Page 591 - Algorithms & Algebra

7th May 2015, 6:00 AM in Fall Weather Friends
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Algorithms & Algebra
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Newbiespud 7th May 2015, 6:00 AM edit delete
I kind of embarrassed myself when I played my first Adventurer's League game of 5e up at GameStorm. I was plenty early, and I thought, "Hey, instead of picking up one of the prefabs, I can borrow a full Player's Handbook and create my own level 1 character to use in the game!"

About an hour and a half later, I picked up a prefab Cleric and went back to the table. 5e may be sleek, but I'm still used to character builders, and character creation is still non-trivial.

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Toric 7th May 2015, 6:04 AM edit delete reply
I can see the appeal for others to use a program like this, but for myself it seems like a cheap way out of it. If I have to build a character myself with my own two hands over an agonizing length of time, I'm already much more invested in who they are.
evileeyore 7th May 2015, 6:24 AM edit delete reply
I've never had an issue making a character. Even in the more byzantine systems, it just comes naturally to me.

Now I might not optimize or munchkinize to maximum efficiency, but I never miss anything either.
Toric 7th May 2015, 7:19 AM edit delete reply
I usually have an end-concept in mind that I build for and work on creating a foundation that best supports it. Then end is meant to be optimized, while at the beginning it is merely supposed to be effective.

As for munchkining, I usually place the blame for that on the DM. What many people call munchkins are really just specialists who are exceptional at a particular aspect of the game, i.e. skill checks, defense, or damage. If you build something like that within the rules without making choices/taking feats that would require GM approval or leeway, then you've built a character. If your DM gives you a favorable ruling that then is taken advantage of heavily, that is when I feel you become a munchkin.
FanOfMostEverything 7th May 2015, 7:55 AM edit delete reply
Likewise. I literally have dozens upon dozens of Pathfinder characters I made for fun, to say nothing of the various White Wolf systems I've dabbled in. I just don't get it when the players in my group are befuddled by this sort of thing.

Of course, most of them have actual lives, so I guess it's something of a trade-off. ^^;
Mykin 7th May 2015, 8:01 AM edit delete reply
You and me both, Fan, you and me both.

I guess after a while, building characters becomes an intuitive skill in and of itself, regardless of the system....Ok, maybe not regardless of the system, the only time I had trouble making a character was when I was trying to make a Heretek for a Black Crusade game. I didn't think I could make so many mistakes with one character! Then again, I had to make my own character sheet from scratch but still.
Digo 7th May 2015, 8:19 AM edit delete reply
Two systems for which character generation is second nature for me is Shadowrun 4e and GURPS 4e. Still takes me a little while due to the number of options and books to sift through, but I usually know the direction i'm going and can build just about anything.
Disloyal Subject 8th May 2015, 11:49 PM edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
I have two dedicated binders of characters I've made for fun, each housing a stack several inches thick.
Specter 7th May 2015, 9:30 AM edit delete reply
I have played a variety of systems, gone through stacks of characters, and every character I made was by hand from scratch. In truth, I know of the existence of character builders, I just have no idea where they are.

Actually, the first character I make for any system takes anywhere from 4-6 hours (depending on thickness and clarity of the book), but after a while I am able to get characters out in 15-30 minute increments.
Toric 7th May 2015, 1:17 PM edit delete reply
Same here. First one takes forever, but after that you can whip them out very quickly. What takes the longest is usually feats or spells, but that's only because there are so many of both and I like to comb through and go "Ooh, that looks shiny." Sometimes that's what controls my character: a feat/spell I want to build for because it's so cool.
Dragonflight 7th May 2015, 1:58 PM edit delete reply
My answer to munchkinizing is to run the game as if every episode had the budget for all three Star Wars movies. This leads to what I tend to refer to as "Epic Storytelling." But the other thing it does is it gives people looking for that epic thrill an experience which has nothing to do with their characters, and is entirely stage dressing. It works, most of the time.
Akouma 7th May 2015, 3:22 PM edit delete reply
I really like the 4e character builder, mostly because I could get access to all the cool tricks and items not in the books I had available. Combined less book-keeping for leveling up, and it was a dream. In very rules-heavy systems like D&D 4e or Pathfinder, I usually go "build first, concept second." Basically I get the mechanics I'd find fun, then figure out what those mechanics indicate about the character behind them. That's not to say I've never done that in reverse for those systems, that's just the way I find easier.

