LordAshes
 member, 9 posts
Sun 7 Oct 2018
at 14:33
Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
Back when I did a lot of role playing, I tended to play GURPS which had a very elaborate character creation system which allowed you to fine tune all aspects of the character. The odds of having two exactly same characters were astronomical since GURPS has ability scores, skills, advantages and disadvantages and quirks.

As you can imagine, when I played some D&D Edition 3.5, the character creation seemed a bit limited in comparison. But at least there were still the feats and skills that allowed some amount of diversity.

I am going to skip 4th Edition and go straight to 5th Edition. I have not actually played 5th Edition but looking at the books it looks like the character creation has been watered down even more.

While classes now have origins or archetypes, they seem to be set pre-configuration. There does not seem to be any individualized selection of feats and very limited selection of skills. Yes, at later levels you can forgo an Ability Score modifier to get a custom feat instead but not at character creation. It seems to me that D&D is shoe-horning character creation into very specific configuration and leaving very little room for individuality.

For example, in D&D 3.5, a Level 1 character could take the wizard class but pick up a fighting related feat to construct more of a battle mage. This does not seem possible, at start-up, with D&D 5 because there is no feat selection.

Similarly, in D&D 3.5, a character could take cross-class skills or take different amounts of ranks in skills to differentiate themselves from other of the same class but in D&D 5 there does not seem to be skill ranks or cross-class skills.

Is it my imagination or is character creation really getting watered down in D&D?

If I have missed something significant that contradicts my observations, please feel free to correct me. As I said, I have not played 5th edition so there may be things that I am overlooking.

This message had punctuation tweaked by a moderator, as it was the wrong forum, at 14:46, Sun 07 Oct.

Smoot
 member, 119 posts
Sun 7 Oct 2018
at 14:54
Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
Personally, I think it's a wee bit unfair to compare D&D to GURPS in terms of granularity and skill lists. (I mean, I go back far enough that when I started D&D had no real skill system at all, and the GURPS 3e skill list went on for about five pages in smallish print).

I'm really just trying out 5e recently, since I haven't been a D&D guy for ages. I think they're not exactly watering down what they're doing as deciding to go with a very specific thing.

I mean, it's okay if you don't like that specific thing, but it's a valid design choice on their part- there are things the game is 'for' and there are things it isn't really intended to do.

(In a way, this is why I've come to enjoy PbtA games and similar one-topic games. In a way they remind me of Moldvay Red-Box Basic D&D in that they're really not meant to give you every option in the world.

And in the way that some people insist that limitations are a spur for creativity, I find that having a finite list of options and something to "play off of" lets me get right into play, rather than leaning back and writing a novel about my character before ever interacting with other PCs, and forces me to channel my creative impulses into action.)

There definitely are "origins" (backgrounds), though. I'm currently running two people with Guild Artisan backgrounds (one a builder, one a trader), and that has mechanical effects.

And you can definitely have a battle mage, since multi-classing can be done as soon as you earn your 2nd level. (This is a big difference from earlier D&D editions). You just take it in fighter rather than wizard, and voila, your mage is a fighter who is also a mage. The difference is that (since, basically, your 1st level character is "Year One" of your PC), you're playing it out rather than defining it beforehand.
RosstoFalstaff
 member, 138 posts
Sun 7 Oct 2018
at 14:59
Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
I would agree with you that DnD as a whole and 5e in particular are more limited than GURPS and that 5e is more limited than 3.5.

