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Saturday 31 May 2014

Seriously? You Still want to Demand the Awkward-groping Through Character Creation as a Litmus Test?

On the whole, the news about the Basic PDF has been extremely well received. There's been a sea change from before Wizards allowed us to talk about it to after; where people who had been gearing up to be highly negative about the new edition suddenly found themselves excited and enthusiastic.  Of course, there are some people who had already set themselves up to hate the new D&D no matter what, and for these, having the wind knocked out of the sails of their recruitment drive to the hater camp has only pissed them off further.  Many of these have focused on the Starter Set, and the fact that 13 year olds will have to engage in the utterly impossible feat of clicking on a button on the internet to get character creation rules.  Do 13 year olds even go on the internet? How could we even know?? Surely the haters must be right, no 13 year old could ever adjust to the need to do something online! It'll be too much for the poor dears; but spending 2 hours figuring out character creation before getting to start to play is totally cool...

Anyways, the point is that the haters are continuing to try to pretend that there's just NO WAY of making characters with the starter set; as though Al Gore had never invented the interwebs and PDFs are just a myth like global warming and the tooth fairy.   They have even gone so far as to accuse those of use who like the idea and mentality Wizards is using for their strategy of being "chargen-haters", of somehow arguing against the very idea of chargen itself, claiming that we think (and I quote a hater here) "liking chargen or that chargen itself is wrong thinking and stunts gameplay".

Um, I'm pretty sure NO ONE is arguing that. What we do have are people on the other side claiming that character creation is the very core blood-essence of RPGs and that if you don't have it in a beginner's product and make kids do it first before playing, the product will no doubt be: a) doomed to failure and b) a monstrosity that violates the spirit of RPGs.

Both of those are wrong.

There's no problem with chargen, except that if you have a group of newbies, in their very FIRST session, the best method can often be to throw them a premade character and just get them playing, instead of demanding that they memorize 48 pages of feats before they actually get to join the Super Special D&D Club of TRUE Gamers. Because that's all the other side of this argument is doing: its creating a litmus test. If you don't want to learn how to make a character and spend the first hour of your gaming experience dicking around with skills then you aren't a real roleplayer and don't belong in our elite society.

That's the mentality that's lead to 600 page rulebooks, to 21000 feats in certain editions of D&D, and to the hobby shrinking to a minute shadow of its once-mainstream popularity. We PUSH PEOPLE AWAY by demanding that they have to learn the "Special Secret Handshake" of what we consider conditions for fandom.

What I want, and what Wizards has in mind, is that a raw beginner will be treated just like I treated the raw beginners at my demo game of Lords of Olympus a few weeks back in a local con: they get the character, and you explain ROLEPLAYING to them, and then they immediately start to play. THAT is the real essence of RPGs. That's why argument "b" is bullshit: its not about making characters, its about PLAYING a character.

But NO ONE is saying that two hours after that, these kids shouldn't be downloading the Basic PDF and figuring out how to make their own characters, and start playing their own campaigns, just like gamers have done from time immemorial. And having the entire Basic D&D game (which will be the core game itself) for FREE, online, will allow these newbies to do exactly that!

Let's face it, for most new gamers, making a first character (if indeed their first character was made) was a confusing mess of people trying to explain choices to you that you really didn't understand, and you rolling dice to generate numbers that at that time meant almost nothing to you. Its not a golden experience akin to a first kiss, its more like being awkwardly groped by someone you just met at a party. You only start getting any good at the situation after you've tried it two or three times and had a while to figure out what the fuck is going on.

So all the starter set wants to do is simplify that experience: to get people RIGHT into the actual Role Playing, without any special rules, ordeals, or tests to be passed. Show them the coolest things first, and easily, and then they'll have a context to understand what makes all the other stuff matter too.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Quiete + Rattray's Accountant's Mix


  1. I am strongly inclined to agree with you. I think that a lot of the complaints are coming from Four Yorkshiremen territory, or out of nostalgia for the old Basic Sets. I think the WotC solution to the problem as presented thus far is a very good one, better than the one I suggested a day or two before.

  2. Pregenerated characters are great for newcomers: they can jump right in, learn how to play, and then make up their own PC later (if they want to) when they have a feel for how the rules work. I always thought WEG's 1st edition Star Wars was perfect for newcomers due to the easy-to-learn rules and easy-to-modify templates.

  3. Alright the basic game is online for free? I like the idea of pregenerated characters, or even pregen parties, as long as there is enough choice. Since if I start playing a character I dislike to abandon them to limbo.
    My prefered level advancment is usually slow, and to start prefer to work on creating a social support structure for the party.

  4. Yes, the Basic PDF will be online for free.

  5. I thought this post was really good so I added a link to it on my Best Reads of the Week series. I hope you don't mind.

  6. Not at all, on the contrary, thank you very much!