Last Updated on June 15, 2023
One of the most commonly overlooked steps in creating a new Dungeons & Dragons 5e character is picking their Personality Traits, Ideal, Bond, and Flaw — narrative prompts tied to your character’s background that help you roleplay and integrate your character into the world of D&D.
Because Flaws (as well as Personality Traits, Ideals, and Bonds) don’t have any mechanical impact, they’re probably the element of someone’s character sheet that is most quickly forgotten about once Session Zero is over and Session One begins.
While you’re very much free to do this, traits, bonds, ideals, and flaws are a great way to conceptualize a new character. They help you both imagine them in your head and roleplay their actions at the table. Not only do a character’s ideals, bonds, flaws, and traits help you, the player, but the choices you make can be really helpful for your dungeon master, offering interesting and exciting new ways to make your character a part of their world.
Today, we’re going to be talking about the most interesting part of a character’s personality (at least, as far I’m concerned): their Flaw.
You’ll typically pick a character flaw from your character’s background, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Because lots of backgrounds’ flaws are compatible with a broad range of character concepts and we like to give people as much inspiration and help as possible, we’ve put together a random Personality Flaw generator. Just push the button and see what kind of darkness lurks within your character’s heart.
First, however, we answer…
What Are Character Flaws in DnD 5e?
A character’s flaw represents a weakness, vice, compulsion, or fear that mars their otherwise heroic personality. It’s more than a bad habit or a negative personality trait; a flaw is something an enemy could exploit to harm you or make you do something you’d later regret.
Essentially, it’s a roleplaying prompt that helps you give vulnerability — and therefore dimension — to your character.
A flaw makes adventurers act against their and their allies’ best interests. A flaw is the crack in a hero’s armor, the painful memory that makes them drink themselves to sleep every night, the betrayal that means they’ll never let themselves trust or love again, the weakness that they can’t overcome, or the scar on their soul that just won’t heal.
Your flaw can speak to your character’s past failings, fears, secret shames, dark desires, failed upbringing, blind spots, or anything else. We’re going to go a little deeper into the idea of a character flaw in the philosophical and dramatic sense in a minute.
For now, hit the button below to generate a random character flaw.
DnD 5e Character Flaw Generator
|1||(Acolyte) I judge others harshly and myself even more severely.|
|2||(Acolyte) I put too much trust in those who wield power within my temple/order/kingdom’s hierarchy.|
|3||(Acolyte) My piety sometimes leads me to blindly trust those who profess faith in my god.|
|4||(Acolyte) I am inflexible in my thinking.|
|5||(Acolyte) I am suspicious of strangers and expect the worst of them.|
|6||(Acolyte) Once I pick a goal, I become obsessed with it to the detriment of everything else in my life.|
|7||(Charlatan) I can’t resist a pretty face.|
|8||(Charlatan) I’m always in debt. I spend my ill-gotten gains on decadent luxuries faster than I bring them in.|
|9||(Charlatan) I’m convinced that no one could ever fool me the way I fool others.|
|10||(Charlatan) I’m too greedy for my own good. I can’t resist taking a risk if there’s money involved.|
|11||(Charlatan) I can’t resist swindling people who are more powerful than me.|
|12||(Charlatan) I hate to admit it and will hate myself for it, but I’ll run and preserve my own hide if the going gets tough.|
|13||(Criminal) When I see something valuable, I can’t think about anything but how to steal it.|
|14||(Criminal) When faced with a choice between money and my friends, I usually choose the money.|
|15||(Criminal) If there’s a plan, I’ll forget it. If I don’t forget it, I’ll ignore it.|
|16||(Criminal) I have a “tell” that reveals when I’m Iying.|
|17||(Criminal) I turn tail and run when things look bad.|
