Tag Archive for Dungeons

Role Playing requires a Death Penalty

For me, a “role playing” game, despite being short hand for a genre of games, has always meant a game where you, the player, get involved, care for the character and can influence the outcome.  One of the largest aspects of role playing is the danger of losing.  In MMOs this is often referred to as the “death penalty”.

Gordon wrote about it a couple of weeks ago, and Darren a few days ago.  I’ve written about it too.  And if you search around the Internet on the gaming blogs you’ll probably find hundreds of posts.

In my experience the best role playing games have at least a modest death penalty.  More than just a few coins spent on repairs, or being set back a few seconds, but real almost tangible loss that you want to avoid.

My first real role playing game was, of course, Dungeons & Dragons.  Because the game is so unstructured, being just a set of rules which your gaming is built upon, I’ve found that lots of people have lots of different experiences.  If your Dungeon Master never actually reduced your player’s constitution when he got resurrected, then I don’t think you’ve ever really role played Dungeons & Dragons.  If you never had a character die (and I mean really die, as in you might as well tear up the character sheet because that guy is not coming back, ever), then I don’t think you’ve ever really role played Dungeons & Dragons.  If your character went from 1 to Demi-god without ever being in danger of being permanently hurt or sent to the circular file, then I don’t think you’ve ever really role played Dungeons & Dragons.  That’s just me, but if you played without penalties, I don’t know if I would consider what you were doing to be role playing.  You were just gaming.  You were rolling dice while the DM told you a story.

Playing EverQuest, you put together a group (or joined someone else’s) and you went somewhere to complete a goal or just grind out some experience.  If you died, you had to watch the exp bar retreat, possibly hours worth of advancement vanishing along with the pixels.  You could recover the majority of that loss with a resurrection from a cleric (or later, other classes), but a bit of it was gone.  Just gone.  So, because of that reality, if you invited a player into your group who wouldn’t stop drawing aggro or sucked as a healer or in any number of ways exposed your group to death and loss, you kicked them out.  And because of that reality, combined with that fact that most classes benefited greatly from being in groups, people tended not to be aggro drawing crappy healing death magnets for very long.

Many people will tell you that EQ didn’t have any role playing because people talked out of character or min/maxed numbers or whatever, but to me it will always be a role playing game because your character mattered.  Your reputation, your wins and losses, it all effected how you were able to play the game.  Within the confines of the defined computer controlled rules of gaming, you had to play a role in order to play the game.  I remember a number of weeks I spent in Karnor’s Castle in EQ and there was this bard shouting for a group, and most of us who’d been around wouldn’t group with him.  Every time he’d get into a group, he’d go AFK a lot.  Sure, he’d leave on mana song or something, but he wasn’t doing crowd control, and his songs often pulled aggro off the tank on the pull, and when running was needed he wasn’t there, would have to be left behind, then he’d complain about the group getting him killed.  So he spent most of his time looking for a group instead of being a group.  Sure, his actions would eventually earn him the same level of ignoring in newer games that he got in EQ, but given the design of EQ, the fear of death, the shared spawns and grinding exp, he was very quickly rooted out, not because of how he played but because of how his play affected the play of others.  Meanwhile, players who worked well with others and had a healthy respect for the loss of experience grouped well.  Lasting friendships and guilds spawned from avoiding the penalties together.

Of course, not all MMOs need to be RPGs, but I believe what I have discovered over the past couple of years and what I am realizing now is that in the genre of MMOs I prefer the MMORPG.  Many of the most recent MMOs don’t have much RPG in them (remember, I’m using RPG to actually mean role playing and not as shorthand for a genre of gaming features).  Too many of them are too soloable, with too little penalty, with inevitable victories no matter how much I suck.  Many of these MMOs are more like sports leagues for kids that don’t keep score, where everyone gets a trophy because everyone wins simply by showing up.

As always, I’m rambling, and I’m not even sure where I was going with this other than to empty onto the Internet another reason why I think I’m not being drawn into many MMOs anymore…

DDOU: Missing the Point

Of all the IPs to be licensed, Dungeons & Dragons is actually the one where real money transactions (RMT, or microtransactions) make the most sense.  Why?  Because D&D has been doing microtransactions for decades.  In fact, of all the games on the market, Wizard101 is the game that currently mirrors the pen & paper D&D model the closest.

