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March 31, 2016

5e Level Zero rules

"Level zero" represents a D&D character who does not have a character class.  They're a henchman or commoner, or a hero before hearing the call to adventure.

5th edition is not alone among editions of D&D that do not have "level zero" rules.  Level zero rules are not universally useful, but they can come in handy for some styles of game.

For instance, one day I will run a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court game (alternately, Narnia or Fillory), perhaps using modern New Yorkers transported into a fantasyland where they can gain D&D character class levels.

Another use for "zeroth level" is for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Funnel.

You can also run a "farmboy to hero" destined messiah type of game, with the PCs starting as shepherds and pig-boys and so forth.

I've seen some others' attempts at creating level zero rules, but they all added something.  These are stark and simple and provide instructions for "leveling up" to first level.  So here are the rules.

Character Creation

A 5th edition D&D 0th level character has:

  • The core six attributes (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha) plus racial modifiers
  • Race
  • Background
  • Maximum hit points:  6+Constitution Modifier
  • No hit dice
  • Armor Proficiency:  None, plus anything your race bestows
  • Weapon Proficiency:  Proficiency with daggers, darts, slings, quarterstaffs, and light crossbows; plus anything your race bestows
  • Saving Throw Proficiency:  None
  • Language, Tool, and Skill Proficiency:  You start with the language, tool, and skill proficiency your background and race bestow
  • Starting Equipment or Gold:  You start with the equipment and money your background bestows
  • Your Proficiency Bonus starts at +1*

(* this lets the few skills, tools, and weapons you have proficiency with actually matter)

Note that you do not get a weapon to start with.  Level zero characters are torchbearers, deckhands, and pig farmers.  They're not walking around armed like adventurers.  You'll have some money to buy a weapon, though.  Each background provides enough coin for anything you're proficient with except the light crossbow.  Some backgrounds provide tool proficiency and tools that would let you make a weapon, if you have time.  Note that some backgrounds also provide a weapon (a Soldier can have a small trophy from a fallen enemy, like a dagger).

Gaining your First Level

You improve to level 1 once you've had training in a character class.  Usually there's some danger and adventure you have to go through before you can get that training, though.  That's the whole point of "level zero"!

At level 1, you select a character class and...
  • Replace your maximum hit points and hit dice with the ones you gain from your class.
  • Gain the Armor, Weapon, Skill, Tool, and Saving Throw proficiencies your class bestows.
  • Gain all the class features associated with your new character class.
  • Gain your choices from the standard equipment your character class starts with at the DM's discretion.  These are given to you or earned during your training.
  • Improve your Proficiency Bonus to +2  

That's it.  Easy as pie!

March 25, 2016

Quick Fantasy Background Generator

If you're stuck for ideas for how to make your fantasy RPG character interesting and tied to the DM's plots, simply roll up a loved one and a rival, flesh them out, and send them to the DM to tie to the story.

Loved One

The person I’m closest to is… (1d6)

  1. Romantic Partner
  2. Parent
  3. Child
  4. Mentor, Priest, or Teacher
  5. Loyal Friend
  6. Liege or Commander

I interact with them regularly by… (1d6)

  • 1. They travel with me, but not into danger
  • 2-4. I write them regular letters or reports
  • 5-6. I return to them after every adventure

Their future is uncertain because… (1d6)

  1. They’ve been cursed or suffer from a terminal condition, and I quest to save them
  2. They may have been recruited by my enemies or made a deal with the devil
  3. They have a position of power, and their rivals seek to usurp them
  4. They have dangerous or risky goals that I have to help them achieve 
  5. They’re hunted by enemies I have to protect them from
  6. They have a troubling, prophesied destiny none of us understands

Once you've got your results, give the person a name (choose a name from the examples given for the character's race in the game book, if you're stuck, or use a fantasy name generator.  Then flesh them out a little.  What do they look like?  What quirks might they have?  What are their goals?  What's your current relationship like?  Sweet?  Rocky?  Affectionate?  Testy?  Cold?  Businesslike?  Recovering?  Generous?

Troublesome Rival

My troublesome rival is… (1d6)

  1. Someone who seeks to usurp my position or outcompete me for a position I desire
  2. Someone who took something important from me (either illegally or legitimately), that I want to get back
  3. Someone who believes I harmed them or cost them something valuable, so I owe them a debt I can never repay
  4. An ex-lover who believes me to be a shiftless villain who cannot be trusted
  5. A former employer or commander who believes I betrayed them or shirked my responsibilities
  6. Someone who desperately wants a unique item I have, that I would never part with

Their redeeming quality (the reason I can’t kill them) is… (1d6)

  1. They help the poor and needy, and are respected by the common folk and other do-gooders like them
  2. They serve a god of goodness and justice faithfully and loyally, and the god and their servants love and respect them
  3. They are a loyal and valuable servant of the rightful ruler of the land, and the ruler depends on them and respects them
  4. They are kind and nurturing to people I care about, and the people I care about would never forgive me for causing them serious harm
  5. I owe them for saving my life or the life of the person I care most about, and people of my culture know this and expect me to show them respect and deference
  6. Their destiny is tied to mine, and prophecy says I need them, though I don’t know why or how

Their power is… (1d6)

  1. They are a powerful magic user
  2. They have a position of power, such as Alderman, Baron, or Vizier
  3. They have a network of loyal eyes and ears
  4. They are allied with a powerful monster
  5. They command an army
  6. They have legitimate authority to deliver justice anywhere in the world

Once you've got your results, give the person a name (choose a name from the examples given for the character's race in the game book, if you're stuck, or use a fantasy name generator.  Then flesh them out a little.  What do they look like?  What derisive name do they call you?  Or worse - are they respectful toward you?  Do they have friends or henchmen you know about?

