Errata and Game Balance

Table top role playing games have always had a special sort of immunity to unwanted changes. Don’t like the latest rule book? Ignore it. The prevailing thoughts of the community was that there are no dead games – only games that don’t get meddled with further. Once something is in print, the publisher can’t take it back. This is a double edged sword. As a benefit, it means that a publisher can never take back your favorite class or feat or spell or whatever. You don’t get that with WoW or EQ. On the downside, if the game has something that is horrendously game shattering, there is no way for the publisher to fix it for you. It’s up to the players to find their own coping methods.

Except this isn’t true anymore. Wizards of the Coast has given players a truly remarkable tool with the Character Builder. In a game with literally thousands of choices before the player, the Character Builder has made character creation easy and even fun. Almost everyone I know who plays 4E uses the Character Builder because it’s the quickest, easiest way of ensuring you have a complete and legal character. I use it myself whenever I want to make a character. Most never get played, I rarely get to roll the bones on that side of the screen, but I enjoy plotting out characters and playing with thematic builds. It’s handy to have all the character options from all the books, magazines and various sources at my fingertips when I want them.

Enter the errata. Now that WotC has their Character Builder, they need to keep it up to date, right? Once a month, they release a new update with all of the rules and information that have come out in the past thirty days. This also means that they build the errata right into the program. Again, double edged sword. Players get what should be the most balanced and fun rules with which to play. However, they are also forced to use errata or rule changes they may not agree to.

Of course, this is all only affects players that choose to use the character builder or play in RPGA-sanctioned events. It’s still possible to create a character without it, the prospect just becomes more tedious and… old fashioned? Players, GMs and groups still hold the ultimate say in which rules and which version of rules they wish to play. WotC can’t take away our favorite rules, except when we let them. It’s just the same as it’s always been. Only easier.

Is this the future of table top games?

About PK

PK Sullivan is a game designer and writer living in Chicago.
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