Writing Fantasy: Creating Characters With D&D (Vol. 1)
Using DnD to craft the ultimate Fantasy book
Writing fantasy can be extremely challenging, especially when authors want to create multilayered characters. D&D is a fantastic tool for creating badass and realistic characters. Creating a character can be fun, but also a nightmare if we don’t remember to give to it a compelling backstory. However, D&D has prepared almost everything for us. So, why not dragging some inspiration from it?
D&D characters come in different shapes, sizes, colors, heights, and races. They belong to different races, with different cultures, and speak many languages. They have different personalities, abilities, and political alignments. D&D also provides cues for building up the character’s story. Despite the guide, it’s you who decide how different and unique your character is.
You don’t need to use D&D like a bible to create characters that you will later use in your fantasy stories. You can drag inspiration from it and also mix and match, and create your own! The idea here is to use the guides not only to play but also to write a fantasy book. (Yup, you could be the next Tolkien!)
In D&D you have the following races:
Dwarves. They’re short, bold, broad, compact, and irascible. They’re courageous, but also greedy. They work with metals and tend to have long hair. Think about the Dwarves in LOTR and the Hobbit, and you’ll notice their appearance. However, you could also choose Norse Mythology and make Dwarves tall instead of short.
Elves. They’re slender and graceful. They are gorgeous, elegant, thoughtful, aloof at times, and love bright colors. Elves can be ancient, and thus have a lot of experience.
Halflings. If you think about Hobbits, you’re hitting the target. They’re small, practical, avoid being noticed, and avoid offense. They wear practical clothes, and rarely have a beard. They work ready with others and can be surprising. Don’t mess with their families, because it’s then when their rage appears.
Humans. We already know humanity, and all our horrible and magnificent traits. Here you can mess around with magic. So why not making humans a little bit more interesting?
Gnomes. They’re skinny, always busy, restless, loud, and joyous. They’re a witty race, so beware! Despite their livelihood, they tend to dress in simple clothing.
Orcs. They’re hideous and look like the ones in LOTR. They’re treacherous but cunning, and their fashion is weird at best.
Tieflings. They’re derived from human bloodlines, but they have an infernal heritage. They might look human, but there’s something there that humans do not have: horns. They’re suspicious, self-reliant, and mostly lonely creatures. They don’t have a home, that’s why people don’t trust them much. But once you make friends with them, you have a loyal friend forever.
Half-somethings. They’re mixes of races. For example, you can have half-elves, half-orcs, etc. These are fun to play with because you can play with their characteristics more than with a full race.
Races also have sub-races. For example, Elves have High-Elves. In the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, we can see the different types of faeries. High Fairies have a noble and higher status within their peers and tend to rule others. Think carefully about the race of your character, and then what type of status he/she has in that race. This is important because it might affect her behavior and personality.
The different Classes in D&D
The next step is thinking about classes. In D&D a class is what your character can do. Think about it as the profession of your character. This will also shape their personality, how they see the world, and how they interact with people. We have these classes:
Barbarians. They’re usually humanoid in some degree (human, or half-human). They tend to be rude, use furs for clothing, and be ruthless. Their main characteristic is that they’re always angry, like Jessica Jones. For barbarians, civilization is a joke, and feel trapped if they’re to live between walls or in a city. They like a life of danger, and they’re up for all types of adventures. They usually have difficult upbringings, or they end up being barbarians because something awful happened to them.
Bards. They can be scholars, skals, scoundrels, musicians, and manipulators. They love music, magic, creating illusions, and even healing. Beware though, because they can be a little bit like Loki: tricksters. They have the power of the word. Words are, but music, vibrations, and whatever magic they use can be devastating. They tend to go from one place to another. They love traveling and discovering new things. They’re storytellers and delight in quests. They can travel with a companion, an apprentice, or they can be the apprentice of another bard.
Clerics. They’re the intermediaries of this world and that of the Gods. They embody the morals of the Gods they serve, plus they have divine magic. To use that magic, they must follow rites and say special prayers. Don’t confuse them with priests! Clerics serve their Gods by strength of arms. Priests do it by only prayers. If a cleric goes on an adventure is because God whilts it.
Druids. They revere nature and drag their powers from it. They pursue mystic spirituality and want to join nature, and pray to natural forces. They are shape-shifters as well since they can take the shape of animals. They’re concerned with ecology and how damaged is the environment. If you’re thinking about creating a vegan character, being a Druid would be a great fit.
Fighters. They go around with weapons and armor. If you think about gladiators and fighters for hire, then you’re hitting the point. They tend to be members of the city watch, or a militia, or an army. They’re highly trained, and mostly for dangerous situations.
Monks. They’re silent and might have lots of tattoos. They use Ki as magic and seek contemplation. They tend to live apart from other people. They can be solitary monks, or live in monasteries. They tend to go to the village to exchange their services for something. Plus, they might know martial arts as well.
