Why Lengthy Character Creation is Detrimental to Gaming

Inspired in part by this post at Word of Stelios.

darkdungeonparody

Just one reason not to play 3e or Pathfinder.

I’ve made no bones about my preference for B/X and lighter systems. I’ll admit, I used to enjoy 3e, but nowadays, it’s something I would only play if I did not really have a choice.

While I understand that there are people who genuinely enjoy all of the twinking and min-maxing and character engineering involved in 3e and its clones, I now strongly feel that it is potentially ruinous to the game, the DM, and players.

In games like B/X or DCC, you’re typically looking at a range of 2-5 minute character creation for experienced players to 15-20 minute character creation for someone’s first ever time playing D&D. Not everyone wants pre-gens, and people are more likely to feel a connection with a character they themselves rolled up, but in that case, Char-gen only eats up a few minutes of gaming time. On the other hand, even software assisted, character creation for games in the 3e family can take a VERY long time.

One constraint this puts on the group is a barrier to new players; unless you have spare characters lying around, it’s harder to bring a new person, especially one new to gaming, into the group simply because of the time it would take to create a character of their very own.

People who have invested a ton of time into a perfectly crafted twinked out character are going to be more likely to be attached to it in a bad way. You’ve spent possibly hours on this special vampiric-angel-werekitty snowflake, and you’ll be damned if anything happens to xir! The character-build centric aspect of the game means you’re more likely to have players who are focused on their character rather than the party or the game or, in some cases, even having fun. It also creates additional burdens on the DM.

DMs will feel the need to tailor their game around these lovingly hand-crafted characters, nerf things and pull punches for a couple of reasons. While one, of course, is avoiding hurting the feelings of someone who spent so much time on their character, another is a simple matter of time – do you really want to have to either pause the game or have a player drop out for an hour or more while they optimize their feat trees, allocate skill points, and note all of the class and race advantages of having paws, three tails, horns, elf-ears and bird feet? No, of course not!

And at that point, you’re not really playing a game. You’re having people roll dice until you arbitrarily decide to move the story forward, either slowing or speeding up the narrative pace to suit what the players are doing. If a DM isn’t nerfing things, though, lengthy char gen makes rage-quitting after losing a character almost understandable, because who wants to go through all of that again before rejoining play?

Another problem with super-complex character builds a game that’s death-free? It doesn’t give players a chance to really explore new things in the system and in the game’s world.

Killing characters will make your game better and can make it more fun for everyone. But it only works if making a new character isn’t an arduous chore.

The first character death is always the hardest; “Damn!” they’ll think, “I just lost the game, I suck, this sucks!” That’s why it should happen early on; treat it as a normal ‘fact-of-life’ part of the game and an opportunity to try something new. Once players see character death as a chance to experiment with both class and roleplaying, they’ll not only be less likely to hold character death personally against a DM, they might even look forward to it! It’ll mean more cool and risky heroics, more big-damn heroic sacrifices, and more awesome ‘round-the-campfire’ stories of ‘that awesome guy who died in a crazy way’.

 

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DC Supers Shows – Just OK Enough To Not Be Terrible

I’ve started watching a handful of the DC superheroes shows, and while I’m not blown away by any of them, they do, for the most part, feel ‘adequate’. They are dumb, kinda cutesy, feel good dreck you can enjoy with the entire family. I just wish it went beyond that into something genuinely enjoyable.

I watched most of the first season of Supergirl, and yeah, it has a quirky charm to it. The biggest issue I have is with Jimmy Olsen; no, it’s not that they made Jimmy Olsen black, it’s that they’ve made Jimmy Olsen a heart-throb that all the women swoon over. There should be nothing cool about Jimmy Olsen other than that he’s Superman’s pal, otherwise it just feels wrong.

One of the best parts of Supergirl is that it fairly explicity exists in a verse where Clark and Kara are the only supers. This resolves the biggest problem that the DC Universe has that while there’s always some cataclysmic crisis on the horizon, there should theoretically be a glut of superheroes to take care of it.

