How to Play Dungeons & Dragons Solo - Part 2 - Character Creation, a Solo DnD Tutorial
Hello and welcome to my blog "Solo Dungeon Crawler" and the second article in a series of articles which explores “How to Play Dungeons & Dragons Solo”.
In the previous article I chose a suitable version of Dungeons & Dragons to use for a solo game system. I also discussed the "Solo Dungeon Adventures" article which was written by Gary Gygax in 1975. I decided to use this to form a basis for generating random dungeons for a solo game of Dungeons & Dragons.
In this article I will focus on the process of creating a player character for the BECMI/Frank Mentzer Basic D&D game, following the character creation rules given in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set Player's Manual (published in 1983).
First I'm going to cover the stationary you might need to play a solo DnD game, and we all love stationary I'm sure! Especially if you are a fan of old school table top roleplaying games!
Here is a list of stationary you might need:
- Pens (to write things down of course)
- Pencils (probably more important than dice in an old school game)
- Pencil sharpener
- Fine Liners (for tracing over lines in a dungeon, to give them some extra clarity, make them stand out and give them some permanence!)
- Notebook (very useful for drawing up tables to generate random things for a solo DnD game)
- Sketchpad (this could come in handy in many ways, you'll see)
- Graph paper (very important)
- Ruler (for keeping those lines straight)
- Scrap paper
Stationary gives you the chance to really get creative so this list is definitely not exhaustive. As well as stationary, you will also need the relevant dice, which includes:
- A four sided die (d4)
- A six sided die (d6)
- An eight sided die (d8)
- A ten sided die (d10)
- A twelve sided die (d12)
- A twenty sided die (d20)
- A second ten sided die (d100)
In order to create a character I will be using the rules given for character creation in the D&D Basic Set Player's Manual. The full text is available for purchase through the Dungeon Master's Guild at https://www.dmsguild.com/m/product/116578
If you want to read through the full rulebook on character creation and really get to understand how the process works, then I would encourage the purchase of this PDF. If you're already well acquainted with Basic D&D then rolling up a new character might be second nature to you.
Before I create a character, the first thing I will need is a Character Sheet, so I can record all the characters statistics. There is one included in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set Player's Manual. Alternatively, you can make a character sheet yourself using some lined paper or a sketch pad and a fine liner. An example of a Character Sheet I made this way is given in the video (I based it on the one in the Player's Manual but I have adapted it for use in a solo DnD game). This sheet could be photocopied so that I can make plenty of characters as I continue with my solo DnD campaign.
For convenience I have also put together an electronic Character Sheet which can be downloaded and printed. This way I can easily produce as many copies as I want. Here is a link to the Character Sheet I made: Solo Dungeon Crawler Character Sheet. Feel free to use this one, make your own or use the one provided in the Player's Manual. You might even want to use one from another source.
The one I made using the sketch pad and the one I made electronically have both been adapted slightly for solo DnD play. I've removed the 'Dungeon Master's Name' field as obviously the Dungeon Master and the player will be the same person. I have also moved things around and played with spacing. The Character Sheet in the Player's Manual is a two-page Character Sheet, but I have managed to get everything onto a single page.
Creating a player character for a solo Dungeons & Dragons campaign is much the same as creating a character for a group game but with a few tweaks.
For example, in the Player's Manual ability scores are rolled using 3d6 (rolling a six-sided die three times) and then adding the scores together. The result is then assigned to a specific Ability Score, such as Strength. This process is repeated until all 6 ability scores have been generated. This is the usual way of rolling ability scores as given in the Player's Manual. This method will generate a score of between 3 and 18 for each of the six abilities. Remember however, that in old school D&D, you don't get to decide which ability score you assign your generated numbers to. The results are assigned to the ability scores in the order they appear on the Character Sheet.
I am going to tell you about two alternative ways of doing this which will be more appropriate for playing solo DnD.
The first method is to roll 4d6 instead of 3d6 but take the lowest roll away from the result and then add the other rolls together. This increases your chance of generating a higher Ability Score and therefore resulting in a more robust and skilful character.
The second method is to write your generated scores down on a piece of scrap paper and then assign them to the ability scores as you desire. This way you can decide which class you would like to be as each class has a Prime Requisite. For example, if you want to create a fighter and you roll an 18 you may choose to assign that to Strength as this is the Prime Requisite for a fighter. For a magic-user it's Intelligence, for a thief it's Dexterity and so on.
The method I am going to choose for my own solo D&D campaign is the first method, whereby I roll 4d6 and drop the lowest. My rolls will be carried out in order as the Player's Manual instructs. Depending on how they are distributed, I will then choose a suitable class. Whichever works best for my scores. I much prefer not manually assigning scores to the 6 abilities, as this ensures that demi-human races are rare, as they should be.
The Player's Manual instructs the player to discard a character and re-roll the ability scores if the highest score is below a 9 or two of the scores or more are below a 6.
