Exploring Eberron: Rolling the right character for you

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|07.16.10

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Exploring Eberron: Rolling the right character for you

Who are you whippersnappers? Get off my lawn or I'll blast ye into kingdom come! Shoo!

I mean, howdy! Sorry, I got a little startled there. We just found out this morning that Rubi, your faithful DDO columnist, was captured by a beholder and locked away in a level 20 dungeon. While the Massively DDO guild, OnedAwesome, faithfully levels up in a rescue attempt (every Wednesday night, 9pm eastern/8pm central!), I've been drafted to keep the column going until victory is assured.

Considering that a vast majority of my personal DDO resume is confined to levels 1 through 10, I have a soft spot for the newbie experience. And seeing how many fledgling dungeoneers are flocking to DDO these days, I figured I'd go back to the beginning to walk new players through the first week of the game. For you veterans out there, this would be a great time to (a) point out how much I say is completely wrong, and (b) offer up your own tips and advice in the comments section.

Today, let's start with one of the most vital decisions you'll ever make in the game: rolling a character. Hit the jump and let's hope for all 20s!
All character creators were not born equal

What's important to understand is that unlike in most other MMOs, making a character in DDO is a little more involved than picking a race, class and dashing hairstyle. In fact, if you're not careful, a hastily made character can end up being a chore to play if you build it wrong. The vast array of options that DDO's character creator presents is a double-edged sword: It gives you the freedom to make the perfect character for your needs or whims, but it also allows you to gimp your adventurer before you even log in for the first time.

Because Turbine knows the danger that comes with these options, it's provided training wheels in the character creator -- specialty "paths" for each class that can be chosen. While these keep a new player from making a critical mistake right at the beginning, the paths are largely seen as undesirable by most DDO players. After all, creating and building a character personally is one of the foundations of the Dungeons & Dragons experience!

Plus, players have spent years figuring out awesome, exciting, weird and optimal builds that are far better than the paths that you could choose, so take my advice and eschew the easy way out; instead, do your homework and spend a bit of time mapping out your character before you start a new toon.

Step one: Figure out your purpose

Before getting hip-deep in stats and weapon specializations, take a minute to sit back and consider the question, "What do I want this character to do?" Figuring out the purpose of your character is crucial, as every build decision you make after this hinges on your vision for your avatar. Do you want to be a healer? A battle mage? A summoner? A giant two-handed-weapon fighter? An expert lockpicker? A ranged fighter? A fencer? A buffer? A self-sufficient jack of all trades?

Coming up with the purpose for your character helps you to stay focused. Since no build can do everything perfectly, it pays to specialize in DDO. For example, I recently decided that I wanted to create a summoner to take advantage of the new boosts to hirelings and summons that came in the latest patch. This led me to wizards, which in turn led me to the Warforged racial choice (seeing as how wizards can use repair spells, a Warforged wizard gains the ability to heal itself). I then decided to give the Pale Master specialization (at level 6) a chance, which meant that I had to plan out a few key feats and enhancements to pick up along the way. From my purpose flowed my character's specifics, and I kept fast to that.

Step two: Decide whether to spend money

It may sound a little crass, but here it is: You need to decide whether or not you're going to drop real cash (in the form of Turbine Points) in the creation of a character. Particularly as a free-to-play gamer (but also as a subscriber, to a lesser degree), you'll find investing Turbine Points in your character from the start can give you a nice edge. Choices to consider including unlocking 32-point builds (which gives you four more stat points to play with than the standard 28-point builds), unlocking the Drow and Warforged races, unlocking the Favored Soul and Monk classes, and purchasing stat-boosting Tomes to use at lower levels.

None of these purchases is necessary, mind you, but they do limit your options somewhat if you're looking to min/max a character or ascribe to a specific build that requires them.

Step three: Choose a build

As I said previously, players with more knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons and DDO than you or I will ever possess have been hacking away at developing new character builds ever since launch. It's amazing and a bit scary just how many builds are out there, and they're a wonderful resource to a new -- or even experienced -- player.

Players on the DDO forums spend gobs of time creating builds and submitting them for peer review in order to fine-tune them to perfection. In fact, there's an entire sub-forum devoted to character builds, where you can check out builds in all stages of development. With your character's purpose firmly in mind, browse both the character builds forum and your specific class' forum for ideas.

Don't be afraid to take a build and tweak it to your likings, either! Personally, I'm not a min/maxer, and if I want to choose a "less desirable" race or throw something different into my build because it sounds fun, then I just do it and don't sweat the consequences.

Pro-tip: click the "rating" header at the top of the page to sort the threads by star ratings. Four- and five-star rated threads are generally regarded as worth your time.

Step four: Make a build

After a few months in game (or even sooner!), you'll most likely start to get an itch to make your own character from scratch. This is admirable, particularly if you want to multi-class or do something a bit off the beaten track.

What I'd recommend is that you head over to nab the free DDO Character Planner application from R&J Cyberware. Currently in version 3.5.1, the planner is an indispensable utility that allows you to make the character of your dreams, level by level, and then print it out for your personal use. It may not seem flashy, but this is pretty much the standard utility that most people use.

After you've downloaded it and whipped up your hunky barbarian or crafty sorcerer, don't forget to save the file and then submit the build to the forums for review! You'll get a lot of critical feedback on how to make your character better, including many little details you probably never knew. The forumites are a pretty positive group and won't berate you for "stupid" builds or the like. They understand that part of the attraction to this game is the power of a complex character creator.

Step five: Play!

I know this whole process sounds arduous, and the temptation is great to just skip it and choose the easy path, but consider that your character is your number one asset in the game, and you'll (hopefully) be with him, her or it for quite some time. Just like when you're shopping for a car, you want to make sure you get all the options you truly want, not just "something with four wheels that rolls."

You may also discover that your character doesn't play as you'd like, or that you come up with a better way to create a character to fit your purpose down the road. That's OK! It happens all the time and is perfectly normal. At that point, you can decide either to reroll, attempt to respec, or purchase the ability to reincarnate as a better toon.

Next week: No, I'm not undead Jeets, and I really wish you'd stop asking.
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