiest method to generate your ability scores. It’s called the standard array. So you get six numbers and you can place them however you like. And then once we’ve placed those numbers, we will add those the bonuses from your race.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So the standard array is 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8. So they go down in descending order, so you can place those however you like. So having high wisdom is good because it will make you better with your spells. High constitution is good because you’ll have more hitpoints. High dexterity is good because you’ll have more armor class. Strength will make you effective with melee weapons. Intelligence will help you remember facts. The nature skill is dependent on intelligence. And charisma will make you better in social situations. Now, there’s… no character is going to be amazing at everything. This is a game about surviving and succeeding in a party of people who are combining their skills to succeed. Specialization is generally rewarded in the game. Very few characters are good at everything. So let’s pick some things that you feel are important to your character, emphasize those and then work out the rest. And if you, if you need a hint, jumping back to the Quick Build section on page 65 is also a great place to start. So for people reading along at home, it says first wisdom should be your higher, your highest ability score followed by Constitution. Second, choose the hermit background. We’ll come back to backgrounds.

Jodie 

Okay, well, I was thinking Wisdom as you’re going through it. So I would give that a 15?

Tyler 

Yes.

Jodie 

Okay. Quick side question. So if you’ve got a group of friends who are all going to start a game together, and they’re all building new characters to do it, would they kind of work together building the characters and say, Okay, well, my character is going to have intelligence, my characters going to have constitution. I mean, do you do that as you set up and prepare for a game to make sure it’s well balanced?

Tyler 

Yeah, frequently. So Dungeons and Dragons, if you’re playing… depending on the style of game you’re playing, it’s very helpful to have a diverse skill set within the party to help you overcome any given challenge that you might encounter. So talking to the other people in your group… your “party”, quote, unquote, is going to help you cover all those bases and make sure that you have all of those capabilities. I think Random explained the classic party, the Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard. That party is really iconic, because both it dates back to the earliest days of the game, and because it covers all of those essential skills.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Now, a Druid typically is very similar to a Cleric. So you’re going to fill a lot of those same capabilities in the group that a Cleric would, so you’re going to have some healing, some support magic, some offensive magic, and when you need to, you can get up and up close in a fight and defend your friends.

Jodie 

Okay. Alright, so if I’m going through quick build wisdom, and then constitution?

Tyler 

Constitution, yes.

Jodie 

That would be 14. Okay, and then it doesn’t say specifically which is right.

Tyler 

That’s right. So it does leave some room for you to make decisions on your own. There aren’t any strictly wrong choices, which isn’t exactly fair to say, because depending on the choices you make, you might die. Death is kind of inevitable in Dungeons and Dragons. It happens to everyone from time to time, and sometimes it hurts, and that’s okay.

Jodie 

Does one character die, and the rest go on. Is that…

Tyler 

Sometimes. I know, I know. That’s a hard question. Think of, like, any movie where, like, there’s a there’s a, like, there’s the core cast and the characters are all doing great together, and then one of them dies, and they have to power on, and maybe some other actor gets pulled in to replace that guy.

Jodie 

If this is a campaign that goes on for a while, does that person still attend the game?

Tyler 

Oh, yeah, of course. Yes. So typically, what happens if you have a character die, you just make a new character and you, the DM, the other players work them into the story. So death is rarely the end of the game for an individual player.  It just means that character’s story is done. It’s time for a new character’s story. And, of course, this is a game with a lot of magic, there is always the possibility of coming back from the dead.

Jodie 

Okay. Like a soap opera. Okay.

Tyler 

Soap opera, in a lot of ways. Yes. It’s a soap opera with a lot of swords in it.

Jodie 

Okay. Alright, so I’m looking at the choices and I think I would choose Dexterity next.

Tyler 

I think that’s a great choice.

Jodie 

13 on that, and then intelligence after that.

Tyler 

Okay.

Jodie 

And then strength. And apparently, I don’t care what kind of personality I have.