I actually got into a discussion with my sister once about whether it should be mechanics or concept first for character build. The answer we came to "depends on the system." For D&D, Pathfinder, and systems that are very rules-heavy, you usually want to start with your mechanics. On the other end you have systems that are lighter on mechanics or are just very open-ended in terms of options (Mutants and Masterminds, Smallville RPG, just about anything on the Cortex engine) you'd probably want concept first. And this definitely falls on a spectrum, where I'd say the middle is probably World of Darkness and its various offshoots. You can break that system six ways to Sunday if you have some crazy mechanics concept, but there's also room for some really interesting, thematic characters, so you can start from either end and meet in the middle.
Freelance 7th May 2015, 5:03 PM edit delete reply
I use Excel for my character sheets. It works quite well for my 2nd ed Thac0 calculations and keeping track of my skill modifiers.
aylatrigger 7th May 2015, 5:36 PM edit delete reply
I also use spreadsheets (though Open Office). I find it works well for character building. If I think that a generator can do a better job, I generally just make my own generator via spreadsheets. I do like seeing how many whacky random characters I can make with the games that area almost all random creation, like Maids RPG, Gamma World, and a couple other ones I have played. The builds made by others many times don't update when I want, or leave out nice homebrews I find... So making your own fixes that. Plus I can add my own material in if I want! ...Also, my friends say I, "Have an unhealthy relationship with Excel."
Lithxlen 9th May 2015, 7:27 AM edit delete reply
I tried using a character builder at one point long after I had familiarized (see also memorized) all the relevant books, and just found it clunky. It's a lot easier to just start writing once you know the system. We also usually play with at least a few house rules which throw computer programs pretty heavily for a loop. That being said, the same program was pretty useful for the less experienced players, so I guess it has its place.
Aaron Beal 30th Jul 2017, 10:56 PM edit delete reply
With all this talk of character builders, I'd be remiss not to plug Hero Lab. It really helps with any system we support! As you can tell though, I am biased (I'm one of the data file authors for it).
Digo 7th May 2015, 6:13 AM edit delete reply
If I can make a checklist for building a character I can do it by hand. That said builders are nice. I used to use one for Shadowrun 4e and then just copy the new stats down by hand once the builder computes all the bonuses.
The Old One 8th May 2015, 11:44 AM edit delete reply
Me use dead tree and carbon. Make lots marks on dead tree and do things. Spirits in magic box frighten The Old One.

That said, I do like to keep my characters on my tablet, although I usually have to type out my own character sheets. Makes it easier to look stuff up.
Raxon 7th May 2015, 6:45 AM edit delete reply
got a cell phone? There's an app for that, Dashie.
Digo 7th May 2015, 6:54 AM edit delete reply
I have an old-fashion clam shell that doesn't get text messaging. :D

In modern RPGs where cell phones are a thing, it's pretty crazy just how many different things one can do with a smart phone. Navigation, research, complex calculations, video streaming...

I'm the kind of GM that doesn't mind giving a little bonus when you have the right tool for the job, but with a smart phone that means having to put my foot in my mouth cause i'm going to be giving that bonus over an array of many skills.

On the flip side, if the phone isn't available, the characters suddenly panic. XD
Specter 7th May 2015, 9:34 AM edit delete reply
So, essentially real life, right.

Cause that is kind of sad.
Digo 7th May 2015, 12:32 PM edit delete reply
It is, and sometimes I joke about LARPs with smartphones just to add a little insult to injury when someone's phone actually runs out of battery life.
Winged Cat 7th May 2015, 10:27 AM edit delete reply
Assuming the app isn't malware, or costly, or buggy, or not reflecting the latest errata to the rules (or whichever version the GM's using)...

