Character Creation With A Twist


Pretty much everyone I have ever interacted with who plays D&D starts off the character creation process by choosing a class first. From there, they start filling in the details and eventually end up with an image in mind of what the character looks like. With the release of 5th Edition D&D, I have been using an alternative process and am here to share that process with any who are looking for a different approach to character creation.

This process goes completely in reverse to the standard approach by starting with a single picture first and building an entire character with all the appropriate details from there.

I like to keep a very large collection of potential character and/or NPC images on hand to use as needed or if nothing else, to serve as inspiration. It is wonderful being able to pull up a quick and awesome visual reference when your party encounters a new individual while adventuring or wandering around town. This collection is something that I continuously add to whenever I find an awesome or interesting image.

Now if you have a nice collection available to look through, then that is great. Otherwise you can think of a general search term to use such as female warrior, male Elf, Gnome, etc. when doing an image search via Bing or Google.

Now comes the real trick to this process. Look at the images that the search brings up and set aside any that draw your interest or catch your attention. Once you have a nice selection of images you like picked out, look through them and choose the ones that call out to you the most.

Now that you have your chosen images picked out, what do you “see” and “feel” when you look at them? Some questions you might ask are:

  • Who is this person?
  • What is their personality like?
  • What profession (class) are they a part of?
  • What is their history and background like?
  • What are their hopes and dreams?

Another question that is worth looking at is this:

  • Why am I drawn to this individual’s picture?

What answers did you get to these questions when looking at a character’s image? Does the “concept” generated from those answers appeal to you or inspire an awesome character creation idea? Depending on the answers you got from these questions or your feelings about the character’s image, you might be surprised to find that you have just “discovered” an awesome new character that you would really enjoy playing!

As an example, consider the three pics shown below.




What do you see or think of when looking at them? Here are some quick thoughts that I had when glancing at them…

1.) The Shou Woman: A Paladin or Cleric who has just procured an important artefact or magical item (which means that an important quest will be a part of this character’s life), she was recruited at a young age and grew up in her order’s enclave, dedicated to her order, she is of good alignment, has an inner strength that carries her through adversity, very dependable, believes in keeping her word, etc.

2.) The Half-Orc Woman: A warrior at heart who has been a soldier for some time now, but is disillusioned and yearning for something more (especially now that the battle shown here is over). She tends to be quiet in nature but pays very close attention to all that is going on around her, she is very loyal to those she calls friend, her heart longs for something more (which is going to lead her into a life of adventuring), she is lucky in that she was treated well growing up and given a fair chance to prove herself, she is destined for greatness (even though she does not know it yet), etc.

3.) The Damaran Woman: Born to a noble house, privileged background, “calm, collected, regal, and elegant in nature”, some exposure to and a preference for Kara-Turan culture, good to neutral in alignment, a Wizard who is going to go far and be quite powerful in time, well-versed and able to easily hold her own in social affairs or when dealing with royalty, slow to make friends at first but a good friend to have once she knows and trusts you, etc.

I realise that this process is not for everyone, but if you are wanting to create a new character and having trouble coming up with ideas that appeal to you, then this process just might be what you need to get the old creative juices flowing once again!


About Akeisha Leighanne Roberts

I am a role player who loves the classic BECMI, AD&D 1st Edition, D&D 3rd Edition, and D&D 5th Edition rule sets. I am also quite fond of Pathfinder and Star Frontiers. My Moonhaven Forest blog is a place for me to share my ideas, thoughts, and maps for these lovely games. You can visit me on Twitter as well. :)
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2 Responses to Character Creation With A Twist

  1. Bold Italic says:

    *nods in agreement*
    As you say, an evocative picture suggests personality and backstory, maybe even a personal goal as an adventure hook. Giving a name to the character that seems to match the picture can help too, especially as names inevitably have cultural resonances and maybe literary associations that add to the gestalt. For example. if the cleric in top picture were called “Ishtar”, what would that suggest over and above what the picture says? Or if she were called “She-Na”, would that suggest a slightly different person? Does it help to stimulate the creative juices? Or doesn’t it matter?


  2. Adding names in definitely has a significant impact…like you say, it can have a definite cultural impact or take the character ‘somewhere new’ if an awesome fantasy name is used. 🙂


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