That being said, you're focused on the lowered ceiling but there's also a heightened floor of sorts. Characters come to the table with the ability to do most anything, no longer does having ranks in a skill determine if you can do it. A fighter can attempt an Arcana check by rolling and adding his intelligence modifier, with or without proficiency

Also a character need not jump through hoops to get a specific proficiency. The same fighter can take an appropriate background or be a human or half-elf and just have Arcana as a class skill from the start

Barring being a variant human to get a feat at 1st level for your hypothetical wizard I'll agree that such a wizard lacks combat skills. I would however assume said combat wizard has either a decent strength or dexterity and I know they get the same proficiency bonus as everyone else instead of base attack and saves, meaning the only real barrier (besides feats) to wading into combat is terrible armour and weapons for your wizard. The combat problem is slightly alleviated by dexterity now being a damage/attack bonus stat right out the gate with no need for Weapon Finesse (an AWFUL feat tax in 3.5), so pick up a dagger (or get proficiency in something bigger via race/background) and you're good to go as a high dexterity wizard is an easy enough idea to make work

Also (and I believe this is suggested in the book) the backgrounds are completely mutable talk with your DM about what you're looking for in terms of skills and such and change a similar background to suit.
LonePaladin
 member, 765 posts
 Creator of HeroForge
Sun 7 Oct 2018
at 17:42
Re: Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
Smoot:
And you can definitely have a battle mage, since multi-classing can be done as soon as you earn your 2nd level. (This is a big difference from earlier D&D editions).

Multiclassing worked much differently in the past.

  • OD&D / BECMI/RC: No multiclassing. Only elves were 'multiclassed', able to fight like a fighter and cast magic-user spells. Dwarves and halflings were effectively fighters, and humans were single-classed and couldn't change.
  • 1E / 2E: Demi-humans (dwarves, elves, etc.) could multi-class, but had to establish this at character creation. They were multiple classes at once, light fighter/thief or cleric/mage, advanced in all classes at the same time, dividing earned XP between them. Humans were single-classed, but were allowed to 'dual-class', temporarily abandoning the old class to adopt a new one. They regained old class abilities when the new level exceeded the old, but could no longer advance in the old class.
  • 3E: Race is divorced from class; any race can be any class. Single class at 1st level, and at each new level you can choose to gain a level in a different class. No restrictions on multiclassing, except that if they are too far apart in levels you take an XP penalty. Each race has one or more 'favored classes' that ignore this XP restriction, allowing you to 'dip' into a class.
  • 4E: Again, no race/class restrictions. Your class is set at 1st level and never changes. You can take 'multiclass' feats at 1st level that give you some abilities from a second class -- taking all the multiclass feats essentially divides your character's powers in half, one from each class.
  • 5E: Similar to 3E, no race/class restrictions. No XP penalties for multiclassing, but each class has stat minimums -- if your stats aren't high enough for the target class, you can't multiclass into it. Heck, if your stats are too low for your main class, you can't multiclass at all.

GreyGriffin
 member, 234 posts
 Portal Expat
 Game System Polyglot
Sun 7 Oct 2018
at 17:43
Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
"Watered down" is a bit of a loaded term.  D&D's character creation is definitely more limited than 3e, but that's coming from 3e.  5e's character creation is still much more open than its closest historical parallel (2e), or other genre, non-universal games.

While I do miss some of the variety and the cockamamie mechanics you could cook up in the heyday of 3.5, I don't miss the trap builds, the stringent PrC requirements, and the towering stacks of bonuses you carefully had to construct to survive and thrive in high-level environments.

However, I'm glad that they've loosened the requirements to "do stuff."  In one Unearthed Arcana article, they made what they called a 'bad' feat.  It had some very interesting design notes...
Unearthed Arcana: Feats:
The ability to knock aside an opponentís shield is nifty ó but thatís something any character should be able to attempt.  Locking that down into a feat threatens to limit the gameís flexibility.  You could argue that anyone could still try that trick , but the way the feat frames the ability  makes it sound like only characters with this feat  can  succeed. This option is an area that Iíd want DMs to adjudicate on their own, rather than bloating the game with fiddly rules.

As RosstoFalstaff indicated, characters are much more capable at their baseline.  A fighter with decent Int and proficiency in Arcana is perfectly knowledgeable about magical beasts, and every character is assumed to be capable of handling the average rigors of adventurous travels and battle with monsters.  But those skills and tools allow those characters whose knowledge and skills have been well (or fortuitously) chosen to excel when it matters - when the characters have to go above and beyond the normal adventuring rigor.

