In Dungeons & Dragons by Wizards of the Coast, the biggest decision made by any player is what kind of character to play. Following popular real-play campaigns like Critical Role and The Adventure Zone, as well as series like Stranger Things, the world’s biggest tabletop RPG has gotten bigger than ever. With One DnD coming out in 2024, now’s the best time to settle down with 5th Edition and give the game a try with some brand new DnD character ideas.

When you think about characters in DnD, you likely think of archetypes — things like the stubborn dwarf cleric, the daring halfling rogue, the aloof elf wizard, and the dynamic human fighter. These time-tested ideas can feel a little stale at times, but you also don’t want to drag the party down with a comic relief build that doesn’t offer any utility. You want a character that works well in mechanics and roleplay.

To help you out, we’ve put together a list of five DnD character ideas to use in your next campaign. As an added bonus, you don’t even need a lot of source books on hand — all of these can be made with the Player’s Handbook.

Let’s get started!

1. Half-Elf Vengeance Paladin

Half-Elf-Paladin
(Image: Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook 5th Edition via Wizards of the Coast)

The first character creation idea on this list isn’t so much a new idea as it is a combination of other ones. Scarred viciously by a burn on their face, the Half-Elf Paladin was taken in by an enclave of clerics who supported a god of vengeance. Now the half-elf seeks to right the wrongs of the world and settle a personal vendetta.

Ultimately, the idea of this character is almost Batman-esque, utilizing their social and combat skills in a quest for vengeance that haunts them and causes some friction within the party.

Backstory

The most key component to this character is choosing the origin of their scar (and their quest for revenge). Here are a few potential options to get you started:

  1. A dragon attacked their village, and they’re out to cut down the beast.
  2. They were in a horrible accident caused by a childhood best friend, who never faced consequences.
  3. They tried to save their family from a fire, and the arsonist was never discovered.
  4. They were burned by a slaver’s cruelty, and aim to liberate themselves and/or their friends.
  5. A sibling’s magic was misused, and the sibling was taken away.

Alternatively, the Half-Elf can use one of these as cover story, with the truth being related to a secret hidden evil.

Ability Scores

AbilityScoreModifier
Strength15 (+1)+3
Dexterity12+1
Constitution13 (+1)+2
Wisdom8-1
Intelligence10+0
Charisma14 (+2)+3

We’ll be using standard array for all the builds on this list. If you’re not familiar with the idea, it’s basically an easy way to delegate points into your stat slots based on what you want your character’s strengths and weaknesses to be.

If you want to save time or don’t like the idea of randomly determining ability scores, you can use the following scores instead: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8.

Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook

We’ll start by putting the 15 into Strength. Strength is the most important stat as a Paladin, since the majority of our damage will be dealt with melee weapons. We’re also giving Strength a +1 from our Half-Elf racial bonus. Adding all that up gives us a +3 modifier to all Strength checks.

Our next highest stat is Charisma, where we’ll put the 14. Charisma is a Paladin’s spellcasting ability, so a high modifier is beneficial both in combat and in navigating social dilemmas. We get a +2 from being a Half-Elf, resulting in another +3 modifier. Having two stats this strong early on is very powerful!

Next up is Constitution. For this, we’re using our 13 and our last +1 racial bonus for a very respectable 14 total. Any martial class benefits from being tanky, and this character is certainly no exception.

Unfortunately, this leaves our Dexterity a little lower than we’d like. We’ll put our 12 here, since a +1 modifier is still respectable, and rely on plate mail to shore up the weakness in our Armor Class.

Lastly are the dump stats, and dumping either Intelligence or Wisdom is totally reasonable. I chose to put the 10 in Intelligence, as the character seems to be averagely smart. This is more for roleplaying reasons than anything, as higher Wisdom would help with Perception checks. We’re going with the 8 in Wisdom, though, making our character fittingly unwise for someone dedicated to a path of pure vengeance.

Skills

For background, we’re going to go with the Acolyte to reflect the Paladin’s time with the enclave of clerics. The skill bonus to Religion is nice, as this character is quite god-obsessed. The bonus to Insight, while not ideal, is meaningful.

We also get proficiency in Athletics and Intimidation from Paladin class and Stealth and Investigation from our Half-Elf skill versatility.

2. Tiefling Lore Bard

5 DnD Character Ideas | 2. Tiefling Bard
(Image: Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook 5th Edition via Wizards of the Coast)

A brew I’m quite fond of, the Tiefling bard is a very literal take on the silver-tongued devil trope. Raised in the Tiefling quarter of a major city, this character lived in poverty before finding success as a performer and songwriter. Their rise to prominence is directly tied to their coming into possession of a mysterious harp that looks to be made from the horns of a Tiefling.

As the Tiefling grows out of their humble beginnings, they start to have a thirst for knowledge that leads them to the College of Lore Bard path. Ultimately, they yearn to learn more about the dark magics of their ancestry and of the seven hells themselves.

