17 August 2010

Character Building?

Thank God I took three levels in Ropeclimb Bowthief.
One of the things that always bothered me when playing WoW, LoTRO, and especially WAR (because WAR was my favorite, see), was that people refused to call their characters that. They were never characters, they were always "toons". "Gotta reroll my toon", one guy would say, or "Just rolled up a new toon today, trying out Choppa," or "Don't play Bright Wizard, I know a guy that has a BW toon and he hates it."

I never understood it. Why would you pick possibly the dumbest name for a "character" and then compulsively call it that? I understand the part about "rerolling" (since it comes directly from D&D, something that the average mouth-breathing MMO player may not know) but not about "toons."

And so my confusion extends to this obsession with "character building." I've complained about Enworld before, but why is it that everybody and their mother wants help building characters? It's dozens of people not asking about cool character concepts or interesting personality traits, but how to make the most powerful character in combat with a certain example. And people will respond,

Oh, start out with 3 levels of Cudgelmaster Nogginbane and then pick up a couple ranks of Swank and then multiclass into Tremulous Spidereater so you can have a base attack bonus of +7 and be able to jump at least 20 miles into the air as well as gain a +70d3 damage bonus against anything with two or more legs.
Or something along those lines. I dunno. And it doesn't really make sense to me. When did roleplaying a game about looting stuff and splitting skulls turn into this wierd competitive mathematics? I'm not playing Labyrinth Lord so that I can try and put together the most classes so that I can deal more damage than you, I'm playing it because I like you, and I want to hang out. That's it.

It's not interesting to me to do differential mathematics with a side of trigonometry every time I sit down to roll up a new half-orc fighter. I'm working on my degree in electrical engineering, the last thing that sounds good after a long day in classes is, hey, more math! Yes, please let me flex my wonderful system mastery so that you can know where exactly to get a +5 coincidence bonus to your attack rolls that stacks with other attack rolls. It's right here in Player's Handbook VII, did you not pick it up? HEATHEN.

Reminds me of some advice I heard recently, on the Atlanta D&D pickup forums. A guy was asking what books he needed to play 4e, and some dude sagely said, "All of the players handbooks not connected to a specific campaign guide."

Oh, all ten of them? Player's Handbooks 1-4, and then all of the "X Power" books, so Divine Power, Martial Powers 1 and 2, Arcane Power, and Primal Power. You need ALL of these to play 4th edition? Isn't asking me to pick up 9 books at $30 apeice a little much? Who is spending $270 to play a game revolving around pieces of paper and plastic dice?

But I digress.

The game shouldn't be about character building, can't be about character building, especially since in this case, your character is a collection of powers and skills with a thin veneer of character by way of explaining how in the holy shit you thought to combine 5 levels of Paladin with 6 levels of Sorcerer.


  1. Some people enjoy that kind of thing. Those folks are freaky aliens and I don't understand them, but... I dunno. They seem to get something out of the pen and paper optimization game that they wouldn't get out of similar in a video game.

    Also, I would totally play a game where "pick up a couple ranks of Swank" was a legitimate character build option.

  2. Yeah, that "toon" garbage really chaps my a$$! It's an illustration of a method of/approach to gaming that really makes gamers seem childish, and it boils away the nobility and complexity of the hobby and leaves behind a slimy dross that is mechanical and sterile!

  3. By the way, I saw your comment on my blog post about players wanted for my upcoming play-by-chat campaign! The rules and magic books for LotFP are available as free, non-art PDFs! I can provide them to you if you are interested.

  4. @ Oddysey: Definately freaky aliens. Invasions of the Body Snatchers, maybe?

    @DRANCE: I agree. Why they would pick the most childish term for their digital representation always baffled me. Then again, when half of the characters are named something totally absurd (Huntard, Frostee, Ravage), maybe it doesn't matter so much. I've found that nearly all MMO communities have such a vile, immature playerbase that it totally eliminates any of the enjoyment I may have gotten out of the game.

  5. @ Drance again (you ninja!): I'd love to have a copy. I've been itching for some gaming, and I've wanted to check out the LotFP game for a minute now. :)

  6. Running Pathfinder on the side, I looked for a bit of advice, and then I ran into the character artisans. Yeesh. You have a game where you actually, rules as written, play a dwarf sorcerer if you want to and the people were at my throat because of the -2 Cha (dwarf racial trait) would screw up the entire build. But I thought a freaky dwarf sorcerer with tentacles would be cool! I am at a loss as to why some people go to such pains to stress over maximizing characters. Roll it up and play already!

  7. Hello again!

    The following is the link to download the free LotFP PDFs for the Rules and Magic books:


    Take a look and let me know what you think! In the meantime, I usually make character creation a very collaborative process, where I work closely with players to craft the characters. Translation: I'll be there to guide the process, answer questions, etc.

  8. I agree with you, long character creation processes are a drag for me. After it takes me an hour or so making a character I often lose the will to play.

    I also don't understand why people call their characters "toons." Why not "Char" or something, its still 4 letters.

    Either way, a game should get into the action relatively quickly.

  9. Never tried MMOs. I think what little experience I had with multi-player online text games (Utopia and Dystopia, not MUDs) gave me that urge to avoid the LCD online.

    As for character builds, I can understand the trap. It's like guys who spend all day tinkering with the engine on a classic car, rather than taking it out for a drive. Or maybe more appropriately, Magic: The Gathering players who like to play tournaments. They'll happily spend hours fine tuning their decks, going online to find the perfect build, etc.

    WotC makes the money off of the Spike players, and encourages Spike thinking in their D&D as it helps sell all 10 of those 'core player books.'

    I've had players tell me, in my current Classic D&D games, "I can't play the class I want because the stats don't let me." Well, by the rules, you could play that class. You won't let you, because of some preconceived idea of who the character should be.

  10. I had to laugh when I read this post! I have a buddy who I have played rpg's with for many years.(we have been friends for over 18 years) I even introduced him to the EverQuest pc game.

    Anyway, we were having the exact same discussion, as I was complaining about how I seem to always lose interest in online MMO's.

    He told me that I am the type of guy that plays MMO's for FUN, while he plays to WIN. This explains while he is the type of player that has to roll up the 'toon' with the right race, class, and stats.

    He reads forums, looking for info that will let him make the 'right' build for a character. This drives me crazy!

    When we play online, he has to go to the 'right' areas. to get the best 'drops', or he feels as though he is wasting his time.

    I finally had to admit that this was no fun for me and stick to either one-player rpg's, or smaller multi-player rpg's.

  11. @LG: I never got along with the neighborhood Spike in my high school group. He'd always have the biggest and best cards and I'd make decks centered around cards that I thought were cool, not because it made infinite damage loops or whatever.

    @windmark: I'm the exact same way. As a good example, I played vanilla World of Warcraft one summer, and I mostly screwed around and then, when I hit max level (60 at the time, IIRC), I quit. I'd seen most everything, been everywhere, and didn't feel like "grinding" the dungeons, or fighting endless mobs for better loot.

    It's the reason I liked WAR so much, actually: The grinding is all mass PvP, which ends up being either capture the flags or keep seiges, 40 on 40. Which is awesome.

    But yeah, I'm hardly acheivement-driven. I'm Type B and proud, man. :)