When Role-Playing Games emerged in the mid to late seventies, although they were a massive step forward in terms of character building, freedom of action and imagination from the historical tabletop wargame systems that they evolved from, by today’s standards, they were relatively simple.
A few characteristics were determined, a race and class were chosen, a few skills and abilities were noted, and it was off to AdventureMart Ltd (“Keeping Adventurers Safe Since The Second Age”) to get kitted out before heading out into the big wild world.
Playing RPGs Today
But things have come a long way since those innocent, formative years, and the game has grown more complex. This has had both pros and cons. On the upside, the scope of the rules means that the world is wonderfully realized and fully fleshed out, and characters genuinely are unique.
On the downside, there are a lot of rules to learn, and even getting started, that initial character generation process can be a long, bewildering, and complex affair. And, of course, if you are new to the game, many of the decisions you are asked to make when building your first character might seem arbitrary and abstract.
Who knows what the ramifications of these selections might be further down the line?
Not you, that’s for sure.
The Generation Game
And this is where character generators come in. A character generator is an online resource that helps create a DnD character for you to inhabit. There are many reasons why you might choose this option over the traditions, dice rolling, and decision-making. If you are new to the game, it helps you make logical and informed choices so that you end up with a playable and well-rounded character.
But even established players might like the fact that not only does it take a lot of work out of the generation process, such systems do add plenty of interesting details and a back story to the character. And, after all, the personality and richness of any character come from the time spent adventuring, not the initial set-up. Right?
The Top 5 Character Generators Around
So now that we understand the purpose of such systems and how they work let’s look at some of the most popular sites available to the DnD enthusiast today.
AideDD Character Builder
Arguably, one of the best systems for those new to the game, AideDD Character Builder breaks the process of character creation down into straightforward steps. But not only is it easy to use, but it also appears to be in-depth; only a few online builders have every spell in the DnD sourcebook. But this one does.
It does have its faults, though. Only some races or backgrounds are available, and there are few in the way of custom features that help you make up for this.
But it is easy to use, and you can export your created character as either an XML file or into the DnD 5e official character sheet.
Verdict: Great for beginners, easy to use, though experienced players and more established DM’s might find it a little restrictive.
D&D Beyond is perhaps the best-known reference site for DnD 5e. Only some of the content and material are free (though serious players will find that subscribing is good value for money), but their excellent character builder can be accessed with a free account.
Theirs is a very flexible system with plenty of customizable steps and optional systems, including three different stats generation methods. And once generated, plenty of other source material can be used to fill out your character further.
Any stat or item on your page automatically links to more in-depth descriptions and explanations, saving you from constantly thumbing through the rule books to find out what the magical sword you wield does or what bonuses you get from your high dexterity. It even has an in-built dice roller.
If there is a downside, the creation process still takes time, especially if you have opted to create a multiclass character.
Verdict: It is a massive resource, with plenty of scope for really fleshing out the character but not the fastest and still a bit complex for some new players.
Dungeon Master’s Vault
Although not as well known as D&D Beyond, the Dungeon Master’s Vault platform has all of that system’s strengths and very few of its weaknesses. The main selling point is its flexibility, allowing you to randomly generate characters and use them as a more hands-on and careful building resource.
It also has the added feature of telling you if your character is compatible with the requirements set by the Adventurer’s League, a sort of union for such freebooting and adventurous types.
If there is a downside, it doesn’t comprehensively cover every spell, background, and subclass, but such missing information, you manually input the details with an easy-to-use, custom feature.
Verdict: Good for new players and old hands alike, not as comprehensive as some sites, but that weakness is easily fixed.
Fast Character Builder
If ever there was a title that perfectly sums up what the product is all about, this is it. Fast. Character. Builder. At its fastest setting, you don’t have to make any selections yourself; just let the system do the work, which is perfect for new players who need a character to inhabit whilst they learn the fundaments of the game.
It is also great if you are an experienced player just looking to really move away from your usual inclinations and happy to live the character that the hand of fate deals you. That way lies real role-playing excitement.
If you choose to take a more dynamic approach to the build, even then, the system is pretty fast, and the drop-down menus that it uses are easy to navigate and quick to get the hang of. Once you’ve completed the process, you can choose one of several excellent display options for your finished character sheet.
Again, the site only offers some subclass, and a big downfall is that it doesn’t support multiclass characters either. The assignment of statistics is a bit complicated if you choose to be more involved and keep the site from doing its own thing.
Verdict: Good if you want a quick character with just a few set details. For a more hands-on generation of a character, there are better sites.
Some character generators are clearly the product of someone who likes building online systems, and some are based purely on site traffic. But occasionally, you come across a site built by someone passionate about the game. This is just such a site.
It can be a little complex and even overwhelming for new players, but the trade-off is that it puts a lot of power in the user’s hands.
It offers all the commonly found ways to generate stats (3d6, 4d6 best 3, 5d6 best 3, simple entry, standard array, non-elite array), plus plenty of unique, homebrew options regarding building up and fleshing out the character.
It gives you the option to build higher-level characters as well as multi-classed ones. Still, it has the common failing that only some options from the source books and rules are available, and you can only sometimes customize your choices to make up for these oversights.
On top of that, many of the homebrew systems and site-specific rulings are locked into the generation system, so they can’t be circumnavigated. That said, most are remarkable and act as a natural enhancement to the character.
The User Interface can be slightly confusing, but there are helpful arrows that take little time to get to grips with. And don’t assume that just because an option is greyed out, it is not available. Annoying, but once you realize this is how it operates, it isn’t an issue.
This builder even recommends certain choices based on ones you have already made, allowing for a logical continuation of the character build, which is both smart and relatively unique to this site.
It is an excellent builder platform for those who want to play around with the options or are looking for inspiration when adding exciting traits to the character. The downside is that the character sheet it generates is a list of text, which means you will have to manually transfer the information to a character sheet—a bit of a pain.
Verdict: A smart blend of pre-generation and player control, flexible, and wide-ranging but still requires a lot of input.