Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The whole really is just the sum of the parts

Real life has had me swamped as of late, but during all of my "busyness" I've been giving more thought to what Dungeons & Dragons distills down to for most gamers.  In this post I want to share some thoughts about how we approach the various parts of a character sheet & how we use them.

My Wednesday night game is currently filled with players who are all but new to the game, so I'm having a lot of fun experimenting with them as we build their characters & our campaign. Character creation has been expanded from a one time task during the first gaming session to something that builds over successive sessions. For my group, ability scores were rolled in the second session, hit points were established during the third session and tonight during the fourth session the players will be presented with a challenge that will help them determine the alignment of their characters.

One of my players had concerns about this approach, in that he was used to the AD&D method of character creation. He asked how complex our character sheets might become, and I told him the answer to that question was up to the group. He was a bit puzzled by this, so I explained that I want their character sheets to be composed of features that they will not only use during an adventure but have a working knowledge of. I want to avoid the paradigm of having a player roll for an ability that is written on their sheet & never used. I also want them to have a working understanding of what those abilities are before they are determined, whether it be by die roll or by player choice. Most importantly, I want them to fully understand each part of that character sheet as being a building block that helps make their character into who they are, rather than the character being seen as a whole entity first then broken down later.

By dissecting the various components of a Dungeons & Dragons character, I'm hoping the players will have a better understanding of what their characters are composed of. In every edition of D&D, there have always been parts of the character sheet that see more use than others. One of the challenges of earlier editions was to take those lesser used parts and find ways to creatively use them throughout adventures. I hope to not only help recreate that in my game, but to recreate it in a new way that breaks down what many consider to be a "sacred cow" of the game - Character creation first, adventuring second.

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