Racial abilities then and now

This post and a few subsequent entries are coming from both Keen and Graev.  We had a lengthy discussion yesterday that yielded a few topics warranting summation entries.

Let’s look at where racial abilities and/or traits are today and compare them to what they used to be.   Some races will have exact comparisons and others will have just be stated as they are today or ‘used to be’.

A dwarf today gets reduced falling damage and 10 meaningless points to a resist.  A dwarf used to get the ability to see much better at night, access to areas only smaller people could go, and worshiped a god that was generally ‘good’.

A Tauren gets a warstomp and +pts to Alchemy.

Trolls and Ogres were hated by everyone and had to work extraordinarily hard in order not to be slain on sight by the city guards of cities that others considered heinously evil.  Trolls and Ogres were also enormous and could not fit through most doors.  As such, with their size, they had an enormous bonus to strength that set them apart from others.  You could carry more and hit harder than most anyone else.

Humans today are average and usually get tailoring bonuses. They’re either completely neutral or get represented on both sides equally by splitting them into different races.  Humans, in addition to being mediocre/average with stats, used to have terrible eyesight and made them blind at night.  They could go either way — good or evil — and be shunned whichever way they chose.

Gnomes today get +10pts to engineering or crazy haircuts.  Gnomes used to be xenophobic and some worshiped perverse gods that caused others to look upon them with disdain.  They were just weird.  Okay, so they’re weird today too.

The point we’re making is that race choice used to matter a lot more.  It wasn’t solely about which has the coolest look or the mount you want.  It was about *huge* stat differences. It was about extremely diverse racial abilities.  It was about how you wanted the world to interact with you and what you planned to do in order to interact with it.

Racial abilities and characteristics of races have been toned down to the least common denominator.   It’s taboo to consider one race having an edge.  In fact, if an edge is found today people will complain because that race is different and it will be changed.  Undead lose their immunities, Tauren can’t plainstride, Dwarves are reduced to being allowed to fall a few more feet instead of having a strength bonus. Every effort is made to make things ‘fair’ or the same.

We feel that this has resulted in a huge blow to the industry.  Games lost a great asset for immersion, players lost diversity, and developers lost the ability to design gameplay around them.

  • Well, in some games the edge is so great nobody will play other than a certain race. Anyone who have played a dwarven Champion in LOTRO have regretted not picking Human (unless of RP reasons).

    But it is still true. Remember in Darkfall the Mahirim(wolf-men) were able to sprint on all four? They removed that because of ‘balance’. In this case they just cut off the edge instead of sharpening the edges of the other races.

    However, I also hate when games divide their races into ‘archetpes’ having a predetermined role for each race (WAR avoided this brilliantly btw). In Mortal Online, the only race who can actually fight well are the half-orcs because they are designed (by devs, not by evolution) to be fighters.

  • You run dangerously into the the whole pigeonhole category of game play if you introduce vast racial differences. Want to play a Warrior? Better be an Ogre because that strength is the only thing that matters in the long run. Going wizard? If you’re not Dark Elf, why bother. Feeling Rogue? Halflings bonus to daggers is where it’s at. That’s the sort of game play I loath.

    Personally, I feel WAR did do this right. Each race has a ‘class’ that fills the role, and feels fitting for a world where each race would exploit it’s advantages and downplay it’s weaknesses. For instance, in a world where High Elves exist, High Elf Warriors would be agile and tactically strong. They wouldn’t hit hard but they don’t have to. Via perhaps knowledge of anatomy and the ability to read the opponents intentions, they don’t get hit often and tend to strike very painful blows. But most games don’t plan around that sort of game play. A Warrior uses Strength. Intelligence is only used for skill gain or some other feature the normal Warrior can’t exploit very well.

    Otherwise, I’ll agree, it’s nice if Races matter, but how they matter should be less in how effective they are at a given class and instead should factor more into story-wise. Else, do you really want to struggle on your Ogre Mage, just because you had a cool character concept? No, instead you should have the option to play an Ogre Shaper who for all mechanical purposes, is a Mage. It’s just a slightly different set of power names and some unique spell animations.