I roll my scores and note down the results of each roll on some scrap paper, add them together and then copy the result onto my Character Sheet in order. This helps ensure my character has a fighting chance of survival. This is particularly important for adventuring in the world of a solo D&D campaign. Especially if you opt for the "Lone Wolf" approach (we will cover the different approaches later).
For Strength I rolled 2, 4, 6 and 3. As 2 was the lowest this was removed, leaving 4, 6 and 3.
4 + 6 + 3 = 13.
A Strength Score of 13 isn't too bad. I note this down on my Character Sheet.
I repeat this for each of the scores on my Character Sheet:
- Strength = 13
- Intelligence = 16
- Dexterity = 12
- Wisdom = 9
- Constitution = 13
- Charisma = 12
The scores aren't too bad!
So the next step is to choose a suitable class. Each class (as previously discussed) has a Prime Requisite.
A fighter favours Strength.
A magic-user favours Intelligence.
A cleric favours Wisdom.
A thief favours Dexterity.
I could also opt for an elf or a halfling. Elves and halfling's are not human classes, they are demi-human. According to the Player's Manual non-human (or demi-human) characters are handled differently:
If you wish to play a non-human character, you must have high ability scores in certain areas. (Mentzer, 1983)
Elves have ability scores similar to both fighters and magic-users, so they must have good scores in both Strength and Intelligence. Both of these Ability Scores are Prime Requisites for elves. Also, if your character has an 8 or less for Intelligence, the character cannot be an elf. (Mentzer, 1983)
Halflings have some fighting abilities and must have good Strength and Dexterity. Both of these are Prime Requisites for halflings. In addition, halflings are also very healthy. If your character has an 8 or less in Dexterity or Constitution, the character cannot be a halfling. (Mentzer, 1983)
Dwarves are always healthy too. If your character has an 8 or less in Constitution, the character cannot be a dwarf. Dwarves specialise in combat, similar to fighters, so their Prime Requisite is Strength. (Mentzer, 1983)
The following table shows the minimum scores for each demi-human class and their Prime Requisites.
Figure 1, Demi-Humans (Mentzer 1983, pg. 29)
The character I have generated has an Intelligence Score of 16 and a Strength Score of 13 so I am going to opt for the elf as my chosen Character Class. I am above the required Intelligence score of 9 and have a strong Strength score (one of the Prime Requisites for an elf).
Exchange Ability Scores
The next thing I am going to do is what is known as "exchanging Ability Scores". This is given in the Player's Manual as an optional rule. Generally the way this works is, you can raise an Ability Score by lowering another. To raise a score by 1 you need to lower another by 2. However, some specific rules apply:
You cannot lower Dexterity, you can only raise it.
You cannot exchange Constitution or Charisma with any other score.
Because my characters Prime Requisite's are Strength and Intelligence, I'm going to exchange 2 points of Wisdom for a further point in Strength. Now I have a Wisdom Score of 10 and a Strength Score of 14.
Next I'm going to roll to see how many Hit Points my character will start the game with. The Player's Manual has a table which shows what the Hit Dice are for each Character Class:
- Fighter = 1d8
- Dwarf = 1d8
- Cleric = 1d6
- Elf = 1d6
- Halfling = 1d6
- Magic-user = 1d4
- Thief = 1d4
For purposes of playing solo adventures I want to give my character a fighting chance so I am going to use an alternative method for deciding how many Hit Points my character will begin the game with.
I could use a similar method to the one I used when I rolled my Ability Scores. For example as an elf instead of rolling 1d6 for my Hit Points, I could roll 2d6 and drop the lowest.
Another method I could use would be to simply take the maximum number on the Hit Die. So instead of rolling 1d6 I can just take the number 6. This is the method I want to use for my solo DnD game, so my elf will start with 6 Hit Points.
Ability Score Adjustments
Now I have determined my Hit Point Total I can check my Constitution Score to see if I have a bonus or a penalty to the number of Hit Points my elf has.
For example, if I'd rolled a Constitution Score as low as a 3 then I would get a -3 penalty to my Hit Point Total. With a score of 4 or 5 it would be a -2 penalty.
The Bonuses & Penalties for Ability Scores is given in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set Player's Manual.
- A score of 3 is a -3 penalty
- 4 to 5 is a -2 penalty
- 6 to 8 is a -1 penalty
- 9 to 12 means no adjustment
- 13 to 15 is a +1 bonus
- 16 to 17 is a +2 bonus
- And a score of 18 is a +3 bonus
The Bonuses & Penalties can be applied to each Ability Score on the Character Sheet.
My elf gets a +1 bonus to Strength. This can be applied when the character rolls to hit on a d20.
With a score of 10, Wisdom has no adjustment.
Intelligence has a +2 adjustment so I get two additional languages.
