Sunday, January 19, 2020

Building Character

Creating a player character is a very challenging experience for me sometimes. Other times it's so easy as to make the challenging occasions all the more frustrating. 

As I've noted before, I don't play very often as a player and when I do I have very mixed feelings about the process of character creation and play even to this day. Sure, I've played more in the last 12 years than I have in all the 30 years before that combined, yet I still don't automatically enjoy it. 

To give you a clearer picture of why and what I am referring to, I would like to discuss what I am currently experiencing based on my previous post - the need to create two player characters, one for a Star Wars one-shot and one for a possible Dungeons and Dragons 5E campaign. 

For me, creating a Star Wars character is incredibly easy and always fun. 

One of the few settings I actively want to play in is the Star Wars universe. I would love to be in an ongoing Star Wars campaign but alas, no one runs them but me. Having the opportunity to participate in even a one-shot is personally very exciting. 

I started out the process of creating a PC for this Star Wars game by immediately imagining the kind of character I would want to see in a Star Wars story. Then I narrowed it down to which of those I thought it would be fun to play. Now I had over two dozen concepts and it was time to get serious. 

I finally decided on about 3 ideas, an outdated but heavily modified Astromech, an alien Scout/Explorer type, an alien pilot inspired by a character from the video game 'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order', and then...I looked at what the other players were playing and noticed we had no Jedi. I've never, ever played a Jedi. Hmm. OK, I'll do it! Instantly I knew my species, my look, his name, everything. I was so inspired I immediately made an image of him.

Pyrro Urrunei
Cosian Jedi

Now for Fantasy...

Nothing came to mind. Normally ideas flood into my head to the point where I need to find higher mental ground or I could easily drown in them. Here I found myself sitting, staring at my computer screen thinking...I got nothing. What. The. Hell?

Everything seems so same-y. It's all been seen and done a thousand times before. The only way I am going to make this work is to play 'against type' and choose a character that, similarly to my Jedi in Star Wars, is something I've not played before.

Actually, that makes things quite a bit easier. I played quite a lot of D&D in my early years in the hobby and yes, there was a tendency to play the same or similar types of PCs. I generally played Dwarves with the occasional Gnome or Halfling. Usually I played a Cleric or multi-classed as a Cleric/Fighter. 

My thought here was Elf, a classic of D&D Fantasy that I've never actually played before, and a Fighter/Wizard (Mage? Magic-User? What the heck is D&D calling them these days?). Then the fellow who is going to GM the game mentioned that the classes have subclasses I guess, so I might want to go Fighter-Eldritch Knight, a warrior with some arcane knowledge and magical abilities. OK. That sounds solid enough.

I have now been trying to roll one up for a day or two and I don't know why but I just can't. I tried generating one with an online generator and half way through I get frustrated and bored. What is it about the process of D&D Character Creation that I find so tiring? I really wish I knew. 

Part of it is that all of the choices feel mechanical. Very little of the Character Creation exercise (with the exception of Background) is interesting in and of itself. It isn't numbers I can use to build my own vision like Champions. It isn't choices that inherently reflect a background or story like Star Trek. It doesn't come as a surprise that must be worked in like Traveller. It's just...numbers on a sheet. 

Creating a D&D character, for me, doesn't evoke the desire to see them played. I can't think of any other way to describe it. Also, since I don't have a clear idea of the character (background, personality, etc.) before I sit down to make them, I don't get that cool feeling of seeing a character I imagine in my mind realized (the way I do in Champions for example). 

I suppose I will find a way to get this done, though I don't want it to feel like a chore. I want it to be fun. Maybe I want it too much and I'm putting undue pressure on myself and the rules?

Anyone want to generate a Third Level, High Elven Eldritch Knight? I'll owe you a Star Wars PC illustration.


Barking Alien


  1. D&D character generation has been a chore since at least 2nd edition. I don’t think that’s the old bastard in me talking.

    Corollary: the longer it takes to make a PC, the less actual danger your character is of dying because the DM doesn’t want you to have to take that time.

    I run pre-1978 D&D where you can make a character on an index card in ten minutes and this is a huge reason why.

    I’m sorry you are in this situation.

    1. I appreciate the input, though I find your corollary a bit surprising. In a good way.

      At the risk of sounding both cynical and negative, I generally find the longer it takes to create a PC, the more the player is protective of that creation. The majority of the DMs I've encountered couldn't care less how much time and effort you put into making your PC. The end result is generations of players 'covering their nuts' to coin a phrase as embarrassing as it is accurate.

      Don't feel sorry. It's for a game. Games are fun. There just isn't any rule saying they have to be easy.

  2. Do you still need help with this? I could put together a character for you. -Nick

    1. Actually a reader has graciously assisted by throwing a character together for me. Reading a finished version helped a lot towards my understanding how it is done.

      Still not sure I am 'feeling' the character but mechanically I have a better idea of what to do.