    At least then we get our cake and eat it too.

  • I am looking forward to GW2 racials. They are unique and set the races apart.

    Norn can shapeshift to their Spirit Totem of choice, and then the other spirits later (example, if you choose Raven Spirit, you can shapeshift into a anthropomorphic Raven)

    Humans get Hounds of Balthazar which summons 2 hounds to fight along side you. Kind of like Spirit Wolves on Enhance SHaman.

    Asura get a Golem pet which can act as a tank or an extra dps.

    Not sure what the other races get, but it seems GW2 is going for unique and fun racials to distinguish the races.

    There might be more racials per class, those are just the most known and confirmed ones.

  • Saying that everyone will play a certain race if it is better at something might be sound in theory, but in practice it didn’t happen.

    Ogres and Trolls had other HUGE penalties that made up for it. EXP penalties, being hated by everyone, being huge, etc. You’d get something cool but always take a penalty somewhere for it.

    I had a Dark Elf Shadowknight. Could I hit as hard as an Ogre? No, but my spells put theirs to shame.

  • Class systems are the result of lazy and shallow game design for MMORPGs. If you truly wanted racial diversities to thrive, without forcing players to be a specific race to be great at a particular class, you wouldn’t have classes at all.

    Also, revealing the numbers and stat bonuses is stupid. Yeah, some people like it, but only because they want to min/max. The only reason developers still put stats and numbers on items and bonuses is for nostalgia. In the end, we don’t even need them and would probably be better off without them.

    Why do we have stats appear on our gear and what not? Simply, it is because MMORPGs are the graphical representation of Dungeons and Dragons, where you actually NEEDED to know the numbers to determine outcomes. With MMORPGs, the numbers could be hidden and the outcomes could still be determined anyway.

    But no, let’s keep the MMORPG genre from advancing and getting past its “pen and paper” roots, it’s been working out great for the last 4-6 years. /sarc

  • Well the meaningless racials are part of design choices wow made.The consciously decided that they not gonna make creating character in any way complicated. – Having races matter means you have to be aware of choices you make and their consequences, of which new players for most part are not and that usually results in gimp character

    Imho better option is to allow cheap and easy respecs down the line while keeping the diversity. Blizzard decided against as seem their player base cares more about looks and be able play any combo without performance penalties. (gnome warriors? really?)

  • @Alex Taldren: Part of the conversation Graev and I had dealt with the pen and paper roots of MMORPG’s. We both strongly feel that the further MMORPG’s get from the pen and paper/D&D the worse they get. EQ felt way more like D&D than it does WoW, because WoW (and its progeny) feels nothing like D&D/P&P.

  • I miss the days of racial penalties and getting to pick your skills or attribute bonus’. One of the best parts of Pen and Paper D&D was making your character. I remember one outing for our group I made a Dwarven Sorcer, a rare character/class combo indeed, but he was based off of earthen magic. I also loved the fact I could get more points to put places by giving him hindrances. I made him very short and fat but a huge int/con increase from it.

    Today everything in generic. The only difference my Dwarven cleric has in rift from other clerics is the fact he’s Dwarven and I made him as small as possible. Other than that, he’s the same as any other generic cleric.

  • In EQ stats like STR did very very little for damage. If I remember my numbers right halfling warrior avg damage was something like 1% under ogre in same gear. How they fooled the user base(before people parsed logs) is make str increase the tail of the normal distribution. You get very high hit sometimes thats it. Only real advantage of being ogre was Slam. Which was a big deal in some cases.

    Original WoW racials made a big difference. Undead had WoTF I WIN, Dwarfs could counter blind and rogue poisons and Dwarf priests had fear ward. It actually made a huge difference on how characters played. Undead vs Tauren vs Orc(stun resist after they fixed it) was a tough choice, on Alliance side Dwwarf vs gnome(root break) also was nice, even human with ability to spot rogues.

  • Racials have long held a love/hate standing with me.I like races having different stats, abilities and weaknesses.I hate classes restricted to races. I remember playing my first troll in WoW six years ago, facing off against Zalazane and wondering why trolls couldn’t be warlocks.