March 9, 2016

Dungeon Aesthetics

Here are some things to help inspire you when designing fantasy adventures.  Fantasy RPGs take place in isolated locations with constrained paths between discrete areas.  These are called "dungeons" after the name of the most popular fantasy RPG, but they're rarely literal subterranean prisons.

How far away is the dungeon?
- Hidden inside a major city
- Just outside a major city
- Hidden in a market town
- Just outside a market town
- Near a tiny hamlet
- A day's journey from the nearest tiny hamlet
- A week's journey from the nearest tiny hamlet
- In a remote wilderness many weeks journey away
- On another continent
- On another plane of existence

How old is it?
- It's older than recorded history
- It's hundreds of years old
- It's a few generations old
- It's been here for a decade or so
- It's newly constructed
- Is it a mix of two of those

What sort of structure is it?
- A defensive building like a keep, tower, fortress, armory or citadel
- A moving vehicle like a ship, airship, or giant tortoise
- A place of worship like a temple, cathedral or abbey
- A place of learning like a university, college, or library
- A dwelling like a palace, apartment building, or manor
- A spectacle building like a colosseum, theater, amphetheater, or arena
- A place of confinement like a prison or slave market
- A market building like a souk or bank
- An industrial building like a mine, forge, mill, foundary, or warehouse
- An agricultural building like a barn, freehold complex, granary, or stable
- A temporary residence like a refugee camp or military bivouac
- A place to keep something safe like a vault or treasury
- A burial place like a necropolis, ossuary, tomb or crypt
- A multi-component structure with more than one use

How was it built?
- An underground complex dug deep into the earth beneath the hills and fields
- Built into the side of a cliff, exposed along one face
- Built into the bottom of a canyon or pit
- Built like a mine deep inside a mountain or hill, hidden from view
- Built up off the ground, as a stone or timber structure
- Built high, along the tops of trees, buttes, a plateau, or high towers

The creatures there are...
- The original inhabitants, or their normal descendants
- The twisted descendants of the original inhabitants
- New residents who moved in and are using it for their own purposes
- Non-intelligent creatures or animals who just live here
- Ancient, slumbering evils
- Programmed automatons whose eldritch rotes keep out natural wildlife

March 2, 2016

Index of 5e Pregens on DM's Guild

Why would you want a pre-generated 5th edition D&D character?  Lots of reasons!
  • Maybe you need a guest star character sheet for a player visiting for one session.  
  • Maybe you want to run a one-shot and want some pre-generated characters.  
  • Maybe you need stats for a villain or henchman NPC.  
  • Maybe you've designed a module and want to playtest it with fairly "standard" 5e characters. 
  • Maybe you're a new player or have a new player at your table, and you want a pre-built character that comes with everything you need to get started.  
  • Maybe you're just too busy to make your own character.  There are some characters in here that really shine.    
  • Maybe you're running a pick-up game with no prep, and want your players to jump right in, especially at a higher level.
Let's start with some general notes:

Authors:  This post was designed by myself with significant help from Benjamin Reinhart of Chaos Engineering.  It's nice to have input from a game designer when reviewing character designs.

Spells Note:  The pregen spell-caster characters all seem to use spells from the Player's Handbook that are not in the Basic Rules.  Their character sheets do not include full spell descriptions.  If you only have access to the Basic Rules, you may not be able to use the pregen spell-casters.

Review:  For each pregen, we will give you a brief synopsis of the character's strengths, weaknesses and style in D&D's "three pillars" of combat, exploration, and interaction.

Errors:  At the time of this writing, many of these pregens have errors.  We made sure to error-check as we went and point out where they are and how to fix them.  Most of the errors are small and won't affect the character too badly.  Where the designers left out stuff you should be entitled to have, we gave suggestions on what to take.  Since we've "purchased" the previews, we will get email updates if the errors are fixed, so we can edit this index for you.

Plate:  Oddly, even at level 10, none of the heavy armor users get even non-magical full plate armor.  If you choose a heavy armor user, you should be able to afford full plate armor long before level 10.  Try to get it.

Items:  Some of these characters get magic items.  You should know that no character is guaranteed a magic item from their class.  These are added because some D&D games start at higher levels, and some DMs allow you to start with a magic item at these levels.  If you start at a lower level and finmd that your pregen gains a magic item when you level up, you don't get to have that item automatically.

Campaign Play:  If you're choosing a character to play in a one-shot, just print the sheet you need.  If you're choosing a character to play in a campaign, use the pregen as a guide for the character at each level.  You shouldn't feel bound by the choices that the designers made.  

How to Use This Guide

The goal of this article is to give you a solid overview of the pregen characters on the DM’s Guild.  The information here serves as a meta-analysis of the sixteen pregen characters.  Instead of reading each of the sixteen yourself, you can look at this document and get an idea of what options you have.  Even players new to D&D will be able to understand them enough from this summary to make a well-informed decision. 

Whether you prioritize combat, exploration or interaction, you can find your answers here.  We’ve made sure not to over-emphasize any of the three tiers in our individual descriptions or character concept briefs. 

