My rating might seem critical of this product, and it has to do with the editing. The book has a rough draft feel with lots of low-hanging fruit for correction. I purchased my copy through Bundle of Holding's revived Toolkit 4 bundle at the $9.95 tier, which means that I picked up my copy at $1.65, if I divide the tier price among the items that I received at that tier. This is a much better deal than what it is selling for here on DTRPG: $7, which is more than the second edition of the same book ($4.99).
I ended up buying the second edition anyway because I do find the information useful from the first book, and what made me buy the second edition is how bad the editing is on the first. I was hoping that it might have improved for the second edition, and it has, so that product will get a better rating from me by one more star. DTRPG, however, will not allow me to give another low star review for the same publisher for 24 hours. The editing on the second book has not improved much (it still has mistakes that suggest that it was not proofread or not enough).
So let us get into why the editing is a problem. If one is going to use this book as a regular go-to reference, those typos are going to pop up every time one looks at the book. Here are some examples:
"What the leader dislikes are the disorganized, [...] things in like" (p. 10; see Full Size Preview, p. 14; "like" should be "life").
"The lover doesn't care what people, and won't allow gossip alter their pursuit of happiness" (p. 11; see Full Size Preview, p. 15; missing words are "want" after "people" and "to" before "alter").
Here is an erroneous ranking for "Below Baseline Religion": "The character is more devout than the typical character within the story. They have deeper faith and engagement with dogma" (p. 43; see Full Size Preview, p. 47).
Every time that one looks at these entries, one is going to falter at these typos. When one wants to understand the material fully, so one can focus on building a character, this is an unnecessary hindrance that breaks focus and train of thought. When one considers that the publisher has not made any effort to update this material for those who have purchased it at a $7 price tag, it seems lazy.
Did their editing improve for the second edition? Some: two of the typos mentioned above are fixed. Still others are introduced or obsolete text remains from the first edition:
"Looking back over the questions you answered for your character in the stages of lie section," (p. 67 in the second edition; "lie" was correctly "life" in the First Edition, p. 52 or p. 56 in the Full Size Preview, and there were actually questions that one answers, which are not present in the second edition).
What this book did allow me to do was to generate a new page of data for my protagonist Character Eight in the game The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG. The data consisted of rankings in categories like Aptitudes as follows: Below Baseline, Baseline, Above Baseline. While more needs to be done to translate this data into interesting character story, it at least establishes a starting point for different "character elements" (or what I'll term aspects of a character).
The full title of my version of this book is Building Characters for Writers and Roleplayers. While there is some useful material for writers, a book like The Art of Character by David Corbett (not available on DTRPG since it is not related to roleplaying) is a more professional and challenging book (and one would be hard-pressed to find typos in the latter book's pages). The material for writers is of value in the first edition of Building Characters, and it is missed in the second edition. How is one, for example, going to answer those aforementioned "questions you answered for your character in the stages of life" section if you only have the second edition? And there were a lot of defining questions for each stage of life: twenty for childhood, twenty for adolescence, sixteen for separation from parents, and so on.
Some statements made by the first edition may be difficult to reconcile, like how aptitude ratings "are a zero-sum game: for every +1 in an aptitude, the character must have a -1 in something else" (p. 58; see Full Size Preview, p. 62). For a book that wants to "develop a more literary character" (p. 89; see Full Size Preview, p. 93) this seems counterintuitive. The book lists ten aptitudes, only eight of which I felt applied to my Character Eight in The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG setting, who is a Cleric. Four of these aptitudes for this class I ranked as "Above Baseline": Empathy, Morality, Reflection; Spiritual. While there could be unlisted aptitudes that I could try to come up with that are "Below Baseline," the other four that I kept from the book's list of ten total and ranked as "Baseline" were Body, Language, Reason, and Visualization. I really did not see why the Cleric would have to struggle with Language, as example of why I left it as Baseline. This zero-sum consideration is dropped in the second edition.
Some parts of the first edition are approached differently than in the second edition. The section on Wonders has the reader consider Duration of a wondrous effect, for example, while in the second edition, this section advises more than questions. I am not sure which approach is better: I like both.
As with the questions about the stages of life, another section missed in the second edition is about considerations in creating a character sheet using the elements mentioned in the book, along with creating a character journal and why one of those is useful. Overall, I felt that both of these sections are of value so that one might want both editions of the book for reference, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
Will there be a third edition? If so, let us hope that the editing improves! Since the first edition was never updated to fix the typos, I do not have faith that we will see an update for future editions either.
While I did find this book to be of use, I am not inspired by Dancing Lights Press in their quality of editing their books after seeing this one, so I dread what I am going to find in their other books that I already own, and I will have to think twice about picking up more (unless it is like the case of this one, where I am actively seeking the publisher's improvement as well as my own after reading an earlier edition).