Which do you prefer, character build or fixed growth?

Which do you prefer, building your character over levels or fixed development?

  • Character Building - Pick new options like feats and subclasses while leveling, pick class levels

    Votes: 56 72.7%
  • Fixed Growth - Make character choices (like multiclasses, kits, specialized classes) during creation

    Votes: 10 13.0%
  • Lemon Curry

    Votes: 11 14.3%

  • Total voters
    77

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Classes help in character building by giving you a baseline from which to customize. Instead of making your build totally from scratch, you can say “I’m a wizard” with your build choices being what makes you stand out from every other wizard.
I think that's part of it, but not all of it. If it was the entire point, then templates for character building in point-buy games would be a perfectly acceptable stand-in for classes, and I don't think most people feel they are.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Lemon curry.

I prefer a system where once you've chosen your class at initial roll-up pretty much everything else just comes as locked-in class abilities as you level up: you get what you get, either as a function of your class (e.g. Druids gain shapeshift at x-level) or of random roll (the new spell a Wizard gets).

No feats, very limited multi-classing, all characters have significant strengths and significant weaknesses. And yes, there'll be some concepts that'll be difficult or even impossible to achieve, but I'm alright with that as the alternative - freeform choice, or close - is nothing but a recipe for broken builds and massive advantage for system mastery.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Lemon curry.

I prefer a system where once you've chosen your class at initial roll-up pretty much everything else just comes as locked-in class abilities as you level up: you get what you get, either as a function of your class (e.g. Druids gain shapeshift at x-level) or of random roll (the new spell a Wizard gets).

No feats, very limited multi-classing, all characters have significant strengths and significant weaknesses. And yes, there'll be some concepts that'll be difficult or even impossible to achieve, but I'm alright with that as the alternative - freeform choice, or close - is nothing but a recipe for broken builds and massive advantage for system mastery.
That's literally the fixed growth option. AD&D style.
 
I like fixed growth but I'm okay with a few options gained during leveling the class. Something like a fighting style on a Paladin would be an example.
 

dave2008

Legend
I really wish there was a game where you could level up and make an interesting choice or two, but realistically, if you have advanced knowledge of the options then your choices are all made at level one.

Like, I wish I could play a fighter for three or four levels, and then choose to pick up a little arcane or divine magic as the campaign evolves; but if I really wanted to do that, then I should have been planning for it all along, or else I probably don't have the right stats or synergy. It's hypothetically an option (if it's allowed in the game), but in practice, any option that severely hinders your efficacy is not really an option.
That is one reason I have been thinkimg about the return of boxed sets like BECMI. You just the class 5 levels at time. I realize it will not happen, but I think it is an interesting idea.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
That's interesting; are you arguing that a class system serves broadly simulationist needs?
Not intentionally. But, now that you mention it, I think a class system well-deigned to fit is genre probably could, yes.
 

Saelorn

Hero
I think it's possible, but I don't know if it's possible to do so while assimilating all of D&D's tropes. Like, you could do it by magic being purely an external focus, it's something you acquire as opposed to something you develop skill at. Like you learn fire magic by doing a ritual that binds a fire elemental to your soul, and the elemental actually casts the magic. Then your ability at magic isn't gated by your stats at all, it's simply a function of how much effort you spend to master its abilities (which is represented by level or character resources spent on the skill).
The traditional route is to use magic items. In earlier editions, planning was virtually pointless, because you could never account for which magic items you happened to find. You might not imagine your fighter as gaining fire magic, but if you trip over the sword and necklace, then I guess you're Talon Flamebrand.

I'm imagining something similar for class levels. Instead of experience, maybe you need material reagents to unlock the next level in each class, and those aren't available on the open market. If you end up finding enough level one rubies, then somebody in the party can gain their first level of pyromancer, and there's no good reason for them not to do so.
 

Legatus_Legionis

< BLAH HA Ha ha >
I grew up on the TSR-era style.

So while the tables are set (XP per level, saves, THAC0, etc), one still gets to customize by their picks to weapon- non-weapon proficiencies, spells, thieving skill points, etc.

