Character progression planning, how do you do it?

How do you handle character progression planning?

  • Plan out the whole thing baby! By the first session I know what level 20 will look like

    Votes: 1 2.5%
  • Plan out the next few levels at least ahead of time.

    Votes: 3 7.5%
  • I have a general idea, but that's subject to change. Usually don't plan more than 1 level ahead

    Votes: 19 47.5%
  • No planning, I make my choices at level up based on what makes sense for what's going on in game

    Votes: 10 25.0%
  • No planning, I make my choices based on how I feel at the moment I hear "DING!"

    Votes: 4 10.0%
  • I plan ahead, but it all goes to crap anyway so who really knows?

    Votes: 3 7.5%
  • Planning? I START OUT at level 20, man. I've got a whole folder of just level 20 builds I made!

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    40

Sacrosanct

Legend
Pretty self explanatory question. When you make a character, do you plan out each level in advance, and play with a definite goal in mind? Do you not plan anything and just go with the flow and when level up arrives, you advance based on how you're feeling in the moment, or based on what's going on in the game? Or somewhere in between?

I fall somewhere between 3 and 4. I do very light planning; with an idea. But almost always I end up making my decision based on what's happening in the game. Whether to multiclass, what subclass to choose, what feats to select, etc. Almost always based on what's been happening in the game.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
No planning, I don't usually play "level up" type games tho', so even if I do, the mindset is just not there.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
Well, I've only ever played one campaign in D&D 3.x or later where levelling up happened, and I was shocked after a couple of levels by the degree of pre-planning that the system seemed to expect. I've played lots of OD&D and AD&D1e where it just isn't necessary, and I continue to prefer them for D&D style fantasy.

I've played a fair bit of Hero System, and rather more GURPS, where advancement is much more incremental, often with a couple of character points awarded after every session. In that kind of system, I do make plans, but they tend to be re-shaped by events in the campaign, because the opposition's capabilities also change and sometimes it's necessary to react to that.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
I wish this was a multi-option poll.

I'm somewhere between 2-3.

I almost always have an idea where I want the character to be mechanically in the next few levels, but I also allow the story to shift and drive potential changes.

Right now in my TBT game, I have a Fighter (EK) that I'd planned to grab a level or two of rogue in, but we're now in the Fey Wilds and there are compelling IC reasons for my PC to make a Pact with an Archfey, so might be going that route instead.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Sometimes I have a vague idea of where I want a character to go, in terms of advancement, sometimes I don't. In all cases, I allow any prior idea to be influenced by in-game events, so even the vague idea doesn't really hold true.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
I have never planned out a PC. I go "well these stats are screaming Fighter to me..." and do the rest as it comes along. Part of what I hated about 3.x was the need to plan to meet a PrC or other stuff.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
For characters I play, I have a concept, build the character, and then see where it goes. Occasionally I'll plan out a level or two ahead, either fully or partially. For instance, I usually have a list of "take these spells soon" for pure casters. I also find out that I ignore my thoughts, either because the character is leaning another way, or the party dynamic works better with something else (or both). Party synergy is great, and as oft discovered as planned.

Now, I do build out theoretical builds for fun. (Amusingly I have never actually run one in 5e.) But even there I usually stop somewhere in Tier 3, since it's "past the point I'll need it". Never had a game go from Tier 1 to Tier 4. All of the people asking about their level 20 build I always give the advice of making a playable build first, not a build that comes together late - possibly later than the end fo the campaign.
 

Ulfgeir

Explorer
Depends on game. Sometimes I plan out all the intended levelling, sometimes only like 1 level ahead but with a general idea, sometimes I do it when I level depending on what I feel like.
 

uzirath

Explorer
I usually jot down some notes with vague ideas for future growth, but this never survives contact with the campaign. Partly, the exigencies of the unfolding plot will change my priorities. But also, I never really have a good feel for a character until I actually inhabit them at the table. I often discover aspects of them that surprise me.

For example, the cleric that I'm currently playing in a friend's DFRPG campaign was intended to be entirely focused on the magical side of things: new spells, new spiritual advantages, new mystical abilities, etc. In the first session, however, I discovered that I really loved whaling on enemies with my flaming morning star. I spent most of my earned points from the first few sessions on shoring up my melee capabilities. More recently I've begun to return to some of my initial notes, revising my goals in light of my discoveries about his more martial personality. This is part of what I love about gaming.
 

Legatus_Legionis

< BLAH HA Ha ha >
When I used to be a player, we never knew what module would be next, nor whom the next DM (or 2) would be.

For those in which I was a player in a campaign, it was a DM's created world, so plotting out anything in a world I knew next to nothing - could not happen.

For my hack-n-slash/random dungeon PC (when our full group/DM can't make it), then yay.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
No planning, as most of my characters don't last until their first level bump anyway. :)

For those few that do, any choices I make will usually be based on what's happened in game to the character thus far and where those events seem to be steering him/her.
 
