I am anti-character build, I think I have made that clear, but I want to cover it more and how I think it has "ruined" gaming, at least in my honest opinion.
The idea that you somehow need to "win" a RPG is tied to the character build, either subconsciously or consciously, a opinion I will admit but as I see it a pretty good estimation of mordern gamers. This idea that the GM should be on the same level as the Player, that the game needs to be balanced, that Challenge Ratings are more important than Challenging the Player, all fails to meet what I expect and I would say most old school game developers intended with their games.
As gamers in our little niche of Geekdom are set apart from the MMO crowd, the Console Crowd or even the modern Boardgame and Wargame Crowd, at one time in our history, it was expected that you may "lose" the game, that "losing" was apart of what made RPGs, at least the tabletop versions, so exciting and intriguing. But something changed in society maybe, a sense of unfairness and a cry for balance, where game mechanics became more important than the art of Game Mastering, and Fair Rulings.
I ask you to pick up a copy of the NES classic Mega Man or even Ghosts & Goblins, play it, the games were some of the greatest games of the time, but the most difficult to play, many of the games at that period were difficult. And yet they hold a place in our hearts. Now however, I can smash throw a modern game within a day, beating it on a customized easy level with multiple saves and never break a sweat.
This same thing happened with the RPG, all I hear now is the importance of Game Balance, how Character and Monster should be "Built" with the same rules, Fate Points, Luck rolls and out of Game mechanics that give the player an "edge". I get frustrated over this bogus, 15 minute adventuring day everybody seems to cry about, or that less rules some how limit me, but more rules free me.
Game Masters became lazy, Tyrants?
Players are Cry babies?
Hack & Slash over Story Telling & Role Playing?
I'm not so sure, other than to get all social political and claim that younger players (And Game Masters) are the products of the Gimme Generation or the "I want it my way" Burger King mentality.
"OH but ERIC, you utter FOOL, you just don't get it...Modern Gaming is so much better, so much more fun to play! And Ghost & Goblins SUCKED!"
*sigh* I weep for my generation, that buys into that line.
But onto the Character Build...
What is the attraction here, and why is it important? To me it was born out of the Tyrant Game Master, that complete @sshat Game Master that decided it was his lone mission in life, to "beat" the players. Maybe taking out his aggressions from years at being ridiculed as a nerd, because face it in the 70's and 80's it was not "UBER-LEET-KEWL-HAXXOR" to be a nerd or geek or maybe he was always just as jack hole. But I truly blame the Game Masters.
I can not tell you how many elitist, scumbag Game Masters from my generation I have met that seem to be the worse mix of Totalitarian Dictator and Cry Baby Rules Lawyers. These clown are what force the player to squeeze out every advantage they could to survive 15 minutes of play, much less a hour worth of play.
It became all about gaining that next level, getting that best weapon and the Monty Haul was born. GM's could not keep players because players had become weary of character they feel in love with dying left and right, or jack hole rulings because the crappy GM needed to get his fix at being a bully 'cause his mom watched Tom Hanks go on a killing rampage in the recent movie of the week.
Oh Tom Hanks, why, you liberal nut you....remember when it was the Liberals that where such sticks in the mud? Tipper Gore and the PMRC...aaahh the good old days....sorry enough politics....
Yes, it was the crappy Game Master fueled by some sort of power trip that created the mess we deal with today. His lack of fair rulings, his Rule Lawyering or even Lack of Knowledge of the rules, his utter disregard for his players, and then trying to save his campaign using Monster PCs or Monty Hauls.
Its your fault...Hells Nine Bells, its my Fault....
Character building serves the Game Mechanics, it forces the hand of the GM and it weakens the Role Play elements of a game. It destroys story elemets, makes a Campaign setting pointless, and reduces game play to xp grind or hack and slash.
Where the player is only required to know the rules and character play mechanics do all the "thinking" in game play, instead of the player using his own wit or intelligence.
"But is Character Building a good thing, can't I have both?"
I have a good buddy, a regular in my games, and a founding member of Ganth. Sean is a Min Maxxer, or a Character Builder. It is his favorite part at times. He is my go to guy when it comes to finding problems or loop holes in rule sets, and the guy is wicked evil at his dice throws.
BUT, Sean is a roleplayer first, he has never moaned or cried when I needed him to tone it down, or play a class he may or may not like. He love the Game, and playing the Game regardless what game it may be.
The man is an example to me, in how a person can build these "UBER-LEET-KEWL-HAXXOR" Characters, tweaking and abusing every rule and loop hole in the book, and make it fun for EVERYONE at the table. The guy is a master. And on to of that is a very good and fair Game Master.
So here's the double talk, I hate Character Building and Character Building ROXXORS!
Can the Niche we live in survive the Character Build, yes, since it seems to have been born out of 1e I am sure it can have a long and successful life. Pen & Paper gaming will always be around, in one form or another so I think none of us have anything to worry about...
"Why WotC can Die, and Gaming will Survive: The Lies told about the 800lb Gorilla"
Sorry about the lack of posts, I owe y'all a lot more than I have put out lately, no excuses....