Tyler 

That’s okay. Eight charisma will probably mean that your character might be awkward or a little socially rough around the edges. And that’s okay. I know a lot of awkward people that I like a whole lot.

Jodie 

Yep!

Tyler 

All right, so we have your ability scores. That’s very exciting. Alright, so that is like the first big number for your character that you fill in. So next, we’re going to fill in some other things. And I’m going to read some things off from from the character sheet, or sorry, I’m going to read some things out of a Player’s Handbook. Just have you write those down, tell you where they go. Okay. So the first thing underclass features is your hit points. So at level one, you’ll start with a flat number plus your constitution bonus. Oh, I skipped a step. Excuse me. So now we need to apply the bonuses from your race. So you have a plus two and a plus one that you can put in your ability scores. Now a typical Wood Elf will have plus two dexterity and plus one wisdom and that’s actually a pretty good combination for you, but you could switch those or you could put them together. somewhere else, you will have a modifier based on your ability score and that modifier gets added to various things. Higher is almost always better. Okay, now when when I’m looking at the book, I see where you see a plus two under proficiency bonus. Oh, so that’s the, you’re looking at the Druid table. That’s great.

Jodie 

Oh, I’m sorry.

Tyler 

No, it’s okay. It’s not like there’s 300 something pages in this book, right? I’m gonna save you a step. The Wood Elf will give you a plus to two dexterity from being an elf and a plus one two wisdom. And if you want to keep those that way, that’s a great choice for Druid. But it is okay to shuffle those around and put them in other places if you prefer.

Jodie 

Okay,

Tyler 

Now in this case, I’d say keep the plus two in dexterity and the plus one in wisdom. That’s going to give you a good dexterity score, which will help keep you safe and a good wisdom score that will make you really effective with your spells.

Jodie 

Is this… do I write this in a little oval there?

Tyler 

Actually, you’re just going to add it to the big number, which I’m sorry, I cheated a little bit and I’m making you erase things. This is why I didn’t want you to have a pen.

Jodie 

Okay. Alright, I’m a little, I’m a little lost here. So…

Tyler 

Okay, so, so what do we have in Wisdom right now?

Jodie 

In wisdom? We have 15. So I need to add one to that and just make it a 16? Yes. Oh, got it. Okay. Okay, and then two to dexterity, so that makes us 15.

Tyler 

Okay, you had a 13 in dexterity originally? Alright, so that’s 15, and that’s great. Okay, so those, those are the ability score increases from your race. And we have other benefits from your race, the features and traits column, the lower right corner of your first page of your character sheet, that’s where you would write those down. We’re going to skip over that for now because we’re on a podcast

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Alright, so continuing down the Druid class features, there’s section of proficiencies that tells you the things that you know how to use. Tools, weapons, armor. Druids get light armor, medium armor, and shields, which is great, because you’ll want to be an armor and a shield to protect yourself. You get a small set of specific weapons. Druids generally don’t rely on weapons a whole lot, because you’ve got a bunch of magic. And I’m looking at page 65, again.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

You’re also proficient in an herbalism kit, which, Jodie I know you grow and dry herbs yourself.

Jodie 

Yeah.

Tyler 

So that might feel very familiar.

Jodie 

Yep.

Tyler 

herbalism kits also let you make healing potions, which is really nice.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Yeah. So you know, dry some bay leaves, make some spaghetti, make a healing potion. Have a nice day.

Jodie 

Sounds good to me.

Tyler 

So you’ll also get proficiency in two saving throws: intelligence and wisdom. Saving throws are what you’ll roll to resist things like spells. So if you go back to your character sheet, that first column, there are some large boxes with an empty circle, and then an underscore, and then a bit of text. The top one has the names of the ability scores, and that’s where you mark your saving throws. You’ll note that it says saving throws at the bottom.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So just fill in that bubble for intelligence and wisdom.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

And then later, we will write in the modifier for that. So let’s jump back to your ability scores real quick. So we’re going to fill in the modifiers. So there’s a kind of simple equation, or there’s just a table in the first few pages of book. The equation is subtract 10, divided by two, round down. And I won’t make you do that math in your head. For 10, it’s 0.

