I almost always play the part of the Dungeon Master for any game of Dungeons & Dragons that I play in. I’ve put on games for friends and family, random strangers, and just whenever I can. People have been enthusiastic to play. They just aren’t enthusiastic to DM. I think there are reasons for this that I should blog about, but not today.
Today I wanted to celebrate getting to be a player!
I play in one game every now and then. I think of it as my “Main” character. He is a half-elf bard-lock named Victus Saul. He is an interdimensional adventurer that works for a cranky minor fey god. He’s a good time. However, that group only gets together maybe six times a year. Awesome group but we are all awesomely busy.
Well, recently, I was invited to play in two different online campaigns through Roll20. Remind me to toss them money when I can… Anyway, the groups are very different and a lot of fun. One is running Lost Mines and the other Strahd. Both DM’s modified the worlds and campaigns slightly to change them up.
In Phandelver, I am playing a dwarf bard. Vic is a lore bard so I decided to change it up with a valor bard. I named him Choral and made him a noble. Usually, I make mystic hobos so it was fun to turn around and play a fancy lad.
Choral has given me a lot of chances to think through his actions. Little things like being excited to hunt big game (dragons) but getting his pride knocked down by an ogre. Now he is gun-shy of monsters and more cautious. However, he still thinks he is the big damn hero so he puffs up his crest (and quietly pays for problems to go away). He’s great and has been an awesome foil to the more serious characters I’ve played in the past.
Next, for Strahd, I decided to go full wizard. I’ve never played one but I really wanted to try it out. The DM for this campaign said to not get attached to our characters, so I have backups just in case. I have a good feeling about Obron though. He had a vision of the apocalypse after completing a few forbidden rituals. Now he is haunted by his visions and is making a run for a different sect of wizards. I think he could still be a little silly but I characterize him as being moody/gloomy. I plan to use illusion spells almost exclusively.
On making characters, I really love 5e. Yes, there are still some parts that slow things down. Yes, it is still a little labor intensive if you are new. But, damn, it is so much better than 4e. I like 4e a whole lot for certain aspects of the game. I really want to play a campaign in it at some point. The thing about character creation in 4e was that it took like a whole day (especially if you were just starting out like the handful of groups I played with were).
It did take about an hour to make characters for the last game, however, that was for the whole group. We logged into Roll20 and just started going. The whole process was under two hours with introductions and world backstory. Not only that, but I love the approach to characters. They start off somewhat simple (while still feeling like the class they are) and become more advanced as you level. In 4e, it felt like you were thrown into the deep end of the pool and had to figure out how the class played up front.
This does mean that some of the individuality of earlier editions is lost but I feel like it is for the better. At level three you start getting a lot of class options that really open up the possibilities for making them feel like individuals. Multiclassing is easier and makes more thematic sense than some earlier editions. Wizards of the Coast has been putting out some brilliant Unearthed Arcana expansions regularly with more options. Additionally, there is a lot of homebrew support online and from the Dungeon Master’s guide.
Alongside how much easier the process is now, there are also wonderful online tools to help keep track of the numbers, backgrounds, skills, and abilities. It isn’t necessary, but it makes the process accessible to new players and easier for old players. If you aren’t sure how this impacts playability, try making a shaman for 3rd edition Shadowrun (i.e. the game that I never made it past character creation in).
What I mean to say by all this, is that character creation isn’t as much of a chore as it has been in the past. Some players may not like how easy it is, but I feel like the important meat of any character is in game, not before. The numbers shouldn’t be as important as how they are played. D&D’s 5 edition has made that process so much easier to get to. That lowers the price of entry for players looking to jump into the game–which is amazing to me as both a PC and a DM.