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There's a fair chance I'm about to join a friend's 3.5 online campaign and I am frankly overwhelmed by the options and possibilities for characters spanning across all the books.

Are there any really good websites to help guide me through character creation and/or well made character generators for 3.5e?

I have a lot of experience as a player in fourth edition but I feel a little lost as I try to take it all in.

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It's not really an answer, but don't. If it's your first character I'd make it straight out of the PHB. There's nothing wrong with a 3.5 Cleric, Fighter, or whatever. You can certainly build much more (stupidly) powerful characters with the books, but for learning I'd keep it simple. – C. Ross Jun 28 '12 at 13:15
I need to find out what level they are. My beef so far with the system is how many pre-reqs there are for prestige classes and I feel that I really need to plan things out in advance even if that kind of high level play is a ways off. I'll check out these answers and let you guys know what I think. – Joshua Aslan Smith Jun 28 '12 at 18:17
up vote 7 down vote accepted

This is the academic's approach to learning a new system. It is quite heavily theoretical and assumes that you're willing to take time and research sources. If you just want to jump right in, take the PHB and make a character by hand, then use the various resources on the net to check your math.

For websites to help you narrow down choices for character creation, I recommend the various handbook compliations out there. While these are not written for newbies, these are effectively the distilled wisdom of many years of play. By using the core books, yourself and by hand (it's the only way to learn character creation, I've found) the handbooks to narrow the design space for the specific class you've chosen, and asking questions here about the validity and utility of specific builds, these resources can help you build your system knowledge.

There are some things to stay away from as a newbie. While caster classes are excellent, the sheer scope of spells that you need to consider between produces analysis paralysis among the best of us. Avoid Tier 1 unless you have a very specific and compelling need to play one of them.

Identify the classes being played and try to choose a class that's in the average tier. That way, you will not be too far above or below the party "capability" leve, allowing you to express your agency without obvious inequalities between party members. The first character I had was a bland fighter in a party of casters... and it just wasn't much fun. His job was to stand around and occasionally intercept someone going for the casters.

Once you've done that, and built your character by hand, the most critical element of system-mastery is the checklist. Identify, before the game starts, your common strategies, and the mechanical activities needed for those strategies. This "study" is important to build your own, internal, mental map of possible actions and pre-anticipation of situations in which to use those actions. It will also help identify if the design you've built meets your requirements.

Always do your initial builds by hand until you understand the math behind the scenes. I made the mistake of using tools for my first 3.5 characters and that actually inhibited my system-mastery for a year or so.

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If you're worrying about "Tiers" you're already playing on the high min-maxer end of 3.5e which may not be desirable in your player group. Ask your DM/play group how much optimization they indulge in. – mxyzplk Jul 1 '12 at 2:52

Well, first of all, you don't need all the books and options - you can make a perfectly fine character using the Player's Handbook and you probably should for your first outing.

Later, once you want more options and complexity, I use Hero Lab - it's pay, not free, but it's the best character generator ever. It's better for Pathfinder than 3.5 though because WotC held onto all the rules from all their splatbooks and never let them get into the OGL, so you won't be getting all the feats from 30 books or anything.

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For our 3.5 D&D game I use the Heroforge excel character sheet. It covers a huge range of sourcebooks, variant rules etc. You can also use it when you're playing to add buffs and temporary bonuses to save you the maths. Without the sourcebooks though, all the options may become a bit overwhelming.

PCGen is also quite good, it is what the other players in my D&D 3.5 group use.

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I'm new to the d&d world however for all d&d editions alter from each other I would remain with a steady character such as a fighter until you grasp the rules a little better :)

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This doesn't actually answer the question they're asking. Remember that StackExchange isn't a forum but a Q&A site, so general discussion posts don't fit the format. – SevenSidedDie Jul 15 '12 at 23:11

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