When I was coming into the TTRPG hobby, I was so excited that “all I would need” is a sheet of paper and some dice. While that statement is technically true, what I wasn’t told was just how much work it takes to create that sheet of paper! Character Sheets are used to keep track of all of your character information, from basic information like name and level, to weapons, spell slots, equipment, and a whole lot of numbers! My hope with today’s Port of Entry is to help you gain insight into how these numbers are calculated and why they are important to know.
Character Sheet Information
1- Character Info At A Glance
Here is where you will find your basic character information. This is usually the first part of the character sheet to be filled out. Your Class & Level, Background, and Race will help determine many of the bonuses you will see throughout the rest of the character sheet.
We covered Stat Generation on a previous Port of Entry. These six boxes will have your base stats for Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. You may also see Pages 12-13 in your Player’s Handbook for a breakdown.
3- Saving Throws
Saving throws are used for times a particular skill may save your butt or is challenged. For example, if you are using a spell that requires your concentration, you may have to roll a saving throw to see if you can maintain your concentration after you have been attacked. Or if your character has been drinking, your DM may ask you to make a constitution saving throw to see if you become inebriated. Your character may get special bonuses for a saving throw that they do not have in their base stats.
This is there the real fun takes place! This is a great place to really make your character build your own! Base skill modifiers are determined by your characters stats. For example, if you were making a Medicine Check, you would use your characters Wisdom modifier. However, during your character build you will have the opportunity to pick skills that you are proficient in. This will allow you to add your Proficiency Bonus to your skill check. Maybe you have created a Fighter who grew up on a farm. Perhaps you would choose to add a proficiency in Animal Handling. Or you might have a Sorcerer who traveled with a circus. Maybe you would choose to give them proficiency in Acrobatics. There are skills available to each Class, but you may also work with your Dungeon Master to see what makes sense for your unique character.
Inspiration may be used in your game. Typically, it is granted to your character by the DM after your character has done something above and beyond. Did your bard perform a beautiful ballad? Did your fight give an inspirational speech to the rest of the party? Did you bribe your DM by bringing snacks to the session? Keep track of your inspiration in this box. It is typically utilized by giving you advantage on a roll, to be used at the player’s discretion.
6- Proficiency Bonus
How good are you at a certain skill? Your Rogue may add their bonus to a Sleight of Hand check or your Cleric may be particularly skilled in medicine. Your proficiency score is determined by your level, starting at a +2 for a 1st level character. See page 12 in the Player’s Handbook for a more detailed breakdown. By adding your Ability Score Modifier and your Proficiency Bonus together you will calculate your Saving Throw for a particular stat.
7- Passive Perception
Passive Perception can be explained by asking how observant is your character when they aren’t actively paying attention? Passive Perception is used by the DM when they would like to determine something without relying on a dice roll. For example, can a character spot a hidden enemy or a secret door? You calculate Passive Perception by adding +10 to your character’s wisdom score. If a character is proficient in Perception, you also add the proficiency bonus.
8- Armor Class
Armor class can be described by how difficult your character is to hit. Your Race and Class may give you boosts to your AC, but it is largely determined by your dexterity score, and what armor you are wearing. Leather armor may allow you to move quietly, but will not give you much of a boost to this score. Plate mail armor will give you a higher AC, but may make it difficult to remain undetected. In your class information, in the Player’s Handbook, you will find a list of what types of armor your character is proficient in. Also, pages 144-146 will outline more detailed information on armor and shields.
Initiative is a score added to a d20 roll to determine your character’s place in combat order. Initiative is calculated by adding your dexterity score.
Speed is determined by your characters Race and Class. Speed is used to determine how far your character can move during their turn in combat. Character’s may use all of their speed in one go, break it up or not use it at all.
11- Current Hit Points
Current Hit Points, or HP, is how much health you currently have, or how much damage you could take. HP is determined by your Class, Constitution score, and Character Level.
12- Temporary Hit Points
Temporary HP may be granted by a special spell, ability, or some element your Dungeon Master has put into the game. Temporary HP acts as a buffer to your character, and may exceed your max level HP. For example, if your character has 26 HP, and you are granted 5 Temporary HP, your character now is able to withstand damage up to 31 HP. Temporary HP cannot be recovered after they are used.
13- Hit Dice
You gain more HP as you level up, determined by your HP Die and Constitution Modifier. Some characters such as Wizards and Bards, get 1d6 to roll at level up for HP. Others, like a Barbarian, get 1d12 to roll at level up. You can expend hit dice during a rest or with certain class or race features to recover HP.
14- Death Saves
This section of the character sheet is one you will hopefully never have to use! Death Saves are used after your character has dropped to 0 HP. On your turn in combat you will roll a d20. 1-9 is considered a failure and 10+ is considered a success. After 3 rolled successes, your character stabilizes but remains unconscious. Rolling 3 failures, however, and your character is considered dead. There are some drastic life saving measures that your party may have access to, but after 3 failed death saves, this is where the majority of character’s will say their final goodbye.
15- Attacks and Spellcasting
The Attacks and Spellcasting portion of the character sheet allows a player space to keep track of their weapons and the damage they deal.
16- Other Proficiencies and Languages
Maybe your character is proficient in land vehicles, cooks tools and/or card games. Or, possibly, your character can speak multiple languages. This is where you keep track of all of these abilities.
The equipment section is used to keep track of what your character is carrying and how much money they have on them. It is always good to check what is in your equipment, as many characters forget about the crowbar or rope they acquired back at level 1!
17- Personality Traits
Personality Traits are what makes your character unique. There are lots of druids, but maybe your druid has a short temper, is obsessively protective over their familiar and is short sighted. What makes your particular character tick? This information can also prove to be essential to your Dungeon Master, when trying to tie your character into the world and forge connections between party members. There are many random roll charts you can find for this information or you can come up with something specific that you wish to explore. I recommend being creative with this section!
19- Features and Traits
Features and Traits is a great place to keep track of those special abilities your character may have access to. Bardic Inspiration, Channel Divinity, and Smite are good examples of what you can use this section to track. Others would be a Halfling’s Lucky feature or if your character has Darkvision.
Types of Character Sheets
Some players prefer to use a digital tool, such as DND Beyond for help with their character sheet creations, and others prefer pencil and paper. I have personally used both digital and physical tools and my play style very much favors a physical copy of my character information. It also suits my learning style to know how my stats are generated, but it’s all a personal preference.
Some players favor the official Wizards of the Coast Character Sheet, as presented in the Player’s Handbook and at the top of this article. Personally, I favor the Dyslexia Character Sheet from Inuyasharuls and Axelle123 on Reddit. Read more about it HERE or contact Axelle on Twitter for assistance.
Some other fun options I have found for keeping track of your character’s information are: