Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thoughts on the full DDI Character Builder

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.


Scafloc said...

I am gratified to hear that it runs smoothly, and impressed that they took the time to make the customizable sheet (one of the big reasons I design my own for most games). I suppose what I still want to know is if you can adjust things on the fly (for example, adjusting starting attributes when making a mid or high level character and discovering that one requires more dex to qualify for a feat). I am interested to see what kind of power info it prints to your sheet as well (or does it leave that for those power cards).

Unknown said...

You can make adjustments after you've set up your character. The tabs for 'abilities', 'feats', etc remain and it just takes navigating there. The Builder also supports retraining at each level.

Rob, I did much the same as you when it went live and built a 3.5 character from a campaign we're going to port over to 4e when we pick it back up. The PC was a 17th level warmage. Judging by the preview, the best class for this particular character seems to be sorcerer, but I built him based on my old idea which was a warlock/wizard with the Battle Mage PP. The Builder handled things flawlessly, although I did find two typos I sent in reports on. :)

The Builder is very impressive and I hope we see this same level of quality when the Game Table and Dungeon Builder comes around.

Anonymous said...

I use the DDI builder all the time. It's great.