I am an advocate of Change in RPGs. I clamor for the new, if it’s not just trying to make a buck. I love seeing new rules, new ways to play, new options. And my joy at new things moves into one of my solid unwritten house rules: I am okay with you changing your character.

D&D has a problem in its presentation that’s probably vestigial. One of the basic ways we introduce players to the game is to sit them down and have them roll up a character. Ideally, this let’s them create a character that is unique and special to them. What ends up happening, though, is that the new player is asked a bunch of questions that they don’t know the context of the answers so they give answers as best they can (so dependent on the skill of the asker) and then the person “helping” them makes a character that matches these blind guesses, and hands them a character (or dictates the character. “Okay, write ‘Second wind’ in there under features.”)

We invite people to play a game of imagination and creativity and storytelling, then we say “Okay, now let’s do some homework!” and worst of all, the base consensus of the game is “Now you are stuck with these choices you made when you knew Nothing! Have fun playing your high Dex and high Charisma Barbarian, newbie!”

Recent Unearthed Arcana indicate that this will be fixed a bit in the future, that people will be able to have the chance, rules as written, to swap out some choices. Which bothers me a little, to be honest. There’s a difference in a player saying “Man, Protection fighting style hasn’t been working for me. Can I swap this out for Duelist?” and a player saying “Okay, now I can afford Bracers of Archery, I’ll swap to the archery fighting style, and become the party’s artillery”

Putting things in the players hands, idk, makes it part of the meta-game. It’s no longer about fixing an unfun choice, it’s about playing the optimal character. And that bothers me a little.

It’s like my beef with the bag of holding. I don’t care about your inventory. And as DM, I can just say that and we can move on without worrying about encumbrance. But, invariably, when the party gets a Bag on Holding, there will be Some Plan that involves 2000 gallons of maple syrup, a canoe for each member of the party, or enough sand to fill a 10 ft cube. And the bag of holding says “Sure, do it!”

This feels like it’s getting far afield for the prompt. What it comes down to is if a player comes to me and says “Matt, can I make a change?” I will probably say yes, unless I was hanging plot hooks on that feature. Changing all of a character instead of just tweaking it is more sketch, as I don’t know how many plot hooks I’ve attached to that character and their story. But if you aren’t having fun, then it is my duty to alter my plans and let you have the best time I can arrange.

(Speaking of which, I had a player this week message me about his character. He had a long spiel about why and what he was changing, but I replied with a “Sounds good!” without reading his exact reasons.)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.