Why Hide Fun pt. 2? The hurdle of character creation

March 17, 2013

One of the things that helps pick up play is just having characters ready to pull out. Because I was in an Avatar The Last Airbender mood, I thought, “Why don’t I stat up some of the characters in Smallville” since I already had a start of hacking the Pathways to do that?

Well. Sometimes things look easy until you try it. What the Pathways system does is provide colorful packages for basically bumping up dice, which isn’t too bad, conceptually, until you realize the full process is actually 40 decision points of picking a package, then assigning those steps or getting abilities each step of the way.

Simple tasks repeated 40 times are not so simple in gestalt – it’s tedious and decision fatigue begins to set in, as the choice of getting a new ability or pumping up a die size has to be made several times. In a lot of ways, the choices are made to seem more complex than they are, because you’re iteratively doing it over and over – instead of simply saying, “add 3” you get, “Add 1. Then Add 1. Then Add 1…”

Anyway, aside from showing off a major play issue for that game, it really highlighted the overall issue for a lot of roleplaying games – complicated character generation not only makes high demands of new players, it eats up a lot of time just to even get to play.

Although I can definitely admire the sorts of system mastery necessary to make a perfectly built character mechanically… it’s usually an impediment to play that usually involves 1000x more fiddling than payoff for everyone involved.

The longer the process is to prepare for play, the more you “hide the fun” from the actual experience of playing. Comparatively, right now the internet is tearing the hide out of EA for their newest SimCity game because it involves 20-30 minute waits before you can begin playing – how much is that the norm for roleplaying games in general? And not just mindless waiting, but having to choose and pick between mechanics that maybe you’re not familiar with and having to develop system mastery on top of it?

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