D&D 5e Character Sheets (Fully Explained)
Updated: Nov 19, 2019
It may seem daunting, but unlike 4th edition character sheets, which are super complicated, 5th edition forms are a lot easier to manage.
New players, however, may still find it difficult to visually understand what each field represents without asking a more experienced player or referencing the Player's Handbook or the internet.
So in an effort to encourage curious players to play, I have created what I believe to be a decent guide defining what the common elements on the page mean, so you are able to fill it out with fewer complications.
Below, we will go over all of the fields on the D&D fifth edition character sheet so you know, without a doubt, what kinds of information goes into each field while building your character, as well as how to refer the sheet during gameplay.
You will need to reference the Player's Handbook (PHB) for your specific character's details in order to properly create a character.
Even if you create a character online, you will still struggle to play if you don't at least familiarize yourself with each field on the character sheet.
How to fill in a character sheet for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons
We will start at the top with basic character information.
Fill in your Character's Name here. Use an online name generator, or be creative and come up with something yourself. A tip is to make this different enough from other players, so it isn't confusing. In my party, most of our PC (Player Character) names start with a "B," which is unfortunate for the DM when taking battle notes during encounters. Hahaha!
The first set of classes below appears in multiple series/editions of the D&D franchise, and are common choices for most players.
Refer to the Player's Handbook (PHB) for additional classes to choose from or ask the DM for acceptable class types allowed in the campaign. Players have gotten really creative over the years and chosen classes like "Jedi" or "Ninja."
Multiple Classes (keep in the back of your mind):
While not labeled on the sheet in 5e, this requires some minimum ability scores to be met before multi-classing can be embraced. New characters do not need to worry about it, but the core classes only require a 13 or higher requisite score, while some classes require multiple stats with 13 or higher to multi-class. Refer to the PHB or ask your Dungeon Master (DM) which classes make sense to multi-class in, so over time you can decide for yourself if you would like to spread out some of your abilities.
There are 9 core races in DnD 5th Edition that are pretty standard no matter what the situation. There are additional races available but not every race will be allowed in every campaign. Your DM will have the final say on which character races are allowed for your campaign.
The PHB will have specific information for each of the core races you can refer to when filling out your character sheet should you choose to do it by hand. Review the PHB or additional volumes when determining the stats your character gets with race.
There are 6 standard backgrounds you can choose from in the basic rules, with more in the Player's Handbook and subsequent volumes.
Choosing a character background reveals its place in the world as an adventurer and a bit about where your character came from. It helps to better define your character's backstory and a reason for WHY your character does what he/she does, and reasons for some of the experience you'll bring to the party through your character.
Simply put in your actual name here.
This is defined by a character's general morality and attitude. There are 9 alignments which dictate how a character might react to a scenario and how they might judge the actions of other characters' reactions to scenarios.
lawful good, neutral good, chaotic good,
lawful neutral, neutral, chaotic neutral,
lawful evil, neutral evil, or chaotic evil.
It is a tool primarily designed to help identify your character, but it isn't supposed to restrict your character. There are always situations where an alignment can be modified such that it is unlike a character's typical morality. For example, if a character is touched by a deity in some way, this could cause them to completely act out of character.
This online questionnaire will help you identify your character's alignment. It is not something to stress over. Few players stick 100% to their alignment all the time, but it is used as a way to showcase personal philosophies, which adds a depth and dimension to character interactions while playing.
Leveling up happens when certain thresholds of experience are reached. Some DMs don't put much stock into experience points but instead, rely on encounters or amazing successes to determine level-ups. Similarly, some DMs level up all players at the same time and welcome new players in at the same level as current party members.
Similar to a Bardic Inspiration ability (Bard Class), inspiration adds an additional dice roll to pretty much any d20 roll. Inspiration is awarded to players by the DM when that player does something particularly clever that surprises or impresses the DM and is rarely given. This field remains blank until such a time a player is awarded a point.
This is a scaling attribute that is added as your character levels up and is the same for all classes in 5th edition. This modifier is added to a player's proficient skills as a bonus determined by the character's class. It naturally adds to your d20 hit roll when attacking but does not add to the damage roll unless otherwise specified as with certain spell casts.
These stats can be confusing to understand when in game, how and when to refer to them, so I have broken down the relationships of each ability score base state with what to expect from your character depending on how proficient he / she is from the lowest possible score 1(-5 modifier without being a construct or undead), to the highest score in the Player's Handbook 30 (+10 modifier without using magic to modify further.)
Physical strength and capability to wield heavy weapons or lift cumbersome objects. The higher the stat points, the easier it is to lift or swing heavy things.
Defines how nimble your character is, reaction speeds, and how smooth the reaction is.
A character's resistance to its environment, its overall health. How easily bruised or susceptible to sickness or disease your character has is determined by this stat.
Not to be confused with wisdom. Intelligence does not define how smart or stupid your character is, but how much education they have been exposed to. This would determine if your character is able to read or how much they know.