    In an ideal game, any race can be any ‘class’ (if you have them.) It would certainly be harder to start an ogre mage, and harder to excel with him, but he shouldn’t be any less powerful.

    But alas, Darkfall taught me that immersion is dead, and min/maxers rule.

    MMO’s are no longer worlds.

  • The more I read your posts Keen, the more I realize how very different we view MMOs.

    I hate having racials determine which race I need to play for the class I want. I would much rather have any race be an option. To me races are just fluff and should be more about which animations and look I like best. Not oh, this guy gives me +str so he is the best warrior dps.

    I think the biggest thing WoW did was bring in gamers, which probably to people like Keen and other RP’ers was a mistake but it brought in people like me.

    I don’t view MMOs as a hobby, it’s a game. I never enjoyed RPGs, Even when I played tabletop games it wasn’t D&D, it was strategy games like Warhammer and 40k. Those games have very little RP in them. It’s all about the game structure and what works best to beat your opponent.

    That over doesn’t mean I don’t think their should be actual MMORPGs, I just favor an MMOG.

  • @Bubbaquimby: Seems more like a personality difference to me. I never said racials determine which race to play — you jumped to that conclusion all on your own which shows that you feel the need to min/max. Reread what I said in comment #4. There were trade-offs.

    As for WoW bringing in people, I think it’s a mixed bag. Not everyone it brought in was bad for the industry. No offense, but you’d be one of the ones I wish stayed in Counter Strike. MMORPG’s, which WoW and others still call themselves (yes, they include the RPG), are not supposed to be about “winning and losing”, “Min/maxing”, or “beating the game”. They’re becoming or already have become that thanks to the third generation, your generation, of MMORPG gamers.

    I too feel that just there should be a distinction between MMORPG and MMOG. However, they’re all moving towards MMOG and removing the RPG, pen and paper, and immersive livable world in the process.

  • I wasn’t accusing you personally of saying racials determine play, but for a lot of players it does.

    And yeah it is a personality difference. I think that’s fine.

    FYI: I hate FPS games and most RTS. Give me a slow tactical game like CIV or 4x space games any day. Also I am older than you, been probably playing games since you were in diapers.

  • Ah, sorry read your comment too quickly.

    Technically no, I tried DAOC first but didn’t stay with it because my friends started playing WoW so I went there.

    I only played a month of DAOC though. So yes, I consider WoW was my first MMO.

  • Wait 40 minutes in a que for a dungeon only to have the Dwarf Tank and Elf Healer vote kick me with a “Not a gnome mage? EPIC FAIL!!!”… No thank you.

    In weeks there would be a cookie cutter build on some “elite” website showing what race for what class to get max stats. I dont think thats fun.

    In WOW if you see a Troll warrior running around. Right away you know that guy likes Trolls not becuase of some cheesy stat bonus. I like that.

    Whats next male and female characters get different Stats?

  • I find that if you take the classes away, the game becomes weaker for it. Separate roles help the players and designers find a common ground in which to build content for. It seems to me that at least some idea of class separation is here to stay and work best for this type of game. Going away from that attracts some but those are nitch games.

    To me, I find that races work best if they are near cosmetic because then you have a better diversity in the game. When everyone plays Dark Elves because well, the Dark Elf Cleric and Mage do the best DPS in 90% of all the end game situations, then you pressure new players to going those routes at character creation and if they miss that, then they will be pressured to change or feel pressured to change, if they are unhappy.

    To me, Race is usually cosmetic, while class is very tightly role based. A new player might really like the Orc as a race, but wants him to be a Warlock because, hey, throwing around spells and summoning demons is too cool for school. Should he feel that he made a bad choice for doing so? Should he not get to play the way he feels very comfortable with?

    Now, things like racial cities, factions and perhaps even unique non-combat based perks, I’m usually fine with. Want the Dwarf to see better at night, sounds fine to me. Want the Dark Elves to be able to detect magic at will, usually good. Want to give the Ogres a “Rage” ability that doubles the attack strength for 30 seconds. Well now, we have a difference in opinion about that.

