Jul 072015

The Battle of the Character Planners

Bigger than the Thrilla in Manilla, more important than the Rumble in the Jungle, it is DDO’s own battle royale:

In this corner … weighing in at 1.14 megabytes … the multiple-year hero, the greatest tool in the history of DDO, the defending world champion … Dungeons and Dragons Online Character Planner!

[the crowd goes wild]

And in this corner … the scrappy youngster … weighing in at 860 KB … coming out of nowhere just a few months ago … the one … the only …. Character Builder Lite!

[the crowd goes wild again]

Who will win?

Ron’s Character Planner

We start with the defending champion: Ron’s Character Planner. The leading character generation tool for years, it has existed in one form or another since … well I am not certain. Nor am I readily able to tell via searching. Since 2008? 2009? Perhaps Ron or someone on his team monitors this and will jump in to let us know.

Ron’s character planner is discussed in this forum thread. It can be downloaded here.

I am not certain whether Ron’s Character Planner was the first character tool, or rather the first successful one, but I can say without doubt that before Ron’s Character Planner, we built characters with spreadsheets and notepaper, manually, one painful decision at a time, often wrong, and often wrong in ways we did not know until the character had already been played for some time.

Ron's Character Planner
Ron’s Character Planner

Ron’s Character Planner allows you to build your character, one level at a time, in the exact same manner as one levels up in-game, with the same options, rules, and restrictions. And that is where the tool has been so valuable to me for so long, the rules. Paper D&D is a complex game, online D&D only slightly less so, but Ron captured all of that in his offline tool.

In all the years I’ve been building with Ron’s Character Planner, I can only recall one instance where the game prevented me from doing something that Character Planner allowed. One time. In dozens and dozens of character builds. Really, quite impressive. Ron’s Character Planner has been the most important tool in DDO (sans the DDO Wiki, of course) for years, without question.

EllisDee37’s Character Builder Lite

His forum name may be a mouthful, but EllisDee37 has created a masterpiece of a DDO tool. Debuting in February of this year, this ambitious tool calls itself “Lite” but in fact is a true heavyweight contender, attempting to apply all of the same game rules and restrictions as Ron’s planner but with less overhead: Character Builder Lite does not include the game text for each character building attribute. You have to know that yourself, or look it up in the DDO Wiki.

EllisDee37’s Character Builder Lite is discussed in this forum thread, and can be downloaded here.

To be entirely honest, I mostly dismissed this when I first read about it. Why another planner? Isn’t Ron’s perfectly fine? But that was hasty, and a misjudgement. EllisDee37’s tool is every bit the mature and usable planner that Ron’s is, and in some ways, more! MOAR!

Character Builder Lite
EllisDee37’s Character Builder Lite

EllisDee37’s Character Builder Lite allows you to pick an aspect of your character and build it out all the way, all at once, in the exact same manner that I tend to do character design in my head. I like to start with a theme, and goals, and then a list of feats. Character Builder Lite allows me to do that, having all of the feats in a single panel and allowing me to apply them all at once, without having to do it one level at a time.

And that is how Character Builder Lite does everything. All at once. Which can be very handy, and also very efficient.

Let’s Get Ready to Ruuuuuuuuuuum-ble

Both builders work. Both builders seem immensely accurate. Both builders show an amazing amount of time and love for the game.

So how are they different? Which one wins?

Round one:

Character Planner comes out smartly, asking the user to select class, race, alignment, initial stats, skills, spells (if the first class chosen gets spells) and one or more feats.

Planner patiently waits for the user to advance to level 2 and repeat the parts of the process that apply to the new level, adding any skills, feats, spells or tomes that match the character’s first two levels. Character Planner jabs the user, one level at a time. Jab jab jab.

Character Builder Lite steps forward with a list of levels and classes and challenges the user to apply them. Character Builder Lite ducks the level-by-level jab, instead going for all of the levels of the character at once.

Round two:

Character Planner show’s off it’s superior game text conditioning, patiently explaining what every enhancement is and exactly what is needed to qualify for it.

Character Builder Lite counters by having a page that let’s the user select all of the enhancements at a single go, one after the other. You have to duck over to the wiki to see what the enhancements do, but you can quickly drag and drop the ones you want into the clinch without having to switch levels. Do all 20 levels worth right now if you like.

Round three:

Character Planner reaches the epic levels and staggers a bit, failing to support Twists of Fate or Epic Destinies. Character Builder Lite meanwhile has full Epic Destinies support and Twists of Fate.

Round four

Character Planner shows off a summary of total hit points, spell points, saves, and BAB. Character Builder Lite shows everything that has been selected – in a dazzlingly clean format – but misses on the summaries and does not attempt to show totals.

Round five:

Character Planner exports the character sheet to forums in a canned format, with many choices as to which sections to export. Character Builder Lite has one export format for the forums, another for the DDO Vault, and a third that is text-only with no color or format tags.

Judges Cards:

The fight is still too close to call. We’ll have to count punches:

Character Planner is definitely the tool of choice for newer players who do not have an easy familiarity with all of the game’s idiosyncrasies and terminology. Character Planner is unmatched at helping the player build a character one level at a time.

Character Builder Lite seems the tool of choice for players who largely know what they want to build and just want to get it down in character sheet format and tweak details as necessary. It can be much faster to use, and the text-only format can be much easier to post for feedback.

And the winner is:

Tension mounts as the two combatants stand side by side in the middle of the ring, awaiting the referee’s final call.

But there is no way to choose; both programs are provided by people in their spare time, fans, who pour their game love and game knowledge into something that we can all use.

Not just one character tool, but two, and they are both awesome!

We are the winners. Us. The DDO community.

Thank you Ron (and Ron’s team!), and thank you EllisDee37. Take a well-earned bow. You guys are truly awesome.

We all win.

[the crowd goes wild again!]


😀 🙂 😀

  6 Responses to “The Battle of the Character Planners”

Comments (6)
  1. I know Ron has passed on support of his planner to others, but development seems slower. I appreciated that planner but could not get around certain idiosyncrasies that made the tool sometimes un-intuitive.

    In developing a build of my own I decided to try CBL and have fallen in love with it. While it doesn’t support the Epic character twinking, it marvels at quickly building any character, studying the results, and then importing and exporting with ease. I’m a fan! My decision goes to Character Builder Lite!

  2. I’d say Ron’s is probably superior if you’re newer to DDO or just less comfortable with character creation, since it’s a step by step process, letting you alt-tab & follow the plan then the in-game levelling directly. CBL is great if you’re more experienced & looking for tweaking a build idea quickly. Definitely a place for both of them 🙂

  3. I think they both excel at their intended purpose and their target audiance. Ron’s planner is very much aimed at newer players whereas Ellis’s is for players who know the game a fair bit and just want to get down n dirty to the nitty gritty of character building.

  4. Both of them are true gems for DDO. We’re all so much better off with them here.

  5. I like both of them as well, although I have used the Character Planner far more often.

What do you think?

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