I grew up where in literature, we knew who a thief was, who a fighter was, who a wizard was, who a cleric was, who a paladin was, etc..

This idea of making everyone a "handyman of all trades" was never appealing to me.

I want to play a FANTASY RPG.

Not one based on real life where everyone has skills all over the place.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
And, to answer the OP question - I have the same issue as others, in that I have also gathered that "character build" has the connotation of a much-considered plan ahead.

I tend to grow my characters fairly organically over time, rather then plan them in advance. I'm currently playign an artificer - I had not decided on this specialization when I started. The character could easily have become an Alchemist or Battle Smith - what he saw in action led to the latter.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
What is the value to you in planning everything out from level 1?
Well, if your goal is mechanical optimization, then in some games planning is required. 3E feat trees and presitge classes are good examples here- in order to reach the top of the tree, you have to meet prerequsites, and if you don't do things in the right order, you may miss out on reaching the desired end.
 
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TwoSix

The hero you deserve
The traditional route is to use magic items. In earlier editions, planning was virtually pointless, because you could never account for which magic items you happened to find. You might not imagine your fighter as gaining fire magic, but if you trip over the sword and necklace, then I guess you're Talon Flamebrand.

I'm imagining something similar for class levels. Instead of experience, maybe you need material reagents to unlock the next level in each class, and those aren't available on the open market. If you end up finding enough level one rubies, then somebody in the party can gain their first level of pyromancer, and there's no good reason for them not to do so.
Yep, that's actually my plan for my next game. There are only limited base classes (Warrior, Rogue, Mage), and characters are generated procedurally. New abilities are acquired by either finding trainers or magic items out in the world, and time and class levels have to be spent to master the abilities. Magic is almost always extrinsic to the character; you can spend class levels getting better at using your wand of fire (more charges, more abilities), but you can't cast those spells without using the item.
 

Monayuris

Explorer
I prefer fixed growth.

In games that support only fixed growth, characters become unique based on their exploits and adventures. They gain power from the results of their adventures. A powerful magic item they discovered in a dungeon, a title or ranking earned because of a heroic deed they have done, a special power or technique they acquired when quested for knowledge, etc.

I just prefer when characters grow organically during the course of the game. I connect better with my character when I am actively engaged in developing its progression compared to just picking from a menu of powers from a book.

As a DM, in games that have feats and powers and multiclassing, I allow feats and multiclassing, but only if it makes narrative sense for the character in the campaign. If a ranger starts worshiping a deity and becomes its follower in game, they can multiclass cleric, as an example.

I discourage multiclassing just in order to take advantage of some synergy between class powers.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The traditional route is to use magic items. In earlier editions, planning was virtually pointless, because you could never account for which magic items you happened to find. You might not imagine your fighter as gaining fire magic, but if you trip over the sword and necklace, then I guess you're Talon Flamebrand.

I'm imagining something similar for class levels. Instead of experience, maybe you need material reagents to unlock the next level in each class, and those aren't available on the open market. If you end up finding enough level one rubies, then somebody in the party can gain their first level of pyromancer, and there's no good reason for them not to do so.
Of course, that means your character’s growth is entirely in the DM’s hands, which might not sit too well with a lot of players. I think that’s where the desire for build choices comes from - players want some say over how their own character develops. Maybe they still want to be “the wizard” or “the thief” or “the priest” in a general sense, but they also want some say over what kind of wizard, thief, or priest they are, especially as the game unfolds.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Of course, that means your character’s growth is entirely in the DM’s hands, which might not sit too well with a lot of players. I think that’s where the desire for build choices comes from - players want some say over how their own character develops. Maybe they still want to be “the wizard” or “the thief” or “the priest” in a general sense, but they also want some say over what kind of wizard, thief, or priest they are, especially as the game unfolds.
Well, at least the way I'm planning it, the growth is entirely in the hands of random chance; magic items will be placed procedurally, via random tables. And the characters will have more items and training opportunities then they'll have resources to master, so player choice is still relevant. The random acquisition just makes it more like a roguelike.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Well, at least the way I'm planning it, the growth is entirely in the hands of random chance; magic items will be placed procedurally, via random tables. And the characters will have more items and training opportunities then they'll have resources to master, so player choice is still relevant. The random acquisition just makes it more like a roguelike.
That makes sense to me.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Well, at least the way I'm planning it, the growth is entirely in the hands of random chance; magic items will be placed procedurally, via random tables. And the characters will have more items and training opportunities then they'll have resources to master, so player choice is still relevant. The random acquisition just makes it more like a roguelike.
A character I played for quite a while in 3e went like that: a single-class Ranger for 8 levels or so, but over the last few of those levels he by random chance acquired several marine-based items and had contact with agents of a marine-based deity. So I ended up having him branch into Cleric, which played into his growing "undead hunter" role (which also was never intended, he was supposed to be a 1e-like Giant hunter, and was for the first half of his career).
 