  • You can’t ignore tradeoffs.

    Let’s look at Warriors. Ogres might hit harder but get hit more often (less avoidance). Dark Elves avoid far more but hit for less. Humans average the two. Gnomes avoid even more than Dark Elves but hit even less.

    It works out well.

  • My favorite topic: Things need to be “fair”

    In my opinion one of the biggest enemies of modern MMOs is “balance.” While most people would like classes and abilities to be “balanced” and scream for it – however – modern MMOs equate “balance” with mediocrity. The Racials are a perfect example: it is too difficult to balance powerful fun abilities and so let us make them all meaningless and then everything is balanced.

    This is the trend of most balancing – it is sucking the fun out of MMOs in a hurry. People play these games to make powerful characters – characters that have an impact on the world or on some fight. You want a big bang – not a +3% increase to hit rate on Monday afternoons if the sun shines.

    This is also the reason that the Saboteur will not survive. This class has a new mechanic that hasn’t been seen before but it is like spitting in the face of this so called balance. It is a class of extremes and we cannot have extremes in MMOs – everything needs to be bland and “even.” Mages and rogues traditionally have had the same problems when these glass type classes had to do lots of damage in order to make up for sometime slow survivability. The saboteur takes this to the next level by not only being powerful but squishy (at low levels at least) but by taking the high damage needed and letting it spike. It may not be more than others but it is a spike. As such the Saboteur is like a PvP finisher – like a new game mechanic. Once the balance people are dont with the Saboteur, it will be a lame class that throws instant DD or DOT spells around.

    Balance is good but not at the expense of fun. I loved the old Stungard in DAOC, I loved the long crowd controls, I loved the powerful PBAOE spells even though I never played any of these classes seriously. It was fun. Balance needs to be achieved by giving everyone powerful abilities and implementing counters to these abilities.

    Rift has bland written all over it if you look at most of the abilities but there are still some really fun combinations in there…it is just a matter of time when these disappear (Trion showed how it will deal with powerful abilities, e.g. see the racials)

    It just appears to me that “balance” is extremely important to a certain set of gamers – everything being fair and even is like the holy grail of the game and without it, the game is horrible. On the other hand, some gamers dont care about balance that much – it is necessary to some extent (not at the expense of fun) but hell if you get into a 3 v 5 in open wolrd – so be it – you loose 8 out of 10 times and life goes on. You win twice and you feel like a million bucks. Extremes can create fun – total balance can create total boredom and mediocrity.

    Unfortunately it is easier to balance a game by making nothing matter all that much.

  • Part of having fun is learning from your mistakes. In order to learn from your mistakes you have to be able to feel consequence from your actions.

    It feels like balance has become about removing all consequence from your actions.

    At the log in screen you can pick any class you want, isnt that enough balance?

    I feel that a game like Vangaurd with 20+ races is a bit much tho.

  • This lack of diversity, this over-watering-down, is also a reason why so many MMORPGs seem to feel the same to me.

    When I played newer MMOs, it never felt like a new experience to me — it felt more like I was Ben Stiller, playing a character by different names in each movie, but with the same role and personality. When you see Ben Stiller in a movie trailer, you know what you’re gonna get.

    Unfortunately, I feel the same generic templates with MMOs.

  • RE: D&D vs modern MMOs – I think you can hark back to the “feel” of D&D, without necessarily being limited to the mathematical puzzle model that it used to simulate the world.

    For example, I think TF2 feels a lot like an old-school RPG in some ways; there are very simple class/equipment choices to make that let you customize how you play.

    Point being, the numeric stat systems of old RPGs were put in place to simulate a character doing things – but we now have much more sophisticated ways of doing that, so why be limited to the same old math-puzzle character building?

    Now, let me back up – there should still be games that focus on the math puzzle mini-game, because I love some numeric min-maxing just as much as the next guy. But there’s nothing that says *every* MMORPG has to use that system – or that the attribute numbers need to be connected to the game’s gear system at all.