It took me awhile to come around the system used in 5e (originally experimented with in Star Wars: Saga Edition), but with the flattened math, the binary between "I can do this" and "I can maybe give it a go" makes skill proficiency a much more meaningful decision.  5e simply doesn't punish you for not having proficiency in Survival or Perception, allowing you to have a fair chance of success on the back of your Wisdom score and the moxie of your dice, making the bold assumption that your character is a competent adventurer of some stripe.  It doesn't put the burden of that base level of competence on your extremely sparse character building resources, like previous editions did.  Your character can camp in the wilderness, tackle a goblin, try to bluff a bouncer, or puzzle out some kind of arcane trap, and have a reasonable chance of success, but having someone proficient in that area or with high attributes that will help the check will have an appropriately much higher chance of success.

It's important to know that granularity isn't the same thing as variety.  In 3e, for instance, the way that skills worked was primarily binary - either you had a skill to such an excessive degree that it wasn't opposable, or you didn't bother to take any ranks in it.  The necessity of certain skills (Spellcraft, Concentration), the requirements of Prestige classes, and the relative paucity of available skill points to most non-skill classes made skills largely a non-factor, and made allocating all those skill points a non-impactful burden during the leveling process rather than a reasoned choice.

Other games without level striations have these same quotas, but they are more well hidden.  NPCs have skill benchmarks you have to meet or exceed, or certain mechanics "kick in" or become more likely to work when you pass certain thresholds.  D&D 5e just shorthands that by saying, "If you're proficient, you've allocated sufficient resources to make a meaningful difference."

You've also noted that 5e also delays some choices that many people would consider "character generation," often putting subclasses back to 2nd or 3rd level, except in the case of Warlocks and Sorcerers, whose power is innate.  Delaying these subclasses is a clever move, I think, especially with the curve of the XP chart.  You'll go from 1-3 very, very quickly, giving you a nice sampling of that early-level danger and giving you a few sessions to lock down your character before diving into the subclass of your choice.  I consider choosing subclass to be a part of character creation.

There are definitely valid complaints about 5e's character creation and advancement, though.  I could definitely see a half-step between Full and Partial proficiency, and more decision points in advancement trees.  The character you make at level 1 doesn't have a lot of opportunity to pivot to new mechanics (although multiclassing is much, much more viable now, especially as a spellcaster).

However, some would call that a feature and not a bug.  You've got to "commit to the bit," and take hold of your class and its mechanics for all they're worth.  And you have to rely on your teammates to cover your weaknesses, which are, to a degree, enforced by the system.
LordAshes
 member, 10 posts
Sun 7 Oct 2018
at 18:10
Re: Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
RosstoFalstaff:
I would agree with you that DnD as a whole and 5e in particular are more limited than GURPS and that 5e is more limited than 3.5.

That being said, you're focused on the lowered ceiling but there's also a heightened floor of sorts. Characters come to the table with the ability to do most anything, no longer does having ranks in a skill determine if you can do it. A fighter can attempt an Arcana check by rolling and adding his intelligence modifier, with or without proficiency

Also a character need not jump through hoops to get a specific proficiency. The same fighter can take an appropriate background or be a human or half-elf and just have Arcana as a class skill from the start

Barring being a variant human to get a feat at 1st level for your hypothetical wizard I'll agree that such a wizard lacks combat skills. I would however assume said combat wizard has either a decent strength or dexterity and I know they get the same proficiency bonus as everyone else instead of base attack and saves, meaning the only real barrier (besides feats) to wading into combat is terrible armour and weapons for your wizard. The combat problem is slightly alleviated by dexterity now being a damage/attack bonus stat right out the gate with no need for Weapon Finesse (an AWFUL feat tax in 3.5), so pick up a dagger (or get proficiency in something bigger via race/background) and you're good to go as a high dexterity wizard is an easy enough idea to make work

Also (and I believe this is suggested in the book) the backgrounds are completely mutable talk with your DM about what you're looking for in terms of skills and such and change a similar background to suit.