Jodie 

Okay. Am I supposed to be writing somewhere?

Tyler 

Oh, yes. I’m sorry. The… so the ability scores, they have their big square, and then there’s a little bubble underneath it. And there’s a lot of arguments about which one goes where, but put the ability score in one and the modifier and the other, whichever makes sense to you.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

+0for 10. I believe your Dexterity was 15, so that’s a +2. Your constitution was 14, so it’s also a +2.

Jodie 

Okay,

Tyler 

Intelligence was 12, I believe? Yes. So +1. Wisdom of 16, that’s a +3, and then charisma is an eight. So it’s a -1.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Now back to our saving throws, next to intelligence and wisdom that you bubbled in, you’re going to write your ability modifier for that, and then you’re going to add to for your proficiency bonus. So things that you’re proficient in you get to add your proficiency bonus, usually. Armor is an exception. Okay? So… So, for intelligence, you’re going to have plus three, and then for wisdom, you’re going to have plus five.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

And I know this is a lot of math and everyone’s scrambling to keep up with with us at home. They’re probably having the same confusion. It’s okay. Take it slow. If you have a friend to ask for help, it’s okay to ask for help.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Let’s see. So right below that is your skills. So I like skills a lot. They’re, they’re all of the cool things you get to do when you’re not fighting. So as a Druid you get to choose two from a list that’s at the top of page 66. So there’s arcana, animal handling, insight, medicine, nature, perception, religion and survival. They’re generally self-descriptive. Arcana is knowing stuff about, like, magic and magical creatures, animal handling. It’s like training, training, and commanding animals. Insight is insight into situations and people and notably, the ability to tell if someone is lying to you. Medicine is just non-magical medicine. Nature is nature trivia, like I know stuff about animals. I know stuff about trees. I know stuff about outside. Places I don’t go.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Perception is your ability to notice things in the world. Traps, treasure, hidden things, things like that. Religion is knowledge of religions of the world and survival is your ability to survive in, you know, survive the natural dangers of the world. Avoid poison ivy, avoid falling into a river, find food in a forest, things like that. Okay. Now what, wait, what page did you say this list is on? Page 66. So the very top left corner. So every class has a class Features section that will go hit points, proficiencies, skills, and then equipment. And that’s that stuff that you start with right at the beginning level one.

Jodie 

Okay, I see it.

Tyler 

Pick any of those two skills and then back on your character sheet right below saving throws, there’s more of those bullet and there’s another one of those bulleted lists just bubble in any two skills that sound interesting to you. Okay. Alright, I’m choosing medicine.  Okay,

Jodie 

And… nature.

Tyler 

Alright, those are great choices. Alright, so that’s, that is where we’re going to briefly depart from your class features. Oh, actually, no, I take that back. We should do your equipment real fast. So under equipment, there’s kind of a multiple choice the list. So you’ll see three bullets there. A, a wooden shield or B any simple weapon, A a scimitar, or B any simple weapon. And then leather armor, an ecplorer’s pack, and a druidic focus. So you get all three of those bullets, but the first two have choices in them. Your choices come down a lot to personal preference, and you might also have some gold to start with so you can buy additional things. You’ll find more gold as you adventure and then use that to buy more equipment if you need it. So this isn’t something that you’re locked into forever. Simple weapons are weapons that are generally easy to use. Clubs, spears, crossbows, things like that.

Jodie 

Okay, so I choose either a wooden shield, or a simple weapon. Yes. Okay. Let’s go with a wooden shield.

Tyler 

I think that’s great choice.

Jodie 

Okay. And where do I write that? And I see an equipment box.

Tyler 

That’s a perfect place for it. Okay. Alright. And then I choose scimitar? Scimitar? Did I say that right?  Yes.

