Your D&D character is more than stats on the character sheet – they have a personality too! What makes your new D&D character tick? What drives them to do what they do? Ideals, that’s what!
Follow us as we get into D&D Ideals – how ideals work, how to use your ideal in roleplay, and give plenty of ideals examples and options to inspire you!
What are Character Ideals in DnD?
Character ideals are what drives your character to do what they do and the principles they follow as they live their life.
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The Player’s Handbook describes character ideals like this:
Your ideals are the things that you believe in most strongly, the fundamental moral and ethical principles that compel you to act as you do. Ideals encompass everything from your life goals to your core belief system.Page 124, Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook 5th edition.
Your character’s ideal may answer questions like:
- What principle does your character live by?
- What would your character give anything to achieve?
- What guides your character’s goals, decisions, motivations?
Character ideals are one of the four characteristics that make up your character’s personality. Ideals work alongside personality traits, flaws, and bonds to help you create a D&D character with depth!
How Do Ideals Work in DnD?
Character ideals in DnD work as a kind of roleplay enhancement: choosing an ideal helps you get to know your character and understand their goals and personality. No math or dice needed!
Consider your character’s stats (ability scores, skill bonuses, etc.) to be the outline, and the personality traits like ideals are the colored pencils you use to bring the picture to life. Are they full of bright and clashing shades, exceptionally coordinated, or a little more subdued? It’s all up to your imagination.
How Many Character Ideals Can I Have in DnD?
You can have as many character ideals as you want in DnD, but to keep it simple we recommend starting with just one.
You can always pick up more ideals as you go! After all, your character is bound to develop and change as they face monsters, solve mysteries, and make friends!
What Are Examples of Ideals in DnD?
Here are some examples of ideals broken down by alignment. (Alignment reflects your character’s morals and attitudes towards how society operates. For everything you need to know about alignment in D&D, see our guide.)
- Charity. I always help those in need, no matter what the personal cost. Great for Paladins!
- Respect. People deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Could work with any Good aligned character.
- Live and Let Live. Meddling in the affairs of others only causes trouble. Perfect for a Druid or Ranger.
- People. I help the people who help me – that’s what keeps us alive. Teamwork-centric ideals can fit almost any class or character.
- Greed. I will do whatever it takes to become wealthy. Rogues are an obvious choice, but what about a magic user who wants a tower full of artifacts all to themself?
- Might. If I become strong, I can take what I want – what l deserve. A dark ideal that can be applied to any class, not just physical ones. After all, magical and intellectual power can be just as dangerous!
- Honor. If I dishonor myself, I dishonor my whole clan. Very fitting for classes that require Lawful alignment, like Paladin.
- Tradition. The stories, legends, and songs of the past must never be forgotten, for they teach us who we are. An interesting choice for Bards, Clerics, or other lore-keeping classes.
- No Limits. Nothing should fetter the infinite possibility inherent in all existence. Sorcerer is the poster child for chaos!
- Independence. I am a free spirit – no one tells me what to do. A fitting ideal for classes like Ranger, Barbarian, Bard, Sorcerer, and Rogue.
Ideals for Any Alignment
- Destiny. Nothing and no one can steer me away from my higher calling. Any character can have a great destiny – but what’s yours?
- Aspiration. I work hard to be the best there is at my craft. Every class has skills – the Fighter honing her style, the Warlock studying his Patron’s teachings, the Rogue trying to become the best lock picker in Faerûn!
How to Choose an Ideal for Your Character
D&D is all about fun with friends, so choose your ideals with teamwork in mind. What is the general alignment of the party? Would choosing an Evil/Lawful/Good ideal clash, or could it be complimentary? Might roleplaying that ideal help create a welcoming, or tense environment?
For example, if your friends want to play do-gooders and chivalrous knights making a character with the Greed or Power ideal may set your goals at odds. No bueno.
As long as your goal is to tell a cooperative and inclusive story, your character can get away with almost any ideal. Like a villain who joins the Good Guy party to reform, but needs to break some bad habits first! Or, a boy scout who learns to loosen up in the company of lovable crooks.
Maybe most important of all: don’t sweat it! Just chat with your Dungeon Master if you want to change an ideal up. Your personality traits aren’t set in stone, so why should your D&D character’s be?
DnD 5e Ideals List by Background
Backgrounds are a great resource in the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook for character inspiration. Starting on page 127 there’s a list of backgrounds like Sage and Acoltlye plus 6 ideals for each.