In regards to Charisma, a Charisma Adjustment Table is given in the Player's Manual, but a Charisma Score of 12 gives my character no adjustment. This means that in terms of hiring retainers to help me on my solo DnD adventures, my maximum number of retainers would be 4. These retainers would have a Morale Score of 7. I will discuss this concept more as I progress with my solo DnD campaign rule set.
My elf has a Constitution Score of 13, so he gets a +1 bonus. This will increase his Hit Points from 6 to 7.
For ease of tracking I would advise recording Hit Points on a Character Sheet in the following format:
Current Hit Points / Maximum Hit Points
So I will record it as 7/7 on my Character Sheet. If my elf takes 1 point of damage it would be 6/7. The reason I do it like this is so I can track the Hit Point Maximum, which is 7. My elf cannot exceed this number. This number will change as my character levels however.
Next I will determine the number of gold pieces my character will begin the solo DnD campaign with. To do this I roll 3d6 and multiply the result by 10 (as the Player's Manual states).
I rolled 9, so I start the game with 90 gold pieces.
Now it's time to choose equipment for my elf. Before doing this I would advise reading the full descriptions for the class you have chosen in the Player's Manual and find out what proficiencies and special abilities they have. This will help you choose appropriate equipment and ensure you don't chose things the character cannot make such as buying edged weapons for a Cleric. Or miss something important that a particular class needs, such as the Thieves' Tools required for a Thief to perform certain tasks.
For my elf I will spend 85 of my 90 gold pieces, so I will have 5 gold pieces left.
I will buy the following equipment for my character:
- A short bow
- A quiver with 20 arrows
- 1 silver tipped arrow
- A short sword
- Leather armour
- A backpack which contains:
- A flask of oil
- Standard rations (unpreserved food which will last one person a week)
- A tinderbox (inside is some flint, steel, and dry wood shavings and twigs)
- Six torches
- A water skin
- 12 iron spikes
- and a small hammer
- I also bought 50' of rope
- and a large sack for storing my treasure
So this is the equipment I will be starting my solo DnD campaign with.
I consult the Armour Class table in the Player's Manual to work out my character's Armour Class (AC). The armour the character is wearing will dictate the base Armour Class and this will be adjusted with the bonus or penalty associated with the characters Dexterity Score.
- No Armour = 9
- Leather = 7
- Chainmail = 5
- Plate Mail = 3
- Shield = Bonus of +1
My character has leather armour so the base Armour Class is 7. The character's Dexterity Score is a 9, so if I glance back at the Bonus and Penalties Table in the Player's Manual, I can see that a score of 9 gives no adjustment. So my Armour Class remains at 7. Bonuses and Penalties work the opposite way for Armour Class. A +1 bonus will lower AC by 1 rather than raise it, as in old school games of Dungeons & Dragons the lower the Armour Class is, the harder the character is to hit.
To Hit Roll Needed
I will now fill in the To Hit Roll Needed Chart on my Character Sheet. Every first level character has the same chance to hit, so the numbers are the same no matter which character class is chosen. The chart won't change until the character gets to fourth level.
My character's Intelligence Score is 16 so a +2 bonus is applied. This means my character can learn two additional languages on top of the base languages.
There is a Language Table in the Player's Manual and this explains that with an Intelligence of 6 to 8, you can write simple common words but that is all. From 4 to 5 you cannot read or write Common at all. A score as low as 3 means the character has trouble speaking and cannot read or write whatsoever.
My elf knows Common and the Alignment Tongue (I chose Neutral as my Alignment) as well as Elvish, Hobgoblin and Orc. I also chose Goblin and Kobold as my two additional languages.
I will now fill in my Saving Throw scores, as given with the details of my chosen class in the Player's Manual. I will also note down my Special Skills, which includes the ability to detect secret doors on a roll of 1 or 2 on a d6. As a spell caster, I also get one spell at first level.
I also get a 10% Experience Bonus because of my high Intelligence Score.
I will also chose a name for my elf. He is called 'Taeral'. I used the Fantasy Name Generator tool to generate this name randomly. I'd highly recommend this tool if you have trouble thinking up a decent fantasy name off the top of your head.
I now have a completed Basic D&D character. I just need to choose which spell I want to memorize before embarking on my first solo adventure.
Party or Lone Wolf
Now I have a character for a single player solo Dungeons & Dragons campaign, I also have the opportunity to diversify. If I choose to have Taeral as a lone wolf character the game will be more challenging but also more straight forward to manage. I could opt to create a whole party of 3 to 5 characters to balance the game and make it less treacherous. In your own solo DnD campaign this decision is up to you. Other methods are available, such as the use of retainers instead of a full party.
For my first play through, I am going to opt for a "lone wolf" approach. Now it's time to begin the adventure. I will see you next session.
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Mentzer, F, 1983, D&D Basic Set Player's Manual, TSR Hobbies Inc.
Mentzer, F, 1983, Demi-Humans, D&D Basic Set Player's Manual, TSR Hobbies Inc, pg. 29