Jodie 

Or simple melee weapon?

Tyler 

Yes. A scimitar is a curved sword, basically.

Jodie 

Okay. Let’s go with that.

Tyler 

So you have a wooden shield and a scimitar. That’s great. Very, very iconic equipment for Druid. So you’ll also get leather armor, an explorer’s pack, and a druidic focus. Now that druidic focus is very important because you need that to cast spells. And you kind of get your choice of what your druidic focus is. It’s usually a staff or something like a sprig of mistletoe. Not mistletoe, holly. I… I get those mixed up weirdly often. That that dates back to real world, druidic tradition out of… I believe Northern Europe. My real world history is much worse than my D&D history.

Jodie 

I can understand that. So I need to choose one of those?

Tyler 

You can just write down druidic focus for now and then we can decide what we want that to be when we finish up all the details for your character.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So real quick, now that we have a shield and armor, let’s talk about your armor class because that’s a very important number.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

That middle column on the front of your character sheet that’s most of the stuff that you’re going to use when fighting happens. So armor class is conveniently in a space shaped like a shield. Your leather armor gives you an armor class of 11 plus your dexterity modifier. So if you look at your dexterity over on the left, you have that bonus written underneath it. So 11 plus your dexterity modifier and then since you have a shield that gives you another +2 bonus. So you add all of those together, and then write that down in your armor class.

Jodie 

Okay. 15?

Tyler 

That could be … 15? Perfect. Okay, now next that is initiative that is how quickly respond when a fight breaks out. That’s another very important number and that’s just your dexterity modifier. So just write +2 there.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

And then speed is 30 feet. That’s how far, how fast you can move in a yutn. Okay. Oh I remember, I remember Random mentioning that. Okay.

Jodie 

Perfect. And then the space below that is your hit point maximum. So it was a Druid you start with eight plus your constitution modifier.

Tyler 

Plus constitution… oh, 2. 10. Perfect, you got it. Alright, so your hit point maximum is how many hit points you start with when you’re fully healed. And then that’ll go up and down as you’re injured and healed. You’ll get more as you gain levels. And then, let’s see… a little bit below that there’s two small boxes on the character sheet, the lower left one says hit dice. Write 1, D, lowercase d, the letter and then the number 8.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So hit dice or mechanic that you use to heal yourself when your character rests. And we’ll, when we end up playing, we’ll talk about that.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So I’ve got one more detail I want to fill in to really complete your character. So we are going to talk about backgrounds. And you can hear me frantically flipping back to the table of contents. Excuse me for a moment. Backgrounds, where are you? Page 125. So unfortunately, these aren’t listed in the table of contents. So I can’t just read you off a nice convenient list. So backgrounds are a little bit fuzzy in that the mechanics aren’t… like they’re not super strict. You can basically trade whatever you want in here. So there are some, there’s a bunch of backgrounds in the Player’s Handbook, and they’ll give you some benefits and some examples of, like, personality traits for your character. You’re free to use those as inspiration, but the rules also specifically say you can just trade these around if you don’t like what’s in here, and that’s fine.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So generally, your background will give you two more skills, it will give you some proficiencies and things like languages and tools, and also give you some extra equipment. Let’s see, I’m gonna have you flip to page 127 to look at an example. So for people reading along, that’s the Acolyte. That is the, alphabetically the first one in the Player’s Handbook. I believe it’s also in the SRD, so that one’s freely available online. So acolyte will give you two skill proficiencies, proficiency in two languages of your choice, some equipment, and then there’s four tables on the right which can help you define your character’s personality. So there’s a personality trait, an ideal, a bond, and a flaw. This isn’t super clearly explained anywhere in the Player’s Handbook, but a personality trait is kind of something that your character does. An ideal is something that your character believes in very strongly. A bond is some concept that you’re tied to in some way. A person, a belief, a tradition, something like that. And a flaw is some personality flaw that your character has.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So those, those kind of help you roughly define your character’s personality, and there’s some great examples here. And often, you can just roll dice on these tables and pick randomly and come up with a very interesting character that’s very exciting to play. Or you can just pick from the list, or you can just make one up. It’s up to you. So flipping through backgrounds are some great options. Acolyte, charlatan, criminal, entertainer, folk hero, guild artisan, hermit, which is the recommended one for the Druid, noble, outlander, sage, sailor, and I’m running out of letters in the alphabet, and I believe… oh, soldier, and then the very last one is urchin. So we can pick any of those, and they’ll give you different benefits depending on what you pick. So just based on the one-word names does do any of those things sound interesting to you?

