If someone asked me for a single bit of advice to improve their roleplaying games, whether as a DM or a player, I would tell them to spend as much time as they can reading the great fantasy and sci-fi books that are out there. For the first several years that I was playing RPGs I was not an avid reader and had not even heard of many of the classics, including ones that everyone should have heard of like The Lord of the Rings. At the time I thought many of my friends were insanely creative or stricken by some miraculous form of otherworldly inspiration, but as I’ve read more and more of the books out there I began to realize that most good ideas in our RPGs have been inspired by or even directly ripped from other sources. For example, in one of the first D&D games that I ever DM’d a player showed up with a character named “Muadib” and I remember thinking that it was a very unique and interesting sounding name. A year or two later I started reading Dune and groaned when I realized he’d simply lifted the name straight out of that book.
Once again, it’s time to create a new 4E character, and once again, I’m paralyzed by indecision. Believe it or not, this isn’t because I’m overwhelmed with options. I’m okay with having bunches and piles and oodles of options. Pathetically, I’m currently frozen by the crushing terror that I’m going to make the wrong choice and wind up with a lousy, useless, despised character, which reflects badly on me as a player, a man, and an American. And possibly a human being.