Let's just say, I've had enough bad experiences with character builder apps that I prefer to do things by hand.
Albert 7th May 2015, 6:55 AM edit delete reply
Character creation complexity is why I'm trying to figure out how to set up my homebrew so that people who are new to the system can create a new character in just a few minutes, while simultaneously allowing players with some system mastery to customize new characters as they wish.

One or the other are easy to do. Fusing the two is proving rather difficult.
Jennifer 7th May 2015, 7:07 AM edit delete reply
I've shifted to Tracy Hickman's XD20 just because it takes maybe 30 seconds to write a character sheet. Three stats and a few basic character notes. Is he a Knight? OK, he has a horse, armor, sword, lance and shield, and he's good at riding and hacking things. No need to write it down or even think about it unless he's unusual in some way.
Mykin 7th May 2015, 8:06 AM edit delete reply
Sounds somewhat similar to Numenera. Character creation for that one is simply filling out the blanks for the following sentence: "I am a (Descriptor) (Type/Class) who does (Focus/Special Talent)."

Once you have that down, you put down what that gives you and away you go. Then again, that entire system seems designed around the idea of encouraging role-play and improvisation over raw mechanic and number crunching so it would make sense that character creation would be that way.
Winged Cat 7th May 2015, 10:10 AM edit delete reply
That's kind of the core idea of FATE, too: everything - people, vehicles, buildings, whatever - can mostly be described with a bunch of Aspects - some temporary like (usually) "On Fire", some more permanent like "Celestia's Faithful Student".

There are skill/attribute/etc. levels as well, but even those tend to be broad. For instance, weapons have a single stat "Weapon" that notes how much damage they do if they hit; everything else important about them is Aspects.
Curb 8th May 2015, 9:40 AM edit delete reply
There is also the now defunct Tri-stat system from Guardians of Order. Three stats, two derived stats and then your skills and such. Pretty easy to work with for new players, everthing is done of the D6.

Unfortunately, the company is gone but you can still find copies of some of their games, including their "Black Book" Tri-Stat DX. A sort of core for building your own game using the Tri-Stat System.
Winged Cat 9th May 2015, 10:00 AM edit delete reply
Or go with BESM, which Tri-Stat morphed into.
kiapet 7th May 2015, 7:10 AM edit delete reply
I've started so many games (most of which don't end up finishing) that I've become very good at hammering out a new character in a short amount of time. It feels pretty complicated when you start out, but if you have a certain idea in mind it works out.
TheFreshDM 7th May 2015, 7:22 AM edit delete reply
Yeah character building can take quite a long time (sometimes longer depending on what edition your playing & how used to it you are) I've played a few different editions in my time 1st E AD&D 3rd, 3.5 4th and a few other old D&D series along with a few other different RPG systems. I'd have to say out of all of the systems I've one I've gotten used to 3.5E the most bu it took more than 10 years (Wow have I been playing D&D that long?)for me to master the stuff I know today
Mykin 7th May 2015, 7:55 AM edit delete reply
Huh, this is starting to sound a lot like how we do leveling up around here, everyone pitches in to help and offer ideas on what to take. It makes for a fun time actually.
Digo 7th May 2015, 8:21 AM edit delete reply
I do agree. Lots of times I let the players come together for leveling up because they'll talk to each other and pick abilities that compliment. Helps out with teamwork in the next adventure when different PCs have synergy.

