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

Threshold RPG business at threshold-rpg.com
Tue May 6 15:19:20 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

I want to preface this entire reply by saying this is not to be
interpreted as a slam on D&D. I love D&D. I look forward to my
weekly gaming group enormously. When it gets cancelled, I am
seriously bummed out!

But the system is simple compared to a computer RPG and that is a
good thing. The game would be nigh unplayable if it even approached
the complexity of even your above average MUD.

That said:

On 21 Apr 2003, at 14:36, Ryan S. Dancey wrote:

> The >resolution< of an individual attack is reduced to one random
> event.  However, the calculation used to determine success or
> failure takes into account dozens of pre-calculated factors and a
> smaller (but still significant) number of values which must be
> added to the calculation on the fly (such as terrain and weather
> effects).

What you call a significant number of factors is truly a pittance to
what most MUD developers consider a significant number of
factors. When you have a computer to process the calculation, the
number of factors you can include is enormous. Not only are the
number of D&D combat factors dramatically less, but I would not want
them to be greater. The game would be unplayable, and I really enjoy
my D&D pen and paper gaming as it is! :)

(I am guessing the same goes for MMORPG combat, but I do not have
direct experience with that.)

> 3E D&D weapons have five basic qualities:

> [snip the 5 basic qualities]

> This I suspect, maps very closely with the kinds of quantification
> values used by most of the on-line games.

I'm going to have to dissappoint you here. While I cannot speak for
all online games, most I have played have far more complex
weapons. I'll provide examples at the end of the reply.

> [snip whip information] That's a pretty complex weapon.

And yet dramatically less complex that many weapons I have used as a
player on MUDs (I won't even go into the weapons I have created as I
feel that could be perceived as a "pissing contest"). Again, I'll
provide examples at the end.

> That was true in previous editions.  In 3E just using the DMG and
> no supplementary content, magic weapons can be enhanced with two
> dozen special magical effects

*chuckles*. Two whole dozen? :)

Ryan, I love D&D. But as far as complexity it has absolutely nothing
on a good online CRPG.

Ok, now for the promised examples.

Basic Qualities: You listed 5 for D&D weapons. In addition to those
5, you will commonly find the following basic qualities on weapons
in online games:

  1) Weapon Speed: D&D toyed with this a bit in previous editions
  for modifying your initiative roll. In computer RPGs, you
  frequently find TRUE representation of weapon speed. For example,
  someone with a dagger might swing twice for every single time a
  warhammer user would swing. This feature alone adds a huge
  dimension to weapon variety and selection.

  2) Weapon Material: While D&D has a few materials that make a
  difference, I have played CRPGs where the materials that go into
  the creation of a weapon play a tremendous role- from inherent
  special effects on certain types of monsters, to general
  benefits/detriments, to ability to take enchantments or
  enhancements, etc. I'm not talking about simply silver, gold,
  mithril, adamantium, etc. I am talking about having hundreds of
  possibile materials that create significant effects.

  3) Wear-and-tear: In D&D, with the exception of periodic "saving
  throws" to see if your weapon (or any other equipment for that
  matter) is destroyed, many online games have full featured "decay"
  or "durability" systems coded into their weapons, armor, and/or
  other equipment. As you use equipment, it can be damaged, less
  sharp, etc. Sometimes this slowly reduces the effectiveness of the
  weapon (it does less damage or becomes less accurate the more worn
  out it is) while some opt for a simpler "it works 100% until it
  breaks" method. Either way, players must take care of their
  weapons. They can either learn how to care for them on their own,
  or they can seek out smiths to provide repairs. Either way, this
  certainly adds quite a bit to the experience and it often
  encourages people to either save their favorite weapon for
  important battles or have a junk weapon they use when churning
  through wimpy opponents. Having to think about this adds a great
  deal to the gaming environment.

  4) Enhancements: Especially for online/multiplayer RPGs,
  enhancements become a huge part of the weapon. I am talking about
  skills and talents that are in addition to "enchanting" a weapon
  as you would do both in an online RPG or in D&D. Some classes can
  sharpen a weapon to various degrees (which can be a permanent or
  temporary bonus), others can temper a weapon to make the metals or
  other materials stronger, some can rebalance it, some can coat it
  with a new alloy, some can bless the weapon either permanently or
  for a given duration, and countless other things. These are often
  called "services" and they become a major part of the game. As I
  said, this is above and beyond enchantments which I will address
  next. Furthermore, weapons that provide bonuses to specific skills
  or stats are common, as are armor or other magic items. Getting
  together the right set of gear with the right combination of
  magical modifiers and effects if often a major goal. Obsession
  over gear to this degree would be considered extremely
  "munchkinish" in D&D because you encounter so few magic items in
  comparison and wish far fewer effects.  Players will build up sets
  of gear for the right situation: resistance gear, skill gear,
  quest gear, combat gear, etc. all with the right set of bonuses
  and modifiers for the job.

  5) Enchantments: D&D provides a number of common enchantments you
  will find on weapons. Not only will you find these kinds of "drag
  and drop" enchantments on weapons in online games, you will find
  scores of totally unique enchantments that are often incredibly
  complex. Imagine the most detailed D&D magical artifact (Hand of
  Vecna, Machine of Lum the Mad, etc) and what you have imagined is
  the level of detail common in your average MUD magic item. Above
  and beyond the general concepts of powers that either 1) harm
  someone else or 2) heal/buff an ally, you will encounter magic
  items and weapons that can miniaturize themselves, fold up to fit
  in your pocket, have a detailed AI to act like a living creature,
  cut through or knock down doors, seek out your nemesis,

   6) Hit Functions, Procs, etc: These are very common in computer
   RPGs and the effects can be unbelieveably varied. Far beyond the
   simplistic effects such as "acid burst", these hit functions can
   send the attacker into a frenzy of multiple immediate attacks,
   can drink the blood of the opponent thereby strengthening the
   weapon for a time, generate vampiric effects that in addition to
   transferring either health or stat points, can also transfer
   "spell points" (the equivalent of draining castable spells from a
   D&D foe such that the wielder can cast more spells), cause an
   opponent to miss a number of attacks due to things like
   hamstringing, stunning, etc., generate burning or bleeding
   effects, injure specific body parts to as minute a detail as
   individual organs, sense that the foe is on "death's door" and
   have a chance to finish it off instantly, generate an area effect
   attack, turn on the wielder, leap out of the wielders hand and
   into that of the opponent, and tons more. I am truly doing the
   MUDding community a disservice by trying to list things because I
   am only scratching the surface.

I've gotten exceptionally verbose here but it is really difficult to
do online RPGs justice in the area of complexity. You really should
try some out and see for yourself.

As I said at the beginning, the fact that online RPGs are far more
complex does not make D&D a bad game or an inferior game. Pen and
paper and the computer are two entirely different mediums. Games
designed for both should utilize the strength of the medium and
avoid exacerbating the weaknesses.

Michael Hartman, J.D. (http://www.threshold-rpg.com)
President & CEO, Threshold Virtual Environments, Inc.

MUD-Dev mailing list
MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

More information about the MUD-Dev mailing list