[MUD-Dev] D&D vs. MMORPG "complexity"

Sean Kelly sean at ffwd.cx
Sun Apr 13 12:05:14 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

On Fri, 11 Apr 2003, Threshold RPG wrote:
> On 9 Apr 2003, at 10:04, Ryan S. Dancey wrote:

> The game system of D&D is incredibly far less complex than CPRGs,
> MMORPGs, and MUDs. A few examples:

>   COMBAT: A D&D combat involves very few factors and is ultimately
>   resolved by a d20 roll. If a "hit" is scored, another die is
>   rolled for damage. That is it.

> On most MUDs every round of combat involves *HUNDREDS* of
> computations. From combat styles, to skills, buffs, complex gear
> effects, weariness of the combatants, number of foes in the area,
> the order of special moves used, etc. MUD combat is incredibly
> complex compared to D&D combat. MMORPGs, while still many years
> behind MUDs as far as features go, still have far more involved
> and complex combat systems than D&D.

You're not being fair.  While combat may boil down to one roll in
D&D, a potentially large array of factors may be involved.  Various
buffs, skills, attributes, and inherent abilities are applied
beforehand to determine the attack and armor class values, surprise,
cover, etc.  Afterwords, similar things are done to qualify any
damage applied (resistances, etc).  That D&D boils down to a single
hit and single damage roll is a testament to the elegance of the
system, not to its simplicity.  Also, because D&D is arbitrated by
real people, many factors can be considered that a computer just
can't handle.

But I see where you're coming from.  Since computers are very good
at math, why not give them extra work to do for CRPGs?  In addition
to the hit and damage rolls there could be rolls for damage
reduction, complex criticals (though RoleMaster is good in this
regard), fatigue, weapon speed (dropped in 3E), etc.  All of this
would slow down a P&P session but a computer can do it quite

> This is a strength of D&D. It is a pen and paper game. If combat
> involved this level of complexity, it would be much less enjoyable
> as combat would be an overly burdensome affair.

> You also mentioned weapons as being more complex in D&D. My mouth
> hit the floor when I read this. In D&D weapons are basically
> clones of the exact same thing. They have slightly different
> damage ranges, are one handed or two handed, some have reach, and
> that is basically it. To again use the example of MUDs, weapons
> are incredibly complex. First, you have the standard differences
> in damage. Second, some weapons are more accurate than others-
> inherently (before we even get to magic). Third, damage types are
> a far more significant part of MUD/MMORPG/CRPG combat as it is
> easy for the computer to keep track of many different types of
> damage (cutting, thrusting, blunt, acid, lightning, fire, etc,
> etc). Fourth, you have weapon speed. While earlier editions of
> AD&D had rudimentary weapon speed (which only affected
> initiative), MUD & MMORPG combat systems have TRUE weapon
> speed. This means someone fighting with a faster weapon actually
> swings more often than someone with a slower weapon.

Again, you're not being fair.  While D&D 3E did drop weapon speed,
reach, and (I think) weapon damage type (slashing, piercing, etc)
vs. armor type, this is a far cry from your implicit claim that
weapons in D&D all do the same damage.  There are still varoious
classes of weapons, each weapon does different damage, and some
speed rules still apply (crossbows don't get extra attacks/round).
Number of attacks is largely determined by player skill, which makes
sense considering that a D&D combat round is considered to include a
bunch of attacks and feints while the actual "attacks" are just
those that have the potential to do damage.

> When you get into the area of magic weapons then D&D is further
> dwarfed. Most magic D&D weapons are little more than simple
> bonuses to damage or "to-hit" chance (ye olde +1 longsword). More
> complex magic effects are very rare and are generally only present
> on extremely powerful magic items. In MUDs you have magic weapons,
> armor, etc. with all sorts of boosts to resistances, some grant
> access to special combat styles, they have command
> words/spells/etc. that can be directly triggered, in combat they
> have random special attacks (I believe in EQ they are called
> "procs"), some transform into different types of items or are
> summoned from other types of objects, and much more. I am hardly
> even scratching the surface here. Heck, even Diablo 2 has
> equipment that makes D&D's equipment variety look like a joke.

I strongly disagree here.  Every CRPG I've ever played has had a
painfully simplistic magic system which was almost entirely limited
to either very specific buffs or to a few standard elemental damage
types.  Because D&D is a game arbitrated by people, the magic system
can get fairly complex (not as much so as, say, Ars Magica, however)
and includes a much more diverse array of effects and situations.
There are elemental damage types -- fire items can actually set
fires, acid items can destroy metal, etc.  as well as things like
vorpal weapons, seeker/phase arrows, ego weapons, enchantments that
cause complex spell effects... basically anything the players can
dream up.

> I could go on but I think the point is made. D&D is a very
> SIMPLIFIED system because it has to be played on paper and
> everything has to be processed by human beings. You do not want
> there to be 100 dice rolls every time a player picks up a weapon
> and wades into combat. I am not trying to say this is a weakness
> of D&D or that D&D is inferior to computer RPGs, MUDs, or
> MMORPGs. I am only saying that it is grossly incorrect to say D&D
> is more complex when the factual evidence points very heavily to
> the contrary.

I agree with your basic premise -- the mathematics and number of
rolls are kept as simple as possible in D&D because this stuff takes
time and slows down a game session.  But the fact that people are
involved allows for a huge amount of things that just can't be coded
yet.  Also, D&D 3E did a great job at creating a basic system that
was intended to be extended by the players.  Quite a bit of the new
books goes into how skills, feats, items, races, classes, creatures,
and spells are created to make it as easy as possible for players to
extend the system themselves.  I agree that the combat system is
quite lacking in some areas that computers are very good at
addressing (because of computation speed), but not nearly to the
degree you imply.  And I think Bioware would probably disagree with
even the claim that D&D 3E is simple to implement in a CRPG.  NWN
took 5 years to develop and still differs fromk 3E (particularly
combat) is some surprising and irritating ways -- I'm sure many of
these changes were made for the sake of simplicity.


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