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I am a brand new player trying to create a character for D&D 5e. I have the PHB and a character sheet and am trying to figure out how to proceed, and I'm getting stuck a lot.

I have the normal character sheet for 5e from the D&D website, but lots of the boxes make no sense to me. The character creation seems to require a lot of back and forth throughout the entire book and it's very confusing. I was able to figure out my class (rogue), and race (high elf). I found out my proficiency bonus, and did my stats, but other than that I really don't know what I'm doing. I have lots of small questions that I can't really type into google, and the index in the book has been a life saver but only goes so far. But I am left with a large number of questions I'm having trouble finding the answers to by looking them up in the index, like:

  • What number and above is a success for a death save?
  • What number and below is a fail?
  • What are the lines next to the skills for?
  • What do I put in personality traits? Is that just for fleshing out your character, or is it important to how you play the game?
  • What do I put in bonds? Is that important or just fleshing out?
  • What do I put in flaws? Important or fleshing out?
  • What do I put in ideals? Important or fleshing out?
  • What do I put in "other proficiencies and languages"
  • What do I put in equipment and character notes?
  • What do I put in features and traits?
  • How do I fill out my attacks and spell casting sheet?
  • And more.

How do I get started to where I understand the rules enough to fill out a character sheet like this? There's a lot to the game, it appears, and I have some familiarity with the lingo from Geek and Sundry's Critical Role, but the learning curve seems really high.

D&D looks like a TON of fun, but I need a character first, ya know? How can I get through all these details so that I can get started?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have edited this question to turn it into a "teach me how to fish" question. Please don't answer all the point specific questions, focus answers on how a new player can get up and playing on 5e when there's an intimidating amount of rules details. As always, answer from experience not opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Aug 13 '15 at 20:10
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Ask for Help

Unlike many video or computer games, tabletop games are expected to be social experiences. Creating a character without the help of a more experienced player (or preferably, your GM) is going to be frustrating. Your first option should be to ask the rest of the table for guidance.

If everyone at the table is new, consider asking online (like you are doing now). There are many excellent guides online that talk through the character creation process in more depth.

Failing either of these, you might go to your local game store for D&D organized play and ask someone there.

Carefully Read the Rules

All of the questions listed above can possibly be known by carefully reading the entire PHB. The entire first section of that book deals in character creation: races and classes are not all the choices you face. In particular, you seem to have missed the Backgrounds section which explains personality traits, bonds, and other things.

Compare Your Work To Others'

Look at other people's completed character sheets. You can search for pre-generated characters online and the 5E starter box comes with several. This would explain what goes in each cell or line on the character sheet.

The PHB also includes "Building Bruenor" as an example of creating a 5E character. Each section will mention the choices are involved with creating Bruenor and how they contribute to the character. Even as an experienced player, I found these boxes helpful my first time in 5E.

Do It Wrong

You will almost definitely make mistakes. Take this character into a game with more experienced players and let them correct you. Don't get discouraged. Treat it as a learning experience.

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Following the outline from the Step-by-Step in the player's handbook, here are the basics

Choose a Race

Your character needs a race. You can be any race in the PHB, Elemental Evil supplement, or Volo's Guide Player Races -- as long as the DM doesn't take them off the table. There are more player options in some cross over material that WotC released for Magic: The Gathering; but those aren't typically considered cannon for most games.

Choose a Class

Again, any class in the PHB that appeals to you should be allowed, unless your DM has a reason to restrict your options.

Determine Ability Scores

There are three methods for getting stats, which method you will use depends on the DM. The methods in the Player's Handbook (p.13) are:

  • Roll stats. You roll 4d6 for each stat, and drop the lowest one, and assign them to the different stats as you see fit based on the character's concept. A lot of people who like this method enjoy the process of rolling, and the different strengths weaknesses that can happen.
  • Standard Array. You assign the numbers 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8 to the stats in order they are important to your character's concept. A lot of the people who like this method like that the party is more balanced.
  • Point Buy. This is a variant, but a common one you'll see at some tables. All of your stats start at 8, to get higher stats you can spend 27 points as follows,

    • 9 costs 1
    • 10 costs 2
    • 11 cpsts 3
    • 12 costs 4
    • 13 costs 5
    • 14 costs 7
    • 15 costs 9

What number and above is a success for a death save? What number and below is a fail?

