Online Character Builder review

As of Tuesday, November 16, the new online Character Builder is live.  Fortunately for me, I did not get a chance to try it on the day that it came out – from everything I’ve heard, there were some serious server problems at launch, perhaps because every DDI subscriber on the Internet tried to use the program at once.

Now that I’ve had a chance to see it in action, here are my thoughts.

The good things:

  • It looks pretty
  • It has Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Dark Sun
  • It’s good at recovering a character you were working on in case you accidentally close the program or it crashes
  • I have access to my saved characters at any computer
  • It has real potential for the future

The not-so-good things:

  • The character sheets can’t be customized at all
  • It’s a little slower than the downloadable Character Builder, at least on my computer
  • You can’t export characters to send to your DM or to archive on your own computer
  • The scroll wheel on my mouse does not work with the program
  • I won’t be able to play around with it on the plane tomorrow and Saturday when I leave for a business trip because it requires internet access
  • Did I mention that you can’t customize your character sheet?

I think my original impression of the program based on the initial announcement was about right.  One thing I hadn’t realized was that I wouldn’t be able to customize the character sheet as I can in the current Character Builder.  I LOVE to be able to get my character sheet down to one page, with separate pages for my power cards (I’m one of those people who likes to cut out the cards and flip over my expended powers when I use them).  That won’t work here.

For the short run, I’m sticking with the downloadable Character Builder that I happily still have installed on my computer.  It’s just a better program.  If I want to build an Essentials character, I’ll give the online program a shot at it.  But the Essentials character that I’m most interested in building is the Hunter Ranger from Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms – which isn’t in the Builder yet.  Sigh.

To be fair to Wizards of the Coast, I fully expect that the export function, customizable character sheets, support for house rules and use of the scroll wheel will eventually be added to the program.  But for now, the online Builder is inferior to the downloadable one.

Of course, the big news today is the announcement of the Virtual Table, which, as the Online Dungeon Master, has me excited.  But that’s a topic for another post.

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