Thursday, April 7, 2011

RPG Character Creation Anxiety

I plan to have this mental disorder added to the DSM-5. It’s a real condition and I have it.

I have played through the opening sequence of Dragon Age II a total of four times. Twice because I had selected abilities poorly, once because the character I designed looked ruggedly handsome on the creation screen but looked like he was missing a chromosome in the light of the game world, and once because I switched platforms.

Does this happen to anybody else? Because it happens to me all the time.

I rarely finish the opening chapter of any given RPG without second-guessing myself and starting over.

At least Bethesda’s games (Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Oblivion) give you the chance to revisit your stat choices at the end of the training level. I usually make significant changes.

The D&D Legacy

So unrealistic...You don't use
a d20 to roll up a character!
I cut my role-playing teeth on Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 1st and 2nd editions.

You remember how character creation worked in those? You rolled dice (3d6!) to determine the value of each stat (Strength, Intelligence, etc.), and what you rolled was what you got! If nothing else, you knew where you stood.

Neverwinter Nights on the PC exposed me to AD&D 3rd edition (also known as the d20 System) and its egalitarian character creation system.

Everyone gets the same number of points to distribute as they see fit. The array of possibilities was dizzying, and it was entirely up to me to flourish or fuck up.

Well, maybe not entirely up to me. An entire World Wide Web of people played the game and posted their exact character builds, for me to plunder at will.

I had a blast (Dual-longsword-wielding weapon master! Should’ve called him “Cuisinart!”), and played the game over and over. But I needed that hand-holding at first.

I don’t like to think of it as min-maxing, so much as living up to my potential. Sure. That’s it.

Many of the big computer RPGs since that time have used the same d20 System rules (Knights of the Old Republic) or something similar (Fallout, Oblivion, Dragon Age). It’s hard to escape the temptation to power game.

My Disturbed Psyche

More like my inappropriate anxiety.

Anxiety that my poor character-creation decisions will leave me facing Mephistopheles at the end of Hordes of the Underdark with Lucius, the gnome thief whose specialty is “darts.” That seemed clever at first level!

(Oh yeah. Spoiler alert for Hordes of the Underdark.)

I suppose I have a desire to dominate the game, but lack the confidence to just dive in. Don’t know what that says about me. A fear of failing in my attempts to escape reality? That’s kind of messed up!

I know I’m missing a great deal of the fun and exploration of RPGs, even though I’m still having fun playing my way!

One day I’ll overcome this neurosis. I’d like to say that Dragon Age II will be that milestone, but my Ultimate Vanguard won’t let me.

Oh well. There’s always Skyrim.

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For more about role-playing games and existential angst, see "Are RPGs Better than Reality?"

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