September 26, 2013

Confessions of a Jaded Geek: 29/30

Well now! Looking back, this 30-day D&D Challenge has been a nice jog to the memory. I’ve said before that D&D was the game that introduced me to the hobby but turned out not to be to my taste, but this has made me remember the good bits quite fondly.

Rather than talk about the suggested topic, though, I’ll talk about something that’s also dice-related – my love-hate relationship with rolling up character stats. I’m the kind of player that usually comes to the table with a character concept already in mind, with the result that random-rolling my stats feels more like an obstacle than an aid. I’ll contrast this to the approach of my friend JJ, who rolls first then picks a class and builds a concept around that after.

Granted, rolling stats does make for a more interesting distribution of abilities at times, sometimes giving you an interesting weakness such as a really low Wisdom or Charisma. On the other hand, you do get the phenomenon of the ‘dump stat’ – the one stat that’s been identified as least useful in the game, so you’ve all the incentives to assign your lowest roll to it. This was usually Charisma; low Wisdom was useful to us because we could play it for laughs. But if 90% of your character’s time is spent dungeon crawling or wandering with only your own party, Charisma’s of very limited use.

I think rolling up stats also made us focus a bit too much on our numbers. Since the very first challenge of the game was to assign your stats so they’d do you the most good, we ended up focusing on what our characters could do more than what our characters were and their place in the game’s setting or story.

Once I got introduced to other RPGs with point allocation, I never looked back. If I remember correctly, in the last D&D game I played we were allowed to distribute a set number of points to our abilities instead of having to roll. I thought this was the answer, but it proved to be not quite it either. The more points you get to allocate, the more you think about numbers. I of course agree with building in limitations and dilemmas so players can’t just create Mary Sue characters, but I quickly found assigning lots of points a bore.

This reached its height for me when I tried making characters for Castle Falkenstein (a game I otherwise enjoyed) because you had to assign a heck of a lot of abilities. Same thing with GURPS and BESM.

The net result of all this was to give me a direction for my character creation system in Vivid: to make the description of the character as close as possible to the actual game stats.

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