Last time I gave a D&Demo (yes, D&D demo called D&Demo) I threw out all the characters I made for the demo the day after the festival. I had used those for a couple of years, and they had become a bit boring. They were a combination of level 1 and 2 D&D 5e, and rather simplified so explaining it all to people who did the demo to learn about the hobby would be easier for me.

As it turned out, about half of the demo-visitors were experienced players who loved playing a short, simple 1 hour adventure at a festival.

Usually they would be (partly) a group that was already playing together, sometimes dragging an unsuspecting friend along. If the DM is present (which happens a lot) the fun is really complete, and the taunts are awesome. But level 1-and-2 characters are a bit lacking for an experienced player who has a chance to go wild and not having to care if any character survives the horrors that are thrown at them.

So, I wanted 2 set of characters: 1 set of level 1 D&D 5e characters and 1 set of lvl 5 characters.

Now, I am a GM/DM, and I did play once a long, long time ago which in my humble opinion does not even count as ‘playing’ because I had no idea what I was doing and all the decisions were made for me because I was completely clueless. So, I am a DM who never played. Or made a character. That has been solved now, and I am not going to write instructions on how to make your character. There are plenty of resources for that online. I can explain it better in the demo's now, so that is a win. I would like to write a bit about my experience.

I started making the level 1 characters and I decided I was going to use only the rules from the PHB (Player HandBook) and keep it nice and simple. The idea was to also stick to the stereotype and predictable, I have noticed these are easier to understand for people who have never played. I did deviate a bit from that, making it all too predicatable is not my style.

When you make a D&D character you have to first choose a race. There is a limited number of choices in the book, so that was easy enough. Then when you have chosen something and filled in some of the math-thingies and whether of not your thingy can see in the dark, you have to choose a subrace. I discovered that when I had my dedicated house-player check my sheets, and crushed my self-esteem.
"So, what kind of gnome/elf/dwarf is this anyway?"
Like I care? But I apparently did care because there were more math-thingies connected to that.
(We will get to the math-thingies thing later.)

Then, you choose a class, which basicly is a profession, or what you character does most of the time. That is the easy part: choosing.
I knew before I started making a character what the class would be. And the class determines what the other math-thingies kind-off are, what stuff your character has and more. For a level 1 character the class is not too complicated. There are usually not too many choices here and it is all pretty straightforward.

And then came my nemesis: the Background.
You have to choose a background for a character, what kind of life did the person have before they became a trainee-adventurer? I forgot that way too often. And when I did get to choosing one, there was hardly ever a background that I liked. Or that in my opinion matched the kind of character I had in mind. There are only 12 or 13 options which are all rather specific and leave little room for a players creativity. Now, as a DM I will always encourage creativity and I think there is a lot in the books that you can explain differently, with the same effect but a different feeling to the character. It's one of the things I learned from being a larp referee; different name and narration of the effect, same outcome, no rules-fidling needed!
But these backgrounds... they are all writen by someone who had a clear view on what a sailor or urchin or criminal (and so on) is, and wrote that down in sometimes oddly specific detail.
Why does the urchin background have a pet mouse? That is stupid! The urchin could be well in their 30's, have left their urchin life behind them (though it has marked and defined them a lot) and that stupid mouse would have died of old age. Or a mouse trap.

And yes, I know deviating from the book is fine, I do it all the time when I am DMing. But when you are making characters solely from the books (like a starting player would), it feels like it dictates too much. It could have been more advising about what you could make the character like, instead of 'you are an experienced criminal with a history of breaking the law' (page 129). It's a level 1 character, they are not 'experienced'. Also, all criminals apparently have 'a set of dark common clothes, including a hood' and a crowbar.

When that rather frustrating ordeal was over, then came the math-thingies! You have a small list of numbers that you can connect to skills your character has. The higher the number, the more skilled they are. So a strong person has a high number for Strength, and a smart person has… yeah, wisdom or intelligence. One is with books and the other with life-experience, in that order and I can write that because I am finally remembering this now. Not for long I think.
And there is math for sub-skills they can be extra talented in. And those math-thingies affect the weapon damage math. And there is more math!

Also, sometimes you have to select spells for characters. I don't want to talk about it, It was traumatic and I admit that I had moments where I just closed my eyes, pointed in the book and that was the spell they got.

So yeah, I made some lvl.1 characters for my demo, and here they are:

  • Half-Elf Warlock, Charlatan
  • Human Sorceror, Hermit
  • Wood Elf Ranger, Outlander
  • Half-Orc Barbarian, Soldier
  • Mountain Dwarf Fighter, Guild Artisan
  • Human Rogue, Urchin
  • Tiefling Bard, Entertainer

I liked making them, I learned a lot and understand more about the choices a player faces. Also, I understand now why a lot of people complain that the PHB options are boring and too limited. For a starting player, they are plenty and really interesting. But after making a few of them I did feel the lack of creativity and ‘let’s go nuts’ options in there. It's all very clean and balanced.

Next up: the level 5 characters, which will be anything but 'clean and balanced' if I can help it, and I will make those with rules from all the published books. This should get interesting!

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