  1. Rolling bellow a 10 is a failed roll. Rolling 10 or higher is a success on death saving throws. Rolling a 1 counts as two failures for death saving throws, and rolling a 20 stabilizes you and you gain back 1 hit point (you become conscious again).

Death savings throws are covered on page 197 of the Player's Handbook.

What are the lines next to the skills for?

Each skill has a score, that goes on the line. It's the associated stat's modifier, if you have proficiency you add the proficiency bonus to it (or if you have double prof. from some race/class feature).

This is from the Step by Step chapter of the Player Handbook on page 13.

What do I put in personality traits? Is that just for fleshing out your character, or is it important to how you play the game?

That depends on the table. I find that at the beginning they are more important that later game. It is about fleshing out your character, but might also dictate how they should respond in certian curcumstances. Now, the characters should be given room to grow beyond those simple one line statements you rolled for or chose.

This is covered in Chapter 4 Personality and Background, page 121.

What do I put in bonds? Is that important or just fleshing out? What do I put in flaws? Important or fleshing out? What do I put in ideals? Important or fleshing out?

You should fill them out from the charts for the background you selected. They are about fleshing out the character, and they also are hooks the DM might include later in game play. How important they are to the game will vary from table to table.

What do I put in "other proficiencies and languages"

Race, Class and background could all provide different proficiencies and languages. If you are profiecient with a weapon, you get to add your profiency bonus to the attack roll. If you are profiencient with armor you can cast while wearing it, etc. If you profiencent with a tool set (Theives tools, Artisan Tools, etc.) you can add your profiecency bonus while making the attempt at using them...

For High Elf get: longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow. These are listed with the Elf race section.

For Rogue you get: Light armor, Simple weapons, hand crossbows, longswords, rapiers, shortswords, Thieves' tools. These are listed in the Rogue class section.

The skills and saves should be marked in the skill list and stat block respectively, so you don't have to list them again here.

Likewise, you will know a language from your race, and may get more from the class and/or background you choose.

A High Elf will start you with Common, Elvish and one language of your choice. A Rogue also knows Thieves Cant

What do I put in equipment and character notes?

You either get the starting equipment for your class and background, or at the DM's discresion a certain amount of money to "shop" for your starter equipment. Eitherway, you need to write down what your character is taking with them.

Starting equipment for a Rogue is:

(a) a rapier or (b) a shortsword (a) a shortbow and quiver of 20 arrows or (b) a shortsword (a) a burglar's pack, (b) a dungeoneer's pack, or (c) an explorer's pack Leather armor, two daggers, and thieves' tools

From the Rogue session of the Player handbook.

You'll get some more stuff from your background.

What do I put in features and traits?

Race, Class, and Background features. For your High Elf

How do I fill out my attacks and spell casting sheet?

Your Shortsword or Dager or Rapier should be:

[Dex Modifer] + [Proficency Bonus] to hit.
[Die for the weapon] + [Dex Modifer] [weapon damage type] damage.

The Die for the weapon comes out of the weapons section of the Equipment chapter.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This question, and especially the comment by @mxyzplk seem to be asking how to find this information themselves, rather than for the answers to the individual questions listed. Nonetheless, an exhaustive guide to getting started in 5e does seem to fit here. \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Dec 22 '16 at 6:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ High Elves start with English? \$\endgroup\$ – Xavon_Wrentaile Jul 30 '17 at 2:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, wow.... That was supposed to be Elvish.... I think spell check didn't like it, and it has gone this long without being noticed. \$\endgroup\$ – J. A. Streich Jul 30 '17 at 22:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ High Elves insisting on talking only the Queen's English sounds hilarious though :) \$\endgroup\$ – SpacyRicochet Sep 21 '17 at 13:17

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