The D&D Insider Character Builder has arrived... and it's not bad. Once I downloaded the full version, I figured a good test of the program would be to enter in Issac Winter, one of my Lord's of Tyr characters. Issac is a 16th level Divine Oracle, so I figured he would be a decent test of how the Character Builder handles a mid-Paragon level character being entered from scratch.
The answer turned out to be "surprisingly well". After launching the Character Builder and choosing to create a new character, I immediately clicked over to the Level Up tab. I entered in 71213 and clicked SET XP. I then jumped back to the start of the character creation process, half-expecting the whole thing to be mucked up.
Instead the character creation process proceeded flawlessly. Choosing abilities was simple and intuitive, even though I had a number of advances to take because of my level. Choosing my powers was similarly intuitive, although I had to take certain first level powers only to immediately discard them. Still, the ease of character creation was astounding, especially considering the level of the character.
Another nice touch is that you can unlock the panels of the character sheet. This allows you to rearrange the data contained on the sheet to fit your tastes. I can see this being very useful for certain characters or for picky players.
Now, this is not to say that the Character Builder is perfect. At the moment, it doesn't support containers. So Issac still shows "heavily encumbered" despite his Heward's Handy Haversack. Also, support for house rules is limited at this point. You can add names and information, but nothing that auto-calculates.
I should note that according to the Character Builder forums, support for containers and for house rules that affect the auto-calculating sheet are coming. Still, it does highlight a concern of mine. I am used to working with the open source PCGen, which I still use to maintain my 3.5 Characters. PCGen was designed with flexibility in mind. Its open source nature made it relatively easy to hack into the data sets and change anything you wanted. What PCGen sacrificed for this was ease of use (although it did improve over time).
Nevertheless, I am impressed with the Character Builder. I have to admit, I have been somewhat skeptical of the value of D&D Insider so far. The fact that the Character Builder is a useful and usable tool helps restore my trust. I remain hopeful that the Character Builder, as well as the rest of D&D Insider, will continue to improve over time.