I'm surprised that there haven't been any questions regarding this, leading me to believe my situation is unique.

I have 3 players who are extremely interested in trying D&D 5e out. They love the idea and want to play as soon as possible. However they also want to make their own characters and would rather not choose pre - gen ones.

The character creation process takes a ton of time and not even half way through they lose interest and don't listen to me when I ask them what they want their character to be like.

Is there any way to speed up character creation and get started with the game as soon as possible, without having to use pre - generated characters?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please provide more detail. What is taking up time? I could put together a 1st level char for someone in about 15 minutes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 13:46
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you doing the character creation at the table with all players at once? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am indeed doing CC for all 3 players at once. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ChrisWilliams Please include that in your question, as IME that contributes to your challenge. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 14:04
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Related: quick 5e characters in-session \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 14:39

4 Answers 4


Create characters separately

Since they have a hard time focusing for long, create characters with them so you can help them and give them more attention. With you there, you can make sure they don't all come with the same character.

Create their character for them

You say they did not want to play with pregens, but what if they tell you what they want and you create that character for them? "I want an elf rogue", "I want a human paladin"... You can ask them a few questions about what TYPE of person they see and built it from there. So that way, they show up at the table AND have a character that has all the math pre-hashed with what they want.

This is a hybrid approach that might get them to the playing quicker.

Plan for short game sessions

If they are unable to stay focused, plan for short game sessions. That one is for YOU and your sanity. Don't spend hours planning five different dungeons and a whole wilderness trip and the whole court of the king.

Get them hooked and see how it goes.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I usually ask some questions and later I create the characters if takes too long. Is easy for them, are better balanced and they do not need to understand the entire rulebook. \$\endgroup\$
    – King Midas
    Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 14:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JorgeHortelano great idea. The only concern I have with that is that you must then relinquish the character so they don't grow lazy on you and don't learn the rules... :) Nonetheless great advice to start. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Trust me, I play Rolemaster, and this is a good solution in almost 80% of the cases. Only few people that has played for years (>10 years of experience in Rolemaster) want to create its own character. If not, it can takes several hours \$\endgroup\$
    – King Midas
    Commented Jan 26, 2018 at 9:12

Prepare a list of easy-to-answer questions for them

There are far too many options at first and they will spend a ton of time on lower levels, but most people read everything and run into the problem of having too much to choose from without any idea of what this really means for the game later on.

You can make this easy by preparing some questions that give you some general ideas and then you quickly generate some characters. For example I asked my players before ever talking about a single rule or stat:

Are you more of a mage, relying solely on magic or someone who prefers brute force? Or maybe something in between?

This gives you an idea of whether to choose something like Wizard/Sorcerer or Fighter/Rogue or maybe Ranger/Paladin, depending on what they tell you. They don't need to know these names, or look up the abilities - they just focus on what kind of character they want to play.

The same goes with the race.

Are you more of a bulky dwarf or a fast elf? Or would you prefer the relatively short-lived humans?

Then you ask them indirectly about stats:

Are you fast, relying on your speed to get away from danger? Or do you prefer to rush into the enemy and think about the consequences later?

Now you know wether you should use Strength (and maybe Constitution) as the main physical stat or Dexterity. The same thing for mental stats:

Are you good at remembering stuff or do you excel at getting people on your side? Or maybe you are watching your back, trying to find every trap before it springs?

Now you know about Int/Cha/Wis.

After that you just quickly go through and at everything to the charactersheet, crunching the numbers to get the modifiers. While you are doing that your players can think about their backgrounds by reading some of them and putting in Bonds/Flaws/... That's mostly role-playing stuff and you can adjust the proficiencies later. Tell them to just go over the names of the background and maybe the first paragraph and show you which they prefer.

Now they are set up with a character that they want to play. It may not be the best optimitzed character, but they will soon understand that they can't have perfectly optimized characters at first - they need to understand how the game works and what stuff is important (in your campaign) before making such decisions.