Jodie 

I would have a hard time choosing, but wasn’t hermit recommended?

Tyler 

Hermit was recommended.

Jodie 

Let’s just go with that.

Tyler 

Okay, that’s a perfectly good choice. Alright, so hermit, gives you skill profi–. Sorry, hermit is on page 134. If you want to take a look. It gives you proficiencies in medicine and religion. Now you’ll notice that you’re already proficient in medicine, and that’s okay. You can trade those proficiencies for anything else you’d like. The background, backgrounds specifically, it’s pretty common to have an overlap in your proficiencies from your class. So the rules say, yeah, you can just trade those for whatever you want. You’ll get proficiency in religion, and any other skill that you like.

Jodie 

Language.

Tyler 

Oh, and you also get to pick one language of your choice.

Jodie 

Oh.

Tyler 

Sorry. languages are separate proficiency from skills, unlike real world where you can be like kind of kind of bad at a language but still speak it, you just kind of know it or you don’t. Okay. Alright, so… Alright, I need to choose something and what what is my list to choose from again? Well, in this case, you can pick anything. So you can take a look at the character sheet and just pick anything that jumps out at you. You’ll also get proficiency in Perception, because you’re an elf. So going back to that, and I forgot that one from earlier. But we can figure all this out when we fill in your traits, which we might not do in the podcast.

Jodie 

Okay, I see where I can choose. So let’s see. How about insight?

Tyler 

Insight’s a great choice.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So you should have at this point, medicine, nature, insight, religion, and then perception because you’re an elf, and that is a great set of skills for Druid.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

You also get to pick one language of your choice. So as an elf you already know common, which is just the common tongue spoken in a world. Think of it like English or whatever language you speak in your home country. And then elven because elves speak elven. Surprise. And then one other language of your choice. And I won’t make you pick that right now, but you could pick halfling or dwarf for draconic, or…

Jodie 

Wait, wait, I am a halfling.

Tyler 

Oh, that’s right. Oh my gosh.

Jodie 

Okay. Okay, so I could choose elven?

Tyler 

Wait, uh, I thought we… did we land on half-elf?

Jodie 

Yeah. Halfling, litefoot, and Druid.

Tyler 

So I feel very silly. I’ve been thinking that you were a wood elf this whole time.

Jodie 

Oh! What, does that change anything in my numbers?

Tyler 

So far, no. So the later rules introduced outside of Player’s Handbook let you move your ability score increases around and that’s really the only thing we’ve written down so far that matters a whole lot. Your speed is going to change from 30 to 25. Everything else is perfectly fine.

Jodie 

Okay

Tyler 

You don’t get proficiency in perception? At least not for free.

Jodie 

Okay, okay, hold on. So I need to change my speed from 30 to 25. Got that? And then I take away Perception?

Tyler 

Yes.

Jodie 

Okay, and anything else?

Tyler 

No, that’s it so far. We haven’t written down all of your racial traits. And, again, probably not going to do that on podcast, because there’s a lot of writing. I feel very silly. Thank you for correcting me.

Jodie 

Oh, no worries, but so as far as languages, I speak halfling. And then I get to choose.