Backstory

Since it’s a major part of their character, here are some options for the backstory of their instrument:

  1. The horns belonged to their first love, and were formed into a harp out of intense grief.
  2. After being interrogated by a criminal syndicate, the Tiefling’s own horns were severed and recovered after the incident.
  3. The horns belonged to a family ancestor, and their theft has caused an irreparable rift between the character and their family. Something drew the Tiefling to commit this act, though — some dark whisper.
  4. The horns were a purchase at the city’s black market, perhaps hailing from hell itself.
  5. They belonged to an older sibling, lost too soon to a plague that ravaged the Tiefling quarter.

Ability Scores

AbilityScoreModifier
Strength8-1
Dexterity15+2
Constitution12+1
Wisdom10+0
Intelligence13 (+1)+2
Charisma14 (+2)+3

Our 15 is going to be used for Dexterity, since it’s our primary weapon stat and the source of our AC. Bards are notoriously fragile, so improving our survivability is a must.

The 14 goes into Charisma. The +2 we get from being a Tiefling is critical here, raising us to that essential +3 modifier.

Intelligence, strangely enough, is going to be our 13 stat. The logic here is that the +1 that we get from being a Tiefling bumps us to a +2 modifier. Though not immediately apparent, this helps us with skills and the characterization of this bard.

The 12 goes into Constitution. Ever important, having a bit more health can mean a lot in Dungeons & Dragons, so Constitution will almost never be a dump stat.

Wisdom, again, doesn’t get much love as the 10 stat. Thankfully, having no modifier here is better than a negative.

Strength is our dump stat at an 8. Unfortunately, our Bard isn’t going to be breaking down doors any time soon.

Skills

For background, this character is absolutely an Urchin. This gives us skill proficiency in Sleight of Hand and Stealth while also adding more street-wise flavor to our Bard.

Being a Bard also gives us access to three skills of our choice. I went with Performance, Persuasion and Arcana.

3. Halfling Archfey Warlock

5 DnD Character Ideas | 3. Halfling Warlock
(Image: Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook 5th Edition via Wizards of the Coast)

A character concept based on unrequited love, the Halfling Warlock is a character who is romantically devoted to their Archfey patron. After a night of drunken revelry, the Halfling stopped by their village’s wishing well, tossing in a gold piece and yearning for a life of adventure and love. Realizing they still needed the money, they plunged in after it and re-emerged in the Feywilds. They would have absolutely perished without the intervention of an Archfey who promised to return the Halfling home at a price — their life in servitude. To the Halfling, this seemed almost like a marriage proposal; as they gain Warlock levels, they feel closer and closer with their beloved patron.

This character is incredible at social manipulation. Their casting abilities promote more of a supportive style in combat, and the Archfey interactions allow for plenty of role-playing opportunities.

Backstory

To represent the relationship between the two, the Halfling is subject to boons or curses depending on whether or not they adhere to the Archfey’s will. These are more for flavor than actual mechanical purposes (we don’t want to break the game!).

If they follow the Archfey’s will:

  1. The Halfling appears to grow in stature, and suddenly have more command of the room.
  2. Food tastes better; even a meager tavern meal is exquisite.
  3. The Halfling feels especially lucky.
  4. Birdsong is especially sweet in the Halfling’s vicinity; their melodies seem to dance in the air.
  5. The Halfling is feeling inspired, and may use their abilities to write a poem or paint a picture.

If they defy the Archfey:

  1. They forget the names of people they care about.
  2. Small forest creatures seem to have it out for the Halfling.
  3. Other party members seem untrustworthy; only the Archfey knows best.
  4. The Halfling has a constant runny nose.
  5. An odd smell clings to the Halfling, unpleasant to all who sense it.

These can be chosen at the DM’s discretion, of course.

Ability Scores

AbilityScoreModifier
Strength8-1
Dexterity14 (+2)+3
Constitution13+1
Wisdom10+0
Intelligence12+1
Charisma15 (+1)+3

We’ll start by putting our 15 into Charisma, which is the Warlock’s spellcasting ability. We’re going with the Lightfoot subrace, which gives the Halfling an additional +1 bonus. This results in a total score of 16, and a modifier of +3.

Next up is Dexterity with a 14. Halflings get a +2 racial bonus to Dexterity, bringing this to a respectable 16 and another +3 modifier.

We’ll follow this up with Constitution, using our 13 to make the character a little more durable.

The next three stats aren’t as important. Intelligence gets the 12 to improve a few different skill proficiencies, Wisdom gets the 10 for the sake of average Perception, and Strength gets the 8 since Warlocks don’t use this ability much.

Skills

We’ll be going the Charlatan route for our background. This gives us access to Deception, as well as Sleight of Hand.

Our Warlock skills of choice are Nature (to represent the bond with the Archfey) and Intimidation.

4. Dragonborn Tempest Cleric

5 DnD Character Ideas | 4. Dragonborn Cleric
(Image: Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook 5th Edition via Wizards of the Coast)

The next character concept combines the desire for an all-around utility party member that can cast or be on the front line. The Dragonborn Cleric is the embodiment of the storm, blue in color and already familiar with lightning attacks. They were raised in lands of constant tempest, protected by an adult blue dragon before it mysteriously went missing. They quest to restore the balance of their homeland, now threatened by invaders in the absence of their guardian.

