One of the most basic tools needed to start playing Dungeons and Dragons is your character sheet. This piece of paper has all of the information you’ll need to use your character’s attacks, skills, and abilities. But what is the best sheet to use? There are a lot of options out there, from the classic sheet from the Player’s Handbook, some alternatives from Wizards of the Coast, or a custom one from a third party! In this article we’ll go over just which D&D 5e character sheet you should use.
We will talk about what exactly a character sheet is and what information is on it. There are quite a few options for online character sheets. Finally, we will show off the physical, printable options for character sheets!
What Is a Character Sheet?
It’s just what it sounds like! A sheet of paper that has all of your character info on it. Depending on the sheet, the nitty gritty can be different, but there are a handful of details that do not change. Every sheet will have your character’s name and class on it to ensure these defining features are always in mind. In addition, every character sheet has space for attribute scores – that’s your STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, and CHA – the bread and butter that makes your character work! Somewhere nearby you’ll also see the skills and related proficiencies. Most sheets also have spaces for the tools, languages, and weapons with which your character is proficient. They also generally have room for extra information about character personality; flaws, bonds, and ideals, as well as some background like organizations your character may belong to, show up on multi-page sheets. Another important aspect is spells and spell slots for casters! These usually require their own page.
Online Character Sheets
The best one-stop shop for online character sheets is easily the Wizards of the Coast official utility: D&D Beyond. The site has every single book that has been released, and even some options that haven’t been! If someone in your champaign has purchased books, you can share the content and race/class/background options with the whole campaign. D&D Beyond even has its own die rolling environment, allowing you to make rolls directly from your character sheet.
There are other options, of course. Most of these require some more legwork for the user. Evernote, the notetaking software, has templates for D&D for both players and DMs. These templates work similarly to form-fillable PDFs, allowing you to save a blank slate and create new files for each character you make.
In the same vein, there are form-fillable PDF options of the traditional Wizards of the Coast character sheet. You can fill these out via Adobe Acrobat, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, or any PDF viewer that tickles your fancy!
A website to generate a character sheet and some background traits for you is fastcharacter.com. When you open the website, you’re prompted to input your character’s race, class, level, and all that classic info, and it will whip you up a custom-made character sheet in the format of your choosing! This is useful to export to a virtual tabletop (VTT) system or print out in a format you like.
Physical Character Sheets
The most accessible option is the Wizards of the Coast classic character sheet! This is available all over the internet for free as a printable PDF. The information needed is very clear, with large boxes available for the six main attributes, and skills right next to them. With this option, the most complete sheet has three pages: the front sheet for attribute scores, skills, weapons, gear, and proficiencies; the next for in-depth character information such as background, backstory, alliances, and even a portrait space; and lastly, a page for spells for the casters of the party. The classic WotC sheet is the quickest and easiest sheet to access, and is our recommendation for beginners.
Online creators have created a massive wealth of custom character sheets for people to use. These range in information and style. Sheets can be very minimalistic, providing only the bare bones needed to play D&D 5e. These types of sheets would just be boxes for ability scores, character names, classes, and levels. Others can be chock full of flavor, looking more like a work of art instead of an RPG tool. Within this, the overall vibe of the sheets can be drastically different. Sheets can be cute, like these sheets from Briar Lantern. This sheet is a great choice if you want to add some “pizzaz” to your character sheet! Even if it doesn’t go with your character, that may make the choice of character sheet that much more fun.
William Lu’s character sheets have a more rigid, structural feel due to their boxes with large outlines. They also provide handy options for filling in armor and weapon proficiencies. If you like all your information spread out and readily available for you, this is one to go for.
On the DM’s Guild site, user Emmet Byrne has created class specific character sheets for every class currently available! These sheets list the base class features, as well as provide space for writing in subclass features. Class specific sheets are probably best for a long form campaign where you have a good idea of your class progression.
Lastly, we have R-N-W’s retro themed character sheet! It’s all themed around the classic looks of character sheets of past. With clear lines and a clean aesthetic, it’s a good sheet to use for those who like things extra organized!
Character sheets can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I’ve used a legal pad and just jotted down ability scores and proficiencies for a one-shot and was good to go! Technically, you don’t need an actual character sheet, just a notion of your character’s proficiencies, stats, and personality.
R-N-W also has a couple half-sheet options for multiclassing! You just take half a sheet from one class and half for another, and you’ve got a full character sheet with all of your multiclass info in one place. Again, character sheets that are specific for classes and multiclasses require you to have a good grasp of what your build is going to be before the campaign. It would feel silly to have a fancy-schmancy multiclass character sheet only to realize you actually just want to be a full-on ranger.
The multiclass action doesn’t stop there, though. If you prefer a full sheet for your multiclass needs, check out D. Crawler Game Books’ Multiclass Character Sheets Journal. These provide larger and more thorough explorations of the multiclass options, giving you more space to work with in the sheets themselves.
Another alternative to a traditional character sheet would be a journal for your player character! Perhaps they’re a ranger who keeps track of their field notes in a journal that doubles as their character sheet. They note their physical and mental abilities, what things they’re good at, and how they’ve trained. This also gives you a convenient place to check up on campaign notes if you’re playing a story-driven one! A great option for these is the conveniently titled “Field Notes” Journal, which even comes with pages that act as traditional character sheets. I highly recommend these, as everything is easily accessible in one place, and transporting a book is easier than transporting a flimsy piece of paper.
Here are some common questions about character sheets!
5e Character Builder
The most comprehensive character builder has to be the D&D Beyond character sheet. Some content can be used for free, and the character creation process goes through all aspects of the character, from class and race to background and even starting equipment! If you know what you want to make and can spare the money to pick those options up in D&D Beyond, this character sheet won’t let you down.
How to Edit a Character Sheet Online
This depends on which type of sheet you have! The easiest to edit online would be a form-fillable PDF, because you just need to open it up and type in whatever you’d like to edit. D&D Beyond sheets can be edited by the interface on the site. After you export the sheet to PDF via D&D Beyond, it’s harder to edit.
Class Unique Character Sheets
The best character sheets for specific classes we can find have been the D. Crawler Game Books ones! These sheets have all of the class info in one convenient place, perfect for when you know just the class you want to play.
Wrapping Things Up
Like so many things in D&D, there is no “correct” choice in character sheets. It’s all dependent on what you like most! Personally, I love the classic character sheet, it makes me think of when I started D&D way back with 3.5. D&D Beyond is very convenient, as everything is in one place. If you do a lot of online play, form-fillable PDFs and other online resources are great, since you won’t need to print things out. The snazzier, more vibrant and fun sheets are fantastic for in person, so you can show off your exciting sheet to all your friends! All in all, take the options here and weigh them for yourself – the only person to truly know your favorite way to play is you!