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Building Characters


Building Characters is a system-neutral toolkit for creating memorable tabletop roleplaying characters. It’s designed to work with any rules, settings, and genres. The purpose of this book is to make you think about all of the elements that go into a character. The goal is to spark ideas on how to roleplay them, understand the way they fit into the game world, and better imagine the sorts of adventures that they might go on. You do not need to use everything in this book, but leverage whatever makes sense for your character, the setting, and the overall campaign.

This book includes:

  • Background: The fundamentals of creating a character. Naming them. Describe their physical appearance. Determine the role they fill in game terms. Work out the personality you’ll use to roleplay them. Decide on their stance toward the overarching themes of the game.
  • Statistics: Looking at the character in game terms. Connecting abilities to roleplaying and story opportunities. Includes core attributes and skills. Select modifiers that provide bonuses or penalties to die rolls. Work out the resources, powers, or spells they have.
  • Life Story: All the characters’ lived experiences before the game. Flesh out their personal preferences and the reasons behind them. Explore influences of cultural, religious, and political forces. Examine their past from early childhood through to the present day.
  • Motivations: The reasons the character does what they do, and why they behave the way they do. Flesh out basic needs, both met and unmet. Determine their aspirational goals and influential relationships. Develop an in-game rationale behind increasing abilities and gaining new ones.
  • Worlds and Characters: Explore the influence your game setting has on every character element. Integrate canon worldbuilding material into backgrounds and personalities. Expand existing worldbuilding using the character’s background. Make the character an integral part of the world.
  • Adventures and Characters: Create a character that fits well with planned adventures. Provide a rationale to answer the call to adventure. Find reasons to work alongside other characters, and pursue goals that might not always align with their objectives.
  • Systems and Characters: Examine how the rules you are using both shapes and limits the possibilities for a character. The available selection of abilities, actions, and complications are part of their reality. These can affect character personalities and ambitions.
  • Character Generator: Randomly roll prompts to help you create Background, Statistics, Life Story, and Motivation elements using the concepts found in this book. The resulting outline can be used to develop either player characters or supporting characters.

Building Characters is part of a line of system-neutral creative aids for all tabletop roleplayers. Use these bestselling books with any rules, genre, or setting. Adapt and apply them to any game. Each volume focuses on one element, like character development, worldbuilding, or adventure design.

Dancing Lights Press (DXP) is a tabletop roleplaying company with a lo-fi approach. Utility of content takes precedence over ostentatious production value. Graphic elements should enhance the message of the text, not act as page filler and eye candy. Physical books need to be compact, portable, and sturdy. This minimalist aesthetic results in powerful toolkits that are both useful and affordable. After all, tabletop roleplaying isn’t the book. It’s the creativity and collaboration that takes place around the tabletop. Our mission is to give you as much as you need, then get out of your way.

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Reviews (1)
Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
steve F September 10, 2022 4:31 pm UTC
will there be a Building Characters volume 2 (Director's Cut)?
Customer avatar
Berin K December 03, 2021 2:10 am UTC
The Director's Cut is now available. If you have previously purchased this title, it is available in your library. Consider helping us out by leaving a 5-star rating and a favorable review. If you have reviewed this book in the past, please consider updating it to reflect the changes in this new edition.
Customer avatar
John H August 09, 2022 1:41 pm UTC
My review still stands: the PDF of DXP11001, Building Characters (Director's Cut), from Lightspress Media is identical to the PDF of product DLP351, Building Characters (2e), that I reviewed from Dancing Lights Press, down to its title page. The only exceptions are a new cover and an available YouTube video, Designer's Thoughts.
Customer avatar
Berin K August 10, 2022 3:17 pm UTC
All of the Director's Cut editions are revised and re-edited versions of earlier editions. This book was pushed as an update, free to everyone that had already purchased it, rather than marketed as a new edition. The revisions, while minor, do address and clarify things brought up by other reviewers, hence the polite request for reconsideration. I hope you're doing well today.
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File Last Updated:
May 03, 2023
This title was added to our catalog on February 25, 2020.