Below we’ve listed the character concepts for each pregen, to give you an idea what they’re like to play.  The concept we chose is brief, but conveys the most important parts of each character, as we see it.  To choose the character that’s best for you, read the concepts and pick a few that really intrigue you.   Then find the more detailed descriptions of those characters below, and read more to see what you think.  Finally, if you need to, you can go look at the actual character sheets on the DM’s Guild to help you make your final choice.

Concept in six words
Dragonborn Sorcerer
Alien mystic ice blaster wild savage
Drow Rogue
Deadly infiltrator assassin of 1,000 faces
Dwarf Cleric
Influential power broker and support healer
Half-Elf Bard
Jack of all trades charming archer
Halfling Monk
Forgotten Realms Hobbit Obi Wan Kenobi
Halfling Rogue
Expert burglar and stealthy skirmisher
Half-Orc Paladin
Aggressive, zealous smasher with animal companions
High Elf Fighter
Aloof, condescending, bookish elven fighter-mage
High Elf Wizard
Area-of-effect blaster, academic negotiator
Human Barbarian
Wilderness explorer and strong, intimidating berserker
Human Cleric
Thunder warrior-witch and infamous pirate
Human Druid
Heroic shapeshifter at one with nature
Human Fighter
Brave, armored soldier and smart tactician
Human Paladin
Charming, decadent, honorable noble holy warrior
Tiefling Warlock
Potent infernal blaster who likes darkness
Wood Elf Ranger
Skilled, observant woodsman and versatile archer


Outlander Dragonborn Sorcerer (Draconic Bloodline), NG

This spell-slinging dragonborn savage wandered in from the icy wilderness.  

  • Faction: Emerald Enclave
  • Combat Style: This character has a cold theme, with spells and breath weapons designed to chill foes.
  • Combat Strength:  This character kites foes using area of effect damage spells (and a breath weapon) to slaughter enemies in large groups.
  • Combat Weakness:  With low hit points and few defensive abilities, you will need to avoid getting stuck in melee.
  • Exploration Style:  The character has the feel of a noble savage tribesman of the icy north, a skilled outdoorsman.
  • Exploration Strength:  The Outlander background feature, backed up with good Athletics and Survival skills, make the dragonborn sorcerer good at all manner of wilderness exploration.
  • Exploration Weakness:  Poor Perception and Insight leave you clueless.  Low Dex saves make you weak against traps.  
  • Interaction Style:  You are beautiful and charming, despite your direct, uncivilized ways.  Your icy glare speaks volumes.  Your Ideal binds you more to your clan than to your clan's code of honor.  
  • Interaction Strength:  You've got a high Charisma, so any social skill should work pretty well for you.  Your Intimidate is amazing.  
  • Interaction Weakness:  A mediocre Insight means others can put one over on you pretty easily, and you don't have a lot of built-in allies other than your faction.  
  • High Fantasy:  This is a very “high fantasy” character.  They’re a human-shaped dragon-lizard who casts cold magic.  They come from a savage tribe of dragon-people who live in a frozen wasteland.  In nearly every way, this character is alien and magical.

Charlatan Drow Elf Rogue (Assassin), N
This drow wears a thousand faces.  An infiltrator, scout, charmer, and knife in the dark, this character makes a good addition to every party.

  • Faction: Zhentarim
  • Combat Style:  This assassin is an ambush predator, preferring to set up surprise attacks when possible, and otherwise retreat to attack from the shadows.
  • Combat Strength:  High single-target, single-attack damage makes you shine, especially once you get the Assassinate class feature.  Once the battle starts, fire your crossbow from concealment, move to a new concealed location, and use your Cunning Action to hide.
  • Combat Weakness:  Low Con means you’re a glass cannon; and poor Str means you’re easy prey for grappling monsters.  You can do just as much damage in melee, but you’re vulnerable.
  • Exploration Style:  You’re the party scout and burglar.
  • Exploration Strength:  High Perception, nigh-unbeatable Stealth, good Sleight of Hand, and proficiency with Thieves’ Tools make you a shoe-in for your role.
  • Exploration Weakness:  Low Str and Con and poor Athletics and Survival make physical exertion and athletic challenges hard for you – harder than average for a Rogue.
  • Interaction Style:  You prefer to run a con, establishing yourself as a person the mark would trust, or who might have leverage over the mark.  Being a feared and shunned Drow is no challenge for you.  You start with Disguise Kit proficiency (see Error, below), and can pass as a high elf.
  • Interaction Strength:  Your Deception skill is unassailable, and you back it up with good Persuasion and Insight, great Charisma to power decent Intimidation among other checks you might need to make, disguise kit proficiency, and the False Identity background feature. 
  • Interaction Weakness:  Your game statistics leave no weaknesses in the interaction pillar.  However, your Personality Trait, Ideal, Bond, and Flaw are all likely to get you in trouble.  With this character, go ahead and get yourself in trouble!  There is no trouble you can’t escape or talk your way out of!
  • Error in the Sheet!  You should be even cooler!  You should have proficiency with the Forgery Kit and Disguise Kit from your Charlatan background starting at level 1, and another free-floating kit/tool proficiency that you gained when you gained the duplicate Disguise Kit proficiency at level 3.  Consider using it to take Herbalist’s Kit proficiency so you can make antitoxin, just in case you come up against a rival assassin or poison the wrong target.

