Fleshing out your Dungeons and Dragons Character  – CORE

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Building Character

When building a character, many people focus on the mechanics. Statistics, class, race etc. So often do Dungeons and Dragons characters become limited to numbers on the page. While these numbers are critical to combat and other functions of the game, they are not WHO your character is, but a guide to WHAT your character can do.

So many people hear backstory and their eyes gloss over and honestly, I can understand that. Not everyone wants to write a book in great detail about their characters childhood, the tragedy that led them to adventure and their ultimate goal. Like many college students, a characters motivation can change throughout the game. That’s why multi-classing became such a big part of gameplay. People want to change and people’s characters are often the same.

Your original thought was that you wanted to be a door kicking, head smashing barbarian with a giant hammer when during your adventures you learn about the powers of magic and decide that you would rather sling magic missiles than throwing knives. This is called character development. While your base mechanics will change, the root of your character’s personality will not.

Establishing your CORE – Characteristics, Origin, Reputation, Experience

Characteristics – The nuts and bolts of your character.

No matter what game setting, system, ruleset you play, every single player needs a mechanically sound character. This is the embodiment of who your character was leading up to the very first session. 95% of the time, this baseline will not change, so all main functions usually stem from the raw numbers driving your character sheet.

Origin – Why does your character have the strength of ten men?

Every character had to come from somewhere, and where they come from can often influence who they become. If you grew up in a barbarian village in the far north, then it’s likely they will be more savage than a kid who grows up at a mage’s academy. You don’t need to write a full-fledged short story for this, just know how your origin led to your current character sheet and how those experiences shape your character’s beliefs.

Reputation – What is your character known for?

Every character is larger than life but still are, at their core, a person with well-defined traits. For example, my character Thrill is a wizard known for wacky hijinks, taking risks and drinking excessively. He is also a character that is so full of himself that it can rub people the wrong way. Despite these traits, he considers himself a paragon of good and only wishes to serve the greater good of his organization – the Fae’raenore.

Your character should have a few character traits that are simple but flexible enough to apply in any situation. Does your character love to show off? Is your character a hard worker? Does your character always tell the truth no matter what? I like to pick three things that are the major descriptors that they would have a reputation for, and use that yo shape my character as needed.

Experience – The sum of your life experiences until the very first session

From the son of a bounty hunter, an orphan in the woods or a young cunning noble would all have very different backgrounds, skills, and mental disciplines. You lived X numbers of years and were popular, bullied or invisible. You were special, boring or utterly average. No matter what, you lived a full life before you put on your adventurer boots, so you should never forget where you came from.

Depending on the type of life your character lived, it should help you determine exactly what your character would feel in any given situation.

Like bodybuilding, your CORE is the base for everything

A well-developed CORE can be created in a matter of minutes and can provide you with a solid guideline on who your character is, and as the campaign progresses, you can reflect on your CORE and how it has changed since your very first adventure. Have you grown more reliable? Have you found that violence is no longer a core part of who you are?

In novels, characters usually start off weak and grow stronger, both physically and mentally. But everything they become grows from the CORE of their personality, allowing you to contextualize their decisions and empathize with their choices. If a character has no CORE, then you will quickly lose interest in the story.

And the same holds true for Dungeons and Dragons. If your decisions and the baseline of your character shifts wildly with every choice,  other players won’t feel connected to you and you will also eventually lose interest.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that your character is more than numbers on a page. They should be an extension of you, your feelings, your beliefs and what you like in your favorite characters. From the rougish Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly, or the ever diplomatic Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise, staying true to your characters CORE is critical for a believable and fun character.

The Skree

The Skree

Background unknown - it's a secret!

I am The Skree – One of the most visionary wizards in Vathis! Also, the drunkest. I have been called “A serious threat to people of Average Intelligence” by the authorities from Osept to Leyathar. A man of many talents, most of which are magic. Except for the one involving -EXPLETIVES DELETED- which is always popular.

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