I’d generally rather play a twerp I diced up than an ubermensch I had to buy with points.
When I stopped playing AD&D, I started playing GURPS. How great it seemed to be able to build exactly the character I wanted. Yet, the biggest concern in my group was ensuring your character wouldn’t “step on the toes” of another PC. In essence, we spent a lot of time building exactly the sort of niches that AD&D classes handed us preformed.
Oh, that is an oversimplification. There was more to building our GURPS characters than reinventing the AD&D wheels. Yet, after I had a few GURPS PCs, there tended to be a lot of similarities between them.
When I first started playing Wizard’s D&D “third edition”, I loved the fact that rather than limitations or restrictions, it usually gave trade-offs instead. In practice, though, it often amounted to the same thing. Having a choice between two very unequal choices isn’t really much of a choice. Despite the many more choices (versus AD&D), I don’t know that the number of suboptimal choices that I found enjoyable was much greater.
With all the prerequisites and such... Well, there are a few specific Fighter builds that the rules encourage. The archer, the power fighter, the finesse fighter, the mounted fighter. Sometimes I think they should’ve just included more classes rather than make us sift through the specifics of the rules and discover them.
And the designers tried very hard to balance these different builds against one another so that—at least in some sense—it didn’t matter which build you chose. In fact, the options often seem so well balanced to me that I’ll end up using dice to make choices when building 3e PCs.
(I’m intentionally not even touching on what supplements add to the equation, because I’m usually don’t use supplements.)
Ironically, so often when creating a character in a system that seems to promise building whatever character I want, I instead feel like the system is keeping me from building the character I want.
Now, this isn’t meant as a criticism of GURPS or 3e. I enjoy both games, and they have good points that aren’t salient to what I’m trying to get at here.
And what I’m trying to get at is... Why did I enjoy all my AD&D Fighters so much—and felt no two were the same—despite the fact they were all mechanically identical?
I think it is because the things that make a character interesting to me are not mechanical. Adding mechanics for building characters can please the rule mechanic in me, but that is fleeting. In the long run, no mechanic is going to really make much of a difference in how I feel about the character or how much I enjoy playing it.