The Art of Making D&D Character Sheets

The Art of Making D&D Character Sheets (and some DMing Notes)

#1. While it is nice to have fancy character sheets, and I hope to someday supply my players with custom character sheets, the hard and fast rule is that they don't have to be fancy. Graphics are completely unnecessary, although if you have the time and energy to do so, why not?

#2. Because my campaign started when the characters were children, they have their "Childhood Nickname" on the character sheet. Often the PCs still refer to each other using that nickname. This encourages more roleplaying as most of the characters have known each other since childhood and can tell stories of the things they did "years ago", even though in reality it was only 20+ sessions ago and they are all now teenagers.

#3. Having eye/hair colour on the character sheet encourages the player to think more about description of their character. Perhaps in the future I will also include a "physical description" section that asks the shape of their nose, the disposition of their face/demeanor, etc.

#4. Phobias - I encourage players to play PCs with flaws, and having phobias is a fun way to do that.

#5. Heroic Dream - This is what the PC wanted to be when they were a kid. Similar to the Childhood Nickname, this is essentially to encourage a backstory about what the character wants to do with their life.

#6. Deity and Piety - All characters can worship a god of their choosing (or choose not to) and gain Piety Points, which shows their devotion to that god. PCs are awarded Piety Points by donating to the church, doing good deeds that help the church, building shrines/temples, etc. There is an old Dragon Magazine which has an article on this topic. Gaining lots of piety provides boons to the character based upon how pious they are. The DM (me) can also take away piety if the PC harms the church / god in some manner. eg. Murdering the high priest would be bad.

Note - Yes, I totally included Comeliness even though we are playing 2nd Edition AD&D. Oh well. Sue me.

#7. Primary Skills vs Bonus Skills - So on the 2nd page I have a section for "Bonus Skills". The primary skills are the NWP gained as per standard 2nd Edition rules. The bonus skills is an extra system I developed which rewards players for attempting skills they are not proficient in, and they gain the use of the skill but with a -4 to -1 modifier to the skill. Under my house rules if the player attempts to use a skill they are not proficient in they suffer a -5 to the attempt. However if they succeed their skill goes up to -4 and they gain it is a bonus skill. Doing this only works during a time of crisis when the situation is dire in some way. Thus a fighter for example during combat could attempt a Spellcraft check at -5 to recognize a fireball being cast, and if successful they gain the bonus skill at -4. Using the skill when there is no danger does not improve it. There is also a limit of how often they can gain bonus skills, so they cannot abuse the system.

#8. Thief Skills - Thieves, bards, etc get the most points for this section, but other characters detecting noise, climbing walls and doing other skills can also gain an extra point here and there as a bonus each time they succeed during a dire situation. It might only make a difference of a few points gained over the course of many sessions, and like Bonus Skills this can only be rewarded when there is danger, only when they are successful, and there is a limit of how often they can gain this benefit.


#9. Belongings, Weight and Stored Where? - Often players forget what items weigh and how much weight they are carrying. Having this on the character sheet encourages them to look up the weight in the PHB, mark it down, and keep track of their encumbrance. Knowing where it is stored is likewise handy (both for pickpockets, but also to prevent pickpockets). It is up to the player to be proactive about marking down the location of valuable items.

#10. Languages - Honestly, the issue of languages comes up so rarely that this really is a Page 2 topic. It doesn't need to be on the 1st page. Also I include the Modifier for the language because like any other NWP, the character is not perfect at it. They are not necessarily a native speaker and completely fluent in every word. So sometimes they might have to roll to see if they understand what they heard or read.

#11. Parents, Siblings - Since the PCs started as children, they also started with family members. This helps to fill out their backstory and encourages roleplaying when they talk to the villagers they grew up knowing.

#12. Friends, Allies - So far in the game the PCs have made a number of friends and allies, ranging from the undertaker, the apothecary, Neddirk the Honest Fence (where they sell stolen goods), and during the last session they made a new ally - an aboleth with a split personality disorder who is lonely (or hungry to eat them). Ahem... See the Puffin Forest video... which is totally the inspiration for why the players encountered the aboleth in an abandoned fortress.

#13. Notes, Spells - Just empty lines for players to write notes on it, whether it is about spells, items, the names of baddies, etc. Lots of these.


#14. Spell List, Extended - This is for the true spellcasters who have lots of spells. Included on this sheet are sections for Range, Components, Duration, Casting Time, AoE, Saving Throw and Notes. This way they don't always have to look up certain things in the book. I also encourage players to make up words for their verbal components that they can use repeatedly whenever using specific spells.

eg. If they are casting Entangle often, perhaps "Tanglitis Restrictio" or some other similar words is appropriate for them to be using.

At the top of page 3 is a note that "or if you are not a spellcaster, just use this page for extra notes". Thus the page still gets used regardless.

All else fails, I can always print more since I saved the file.

Based on player feedback I can also redesign the character sheets in the future and make new versions to make them better for the players, and possibly more pleasing to the eye.

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