|18||(Criminal) An innocent person is in prison for a crime that I committed. I’m okay with that.|
|19||(Entertainer) I’ll do anything to win fame and renown.|
|20||(Entertainer) I’m a sucker for a pretty face.|
|21||(Entertainer) A scandal prevents me from ever going home again. That kind of trouble seems to follow me around.|
|22||(Entertainer) I once satirized a noble who still wants my head. It was a mistake that I will likely repeat.|
|23||(Entertainer) I have trouble keeping my true feelings hidden. My sharp tongue lands me in trouble.|
|24||(Entertainer) Despite my best efforts, I am unreliable to my friends.|
|25||(Folk Hero) The tyrant who rules my land will stop at nothing to see me killed.|
|26||(Folk Hero) I’m convinced of the significance of my destiny and blind to my shortcomings and the risk of failure.|
|27||(Folk Hero) The people who knew me when I was young know my shameful secret, so I can never go home again.|
|28||(Folk Hero) I have a weakness for the vices of the city, especially hard drink.|
|29||(Folk Hero) Secretly, I believe that things would be better if I were a tyrant lording over the land.|
|30||(Folk Hero) I have trouble trusting in my allies.|
|31||(Guild Artisan) I’ll do anything to get my hands on something rare or priceless.|
|32||(Guild Artisan) I’m quick to assume that someone is trying to cheat me.|
|33||(Guild Artisan) No one must ever learn that I once stole money from guild coffers.|
|34||(Guild Artisan) I’m never satisfied with what I have – I always want more.|
|35||(Guild Artisan) I would kill to acquire a noble title.|
|36||(Guild Artisan) I’m horribly jealous of anyone who can outshine my handiwork. Everywhere I go, I’m surrounded by rivals.|
|37||(Hermit) Now that I’ve returned to the world, I enjoy its delights a little too much.|
|38||(Hermit) I like keeping secrets and won’t share them with anyone.|
|39||(Hermit) I harbor dark, bloodthirsty thoughts that my isolation and meditation failed to quell.|
|40||(Hermit) I am dogmatic in my thoughts and philosophy.|
|41||(Hermit) I let my need to win arguments overshadow friendships and harmony.|
|42||(Hermit) I’d risk too much to uncover a lost bit of knowledge.|
|43||(Noble) I secretly believe that everyone is beneath me.|
|44||(Noble) I hide a truly scandalous secret that would ruin my family forever.|
|45||(Noble) I too often hear veiled insults and threats in every word addressed to me, and I’m quick to anger.|
|46||(Noble) I have an insatiable desire for carnal pleasures.|
|47||(Noble) In fact, the world does revolve around me.|
|48||(Noble) By my words and actions, I often bring shame to my family.|
|49||(Outlander) I am too enamored of ale, wine, and other intoxicants.|
|50||(Outlander) There’s no room for caution in a life lived to the fullest.|
|51||(Outlander) I remember every insult I’ve received and nurse a silent resentment toward anyone who’s ever wronged me.|
|52||(Outlander) I am slow to trust members of other races, tribes, and societies.|
|53||(Outlander) Violence is my answer to almost any challenge.|
|54||(Outlander) Don’t expect me to save those who can’t save themselves. It is nature’s way that the strong thrive and the weak perish.|
|55||(Sage) I am easily distracted by the promise of information.|
|56||(Sage) Most people scream and run when they see a demon. I stop and take notes on its anatomy.|
|57||(Sage) Unlocking an ancient mystery is worth the price of a civilization.|
|58||(Sage) I overlook obvious solutions in favor of complicated ones.|
|59||(Sage) I speak without really thinking through my words, invariably insulting others.|
|60||(Sage) I can’t keep a secret to save my life or anyone else’s.|
|61||(Sailor) I follow orders, even if I think they’re wrong.|
|62||(Sailor) I’ll say anything to avoid having to do extra work.|
|63||(Sailor) Once someone questions my courage, I never back down no matter how dangerous the situation.|
|64||(Sailor) Once I start drinking, it’s hard for me to stop.|
|65||(Sailor) I can’t help but pocket loose coins and other trinkets I come across.|
|66||(Sailor) My pride will probably lead to my destruction.|
|67||(Soldier) The monstrous enemy we faced in battle still leaves me quivering with fear.|
|68||(Soldier) I have little respect for anyone who is not a proven warrior.|