    Your math minigame could exist entirely in your race/feat/talent/trait system, and the “magical” effects of your items could be allowed to be just that: Providing new utility, mechanics, or skills. Why not give the player a choice between a shield that can reflect magic spells, and a shield that absorbs 20% of magic damage passively, rather than a shield with +10 stam vs a shield with +10 fire resist?

    This also has the side effect of letting items scale and remain useful, rather than having that great old trinket you loved become useless as you level.

    Anyway, the rambling point being, I believe you could make a game which feels very much like oldschool D&D, without using a single numerical statistic to represent your character. Especially nowadays with all the innovative new puzzle models being developed in the indie game scene! I’d love to see a gearing system where the min-maxing puzzle was dynamic: Say it was color-based, and you got bonuses for chaining your “red” shield with “red” attacks – I.e. use your fire-charged axe attack to hit a mob, then swap to your red shield when it throws a fireball to start a “color combo”. This is a stupid example, of course, but why couldn’t you develop some kind of completely non-numeric customization puzzle?

    Sorry, maybe I’m just bored with RPGs right now. I’m just feeling very ready for some new ideas in the genre, and I’m not seeing anyone step to the plate.

  • Let’s look at Warriors. Ogres might hit harder but get hit more often (less avoidance). Dark Elves avoid far more but hit for less. Humans average the two. Gnomes avoid even more than Dark Elves but hit even less.

    What usually happens is that for examples ogres disadvantages are offstet by skills/mechanics at some point in game (often undiscovered in beta) becoming defacto FOTM ,dark elves and humans are ok and gnomes are gimpe cause gnomes were added 2 months before release and were left half-assed.

    Now after a few months of bithching and whining in release ogres , humans and elves becomes balanced ,gnomes are brought up to par and warriors at least race wise are peachy. Only little problem balancing of gnomes affected the mage class and now gnomes are new mage FOTM!

  • I was 100% with you up to this point

    Anyway, the rambling point being, I believe you could make a game which feels very much like oldschool D&D, without using a single numerical statistic to represent your character.

    My last experience with D&D (weekend of d&d online does not count) how horrible broken d&d was in any sort of mp settings. I mean single player games you could min max to your hearts content it didnt affect anybody – you could build invincible characters in bg and bg2 trivially.

    Now when you bring this sort of stuff online (nwn) it was beyond broken .Have fun dueling that monk with max saves to everything and impossible AC, or some fishy spell-sequencer stacking.

    d&d just does not work when you try actually optimize the performance. maybe d&d online did it better , but certainly “old school d&d” was broken

  • @Max

    When you say old school D&D are you referring which edition are you referring to? Some if not many argue that 4.0 can never be referred to as old school seeinf as how it was released 3 years ago and designed for the WoW mass audience.

    Also, which edition did you last play?

  • I do really love the racial abilities in Everquest because they make each race feel not only unique but actually like race you are playing. Ogres were huge and strong whilst Dark Elves had fabulous night vision and Iksar were great swimmers. It may have been unbalanced but it was fun 🙂

    I think faction had a lot to do with it as well and it’s a shame that factions are all but dead in new MMOs. Humans were a good race to pick in EQ because they were welcome in a lot of places whereas evil races – like Ogres and DEs – may have been more powerful but had a harder time getting around.

    Ah good days 🙂

  • [quote]
    When you say old school D&D are you referring which edition are you referring to?

    2 . I played inifinity engine games for quite a bit

    Some if not many argue that 4.0 can never be referred to as old school seeinf as how it was released 3 years ago and designed for the WoW mass audience.

    Also, which edition did you last play?

    I guess if you count d&d online that would be “4.0”. but really the last d&d game I spent any time on was original nwn and that was 3.

    My point was d&d rules are horribly balanced. They are made for story telling games (or even p&p sessions), severely limiting your choices in min/maxing and thus avoiding exposing glarious weaknesses . All(most?) d&d games up to nwn were offline sp. In nwn the fact that d&d was broken for mp became apparent as soon as first community servers were up.

    From what I heard edition 4 was actually good attempt at balancing for multiplayer but then again even if its true it was only PvE wise.

