The New Web-based Character Builder

There’s a lot of hub-bub right now on twitter and on the blogs about the new web-based Character Builder, Wizards (or WoTC or whatever…) just announced.

Now as I’ve more or less made it clear earlier, it won’t trouble me. The FAQ on the matter states that the downloadable CB will still work, only that it won’t be supported. Since I more or less don’t want any more updates for it – as I’m comfortable without the errata and my players are already content-overwhelmed, as we don’t game five times a week – I’ll just keep using what I’ve got. Hey, I even sidestep the whole Essentials issue, though it would have been nice to get Dark Sun.

The down-low of the matter is described superbly over at criticalhits by Dave Chalker, and I very much agree with his list of pros and cons, and the various possible reasons Wizards had to make the change. I’m also ready with a ‘told you so’ to the lack of house ruling and custom elements – but you know we are playing their game. Bottom line is, though: some will be thrilled, some will be downed. As always this is how change is received.

However, it is also a fine example of something, I haven’t quite gotten around to touching on in our ongoing series on design philosophy, but which seems to tie into it. Bear with me while I annoy people who like Essentials.

Essentials is a stab in the back to 4e. There is no other way to describe it. This does not mean that I do not like Essentials. I haven’t played it or even read it. But to overhaul the 4e system so completely almost within two years of the publication of the (first) core books is a way of saying: “We do not believe in our original system.”

At least that is how the fan base in majority will see it, unless there is a clear statement of something else – like, is this the new D&D to 4e’s AD&D? – and a rigorous follow-up to that statement in business strategy – like, continuing to publish significant 4e material at the same time as Essentials material.

This is rather basic. Don’t first use a lot of time and energy getting people to like your product just to tell them that the product isn’t really worth liking. Think of how idiotic those people are going to feel.

Enter the new CB. We have always made our characters on paper with pencils, but 4e and the CB changed all that. Most people use it now. To go out and change everything about it when you’ve made it a stable of gaming group’s activities everywhere is a stab in the back to the whole idea. Thus we get angered statements about not wanting to pay for DDI anymore.

Well, as I said, I don’t feel strongly one way or the other about this, since it won’t really affect me that much. When they move the Monster Builder to the web, I’ll just keep using the one on my PC. There’s like a thousand monsters in there and I can build new ones myself. What, do you think my players are going to run out of things to kill? Or feats to choose?

We’d have to play like five campaigns simultaneously to do that. And who does such a thing?


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