Usually. :3
you know that guy 8th May 2015, 3:10 AM edit delete reply
A handy mnemonic device: if you're saying WE go together, it's complement with an E. If you're saying I have a nice shirt, it's compliment with an I.
Disloyal Subject 8th May 2015, 11:57 PM edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
I wish more of my parties would do this. Teamwork is so much more satisfying and interesting than just taking turns beating the other side to death.
j-eagle12212012 7th May 2015, 8:34 AM edit delete reply
I find the biggest issue with leveling up in games like Dragon Age, Fallout, and Skyrim is chooesing which ability you want to improve the most and haveing a lvl cap preventing you from getting all the abilites and skills maxed out
Digo 7th May 2015, 8:47 AM edit delete reply
If you have the PC version, there are mods that lift the cap if you feel inclined to use that route.

I tried them, but in practice I tend to retire my character before ever maxing out all skills/abilities. I think my highest level Skyrim character was around level 84.
j-eagle12212012 7th May 2015, 1:29 PM edit delete reply
I don't have the money for a computer strong enough to game on... the console version of Skyrim doesn't have a lvl cap that I know of ( it does have a mastery system where you can master all the skill trees and then reset the stats and reallocate points).
Zilfallion 7th May 2015, 9:00 AM edit delete reply
I've used a character generator or two once, mostly just playing around with it. I almost always go through the grunt work of making it myself.

I went through this REALLY weird learning curve of character creation time. It started where I'd spend maybe an hour or two to make a character. As I got used to 3.5, later pathfinder, little bit of SAGA edition, That time dropped, and dropped, until I could have a character ready to go in 5 minutes, although a class with spells might take me 10 minutes. Then as I played some more, the character creation time started rising... and rising... and rising... and now I spend an hour or two, sometimes even more, JUST on nonmagical equipment. Then there was the hour or so on magical equipment, and a couple hours actually working on the mechanics of the character. It's weird, because I know the systems VERY well now, I'm not really counting that much flipping around because I tend not to have to much, but I take longer to make a character now than I did when I didn't know anything.
Zeeth 7th May 2015, 12:02 PM edit delete reply
A lot of time creating characters when you know a system well is mostly spent on dithering: "Do I want this or that? I like the damage, I want the speed, this meta-feat would be nice, I'd have to boost this other thing to get it... um.... How about if I make this other character instead?"

Choose a theme, keep it tight, toss in a couple of "outside" skills.

"My character's family makes fireworks. So he's gonna know Demolitions and Performance (fireworks). He'll also be able to Craft (fireworks) and that'll let me make explosives, too. For combat skills, well, he's a mixed-up sort with an upside-down cutie mark and a really wild magic talent. Sorceror... of chaos! I'll just pick a couple things off the list of spells... Chaos Bolt sounds good, and this other one gives me a nice bonus. This is a river town, so I'll give him Swimming, too. He's book-smart, not street-smart, and likes adventure novels and camping; that'll justify Dungeoneering as well as reinforce his somewhat shy personality."
Disloyal Subject 7th May 2015, 7:04 PM edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
Same here. The Dark Heresy character generator taught me the basics of Dark Heresy character creation, but generators have always just been to get the ball rolling. Granted, I did skip over 4e, but the generators I've played with gave me some idea of why they're necessary. So many powers...
DanielLC 7th May 2015, 10:18 AM edit delete reply
If people are going to use character builders anyway, why bother trying to make this stuff for humans? They could just distribute a program for it. While they're at it, they could replace dice with a random-number generator that gives a more realistic distribution. Give it all the advantages of a computer game, while still having the sandboxiness that can only come with a DM.
Archone 7th May 2015, 10:19 AM edit delete reply
What I usually do is discuss the matter with the other players. I have one friend in particular who has a track record of min-maxing (they've gotten a LOT better about it). So... lots of help with optimizing one's build. Beyond that, I always prefer to start with the RP concept, then build the stats around it. I find that doing so makes for a much more effective character then something chosen based around a specific skill/feat/spell/whatever that generally makes for a superpowerful character... with a massively glaring weakness.

