Ah, the paper character sheet. Right alongside the dice themselves, they rank among the most invaluable tools we have when sitting down to our tabletop RPG of choice. Without one or the other, we’ve got no game to speak of!
We love the paper character sheet here at NoE; so much so that we’ve written before on why we think that in the digital age of Hero Lab and the likes, everyone should use the paper character sheet at least once. But that’s not to say that the standard character sheet is perfect.
A whole market exists for custom character sheets that rearrange the boxes on the page or jazz them up with unique art as frames. And they can get downright fancy!
Hunter Landrum of Pen & Paper Hatchery sat down to make the standard Dungeons and Dragons 5e character sheet a bit less cluttered while at the same time expanding its novelty and utility:
“I just wanted to make the character sheet easier to look at on the first glance. Since I started introducing D&D to my family, I didn’t want to overwhelm anyone who had never played a tabletop RPG before. I wanted to make a character sheet that looked ‘friendlier’ I guess you could say.”
So she set about applying her background in graphic design to her newfound hobby. Her Character Books are among the results, so let’s take a closer look at the modifications she makes to the standard character sheet.
Exploring the Pen & Paper Hatchery Character Notebooks
Before you even get to the contents of her Character Notebooks, you’re met with the cover of the booklets themselves. Available in a variety of colors and designs (including class-specific graphics for the covers) and with the option to have either the player’s or the PC’s name added to the front, her books have that custom and personalized vibe that many are looking for in a character sheet. The designs are gold foil and both pop and shine!
You no longer need a notebook to hold your character sheets as they are a notebook by design, and you won’t soon find yourself shoving it unceremoniously between the pages of the PHB between sessions. This touch alone sets it apart.
Your standard 5e character sheet is a three page deal with combat-relevant information grouped on the first page, biographical and role-playing content on the second, and magic on the third. Hunter’s Character Notebooks take a similar approach, but give the information you’ll populate into all three spaces much more room to breathe.
Past the first page just inside the cover which has room for the player’s name, character name, Race, Background, Alignment, Class, and Level, your first two-page spread is the combat-heavy information. Stats, saves, HP, AC, weapons and attacks, skills…they’re all here.
Your Character Notebook will likely have its face open to these pages when you’re in initiative order.
Instead of being listed alphabetically, Skills are grouped beneath their “parent” stat. I like this personally much more than the abbreviated stat listed in parentheses next to the alphabetical Skills on the standard sheet, but I could also see the greater ease in the A-to-Z approach, too.
The next two-page spread is the biographical and roleplaying information. Stuff like your character’s appearance, personality, backstory, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws live here. There is way more room here to write than on the standard 5e character sheet, for sure. I always thought the Ideal, Bond, and Flaw boxes in particular were nearly unusable on the standard sheet. So tiny!
Another turn of the page brings you to the beginning of five pages dedicated entirely to the cantrips and spells your character will pick up along the way. Again: way more utility in what Hunter has designed than the standard sheet in my opinion. About the only information I could fit onto the standard sheet’s magic page was the page number in the PHB I had to turn to in order to access all the information I had no room for on that page. I’ve also resorted to having a stack of 3×5 notecards for more detailed reference.
All of the caster versions of the Character Notebooks also have the necessary little bubbles next to each Spell to indicate that you’ve prepared it should you need to show as much.
Behind that, the Character Notebooks offer an Inventory page for tracking carried items and their worth and weight (if you’re interested in tracking such things), followed by some blank pages for note taking and some grid pages for mapping.
While I haven’t put my hands on all of the character sheet and folio and notebook options out there, that doesn’t mean I can’t definitely say that I dig Hunter’s. If you’re someone who is playing multiple characters and classes across multiple campaigns, the color variations, designs, and customizable cover make it easy to keep from crossing your character sheet streams, so to speak.
At their price point (less than $10), they make easy gifts for your friends at the table, too! Sit down for a Session 0, make a note of the class and name of each of your players, and surprise them at Session 1 with a fully customized Character Notebook. I’ll bet they’ll love that and think twice before tearing them up when you inevitably kill their beloved and shiny new PC.
I like that the end result of a well-used Character Notebook is in book form. Befitting of the story you’ve told, don’t you think? Be it tragedy, comedy, or legend, there’s room for it in the pages of what Pen & Paper Hatchery has to offer.
Disclosure: Nerds on Earth was provided examples of Pen & Paper Hatchery’s Character Notebooks in exchange for an honest review.