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I'm a new DM starting the D&D 5e Starter Set campaign Lost Mine of Phandelver for a group of new players, and I am trying to decide if I should use the pre-generated characters or have them make their own sheets.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using pre-generated character sheets versus allowing players to create their own, for a new DM and players?

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The Lost Mine Of Phandelver pre-gens have quite a bit going for them

I agree with everything NautArch said in his answer - talk to your players. Whatever you decide to do, it's much more likely to go well if you have their buy in.

That said, you have now clarified that you're playing the Lost Mine of Phandelver module.

As a new DM I ran LMOP for a group of new players and we used the pre-gens. Your players might not be the same as mine - but here's why this approach worked well for my group, (including some more generally applicable reasons and some that are LMOP specific):

  • For many new players creating a character can be time consuming and difficult. My players had never played D&D before - creating a character before they understood the system would have been difficult.
  • Even if you guide them through the process of character creation, a lack of system experience means that it's likely they won't fully appreciate the significance of the decisions they're making.
  • As the person who knows the system best, allowing new players to create their own characters can be highly time consuming for the DM, either in person or double checking everything later.
  • But to be honest, the strongest argument for using the LMOP pre-gens is their backstories. These characters come with pre-written backstories, so that you players' characters will already be hooked into the module's plot. Whether they're a relative of an important NPC (the cleric), returning to the home that they left under a cloud (the rogue) these characters are all already firmly rooted in the world that you and your players will be exploring together. If your players want to play different race / class combinations than the starter set offers, then if nothing else, I'd still recommend re-using some of the 'Background' material to help tie your new characters into the story. You can get a pdf of the character sheets here. If you give out the hard copies to your players then you can keeps spares to make sure that as DM you don't miss opportunities to pick up on your players Backgrounds - even if they forget to themselves.

Of course the pre-gens do have some down sides:

  • If you players haven't made the characters themselves they may feel less ownership / emotional investment. This was not an issue in my game - though I know it can be.
  • There are only five options and it's possible that those who don't pick first may not like what they are left with. For example, the starter set pre-gens include two Champion Fighters - a very vanilla archetype. As characters they have a fairly different feel but mechanically are very similar and pretty dull. My players that took these characters had polar opposite experiences playing them. One player loved the simplicity and requested to continue as a Champion Fighter in our subsequent homebrew campaign - the other found the relatively repetitive turns during combat very dull and longed for a few more varied options.

Reassure your players that things can be changed later

One final piece of advice: whether you use the LMOP pre-gens or not, reassure your players that they can change their mind about things later - and prepare to be flexible. In general, but especially if this is your players' first experience of D&D, the most important thing is that they have fun. If you have to sacrifice some narrative consistency to acheive that purpose then that's OK. It's better to let someone tweak, or completely change their character, than force them to carry on playing after they've realised they're not enjoying things as they are. It's better to let a party member drop out mid-campaign than have a reluctant player humouring everyone week on week because they think they have to be there.


How did my home campaign turn out? Everyone enjoyed playing as the pre-gens and learning the system as we went, rather than in advance. When we finished LMOP a majority of my players were excited to make their own characters for the next campaign and felt equipped to do so. A couple of them requested I make the characters on their behalf but still wanted to keep playing - our first homebrew campaign has been going well for a year now and three of my players have since started DM'ing themselves for their other friends.

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Challenging the question: ask your players what they want

I'll let others dive into potential pros and cons of using pregens vs player-built, but I think the potential pros and cons should be outweighed by what your players are interested in doing.

You should talk to your players to see if they are interested in building their own characters or if they'd prefer pre-gens. The pros/cons that we come up with may help guide a decision, but I think for the most part players will generally know if they want to build their own character or have you give them some fully built options.

They may have their own reasons for wanting one over the other that have nothing to do with the mechanical advantages/disadvantages. And those reasons are vastly more important than what we can cover here - because it's the reasons your players actually have.

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