|69||(Soldier) I made a terrible mistake in battle that cost many lives – and I would do anything to keep that mistake secret.|
|70||(Soldier) My hatred of my enemies is blind and unreasoning.|
|71||(Soldier) I obey the law, even if the law causes misery.|
|72||(Soldier) I’d rather eat my armor than admit when I’m wrong.|
|73||(Urchin) If I’m outnumbered, I will run away from a fight.|
|74||(Urchin) Gold seems like a lot of money to me, and I’ll do just about anything for more of it.|
|75||(Urchin) I will never fully trust anyone other than myself.|
|76||(Urchin) I’d rather kill someone in their sleep than fight fair.|
|77||(Urchin) It’s not stealing if I need it more than someone else.|
|78||(Urchin) People who can’t take care of themselves get what they deserve.|
|79||(Black Citadel) My belief in a higher power makes me careless, judgemental and rash.|
|80||(Black Citadel) I have a morbid curiosity that sends me into dangerous situations, and makes me pick at emotional wounds like a freshly healed scab.|
|81||(Black Citadel) I find it hard to trust people who are too different from me.|
|82||(Black Citadel) My faith in my friends’ abilities borders on the dangerously naive.|
|83||(Black Citadel) I believe everyone is innocent until proven guilty even when the evidence is overwhelming.|
|84||(Black Citadel) I’m convinced every monster is just misunderstood and, deep down, just needs to be loved. I tried to pet an owlbear once, and I’ll do it again.|
|85||(Black Citadel) I would sell my soul for a chance at fame and fortune.|
|86||(Black Citadel) I pretend that hurting people is necessary. Really, I kind of like it.|
|87||(Black Citadel) Anyone who so much as looks at me funny is over halfway to getting a beat down.|
|88||(Black Citadel) I care about my possessions much more than I care about my friends.|
|89||(Black Citadel) I have a weakness for beautiful things.|
|90||(Black Citadel) I can’t let anyone know that I’m anything other than a cold blooded killer. Showing weakness is death in this life.|
|91||(Black Citadel) I’m a coward. When things take a turn for the worse, I can’t help but turn tail and run.|
|92||(Black Citadel) I have a paralyzing fear of [d6. 1. The dark, 2. Tight spaces, 3. Open spaces, 4. Heights, 5. Spiders, 6. All of the Above], and I lose the capacity for rational thought when I’m around any of them.|
|93||(Black Citadel) I believe myself to be the champion spoken of in an ancient prophecy and therefore cannot be killed or defeated in battle.|
|94||(Black Citadel) I am willing to accept massive collateral damage for the sake of victory.|
|95||(Black Citadel) There’s no place so low I wouldn’t stoop to get one over on my enemies (or my friends).|
|96||(Black Citadel) I’m virtually incapable of making a decision.|
|97||(Black Citadel) I’m virtually incapable of thinking before I act.|
|98||(Black Citadel) Loud noises, shiny things, and any small, cute animal are surefire ways to make sure I lose focus on the task at hand.|
|99||(Black Citadel) A close friend betrayed me in the past. Now, I won’t let anyone get that close ever again.|
|100||(Black Citadel) I almost drowned once before, and now I won’t get in or even close to a body of water. This includes baths.|
|101||(Black Citadel) Blood, slime, the smell of rotting flesh? Nope! I’m incurably squeamish and would rather die than get close to (let alone touch) something gross.|
|102||(Black Citadel) I’m a very important person, and very important people don’t carry their own stuff. Besides, my arms get tired.|
|103||(Black Citadel) There’s nothing like a friendly stranger or a polite city guard to convince me there’s a sinister conspiracy afoot.|
|104||(Black Citadel) Everyone’s out to get me, so I’d better get them first.|
|105||(Black Citadel) Shiny and expensive things tend to disappear around me.|
|106||(Black Citadel) I’m pragmatic to a fault and will always take the most sensible course of action, no matter heartless or callous.|
|107||(Black Citadel) I enjoy the sound of my own mellifluous voice and have a predilection for demonstrating with crystalline clarity the sheer numerousness and dizzying variation to be found in the host of words at my command.|