  • @We Fly Spitfires – I was dual boxing for a bit before Rift came out, only got my Druid/Monk combo to level 9 before the guys here got in the head start for Rift.

    IMO, I sincerely doubt there will ever be games like UO, AC or EQ ever again. In order to attract the largets demographic, everything needs to be equal. It’s why I started calling WoW the FPS of MMO’s. Not that WoW is an FPS but more like everyone is just the same running around a world all doing the same stuff and wearing the same thing. Death means nothing and leveling is just time spent before the real game.

  • @ Max
    Ok, so you a referring to your experiences with digital games supposedly based on D&D rule set as opposed to tabletop.

    I have no real opinion either way, yet, on what is being discussed but, for informational purposes I must state that every single digital game, meaning for console or traditional computer, that advertised the use of rules from and using the licensed name from the D&D universe are modified, if not heavily modified, to fit into what the company wants to produce as a game.

    You will always see some article or interview with the producers or programmers mention when the topic of D&D rules comes up in a careful way that certain changes had to be made to the game rules which differ from the tabletop. I have not found a single digital game released using some D&D license to ever strictly use the rules from the tabletop editions. So it is rather incorrect to say using stat rules or any rules from D&D and any other table top RPG hurts mmos or digital gaming. It has never been done. Only hybrids of the tabletop rpgs have been created for consoles and computer gaming in the past. Now it is mostly only the name of those tabletops being licensed for digital gaming without the stat usage and rules that go with them.

    On a minor side note: I actually have no trouble with hybrid tabletop games. I actually think they can be fun. I just wish the digital game advertising would match the actual digital game being promoted. So we players and future developers have better idea of what has not been tried yet. And what may be missed.

  • @Damage

    I wish death meant more. Loss of experience for example in both pve situations would be a nice return. I remember those well and remembered taking greater care in how I would play a game.

    I would also like to see that in a pvp situation. Makes death hurt more.

  • @ Horrowshow

    I’d say your post correct for the vast majority of circumstances.

    However, Temple of Elemental Evil was pretty damn close to the D&D rules. I never noticed any difference actually, but although I’ve been playing “D&D” since there was a distinction between “AD&D” and “basic D&D”, I was never much of a rules lawyer.

  • I think part of the disconnect here is that MMORPG’s have come to revolve solely around battle. For example, “If an ogre hits harder than an elf, but no one likes him, what should I care? After all, fighting potential is all that really matters, and if he hits the hardest, then that’s the race I need to play.” These socioeconomic penalties (“no one likes me”) were significant in older games like EQ because there was more to the game/ world than just going out and pvp’ing and killing 10 rats. People socialized and trading was necessary. Until MMORPG’s start gaining a significant non-combat focus once more, any racial penalty that affects noncombat stats is going to be insignificant.

  • I played a Half-Elf warrior, one of the worst ability / stat wise in EQ for 6 years. I was never once turned down because I wasn’t Ogre, Troll or Barb (Slam).

    Racial diversity made the games have soul, McMMO’s today have zero soul.

  • I liked in WoW that the priest class originally had racial spells, one or two powers unique to each race that could chose that class. To me it felt like a real RP flavour element, even if for PVP players and raiders it was more a question of min/maxing or builds.

    Such a choice shouldn’t necessarily offer big advantages, but rather to allow players to create more varied characters. The dominance of builds in WoW and other games is very sad I think, as paper RPGs where about choice and imagination and not about ‘min/maxing FTW’.

  • I used to love choosing a character race with extra power with corresponding negatives (i.e. experience penalties, KOS in more places). It made the journey more enjoyable even though it took longer. Nowadays it seems like it all about balance and this has lead to a huge deterioration in immersion.

  • Benden hit it right on the head. MMORPGs have become nothing but spread sheet combat simulations, which is a really sad state of affairs.

    Perhaps if there was an actual physics engine for movement, and there were some real puzzles in dungeons, and ways to beat content other than “hit it in the face”, then there wouldn’t be such an emphasis on min-maxing for the one “important” activity in the game.