Guild Jeweler Hill Dwarf Cleric (Healing Domain), LG
In battle, you protect your allies.  In society, you build a network of unrivaled power and influence.
  • Faction:  Lord’s Alliance
  • Combat Style:  You’re a support cleric.  You use healing and buffs to make your side stronger than the enemy.
  • Combat Strength:  Your healing is incredibly efficient.  Hold off on healing your allies until they desperately need it, instead focusing on buff spells in the first round, and melee attacks in later rounds.  You’re very powerful against undead, as well.  Your AC and hit points are good, too, so you can stand in melee safely.
  • Combat Weakness:  Your damage output is mediocre at best.  Dealing damage is not where you shine.
  • Exploration Style:  You rely on cleric spells to help the party explore.
  • Exploration Strength:  Cleric spells are your main exploration strength.  Always prepare some utility spells.  See the sample spells prepared on the character sheet.  The designers did a pretty good job mixing buff and utility for your non-domain choices.
  • Exploration Weakness:  Your exploration skills are very poor.  Your Stealth is absolutely abysmal.
  • Interaction Style:  You’re a power broker with a network of influential contacts.
  • Interaction Strength:  The Lord’s Alliance and your Guild Member background feature connect you to lots of wealthy, powerful people.  Your Insight and Persuasion help you negotiate for their aid.
  • Interaction Weakness:  You’re greedy.  You won’t cheat or steal for prestige, wealth, and luxury; but you’ll make some questionable deals to get them.
  • Feat Note:  These pregen characters are not built using Feats.  However, if your DM allows it, the Resilient Constitution feat is a far, far superior choice for you at level 8 than the +1 Str, +1 Con that the character gets.  Resilient Constitution gives you proficiency with Con saves and +1 Con (taking you to 16, which is important), but your Str stays at 14 at level 8-10.  Because 14 and 15 both convey a +2 modifier, everything on your sheet stays the same, except the Str score (not mod), and you get to be really, really good at Con saves.

Entertainer Half-Elf Bard (College of Lore), NG

You have discovered the hidden magic of words and music, and it is time for you to weave yourself into the stories told in hushed tones over steaming drinks, inspiring wonder in their listeners.

  • Faction:  Harpers
  • Combat Style:  You use magic to confuse and hinder your enemies as well as augment your ranged weapons attacks.
  • Combat Strength:  You’ve learned spells your from other classes to augment your ranged weapon attacks. Rely on Hunter’s Mark, Conjure Volley, and Banishing Smite to make your crossbow attacks worthwhile.
  • Combat Weakness:  You only have one attack per round and without magic it’s not very powerful.
  • Exploration Style: Through a combination of magic and skill you have a tool for almost every occasion.
  • Exploration Strength:  Thanks to Jack-of-All-Trades you’re pretty good at everything. Use the Enhance Ability spell when you need a little more edge. With bardic inspiration you can also make everyone else pretty reliable too.
  • Exploration Weakness:  You almost don’t have a weakness other than the fact that you need to rest now and then to get your spells and bardic inspiration back.
  • Interaction Style:  You’re a confident charmer.
  • Interaction Strength:  You excel at all social situations and as an entertainer you’re good at creating different disguises and personas.
  • Interactive Weakness:  You’re the bard so you really don’t have an interactive weakness unless your DM insists that bards are innately silly.
  • The College of Lore was my Safety School: You’re in the wrong College!  This character is so invested in ranged weapons that from both an optimization and thematic standpoint this character shouldn’t have taken the College of Lore. If it had taken the College of Valor, then it would still have access to most of those cool weapon spells, and it also would be able to use a longbow, gain an extra attack, and maybe eventually learn to cast spells and fire arrows in the same action! However, if you don’t care about weapon attacks then just take this character and swap out Hunter’s Mark for Hex, Conjure Volley for Fireball, and Banishing Smite for Telekinesis.
Acolyte Stout Halfling Monk (Open Fist Tradition), LG
You’re like a hobbit Obi-Wan Kenobi!

  • Faction:  Order of the Gauntlet
  • Combat Style:  You’re the master of martial arts, fighting with short sword, open hand, and foot.  You deflect arrows back at shooters, force-push foes to the floor or across the room, and move with blinding speed. 
  • Combat Strength:  You deal good damage with lots of attacks, and you have all kinds of neat combat options.  Flurry of Blows is your best one.  It lets you push foes and knock them prone.  Later, Stunning Strike is a great choice, totally disabling foes.  You have excellent mobility and some wonderful defensive abilities. 
  • Combat Weakness:  Your Armor Class is not fantastic.  Melee attacks and grapples are more likely to hit you, so you’ll go down faster than a tougher character, yet you’re primarily a melee combatant.
  • Exploration Style:  Physical barriers don’t limit you.  A wall, thicket, cliff, or chasm is just a temporary challenge.  You’re a master of foot chases.
  • Exploration Strength:  You have excellent Acrobatics and decent Athletics, letting you handle most physical challenges well.  Your fast foot speed shines in chases and escape scenes, aided by your Athletics, Acrobatics and Slow Fall abilities, giving you amazing Jedi-like parkour skills.
  • Exploration Weakness:  Your Lawful alignment and honorable character traits don’t work well with ambushing unaware foes, spying on people, or breaking into homes.  You’ll need a solid justification (evidence of wrongdoing, warrants or condemnation by church or civil authorities) to do those sorts of things.
  • Interaction Style:  You’re a member of a disciplined order, and can call on their aid.  You’re a peacemaker and idealistic diplomat. 
  • Interaction Strength:  You are good at assessing people’s motives, and can use your Shelter of the Faithful to get aid from churches of the Triad.  You’re like Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • Interaction Weakness:  Your ability to understand outstrips your ability to persuade.  Like the Jedi, you find your words fall on deaf ears.  And more, thanks to your Flaw, you are likely surprised when other members of your order betray you or oppose you.
  • Error in the Sheet:  This character sheet has math errors in it.  The character’s damage is 1 point too high at levels 1, 2 and 3.   The character’s save DCs are 8+Proficiency+Wisdom Modifier, so they should be 12 at 3rd and 4th; and 15 at 9th and 10th.  (They’re correct for levels 5-8).

