Creating a D&D Character | Character Prologue

This post will be the first in a series about my current character creation process. I say the current process, because my thoughts about character creation have changed significantly over the years. 

D&D has evolved, and I’ve tried to evolve with it – while still sticking to the things I love most about the hobby. This post serves as the starting point and foundation for others to come. Since I love examples, I’ll use a single character to explain the process as we progress through the series. 

I think I’ll name this new character Ezra Wright, although I may change it if I think of one I like better…

Character Prologue/Heroic Chronicle

I have to say from the start that there is nothing wrong with going with the character creation process layed out in the basic rules or Player’s Handbook. In fact, all of those components are pretty essential. My method adjusts the order, adds a few things, and hopefully provides a solid foundation for good roleplaying. 

The Character Prologue describes the character’s life before they started adventuring. It’s not just the background mechanic – although that’s included – but rather asks probing questions about who the character really is and where they came from.

Just like in real life, there is no shame in leveraging other people’s great ideas. But, like in real life, credit should be given where it’s due. My Character Prologue process is adapted from the Heroic Chronicle section in the Explorer’s Guide to Wildmount sourcebook by the one and only Matt Mercer and Wizards of the Coast. 

The book is a great resource overall – even if you’re not familiar with Critical Role or Exandria – but I think the Heroic Chronicle section in particular is probably one of the most underrated parts for both DMs and playersIf you’re familiar with the Explorer’s Guide to Wildmount, many of the options in this series will be familiar. 

My method is also based on the point of view that the character did not choose some of their most important key aspects, and some things (where they were born, their family, etc.) were completely out of their control. 

Again, the character didn’t choose this stuff. But you’re the player – you’re choosing (or rolling for) all of it. 

The Prologue phase of the character creation process will end right before selecting the character’s class. In a way, you can think of that as when the character chooses their profession, but we’ll dive into that more in another video.

Ok, let’s start answering some Character Prologue questions about Ezra.

What is their homeland?

At its basic level, this question is the same as when someone asks you in the real world, “where are you from?” And even that is tricky to answer sometimes. If you’re traveling in a different country, the answer may be different than if you are traveling within your own town. 

In either case, your answer says something about who you are. It doesn’t define everything about you, but it does provide some basic information. This is the same for your character. Depending on the campaign setting, your answer will vary pretty widely. Are you from a far off location, or are you local to the area? Are you from a nation currently at war with where the campaign is set?

By starting with this question, you are likely to narrow things down quite a bit moving forward. 

For Ezra Wright, I’m going with the random tables I created for my homebrew campaign. After rolling on the appropriate table, I discovered Mr. Wright is from the Kingdom of Getica.

What is their background?

The basic rules and Players Handbook refer to backgrounds as the beginning of the story, but to me it’s just a part of it. Backgrounds aren’t just a description of what a character was doing in their life before adventuring, they also have a big impact mechanically. They include things like proficiencies, additional languages, and equipment. They also include a special feature unique to that background’s place in society. Suggested characteristics are provided to help you get a jumpstart on roleplaying the character by helping you determine the personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws of your character.

You should read through the backgrounds and choose the one that works best for you. For Ezra, I’ll keep it random and roll to find out which background he has. After rolling on the associated table for my campaign, I discovered he was a Guild Coalition Agent. That’s a homebrew background that I created for Ventas, so it should be interesting…

What is their social status?

Unfortunately, social status is a factor of life. Not something I’m happy about in the real world, but it can make things pretty interesting for a D&D character. To get the most from the mechanic, and because it speaks to this issue in a lot of ways, social status is derived from backgrounds.

For example, selecting the Noble background will say something about the character’s position, familial wealth, and possible connections. The Hermit background on the other hand, provides a social status at the other end of the spectrum.

We’ll use my version of the Social Status Relationships table. Each background is associated with social connections the character has, and what the nature of those connections may be. I’ve adapted this to unique factions of my campaign world. 

For now, it’s just important for me to note what they are, we’ll find out more about the allies and rivals later.  

In this campaign, a Guild Coalition Agent background provides Ezra:

  • 1 ally in the Guild Coalition
  • 1 rival in the Athenaeum
  • 1 rival on the Dahlish Tribal Council

Things are starting to get interesting for our Mr. Wright.