This worked perfectly fine for my group and after a few sessions some of them grabbed the books and started to read through the chapters that describe their race/class/spells/... to get a better understanding. I often tell them that we can just create another character if they want to, but they love them because it's the kind of character they always wanted to play. Trying to understand all the rules would only slow them down in this creative process. That's what works for my group.

Also remember that you can explain everything in rough terms without getting into too-detailed-rules (and leaving some caveats out at first):

Strength influences how hard you hit with a melee weapon like a sword, while Dexterity is generally used for ranged weapons like a bow.

If then someone mentions they would prefer a rapier you can adjust that

Rapiers are a bit special, they can also use Dexterity

With this style of asking general questions you can easily get the character-creation phase to be an interesting part of the role-playing aspect of the game without taking too much time.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Has anyone made a quest out of filling out a character sheet? "You are in a dark underground room. Light filters in through an opening in the ceiling. A nasty looking rat is snarling at you. Do you want to hit it with a stick, sneak behind it, yell 'fire' and see what happens, or hang back and see if your friends will need your help?" Somebody has to pick a lock to get out, whoever volunteers learns a feat. Find an armory in the next room (choices define character) and escape. NPCs at the first tavern ask probing questions about backstory/race. Is there anything like this? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jammin4CO
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jammin4CO Not that I know of, but that sounds like an interesting take on this idea and a good start from your side. Thanks. I did this mostly out-of-character. \$\endgroup\$
    – Secespitus
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 16:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jammin4CO I haven't done this in anything D&D like, but this is pretty much how The Elder Scrolls handled it in Morrowind and Oblivion. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 16:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jammin4CO Treasure Hunt was a published module for 0 level characters along the lines you suggest. \$\endgroup\$
    – richardb
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @richardb I was thinking of Treasure Hunt too. I think it would be great if somebody would update that module for 5e. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 14:50

You specify "without having to use pre-generated characters," but honestly, this is the easiest way to get new players started with playing the game, as opposed to building characters. If you're concerned about lack of choice, have a bunch of pre-gens available -- at least one or two of each basic class, and maybe one each of most of the less basic classes. You might even want to make your pre-gens higher than first level, to give a taste of what the game will be like beyond the "woops, I hit you, you're down and may die" phase.

As a compromise, you might provide "partial pre-gen" character sheets -- stats, class, and basic equipment (with damage and armor class precalculated) already present, but allow the players to create the background or choose feats. These to a lot more to personalize a character than just deciding where to put what number for the basic ability scores.

Don't forget, the idea here is to get the players started with the interesting part (playing the game) first, so they have more understanding what they need and more interest in the process and outcome when they come to actual character creation. In this line, it would make sense to start with pre-gen or partial pre-gen characters, play a bit, then create new characters to start the actual campaign.

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    \$\begingroup\$ An in-between solution, that I think fits better what OP is waiting for, could be to indeed have pre-gen characters but let players edit them at will until game begins. They then have a preview of a fully made character (pre-gen ones) and have something that pleases them most (edits made before game by them). Hope I'm clear. \$\endgroup\$
    – Keker
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 15:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was thinking that the players should be able to specify their backgrounds, perhaps choose a feat or two -- I'll edit in the extra detail. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 15:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Keker's post is great, but you don't have to wait until the end of the session. When we started our most recent game no one knew what they wanted to be, but we knew we wanted to play, not to spend all our time rolling characters so we went with pre-made ones, then after about three sessions we took a look at the rules and re-rolled custom characters at the appropriate level, transferred our gear and we're all very happy with the results. \$\endgroup\$
    – user969366
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even more than that. Stats could be edited too, but it sure could become more complicated if OP does that. @user969366 comment is a great way to keep players into it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Keker
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user969366 This is the sensible outcome of starting with level-advanced pre-gens. Play a few sessions, maybe run through a published adventure, then roll up fresh character and start the actual campaign. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 15:28

Something I'm a fan of is actually proceeding with the game, and this draws natural interest in creating a character, knowing what things are going to be like. Feel free to throw an encounter, if they're like "Oh I forgot to do this" it helps them understand the gaps in what they don't know they need to have.


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