Thursday, July 05, 2012

RPG videofication

The RPG community has been zombified.  That's not a statement, it's the feeling I get when I read stuff from Wizards, and this isn't picking on Wizards.  I just happen to be reading more from them.  I get this feeling they're just giving us our RPG fix of the week.

I get the feeling the community is just waiting for content to trickle down to them.  Just like what new weapons and settings Call of Duty 12 is going to bring when in truth the game engine is just the same with some perk twiks.

In my opinion Wizards is making a huge mistake there.  They're skipping the one differentiator from video games: Creativity.  Take for example the latest rule of three:

In D&D Next, will more common monsters (such as the baseline ogre, or the baseline skeleton) be very similar to each other, or will each monster type have something unique?

The answer starts off well : "Each monster starts with a description of the fundamental truths about the monster, which are independent of game mechanics."  Good! Persona, character, individuality, but ... unfortunately.... " From there, the monsters will be designed to ensure that those fundamental truths are reflected in the mechanics. "

So which way is it?  Is it independent of game mechanics or not?  Let me quote the rest:

"So, a skeleton and an ogre (even the most baseline versions) will feel different because their fundamental natures are different. However, not every difference of feel requires multiple exceptions-based mechanics to communicate. An ogre, for example, is big, tough, inaccurate, but packs a big punch when it does hit. All of those can be modeled by the ogre's statistics (Large size, lots of hit points, low attack bonus, high damage). On the other hand, a skeleton might have resistance to piercing damage and vulnerability to bludgeoning damage to help give it a slightly different feel, along with being undead. Numerical changes and the application of some common mechanics can have a big impact on the way a monster feels.

That's not always going to be the case, though; many monsters, especially among the humanoids, are likely to be very similar in their numerical statistics. As such, they may need something more exceptions-based to differentiate them from one another, so that you feel the difference when you're fighting an orc as opposed to a gnoll. A skeleton and an ogre deviate enough from the norm that they may not need such things to feel different, but that doesn't mean that other monsters won't. Likewise, this is just talking about the simplest of monsters; clearly something like a rakshasa or a mind flayer will need more complex mechanics to adequately communicate its unique traits."

Did you notice what's missing?  Yup, mechanic independent characteristics.  Forget that a skeleton is a mindless undead and an ogre is a live creature with fears and feelings.  A mind flayer is a super smart merciless creature.  The "mechanics independence" they're referring in the beginning is never seen.  There is no reference to role play, to character development for monsters.  Are we then surprised when GMs and players skip on the parley?

This is error number one in not promoting creativity.  They are not promoting role play aside from mechanics based role play, and when they do it's mostly combat related.  You can not get a feeling of uniqueness in your campaign from mechanics only.  That's like expecting your video game to "change".  It isn't.  It's fixed and changes are not going to happen on the fly.

Error number two can be inferred from the following question:

What kind of thoughts do you guys have on supporting different fighting styles such as two weapon fighting, two-handed, sword and board, free hand, archery, unarmed, etc. in D&D Next? Do you envision covering these kinds of things with themes or some other aspect of the game?

Looking at from an old timer's perspective, when we didn't have that many rules and the hobby was young, I say Wizards has failed to transfer know how or empower GMs and players to create their own skills, themes and combat styles

I think Wizards would be way better off creating a game that is open.  One that teaches players how to play rather than what to play.  They're spoon feeding the community character classes, skills, themes, and backgrounds as "base rules".  That's what to play.  Rather than spending so much time balancing the cleric or looking over fighter vs wizard issues they should present ideas and base mechanics and tell the players do the rest and create their own classes, weapons, skills and what not.  The difference between a skeleton and an ogre is more than just some stats and a paragraph.  D&D needs to go back to conveying that.  I'm sorry to say this, but Wizards is teaching how to play a table top video game and not a role playing game.

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