[MUD-Dev] Balancing Melee vs Ranged Combat in Games Which Model Space

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Tue Apr 10 17:04:11 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Monday, April 09, 2001, 4:25:16 AM, John Buehler <johnbue at msn.com> wrote:

>>> Rogues are combat effective in rare circumstances.  The bulk of
>>> the entertainment for rogues should be sneaking around, skulking
>>> across high wires, listening to conversations unobserved and so
>>> on.

>> I completely agree, however this (so far) has been extremely
>> difficult to accomplish in the computer medium because of the very
>> freeform nature by which a rogue operates.

> Yet there are games that are entirely centered on thievery and
> sneaking.  Why not present the same game world that Conan is running
> around in, but using the client from one of those games?

Umm... small point I'd like to make here.  The Conan of Howard's
stories did a lot of sneaking, climbing into places, and similar such
things.  Howard's Conan was an experienced woodsman, hunter, and even
thief -- not just a big brawny warrior.

> Further, there are other ways of avoiding 'unreasonable' barriers to
> entertainment in the game.  My personal take on this is that any
> given character should be capable of doing anything - given enough
> time.  While I don't care for the notion of levels in their current
> form, that 37th level druid sounds fairly specialized.  As a result,
> a greater focus must be brought to bear on honing the druid's
> skills.  The specialization permits fairly unique forms of
> entertainment that only a druid can ever get into - but the cost is
> that the druid becomes more and more *only* a druid.  The druid's
> combat ability, housebuilding ability, etc, are all left to fade.  A
> druid who is more 'well-rounded' shoud be able to have druidic
> capabilities, but also simultaneously have other compatible skills
> such as warrior, healer, shipwright, etc.  Whatever elements of
> gameplay that the player is interested in.  Taking a lesson from
> classes, there would be limits on the degree to which a
> 'well-rounded' character could delve into any one skill.  As with
> the 37th level druid, specialization is a means of accessing unique
> entertainment.

Paper RPGs first started to abandon the class-level system more than
twenty years ago.  These days, even D&D allows characters to mix
classes fairly easily, and many of the abilities that used to be
exclusive to certain classes (such as a thief's abilities) are now
skills that can be learned by members of any class.  The main thing
that a character's class or classes determine now is what sort of
magic they can use, if any.

> Yes, one of my rallying cries is 'no irrevocable player decisions'.
> While not a very memorable phrase, it has served me well in avoiding
> that problem of denying players access to entertainment.  If you
> recall, I asked about the value of races in another thread.  I asked
> for the very sort of reason that you bring up: if I have races, then
> there are built-in restrictions to access on entertainment.  While
> players definitely look for that marketing checkmark of 'Multiple
> Races', I'm still hesitant to include them in my designs.  Unless
> they are all essentially human in dimension and capability.

Alternatively, if your goal is to provide maximum entertainment, you
could implement what's the common practice among many paper gaming
groups: players having a stable of characters.  If I want to feel like
a powerful wielder of magic, I can pull out my mage character and play
it.  If I feel like thinking my way around obstacles, I can play my
thief character.  If I've had a bad day and want to smash things and
go "ug" a lot, I can play my troll barbarian.

If you abandon the idea of the game being a quest for players to build
a more powerful character, with things like character death being
setbacks on that path, and you're not worried about whether or not
people are really "roleplaying", then why not allow players to create
multiple characters and use them as they see fit?

In many paper groups, players are allowed to create characters as they
see fit.  If the group is currently 12th level, and a player who's
been playing a mage up until now decides she's tired of playing a mage
and would rather play a ranger, then many groups will simply let her
create a new, 12th level ranger and play that character.  Quite a few
groups allow switching back and forth between multiple characters --
you have to choose one for each adventure just so things don't get
inconsistent with different characters popping in and out, but that's
a fairly short-term commitment.

The paper RPG Ars Magica does something a bit different -- in it, the
players play members of a covenant of wizards.  Each player has one
wizard character.  However, the convenant of wizards also has a number
of other characters, both major and minor associated with it.

First, there are companions (may be remembering the term used
wrongly), who are not wizards, but are skill specialists who do jobs
the wizards can't or won't -- e.g., engineers, alchemists,
blacksmiths, that sort of thing.  A player has the option of creating
a companion, and a companion created by the player can belong
exclusively to that player, or can be shared property of the group,
who anyone can choose to play.  Someone playing a companion on an
adventure normally does this instead of playing a wizard.

Second, there are grogs, who are warriors in service to the covenant.
Grogs are given individual names, personalities, etc., but are always
considered to be shared property.  A player who is playing a companion
will often play a grog (or more than one!) as well; this balances the
*player's* ability to do things in the game with that of a player
playing a wizard.  (Wizards in Ars Magica are very powerful -- enough
so that even an apprentice is a very flexible, powerful character).  A
player who wants to can play nothing but grogs in an adventure,
generally playing several of them.

Thus, Ars Magica not only allows players to play different characters
at different times, but has situations where a player can play
multiple characters at once.

> Yes, this is what my 'no irrevocable player decisions' approach is
> all about.  You weren't able to go back to the supply depot to pick
> up more missiles or fuel or fix your ship because that stage of the
> game was already over.  You're forced to restart the game if you
> want to redress earlier mistakes.  This is the problem that I
> encountered in EverQuest when I selected the Ranger class.  I played
> the Ranger class for a long while until I realized that the class
> that actually provided me the experience I was after was the Druid.
> Well, the classes are very similar, but a 20th level Ranger cannot
> convert to a 10th level Druid and then continue.  Note that I had
> developed a number of trade skills, utility skills and had learned
> some languages as well.  I saw no need to discard all of that just
> to switch to the Druid class.  Classes carry irrevocable decisions
> and that's not good.

In a situation like I'm describing, choices are irrevocable for a
particular character, but a player can choose to create a new
character.  A player doing so isn't required to start over, but can
instead start the new character at a level of power comparable to that
of their old character.  (Of course, they can also have the option of
starting at a lower power level, which can be good if you're making a
drastic change in character type, into a type that you have no
experience playing yet.)

I'll note as well that in most modern paper RPGs, things are done on a
skill or semi-skill basis.  Even in D&D, which still has classes, a
Ranger could choose to start picking up levels in the Druid class, and
would still know all the skills, languages, etc. that he/she already

> But where do we draw the line on what sort of a game the players get
> to play?  Should it only be the 'disruption' yardstick?  I despise
> linear games, but I certainly want self-consistency and depth to the
> game experience.  That sense of self-consistency covers the case of
> the highly specialized druid not being effective in his skills while
> underground.

Allowing multiple characters lets you have it both ways, IMHO.  Each
individual character remains consistent, but the *player* can choose
to experience a different aspect of the game at any time.

Now, please note that I'm not saying that this idea is an immediate
cure-all -- allowing players to have multiple characters is going to
carry its own set of problems, especially if you allow them to play
multiple characters at once.  I'm simply saying that it's something to
think about.  Just because present muds almost all try to enforce one
character per player doesn't mean that it's necessary to any type of
mud that one might create.

       |\      _,,,---,,_    Travis S. Casey  <efindel at earthlink.net>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'
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