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My friends and I have been playing D&D 5e for a few months now and we have run into problems where if we want to introduce a friend or have a need to create a new character for the game we have to do so outside of the game and introduce it at a later date rather than in the midst of a session.

Currently we take between an hour and 4 to create a character when it feels that it could be done in less time. Is there a way to better piece together characters without leaving anything out and without taking a overly long time to do so?

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btw, bringing in new players is a great problem to have--keep it up! – nitsua60 Jan 13 at 4:28
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Creating a stereotype mid-level character takes me about 15 minutes. It's hard to give any advice when we don't know what exactly is taking the time in your case. Is it mechanics or ideas? – nvoigt Jan 13 at 11:20
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Creating a real character usually takes me several sessions over the course of multiple days, introducing my game world to the player and bouncing character ideas back and forth. See, definitions of "a long time" differ. ;-) – DevSolar Jan 13 at 14:07
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Is there a reason you want to create the character during the session? "without leaving anything out" is a little bit vague and I'm not understanding your reasons behind needing to make one quick. – Premier Bromanov Jan 13 at 15:23
up vote 41 down vote accepted

1. Carry pre-generated characters.

2. Allow character changes after-the-fact.

  1. Pregenerated characters can save you a lot of time. It's not the ideal solution for immersive role-playing, but it'll save you what sounds like hours. Then, between sessions, allow the new player to build a character of similar level, now that they've got a taste for what they like or don't. I've got a stack of about 30 pregens[1] that I keep in my GM binder, so a new player can usually find something pretty-close to their idea and get rolling.

    After the session the player can either keep the pregen, make modifications to it and keep playing it (see below), or make a new character from scratch now that they've some ideas. The pregen thus discarded could be worked into the narrative as an NPC or discarded as you see fit. (With thanks to @Cronax for the suggestion.)

  2. Many GMs allow players to make modifications to characters well after character creation. In Adventurers League it's everything down to race, class, and ability scores until level 4[2]. Others will make reasonable allowances for changing anything that hasn't factored majorly into gameplay. This question for helping new players make characters, and its answers, contains good guidance in this vein. I, personally, will allow pretty-major rebuilds at any level; my 5e table isn't much prone to "abusing" mechanics.[3]

    The purpose of this is to take the weight off of the many decisions inherent in the character creation system. The player doesn't have to worry that a poor choice of skill may not synergize with the feat they'll take at level 8 or if they've the right spells in the book.


1 - Some come from the WotC site, some from the defunct Wizards Forums. Others from "solitaire" play--rolling up characters for fun--and others were specifically built to provide character continuity from previous campaigns/systems.

2 - see page seven of the Adventurer's League Player's Guide, "Character Rebuilding"

3 - In real life I play a character in a system where it's a very hard and long process to make these sorts of changes. I don't find it fun enforcing that constraint on game-players.

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+1 for the ***; I don't like the advancement system there at all. – TimLymington Jan 13 at 13:43

One solution that you might want to consider is having a dozen or so generic pre-made characters on hand. The player would be able to pick one, then edit it as needed. This way you can adapt the character creation time based on how much time he has before play starts.

Make sure to have the characters be fairly common, yet powerful ones, like an elven ranger, a dragonborn paladin, or a human wizard etc. Somehing he can build off of quickly, or grab as-is if he doesn't have the time to do anything fancy.

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Is there a way to better piece together characters without leaving anything out and without taking a overly long time to do so?

You see, any way this can be answered is with OUR definition of 'an overly long time' , which others may mention; is a matter of perspective. With that in mind, here are my suggestions on swift character building from my perspective of 'a long time' .

First, time = effort, and effort = great characters more often than not. This does not go to say that experienced adventurers can't roll up a fresh character with a complete history and backstory and personality quirks in about an hour, but that comes with time and experience. That being said, I don't think your worry should be 'How do I speed up character creation during a session?'

Suggestions may include having pre generated characters, and that's great for some people, but most will think why use a pregen when you can make your own unique character? My best advice is to scout out potential new players and introduce them to your campaign BEFORE the next session, never during. The campaign I take part in does this process beforehand and it works very efficiently. The focus should be on introducing them to the setting, getting them a handbook or a PDF of it if this is a game you play in person, and going over character creation.

Efficient Character Creation

  • Have a concept/archetypal character in mind

If someone wants to be the stealthy criminal thief who stabs people in the back from the shadows and steals from the wealthy and.... keeps it all for himself? There's a place for that. Character creation goes much more swiftly with an ideal in mind beforehand.

  • Choose a Race

While the rest are in no particular order, if your new player has no idea where to start as a basis? Reading the lore entry in the Players Hand Book for each race might offer great ideas. If your player is someone who likes to min/max character stats and abilities? This is also a good start. Write the ability score bonuses and any proficiency, language, and feats/abilities they might gain.

  • Choose a Class

This will the basis of what role they play in the game, both in and out of combat, and is an important choice. If the new character is below level 3? Go no farther than choosing the base class. Worrying about the 'specialty' , the archetype or school of magic or type of druid they want to be for later will eat up more time than required if they aren't the requisite level for that to yet matter. After you have chosen a class, don't worry about it's list of proficiencies just yet, we can come back to this after the next step.

  • Choose a Background

The background is one of the most important choices and impacts how the character fits into the world, why, and how the player will roleplay or otherwise behave as this character, and shouldn't be rushed. To speed through the background process? Have them roll randomly on each of the Bond, Flaws, Traits type tables and take the first roll. The background choice also grants you bonus proficiency and skills that you'll want to add to the character sheet before you choose from the class choices, to make sure you don't potentially select one your background already gives you for free.

  • Roll for ability scores

This is the stage where you can return to the pages dealing with your class selection, roll your ability scores, and assign them appropriately taking the printed recommendation for primary stats for each class into consideration; adding any bonuses from your racial choice where applicable. Select your proficient skills to add to what your background granted you, and then select your starting package (or roll for gold and buy equipment and items).

Viola. All that's left is to transfer the relevant list of skills, abilities, and/or spells the character knows for it's current level into the character sheet and you're finished. Whether or not you are building this character in session or not, I recommend following the same steps. More time will grant your new player more focus on character building, but if your only option is to make a character during the session in question? This is the swiftest way to do so without leaving anything out and without having to go back to reference pages you were already looking at.

After the player has sat in for a session or 2 of non character building, and start to have the hang of the game, then they can pick out possible feats, their class specialty, and look in to abilities that will become relevant later as they level up without slowing down initial character creation.

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Short answer is: You can't rush character creation. Long answer is: Creating a new character is out of place during a gaming session. It's unfair to the "regular" players and stressful on the GM. A new player should not be introduced to the game without a fully developed character. If the new player is a "walk-in", spur of the moment thing, then let them play a pregen as a friend of one the PCs who got caught up in the current action. After the session/next day/whatever create a full character, kill off, or send the pregen home. A kill off is an excellent motive for the new character to show up. Looking for revenge or answers about what happened to his brother/BFF.

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