Tyler 

You speak halfling and common. And then because you’re a hermit, you get to pick one more. And hermit will also give you proficiency in herbalism kit, which you already have. So we can pick a different tool. How about under your proficiency is in the bottom left corner just right plus one tool and we’ll go through that list some other time. There’s some cool options like woodworkers’ tools or blacksmiths’ tools, calligraphy tools, things like that.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So if we look at the hermit, there are personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws, just like on every background. How about just to see an idea of how these work, pick me a number between one and 6

Jodie 

4.

Tyler 

Okay, so I’m looking at the ideal table, chosen at random. So the ideal is “power.” Solitude and contemplation or paths towards mystical or magical power. And it suggests that that’s an ideal you might hold if your character is evil. Now you can do with that whatever you want. If you don’t like that, you can pick anything else, you can make one up, you can pick something else off the table. So we can go through all these things, and pick whatever you like. We’re gonna skip that for now for the sake of time, but this is here to help you form your character’s personality. But a lot of times as you’re building your character, you might already have an idea of what you want their personality to be. You might not need to use these, but they can be a wonderful way to help you shape who and who your character is, and how they behave.

Jodie 

Okay, so with these things, these characteristics… you typically choose one from each of the four sections?  So you have to have a flaw.

Tyler 

Yes. Yes and no. So first, confusingly, the rules in the Player’s Handbook actually say that you should pick two from the personality trait table, but they only leave one space on the character sheet so most people only do one. No person is perfect and no character should pretend to be perfect. So having personality flaws can help make your character more interesting. So, like, looking at the table for the Hermit, the first row on there is now that I’ve returned to the world I enjoy its delights a little too much. So that, like, that’s an interesting character flaw. So, like, your character could be an absolutely wonderful person but, like, you come back for from an adventure and like, I’m gonna hit every buffet In town. Uh huh. Alright, I’m kind of looking over these. Okay, I’ll look at it later.  Alright, great. So your background will also come with a feature. Which, for the Hermit, it’s page 134, second column a little bit down from the top. So the the feature will give you some story device that your character benefits from because of their background. It’s kind of up to the Dungeon Master to make those come into play. But a lot of them can be like, Oh, you have friends and a bunch of places you can call on for favors. Or, in this case, discovery, you know, some cool thing. And your DM will help you work out what it is and how that matters for the campaign. Maybe your character knows the secret base for, like, the evil cult that your characters are fighting and like, maybe that’s your discovery. And your DM gives you that at the beginning of the games like Hey, hang on to this, this is secret. Oh, that’s interesting. Okay. You can use that as much or as little as you want. That’s up to you. You get to make every decision that your character makes. Okay, so at this point, we have a race, we have a class, we have a background. We have filled in your ability scores. We filled in your equipment. We filled in your your numbers, essentially. We’ve taken a quick look at the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws. The, if you look at your character sheet, the column on the right there, those are right at the top. The bottom right corner’s for your features and traits. As your character advances… So you’ll start with your racial traits there, you’ll add your traits from level one from your class. And as your character advances, your class will give you additional traits that you can write down there. Now you don’t need to write up the full text because, I mean, look at the book, your traits can be two solid pages of text at high levels. So generally, you’ll just write down the name of the trait. If it’s helpful, write down the page number in the Player’s Handbook. And that will help you reference those things. It’s totally fine to have the Player’s Handbook open while you play, especially when you’re getting started. As you get better, this will all feel more familiar as you play more. There’s also great online tools like D&D Beyond that’ll help you with all of these things.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

As your concept of your characters forming, you might want to flip over to page two of the character sheet. So on the back there, the box at the very top right corner has things like age, height and weight. There’s a big empty box to draw your character’s appearance. And there’s some boxes to fill in things like allies, maybe your character has some powerful friends. Maybe they have some friends in low places. And then there’s an extra box in the middle for additional features and traits, which still isn’t big enough to write everything you need to know.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

But you’re free to fill in all of these with as much or as little information as you want. The character backstory in the bottom left is… it feels pretty small if you have a really intricate story for your character. But if you just write down a few bullet points about like, where did my character come from? How did I become a Druid? Why am I on an adventure? Stuff like just those basics really helped to capture the sense of who you want your character to be.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

I’m going to ask you now and I’m going to put you on the spot, Jodie. Do you have an idea of who your character is and where they came from?