I’ve started watching The Flash, as well; again it’s a kind of quirky, harmless, “oh, we’re a lovable bunch of goofs working to save the world” show. I wouldn’t say I like it more or less than Supergirl; it’s different. While the megaplot of Flash is more interesting than Supergirl’s, the day-to-day is more tiresome. It’s frustrating to watch Flash hopelessly moon over Iris who is a pretty garbage love interest.

Strangely, the setting premise of the Flash reminds me more of Static Shock than any Flash stuff I was particularly familiar with (which admittedly isn’t much).

While it’s certainly a different generation of show from the current crop, Smallville, which I’ve started on with my girlfriend, shows that things really haven’t changed that much. It’s clearly a template for what I’ve seen of the other series so far. I’m not sure how much of it I can take; everything I suspected about this show that I used to justify not watching it first run is pretty correct-BS teen highschool drama with supervillains thrown in. The only interesting hook is pinpointing when and why Lex Luthor becomes a villain – imagine how many lives could’ve been saved if Jonathan Kent weren’t just constantly a dick to him!

The supervillain of the week grind in these shows is frankly pretty boring. None of the villains are particularly developed or interesting, and the shows’ structure seems to exist in part to distract from how uninteresting the interactions between most of the characters are. It’s like, they want to come across as shows with heart, but they really don’t have any.

Somehow, Lois and Clark managed to pull of what these shows try with fewer special effects and next to no supervillains. Somehow the characters just felt more real and more warm than the current crop of DC shows. I can’t put my finger on it, and to just write it off as “well, Lois and Clark was a rom com with some action and the new ones are actually superhero shows” seems to not quite hit the nail on the head, even if it’s partial true.

Unless something changes, the current DC supers shows are never going to have good enough special effects for the superhero aspect to carry them, and I really feel like they don’t have good enough character actors and writers to bring the levels of charm necessary to come close to the old Lois and Clark’s tier of entertainment. Frankly, the main thing these shows have going for them are being recognizable superhero properties that people are hungry for and being family friendly enough that folks can watch them with the kids.

Of the current crop of DC shows, iZombie is far and away the best, and it’s not a supers show, and it’s barely a comic-book show, because the first thing they did was throw out nearly everything from the comic but the name. But it’s got good writers and better character actors than the other CW DC shows, and is just an all-around better watch. It’s really in a class of its own.

You know you’ve achieved bi-polar playlist perfection when…

pandora

 

Dunno how or why, but ping-ponging back and forth between extreme black metal and acoustic folksy pop balladry keeps me balanced somewhere in the middle. Now if only they didn’t keep her and Jewel’s children’s album segregated in the kids’ music ghetto of Pandora, this station would be truly perfect.  Striborg, Jetty Rae, Xasthur, Jewel, Drudkh, Gabrielle Aplin, Darkthrone, Sierra Noble, Burzum, Katie Herzig, Summoning, Erin Nicole Smith, Windir…  The madness goes on and on.

 

 

Whee, More Zine Updates

Yesterday, we sent out backers digital rewards. That’s a Kickstarter fulfilling less than 24 hours after ending.

We have some late bonus pieces in issue 3 & 4.

Issue 3 will include Schuyler Hernstrom’s “The Space Witch”.

Issue 4 will include James Hutchings’ “My Name is John Carter, Pt. 3”

I’ve ordered a full batch of hard cover proofs 1-3.

Once Kickstarter backers who backed for Hardcovers are sent their rewards, the hardcovers will be made available to the public through Lulu. I’ll get some links up. when those are ready to go live.

We’re trying something a little different with Issue 3, distributing it through Smashwords. It can be found here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/657780

Smashwords may or may not prove to be a mistake; already I’m having issues with the fact that we have multiple contributors, and you have to manually contact Smashwords with a list of your contributors and their author pages so they can configure stuff for you on the back end, or else you can’t get their much touted ‘premium distribution’.

Issue 3 will also be available via Amazon, despite the fact that Smashwords can’t really distribute through Amazon (yay for redundancy!)

I really need to get cracking on the copy edits for issue 4!

::collapses in exhaustion::

Update: Smashwords accepted us for premium distro! Yay!