Criminal Halfling Rogue (Thief), N
You’re completely self-sufficient. If you need something, you take it. If someone else has it, they don’t anymore. Necessity trumps silly laws of possession.

  • Faction: Harpers
  • Combat Style:  You flit in and out of sight because you can vanish behind anything big, including  your allies.
  • Combat Strength:  It’s hard for your enemies to hit what they can’t see. Like all rogues you can deliver devastating sneak attacks.
  • Combat Weakness:  Your Armor Class and hit points aren’t high enough to really make you a front line combatant. You also only get one attack each round when you’re not two-weapon fighting.
  • Exploration Style:  Nothing stands in your way if you use your head. You can slink past most dangers and circumvent almost any obstacle.
  • Exploration Strength:  You can climb very quickly and have excellent Acrobatics. Your Stealth and Sleight of Hand mean that you can avoid unwanted attention. Investigation and Perception will allow you to notice any relevant details.
  • Exploration Weakness: For a character so focused on climbing and acrobatics, your Athletics skill is not very impressive. Luckily your Second-Story Work feature helps you climb and jump.
  • Interaction Style:  You’re always trying to shade the truth or leave things out.
  • Interaction Strength:  You’re trained at Deception, and if you take Expertise in it and get a Forgery Kit, as I recommend, you’ll make a convincing liar.
  • Interaction Weakness:  You’re not trained in Insight and even though you’re trained in Deception, you’re pretty bad at it without Expertise. Expect to struggle with any social scenes that involve subterfuge.
  • Missing Proficiencies:  This character should have a couple of extra proficiencies from the Criminal background and one more skill with Expertise at first level. I suggest investing your Expertise in Deception to shore up your weakness there. As for the missing proficiencies, this character is clearly a spy for the Harpers, so a forgery kit may be useful for creating convincing cover stories. The other proficiency needs to be a game set, so grab a deck of cards. Card games are a great way to strike up a conversation with few strangers at a bar table. 

Outlander Half-Orc Paladin (Oath of Vengeance), CG
You’re an aggressive zealot who hunts down and slaughters evildoers for the glory of god.

  • Faction:  Order of the Gauntlet
  • Combat Style:  “Never mind maneuvers.  Always go at them!” –Attributed to Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson
  • Combat Strength:  You pound your enemies to smithereens with a big smashing maul.  Your high single-target damage (using Smites and smite spells) make you fearsome.  At higher levels, you gain abilities that let you pursue enemies that try to get away from you, meaning you should focus on the enemy “quarterback” instead of the enemy “blockers.”
  • Combat Weakness:  If the enemy can fly or keep away from you, you’re in trouble.  You’re not good at ranged attacks.
  • Exploration Style:  You’re comfortable in the wilderness and around animals.
  • Exploration Strengths:  The Outlander background gives you good wilderness navigation abilities.  The Animal Handling skill helps you deal with wildlife and guard animals; and you have good Perception.
  • Exploration Weakness:  Despite your strengths, you’re not universally good at wilderness survival you’re not proficient in the Survival skill, and your Stealth is terrible.
  • Interaction Style:  Either they’re with you, or they’re helping the enemy.  If they don’t understand that, you threaten to pound it into their head – literally.
  • Interaction Strength:  You have very good Intimidation and the imposing orc visage and huge weapons to back it up.
  • Interaction Weakness:  Just about any other approach is only OK.  You have good Charisma, so you can be Persuasive or Deceptive if you absolutely have to.  You resort to violence too quickly, and your Chaotic alignment makes you seek to undermine authority.  Again, you kill evil and protect the innocent.  It’s that simple.  Why can’t people see it as clearly as you?
  • Pets:  You will get pets!  You get a mastiff at 2nd level and a brown bear mount at 5th.  These require extra time and attention in combat, and extra book-keeping.  The rules for having animal allies and mounts are covered under the Mounted Combat rules, found on p. 76-77 of the Basic Rules for Players.  Your Mastiff (acquired at level 2) has its own initiative and moves and acts as it wishes.  Generally, its actions will be predictable, because this is your trained attack dog.  Different DMs might ask you to control the dog in combat, or might play the dog themselves.  Your mount (the bear, acquired at level 5) has more options.  If you control it, it acts on your initiative.  It can move and take one of just three actions:  Dash, Disengage, or Dodge (not attack!).  If you let it act independently, it acts as it wishes, just like the dog.  If either gets killed, you can go find another.  It’s easy to buy a trained dog (they’re 25gp in the Equipment chapter).  It takes a downtime action and an Animal Handling check to find and train a bear.

Sage High Elf Fighter (Eldritch Knight), LN
This is the archetype of the haughty, aloof elvish fighter-mage.