I'd rather focus on what happens in the adventures than planning about a future which won't necessarily arrive ever.

So when I create a new PC, I always think only of whatever level we are starting at. Then if we reach a level up, I'll think about where to go next.

Generally speaking however my PCs have a strong identity since their inception. So whether I decided to play a swashbuckling rogue with a signature two-blades fighting style, a shadow-themed wizard, or a noble knight, I usually stick to it. I don't do big deviations, and I don't generally multiclass (those few times I did, it was basically since the start). So I might not know in advance what feats or spells I am going to take, but they will mostly match with the original character concept anyway.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
Pretty self explanatory question. When you make a character, do you plan out each level in advance, and play with a definite goal in mind? Do you not plan anything and just go with the flow and when level up arrives, you advance based on how you're feeling in the moment, or based on what's going on in the game? Or somewhere in between?
≥90% of the time, I GM. Therefore, I don't do much level up.

I discourage players from planning too far ahead, especially if it's a "optimized build" based plan . If I feel someone's done so, I gleefully steer the game away from that being a used optimization. One player in D&D AL season 2 couldn't figure out why his "optimized" fighter sucked; I simply made certain he got the extra point when target determining for attackers who exploited its weakness.

(in league play, I always randomized between eligible targets as a matter of fairness. but I always use a die bigger than the group size so that there's some swing for just such shenanigans.)
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
I discourage players from planning too far ahead, especially if it's a "optimized build" based plan . If I feel someone's done so, I gleefully steer the game away from that being a used optimization. One player in D&D AL season 2 couldn't figure out why his "optimized" fighter sucked;
That seems really mean spirited to me, and like you're out to kill a player's fun, which defeats the purpose of playing a game together.
 

Tallifer

Adventurer
That seems really mean spirited to me, and like you're out to kill a player's fun, which defeats the purpose of playing a game together.
I agree. As a dungeon master, I find that I never have to go out of my way to undermine an optimized character: the normal flow of adventures means that very specialized builds will often seem useless when in unusual (meaning usual for a roleplaying campaign) circumstances. The killer fire sorcerer meets stone creatures and fire demons; the charming witch meets undead; the awesome dual-wielding cuisinart meets flying creatures; all three of them meet a set of puzzle traps or a delicate social situation requiring more than thought than "I roll Persuasion."

At the same time, the natural course of events always offers those characters the occasion to really shine and satisfy the player.

On topic, I like to dream about my characters' futures but the chaos of events and circumstances means that such dreams remain in my head.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
That seems really mean spirited to me, and like you're out to kill a player's fun, which defeats the purpose of playing a game together.
Considering that the players doing so are min-maxers, and the rest of the players have all felt that penalizing them by increased targeting was not only fair, but beneficial to the group...

Nothing mean about it. I hate it when players ignore campaign realities for some idealized build, and find build pursuit itself a non-prosocial behavior, which can and should be curbed by behavioral modification techniques. Some players realize they've screwed up in the general dynamic, and others simply get annoyed and leave. For players who are doing non-prosocial actions in what is supposed to be a prosocial endeavor, good ≤expletive≥ing riddance.
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
Considering that the players doing so are min-maxers, and the rest of the players have all felt that penalizing them by increased targeting was not only fair, but beneficial to the group...

Nothing mean about it. I hate it when players ignore campaign realities for some idealized build, and find build pursuit itself a non-prosocial behavior, which can and should be curbed by behavioral modification techniques. Some players realize they've screwed up in the general dynamic, and others simply get annoyed and leave. For players who are doing non-prosocial actions in what is supposed to be a prosocial endeavor, good ≤expletive≥ing riddance.
there is a big difference between optimization and “min-max”.

but more importantly... do you ever bother to talk to the player in question rather than destroying their fun with some passive-aggressive DM’ing?
 

aramis erak

Explorer
I actively discourage "optimized builds" and warn players of the folly, so if they're engaging in it, they've been warned, and I will not play to the strengths.

Build-focused min-maxers are the vast majority of the build-focused players. They are inherently anti-social - their fun is based upon testing their latest strategem.

Also, passive aggressive is entirely the wrong term. I openly mock their strategem first, and then, if the stick to it, make certain it's shown to be as big a waste of their time as it is of the rest of the group's.
 

steenan

Adventurer
It depends on the game in question.

In most cases, the games I play don't have levels and have little if any interdependencies between various aspects of advancement. I have a general direction in mind ("that ability looks interesting and I'd like to get it"), but I mostly follow what happens in the fiction.

In games where advancement is strongly structured I do plan so that I'm able to get the abilities I want. It's not a fixed plan for the whole career, but many things are planned and my in-fiction activities are chosen to support them.
 

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