Paladins. They’re warriors sworn to an oath. They stand defending good against all evil. They train for years in the arts of combat and master several different weapons. They seek adventure and listen to the call of a quest. They take their call and their work very seriously.
Rangers. They’re warriors of the wilderness. They specialize in hunting monsters, beasts, giants, and dragons. They’re excellent trackers and are able to harness nature’s powers as a druid does. They’re independent adventurers. They also hear the true calling. But unlike Paladins, they defend humanity from monsters.
Rogues. They want to master different skills and combat abilities. Many focus on deception, others prioritize cunning. But what they all have in common is the tremendous sense of avoiding deadly situations. They’re scoundrels, tricksters, and operate independently. Plus, they work on both sides of the law.
Sorcerers. They use raw magic and unknown forces. Usually, they wield magic that comes with their blood, probably infused with dragon blood as well. Many sorcerers have uncontrolled magic within, and thus tend to be chaotic. They’re unpredictable and don’t use spellbooks. They can have very obscure motivations, so beware.
Warlocks. They made a pact with otherworldly beings, not necessarily a God. Thus, they have a patron, and it can be evil. Usually, they tend to be apprentices of those beings, so they ask services from them in exchange for power. They can manage light armor and use simple weapons. They want knowledge and power, and that can be negative because if they crave for that, they might turn evil.
Wizards. They’re pretty much like Gandalf. They’re wild, enigmatic, and sages. They tend to guide and teach others, very much like Gandalf did in Middle Earth.
Race and class helps us to define our character in general terms. But there’re other characteristics that we need to decide so that we’re transforming something general into something unique.
Names. The name of your character might have a special meaning. For example, in ACOTAR, the main female lead character is called Feyre. In English, it means “beautiful.” Since ACOTAR is based on Beauty and the Beast, and Feyre is based on Belle, the name suits her perfectly. According to the author, the name also sounds like “fair.” A trait that suits the character as well. So, choosing a suitable name is key to give to your character more power.
Gender. Before you just think about binaries, consider what rules the fantasy world that you’re creating. Does it make sense to have androgynous characters? Is there more than just two sexes? How the sex can fit, trouble, and modify your character’s personality?
Sexual orientation. Once you’ve chosen the gender of your character, then you have to choose the sexual orientation. This is no simple trait since the personality and traits of your character will vary a lot. Think carefully and choose wisely for your characters background, experience, and story to unfold.
Body shape. Think about the height, weight, and all physical characteristics of the body of your character. Go as far as to describe the freckles on their nose. Do they have tattoos? What type of jewelry they use? What color is their hair? Do they have any body modifications? What shoe size do they use?
Age. With age comes experience, but not always. If your character had a boring upbringing, they might lack life experience. Think about age, and then think about other things that can let you shape their personalities and stories.
Family and friends. What type of family do they have? Is it traditional? Open-minded? Do they have siblings? Friends? Have they been bullied? You can take yourself as a reference and make a list of things about your family and friends. Then decide what you want your character to have or lack for the purposes of their personality and story.
Let’s go further with alignments
Alignment. In D&D alignment refers to the morality and personal attitude of the character. They can be good, evil, lawful, chaotic, or neutral.
Lawful good characters do whatever society asks them to do. Think about heroes here.
Neutral good characters do the best they can according to their needs.
Chaotic good characters act as their conscience directs, so you don’t know what to expect.
Lawful neutral characters are individuals that act according to the law, traditional, and society codes.
Neutral characters don’t like to pick sides and do what’s best at the time.
Chaotic neutral characters act according to their whims, treasuring their freedom above else.
Lawful evil characters do what they want within evil tradition, loyalty, and order.
Neutral evil characters do whatever they want without any compassion or qualm.
Chaotic evil characters act with arbitrary violence, spurred by their greed, bloodlust and hatred.
Further? Other traits
Languages. How many languages can your character speak? Think about their education and the world they live in so that you can give to your character one or more. In D&D you have the common human language, Dwarvish, Elvish, the language of the giants, Gnomish, the language of Goblins, etc. Once you have decided about the languages, think about the scripts they use if necessary.
Personal and personality traits. Here think about the habits, hobbies, believes, flaws, mannerisms, tics, allergies, etc. of your character. Do they collect anything? Are they picky, self-centered, greedy, aloof?
Ideals, morality, bonds, and flaws. And now think about everything else. What drives your character? What principles do they have? Are they likely to sacrifice? Do they have any bonds or promised anything to anyone? Whom do they care most about? Do they have any vices? Do they drink a lot? Are they lazy? What are their fears?
Once we’ve got all this information about our character, we need to think a little bit further and make them real.
The Dungeons & Dragons Starter Box — Affiliate links [The Book Depository] [Waterstones] can help you crafting a brand new fantasy world. It has guides, dice, and character sheets that you can use to craft your characters. If you want to go a step further, you can try the Dungeon Master’s Guide [The Book Depository] [Waterstones] and the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook [The Book Depository] [Waterstones].