D&D, RPG, Story, Workshops

D&D for Kids: Character Building

Alright, raise your hand if you have more characters than you have campaigns to play in…

…yup. Me too >_>

Can anyone blame us though? There’s so much excitement in creating a brand new PC. A blank slate full of promise. The chance to create the hero you dream of being in a world of adventure…or to explore a personality so different from you own in a way that only an RPG can provide. This post is dedicated to the weavers of epic backstories, who spin intricate webs of emotion, history, and relationships. The engineers who decode that perfect formula of abilities and class features to create warriors of legend. There are so many different tools to use when forging your PC– between the Player’s Handbook, Xanathar’s, the endless treasure trove of Unearthed Arcana and homebrew classes– but where do you begin?? The process is such an endeavor that it’s easy to get lost when creating a character for the first time, and there are varying methods for approaching it…many new players find themselves paralyzed by the sheer amount of choice and possibility.

Most of it boils down to two general sources of inspiration: Story and Function. A fully-developed character typically has a healthy balance of both elements– so this is more a question of that initial spark of inspiration and creative energy that fuels the character concept. It’s such an impactful part of playing D&D and other TTRPGs that we block off an entire D&D for Kids Workshop session just for character creation! For our younger players, I’ve found that the best success came with using simple prompts to help them think through the new persona’s motivations. Depending on the child’s preferred creative process (one-on-one discussion, group brainstorming, writing independently, etc.), we’ll create the framework for their PC together and they can fill in the rest of the pieces through gameplay.

In this post, we’ll expand that approach and tailor it to the original source of inspiration. The following simple prompts can be used to help develop the original concept and fill in the rest of the story!

Function-Driven

Let’s say you’ve had your heart set on playing a Rogue. A master of the shadows who can deal swift and lethal damage, then melt away before the enemy knows what hit them. Maybe it was the Sneak Attack mechanic that drew you, or one of the seven different subclass options. Regardless, you’ve chosen your path. Now to give your sneak thief a history to impress even the most seasoned of Winterfell’s Guards!

The next step is to work backwards in time, to discover what led your character to choose their path. Here are some simple questions, all focused on internal and external motivations, to help you get started:

What is my favourite memory from childhood?

I would do anything to protect…

Why do I fight?

What did I do before leaving home?

How did I first realize my abilities?

Where did I learn my skills?

The person I look up to the most is…

How did I acquire my first [weapon] ?

Why did I leave home?

My biggest fear is…

Story-Driven

Perhaps you haven’t decided on a class yet. Instead, you have a certain type of personality in mind. Maybe they’re close to your real-life personality (or the way you would be if you were an adventurer). Or maybe you’re using this character to explore a personality and viewpoint different from your own. Regardless, it’s time to decide what kind of hero they are…but there are so many options! Here are some prompts you can use to look forward and determine who your character will become:

If I had one wish, what would it be?

Why would I leave home?

Do I use magic or my natural ability?

Do I like to learn about a situation before acting, or do I talk with my fists?

What do I do when I am upset/stressed/angry?

What does my family do?

What is my favourite memory from childhood?

The person I look up to the most is…

My biggest fear is…

One thing I’ve always wanted to do is…

You’ll notice that there are some repeat questions across both lists…remember how I mentioned at the beginning that a character is rarely focused only on Story or Function alone? When you’re developing a character, those two paths will natural intertwine, and there are certain shared aspects to the different approaches.

As you’re filling out the questions, you may also notice certain patterns to your answers. If you find that you’re using similar motivations for multiple answers, then you’ve likely stumbled upon a core belief/goal for your character! For example, if you have similar answers to “I would do anything to protect…” and “Why do I fight?”, then that’s something that will serve as a continuing motivation for your PC that they will carry with them through the campaign.

I hope you’ve found these prompts useful…try using them when creating your next character, or if you have new players at the table! They can be a fun tool for both personal reflection or group brainstorming!

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