How to Make a D&D Character, the Ettermot Drous Example

By RJ on 19 March 2023.

For years, I was the forever Dungeon Master. I ran numerous games, multiple campaigns, and introduced plenty of inquisitive folks to Dungeons & Dragons and the greater tabletop roleplaying game scene. However, I was not a consistent player. Sure, I hopped onto the other side of the screen every once in a while, but it was never week after week. I may have been a veteran in crafting worlds and portraying villains, but I was a novice player of the game.

That all changed when my daughter was born. I went on a Dungeon Mastering hiatus and became a consistent player of the game. Ever since Amber entered the world in March 2022, I've been a player more than a near-omniscient adventure builder and villainous actor.

This drastic change altered my view on character creation and D&D and tabletop games in general. I've learned tons on this side of the screen. I'm eager to share these lessons with all of you. First up: one of the simplest but most interesting ways to build a character and what comes along with it.

Although I also play the debatably redeemable minotaur paladin in my brother-in-law's ongoing campaign, my most recent foray into D&D adventure is in my brother's fifth edition D&D campaign. I'm playing alongside the other members of his bachelor party, some D&D vets, and others not too into the hobby. We've been able to figure out what the adventure is based on: the first real quest chain in Dungeons & Dragons Online: Korthos Island.

I made a very special character for this campaign in a very specific way. Allow me to introduce you to Ettermot Drous, a scarred but lovable bugbear druid.

D&D Character Creation Challenge Mode, the What

D&D 5E outlines a clear way to make a character. For Ettermot Drous, I did not follow the game's instructions. Instead, I provided myself with a new set of rules and a challenge. The rules:

  • Roll a single set of ability scores
  • Roll straight down the list, beginning with Strength, and ending with Charisma
  • Roll three d6


Oftentimes, I love unbounded creativity. This allows me to build a limitless world and wild adventures. One region of Eldar might be inhabited by antfolk who skitter through the ruins of an archaic giant empire, while another might be presided over by communistic kobold militarists. One of my adventures might send the adventurers to recover a piece of an old book from the Astral Plane, while the next might send them into the bowels of the physical world to fight an obese red dragon.

Yet limits of what I can do inspire me at other points. That's the case with Ettermot Drous. I sought limits and with those limits, I knew I would be forced to create my way out of the hole if I wanted to make an interesting, somewhat useful character. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Here were my rolls for Ettermot Drous:

  1. Strength: 6
  2. Dexterity: 9
  3. Constitution: 10
  4. Intelligence: 4
  5. Wisdom: 18
  6. Charisma: 8

I was left with poor or outright terrible rolls in everything ability score except Wisdom. Truly shocking. This forced me to invent an interesting character, someone who would work in the setting and game system of D&D 5E with terrible statistics.

Immediately, I knew I needed to pick a class reliant on Wisdom. That left Monk, Cleric, and Druid. Ettermot's race could be decided later. 

Wielding the process of elimination, I knew Monk requires not only good Wisdom but decent Dexterity and Constitution as well. I'd need to be able to withstand a few hits in combat, plus be able to dish out a bit of damage with my fists, a pair of kamas, or a staff. With my current statistics, there was no chance of that happening. Thus, that class was gone. Not an issue, I had played a Monk before. On to Cleric: Clerics usually need okay Charisma on top of good Wisdom. In addition, I wasn't feeling the class. Farewell, Cleric. Druid it was.

Exiled Druids of Lornwood by Huussii.

Now, while I was hyper-aware of the need to pick a class that matched my stats, I didn't follow suit with my choice of race. I peeked at the selection and immediately locked onto a single choice: bugbear. Why? Well, there's no rhyme or reason for it. I saw bugbear, pictured a decrepit bugbear druid, and the rest is history. I knew my character needed to be a bugbear, I knew with these terrible rolls and my strategic class choice, a bugbear could work. And so Ettermot became a bugbear.

You might notice something is missing from this piece of character creation: other players. In most campaigns, I would recommend making characters as a group. The experience isn't only extremely fun, it leads to party cohesion and/or interesting conflicts. If you have the opportunity to make your character alongside the other players, do it. It will make your D&D experience that much better. 

