Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Where did you come from?

DnD Next is going to have a system for character background.  Unlike previous iterations of the game that (in core modules, at least) ignored background entirely there will be advice and tools to help people set up an engaging history for their character.  I remember reading DnD 2nd edition and seeing a few tips here and there about building a character but there was very little actual help and a lot of 'Just DO stuff!'  The game focused on rules and tables and assumed that roleplaying was pretty much entirely up to the people involved.

The old way of doing things has upsides and downsides - for those who don't care to roleplay it is fine of course and for experts who generate ideas effortlessly there is no need for codified background help.  On the other hand beginners often found getting into DnD very intimidating, particularly if they were expected to build a character history.  Some games offered systems to roll very precise histories and those I found to be much better for newbies because it got them into the game with the expectation that roleplaying was a thing and gave them some concrete examples and ideas.  It did have problems though that if you actually wanted to build your own character history there were often issues with balance since history often awarded specific bonuses and penalties.

I feel like the new idea of having backgrounds built into the core game is a much better strategy.  Beginners are likely to only read and/or own the core book so the material for them should be in there!  Experts who want tons of crunch and options and numbers can buy and (ab)use all of the splat materials that inevitably come out so they should be full of more spells, feats, classes, races, etc.  The basic books should present simple systems to build characters that have some interesting story already behind them that provides a good place to begin telling a tale.

They have gone with three things that form a character's background:  Bonds, Flaws, and Ideals.  Personally I would prefer to have background be composed of things that happened to the character like enemies, friends, accidents, debts, and such rather than to dictate their actions and mental state but this is still a step up from 'Time for character details.  Choose a name and alignment.  Done!'  They still have alignment in the system because they are desperate to hamstring themselves by including lame duck mechanics from the stone age but at least they are offering more things to flesh characters out and making it clear that this is a core concept.

No comments:

Post a Comment