|108||(Black Citadel) Why use many words when one will do? Why speak when you can grunt or roll your eyes?|
|109||(Black Citadel) I exaggerate every possible gesture, story, and cry of pain.|
|110||(Black Citadel) My clothes must be exquisite, my hair perfectly done up, and my shoes recently polished. I will stop mid-adventure to fix my exquisite look.|
|111||(Black Citadel) I have no concept of personal space or boundaries.|
|112||(Black Citadel) I mean well, but I was raised by some very bad people and my instincts for what’s right and what’s very, very wrong are pretty scrambled.|
|113||(Black Citadel) I believe anyone who is part of a lower social class to be my lesser and those higher up the ladder than myself to be beyond reproach.|
|114||(Black Citadel) There’s nothing I like more than to find the roughest bar in town and start trouble.|
|115||(Black Citadel) I have a knack for wandering off or finding something really important to do just as some hard work is about to get done.|
|116||(Black Citadel) I love to cook. I’m spectacularly bad at it and will break down or explode at the slightest hint of criticism.|
|117||(Black Citadel) I see enemies everywhere — demons in every shadow, monsters under every rock, a vampire in every smile.|
|118||(Black Citadel) I seem to have a gift for saying the least tactful thing possible at any given moment.|
|119||(Black Citadel) There’s a powerful person who wants me dead and tries regularly to make it happen.|
|120||(Black Citadel) No matter how small the insult or sleight, I’ve probably killed for less before.|
What Is a Character Flaw?
If we want to get philosophical for a second, the idea of character flaws (personal failings, immoral behavior, etc.) has been analyzed, recontextualized, and re-explained ad infinitum over the course of human civilization and thought.
Aristotle and his disciples believed that human virtue came from moderation and balance, and therefore failings were the result of an excess or deficiency of a virtue. For example, someone with a deficiency of courage is a coward, but someone who is brave to the point of not caring whether they live or die isn’t virtuous but foolhardy. Don’t be miserly or a spendthrift; don’t be too polite or too blunt; don’t be rash, but don’t let yourself be paralyzed by indecision.
In fiction, a character flaw is some kind of failing or bias, an imperfection that prevents a character from functioning the way they’re supposed to or from doing what needs to be done.
Hamlet is probably the most famous example of a character undermined and paralyzed by a fatal flaw: indecision. The ghost of his own father from beyond the grave appears before him and says he was murdered by his own brother, Halmet’s uncle. Within the first four scenes of the play, we know what’s going on, the sin that’s been committed, and what Hamlet needs to do about it.
If Hamlet wasn’t completely paralyzed by indecision — his character’s flaw — he would kill Claudius, become king, marry Ophelia, win the war with Fortinbras, not accidentally murder Polonius for hiding behind a curtain, and go get some therapy for his spectacular array of issues with his mother. Those of you familiar with the play will know that things don’t exactly shake out that way.
Flaws can be the result of some internal failing, like Hamlet, or they can be physical, mental, moral, or some combination of the above. Character flaws can be a source of sympathy (Superman’s lack of flaws is one of the reasons why people say he is a boring character), of pity, or of revulsion (Patrick Bateman’s faulty grip on reality, burning psychopathy, and vanity all conspire to make him one of cinema’s most compelling monsters).
It’s important to note, however, that there’s a difference between a flawed character and a character who is evil. A character flaw is a deviation or failing in the character’s purpose and identity. People are flawed if something within them stops them from doing what they need, have to, or should do.
Emperor Palpatine, Lord Voldemort, and the Daleks aren’t flawed because they’re evil. They might be considered flawed because their pride, or prejudice, or inflexibility of thought leads to their downfall, not because they were trying to do bad things.