As mentioned above, most ideals also correspond to an alignment. That way, if you already have ideas on alignment OR ideals, one can lead to the other – character building made quick and easy!
Speaking of easy builds, you can always leave this choice up to fate by rolling a d6 and randomizing your character’s personality from the background tables presented in the handbook.
Here are all the ideal tables compiled into one mega-list, and a speedy-quick intro to each background.
The Acolyte is a person raised within the structure of a church, temple, or organization (usually religious). Excellent for Monks, Clerics, Paladins, Druids, or maybe even Wizards & Warlocks. Happy little Elder God family, anyone?
|1||Tradition. The ancient traditions of worship and sacrifice must be preserved and upheld. (Lawful)|
|2||Charity. I always help those in need, no matter what the personal cost. (Good)|
|3||Change. We must help bring about the changes the gods are constantly working in the world. (Chaotic)|
|4||Power. I hope to one day rise to the top of my faith’s religious hierarchy. (Lawful)|
|5||Faith. I trust that my deity will guide my actions. I have faith that if I work hard, things will go well. (Lawful)|
|6||Aspiration. I seek to prove myself worthy of my god’s favor by matching my actions against his or her teachings. (Any)|
A Charlatan is a trickster, grifter, or con man. Does she dupe people for money, power, or just for the sheer joy of it? A perfect fit for Charisma based classes like Bards and Sorcerers, silver-tongued Rogues, or an imaginative Paladin.
|1||Independence. I am a free spirit – no one tells me what to do. (Chaotic)|
|2||Fairness. I never target people who can’t afford to lose a few coins. (Lawful)|
|3||Charity. I distribute the money I acquire to the people who really need it. (Good)|
|4||Creativity. I never run the same con twice. (Chaotic)|
|5||Friendship. Material goods come and go. Bonds of friendship last forever. (Good)|
|6||Aspiration. I’m determined to make something of myself. (Any)|
A Criminal is someone who was, or still is, involved in crime as a profession. He could be part of a syndicate, a small band of wagon trail bandits, or be a lone assassin.
Though an obvious choice for Rogues, any class can utilize this background with some creativity. For example, the Druid with a fleet of trained squirrels could cause some serious mayhem in the city.
|1||Honor. I don’t steal from others in the trade. (Lawful)|
|2||Freedom. Chains are meant to be broken, as are those who would forge them. (Chaotic)|
|3||Charity. I steal from the wealthy so that I can help people in need. (Good)|
|4||Greed. I will do whatever it takes to become wealthy. (Evil)|
|5||People. I’m loyal to my friends, not to any ideals, and everyone else can lake a trip down the Styx for all I care. (Neutral)|
|6||Redemption. There’s a spark of good in everyone. (Good)|
Art incarnate, that’s the Entertainer life. No matter what discipline he devotes himself to (dancer, fire eater, flea acrobatic trainer!) he lives to perform. Bards and Sorcerer smake great Entertainers, but so might Rogues, Wizards, Warlocks, or even a strong woman Barbarian!
|1||Beauty. When I perform, I make the world better than it was. (Good)|
|2||Tradition. The stories, legends, and songs of the past must never be forgotten, for they teach us who we are. (Lawful)|
|3||Creativity. The world is in need of new ideas and bold action. (Chaotic)|
|4||Greed. I’m only in it for the money and fame. (Evil)|
|5||People. I like seeing the smiles on people’s faces when I perform. That’s all that matters. (Neutral)|
|6||Honesty. Art should reflect the soul; it should come from within and reveal who we really are. (Any)|
Folk Hero Ideals
The Folk Hero is from humble origins, but inspired to adventure by exceptional events. Think Spider-Man, Johnny Appleseed, or even Batman! A highly versatile background, your imagination is the limit as to what classes and types of characters could be a Folk Hero.
|1||Respect. People deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. (Good)|
|2||Fairness. No one should get preferential treatment before the law, and no one is above the law. (Lawful)|
|3||Freedom. Tyrants must not be allowed to oppress the people. (Chaotic)|
|4||Might. If I become strong, I can take what I want – what l deserve. (Evil)|
|5||Sincerity. There’s no good in pretending to be something I’m not. (Neutral)|
|6||Destiny. Nothing and no one can steer me away from my higher calling. (Any)|
Guild Artisan Ideals
A Guild Artisan is a person that works a skilled trade, whether part of a guild or running their own shop. Are they journeymen, or masters? Still involved in the bureaucracy, or working outside it? Great for Wizards, Clerics, or even Rogues!
