So you’ve found a group playing a tabletop RPG and you want to create a character. How exciting! You’re about to enter into one of the most engaging and creative social pastimes there is!
However, it’s obvious that the rest of your new party has been playing once a week for years by this point, and you’re afraid of being the obvious noob. So, what do you do? Here are the basic steps to creating your first-ever tabletop RPG character.
1. It’s Actually Okay to Be A Noob
One of the reasons that tabletop RPGs are growing so rapidly right now is that a lot of people from the internet generation are just getting SO TIRED of the toxicity of MMOs and online gaming. So, if you’re coming to tabletop from the internet, I promise you—nothing is going to be as bad as you’ve already gone through. No more cussing 12-year-olds and teabagging pixelated corpses.
Most tabletop gamers WANT to help you have a fun and exciting experience because the enjoyment of the game depends on everyone involved. It’s a story that you tell together, and every player is a valued part of that experience. So, don’t be afraid to be the newbie. Chances are your group is ready and willing to help you in any way they can.
2. Talk to Your GM or Group About House Rules and Playstyles
If you’re about to enter a pre-established group of players, there’s a chance that they already have established house rules, or they might have a very specific playstyle in mind. Since a campaign is a collective story, there will probably be a very specific starting point. Having a character that has a reason to be at that starting point is very helpful. Likewise, some groups are very roleplay-heavy while others might instead choose to play a series of increasingly-difficult combats held together by a loose plot. Knowing these kinds of things ahead of time can help you to make a character that will not only fit into the game well but that you’ll enjoy playing and feel is worthwhile after you’ve officially joined.
3. Read Through All the Character Options Available
If you’re brand-new to tabletop RPGs then you probably have NO idea how much character customization is actually available to you. Race, backgrounds, class—the possibilities are almost endless. Knowing that you want to use magic or have a sword isn’t enough. Instead, I highly suggest you read whatever Players Handbook is available for the system you’re about to join. Look at all the options. The thing that you initially think you want to play might lose its appeal as you see how many possibilities there actually are. Embrace whatever sounds the most exciting to you, because you’re about to become intimately familiar with that character concept. Might as well make it one you’re going to really have fun with.
4. Personalities and Character Creation are Important…
The thing that sets RPGs apart from whatever you’re used to playing is that every single character you meet (or play) in a tabletop game is distinct from any other character ever created. The “RP” in “RPG” stands for “role-playing.” It’s really important to have an idea of what your character is like even before you pick up any dice. Be prepared to hold conversations as your character, have people ask your character questions, and to react to situations like your character would without breaking stride. Nothing pulls a group out of the game faster than when someone says, “Tell me about yourself” and the character responds with “Well, I have a 17 strength.” Or when the character with a pet/familiar forgets that they have to control that, too, and we haven’t seen it since the initial description that they read off of their sheet three months prior. There’s a lot that goes into creating a fully-formed creature from nothing. Enjoy the process. Because the more you take into consideration during creation, the easier it’s going to be to play later.
5 ….And There Are A Lot of Ways to Develop That Personality
If you’re absolutely brand new to the world and system, you might consider making your very first character a bit naïve. It makes testing the waters a little bit easier and you’re not put on the spot as much. However, this is 100% up to you. That’s the beauty of tabletop RPGs. You, as a player, might be more likely to learn about the world if you make a 1,000-year-old wizard that the group is constantly asking for advice. It’s up to your playstyle. Just try to have a basic grasp beforehand of what type of character you’ll be. The more you can get into the character, the more fun you’ll have. So if that means making a character that’s basically you with elf ears—then rock those ears! Enjoy this new version of yourself. If that means making a character that is NOTHING like you but is everything you want to be—then be that person and be amazing. Maybe you want to start off quiet and shy and grow into the most imposing threat the world has ever seen. It’s all open to you. The world is yours.
6. This is Not the Place for Lone Wolves
For some reason, many MANY new players like to play stoic or sarcastic characters during their first run. And why wouldn’t we? That’s how most video game protagonists are now and all those guys are amazing. But the thing is—videogames are made for one hero and that hero’s story. Tabletop RPGs don’t have one main badass and his followers—everyone at that table is just as important as you are. There is a VERY thin line between “stoic, mysterious character” and “straight-up dick” and not knowing where that line is makes the game less fun for everyone. Also, if you have a character that likes to go off on his own all the time, then not only does that make the game boring for everyone else, but it will probably make the DM hate you. Remembering that you are part of a group during creation will ultimately lead to you creating a better party member.
7. Try to Have an Experienced Player Nearby While You Create Your Character
While not strictly necessary, this little tidbit makes rolling a character SO much easier. Having an experienced player on-hand allows you to ask questions or bounce ideas off someone helpful. It also ensures that you understand the core concepts of everything on your character sheet, get everything recorded into the right place, and that you don’t skip any steps. For some parties, creating characters as a group helps lead to a more balanced party overall, or discussions about future roleplay opportunities. The better your group works together, the more fun the game will be. But even if all the other characters are already created, making yours with someone else in the room is a definite boon.
8. Have fun
Games are for escaping, so if you’re not more thrilled than scared about your character after having finished creating it, then maybe you need to create a different one. Tabletop RPGs are huge, and can be intimidating, but the point is to explore that giant world together. So don’t worry. You (and your new group) got this.
Whatever comes, it’s going to be amazing.
Check out the RPG campaign written by TGE’s own, Evan Grahm, and all the other role-playing game content on the site here!
Tahani Nelson is a “Geek of All Trades.” She’s dabbled in pretty much everything, but holds a special place in her heart (and schedule) for video and tabletop games. Other interests include attending Renaissance Faires and Cons in full dress, practicing calligraphy, writing fantasy novels, discussing comparative philosophy and morality, and apparently listening with a blank smile on her face anytime someone tries to convince her that Magic: The Gathering is as much fun as D&D.