The goal for this character is to be a strong and versatile frontliner who transitions into a spell blaster over the course of the campaign. You also get the benefits of the Cleric offering general healing and support. One of the coolest interactions here is gaining the ability to modify your lightning breath weapon with the abilities of the Tempest Domain. This can give it characteristics like a 10 foot knockback or the ability to roll maximum damage using your Channel Divinity.

Backstory

The roleplaying for this character is really just a few ideas on how they react to the weather.

  1. A rainy, stormy day is the best ever; they love an opportunity for a nice stroll.
  2. Not a cloud in the sky — could things get any worse?
  3. Snow is an interesting phenomenon.
  4. Rapidly changing weather affects their mood, leading to lots of highs and lows.
  5. They feel at home with loud noises, including the tremors of battle.

Ability Scores

AbilityScoreModifier
Strength14 (+2)+3
Dexterity10+0
Constitution12+1
Wisdom10+0
Intelligence8-1
Charisma13 (+1)+2

The Dragonborn’s stat distribution is interesting, since their racial bonuses aren’t necessarily suited for the Cleric class. That doesn’t mean we can’t make this character work, though!

Our 15 is going into Wisdom. Getting close to a +3 here is essential, since we’ll definitely be buffing it when we get our first opportunity.

The 14 actually is going to go into Strength. Our primary combat role, at least initially, is going to be more of a frontline fighter. Getting our +2 from our racial passive ensures that these warhammer blows will hit.

The 13 goes towards our Charisma score. The +1 that we get as a Dragonborn gives us a 14, making us unusually socially skilled. Clerics don’t normally need this stat, but it also helps with our skill proficiencies and saving throws.

Now, we really need to put our 12 into Constitution, ensuring that we have a bit more health. The Dragonborn breath weapon is also Constitution based, so this stat really can’t be neglected.

Dexterity is next as our 10 stat, unusually low for most characters. Thankfully, we get heavy armor proficiency and a shield to mitigate this AC disadvantage.

Last is our 8 in Intelligence, a stat we will avoid for a character that’s already a bit of a jack of all trades.

Skills

Our background of choice is Outlander, as it gives us access to Survival and Athletics.

As far as skills go, we’re taking Insight and Persuasion from our Cleric list.

5. Gnome Four Elements Monk

5 DnD Character Ideas | 5. Forest Gnome Monk
(Image: Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook 5th Edition via Wizards of the Coast)

Last on our list of DnD character ideas is the Gnome Monk, a character based on being in tune with the elements in a fashion similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender. This character was essentially raised in the wilderness by a tree after being left there as a baby. After spending their youth communing with nature and living in harmony with the flora and fauna, the Monk yearned to discover more about the world. The tree agreed with the stipulation that the Monk would return if they ever received word through nature. 

The idea behind this character is to play the role of the wide-eyed innocent of the party. The real question is if the dark nature of the world will change them or if they will make it a better place. In the meantime, the player gets to punch and cast spells — the best of both worlds.

Backstory

The tree is the central figure in this character’s life — the mystery of its existence is key to their background. Their parentage can also be a point of character development, as they long to discover the story of their abandonment.

  1. The Tree is a god of aeons past, who is no longer interested in worship or power. The Gnome is a reminder that they can still influence the world for good.
  2. The Tree was an abandoned seed of the World Tree and sees a kindred spirit in the Gnome.
  3. The Tree is a collective of all the Gnome’s ancestors. Their spirits form into one consciousness.
  4. The Tree is actually a Gulthias Tree. This offers a dark twist to the Gnome’s tale that they may not be ready to face.

In order to communicate with the Tree, the Gnome Monk uses two weasel companions named Yin and Yang. The two do not get along. One is very optimistic, while the other thinks the worst case scenario will happen.

Ability Scores

AbilityScoreModifier
Strength10+0
Dexterity15 (+1)+3
Constitution13+1
Wisdom14+2
Intelligence12 (+2)+2
Charisma8-1

As far as stat distribution is concerned, our 15 is going right into Dexterity. This skill does double duty for us, providing us with both more defense and more offense. Dexterity is typically the highest stat for a Monk, and getting the Forest Gnome racial bonus grants us a total +3 modifier.

Next up is Wisdom, getting a 14. Wisdom will become extremely important as a Monk, since it also contributes to offense and defense.

Constitution gets the 13 here, since Monks can occasionally find themselves on the front line.

Intelligence gets the 12, boosted to a respectable 14 with racial bonuses. Monks don’t really use Intelligence, but having this a pocket stat can assist with various skill checks.

Some players may disagree with giving the Monk a 10 in Strength since it hinders their ability to grapple. Since this character is less focused on that playstyle, it seems fitting to make them more lithe than strong.

Finally, Charisma is the dump stat here at a mere 8. Guess there isn’t much socializing to be done when raised by a tree.

Skills

For skills, the Hermit background makes the most sense here, as it gives access to the Religion and Medicine skills that befit a helpful recluse.

We’re also going to choose Acrobatics and Stealth from the Monk list, allowing for nimble evasion suited to a forest dweller.

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Happy (tabletop) gaming!