Jodie 

No.

Tyler 

That’s fine. And that’s perfectly fine. Writing a backstory has always been the hardest part of building a character. For me, the mechanics are pretty easy, because you’re, in a lot of cases you’re picking from a list. Writing a backstory is basically creating an entire person. And that’s hard.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Give it some time. If something comes to you, write it down. If you decide you don’t like it later, change it. There’s no wrong answers.

Jodie 

Okay, but when you’re talking about where a character comes from, you’re talking about physically where a character comes from.

Tyler 

A bit of that, yeah. Physically where they come from can depend on the game world that you’re playing in. But it can also be like, who’s your family? Who are your friends? How did you grow up? And again, why did you become a Druid? To draw real world example, like, why did you go to college and major in herbalism? Like what led you down that path?

Jodie 

And this is a completely made up?

Tyler 

Totally.

Jodie 

Okay. Okay…

Tyler 

Yes.

Jodie 

I would imagine you get better at creating these backstories over time when you had exposure to other people and what they’ve done and you get you like some things about their, their stories, and then you start imagining your own.

Tyler 

Yes, exactly. And for, like, for your first few characters, I… actually for any of your characters, drawing inspiration from real-world fiction is a great idea. If you have movie characters with interesting stories that you want to borrow from, characters from books. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is really popular right now, so I’ll draw a lot of comparisons to that when I’m helping build characters. Like Black Widow is a Rogue, Iron Man is an Artificer, yada yada, things like that. Drawing comparisons to real-world media and borrowing from those stories can help you come up with your own ideas. There’s a there’s a great line, good artists borrow, great artists steal. The difference on the two is never quite been clear to me, but go straight to stealing.

Jodie 

Okay. Alright. So, wow, this is a lot of information. But it’s, it’s, it’s cool. It’s interesting.

Tyler 

We’re gonna put the backstory on the backburner. And at some point, we’re going to share your wonderful first character with the world. But we’re running long on time, and there’s one very last thing that we have to handle to build your character.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

because you’re playing a Druid, you’re a spellcaster. So that means that you will get to pick some spells that your character brings with them on their adventures. So I am quietly flipping through my book here to find the the Druid spell list. And this part is going to be a little intimidating. So I don’t expect us to actually do this today, but I just want you to take a peek at the options.

Jodie 

Okay,

Tyler 

So flip to page 208. Oh! I’m there. Okay. So the very last section of the book is spells, you’ll notice it’s a 300 page book and the spells start at a little over 200. So there’s a lot of spells.

Jodie 

Wow! Okay.

Tyler 

Yes, yes. It is okay to be intimidated here. So if you start from where it says Druid spells on the second column, there’s cantrips, and then there’s first level, and then second level and so on all the way up to ninth level. You will start with cantrips and first level spells and every two levels, you get a new level of spells, it’s very confusing that they chose to use the word “level” a second time. That’s just the way it’s always been.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

So you will start with two cantrips, and you know those permanently and those are spells that you can cast as many times as you want. So since you’re going on an adventure, having something that you can attack with is a really good choice. For druids, Produce Flame is a great choice. It lets you basically throw a small ball of fire at somebody. Shillelagh turns a club or a staff into a magic weapon and lets you hit people really hard with it. So either of those would be a good option. And then a useful option like Druidcraft, or Guidance, or maybe Resistance. Things like that can offer some options other than just hitting stuff.

Jodie 

Okay,

Tyler 

So, so for your first character, I would recommend Druidcraft because it will be just be a ton of fun to play with on your first character, and then Produce Flame because it gives you something to fight with.

Jodie 

Okay, I was looking at the Produce Flame because I like the idea of throwing something versus being close to enemy.

