April 29th, 2012

Role-Playing and Format

So, I was talking to a friend who I used to MUCK with (laugh if you want, but for a long while it was fun. Just ask tashiro and shiftercat- they were there too).  Anyway, he and his boyfriend just started playing SWtOR on my server, and we got on the subject of role-playing games, their structure, and the differences between old-fashioned tabletop RPGs and the so-called 'MMORPGs' while I was crafting and they were leveling. And I thought it might make a good discussion here, since the community has been a bit quiet lately.

So, let's talk about classes first.  Classes make sense when you have potentially millions of players, all who have different desires and preferences, playing classes that most likely have different specializations they can go into. It is probably the easiest way to balance things- not only between players and mobs, but between classes and possibly even factions for some MMOs. That's pretty much the norm for MMOs these days. But- why do so many old-fashioned tabletop RPGs still being produced today still have classes? Aren't classes an archaic construct?  What are the advantages of classes when you don't have to wrangle millions of players (or even dozens) and the mathematics and game mechanics are extremely simple compared to what goes on under the hood of a computerized MMO?

Now, on to the second issue. Generally, I don't think there is really any such thing as an "MMORPG". There are MMOs, but they ain't RPGs. Role-playing means doing what is expected of your class, filling your class's role, and nothing more to the typical MMO player.  One possible exception: LotRO. Most people are such huge fans of the lore and of Tolkien that a lot of people role-play, or at least stay in character.  That MMO actually has 'lore Nazis' who will gripe at people who misuse public channels and report characters with questionable names.

You know, for that matter, I would not call console games like Fallout or GTA or Elder Scrolls true RPGs...to me, if you aren't playing with other human beings and you aren't staying at least somewhat in character, it's not true role-playing.

Two-Weapon Fighting

I'm currently GMing a game where the system we're using doesn't actually have any rules for a character who fights with two weapons. I wanted to house rule in something, and in my research of how other game systems use dual-wielded weapons I was really surprised how this facet of combat has evolved over time.

In the current 4th edition AD&D rules I think it's addressed the worst. I can't even find a reference to allowing characters to dual-wield unless they have a feat for it, and even then the feat only gives the character a +1 to damage if they happen to have a weapon in each hand.

The 3rd edition rules are the longest, with a table of modifiers and descriptive explanations, along feats that adjust how characters wield two weapons at once. Essentially, anyone wielding two weapons suffers a -6 penalty to their main weapon and a -10 penalty to their off-hand weapon, unless they have a feat which lowers the base penalties to -4 each.

I was actually really surprised that the 1st and 2nd edition rules for this are identical. They're phrased differently, but the initial penalties and ability modifiers are the same. The primary weapon suffers a -2 penalty and the off-hand weapon suffers a -4 penalty. A very high, or very low, Dexterity modifiers will offset or increase the penalty. I'll quote word-for-word from the 1st edition rulebook:
"If the user’s dexterity is above 15, there is a downward adjustment in the weapon penalties as shown, although this never gives a positive (bonus) rating to such attacks, so that at 16 dexterity the secondary/primary penalty is -3/-1, at 17 -2/0, and at 18 -l/O."

Holy shit!
Keep in mind, 1st and 2nd edition were written in a time when feats hadn't been imagined yet. I never knew the 1st edition rules were written like that, basically because I've owned a copy of the rules forever but never actually played with them, nor read the rules from cover to cover. This has spurred my interest to see if there are other things that are wildly different from the origins of the game. But mainly I thought I would share this weird little transition over the years.
People often complain about powers getting nerfed in revisionary changes, but nobody ever points out how the rules sometimes get harder, or disappear completely.