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Your Sacred Cows' Mad Disease

Challenging the Tired and Used assumptions in MMO's - and gaming in general.

Author: badgerbadger

The Sacred Cleric-Cow Part2: Class and Mechanics

Posted by badgerbadger Friday September 14 2007 at 3:13AM
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  In my quest to examine and question the underlying assumptions that may well be responsible for the  trends that many people complain have made gaming stale...

 Combat brought up healing; and with healing and role-playing; comes the cleric.  Some of the attendant assumptions about class & role are central to many other metagame aspects.  I will just touch on two aspects - roleplay and "class" mechanics.  Guess which this is?

  In previous posts I have asked people to not only consider the implications of healing on game balance and design; but also the implications in terms of ability (is this healing a return of life force? does this cause you heal yourself like the sci-fi "stim-pack" - if so; how quickly... if it's addressing the actual wound; does this imply a flesh-shaper?... or the ability to create/conjure new flesh? What powers does THIS imply? What can this 'healer' do TO you?) - relatedly to all this; is the idea of the SOURCE of these abilities...

  Without going too far into the tangent of magic systems(this time); I just want to establish that most  games have swallowed the now comfortable and familiar concepts set down years ago by D&D - and so to some degree these root ideas; as a base; inform the resulting metagame...

 There are two basic "ARCHETYPES" of source/explaination for abilities:

  The first I'll refer to as the 'mystic' - someone who through some sort of studies has learned to 'cast' the 'spells' that are necessary to make some spiritual force (otherplanar; natural, the dead, etc) DO something. Maybe its a few words in Latin?  Few people have any idea that most traditional magic (root word; magi -  a "priest") involves this - particularly in the genre fiction of the pulp era that influenced D&D. Certainly; shouldn't those accessing different... sources have different powers?  However the cognizant point here is by supplication or manipulation, we have someone who as a result of completing a professional training; has the ability to cast spells.

  The Second archetype is the Champion: these aren't really casting 'spells' in the traditional sense- they have a degree of power granted to them - they are in effect themselves supernatural...

 There are those who are so as a "race" for whatever reason in the setting - be it ascension/corruption- or by being created so directly: Angels/Demons, Unicorns, The old D&D dragons (the ultimate "champions" in the old storylines - metal served good; colors evil - their ruler; Tiamat, the babylonian 'god' of Chaos); some versions of vampires & werewolves, perhaps the Fey, Tolkien's "wizards", old D&D's Drow, and certainly the Sidhe/Avalonian-inspired versions of "Elves" ...

  But also are those who EARNED - became - a champion. Sadly; for all it's potential in a story; there are few representations of this currently.

 The first example I personally saw was the 1980 "Basic D&D" clerics: they had to prove themselves and got NO abilities until 2nd level.  And xp was NOT user-friendly in those days.  Similarly; in one addition; one became a Paladin by attaining 9th level while maintaining alignment as a FIGHTER - and gained paladin, like a prestige class now.  In computer games;  In Ultima:4, your actual actions in the game could advance 'virtues' that moved you closer and closer to becoming an Avatar.  The cognizant point HERE is we have someone who has earned by their actions power that has been granted - and as such is dependent on their continuation as a representative of said powers.

  For Roleplaying and taste reasons; I have a hard time accepting mystics 'casting'  spells that a higher power (rather than say lesser spirits) responds to unconditionally; so it is the earned powers that I actually prefer.  The potential in terms of Game mechanics is; if people will "grind" quests for the reputation for, for example; an extra bank bag/slot; do you not think they would do the same to gain access to a CLASS? .. or specific powers?.. or for that matter the favors they so often ask for - healing potions? -the resurrection of a friend?

 Why make reputation/favor/aligment irrelevent?  The mechanisms exist to track this... Use them. Not only for story advancement,roleplaying & suspension of disbelief; but for CHARACTER ADVANCEMENT.

 Relatedly, Who would not like to see their characters not only gain power form their patron; but perhaps: actually begin to change... ascend or corrupt as they become further aligned with their "power".. gain celestial or abyssal qualities... begin to perfect, or grow wings perhaps? or twsit with chaos? --I always treated the drow like this in my games - the powerful ones became driders, not as a punishment(i fail to see why a spider-goddess-demon would see it so or why her worshippers would NOt want to be like her), but as a natural consequence of becoming closer to something ELSE.  My oldest druids become in time tree-ents.

   As a final example; the 1-size-Cleric-fits-all has not always been the only model.  2nd edition D&D had "specialty priests" that were effectively a seperate class for each deity.  Too complex perhaps- but within any one given setting; this is probably feasible (it made its debut if I recall correctly; in the Dragonlance materials-perhaps balancing it on a larger scale was the issue? or people just LIKED their old 'generic clerics').  In my personal D&d campaign; the 'priest' of each deity is indeed represented by a seperate class... And who in games doesn't like options?