Actually I liked the skills in 3.5 Edition. Anyone could perform skills (even with no rank it it) unless the skills was a not usable "untrained". This made a lot of sense for some skills but not some others. If I never read or practiced architecture then I should not be able to roll against "Knowledge: Architecture". As far as I can tell, in 5e you can use any skills and thus either the GM needs to forbid it which it is not appropriate or adjust the DC. For example, how can I make a knowledge roll about the purple tentacle monster that is before me if I have never experienced such a monster before and never read about such a monster before. If we assume that a successful pass on the skill roll means that I have read about such a monster then all of these characters including regular folk are extremely well read because they have a chance at passing any skill.

Also by doing away with ranks skills with the same ability score are one of two values (ability score with proficiency and ability score without). Using the rank system allowed a much larger range of skill levels.
LordAshes
 member, 11 posts
Sun 7 Oct 2018
at 18:19
Re: Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
Smoot:
Personally, I think it's a wee bit unfair to compare D&D to GURPS in terms of granularity and skill lists. (I mean, I go back far enough that when I started D&D had no real skill system at all, and the GURPS 3e skill list went on for about five pages in smallish print).


So basically, is is watered down in comparison but intentionally so.

I do have to agree that while I liked the character creation process in GURPS because you could fine tune everything, going back to it now there is so much content beyond the basic books, that it is overwhelming.

But for my taste, 5e seems a little too simplified in terms of character creation.

Its a little funny, original fantasy video games typically had a few character selections with no customization while the 3.5ed paper version had more customization. Now, it seems the tables are turned. The 5e paper version is streamlining character creation while most video games are adding more and more customization features.
Nintaku
 member, 608 posts
Sun 7 Oct 2018
at 18:23
Re: Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
It seems like "watered down" is the reverse of what you mean. The choices in 5e are very solid, and each is extremely meaningful because there is so little customization relative to more spreadsheet-heavy games like 3.X. I'd argue that 3.X is the "watered down" one, because it has so many, many fiddly bits, and each one can be fine tuned, while each increment is nearly meaningless on its own.
Smoot
 member, 121 posts
Sun 7 Oct 2018
at 18:52
Re: Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
quote:
Its a little funny, original fantasy video games typically had a few character selections with no customization while the 3.5ed paper version had more customization. Now, it seems the tables are turned. The 5e paper version is streamlining character creation while most video games are adding more and more customization features.


Let's say you're right: that's a smart design choice. Even with online elements, you essentially play PC games solo, in the sense that there are no live players at the "table" waiting for you to finish, or who have party-balance interests besides, say "waiting for group" or "need healer".
MrKinister
 member, 16 posts
Sun 7 Oct 2018
at 18:57
Re: Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
I would say that you can't really compare Gurps, Hero System, M&M, or any other points-based system to a class-based system.

Class-bases systems have a given progression, with some variability that allows for a measure of customization/flexibility, but define a character's primary approach to problem solving. That's D&D for you through all of its incarnations.

A points-based system allows you to pick whatever you want, buy it, and work with it. The flexibility in that sort of system is inherent. In the end, if you want to be good at one thing, you will have to focus your points into your declared goal, but you will end up with just about the same type of performance as in a class-based system.

Now, we also have to talk about stereotypes.

Because of the influence of D&D on the general gaming psyche, the concepts of FIGHTER, WIZARD, PRIEST, ROGUE, etc. are pretty clear to everyone. Even in points-based systems, those ideas manage how we use our points to create our character concepts/mechanics.

So, there is an overlap with ideas and things. But the points-based system does allow you to do things to your own flavor and liking, without feeling restricted to a "class".

But... there is also a great deal of similarity between the two ideas, when we use the stereotypes to build concepts: remember that you can multi-class in D&D. This means you can acquire the skills of another class for the price of higher ability/focus in your primary class. The same things happens with points-based systems if you spread your points out over too many goals.

So, I think that both systems have their merits, and any one person will pick the system that they like/prefer. But there is possibility of mixing and matching with both.

