Cosplay and D&D: How to Bring Your Character to Life

If you enjoy playing D&D and absolutely love your character, it may have crossed your mind to create a costume and role play as them. You can wear your costume to your D&D sessions, or even wear it to a convention or LARPing event near you. If you just want to wear your costume to get some cool photos, that’s also a great idea. But even if you have an idea of what your character wears, it’s often a lot more complicated to bring them to life.

When designing your D&D character, you need to consider their physical characteristics, their wealth, and also personal preferences. It’s also important to think about the essential objects the character carries, such as weapons or religious symbols.

After the costume design is ready, you need to separate it into pieces so you can construct or purchase the items you need. If you’ve never made a costume before, don’t be afraid to ask for help or watch tutorials to figure out the different aspects of your ensemble.

Designing the clothes for your D&D character

There is a lot to think about when designing your character’s clothing. While you might think of a dark robe, or ninja-like appearance for a rogue, or a nature-inspired costume for a druid, there are so many more ways to make your outfit make sense for your character, their circumstances, and their personality.

  • Social status: Characters from a wealthy background will typically wear more jewelry, richer fabrics (such as silk or velvet), and will generally have a more tailored and put-together appearance.
  • Climate: Think about the type of weather your character is used to or traveling in. Are they from a more tropical climate? Or do they travel through snowy territory? These can affect the type of clothing you choose, such as the addition of a cloak or using thin lightweight material.
  • Fighting style: The class and fighting style of your character will easily alter their clothing. A loose, flowy robe might get in the way of a punching monk, but be perfectly acceptable for a wizard or a rogue would wear dark clothing to stay hidden more easily.
  • Physical characteristics: The race of your character will also alter the way they wear clothing. Wings of an aasimar, for example, would need a hole in the back while tieflings need a place to put their tail.
  • Character personality: Then, of course, there is the character’s personality. Do they like dressing up or prefer not to? Do they have a favorite color or pattern? You can also use your character’s clothing to express their alignment. More lawful character will often have a more buttoned-up straight-laced appearance, while chaotic characters often have looser, more fluid designs.

You’ll also want to consider your own comfort when designing your costume. You don’t want to be sitting all session with itchy fabric or so many layers that you’re overheating. If you’re wearing your cosplay out, you’ll also want to wear comfortable shoes. 

Don’t be afraid to adjust the costume to make it work for you and the event you are wearing it too. It’s not always about being exactly accurate. You can break as many rules as you like to create a character design that you want to wear.

Renaissance lady with a rich velvet costume
The wealth and class of the character will help you determine what kind of clothing they have.

Use your characters stats and abilities to come up with unique designs

To create an even more unique design for your character, think about ways you can bring their stats and abilities into account. A charismatic personality might be more stylish so they can more easily gain influence with other characters. A character with an animal companion might have fur all over the costume. A traveling bard might have jingles all over their outfit to attract the attention of an audience. 

There are so many abilities that characters gain over time that you can interpret into their costume. Look at your character sheet to find the inspiration you need for a clever characteristic that really brings your cosplay to life.

fake weapons shop
There are shops at many renaissance festivals that sell real or fake swords, and other props for your D&D character.

Choosing which objects your character carries

In addition to the clothing, you’ll want to decide which objects to include in the costume. Sadly, none of us has a bag of holding that will actually carry everything on the item list. You’ll want to keep your props to just a few key items that help to clearly identify your character.

Some important props to include are your characters fighting or magic methods. Things like swords, bows, staffs, wands, daggers, axes, and musical instruments, are an essential part of your character and can really add to the cosplay as a whole.

You also need to think about religious symbols and personal items that hold significant meaning to the character. Anything from an old family ring to a pouch of sweets can be a little touch to add more personality to the design.

It’s important to note that you may want to avoid carrying around anything that appears to be a weapon if you will be cosplaying in public, away from a convention. Even if it is simply fake foam, people might not understand and call the police to report you.

separate your cosplay into pieces
Once you know your character’s design, label the different pieces so you can figure out how to create or purchase everything you need.

Putting the costume together

After you’ve designed your character, it’s time to figure out how to make it! Usually this will be a combination of purchasing pieces that fit your character design, and creating anything that is too unique to buy.

  1. List the pieces: the first step to take is to list all the different parts of your costume. Separate it into the shirt, pants, cloak, headdress, and whatever pieces you are including in the cosplay. This will make it a lot easier to determine what you need.
  2. Decide on the method of creating: Now that you have the pieces spelled out, you want to decide which parts you will create from scratch and which you will buy. Most of the time simple clothing pieces, such as tunics, skirts, and cloaks are easy to find, but other props will need to be made by hand.
  3. Find patterns and tutorials: If you’ve never made a costume before, you’ll need to do some research to find tutorials for your costume pieces. EVA foam along with paper clay are easy materials to start with.
  4. Don’t be afraid to buy pieces: Renaissance festival merchants are an excellent place for this. They often have high quality clothing that is perfect for D&D cosplay. Many of these merchants have online shops or etsy shops during the off-season. 
jester cosplayer
Jester Cosplayer from Critical Role at Otakon 2018.

Cosplaying popular D&D character

With the recent rise in popularity of D&D, it’s no wonder that many people are choosing to cosplay as one of the many popular characters from well known shows like Critical Role. Personally, I’m planning a Jester cosplay for the near future since I love her character so much.

The great thing about these D&D cosplays compared to cosplay from movies and animation is that there is a lot more creative freedom in design. There is very little official art and the characters’ costumes can change from episode to episode, so the actual design is also pretty fluid. As long as you get the few main details correct, there is no stress about being completely accurate.

So go and have fun bringing cosplay and D&D together, whether you choose to design your own character or use one of the fantastic characters that already exist.

Emily Joice

My name is Emily, and I have been cosplaying since my very first convention in 2008. Over the years, I've experimented with all different kinds of cosplay costumes, especially loving the process of creating props and styling wigs. I also delved into cosplay photography, and love exploring how to optimize costumes so they look excellent in photos. Most of the photos you find on this site were taken by me over my years at anime conventions.

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