Posted by : David Guyll August 11, 2009

Ronak decided this week to run In the Depths of Avarice, because Josh was away and we didnt want him to miss out on Songs of Erui. Ronak's a relatively new DM, and most of the group are likewise new to RPGs or D&D in general. So, I was a bit worried when he said to roll some level 13 characters. Paragon tier? Holy shit.
I'd played a barbarian "legally" up to level 7, and just leveled her up to 13 and picked up frenzied berserker for my troubles. The rest of the party consisted of a druid and psion/uncarnate, which worried me quite a bit but we figured we'd wait until David showed up to see what he was doing before having someone else swap out for a leader or defender. Suffice to say, David didnt show and we all died in an encounter with a pair of elites.

Thats really not the point of this post, however. As we waited for Dave and lamented about our party composition, Randy and myself debated about whether to control a second character or just make something that can heal/soak up damage. We could have literally picked any class we wanted, paired it with any race, and it would have worked...we just really wanted to play what we'd picked out. This is a measure of control and flexibility that you never had in older D&D editions or even other games in general (Traveler, Stormbringer, WFRP, and elements of older D&D editions come to mind).
Older D&D editions are more my forte, as I've played them all except for OD&D (and thank god for that). The last campaign I was in I rolled up a fighter with some pretty shitty ability scores, and even though the DM allowed us to place them wherever we damned well pleased the cleric was a bit better than I was at melee for the first few levels or so. Boy was that lame. Eventually I puttered ahead, until we transisted to 3rd Edition and ability scores started to actually matter more. At that point, the DM let me roll my Strength score again, just so I could potentially qualify for feats like Power Attack.
Most of the time it was roll your stats and apply it as-is. This sucked because if you really wanted to play a wizard, then tough shit. Get a 9+ on Intelligence. While not exactly difficult, there was a spell-level cap that depended on your Int score, so...yeah. This generation method all but ensured that the character you wanted to play wasnt what you were going to get, which isnt fun or particulary challenging.
I'd actually tried to play Stormbringer and Elric! (I cannot recall how/why/if they were different), and fucking hated it. Use a skill, and roll to see if it improves at all. Some players will get lucky and advance pretty quickly. Me? I got a lot of shitty rolls and was trapped eternally in stasis. Thankfully we didnt play the game long, but man did it remind me of playing Final Fantasy XI for a few hours, dying, and losing all of the XP I'd just gotten. You get more character satisfaction out of playing Pac-Man.

Adrian tried to get me to play Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play, something that I will probably never play simply because of the randomized character creation process. I am not a fan of completely, utterly random character creation. I look at a game, at the options available, and make something that appeals to me. As a player, I shouldnt have to roll a bunch of dice and pray that I get something that hits anywhere close to home.
If I were to play WFRP, I'd want to make a chaos sorcerer or something since they are just too damned cool in the wargames. Problem? I'd have to roll that shit. Thats not a very fun game mechanic. I'm sorry, but there are better games that fulfill the action-adventure fantasy genre, and I'll just stick with them, thank you very much.
Some players like specific concepts. Forcing them to play outside of their type isnt always going to be a fun experience. Players who like randomized crap are always free to roll, but demanding that each player suck it up and deal? "What do you think this is, a game?" Hell, what if the player wants to try something new? Too fucking bad, roll that shit.

I've heard some excuses for this generation process, such as having a random character means that you arent attached to it and you're more likely to take risks. Umm...no. Having a character that likes to take risks means you'll take risks. Having a shitty character that you couldnt give two shits about means you'll probably just kill them off out of boredom and roll up a new character. Repeat until you manage to get something that remotely interests you.
The other major excuse is that it makes the game more challenging, or (and I shit you not), that it makes your successes all the more rewarding. Wow. Just...wow. I'm sorry, but winning a game on the hardest difficulty possible because of sheer luck and not skill is not rewarding: its just fucking luck. I prefer to earn my victories, not have them handed to me because fate was feeling nice, or the party carried my ass through whatever trials were laid before me.

I like being able to play what I want. I like having complete control over every element of the character creation process. I like the fact that I can think up a concept that pleases me, and translate it directly into the game without having to fret about whether the rolls will let me.
It doesnt cheapen the experience, or make the game easier: it makes the game fun.

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