As for having things watered down? Perhaps that is true. If I compare Basic Red Box, or AD&D 1st to D&D 3.x, I think 3.x is far more expansive and developed, allowing many more choices than the early editions. Past 3.x, well, I am not so sure. =\

But my point is Apples vs Oranges, or class vs points. They are different, but in the end can provide similar structures (spread your points out, or multi-class).

Personally, I prefer points-based (Hero, M&M), but that is because I happen to love Fantasy Hero's more detailed combat system. =)

But that's just my opinion. Your mileage may vary. =)
truemane
 member, 2130 posts
 Firing magic missles at
 the darkness!
Fri 12 Oct 2018
at 17:04
Re: Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
I'll echo prior sentiments by saying that "watered down" implies that there is some sort of objective baseline complexity/granularity for character creation. Whereas I, for example, find GURPS so fiddly it's unpleasant. But I can say that without trying to make an objective statement about it.

I don't know, but I suspect, that part of the intention of the design of 5th was to make it easier for new players to get involved. And whether you think that's a good goal or not, I think they definitely got it right. I've played 5th with a few tables of people who've never RP'ed before and they were able to get right into it with very little trouble.

Compared to 3.5, which I've also played with people new to role-playing, and which was always much more of a slog the first few game sessions.

Different strokes for different folks, life's a rich mosaic, every little snowflake is special, etc etc, but I don't consider it a watered down version of anything any more than a a glass of Coke with some lime in it is a watered down Cuba Libre.
Cyberspark
 member, 2 posts
Tue 16 Oct 2018
at 15:20
Re: Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
Ultimately when comparing systems the most important thing to consider is what the system is designed for, what it's trying to accomplish.

GURPs is trying to be a simulator for every possible environment and setting, it's trying to accurately represent everything as well as possible

D&D, across all editions, is trying to accurately reproduce the feel of a fantasy adventure, dungeon delving and questing. At the table, when focusing on narrative, theme and feel pacing is very important, as such much of the game design for the system is dedicated to streamlining the mechanics so that they get out of the way of the narrative, while being substantial enough to provide a feeling of tactics and strategy of combat.

GURPs makes no such compromises in its dedication to attempting simulate a world.

Though both are cars an SUV has little in similarity with an F1 car.
GreyGriffin
 member, 239 posts
 Portal Expat
 Game System Polyglot
Tue 16 Oct 2018
at 16:29
Re: Opinions Wanted: D&D Watering Down Character Creation
truemane:
I'll echo prior sentiments by saying that "watered down" implies that there is some sort of objective baseline complexity/granularity for character creation. Whereas I, for example, find GURPS so fiddly it's unpleasant. But I can say that without trying to make an objective statement about it.

I don't know, but I suspect, that part of the intention of the design of 5th was to make it easier for new players to get involved. And whether you think that's a good goal or not, I think they definitely got it right. I've played 5th with a few tables of people who've never RP'ed before and they were able to get right into it with very little trouble.

Compared to 3.5, which I've also played with people new to role-playing, and which was always much more of a slog the first few game sessions.

Different strokes for different folks, life's a rich mosaic, every little snowflake is special, etc etc, but I don't consider it a watered down version of anything any more than a a glass of Coke with some lime in it is a watered down Cuba Libre.


This exact experience is why I think that D&D's most clever design decisions happen between levels 1-3.  You advance between levels 1-3 over as many game sessions (or less!), giving new players a chance to play the very, very basic mechanics at level 1, and gradually growing into their character, and then giving them a chance to make a major decision about their class when they have some play time and roleplaying under their feet - for most classes, at level 3.  (This isn't universal - the Sorcerer and Warlock front-load those decisions, but they still do make important steps of growth between levels 1-3.)

And veteran players can just as easily start at level 3 without feeling like they're missing something, unless they want that real OSR, get-killed-by-a-single-kobold wave of terror, which, in 5e, lasts about as long as anyone wants it to.... i.e. 1-2 sessions.