  • Faction:  Lords’ Alliance
  • Combat Style:  You combine melee swordfighting and occasional magic to improve your fighting and provide flexibility.
  • Combat Strength:  You deal a lot of damage, and you don’t give up flexibility to do it.  With Shield, you can also ward off the worst attacks.
  • Combat Weakness:  Wisdom saves are your biggest weakness.  You’ll probably get frightened and charmed a lot.
  • Exploration Style:  You’re very smart.  You know a lot of facts.
  • Exploration Strength:  With History and Arcana, you know a lot of important facts.  With Insight, and Perception, nothing escapes your notice.  You’ll come across as alert, astute, and educated.  Your Researcher background feature helps you get spotlight time when more information is needed to advance the plot.  You’re also decent at Survival and Athletics.
  • Exploration Weakness:  You’re well rounded, but see “Extra Skill” below.
  • Interaction Style:  You’re haughty, arrogant, and aloof, like the elves in Dragonlance or Lord of the Rings. 
  • Interaction Strength:  Insight means you’re quick to discern others’ intentions.
  • Interaction Weakness:  Your social skills are downright horrible.  -1 in Persuasion, Deception and Intimidate.  And your Personality Trait and Flaw cause you to be annoying, haughty, and arrogant.  It will get you in tons of trouble and be a heck of a lot of fun to roleplay!
  • Extra Skill:  You have to get rid of a skill.  You have to keep Arcana, History, and Perception.  You can choose to get rid of Insight, Athletics, or Survival.  I recommend getting rid of Survival.

Noble High Elf Wizard (Evoker), LG
You crave the arcane knowledge of past eons long forgotten, and the means to achieve the heights of untold glory of which you have always dreamed. 

  • Faction:  Lord’s Alliance
  • Combat Style:  You blast your enemies with a combination of elemental spells.
  • Combat Strength:  You excel at hitting multiple targets that are close together. Thanks to Sculpt Spells you don’t have to worry about hitting your allies even. Spells like thunder wave and misty step help you stay just out of the reach of your enemies.
  • Combat Weakness:  As a wizard you want to avoid getting in the fray a lot. Unfortunately you’re not much threat to enemies that are resistant to spells.
  • Exploration Style:  With some time and the right preparation you can solve just about any problem with magic.
  • Exploration Strength:  Wizard spells can be the ultimate multi-tool and rituals will allow you to cast many useful spells for free so long as you have 10 minutes to spare.
  • Exploration Weakness:  If you don’t prepare the spell, you can’t cast it that day. So make sure you have an idea of what you might be facing before you venture forth.
  • Interaction Style:  You’re a cerebral negotiator, always offering the smart solution that’s best for all parties.
  • Interaction Strength:  You are technically trained in Persuasion, but don’t expect to be very reliable in it. If you learn interaction spells like Charm Person and Detect Thoughts you could become a social asset, and using magic in social interaction really fits your cerebral, aloof style.
  • Interaction Weakness:  Neither your Charisma nor your Wisdom is very impressive. As an evoker this character isn’t automatically assigned any spells to help with interaction.
  • Spell Planning: Spell slots in D&D 5e are much more flexible than they were in previous editions. As a result you don’t need to prepare nearly as many attack spells as you used to. Use this opportunity to prepare spells that help more with exploration and interaction.

Outlander Human Barbarian (Berserker), CG
Yet you travel wherever need guides you, fighting those who would despoil the wilderness. You have faced encroaching evil from monsters to greedy humans. You take what you need, and feed the ground with the blood of such enemies.

  • Faction:  Emerald Enclave
  • Combat Style:  Step 1 - Rage. Step 2 - Hit it with your greatsword! Step 3 - Repeat Step 2 until it dies.
  • Combat Strength:  While raging you hit hard, you rarely miss, and you can survive a lot of damage from weapons.
  • Combat Weakness:  You’re pretty easy to hit, and when you’re not raging you aren’t nearly as deadly or resistant to damage. You only start with 2 of those rages per day, so be careful.
  • Exploration Style:  You charge ahead expecting to meet conflict face to face. You can see danger coming but you don’t have much to ability to get out of the way.
  • Exploration Strength:  You are trained in Athletics, Perception, and Survival which are probably the three most important skills when exploring the wilderness.
  • Exploration Weakness:  If a problem can’t be solved by brute force or a little common sense then it’s probably outside of your expertise.
  • Interaction Style:  Don’t make me ask you twice.
  • Interaction Strength:  You are trained in both Intimidation and have the feature Intimidating Presence. When sweet words won’t work, the party can rely on you to scare NPC’s into compliance.
  • Interaction Weakness:  Your Charisma is not very good, and outside of scaring people into helping you, you don’t have to contribute to social interaction.
  • One-Trick Pony: Berserker Barbarians aren’t underpowered, but they are a very straight-forward class to play. Most of your strategy is gauging if a fight is worth raging over, and if a Reckless Attack is worth the risk. Most of the time, the answer to both questions is yes. 

Pirate Human Cleric (Tempest Domain), CN
You’re a thunder-hurling pirate who sacrifices to the chaotic storm god for awesome power.

