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: 50 72.5%
  • Fixed Growth - Make character choices (like multiclasses, kits, specialized classes) during creation

    Votes: 9 13.0%
  • Lemon Curry

    Votes: 10 14.5%

  • Total voters
    69

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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.
I think my ideal system would use something like role and power source from 4e. Leave the class part out of it and have role define what types of abilities you get and power source define your resource game.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
Well put.

At risk of being called a grognard for the 497th time...I don't necessarily see much problem with the idea of having at least a vague long-term plan for a character. A plan which one hopes might eventually come to fruition.

The problems arise when the words "hopes might" in the previous paragraph get replaced with "expects will", or worse, "demands will".

Put another way: there's nothing wrong with planning for the future as long as one doesn't expect the future to co-operate.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Well put.

At risk of being called a grognard for the 497th time...I don't necessarily see much problem with the idea of having at least a vague long-term plan for a character. A plan which one hopes might eventually come to fruition.

The problems arise when the words "hopes might" in the previous paragraph get replaced with "expects will", or worse, "demands will".

Put another way: there's nothing wrong with planning for the future as long as one doesn't expect the future to co-operate.
Sure, but in modern versions of D&D there's literally nothing preventing your plan (assuming your plan is a character build) at character creation from coming to fruition with the exception of character death.

I think, based on some of the feedback in this thread, that there's a desire to have a game with extensive character building options, but for it be common for those choices to be prioritized differently based on events in the game. Like, something happens in the game that allows for more compelling choices to be made at level 8 than existed at level 1.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sure, but in modern versions of D&D there's literally nothing preventing your plan (assuming your plan is a character build) at character creation from coming to fruition with the exception of character death.
Yes, and I see this as something of a bug rather than a feature: it's too easy to lick in to a plan at char-gen and ignore whatever influences the game or in-fiction events may have on the character.

I think, based on some of the feedback in this thread, that there's a desire to have a game with extensive character building options, but for it be common for those choices to be prioritized. differently based on events in the game. Like, something happens in the game that allows for more compelling choices to be made at level 8 than existed at level 1.
That's one option.

The problems with extensive character building options are, IMO, twofold:

a) they move some (or much, for some people) of the focus of play away from the table and-or fiction and into the meta-realm of character building and-or planning before actual play even begins

b) no matter how forgiving the system may be, extensive character-building options expect a much higher level of system mastery than I and many others often want to be bothered with; and-or unduly reward those who make system mastery their focus.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
The problems with extensive character building options are, IMO, twofold:

a) they move some (or much, for some people) of the focus of play away from the table and-or fiction and into the meta-realm of character building and-or planning before actual play even begins

b) no matter how forgiving the system may be, extensive character-building options expect a much higher level of system mastery than I and many others often want to be bothered with; and-or unduly reward those who make system mastery their focus.
Agree with the existence of both points. Whether or not they are a problem depends on your play priority, of course. I derive a lot of enjoyment from the system mastery aspect of many games, myself.
 

Saelorn

Hero
Sure, but in modern versions of D&D there's literally nothing preventing your plan (assuming your plan is a character build) at character creation from coming to fruition with the exception of character death.
The one that always got me was Falling. The first time that I ever started to question the appeal of character building, it was when someone mentioned that they were going to get their Paladin to a specific level before Falling to become a Blackguard. And I was like, how could you possibly know that?
 
Notions of system mastery are one of my core items when I'm selecting secondary and tertiary systems to try out. I don't mind some crunch in my core games, but I prefer something more streamlined for occasional play both mechanically and (sometimes) in terms of total page count. I don't mean one offs btw, so ideas about leveling are in play in those cases. That's why as much as I love Burning Wheel, it's a tough sell for a group who's primary game is something else. I don't blame them for that, just an observation.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Notions of system mastery are one of my core items when I'm selecting secondary and tertiary systems to try out. I don't mind some crunch in my core games, but I prefer something more streamlined for occasional play both mechanically and (sometimes) in terms of total page count. I don't mean one offs btw, so ideas about leveling are in play in those cases. That's why as much as I love Burning Wheel, it's a tough sell for a group who's primary game is something else. I don't blame them for that, just an observation.
Yea, BW is a game that greatly admire but I can't imagine ever playing unless I found a group of people that were also really into it. I can't imagine trying to sell people on it.
 

atanakar

Adventurer
Choice is often an illusion since at the end of the day players only make the optimal builds for each archetype. They analyze feat paths (reverse engineer path) and then select the optimal choices to get the bad-ass archer they want starting level one.

For that reason I prefer 5e approach with specialization choices at 3rd level. There is no puzzle to unlock. It's in your face.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Choice is often an illusion since at the end of the day players only make the optimal builds for each archetype.
Except there are a lot of players don’t do that at all. There are definitely those who do, but systems shouldn’t be built to curtail hypotheticL munchkin players, any more than they should be built to curtail hypothetical gotcha DMs.

They analyze feat paths (reverse engineer path) and then select the optimal choices to get the bad-ass archer they want starting level one.
In systems like 3e/PF where feat chains are a thing, a lot of players will do this, not to find “the optimal” build for the concept they want, but to insure that they can build the concept they want without accidentally making a useless character.

For that reason I prefer 5e approach with specialization choices at 3rd level. There is no puzzle to unlock. It's in your face.
5e also decreased the delta between an optimized and an unoptimized one (compared to 3e, that is. It’s actually increased quite a bit compared to 4e.) Only the latter is really necessary to fix the problem you observe here.
 

FaerieGodfather

Aberrant Druid
Don't know how to vote, as I have a very strong preference for being somewhere in the middle.

I think Class (and maybe Multiclass) should be locked in at 1st, but I think "subclass" and maybe "prestige class" and/or "paragon path" should involve more decision points than it does in most D&D clones. Something like-- say it with me-- Rogue Genius Guide to the Talented Rogue except, if I'm being honest... maybe a little bit less so.
 

atanakar

Adventurer
Except there are a lot of players don’t do that at all. There are definitely those who do, but systems shouldn’t be built to curtail hypotheticL munchkin players, any more than they should be built to curtail hypothetical gotcha DMs.
Exactly! Not all players do that... and it creates a discrepancy between players who like to play around with many options (system mastery) and players who come to the table for other reasons than the system.

I DMed 3e and 4e for years with many different groups and always had the same issue. The constant ask to change and revise feats during level ups or even during down time activity. Even players who were good at optimizing would ask to make some changes because they read about a combo on a forum or in an article.

As a DM I don't have to deal with that with 5e since it allows us not use feats (or multi-classing). The road map for characters and specializations is clear for each type of player to see. The system mastery discrepancy between the types of players is minimal. 5e gives me an uncluttered semi-2e experience, which I have been craving for since WoTC announced 3e.

The d20 class system is not the best suited to play complexe characters-concepts in my experience. It is best to play a skill system like BRP or GURPS. With d20 what you get is a complex character-build over time with level ups. Not the same thing as a complex character-concept from the get go as with skills based systems.
 

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