Tyler 

That’s a great choice.

Jodie 

And then Druidcraft. Okay.

Tyler 

Cool. So you will learn more cantrips as you go. I think druids normally learn up to four, you might get five depending on some choices that you make as your character gains levels. Some characters know more, some know less, some won’t know any. And that’s fine. And then for for the leveled spells, which is first through ninth, you will prepare a certain number of spells every day. So those are spells that your character wakes up in the morning and says today, I think I’m going to need these spells. And as a Druid, you get to pick from any of these spells and you can change that list every time your character sleeps, basically. So I’m not going to make you do that today. But just as an example of what a Druid can do: Animal Friendship will magically make any animal your friend. Cure Wounds will magically heal injuries. Faerie fire, you’ll throw magical glitter on people which reveals invisible creatures and makes them easier to attack. Purify Food and Drink removes poisons, spoilage, diseases. So like if you pull something gross out of the back of your fridge, Purify Food and Drink, good to go.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

And then Speak With Animals does what it says on the tin: it lets you speak with animals.

Jodie 

Cool.

Tyler 

So you have some great options, and when when we go to play, your character can pick and change these options every day. And that works a little differently for different spellcasters. But clerics and druids and wizards, sort of, get to pick their spells every day. So you might wake up one day and decide I’ve never used this spell that I’ve been carrying around. I’m going to try something different today. And that’s a great way to experiment.

Jodie 

So is the length of a day in play determined by your Dungeon Master? I mean…

Tyler 

In a practical sense, yes. So in most games, most worlds in the game still use the like seven-day week, 24-hour day, 60-minute hour like the time and dates all feel very similar. How much you do in a day is kind of up to both the players and the Dungeon Master. So like you might go on an adventure and the adventure might be like okay, We found a dungeon, we’re going to go into this dungeon and we’re going to be here for like a week fighting all these baddies. Or you might go in, you might have one really bad fight and say, Okay, that didn’t go great. We’ve only been adventuring for like, two, three minutes, like of in-story time, and,,, but we’re going to go back to town and recover because that didn’t go well.

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Yeah, and the game is intended to kind of simulate parts of a real person’s life. So while your character isn’t adventuring, they’re still doing normal stuff. Like they, they might have an apartment and a family and they might like have drinking buddies that they go and hang out with. And all of that kind of happens in narrative time, like in a movie. Like how long does it take a character to drive across town in a movie? I don’t know, how much talking is happening in the car? Or it might be like they get in the car, and the next scene is they get out of the car, and that took like five seconds. Or it might be the entire movie is they drive from one end of town to another. So it’s kind of flexible. It just depends on the needs of the story and what your character is doing. There might be very long days where your character does a ton of things all at once, or there might be days where you do very little, and it’s like, oh, I’m going to take a short rest. I’m going to take a long rest really soon, and I’ll be able to change my spells so this isn’t a big deal. Okay. Okay. I will see how it works. You sure will!

Jodie 

Okay.

Tyler 

Okay. Well, with that, I’m going to close this Player’s Handbook. Jodie, you’ve built your first character.

Jodie 

Wow, that’s cool. Alright. I like it. Thank you.

Tyler 

When we feel like it, we can fill in the box of traits, we can write down the rest of your equipment that you get from your background. That doesn’t have to happen in any particular rush or at all, honestly. We can figure it out later. But a little over an hour, you have learned how characters work and you have built your first character and you are ready to play.

Jodie 

Wow, okay! That’s cool. Thank you!

Tyler 

Any questions before we call it a night?

Jodie 

Not right at the moment. I’m sure I will have some questions for you at some point, but I think I’m okay right now. It’s a lot of information to think about.

Tyler 

It sure is. Well, you know how to reach me personally, and for people listening at home, hey, if you have questions after building your first character or during hit me up on Twitter RPGBOTDOTNET. I’m always happy to help.

Leave a Reply