|1||Community. It is the duty of all civilized people to strengthen the bonds of community and the security of civilization. (Lawful)|
|2||Generosity. My talents were given to me so that I could use them to benefit the world. (Good)|
|3||Freedom. Everyone should be free to pursue his or her own livelihood. (Chaotic)|
|4||Greed. I’m only in it for the money. (Evil)|
|5||People. I’m committed to the people I care about, not to ideals. (Neutral)|
|6||Aspiration. I work hard to be the best there is at my craft. (Any)|
A Hermit has, for whatever reason, removed herself from society and the company of other sentient creatures. She may have chosen the life, or had it chosen for her. And her seclusion could take many forms: a locked tower in a castle, an uninhabited swamp, or remote mountaintop temple.
Rangers, Druids, Monks, and Barbarians are obvious, but any class could utilize this broad background!
|1||Greater Good. My gifts are meant to be shared with all, not used for my own benefit. (Good)|
|2||Logic. Emotions must not cloud our sense of what is right and true, or our logical thinking. (Lawful)|
|3||Free Thinking. Inquiry and curiosity are the pillars of progress. (Chaotic)|
|4||Power. Solitude and contemplation are paths toward mystical or magical power. (Evil)|
|5||Live and Let Live. Meddling in the affairs of others only causes trouble. (Neutral)|
|6||Self-Knowledge. If you know yourself, there’s nothing left to know. (Any)|
Though he can hail from any part of the world, a Noble comes from wealth – whether that’s the wealth of land ownership, political power, or family influence or inheritance. Does he have access to this wealth? Or has it been snatched or squandered?
Just about any class could fit here – a well educated Wizard, down on his luck Fighter, or persuasive Bard!
|1||Respect. Respect is due to me because of my position, but all people regardless of station deserve to be treated with dignity. (Good)|
|2||Responsibility. It is my duty to respect the authority of those above me, just as those below me must respect mine. (Lawful)|
|3||Independence. I must prove that I can handle myself without the coddling of my family. (Chaotic)|
|4||Power. If I can attain more power, no one will tell me what to do. (Evil)|
|5||Family. Blood runs thicker than water. (Any)|
|6||Noble Obligation. It is my duty to protect and care for the people beneath me. (Good)|
The Outlander has spent a major part of her life part of an insular or isolated community. Her group may have traveled around, like nomads or performance troupes, or lived in remote wilderness. A great option for Barbarians, Rangers, Druids, Warlocks, and Sorcerers.
|1||Change. Life is like the seasons, in constant change, and we must change with it. (Chaotic)|
|2||Greater Good. It is each person’s responsibility to make the most happiness for the whole tribe. (Good)|
|3||Honor. If I dishonor myself, I dishonor my whole clan. (Lawful)|
|4||Might. The strongest are meant to rule. (Evil)|
|5||Nature. The natural world is more important than all the constructs of civilization. (Neutral)|
|6||Glory. I must earn glory in battle, for myself and my clan. (Any)|
A Sage is a master of his favorite field of study. He has spent much of his life and energies studying, learning, and cataloging the mysteries of the universe. Is he part of a school, a teacher or student? Or, have his passions drawn him down the less traveled roads of life?
Bards, Monks, Rangers, Druids, Wizards, Warlocks, and even Clerics make excellent Sages.
|1||Knowledge. The path to power and self-improvement is through knowledge. (Neutral)|
|2||Beauty. What is beautiful points us beyond itself toward what is true. (Good)|
|3||Logic. Emotions must not cloud our logical thinking. (Lawful)|
|4||No Limits. Nothing should fetter the infinite possibility inherent in all existence. (Chaotic)|
|5||Power. Knowledge is the path to power and domination. (Evil)|
|6||Self-lmprovement. The goal of a life of study is the betterment of oneself. (Any)|
The Sailor is a person who has spent a significant portion of her life at sea, such as a fisher, privateer, naval officer, or even ferryboat captain. This background can be massaged to fit any class – except Paladins and Clerics! Clergymen are bad luck on a ship, after all.
|1||Respect. The thing that keeps a ship together is mutual respect between captain and crew. (Good)|
|2||Fairness. We all do the work, so we all share in the rewards. (Lawful)|
|3||Freedom. The sea is freedom – the freedom lo go anywhere and do anything. (Chaotic)|
|4||Mastery. I’m a predator, and the other ships on the sea are my prey. (Evil)|
|5||People. I’m committed lo my crewmates, not to ideals. (Neutral)|
|6||Aspiration. Someday I’ll own my own ship and chart my own destiny. (Any)|
Another background that meshes well with all the DnD classes, the Soldier is defined by his life of war. Was he trained from birth to protect a monarch? Drafted into a long, and brutal civil war? Part of a band of mercenaries? You decide!