A flaw, then, is something which, unless overcome, causes the downfall of a character.
Hamlet is a tragic hero, meaning he doesn’t overcome his indecision, and all of Denmark pays the price; he would be a hero if not for a fatal flaw. Luke Skywalker, on the other hand, is flawed — he’s naive and reckless, and his impatience costs him his hand and nearly destroys the rebellion — but he overcomes those flaws as part of his hero’s journey, and he saves both the galaxy and his father’s soul as the result.
Other examples of flawed characters in fiction include…
- Captain Ahab, Moby Dick or the Whale: A whaler so consumed by his hatred for a white whale that he dooms himself and his entire crew in his efforts to pursue it.
- Jason Bourne, The Bourne Identity: A brilliant spy whose memory is corrupted, leaving him unable to unravel the mystery of his own life.
- Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride: A master swordsman driven and almost destroyed by his desire for revenge.
- Veruca Salt, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: A spoiled, selfish, greedy child who pays the price for her shortcomings.
- Cugel the Clever, Eyes of the Overworld: A selfish, reckless, proud desperado whose desire to constantly get one over on other people (who, admittedly, are usually either asking for it or trying to do the same to him) is the primary reason he gets into tight scrapes in the first place.
How To Use Flaws in DnD 5e
When it comes to using flaws to help portray your character in D&D 5e, understanding how a tragic hero works is all well and good, but for all their similarities, there are practical differences between the purpose of a character flaw in fiction and in a tabletop roleplaying game.
In D&D, a character flaw serves two purposes:
- It gives you additional inspiration when roleplaying, adding dimension to your character.
- It gives the Dungeon Master new and exciting ways to make bad things happen to your character.
In a Southeast Asian/Ghibli-inspired pirate campaign I’m running right now, every character starts off the game with an entanglement and a vice — which the players could either randomly assign or make up. An entanglement is some connection, usually bad and complicated, to a local NPC, and a vice represents a condition that they need to fulfill in order to be able to level up and recover long term damage, like engaging in high-stakes gambling or spending too much money on expensive art.
In three sessions, my players have set up an illegal haunted wine deal, robbed an antiques auction, blown up the local governor’s mansion, briefly extinguished the sun, and hatched a plot to smuggle a demon onto a ship in the hope it’ll kill the pirates on board. I planned exactly none of this.
The entanglements, vices, and a substantial debt incurred by one player’s ex husband have provided all the motivation the players needed to get out there and start being pirates, not to mention all the ammunition I needed to make bad (and interesting, mostly bad) stuff happen to them along the way.
If you’re a player preparing for your next D&D 5e campaign, I strongly advise picking a flaw that not only helps you roleplay your character but also gives your DM a way to cause trouble for you down the line. I love impersonal hack-and-slash dungeon crawling as much as the next DM (just ask my Tuesday night group), but adventures are way easier to be invested in if they’re somehow about your character. Flaws are a way to invite that kind of trouble, and therefore drama, into your next campaign.
Dungeon masters, ask your players for interesting flaws, or sit down during Session Zero and help them figure them out. Remind your players that a flaw doesn’t have to be to do with a character’s personality, it doesn’t have to consume their character, and it also probably should manifest in a way that messes up the entire group.
A character whose flaw is “I stab my allies in the back whenever possible” kind of breaches the social contract of D&D. Unless the whole party is on board with a one-shot where they backstab the hell out of each other, character Flaws can cause trouble for the party, they can make the party’s life more interesting, and they can be annoying from time to time. They’re not an excuse to be a dick to your friends.
Character flaws are an often underappreciated roleplaying tool that can help players and dungeon masters tell better, more interesting stories together. Not every character flaw is right for every player character, and as a rule of thumb character flaws shouldn’t manifest in ways that turn your allies against you or completely ruin the party’s fun out of nowhere.
However, used correctly, a good character flaw is the difference between a compelling, three-dimensional gang of heroes and a bunch of mindless arcade game avatars.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.