Character sheets are a constant in the play of Dungeons and Dragons. No matter what race or class you choose to play you will need to have a record of your character's stats. For many years the producers of Dungeons and Dragons have provided specially formatted character sheets for this purpose.

My normal preference in this matter is to create my character sheets myself, either on scrap paper or on a computer. This is not the case with my friends, and I must admit that I do delight in a well-created character sheet. So when I discovered that a copy of the Deluxe Character Sheets had arrived in my Friendly Local Gaming Store, I bought it. I was pleased with what I found within.

The Deluxe Character Sheets are printed in folio fashion, that is, on a large sheet of paper folded in two, thus producing a mini-booklet of four pages. Each character class in the Player's Handbook has their own character sheets, with space for recording their abilities. The barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, and rogue each get their own sheet, a single sheet covers both sorcerer and wizard. There is also a generic character sheet (for new classes or multi-class combinations), and a character sheet for the d20 Modern game. If you count the classes, you will find that makes 12 sheets - 48 pages.

All of the sheets give permission for the owner to photocopy for personal use, so the value of this product is not immediately apparent from the page count. I have had no problem photocopying the sheets double-sided and on an appropriate size of paper - even here in Australia where the standard paper scales are different to those in the United States.

The character sheets are attractive. The first page of each sheet is the same, allowing spaces for the character's main statistics: ability scores, skills, attack bonuses, combat numbers, as well as some miscellaneous information like the character's name. There is plenty of space on this sheet to record the numbers clearly, with one exception: the boxes for the skill bonuses are too small.

The remaining pages vary in their contents depending on what class the sheet is designed for.

The second page presents spaces for possessions, carrying capacity, containers, wealth and languages known, but the bard's, cleric's and wizard's sheets also have a space for recording staffs, wands, and the charges remaining in each. Interestingly, there is space for a "page reference" in the equipment lists. Giving a place for the recording of page references is also used for feats and special abilities on the following two pages. I find this an excellent addition.

The third page deals with the specific features of each class, and has the greatest variance in presentation. The barbarian has room for a lot of feats, and some general notes about the character. The bard has a space for feats, spells/day and armour. The cleric has space for spells, feats and domains. The druid is busy with space for feats, statistics for an animal companion, wild shape forms and spells. The rogue has feats and a table of common skill DCs. All of this individualises the character sheets for each class extremely well.

The fourth and final page of each sheet is similar for most of the sheets, possessing a place to record experience, armour, a portrait/symbol for the character, and the racial traits of the character - although additional items do appear depending on the class.

I think that these character sheets are well put together, providing enough room to record every essential detail of a character, and a few details that might not be so essential. The d20 Modern sheet is of similar construction and utility.

These main sheets do not provide a place to record the spells a character knows or has prepared. The remaining sheets in this product are dedicated to that purpose. There are four sheets (totalling 16 pages) that list the spell-lists for the assassin, bard, blackguard, cleric, druid, paladin, ranger and the sorcerer/wizard.

Where the character sheets are designed to be photocopied in their "folio" format, the spell sheets are much more useful if photocopied as single sheets. It is obvious that with the differing lengths of spell lists, the designers had a much harder time of arranging the lists. In the end, they kept them working as regards to single pages. The result is as effective as it could be. Once photocopied, it should not be much of a problem to use them.

However, I'm not so convinced of the utility of these sheets. Certainly, they are useful to remind a spell-caster of the spells they have available, but they drop dramatically in value once a few spells from non-standard sources are added to the mix. They do have space to add two or three spells to each level's list, but that space would be easily overwhelmed by even a couple of extra sources of spells.

So, you have the main character sheets, which are well designed and function well, and the spell sheets, which work best when used in a campaign using the Core Rulebooks only.

Of final note is the actual cardboard folder that holds the character sheets. It is very attractive, with cover pictures by Wayne Reynolds; you might recognise them from the advertising for the revised edition of D&D. It also features interior tables from the Player's Handbook (3-1 and 3-2), giving the base save and base attack bonuses, as well as the experience and level-dependent benefits. I appreciate them appearing here.

A cover price of $14.95 is quite steep for a 64-page book, let alone a collection of character sheets. However, I am mindful of the permission given to photocopy these sheets.

The actual character sheets are excellent. I am sure they fulfil most of the needs of a character sheet, and the folder allows you to store with them any additional pages of information you might find yourself needing. The spell sheets are somewhat disappointing, but I must say that I've never been convinced by any spell record sheets I've seen - scrap paper or self-designed always seem like the better options. The folder used to store the sheets is excellent.

Why use these sheets instead of the free sheet downloadable from the Wizards site? Why not create your own? Those are decisions that you must make for yourself. I do think these Deluxe Character Sheets are superior to the generic two-page sheet that you can find on the Wizards website (and in the PHB). There is more space to store important information, and that is quite important. Then too, they remind you of everything that you need to be record, so you don't suddenly find yourself needing a piece of information you left off your self-designed character sheet - that's happened to me on more than a couple of occasions.

I am glad that I purchased these sheets, but I do not perceive that I will use them for my own characters - I'm too used to creating my own sheets on the computer. However, I do think they'll be useful for my fellow players, in those occasions I need to give them a temporary PC, the sheet will be more familiar to them than one of my own design.

So, a good product, but its usefulness will depend greatly on your own preferences in the matter.