Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chargen, New(er) Editions, and Game Designers

I just wanted to bring this post to your attention about character generation across the editions. It's great.

If character generation can't be done under 10 minutes that's a serious, serious impediment to the hobby. Chargen needs to be old school, insofar as you are up and playing immediately. Trash powers, feats, proficiencies, specializations, etc. Let role-players role-play.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with my family doctor. I was contemplating a surgical procedure and his advice was, paraphrasing, unless it's life or death beware of surgeons bearing knives. Indeed, they do like cutting people open. Similarly, guess what game designers like to do? Make rules, and rules, and more rules.

Monte Cook. Take notes.


  1. We should start a betting pool as to how many hundred pages the 5E players handbook will be.

  2. My 11 year old son made 4 characters in about 20 mins using just a pencil, character sheets and the D&D 4e Essentials book. That is about 5 min per character.

    So really, it is what you are used to doing.

  3. If I were 11, with enough time on my hands, I'm sure I could make characters that quick too.

    Your comment serves to underscore the point, you need chargen that can be applied across the gamer population. Not just the kids, but the people who play infrequently.

    Actually, I love 4E - it's a big part of the reason why the OSR is thriving.

  4. I play infrequently and work full time. I haven't taken longer than 10 minutes to make a 3e character in years. Once you do it a few times it's just at matter of how quickly you can write. I don't get these posts. They are typically biased and unproductive across the OSR blogs.

    In contrast, I sat down to make a 2e character for the first time in a loongg time and couldn't even figure out where to get half of the information that the character sheet asked for.

    As somebody above me said, whatever you are used to, whether it BASIC or your own 2e/3e/4e/5e/WoD hybrid, is what you are going to be the most proficient at creating characters for. Once you know the info you know the info, it's that simple.

  5. @Kiltedyaksman - I'm not sure what you're getting at. 'Enough time' would appear to be quantified as 'five minutes per character', which doesn't strike me as very long at all - or are you implying that the Essentials chargen process demands prep time spent in studying the system before you can achieve that five minutes?

    Not knowing 4e from a hole in the ground, I'm genuinely curious...

  6. "I don't get these posts."

    Man. There is ALWAYS one guy who says "It only takes me 10 minutes". Always. Every damn time.

    I'm glad that you've mastered 3e sufficiently that you can construct a character so quickly, Ozreth. The rest of us don't have tables full of Ozreths. We have casual players who aren't that in to learning the rules. We have newbies. We have players who fret over every decision, especially in games like 3e where picking the wrong feat now will screw you at level 10.

  7. @JeffRients

    I haven't mastered the rules by any means. I DM and disregard %60 of the rules anyways because I never cared to learn them.

    Roll 6 stats, copy down race/class features, pick a handfull of skills that seem relevant to you, pick one feat, roll gold, buy armor and weapons, add up AC after buying armor. It's seriously simple. My girlfriend was showing people how to do it after making one or two characters of her own. Maybe you've just let yourself believe that its something spectacular between the big book and all of the internet mumbo jumbo.

  8. @Ozreth

    But how do you know what all those skills and feats do without reading them all, and comparing them?

    In games with simple chargen, there is only one choice that has anything close to that problem, and that is selecting a spell, and that choice is only required if you are playing a magic-using class. And even then, there are only about 10-12 choices. I guess you could add choice of weapon to that as well (an argument for OD&D-style d6 damage?).

    How many feats and skills are there? I think it is way more than 10-12, even restricting options to core rulebooks. And then some classes have additional power lists as well.

  9. I wonder if the issue of games "where picking the wrong feat now will screw you at level 10" is more about the players than the rules? The attitude that your character should be an idealized construction of optimal statistics seems to pervade the current RPG community. Why is this? Must you succeed at every challenge you face?

    Yes, much of the immediate satisfaction in playing an RPG comes from success. But there is a larger story to be told. Most of us acquire expertise through practice and repeated failure. This isn't always fun, but it leads us to try new things, and master new techniques. What if you took the same approach to character generation?

    In my opinion, your character should evolve over time. It shouldn't leap out of the box, fully and perfectly formed.

  10. I suppose the whole good/poor feat selection thing just depends on the group. My group just picks the first feat that sounds cool and relevant, it's as simple as that. I'm not optimizing monsters and they aren't optimizing characters. Most of the feat choices were designed to be balanced (whether they are or arent is a different discussion entirely) so going based on that you can't really go "wrong".

    Anyways, I understand and agree that earlier edition chargen is easier on paper, but that dosen't make 3e+ complicated.

  11. @Ozreth

    Good/Poor feat selection has nothing to do with the group. There *are* pages and pages of feats (just the lists!) and whole page of skills. A new player either has to have someone select those for them, or /without having played the game/ understand what those feats do, because once selected the choice is irrevocable.

    There are clearly feat selections that will make you unable to perform as well as you 'should' be performing, meaning that the decision can't be handwaved - it matters, and if ignored, forces more work upon the DM as he now has to balance disparate power levels.

    Feats were (per, oh, i don't know, the _designers_) explicitly not designed to be balanced, with many choices better than others. Meaning you can go wrong.

    earlier character creation is not just easier 'on paper', it's actually in every measurable way easier. 3e, with it's thousands of builds is in every measurable metric more complicated. Your denial or misunderstanding of reality doesn't change any of the facts.