|1||Greater Good. Our lot is to lay down our lives in defense of others. (Good)|
|2||Responsibility. I do what I must and obey just authority. (Lawful)|
|3||Independence. When people follow orders blindly, they embrace a kind of tyranny. (Chaotic)|
|4||Might. In life as in war, the stronger force wins. (Evil)|
|5||Live and Let Live. Ideals aren’t worth killing over or going to war for. (Neutral)|
|6||Nation. My city, nation, or people are all that matter. (Any)|
Just like the Noble is defined by wealth, the Urchin is defined by poverty. An Urchin has been shaped by extreme hardship like abandonment, exposure, slavery, and malnutrition. Does she still live in squalor? Or has she been raised up by self determination, a generous benefactor, or a blossoming of magical power?
Once again, any class can get inspiration from this background. Survivalist classes like Rogues & Rangers are particularly appropriate.
|1||Respect. All people, rich or poor, deserve respect. (Good)|
|2||Community. We have to take care of each other, because no one else is going to do it. (Lawful)|
|3||Change. The low are lifted up, and the high and mighty are brought down. Change is the nature of things. (Chaotic)|
|4||Retribution. The rich need to be shown what life and death are like in the gutters. (Evil)|
|5||People. I help the people who help me – that’s what keeps us alive. (Neutral)|
|6||Aspiration. I’m going to prove that I’m worthy of a better life.|
Homebrew DnD Ideals
Of course, you can always make your own ideals instead of using the ones from the PHB.
In the spirit of teamwork, consider brainstorming your ideal with the other players. And always talk to your DM about homebrewing some ideals – they may have objections, tips, or constructive criticism!
To get you going, here are some of our own homebrew ideals sorted into groups by their D&D alignment.
- All for One and One for All. If we just shared our magical knowledge between the races, we’d all be rich and well fed… drinking enchanted ales on the beach all the live long day! We can make paradise.
- Protect the Small. I defend those who can’t defend themselves. I stick up for the weak. I speak for those without voices. No harm will come to children, animals, or plants in my presence.
- Travel. There are just so many people to meet, foods to try, ideas to entertain, and places to explore… I want to see it all!
- Acceptance. I endure hardship without complaint. No one creature is the center of the universe. Life and nature does as it pleases; it will all continue with or without me.
- Pessimism. The world is a cold and cruel place; I assume the worst in every situation.
- Competition. This world belongs to the strong, capable, and quick – the winners. I will do what needs to be done to win, including crushing the competition.
- Responsibility. Order and justice are what make our societies safe. If I’m good enough, I can save everybody!
- Code. I have a personal code, a set of rules which I use to guide my actions & decisions.
- Listen to Your Gut. I listen to my instinct and intuition. Wasting time debating the “best” course of action is an exercise in futility.
- Moral Flexibility. Depending on the situation, I’m willing to lie, cheat, or steal to further my goals.
- Nihilism. I reject the idea of objective truth and the belief that anything has intrinsic value, purpose, or meaning. Everything is equally meaningless. I’m a real hit at parties.
- Smash. Oog smash! Oog rip head off! Oog never meet problem she can no solve with fists. Why world full of things that break if smash no answer? It just make sense.
DnD Ideals Generators
If you want some help choosing ideals, but don’t dig those offered in the PHB then check out some of these random ideal generators.
- DnD Lounge provides a handy ideal generator, and a background generator & rules guide too!
- Tetra Cube’s site lets you randomize almost an entire character (ideals, flaws, race, class, etc) and even choose which source books to pull from.
- Over on Character.TotalPartyKill.ca you can simply refresh the browser over and over to get a fully built character every time.
- And Chaos Gen has the biggest selection of random gaming generators we’ve ever seen, including a page with full sets of character ideas that you can generate up to 25 at a time. Wowsa!
Conclusion: DnD Ideals
What could spur your D&D character into action? Cause them to abandon a venture? What are their principles, their values? Those are questions DnD ideals can answer.
And with all this inspiration and information, we hope you have a blast making your next character and fine-tuning all those unique personality traits!
To go along with your shiny new D&D character, how about some idealic D&D player accessories?
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