Beyond Class and Race
I really wanted to post something positive, and hey, the internet obliged! There are some smart thoughts on ways to handle building a character making the rounds.
I’ll include my typical bit about multiple ways to do it, but keep it brief. There’s one end of the spectrum where you choose one thing that has a very strong core concept and then make some customizations within it, that’s what Moldvay and Apocalypse World both do. At the other end there’s Burning Wheel and Traveller where the character you end up with is a direct product of a fairly detailed past, the pre-defined roles aren’t as big a deal.
For me the ideas Evil_Reverend talks about hit a nice middle ground between a strong concept that I can adapt and freedom to do anything. Particularly the use of defaults, but that’s a tricky issue.
This may just be me, but for the longest time I thought defaults were for the lazy or the people who didn’t really know the game. I played 3E for years without ever using the starting equipment packages. For some reason in my head a default package was a beginner’s option, and I didn’t want to be a beginner.
Recently I went back to a very similar d20 game and realized that the defaults and starting packages were actually the way to go. Sure, I could customize or whatever, but they cut character creation time in half and gave me a clearer idea of what I’d be doing in the game.
If D&D Next does end up doing this race/class/background/theme breakdown I hope they phrase the background and theme defaults strongly. Clearly tell players that the defaults really are for everyone, that a soldier/slayer fighter should be the first thing you consider. The 3E defaults always read like fallbacks, not recommendations.
But that’s a ways down the line. They’re probably pretty far off from that level of refining the text. I’m just happy to see a smart breakdown of what makes up a character.