Think about it… to start playing D&D, you need to buy a couple of rule books, namely the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Player’s Handbook.  With those two books and some dice, in theory, you never need to buy anything else to play.  You can make all your characters, make your own dungeons and monsters, you can even make your own loot.  Of course, not everyone is as skilled or as imaginative as everyone else, so D&D sells gaming modules which include a dungeon, monsters, loot, and perhaps even a city or town, story lines and quests and events.  You need to buy each module to play each module (or at least someone in your gaming group needs to).  This is pretty close to how Wizard101 functions, only the DMG and PH are free.  Create an account, download and log in.  You can play the first few areas of their world for free, and then you have to pay a small fee for additional areas.  Of course, there are other things you can buy in the game, items and houses and whatnot, but if you just want to play the game, I believe currently you can get everything for around $80.  For many MMOs you’ll pay $50 just for the game box and the first month, and at $15 a month, just three months in and you’ll have spent $80, and you can’t really finish all of most MMOs’ content in 90 days, so you’ll pay more.

Money amounts aside, however, DDO should have been built this way to start.  The base game with a small number of dungeons, the base classes and whatnot should have been a fixed price, or even free.  Then, much like games release expansions on Xbox Live, put out new dungeons, new modules, for a small fee every month or two.  New classes could even be released for a small fee, much like how D&D puts out expanded books to introduce new classes.  Perhaps they could have even run a hybrid model, charging players $1.99 or $2.99 a month for access to the game, and then $5-$20 per module (amount based on size of content).

Anyway, that’s just my thoughts.  If they’d started with that design, perhaps they wouldn’t have had to switch to their new Free-to-Play/Pay-to-Advance model.

Wrath of the Dragon God

Long ago when I saw the first preview for the Dungeons & Dragons movie, I got excited. First off, I love D&D, and second, it had Jeremy Irons, Bruce Payne, and Thora Birch. It looked like they were making a real class film. Somehow I managed not to know that Justin Whalin and Marlon Wayans were actually the main heroes of the film until I sat down in the theater. Wow, this movie sucked! It was so horribly campy. At least the special effects weren’t bad, and the scenes with the skies filled with hundreds of dragons were kinda neat.

Last year, when I heard they were making a sequel, I groaned. I actually looked into the film and found that while Bruce Payne had returned as Damodar, they’d managed to fill the rest of the cast with people I’d never heard of. I decided to pass. However, later a friend told me that it wasn’t that bad, it was even good. So, I dropped it into the Netflix queue and waited for it to be released.

This weekend, I finally got the movie and watched it. About the best review I can give is: At least Justin Whalin and Marlon Wayans weren’t in it.

First off, the special effects were not good. Ever watch TV shows like Charmed? The computer generated stuff looks fine, but when they put it together with the live action it doesn’t mesh well. They don’t touch in the right places, actions and reactions aren’t timed correctly. It just makes you increasingly aware that the person and the monster were never actually in the same room.

Second, and this is both a praise and a slam, this movie was exactly like a gaming session of D&D. The good part is that the story elements were pretty cool, it was like I was flipping through one of the old AD&D campaign modules reading about the kingdom and the towns, all the people and the history. The bad part… the dialogue. It was like someone had literally set a tape recorder down on the table while a group of guys played this module. When one of the characters died, I could almost here his player saying, “What? You’re going to bury me? Come on! There has to be a temple around here when I can be resurrected! Come on! You know what? Screw you guys!” and then he takes his Cheetoes and Mountain Dew and goes home.

This is one of those movies that seems to have so much potential going for it, but loses because the budget is a little too small and the script writer can’t lay off the wooden trite dialogue.

I think for the first time ever on one of my web reviews I’m actually going to say… Stay away from this movie. Its just not worth it.

The Past is Past

Thank God.

However, in my youth I was a roleplayer. Occasionally now while playing EverQuest I’ll mess around a bit, speaking in character, but as with Roger Rabbit “only when it is funny”. Years ago, I would sit at a table covered in books and dice, and 5 or 6 of us would play Dungeons & Dragons, or Top Secret, or Star Frontiers, or any of a plethora of games that we owned.

This is too funny not to link.

Was I ever like this?

Probably. And know, that as I write this, my head hangs in shame.