  • Faction:  Zhentarim
  • Combat Style:  You hurl thunder and lightning at your foes.
  • Combat Strength:  You mix great direct damage magic with buff and healing for support as needed.  Your class features mix well with your spells.  You’ll be hurling Thunderwave and Call Lightning.  And you’re no slouch in melee, with subclass features to support it and good melee damage.  Wrath of the Storm can protect you from being ganged up on.
  • Combat Weakness:  Your hit points are a little low for melee.  Luckily, you can step back and hurl spells for a while.  Your biggest weakness is poor initiative.  Your battlefield control abilities would be stronger if you could ever manage to get them off before the enemy could act.
  • Exploration Style:  You’re a pirate!  You can swim and climb rigging and spot people sneaking up on you.  You have witchy pirate magic, too, causing fog to roll in and the wind and tides to shift at your whim.
  • Exploration Strength:  With good skills in Athletics and Perception and your cleric utility spells (your domain spells give you control over wind, water, and weather), you can find a way to contribute in almost every exploration scene.  And of course, you’re proficient in water vehicles and navigator’s tools.
  • Exploration Weakness:  Heavy armor and low Dexterity don’t mix well with Stealth.  But for some reason, it doesn’t impair swimming in 5th edition D&D, so just hope your DM doesn’t decide to house rule that.
  • Interaction Style:  You’re a course, witchy pirate.
  • Interaction Strength:  Your Bad Reputation background feature makes common folk afraid to confront you for pushing them around and breaking minor laws.  Your very good Insight skill lets you know when you’re about to step over the line.
  • Interaction Weakness:  You’re mediocre at most social skills.  You’re not very charming, intimidating, or deceptive.  See “Missing a Skill” below.
  • Missing a Skill:  You can shore up this character’s biggest weakness because this pregen is missing a skill!  Taking Intimidation dramatically improves your otherwise weak Interaction pillar. 

Folk Hero Human Druid (Moon Circle), NG
You became able to shift your form when you entered puberty. Although your build is slight, your powers of spirit grant you all the might you need.

  • Faction: Emerald Enclave
  • Combat Style:  You use spells to control the battle and draw the enemy close. Then you transform into a powerful animal and move in for the kill.
  • Combat Strength: You are very adaptable combatant. With spells like faerie fire, fog-cloud, gust of wind, and wall of fire you can create a lot of advantages for your party. As a member of the Circle of the Moon you can become quite formidable when you wildshape.
  • Combat Weakness:  You are dependent on your supernatural resources. If you run out of spells or uses of wildshape you stop being very effective. Luckily as you get higher level this becomes less of a problem.
  • Exploration Style:  You wear the shape of any beast and command the forces of nature. There is little you fear when exploring.
  • Exploration Strength:  Wildshape lets you move through many natural environments without much trouble. There are many druid spells and rituals that you can learn and use to help your party too.
  • Exploration Weakness: Despite your outstanding Wisdom you’re not trained in Perception. Maybe your animal senses in Wildshape will help, but as a human you’re easy to sneak up on.
  • Interaction Style:  You’re the epitome of a folk hero.  You expect the justice of your cause to speak for itself.
  • Interaction Strength:  You’re a folk hero with reasonable Charisma. That might help with most everyday situations, but you also have History and Insight training to help recognize when something fishy is going on.
  • Interaction Weakness:  You’re not trained in any skills that help you persuade people. Your folk hero status probably won’t carry much influence once you start traveling to strange lands or attending noble courts.
  • Learn about Wildshape:  This character doesn’t come with the statistics of the forms you’re going to transform into. It also doesn’t keep up to date as far as duration is concerned. Wildshape is a very powerful feature so learning when and how to use it effectively is an important part of this character.

Soldier Human Fighter (Champion), CG
You’re an educated tactician – a leader of men – but you’ve grown tired of regimented life, and yearn for adventure.

  • Faction: Order of the Gauntlet
  • Combat Style:  You rush to the front line with a sword and shield.
  • Combat Strength:  You dish out great melee damage, and still manage to have a fantastic AC and hit points.  Champion fighters get a lot of critical hits, too.
  • Combat Weakness:  You don’t have a lot of versatility, and you’re not very good at ranged combat.   Mostly you just swing your sword every round.
  • Exploration Style:  You’re a battle tactician with well-rounded skills. 
  • Exploration Strength:  Your History skill can be used for large scale strategy or education on combat tactics.  Your Perception and incredibly good Athletics help you avoid or set up ambushes, or maneuver through dungeons in unexpected ways.
  • Exploration Weakness: You’re very bad at Stealth.  It’s pretty much impossible to be worse at it.
  • Interaction Style:  You’re a former soldier.  You bark commands and expect to be obeyed.
  • Interaction Strength:  A decent Intimidation means your commands really are likely to be obeyed.  You project authority.
  • Interaction Weakness:  Trying to charm or dupe others is not your style.
  • Very Simple Character:  This character is pretty simple, without being flavorless.  It’s ideal if you don’t want to learn a lot of complicated mechanics.  Mostly you just rush the enemy and swing a sword at them as much as you can.  You get a few special abilities, but they come slowly.

Noble Human Paladin (Oath of Devotion), LG
You’re an honorable holy knight.

