Customizing Your Origin in DnD

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At 1st level, you choose various aspects of your character, including ability scores, race, class, and background. Together these elements help paint a picture of your character’s origin and give you the ability to create many different types of characters. Despite that versatility, a typical character race in D&D includes little or no choice – a lack that can make it difficult to realize certain character concepts. The following subsections address that lack by adding choice to your character’s race, allowing you to customize your ability scores, languages, and certain proficiencies to fit the origin you have in mind for your character. Character race in the game represents your character’s fantasy species, combined with certain cultural assumptions. The following options step outside those assumptions to pave the way for truly unique characters.

Ability Score Increases

Whatever D&D race you choose for your character, you get a trait called Ability Score Increase. This increase reflects an archetypal bit of excellence in the adventurers of this kind in D&D’s past. For example, if you’re a dwarf, your Constitution increases by 2, because dwarf heroes in D&D are often exceptionally tough. This increase doesn’t apply to every dwarf, just to dwarf adventurers, and it exists to reinforce an archetype. That reinforcement is appropriate if you want to lean into the archetype, but it’s unhelpful if your character doesn’t conform to the archetype.

If you’d like your character to follow their own path, you may ignore your Ability Score Increase trait and assign ability score increases tailored to your character. Here’s how to do it: take any ability score increase you gain in your race or subrace and apply it to an ability score of your choice. If you gain more than one increase, you can’t apply those increases to the same ability score, and you can’t increase a score above 20.

For example, if the Ability Score Increase trait of your race or subrace increases your Constitution by 2 and your Wisdom by 1, you could instead increase your Intelligence by 2 and your Charisma by 1.

Languages

Your character’s race includes languages that your character is assumed to know, usually Common and the language of your ancestors. For example, a halfling adventurer is assumed to know Common and Halfling. Here’s the thing: D&D adventurers are extraordinary, and your character might have grown up speaking languages different from the ones in your Languages trait.

To customize the languages you know, you may replace each language in your Languages trait with a language from the following list: Abyssal, Celestial, Common, Deep Speech, Draconic, Dwarvish, Elvish, Giant, Gnomish, Goblin, Halfling, Infernal, Orc, Primordial, Sylvan, or Undercommon.

Your DM may add or remove languages from that list, depending on what languages are appropriate for your campaign.

Proficiencies

Some races and subraces grant skill, weapon, or tool proficiencies. These proficiencies are usually cultural, but your character might not have any connection to the culture in question or might have pursued different training. You can replace each of those proficiencies with a different one, as shown on the Proficiency Swaps table.

Proficiency Swaps
Proficiency Replacement Proficiency
Skill Skill
Simple weapon Simple weapon or tool
Martial weapon Simple/martial weapon or tool
Tool Tool or simple weapon

For example, high elf adventurers have proficiency with longswords, which are martial weapons. Consulting the Proficiency Swaps table, we see that your high elf can swap that proficiency for proficiency with another weapon or a tool. Your elf might be a musician, who chooses proficiency with a musical instrument – a type of tool – instead of with longswords. Similarly, elves start with proficiency in the Perception skill. Your elf might not have the keen senses associated with your kin and could take proficiency in a different skill, such as Performance.

The “Equipment” chapter of the PH includes weapons and tools suitable for these swaps, and your DM might allow additional options.

Personality

The description of a race might suggest various things about the behavior and personality of that people’s archetypal adventurers. You may ignore those suggestions, whether they’re about alignment, moods, interests, or any other personality trait. Your character’s personality and behavior are entirely yours to determine.

Customizing Your Origin in DnD

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