Why is every character interested in the Duke's kidnapped child? Does every character seek the construction of their own keep on the borderlands? Which faction does each character serve? The questions that drive the campaign can also unite the party and in some circumstances with experienced players, create interesting conflicts within the group. While everyone might be interested in saving the Duke's kidnapped child, one party member might want to help the child, not for gold or a favor from the Duke, but because they're secretly related to the child and might know something terrible about the Duke himself. Everyone might want to build a keep on the borderlands, but one character might know they're building the keep atop an ancient dungeon that holds a dark secret.

I may not have been able to build my character alongside the other players and craft a cool secret, but if you get the chance, take it!

A Tragic Past, the Who

Once you have "the what" of a D&D character, now it's time to determine "the who" of them. All it involves is asking questions, respecting the world and/or setting, collaborating with others if possible, and putting in the effort

The story of Ettermot Drous is a tragic tale of war and loss.

He entered a conflict reminiscent of Eberron's Last War, a member of a squadron who saw victory after victory. However, in a particularly bloody battle, his entire squad was killed and he was the final remaining member until an ally came to his aid. Ettermot was nearly dead, burnt, and scarred, but this ally managed to bring him to safety before succumbing to wounds sustained during their rescue of Ettermot. After recovering, Ettermot dedicated his life to the pursuit of his savior: learning of and tapping into the power of the stars. That path turned him to the druidic Circle of Stars. It led him to the airship where the campaign begins, en route to an old site of the druids who began the Circle of Stars.

Piece by piece, let's look at how I determined who Ettermot was and is.

First, I asked myself: how does this character make sense? He has terrible stats, why? I decided he was a veteran of a war who sustained terrible wounds but learned much in the process. That caused all his core abilities to drop but his knowledge about the world to grow. Next, how did he become a druid, and a druid of the Circle of Stars? Building on the story of war and loss: the individual who saved him from certain death was a druid of this circle, but they perished during their rescue mission of Ettermot. The individual's sacrifice drives Ettermot ever forward as he learns more and more about the stars of the sky. Inside my mind, I'm hoping someone else might be related to this druid in some way, it'd be a strong connection in the campaign; it's why I'm leaving their name blank and who they were sort of open-ended. Finally, what does he want? To finish the path of his savior, to become a bigger part of the world despite the horror he has endured. It's what pushes him forward and what placed him on the airship where my brother's D&D campaign starts.

The Rangers of Carabtui by rodmendez.

Despite my poor rolls for Ettermot, I put plenty of effort into his creation. After all, I am bringing myself and Ettermot to the virtual tabletop. He is my contribution, at least in the beginning, to the campaign. He needs to be ready for the adventure at hand.

Always put effort into your character, even if it's the bare minimum. You can always improvise at the table to build their backstory and personality, but you should come prepared.

Looking Onward, the Why

As I enter this new campaign, all I expect from Ettermot Drous is some fun. Honestly, it's what I expect of all TTRPG campaigns, D&D, Pathfinder, or Call of Cthulu, the game system does not matter. When you sit down and play, you should enjoy yourself. 

If you're not enjoying yourself, speak up. People will notice. Address it before it becomes a greater concern.

Ettermot Drous is a vehicle for a good time and a few laughs with friends at a virtual tabletop. Given the wildly underpowered but interesting character concept, I'm sure I'll be the driving force for fun and utter disaster.

UPDATE: Here's an addendum to the article with some insight from the campaign as it currently stands: I was correct! Ettermot is the clown of the group, but lovable, and everyone wants to keep him alive despite his likelihood of dying in every battle. Although he is pure utility and somewhat of a drag in combat, I've portrayed him in an endearing way that, already after three sessions, everyone is attached to him. That's a win.

In Summary

Every time you hop into a D&D or TTRPG game, remember:

  • Enjoy character creation. Your character may last years or die ingloriously in the first battle against a swarm of rats. Little rats.
  • If you are not the Dungeon Master, you are bringing yourself and your character into the fold. Make sure both are positives to the group, not negatives!
  • You are there to have a good time. If you're not feeling it, speak up.

In case you missed it, the last article explored a great way to mix up your monsters. Give it a read, it will help you, I promise.

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