Thursday, March 29, 2012

DDI Character Builder - Lessons Learned

Sometimes in the evening when I really don't want to read anything and when there is nothing on television worth watching I have semi-regularly accessed the DDI Character Builder (CB) tool and kind of randomly started test building characters just to see what I could come up with. In general this gave me an opportunity to explore some of the different classes and races, pick different combinations, and then see how the powers, feats, and items could be meshed together into a fun, and hopefully useful, character. I still haven't built a Bard or a Druid character that I like yet, but trying is half the fun.

A few points of clarification are in order. I really don't have some grand plan here, I  just experiment to see what I might find. I was not trying to absolutely min/max these characters either, although I suppose in looking for interesting combinations of skills and abilities I do come close to meeting that definition. I have generally built a character at the 15th level - this allowed the character to add its Paragon level abilities and gave me additional leeway with the powers and feats choices and in choosing magic items.

But for as much I have played with the CB tool there was always something out there yet to be learned. For instance this past Sunday night after cleaning out a nest of Will-'o-Wisps, logs, tools, and tents (really - read about it here) our intrepid adventurers found Iron Hand Unbreakable Form. It took us awhile to figure out what it was, but it was eventually found in the CB Marketplace, under the Misc button, as an Alternative Reward. Adding this to a character sheet essentially provided one with an additional power card describing what the additional power did. Dailies, Encounters, Immediate Interrupts, or what have you, there were a long list of choices included under there for all levels of characters.

Also under the mysterious Misc button were items for Companion, Familiars, Tattoos (so that's where they went!), Artifacts, and Curses. I haven't done much with cursed items, but that's a post for another day. Regardless, what do you get for the adventurer that has everything? Special items such as these are certainly something to consider for future rewards.

The other thing I learned had to do with Essentials characters. For all of my CB experiments I have only built two Essentials characters, the one I used when I did DnD Encounters a year ago and the one I am using for DnD Encounters presently. In the CB tool I dutifully used the NEW button (not CUSTOM) button to build my Encounters characters, but I started experimenting with higher level Essentials characters and saw that, well, things were just different then I expected.

Curious, I braved the world of the forums and asked why, specifically asking why there were feats for blowguns, garrotes, and whips when there were never blowguns, garrotes, or whips available in the Marketplace. I actually got back a real answer! It turned out that under the NEW button you could build characters only with the limited set of options and items as specifically included in the Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms and the Heroes of the Fallen Lands Essentials books.

If one wanted to build an Essentials character with all of the expected options and items then use the CUSTOM button and select one of the Essentials-specific character classes and go from there. Of course there are 47 classes to choose from and the Essentials-only choices aren't specifically denoted when you page through the choices so you kind of have to know what you are looking for before you start. But by using this method, yes, I would be able to power and acquire the blowguns, garrotes, and whips that I couldn't find before.

I rarely save my test built characters. The 20 character storage limit the tool enforces sees to that, and there really is no reason for me to export them and save them off-line. It's just for fun and to see what is out there. I have pointed out there are way too many choices in previous posts, but by god if you want choices the CB tool definitely has them for you.

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