Your characters innate smarts determine how likely you are able to know if someone is lying, or how easy it is for you to learn.
This defines your character's social proclivity. Are you outgoing or a wallflower? This can be used to determine how well you are accepted in social situations, how much antisocial behavior is accepted due to your influence and even helps with negotiating. How able you are to command attention or manipulate others to do your bidding.
Armor Class (AC):
This is your character's defense based on what they are wearing. It is a standard 10+ your Dexterity modifier.
When an enemy rolls to attack, if your character's AC is higher than their roll, the attack misses. However, if your AC is lower, then the enemy attack hits and the DM rolls for the damage your character will take as a result.
During battle encounters, initiative represents your turn order. Your initiative is your Dexterity modifier plus a d20 roll and represents approximately 6 seconds of battle time, even if it takes longer to make decisions.
Based on your character's race (most of the time 30 ft), your speed dictates movement, how far you can move during your turn. You can give up an action to "Dash" which counts as a second movement.
Hit Points (HP):
This field represents how much health your character has. You determine this by your character class and gain more HP as you level up.
0 HP = Unconscious with zero abilities during your turn except for a death saving throw
Death Saving Throws:
When your character reaches 0 HP, it is considered unconscious and cannot take any actions other than a roll a death saving throw. You will notice 3 "Successes" and 3 "Failures" circles under Death Saves. If your character is K.O.'d, during your next turn, roll a d20.
If the result is 9 or below (Some DMs choose 10 or below), you fail. 3x Failed rolls and your character dies. Instant death occurs when your character receives damage enough to render your character unconscious (0) + 50% of your total hit point total.
If it is 10 or higher (Some DMs choose 11 or above), you succeed. 2x Successful rolls stabilize you from having to make any future death saving throws but is still unable to take actions until otherwise healed.
It is possible to take more damage than you have hit points for and survive. These points do not make your character's HP fall below 0.
Temporary Hit Points:
This field is used to determine extra armor you may receive from spells or magic items, but cannot be stacked. For example, if you have a magic item which raises your hit points by 8, but a spell is cast to raise your hit points by 9, the higher number is used.
When attacked, the temporary hit points are removed before actual hit points. These points are temporary and meant for short durations.
These are defined entirely by the player and are used to make your character more interesting during gameplay. This defines how your character interacts with others.
Ideals and Bonds:
A place to explain the foundation of your character's alignment and personal philosophies, and help to plan background and story elements.
This section describes what your character carries with it, including gold, clothing, useful tools, special items, spell-casting goods and other treasures.
Attacks and Spellcasting:
This area is where you put in the weapons and magical items you carry, the proficiency bonus it has (based on weapon type), amount of damage dealt, and damage type.
Features and Traits:
When leveling up, you can choose features and traits to adopt at specific level milestones, which allow for taking on additional classes, extra attacks, etc.
Other Proficiencies and Languages:
This is determined by your character's race. You might also put in any tool proficiencies, like smithing for example.
The second page consists of mostly backstory and character aesthetics, as well as additional places to define storyline elements, symbology, an extra features and traits field, plus a section for special items you find along your journey, but do not necessarily wish to interact with immediately.
Meant for magic users only, this document is organized by spell level and defines spellcasting ability, proficiency, and spell attack bonuses. Your character's level will determine how many spell slots you have and at what level you can cast spells.
Defined by character class.
Spell Save DC:
Native 10 + Spellcasting ability modifier + Proficiency
Spell Attack Bonus:
Spellcasting ability modifier + Proficiency
Things to know about casting spells during battle
Cantrips are free to use.
You can use 1 cantrip and 1 spell per turn so long as one is considered a bonus action.
You cannot cast 2 spells that take up spell slots during the same turn
Working with your Character Sheet
Something to keep in mind while you play is how often you will edit the character sheet. With this in mind, here are some tips to maintaining your character sheet so you don't have to constantly fill out new ones or make tons of copies:
Use a #2 Pencil for filling out parts that you'll edit often, like hit points, spell slots and hit die.
Place the character sheet in a laminated sleeve and use dry erase markers to make in-game edits.
Print out a new version of your character sheet only when you level up or change spells/abilities.
Keep a journal or notebook with you to keep track of your sessions
The Tabletop Adventurer's Tome
Recently, after playing in several different group games, I realized how difficult it can be to not only keep track of the character sheets, but also remember what happened in the last session.
So in an effort to make my life easier, I created the Tabletop Adventurer's Tome and when my party members saw how I was keeping track of our game's progress with it, they each wanted to use one as well!
I highly recommend picking one of these up from Amazon or your local game store. If they don't have one available, have them reach out to us so we can help support their shop with this product.
Anyway, if you are interested in The Tabletop Adventurer's Tome, you can learn more about it here.
At first glance, character sheets can seem very confusing, especially for new players. Hopefully, this guide helped to familiarize, define and break down what the fields mean for you. If you feel that this guide has been helpful to you, please share it!
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If you have anything to add or can provide an easier way to explain a portion of this document, please comment it below!