My latest character is for a Pathfinder game where we're all taking turns as GM. I told them, "okay, you guys want to play exotic races and custom things? Go for it, knock yourself out. Just let me put the difference in Race Points into my human character." So... I now have a level 8 Mage (Foresight divination subschool specialist) with an Intelligence of 32, the Half Fiend template, and the Half Celestial template (Mom was a demon sorceress, Dad was a paladin with angelic ancestry, family reunions are awkward as hell). His favorite spell for fighting (when he HAS to fight): Telekinetic Volley. +19 total attack bonus doing 2d6+11 damage with nonmagical bolts (give him enchanted ammo and it gets even scarier). And that's if he HAS to fight; his best ability isn't even his spells, but rather his ability to Take Ten on ANY Knowledge skill and beat DC 35. ^.^
A.A. Baker 7th May 2015, 10:25 AM edit delete reply
When I started out with 4th edition I used a character builder. But when I switched over to Pathfinder and 5th edition I weened myself off of builders and made myself do it by hand. Builders speed things up, but you come to depend on them and when they're not around you're screwed. It's better to at least know how to do it the old fashioned way so you're never stuck.
terrycloth 7th May 2015, 10:33 AM edit delete reply
4e really needed a builder because of all the powers. It was the only way to get them all in one place, plus it copied all the text of each power which you really needed.

The 4e reboot might have toned that down a bit, since the classes were all redone and many of them were simpler.

3.5 and Pathfinder are way more complex but it's all addition and stuff, so I do it by hand. I don't need to write down the details of all the spells because by now I have most of them memorized. x.x

5e's the same (only less complex so far, and the spells are all changed).
Essex 7th May 2015, 11:45 AM edit delete reply
Unless Rainbow Dash really blows the rolls, she should do extremely well. Considering the +3 bonus from her Cutie Mark, she's got an Athletics bonus 3 points higher than Applejack and an Acrobatics bonus 7 points higher.
HonorableInsanity 7th May 2015, 12:33 PM edit delete reply
Don't think I've ever used a builder in my time playing on and off over the years, usually in 3.5. Because I generally stick to the same character builds so I know where to find most of the stuff I need for it, and most of the details remain roughly the same. Most of the time just goes into deciding where to spend all the money when I've bought the main things for the character
Majinonifox1 7th May 2015, 12:36 PM edit delete reply
I wonder, do these players have fully fleshed out character sheets? I kinda wanna see them! Pick over every single flaw they've got in their character development, and work out errors they might be facing in their character creation. Great comics, found you a few months back, binged through every page, and haven't looked back! You're awesome, and stay awesome!
Mykin 7th May 2015, 12:49 PM edit delete reply
Like the players in the comic? Sure, just click the "cast" link up at the top of the page and their character sheets should be there.
Newbiespud 7th May 2015, 2:31 PM edit delete reply
Keep in mind I'm pretty much anti-optimization and more focused on flavor as a general rule.
Specter 7th May 2015, 3:37 PM edit delete reply
Which is exactly how I end up with a nature druid in the suburbs (or a gentle/friendly cannibalistic bandit pony in fallout equestrian).
Disloyal Subject 7th May 2015, 7:01 PM edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
...How are friendliness/gentleness opposed to cannibalism?
Specter 7th May 2015, 11:37 PM edit delete reply
"...How are friendliness/gentleness opposed to cannibalism?"

Opposed? I thought it was flavor over optimization?

Plus I was going for friendliness/gentles to be against bandit, while being a blood thirsty cannibal as flavor.
Disloyal Subject 9th May 2015, 12:05 AM edit delete reply
Disloyal Subject
It just seemed like you were implying that being a cannibal had anything to do with whether one is kind or not, and I was curious to follow that line of reasoning.
Malroth 8th May 2015, 2:20 PM edit delete reply
This is every "flavor over optimization" character ever.
Robin Bobcat 7th May 2015, 7:06 PM edit delete reply
Heh.. I made a Rogue for 5e. Haven't played one in a while. Downloaded a 5e character sheet/builder for my phone, and was done in fifteen minutes. Very slick.
Boris Carlot 8th May 2015, 2:31 AM edit delete reply
Freaking love a good character builder. Every system should have one, they're the tits.
emmerlaus 8th May 2015, 2:10 PM edit delete reply
Me, I never used a character builder. I simply not familiar with them.

