Month: September 2016

The original Dawn of War provided a great example of a very talented and diverse modding community.  The first type were the graphics guys.  Higher resolution textures, reworked GUIs, and expanded visual customization options were the most common additions.  The second type were the faction guys.  This was essentially just cloning existing assets and changing them to introduce new factions, but in some cases some original content was produced.  The true difficulty of this type was the sheer amount of work that had to be done;  everything from skinning new and cloned models appropriately, to balancing any new combat mechanics.  The third type were the mechanics and AI guys.  The latter was supremely represented by the Dawn of AI crew, who were so good and thorough that several of the largest factions and mechanics mods incorportated their work.  As for mechanics, these rewrote every bit of stats and combat interactions from the ground up, whether to better represent tabletop rules, or to provide a more complex and interactive decision-making process when building your army.

I’m going to stop using categories and tags.  Even if this becomes a horde of posts, I’m too obsessive to not want to fine tune those things into a infinite mess of incoherency.  The gist has been established:  rpg, crpg, game design, d&d editions, baldur’s gate.

obsolete

Clerics are a(nother) glaring relic of an antiquated past.  The assumptions they force upon a DM, especially post-Greyhawk, are ridiculous and unnecessarily constricting, offering little in return:

  • that active and visible gods are inevitable
  • that they require, need, or even allow worship
  • that they must represent some “aspect” or “role”
  • that differentiating their clerics will depend solely upon a few arbitrary feats or abilities, with the other 90% remaining identical
  • that clerics are automatically adventurers and not bureaucrats

1e was somewhat excusable, exchanging freedom for strict roles.  2e said “screw that” and abandoned both.

It’s nice to see some real innovation coming into some mods.  One person is even going to use Alignment as a target identifier, something that should’ve happened before SCS was written.  Maybe the EE SCS-rewrite crew will adopt this tactic and just redo that mod from the ground up.

class and role

I’ve deleted a post about class “purity”, and how adding more of them — or any asset, really — blurs and devalues the existing ones, but it was too generalized in tone.  To help this time, I will employ some awesome photoshop skills.

Let’s say we’re making an rpg and we’ve established 10 fundamental skills.  These are unique, arbitrary, independent, consistent among themselves, and non-contradictory.  We’ve decided (so again, arbitrary but reasonable) that we will have 5 classes (I – V), each with its own unique pair of skills (A-J).

-1

rigid but elegant

If this is too abstract, pretend that the skills are things like martial prowess, spellcasting, diplomacy, healing, mechanical ability, stealth, etc.  The only restriction on a “fundamental” skill is that it reside at the lowest tier of definition, so you wouldn’t want a distinction between melee and ranged physical combat ability if you’ve only got a generalized spellcasting skill.  It really depends on how you want to categorize the skills.

Because each skill is possessed by only one class, neither of the pair is seen as “primary” or more important, though one might more align with a preconceived class archetype.  When the classes are as well-defined and unique as this, it is much more likely that an adventure can be constructed that allows each class to fulfill its role, in the true “role playing” sense.  [The transformation of “role playing” from “role played in the party composition” to “let’s play dress-up like I’m on stage” is a totally different rant topic.]  This applies equally to pen & paper, where you will have different personalities with different preferences for what kind of character to play, as well as a crpg, where one player will want to have a different game experience based on playing a different class in subsequent playthroughs, or simply wants to enjoy having to manage party NPCs.

Now let’s do what even 1e did, and start making hybrids with the previous fundamental classes.  We’ll add new class VI, which will have skills b and c.  Instead of 6 distinct classes, we have 3 distinct classes, and a new, higher tier of class that is defined by skills b and c.

-2

3 hybrids and 3 pures

This new metaclass has a “pure” version, class VI, and two subclasses, I and II.  Adventures must accomodate redundant roles now, and for the same reasons, obsolete roles.  If a balanced party consisted of each of the 5 original classes, you’re now dealing with potential overlap between 3 classes, when at worst only 2 were needed.  Even more detrimentally, you could “waste” a party slot in order to satisfy a required need from a role, using two or more classes to do what one used to or could.

So far, this has been at its simplest.  Now (I wish I didn’t have to use this word so much, but I guess if I’m contrasting like this, it’s unavoidable?) let’s imagine that instead of simple and unique skills, we further break those skills down into their components and make those into subskills (such as the aforementioned melee vs ranged physical combat prowess, or arcane vs divine spellcasting).

-3

and this is less than 20% of the new “classes”

When the classes simply become varying combinations of arbitrarily defined skills, the “role” the classes could play goes into the toilet.  Consequently, in order to accomodate the virtual inevitability that a limited pool of players (in p&p) or preferences (single-player in a crpg), the adventures will have to be reduced to the lowest common denominating ratio of fun:challenge.  Battles will become more generic and less tailored, requiring increasingly mindless stratagies to overcome.  AD&D was already headed in this direction in 1e, but 2e solidified the bastardization of classes and skills, finally culminating in the robotic 3e and Pathfinder breed of rpg.