D&D Starter Set: Character Sheets

As I pull out the character sheets, I am reminded that this is why I did not look at the previews they posted online. A well designed character sheet (which this appears to be) tells you a lot about the game, not just in terms of what mechanics there are, but also how they’re prioritized. If i’d dug into these earlier, I’d have been going mad with impatience.

5 is an interesting number of character sheets, given that there are only 4 base classes (Fighter, cleric, rogue and wizard), so I was curious how they’d handle that. The answer: 2 fighters. With that in mind, those are the two sheets I pulled out to really look at, thinking that any differences would be telling.


Name, Class, Race, Alignment, Player Name and XP. All as expected. No spot for sex. Background is the odd man out here, which is filled out in such a way that it suggests something like 4e style backgrounds. I hope they’re a little more interesting than that, but We’ll see.

Column 1

The fighters have identical stats (16, 15, 14, 13, 11, 9), though they are distributed curiously. One of them I can see (16 dex, 14 Str, 15 con for a Longbow fighter) but the other one took a 9 dex and a 14 cha, which I look at a little askance. It’s a choice someone might make for explicit roleplaying reasons, but in past editions of D&D, this would be a pretty crappy choice. I look forward to seeing if this is still the case.  The other classes have similar but not always identical spreads, so I presume there is a model they used.

If nothing else, dexterity doesn’t to seem to add to AC for heavier armor. This makes sense, but now I want to look at the spread, because i’m flashing back to the way AC spreads worked in 4e, and I’m curious how this answers that.

Saving throws are now by stat (with what appears to be an extra +2 bonus for favored stats[1]) which seems mechanically identical to skills (including the favored skill). This seems curious, and I’m not sure how it’s not just ditching saves in favor of skill rolls, but I’m looking forward to finding out. I admit, I’m not sure what a Charisma save looks like.  The actual skills are….well, skill like.

The proficiencies list some expected things (armor, weapons) but also oddities like “Carpenter tools” and “Playing Cards” and that actually feels strangely like 2e to me (not a bad thing).

Column 2

AC, Initiative, Speed, Hit points and hit dice are all what I’d expect (interesting to see HP called HP maximum, but I suppose that’s more clear). The space for Death Saves makes me curl up a little bit inside. 3 dots suggest 3 rolls (like it’s done in 4e) which is a rule that seems fine on paper (since it gives characters lots of chances) but which, in practice, has been a bit frustrating since it extends the amount of time that the players spends in limbo. But perhaps it has improved.

Weapon damage seems a expected, though it suggests no extra strength bonus to damage for 2 handed weapons. That said, since the section said “Attacks & Spellcasting) I actually checked out the non-fighter sheets, and discovered lots of fun stuff in here: Sneak attacks, an implication that there are lots of dex-based melee weapons, and a bit of spellcasting stuff. Seems slightly weird, since some of that seems like it belongs in the ”Features & Traits” box, but so be it.

This is also the first time I see reference to ‘Advantage’ and ‘Disadvantage’, so filing that away for future reference. I’m pretty sure of what it means conceptually, but I’m super curious what it means mechanically.

Column 3

Ok, the upper right corner is intriguing. Personality traits, Ideals, Bonds and Flaws. Not sure if these have any mechanical teeth to them yet, but their presence on the front of the sheet is very promising.

Of these, I am most struck by the ideal – I love the format of: “Ideal. Elaborating sentence.” For example, “Sincerity. I’m no good at pretending to be something I’m not”. That’s a great structure because it allows characters to have identical ideals with different explanations (like “Sincerity. I just blurt out the first thing to come to mind.”) Very useful if one were to, for example, do some half-pregenerated characters (for D&D or for another game, like Fate). You could pregen the term, but let the player fill in the sentence.

Features and Abilities are where a lot of interesting stuff shows up. Random observations from that:

  • Do shields now give +2 to AC? The cleric (Chainmail & Shield) has an 18 AC while the Fighter (Chainmail and +1 bonus to AC) has a 17.
  • It’s pretty clear the background’s mechanical bonus shows up here, and I nearly laughed when I saw it, because more than anything, they look like the Kit bonuses[2] from 2e, which is delightful.
  • Second Wind as a fighter thing, not an everyone thing? Interesting.
  • References to Bonus Actions, Long & Short Rests, and Advantage, Disadvantage show up again.
  • Fighting Style as fighter differentiator is interesting, and I’m curious if other classes have similar. Maybe the Cleric’s “Disciple” ability?
  • Halflings always reroll 1s? Yikes!
  • Several Halfling references to size, but no place on the sheet for size. Very curious if we’re going back to the 3e thing where Halflings were tiny gods.
  • Ok, if i’m reading this right, no extra spells for stat bonuses, but wizards get some stat-based spell recovery, and Clerics…don’t? Offset by domain spells, maybe?


Ok, text on the back. Lots of text. Very nice. Decent explanatory stuff, if a bit dense (but looking at it, has WOTC changed their default body font?). not looking too closely at the Advancement sections (too much to infer, too many questions) but I am intrigued at the XP values. 300 to level 2, 900 to level 3, 2700 to level 4, 6500 to level 5. That’s weird. I imagine it’s an intentionally quick on ramp, but now I wan to see the rest of it.

So, the character sheets have left me with many questions and curiosities. Time to see what the rulebook answers.


Boilerplate: I skipped the beta. I am writing these as i read each section, which means I will frequently reveal misunderstandings and faulty assumptions.  That is the cost of doing this “live”, so to speak, but I want to capture those impressions, warts and all. 

  1. The fact that proficiency bonus (+2) has an actual entry suggests that it might be changed somehow.  ↩
  2. For the unfamiliar, 2e had a series of softcovers with name’s like “The Complete Fighter”, which allowed a character to use a “Kit” to customize their character class into a sort of ad hoc subclass, with some specific benefits and limits. So, for example, if you were a fighter, you might have the “Folk hero” or “Swashbuckler” kit. It was a really interesting idea, brilliant at points, but unevenly applied to a system that wasn’t really designed for it.  ↩

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