  • In terms of D&D, as a comparison, it’s always had issues with class and racial balancing. Considering the game has always had a focus on combat, mechanics wise, this has always been a long standing problem for many players in terms of complaints about inefficiency and overall lack of fun some would have. This sadly remains true up to 4th edition which has gone for a stronger sense of balance and allow players to explore more degrees of fantasy tropes then in past.

    I was going to write a long dialog about how I felt that bad class/race balance was bad for a community but I think the reality is more this. Such games as Keen and others are talking about should be made. Let a smaller independent house create it and let them see how it plays out. Clearly there’s a small nitch market for these people and they want to explore that itch.

    For the rest of us, we’ll go with our more main stream games and I think we’ll all be happier for it. It’s a shame someone hasn’t jumped on this yet.

    Then again you always have Darkfall.

  • @ Sentack

    What other “mechanics” might there be besides “combat mechanics” in an RPG like D&D? I can only think of a few and they’re all a bit of a stretch to even call them mechanics. I mean, besides the game’s combat mechanics, what else is there? The story, the world, other things of that nature. Mostly the DM’s responsibility. It’s no wonder the games “mechanics” focus on combat…

    I submit that anyone who ever complained about “balance” in D&D must not have had a very good DM or had a fundamental misunderstanding of what the game was about. Balance was never really a concern most of the campaigns I played in and the ones that it became an issue in were really the DM’s fault moreso than the system itself. Ever heard of “DM Discretion?” It’s the fixall for any problem you’ll ever have with “mechanics.”

    The other party is that Pencil & Paper D&D is about getting together and immersing yourself in a role/story and working together with your friends/party to defeat monsters/obstacles the DM puts before you. I never understood the feeling for or desire to bring “balance” to this kind of system. This is one reason why it took so long for me to get over the changes 4E D&D made. I am just now getting into my first 4E campaign for this reason. I like the “mechanics” for the most part, but don’t like some things they did to classes like magic-users and such.

  • I don’t know about later version of D&D, but thinking of early editions and other RPGs, you might have any of the following “mechanics” being covered by the rules:

    Setting, discovering, and disarming traps.

    Exploration and searching for hidden features or otherwise using mechanics to determine what your character could and couldn’t percieve in the world around him or her.

    Athletic feats such as balance, jumping, swimming, etc.

    In SF settings, technical or mechanical feats such as repairing or modifying weapons, vehicles, etc.

    Social activities such as bartering, interrogating, leading NPCs, etc.

    Knowledge based actions such as recalling things about the world’s history, species, and cultures, identifying artifacts, etc.

    While combat has obviously been one of the major focuses of RPGs since their very inception, it’s silly to ask “what other mechanics are there?”

  • @ Brise

    Like I said, there are some things outside of combat mechanics. But the reality is that, especially for the earlier editions of D&D, 99% of the mechanics revolve around combat.

    There were no feats, no real skills, few social interaction mechanics, etc. The DM pretty much made it all up. That was my experience anyway.

    I agree it has changed somewhat over time and maybe I was a bit overzealous in making my point. I just thought it was silly to say that P&P RPGs “focus” on combat, as if that is true simply because the vast majority of the mechanics do.

    My point was, even if poorly made, that the game is about what your group and/or DM want it to be about. If you want a game focused on combat, you can do that; if you want a game focused on storytelling and interacting w/ NPCs, you can do that; etc. I’ve had campaigns where I went several gaming sessions without entering combat.

    So, your point is well taken, but I still think it it silly to say that D&D had a “focus on combat.” Just because the systems focused on combat for obvious reasons, the “focus” could be whatever you want to make it.

  • Ah fair point, I apologize for mistaking the thrust of your post.

    I agree that early D&D did skew heavily towards combat particularly. Frankly in the short period where I played PNP RPGs I focused on other games, so my D&D experience is limited.

    I remember with extra fondness games like the original Star Wars RPG, Shadowrun, and games of that ilk – where the non-combat aspects were really explored by the mechanics quite a bit.

    Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to give EvE another try. That game does so much right, I feel like I sort of owe it to the devs to support them for at least a month or two. 🙂