Wednesday 9 February 2011

AD&D Character Sheet Design

In Palmerston North, when I first started roleplaying (when I was supposed to be doing university study), we didn't have access to much in the way of official material. There was one bookshop who, for a short while, stocked a few AD&D manuals and some of those terrible TSR dice that crumbled like hard cheese, but that was about it. The first I heard of the famous "goldenrod" character sheets was just in the last few years, thanks to the internet.

What that meant was that if we wanted character sheets, we had to make our own — the sheets archived in my last post are examples of some that I designed with rotring and ruler, and photocopied at vast expense at university (if I recall correctly, it cost about 20 cents per copy — that's about a buck and a half in modern money).

The last sheet that I laid out manually (that is, by actually drawing lines and writing captions with a pen) was this one, copied at my work on to a bunch of surplus green card that somebody had bought a whole ream of and only used about five sheets. Just as an aside, I found the card excellent for character sheets; being so much sturdier than paper, it will take a lot more erasing and similar abuse, and it has enough body of its own that you're much less likely to accidentally punch through it with a pen or pencil when resting it against something yielding, like carpet or thigh.

This particular sheet is for another very old (somewhat munchkinish) character, Smirnoff the Fighter, who was immensly strong, extremely stupid, and hideously ugly. I haven't played him as a character for years, though I still employ him very occasionally as an NPC. You will observe that this design includes a bunch of stuff for Unearthed Arcana  classes like the Cavalier and the Thief-Acrobat. By the time this particular sheet was made, we were using a bastardized AD&D1e/UA/2e melange.

When I got my first computer in 1990, along with a copy of CorelDraw 3, I designed this one, based largely on the green sheets above. The computer makes it very easy to keep your lines straight, your spacing even and your text legible, but in the end it's all a bit sterile. Functional though.

Note: you can grab a PDF of this sheet here; it's about 25 KB, so not a large download. Ironically, I designed the sheet just in time to stop playing AD&D — that's about when we changed everything over to the Hero System 4th Ed.


  1. There's something charming about hand-drawn character sheets, I agree about the sterility of professional sheets. That's why I like the ones that have interesting borders and icons to represent armor class (shields) and weapons (fists).

  2. Nice set of char sheets! I too design my own, in this case specifically for the pathfinder game I run that started out as dnd 3.5 with another DM. The sheets are "wide screen" or landscape oriented. If you want to take a look or snag a copy, as they are free, they're on my game blog so enjoy!

  3. Some mighty aesthetically pleasing PC sheetage here.

  4. I fully agree with you that computer generated sheets look sterile. I hate those 3.x sheets that have the charme of an Excel spreadsheet.

    But your sheets - especially the earlier sheets from the post before remind me of the Dragon Warriors sheets (from book 6: Legend). That was the first time that a professional publisher "dared" to offer a hand-lettered character sheet.

  5. You wouldn't be willing to release your CorelDraw 3 file that you created this Character Sheet?

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Sure. You can grab it from here.
    I'm not 100% sure which version of CorelDraw it's currently saved in, because I can't remember the last time I edited it. It's unlikely to be higher than version 7, I think.