Thursday, 5 July 2018

5e: Resources for Random Character Creation



One of my favourite things in Xanathar's Guide to Everything is the section entitled This is Your Life. I like creating my own character backstories a lot, but as I read through the random tables in this section it sparked a lot of ideas, and I began to think it might be fun to let the dice decide and then use my own creativity to fill in the blanks, no matter how strangely disconnected the results might seem.

Of course, the tables in Xanathar's Guide to Everything only determine story elements. Your race and class choices are left entirely in your hands. But what if you're open to trying anything? I know of two resources that can help you.

Additionally, there are a number other resources available that will determine yet more aspects of your character at the drop of a die. The following sources can be of use to you:

Xanathar's Guide to Everything

Xanathar's Guide includes the aforementioned This is Your Life, which is populated with tables to determine your character's origins, decisions they have made, and events that have occurred in their past, along with enough tables to flesh out key details of NPCs connected to your backstory.

You'll also want to look at the character options for your chosen (or randomly generated!) class, as each class has a handful of new tables to help you flesh your character out. Admittedly, some of these tables are populated with more inspiring results than others, but they're worth a look.

The Player's Handbook

After you've determined your background using Xanathar's Guide or one of the alternatives listed above, don't forget to take a look at the trait, ideal, bond, flaw, and background-specific random tables (like the charlatan's scam table). You may find that some of your backstory results from Xanathar's Guide already suggest answers to some of these, in which case you might not need to roll!

The Dungeon Master's Guide

Granted, many players don't own a copy of the Dungeon Master's Guide but it deserves a mention here by merit of its excellent tables for creating an NPC. Why not use them for a PC, if you've decided to randomise?

The tables let you generate unique physical/appearance traits, talents, distinctive mannerisms, social behaviours, ideals, bonds, and flaws and secrets.

If your character is evil, don't forget to take a look at the tables for villain's scheme, villain's methods, and (with DM approval), your single villain's weakness!

@TheKindGM's Character Creation Tables

These character creation tables, released as a Pay What You Want product on DMsGuild, have a dual purpose: a complete listing and page reference for every race, class, and archetype from all the following sources:

  • Player's Handbook
  • Dungeon Master's Guide
  • Elemental Evil Player's Companion
  • Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
  • Volo's Guide to Monsters
  • Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Unearthed Arcana (official playtest material)
  • Plane Shift (Magic the Gathering content for 5e)

In addition to page reference numbers, the character options are arranged on tables and assigned numbers so that you can randomly determine all your decision points when making a character. The distribution of results is equal (or as equal as is possible), so you have a good chance of getting any combination.

The character creation tables haven't been updated to include Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes just yet, but that's likely on the cards in the near future.

A limitation of these tables (for the purpose of complete randomisation, at least) is that background and race options from different books/sources are kept as separate tables and it is up to the player to decide which table they want to roll on. If you want to remove these decision points, this is fixed fairly easily. Here are a few options you might consider:

  1. For backgrounds, note that there are 13 options in the Player's Handbook and 12 in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. That means 52% of backgrounds are in the PHB, so you can roll d100: 1-52: PHB, 53-100 = SWAG.
  2. For races, here are two options:
    1. Refer to the table entitled What You Need which lists the sources used. Assign a value to each and use those values to randomly determine a single sourcebook at the beginning of the process. At each stage, use the tables for race or subrace from that sourcebook. When a sourcebook includes subrace options but no races (eg. Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, use the race table from the Player's Handbook.
      • If you want to use all available sources, including unofficial content, assign values from 1 through 8 starting from the top of the table and then roll a d8. If you roll an 8, Plane Shift, assign the 5 options two-digit ranges between 1 and 10 (1-2 for Amonkhet, 3-4 for Innistrad, etc.) and roll 1d10 to determine which you use.
      • If you want to use only official sources, assign values from 1 through 6 starting from the top of the table and ignore the last two rolls, then roll a d6.
    2. Use the tables below. The percentage chance is weighted based on the combined number of races and the distribution of those races throughout the sources. Plane Shift was not included because I'd have to create 5 more tables and it was too much of a PITA, but you get the idea if you want to make one for yourself!

Race Options
(Official Only)

d20
Source
1-10
Player's Handbook
11-13
Elemental Evil Player's Companion
14-20
Volo's Guide to Monsters

Race Options
(inc. Unearthed Arcana)

d100
Source
1-36
Player's Handbook
37-48
Elemental Evil Player's Companion
49-76
Volo's Guide to Monsters
77-100
Unearthed Arcana



@giffyglyph's Darker Dungeons

Darker Dungeons is a set of houserules intended to make a D&D 5e game a grittier, more risk-prone experience. One of the optional rules presented is to randomly generate everything about your character. Accordingly, Darker Dungeons includes several pages of random tables for both character options, backgrounds, and unique features/personality traits.

The character class and race options are up to date with Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, but the backgrounds are limited to only those in the Player's Handbook.

It's worth noting that the race and subraces are weighted, making some results more common than others. You have a 40% chance of rolling up a human, for example, and a 5% chance of becoming a gnome, or a 0.5% chance of being a deep gnome/svirfneblin. These weightings make sense when we think about the actual distribution of the various races, and it helps build out the grittier, more down-to-earth world Darker Dungeons seeks to create. They may not be to everyone's taste - you may prefer your heroes to be exceptions to the world's normal ruless. If that describes you, here's a quick fix: there are 18 races, so assign values to each starting from the top of the table then roll a d20. On a 19, reroll. On a 20, you choose.

@giffyglyph's tables shine when it comes to Character Details. Some of these tables overlap with those in Xanathar's Guide (family and memories, for instance), but provide an alternative approach. Others generate details unexplored in Xanathar's Guide, including weight, height, distinctive features, and habits. The motivation table is also excellent.

There's lots of other great resources/house rules in the document, but they're beyond the scope of this article. I'd simply encourage you to check them out!

Disclaimer: I recently discovered @giffyglyph is a real-life friend, but that has no bearing on my opinions about what he's created here - and he's not asked me/offered me anything to tout praises (I'd accept a pint in retrospect though, if you're reading this. :P)

Combining Resources

To create a character thoroughly at random, why not mix tables from any of the above?

We might choose to randomly determine race, class, and background using either @TheKindGM's character creation tables or @giffyglyph's Darker Dungeons, depending on whether we want weighted results for race or not. If we choose Darker Dungeons but want more background options, we could patch in the relevant tables from @TheKindGM's document.

After generating backstory details using Xanathar's Guide to Everything, we might use Darker Dungeons and/or the Dungeon Master's Guide to establish details about our character's appearance and mannerisms, and use those same tables to also flesh out any non-player characters we created along the way! We can also refer to the character options tables in Xanathar's Guide and roll on the tables for our background (ideals, bonds, etc.) at this point.

Next time, I'll walk through the process of creating one or two characters using tables from some of these sources.

Update

You can now find part I of my Random Character Creation Walkthrough here.

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