Character building is fun anyway , you get more invested in your character :)
Boris Carlot 8th May 2015, 4:57 PM edit delete reply
All a character builder does is make it easier to handle the paperwork. They tell you if you've accidentally given your character too many feats, or forgot to spend a skill point, etc. You still have to make the important decisions yourself :)
Rokas 8th May 2015, 5:56 PM edit delete reply
Character builders? They do that sort of thing, now?

I mean, I've made up some character sheets for fun here and there, did everything by hand, sorta, but still used the computer to record everything in an spreadsheet file since I find the paper approach to be rather dirty. Also messy.

That and there's no real character builder software for MechWarrior, 3rd edition. But I didn't let that stop me from recreating the Mane Six as human Lostech prospectors.
Joural 8th May 2015, 6:34 PM edit delete reply
... Okay like, I've only tried 5e once(I bloody hated it) but how on earth did it take you more than an hour to fail to create a character. Like, there's no choices except where your stats go, the game even provides recommended item packs(which is the one change I legitimately liked because man noobies who don't spend hours on their item picks really could use that). In 5e if you know your class the only choices are equipment, ability placement, and race at first level. I mean technically you're supposed to choose the like specialty or whatever at first level, but... for the most part it doesn't really matter until level three. I remember it had a couple options for kind of fighter that mattered at level one, like I had the ability to do +1 damage when only wielding one weapon, so there might be something like that, but they really stripped everything out of 5e. I can't imagine losing an hour to character creation...
Newbiespud 9th May 2015, 1:58 AM edit delete reply
When you're used to builders and much simpler homebrew systems, it's easy to underestimate the interconnectedness of all the numbers. And when you're aware of that interconnectedness, that can lead to the paralysis of choice. And when you're surrounded by a throng of other more experienced players, some of them looking over your shoulder when they can - and also on a strict clock before the session begins - that can lead to the paralysis of peer pressure.

That's how. Like I said, it was kinda embarrassing.
Joural 11th May 2015, 5:11 PM edit delete reply
So basically you let yourself get suckered into thinking too much? Man, just let the character build themselves. If you really have trouble figuring out where the stats should go, I recommend going for a more hardcore roll system- it's an awful lot of fun to play-it-where-it-lands. You roll a 16 first roll? congrats on your sixteen strength. You'd be amazed the kind of crazy builds you can pull off with that kind of thing. I've heard of 4d6 drop low strict rolls resulting in wizards with more strength than the fighter who ended up turning wizard into "front line infantry" in no time.

Basically, my advice is don't sweat the small stuff. Either have a character in mind, or make one from stats you can't shift- if you find a weakness in your character, that's what late game character changes are for. They might have removed feats from 5.0, but you get a +2 to a stat of your choice every 4 levels(which, really, since most stat mods I see in that game are +2 or a multiple there of, makes me wonder why they don't just round down to the nearest even) which can still fix that thing pretty easy. It's insane how high a +1 difference can be.

Well, that and magic items. Who needs base AC when they have a ring of protection?
McBehrer 9th May 2015, 2:22 AM edit delete reply
Uggh, 4th ed. I forgot they were playing THAT.
Malletmann 10th May 2015, 12:11 PM edit delete reply
Pff, that's nothing.

Try building a Shadowrun character. Without a builder. Heck, with a builder.
Joural 11th May 2015, 5:06 PM edit delete reply
Try playing shadowrun.

I don't mean because it's a hard system

I mean because it's a bad system.

(Well okay it's a fine system with one unbelievably big strain- Deckers. FUCK deckers.)
Mrjacob77 3rd May 2020, 10:11 AM edit delete reply
My character creation skills have gotten to the point where when I showed up to the first session of a 5e campaign with no character sheet I managed to build complete character using the point buy system in the time it took our DM to finish the campaign intro.