Personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws form the backbone of an RPG character’s personality, and are recommended especially for creating D&D characters. Fleshing out these details and choosing unique options during character creation sets the stage for unique character development opportunities during gameplay.
Personality traits are unique or quirky traits that define how your character behaves on a day to day basis. These can be minor individual traits, such as “I love a good cup of tea” or “I’m fascinated by new technologies”. Combining several of these traits creates a multidimensional character with different facets to their personality.
Alternatively, you can choose one or two personality traits that tie into a character’s backstory and offer a general impression of how they will act. An example of this would be “I was actually raised by wolves”. While this doesn’t have the fine granularity of the previously mentioned traits, it gives an overarching impression of how a character would act in many different situations.
Ideals are beliefs that drive a character. These can include ideas such as Generosity or Greed, Respect or Might, or Tradition or Freedom. These ideals help define the character’s alignment, which defines how other PCs and NPCs view the character. A common hero’s ideal is the Protection of the weak and the innocent, held by ancient heroes as well as modern heroes in the media, such as She-ra, Sabrina, and Mulan. Developing ideals help define what a character deeply believes in and shapes their history as well as how they will roleplay situations which threaten various beliefs.
Bonds are things, people, or places that a character cares deeply about and would fight to protect. A bard may be bonded to a specific magical instrument which was stolen from him long ago, that he now seeks to find and reclaim. A young monk could be bonded to her master, sworn to protect him and the monastery at all costs. A grizzled paladin who shares a bond with her giant lizard mount, is willing to sacrifice herself to save her mount in battle.
While many bonds exist during character creation, bonds can also be gained during gameplay. For instance, Evelyn and Paultin from Dice, Camera, Action developed a bond with a living puppet construct during their time in Barovia. As the adventures continued, and they experienced various ups and downs together, they came to think of the puppet, Simon, as their son. This bond has led to many emotional and powerful roleplaying experiences facilitated by their DM, Chris Perkins.
Flaws are weaknesses in a person’s character than can lead them astray. Common vices, such as lust, gluttony, pride, sloth, greed, envy, and wrath are common general flaws. More specific flaws, such as a treasure-hunter being blind to other threats when presented with large sums of gold, can offer unique roleplaying opportunities when the situations come into play.
Flaws can also be overindulgences of bonds or other traits. For instance, a bond may be “I care deeply for my friends”. However, a corresponding flaw may be “I am blind to danger when it comes to protecting my friends”. A character such as this may fail to fully evaluate a situation when their friend is in danger, rushing in to help but ultimately making the situation worse by putting themselves in greater peril.
While flaws are often seen as inherently bad, they actually offer the opportunity for powerful roleplaying moments and contribute to making a character feel like a real person, instead of a fictional ideal. When characters face their flaws head-on and choose instead to do what is right, their choices become more deeply meaningful and powerful.
In addition to creating a character’s personality and background, additional props may be used for each character, to help other players identify them more easily and to help you roleplay more effectively. Buying a unique Dungeons & Dragons miniature for each character, including premade minis from retailers like Reaper Miniatures or Avatars of War, or designing a unique miniature from a service such as Hero Forge, can help other players identify your character and help them imagine what they look like. Additional props, such as Campaign Coins, can give flair and memorability to unique characters.
Getting a dungeons and dragons dice set, with unique d20s for advantage and disadvantage rolls, can also set the mood for specific characters. A warlock that worships Tiamat, for instance, may use a fire-red dnd polyhedral dice set to represent the burning flames that he burns his enemies with, channeled from the power of his patron.
How to RP
Once you have fleshed out a character’s personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws at character creation, you are ready to begin roleplaying. Roleplaying in a table top role-playing game can be a daunting task, especially for new players. Having a well-established personality written out during character creation makes roleplaying during game much easier.
Create notes of special traits for each character that you can easily locate on your character sheet. As you continue to play, add notes of special NPCs and locations your character visits, and how they feel about each place. Before the game starts, quickly skim your previous notes. Not only does this help to develop the character’s personality as you continue to play, it also helps remind you of the fun adventures they’ve had.
In summary, developing a well-rounded character during character creation, including a character’s personality, ideals, bonds, and flaws, sets the stage for easy roleplaying in game. Keeping notes of your character’s adventures continues to build upon their base character to create an evolving, multidimensional character, with opportunities for memorable roleplaying experiences.
Emily Smith is a D&D Writer, TTRPG Blogger and DMs Guild Content Creator based in Los Angeles, CA. She is a regular DM and player for Adventurer's League, the official organized play system for D&D 5e. In her free time, she enjoys playing League of Legends, cooking, and cat herding.