What is their home settlement?

We already know Ezra is from the Kingdom of Getica. But that’s a big place. So where exactly is he from?

I consult the appropriate table, roll, and find out that Ezra is from Janson’s Crest. This is a town instead of one of the larger cities on the continent. This sparks more detail about Ezra already. How did growing up in a small town affect him? Did he love that type of life, or long to see other places? Maybe he dreamed of moving to the big city. 

I may even go back and change some of my personality traits I noted in the background section if I come up with some good ideas.

Since it’s my campaign world, I happen to have information already written about Janson’s Crest, so I can reference that information. However, if this information wasn’t available yet, the DM and player could work together to come up with an appropriate small town for the campaign world. This makes it very meaningful to the player, and helps the DM build out his world.

What is their race/species?

When it comes to character race, players familiar with the game may come in with a pretty solid idea of what they would like to choose. Others that are new may not have a clue about the different options. With the player and DM working together neither of these should be a problem.

Ventas is a pretty cosmopolitan campaign world. Most of the playable races are found throughout the regions. However, there are some places where it’s more likely to find certain races due to the history and current cultures.

I have a table that let’s players roll for this if they’d like, but in general, I usually let them pick whatever they want. For Ezra, I think I’ll go with a Tiefling.

What is their family size?

Now it’s time to figure out the size of Ezra’s family. Family size is tied to the type of home settlement. Since he’s from Janson’s Crest, which is a town, I’ll use the associated chart to roll for his family size.

I discovered that the Wright family has 2 parents, and 1d4 siblings. After rolling again, I find that Ezra has 1 sibling, and I can decide who that is later.

What other familiar relationships do they have?

All families have some standout relationships – in one way or another – and some families have more than a few. 

To determine some of Ezra’s powerful relationships within the family, I’ll roll on my Family Relationship table. It turns out Ezra has only one powerful relationship and he uncovered a secret about one of his family members. They grew jealous and abandoned him so they could return and go after him one day.

I can work with my DM to figure out who this family member is and what I found out about them. Either way, this family member now serves as an additional rival for Ezra.

Speaking of rivals…

Who are their existing allies or rivals?

A character backstory wouldn’t be complete without some allies and rivals. Other than the family member who plans to come back and get revenge on him, Ezra has the one ally and two rivals based on his Guild Coalition background.

Rolling appropriately, I discover more about his allies and rivals:

  • Ezra gained an old drinking buddy! He’s able to stay with that person (whoever it is) whenever he’s in need. 
  • For the first rival, it turns out that there is an acolyte of some kind that believes Ezra killed their sibling, and they are now out for blood. 
  • The second rival is a noble that Ezra broke a promise to, and they’re conspiring to get someone else break their promise with him. 

That last option also gave Ezra one fateful moment…

What fateful moments or turning points do they have?

Sometimes the stars align and fateful moments occur. These are large story points that made a significant impact on the character. Not every character needs a fateful moment or turning point in their prologue, and it’s fine to skip this all together (like any other of these options).

However, since the last rival prompted a fateful moment, I can consult the tables to find out what that might be. 

It turns out that while reading through a mysterious tome once owned by his parents, Ezra found a treasure map that points toward a place in Osten Reach – a largely unknown and under-explored area on the continent.

The specific location is the DM’s choice, and it could be a great hook to bring the character together with other members of the party. Good stuff.

What are a few of your favorite things?

We can go as detailed as we’d like when it comes to fleshing out Ezra’s favorites. Or we can keep it simple. Noting some specific favorites can be a great way to put you in a roleplaying mindset, so have fun with this. 

Like the Heroic Chronicle in the Explorer’s Guide to Wildmount, I have a list of favorite foods by region for my campaign world, so it’s usually a starting point to spark the imagination for other things.

By the way, I rolled a 4 on the Favorite Foods table, so Ezra really likes fried potato slices with diced bacon. But then again, who doesn’t?


Ok, that’s the Character Prologue.Hopefully you enjoyed going through this process and found a couple of things worth implementing for your next character. Next time, we’ll jump into selecting a class and subclass for Ezra.