Dependency on Character Creation Apps?

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I will say that when you ask your players to update their characters, they learn the rules; full stop. You may be able to kill two birds with one stone for your 4e group - share the documents with them and wish them luck; and offer to join them 1x1 to show them how to do it.
 

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MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I've only run campaigns in two systems since 2014 (though I've run a number of one shots in other systems): D&D 5e and Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 4e (WFRP4e).

DnD 5e is simple and probably doesn't warrant much attention in this thread. Though, I will say, that moving to DnD Beyond made things much easier. Leveling mostly takes place between sessions. Players do it themselves and I can easily look over in DDB. DDB makes it easy for players to avoid mistakes. The only time it gets complicated is witch homebrew stuff. But that's on me. If I'm going to inject homebrew rules, I need to create the options in DDB and test them on character sheets.

For WFRP4e, I wouldn't be running it if it were not for the excellent game system Cubicle7 sells for Foundry. Still, I did have to step the players through the character builder and character sheet. We spent most of a session just building characters and testing making rolls and applying conditions, etc. This is the also the first time since 2014 when we done all leveling in session. Even with the Foundry character sheet, WFRP4e is a lot more fiddly and crunchy than 5e. Also the rules are spread across so many books, with many replacing the rules in the core, rather than just being additive. Foundry helps with that a lot with the search, cross-reference links, and some logic coded in the character sheet, but I it is a lot more taxing on me as a GM than 5e.

But now that we are over 16 hours of play time into the campaign, it is getting easier.

One of the players is really into the rules and has the books he needs which helps a lot. Not only in that he knows his character sheet and the rules pertaining to his character, but he can help the other players, taking some of the burden off of me.

I don't demand that the players buy the books and study the rules. They have access to all rules content in Foundry. If I had demanded they learn the rules, we'd still be playing 5e. Instead, for the first 24 hours of play we are playing through the starter set adventure, which is run kinda like a video game's tutorial mode. It starts out very railroady, stepping the group through different situations that introduce them to various aspects of play, feeding new rules slowly. It gets less railroady near the end. After we complete this adventure, we'll start the campaign proper.

I feel that this works very well for a crunchier system like WFRP. While most of the players are not developing anything approaching rules mastery, they do know their characters well and the core rules of game play.

Another thing I find important with crunchier games is having a frank conversation with players who are not into spending much time on understanding complex rules and suggesting they play less complex characters. Many players fall into the trap of wanting to play spell casters but getting overwhelmed by the options and slowing down the game. For players who don't want to their character concepts to be limited, but also have little patience for complex rules and options, it might be better to play a different, more narrative, game system.
 

Distracted DM

Distracted DM
Supporter
I started out 5e using DnDBeyond because of the searchable database etc, and having players make, maintain, and level their characters on there was easy.
When I stopped using DnDB and moved to physical and VTT sheets, I discovered that some of my players didn't know the mechanics behind their characters- for instance, how proficiency bonus works, how you get your Spell Save DC, etc. In hindsight it made sense, because when the occasional situation came up where there was something not directly provided on their sheet they weren't sure what to do.

Most of those players learned how things worked once we moved off DnDB! So that was interesting.
Buuut some of my players on VTTs still don't really get it.. I'm not sure if it's because they've never made the character on a physical sheet, or if their heads just can't grok it.
 

Marc Radle

Legend
Just my personal opinion, but I don’t ever use character builders, and I really don’t think others should either. There are few things that help you really learn the mechanics of the game better that creating your own character on paper.

Plus, I think that aspect of the game is fun! I would hate to not be able to do it on my own :)

I feel like if you want to play the game (whichever game) the least you can do is learn it and understand it enough to be able to create a character (and then level it up) on your own without needing to rely on a character builder.

I certainly don’t begrudge anyone who wants to use one just because it’s easier or quicker, but if you actually CAN’T do it without using a character builder because you don’t know the rules well enough … to me that’s a real problem
 

Retreater

Legend
Specifically for the 4e group, we've been playing the campaign weekly since the beginning of December. Even the most veteran player in the group doesn't understand what he gets when he levels up.
Me (Pointing out the chart in the PHB): " This shows you get a new 5th level power."
Him: "How do I know that?"
Me: "This chart. You reached 5th level. It shows that your daily power number has increased from 1 to 2."
Him: "Where do I find the powers?"
Me: "Turn to the Cleric section. The powers are listed in numeric order. Pick one of them under the 5th level category."
Him: "When do I get spells?"
Me: "The powers are your spells."
Him: "So Daily Powers I can only use once per session?"
Me: "No - once per long rest."
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
Specifically for the 4e group, we've been playing the campaign weekly since the beginning of December. Even the most veteran player in the group doesn't understand what he gets when he levels up.
Me (Pointing out the chart in the PHB): " This shows you get a new 5th level power."
Him: "How do I know that?"
Me: "This chart. You reached 5th level. It shows that your daily power number has increased from 1 to 2."
Him: "Where do I find the powers?"
Me: "Turn to the Cleric section. The powers are listed in numeric order. Pick one of them under the 5th level category."
Him: "When do I get spells?"
Me: "The powers are your spells."
Him: "So Daily Powers I can only use once per session?"
Me: "No - once per long rest."
That sounds like a deeper issue than needs a character builder. More like they need lessons on the game works.
 

CellarHeroes

Explorer
Specifically for the 4e group, we've been playing the campaign weekly since the beginning of December. Even the most veteran player in the group doesn't understand what he gets when he levels up.
Me (Pointing out the chart in the PHB): " This shows you get a new 5th level power."
Him: "How do I know that?"
Me: "This chart. You reached 5th level. It shows that your daily power number has increased from 1 to 2."
Him: "Where do I find the powers?"
Me: "Turn to the Cleric section. The powers are listed in numeric order. Pick one of them under the 5th level category."
Him: "When do I get spells?"
Me: "The powers are your spells."
Him: "So Daily Powers I can only use once per session?"
Me: "No - once per long rest."

This is my main complaint about character creation apps...players end up having no understanding of their character and how it interacts with the game.

When I purchase a new system, the first thing I do is go directly to the "Character Creation" chapter, and start working on a character using only paper (maybe a provided character sheet) and pencil. If I can't easily create a character using the rules provided, then the book just sits on a shelf to collect dust.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
A DM should put in as much work as they want to. Then the players decide whether or not the work the DM has put in is worth their time to play in the game.

If you do not enjoy leveling up your player's characters and arranging things for them so they can play without issues or forgetting things... then don't do it. They will then need to figure out on their own how their characters work and perhaps for a time might not even realize they don't have all the abilities they are entitled to because the PC hasn't been leveled correctly yet. If and when the player discovers this... they will either ask you for help in leveling the character (which means they are taking the initiative to learn how to do it, so help them do so so they can do it on their own next time)... or they will get annoyed and choose to stop playing in the game.

Either way... your problem is solved. At some point you will have a table of players who have all learned how to level their own characters, or your table will be empty and you don't have to waste your time anymore.
 

It doesn't seem like the problem is the dependence on the character builder - it is that even with the character builder you players need tons of hand holding. There is a pretty clear mismatch between the complexity of the systems you are running and your players' willingness do develop some basic system knowledge. The obvious solution is to tell your players they need to invest more effort in learning the system or you will switch over to something simpler.

Personally, I think character builders and other digital tools are great. As someone who is newer to PF2 I can say that Pathbuilder and Foundry have allowed me to pick up the game with much less of a learning curve than if I was trying to play the game with just the books (but yes, still required some degree of effort). Even our GM, who is a PF2 veteran, has said he would probably not want to run PF2 outside of Foundry.
 


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