  • Faction:  Lords’ Alliance
  • Combat Style:  You’re adept at using paladin spells to enhance your mounted sword-and-board or lance-and-shield fighting, starting at level 3.  Until then, you fight with sword and shield afoot.
  • Combat Strength:  Your Charisma-dependent class features are very potent.  You can use spells like Compelled Duel and Blinding Smite to great effect.  Your Sacred Weapon class feature lets you claim a huge attack bonus.  Good AC and hit points let you stand toe to toe with the enemy.  And you can heal and buff and cast utility spells!  Bless is a strong strategy for a few levels for you.
  • Combat Weakness:  You’re not really good at ranged combat.  And you lag behind other melee fighters in Strength, meaning when you’re not using Smite, your damage is awfully low.  Your poor Initiative is also a weakness.
  • Exploration Style:  Your holy magic powers do most of the work for you.
  • Exploration Strength:  Your utility spells like Zone of Truth and Dispel Magic and knowledge skills will come in handy.  Your Divine Sense can find fiends and undead.  And having a fast horse is often very helpful (see Mounted Combat, p. 76-77 of the Basic Rules for Players).
  • Exploration Weakness:  You’re not very good at athletic challenges or stealth.  Your low Dexterity makes you prone to falling in traps.
  • Interaction Style:  You rely on your noble rank and connections to assert your authority. 
  • Interaction Strength:  Your high Persuasion helps you back up your claim of influence, and your Position of Privilege background feature gives you legitimate authority.  Your high Charisma makes you good at other social skills, even if you’re not proficient.  This character is not a sanctimonious teetotaler stick-in-the-mud paladin, but a decadent noble who pulls it off with panache and charm.
  • Interaction Weakness:  Your Personality Trait, Bond and Flaw are all likely to get you in trouble.  But they’re really fun!  Go ahead and play them up! 
  • Not Well Optimized:  This character was built to be optimized for Charisma, to improve their save DCs and Sacred Weapon bonus, but using the variant human and the Heavy Armor Master feat at level 1, you could build a version of this character that achieves the same design goals, but is significantly better. 

Hermit Tiefling Warlock (Infernal Tome Pact), LN
You made a pact with a fiendish entity years ago. They promised you unstoppable power born in the pits of the Nine Hells in exchange for your servitude and obeisance.

  • Faction: Zhentarim
  • Combat Style:  You’re a magical dynamo that destroys enemies with dark and fiery arcane power.
  • Combat Strength:  Your cantrips and spells deal very respectable damage and with frequent short rests you’ll rarely run out of spells.
  • Combat Weakness:  Your Armor Class and hit points are not very good. Even though the cantrip shillelagh turns your walking stick into a formidable weapon, you are better outside of melee combat.
  • Exploration Style:  You aren’t afraid to go into dark places, but you’ll have to travel slowly and carefully.
  • Exploration Strength:  Darkvision and One with the Shadows makes you somewhat adept at navigating dark places and staying hidden. Ascendant Step will eventually help you levitate over the occasional obstacle.
  • Exploration Weakness: Despite your later magical tricks, you have no real talent with athletics, stealth, or even noticing things. Proceed everywhere with caution.
  • Interaction Style:  You’re a bully.  You make subtle threats and use your appearance and hellfire to back it up.
  • Interaction Strength:  You are very knowledgeable about Arcane and Religious lore. You also have a high Charisma and proficiency with Intimidation. People should be afraid to harass or disappoint you. As a Warlock that can be a double-edged sword, of course.
  • Interaction Weakness:  Despite your Charisma, you’re not very good at sweet-talking or deception and you’re pretty easy to deceive. As Tiefling Warlock associated with the Zhentarim, expect people to treat you with suspicion.
  • Healing theme:  Because of proficiency in Medicine and a herbalism kit, along with the cantrip Spare the Dying, this character has a theme as a low-magic healer. If your campaign allows feats and you want to build on this theme, consider taking the Healer feat. If you also want to use your Warlock spells to heal people, then the Magic Initiate feat can grant you access to Cure Wounds. Technically, you should also have another language from your Hermit background. I recommend grabbing Elven or Dwarven.

Outlander Wood Elf Ranger (Hunter), CG
The last remaining member of your tribe, you are the epitome of the rugged individualist.

  • Faction: Emerald Enclave
  • Combat Style:  You prefer to ambush your enemies by launching arrows from behind cover, but can defend yourself with a shortsword when you need to.
  • Combat Strength: You are extremely accurate with your bow because of Archery and Extra Attack. Thanks to Hunter’s Mark and Colossus Slayer you can do respectable damage with either your bow or shortsword.
  • Combat Weakness:  You shoot things with arrows, and you don’t do much else. This isn’t so bad except when spells and close quarters make ranged weapons less useful. Be sure and update your AC to 17 when you boost your Dexterity to 20, as the provided sheet forgets to.
  • Exploration Style:  You guide your friends through all sorts of dense and treacherous terrain like it wasn’t even there.
  • Exploration Strength:  As a wood elf you have Darkvision and the ability to hide even when only lightly obscured. You’re trained in Athletics, Nature, Perception, and Survival. What’s more, your natural Natural Explorer feature doubles your proficiency bonus for most of those exploration rolls and extends benefits to the entire party.
  • Exploration Weakness: While your rolls are great, there’s not much you bring to the equation but reliable skill rolls. That’s not a terrible weakness though because Exploration is your specialty as a Ranger.
  • Interaction Style:  You prefer to listen.  People always reveal too much.  When you notice something useful, you tell the more loquacious, persuasive members of the party.
  • Interaction Strength:  Your Insight is strong so very few can pull a fast one on you. You know a wide variety of languages that will allow you to negotiate with both friend and foe.
  • Interaction Weakness:  While you can talk a lot of languages, you’re not very persuasive in any of them.
  • Very Basic:  While the ranger spellcasting list can open up some interesting possibilities, this class is extremely straightforward in combat. If repeating the same two attacks every turn seems boring to you, you should probably try a different character.