All these are questions and ideas that I hope will make you question how these things are represented in games; and if there is not some alternatives that just might be interesting to you; rather than the "Tired and Used" assumptions.

Melf_Himself writes: Players have to level up anyway. A level 1 cleric can't really heal for peanuts....they already have to grind to advance their character level to get real power. This advancement in character level is supposed to represent becoming closer to your deity. To do what you propose (make them prove that they are worthy of the particular deity, test their faith, whatever), I think it should REPLACE the levelling-through-XP for the cleric, not be in addition to it (why grind twice as much to play a cleric, when you could just play another class). Fri Sep 14 2007 4:24AM Report
badgerbadger writes:

 Why would it need to be in addition to?

Do you gain XP for quests you do for favor/repuatation in games as it is? Just do them for patrons a little more elevent than the fishmonger or what have you.

Or - use your xp to gain a "prestige class" rather than start with super-natural powers class; as i mentioned was done in the old game.

 More to the point I would like to see one's actions tracked in a sort of "alignment" scale just as favor/reputation is now.

Fri Sep 14 2007 4:48AM Report
BadSpock writes:

I'd like to see a game without magic and healers, at least not any that could be controlled by players.

I like the LOTR approach to magic (not the game, the books) very, very, very rare but quite powerful. Just because it's a world of magic doesn't mean every Jack, Jim, and Johny should be able to shoot fireballs our of their fingers.

UXO was suppose to have a system of gods and virtues. Too bad for us it got cancelled

Fri Sep 14 2007 11:08AM Report
dreadon writes:

Fable had a nice system for showing that your actions had results not just on the world but on your self. i agree that more games should track your actions for good or evil and not just asume your all good.

Sat Sep 15 2007 2:50AM Report
grimfall writes:

Just out of curiosity what's with the CAPS and italicized words?  Are caps for shouting? It's like you're giving a sermon.

The reason that we have healers in MMORPG's is because it's awful boring sitting around waiting to naturally heal, and it lends itself to tactical play.  I've been batting around some ideas to get rid of the cleric class, but is that what you're after?  Hard to tell based on this post whether you're talking about MMORPG's or RPG's,  you certainly need to understand that there is going to need to be a difference between the two.

Did Lloth have a drider form?  I seem to recall her appearing as a Drow or a spider, and never the twain shall meet.

Mon Sep 17 2007 11:11AM Report
shathira writes:

You seem to have glossed over Melf's point.  The experience gained by the Cleric/Druid/Mage/Shaman/Champion is supposed to represent deeds done for the church/nature/study/primitive gods/higher power.  If the player chooses to ignore the roleplay opportunities, it's not the fault of the game, it's the fault of the player. 

If you're talking MMO, design time takes years to fit together an experience system that works generically.  To try and split that up to give experience for each individual would become so cumbersome it would be unmanageable.  Rogues would need exp for doing stealthy things, stealing, spying, etc, etc.  Warriors would then be gimped, since you'd be giving exp out to everyone for fighting, and then some for working for the "higher power".  Or, nobody would get exp from fighting save the Warrior, or, they'd get more from strictly fighting.  In terms of design, to coding, this would add huge overhead, and time.

If you're talking RPG in general, that's what a GM is for.  In the D&D setting, a good DM/GM takes note of the use of skills etc that fit with the class.  Or takes note of the roleplaying that takes place and awards it accordingly.  When you are talking a group of 5, 6 or even a mega group of 20, this doesn't pose too much of an issue.  When you're talking some of the computer games out there that are trying to track millions of players?  It's simply not feasible.

Thu Sep 27 2007 5:51PM Report
badgerbadger writes:

 While I am almost flattered that someone would break their silence to dispute amy no-longer read blog,,,

With all the respsect I can muster; NO - melf - as well as yourself - glossed over my points - among them that I was talking about using FAVOR/REPUTATION - which IS already tracked in most games.  And apparently you glossed over my response to melf where i thought i was cler that i was talking about using favor / repuatation; simply including Divine causes in the list of patrons for whom we measure standing.

 Using experience I did address- in the original blog - as that has also been handled in several different games - pretige classe are but  one example for those who feel that "granted" powers should be earned.

  As to tracking class-specific experienece; this was done in 2nd Edition D&D; and compared to what's already be kept track of in games; would be pretty minor in comparison..

 The game I'm currently playing not oly tracks a charcaters level versus his teamamtes; but whether or not he 'cheated' by leaving and coming back in; how many times they've repeated the adventure; and also tracks for bonus experience monsters killed; traps disabled; secret doors found; breakables destroyed; optionals completed...

  ...all of these are awarded to the whole party - modified by the individual formula mentioned above - but could; had it been chosen, only applied to the individual doing it.


Sat Sep 29 2007 5:17AM Report writes:
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