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Service Abilities

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Mike Paddock looks at service abilities and how they enhance community

One hundred and sixty-three years ago, on May 22nd, the great wagon train of 1843 set out on the Oregon Trail, intent on forming a thriving new community. Nineteen years later on May 20th, President Lincoln signed into law the Homestead Act of 1862, encouraging people to take up residence around communities throughout the western frontiers of the United States. And now, near the anniversary of those historic events, I have the honor of writing to you about community in Hero’s Journey.

Community is a big buzzword in the online world, which only makes sense. Email, chat rooms, instant messaging, newsgroups, forums, blogs, networking web sites, et cetera, are all tools of social interaction that promote community. The American Heritage Dictionary has several definitions for community.

1.a. “A group of people living in the same locality.”

This one is obviously what the pioneers of 150 years ago were thinking about when they struck out westward, looking for a new home.

2.a. “A group of people having common interests: the scientific community; the international business community.”

This is the sense of the word on which the Internet was founded, since it was originally a resource for use by the scientific and military communities.

3.a. “Similarity or identity: a community of interests.”
3.b. “Sharing, participation, and fellowship.”

Anyone who is involved in a gaming guild probably relate very well to these definitions of the word.

4. “Society as a whole; the public.”

This would be the most accurate definition when talking about the Internet at large. For a more detailed look at what community is, I recommend the Wikipedia article as a starting point.

But the question remains, what is community like in Hero’s Journey? The game mechanics and other tools of Hero’s Journey are geared towards community on several different levels, but today I’m only going to discuss one aspect of them: service abilities.

Service Abilities
Having quoted those formal definitions for community, and now I’d like to present my own as it relates to Hero’s Journey:

1. “The collection of individuals who regularly interact with your character.”

I tend to think of human communities from the perspective of an individual within them, and those others who directly or indirectly influence the life of that individual. If you think about the individuals who influence your life, who comes to mind? In addition to family and friends there’s also probably people like the wait-staff at your favorite restaurants, the teachers at your child’s school, the mailman, the clerk at the convenience store you go to every morning, and so on. Think about the type of people that pioneers during the mid-1800s wanted to settle around, and then think about the type of people that a Hero from a fantasy realm would want available in the towns that he protects.

MMORPGs have always been great about helping people form friends and family style communities, but what about communities that involve the other people on your list? What about communities that involve people that you grow to respect and often even trust, simply because they consistently provide you with needed or desired services? In most MMORPGs, these kinds of people are replaced by NPCs with the primary exception being “crafters.”

Crafting is such a huge deal in online games because it is a game mechanic that provides people with the opportunity to be a trusted member of a community. It gives a player the opportunity to gain some amount of fame and respect, by simply being available to do something that he or she is good at. In games without crafting, typically only well-spoken or otherwise charismatic individuals gain any amount of recognition or fame, and even then, only do so by virtue of their presence on out-of-game forums.

In Hero’s Journey, we saw the need for more diverse ways by which players could make their characters meaningful members of a community that needs them. Ways to make themselves famous. Obviously as Heroes, the characters are needed by the NPC populace to conquer evil and vanquish the foes of the civilized races, but that’s not what we’re talking about, is it. What we’re talking about are ways to make your character useful to other players. Ways to make your character important to someone else’s daily routine to the point that they feel a tinge of regret if you aren’t playing at your usual time. We accomplish this with service abilities.

Each of the nine classes in Hero’s Journey has a service ability to which characters gain access early in their careers (by 4th-level), meaning every character has two services that they can provide to others if they so choose. What follows is the design for services as of the time of this writing. As additional implementation and play testing move forward, things could change. Also, as always, we are interested in hearing feedback from you, so tell us what you think about the abilities as it relates to improving them.

Warriors are able to repair damaged magical items of any sort. Through the course of regular use and abuse, items containing wyr stop providing the positive benefits of those wyr, starting with the most powerful effects. Repairing the item restores all positive effects.

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