Esker

Hero
It's interesting, on the one hand I feel like I crave more flexibility, customization and more decision points. At the same time, I very much do not want a Skyrim-style system where everyone just starts as pretty much identical blank slates and develops their character entirely in response to what they do in game.

The idea of class, or at least something like it, putting some constraints and definition on who your character is and what kinds of things they are capable of right from character creation feels like an important part of playing an RPG -- especially a party-based one.

I think for me the ideal would be a system without fixed classes, but where you make initial decisions that significantly constrain your future choices within a very expansive combinatorial space of possible paths. Traditional classes would exist as templates, but you could tweak the template without having to rely on clunky multiclassing mechanics.

Since I mentioned Skyrim as an example of what I don't want, I think maybe the earlier TES games, which had predefined classes, but also the option to create a custom class, which affected how easily you could progress different dimensions of your character, are good examples of the kind of build mechanics I'd love to see in a future edition of D&D.
 

jmartkdr2

Explorer
Oh no, planning your build in as advance is is in my opinion the worst of both worlds (I suppose to someone else it might be the best of both.) You have to make all the same build choices as you would in the character building style, but they’re all front-loaded and locked-in once made as in the fixed growth style. Where to me the advantage of fixed growth is its ease of use thanks to very few decision points, and the advantage of character building is getting to tweak your chars as you go in response to in-game developments you didn’t anticipate during character creation.

To answer the question though, I prefer character building - as long as you have the ability to make those build choices as you go without risking screwing yourself over.
I'd say it's the worst of both if you adhere rigidly to the plan, and the best of both if the plan is treated as simply a plan - one that can and should be adjusted based on the realities on the ground, so to speak.

I usually have a broad idea where I'm going with my character before session 1 (often before session 0!) but they never actually end up following the plan precisely.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
I think for me the ideal would be a system without fixed classes, but where you make initial decisions that significantly constrain your future choices within a very expansive combinatorial space of possible paths. Traditional classes would exist as templates, but you could tweak the template without having to rely on clunky multiclassing mechanics.
What would you think of a priority-based approach?

Here, your background and initial decisions represent the bulk of your investment into a particular area. For a D&D-style game, I would think broad categories would include martial combat, spellcasting, and skills. You could choose to be heavily invested in one area with much lower investment in the others, or blend them a-la-multiclassing-type-feel and have two or even all three be fairly even.

Based on your choices, and how you advance them per level, different features become available.

For example, if your "martial combat" investment is 5 or higher, you can select "Extra Attack" or something, etc. (as a D&D-type example).

If your priorities change, you can "dual class" by putting more of your "advancement" into a different category.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I'd say it's the worst of both if you adhere rigidly to the plan, and the best of both if the plan is treated as simply a plan - one that can and should be adjusted based on the realities on the ground, so to speak.

I usually have a broad idea where I'm going with my character before session 1 (often before session 0!) but they never actually end up following the plan precisely.
That’s fair, and I’d say I more or less do the same. I keep the “plan” pretty vague, but I do tend to have a rough idea where I’m headed.
 

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