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Friday, December 18, 2009

4th Edition is just like WoW

It's a phrase guaranteed to give forum moderators nightmares as the overly-motivated flame out on the pros and cons of this simple statement. Is it true? Heck if I know, I don't play 4th Edition. My point in using this rather inflammatory post title is draw your attention to the potential benefits of accepting that MMOs and RPGs have some commonality. Let's face it, rather large chunks of the MMO and RPG markets share a focus on fantasy worlds with magic, strange monsters and players as characters within the setting, killing things, and taking their stuff. Why not take advantage of that fact?

Every GM I know uses media, be it books, music, TV, movies, or comics, to inspire their creative process, even if they don't admit it. Let's face it, we're all influenced by by the media we're exposed to. In my opinion we should treat MMOs the same way. After all they're simply another form of media. The biggest hurdle to treating MMOs as media is the fact that they cost money to play, and most people aren't willing to spend their hard earned cash just to pick up a few ideas for a game they're running.

Never fear. Most MMOs have been data-mined by fanatical players, who publish this information free of charge of the web. Using World of Warcraft, the 900 lb. gorilla, as an example, you can find information on every single item, quest, NPC, spell, dungeon, zone and skill in the game on WoW Head. A quick poke at their database reveals it contains:
  • 35,936 items
  • 20,895  NPCs and creatures
  • 8227 quests
  • 49,171 spells
  • 161 zones and dungeons
Now I'll be the first to admit that some of this information is of no use. Quests for example, often boil down to either "Go kill 17 Gog-whompers. Return when you are done." or "Go collect 12 shiny bits from the corpses of Shmees you have slain." But don't scoff. MMOs are built by large teams of talented designers. There's good stuff in there. Browsing through the item data (organized by item type for easy searching), can turn up some interesting and inspiring stuff easily adapted to your game, even if it's just the name that catches your eye. Dungeon zones feature bosses with unique abilities and interesting layouts that you can take advantage of. The named NPCs are a little one dimensional (most are little more than filler), but the bestiary can provide some interesting twists on the mundane.

When stealing... uh adapting ideas from a resource like this, be flexible. Most games won't support direct adaptation, but with a liberal dose of imagination pouf, new item or encounter. Here are a couple examples:

Bloodthirst Breastplate (from here)

Leather armor made from the hide of some red-skinned reptile, the tiny, flexible scales provide Good physical protection without encumbering movement. The armor bears a Good enchantment of guiding and accuracy, allowing the wearer to strike blows with great precision and strength (Great damage bonus).

Nerub'enkan (from here)

A demonic spider lurking in the depths of a web-filled pit, Nerub'enkan is a terrible foe. His spider-like body is covered in dense steel-strong hairs, providing him with Great protection from physical attack. His fore-limbs bear heavy, mantis-like claws that shear through armor like paper (Superb physical attack which ignores two ranks of armor). Nerub'enkan can spray forth a patch of sticky webs that cover a 10' radius area up to 5 times a day. Anyone caught within this area must succeed at a Great strength check to break free. Each round there is a 50% chance 1-2 Shadow Scarabs will leap from the creature's body and attack the nearest foe. Shadow Scarabs are shadowy spider creatures that move with Superb speed and strike with a single Great bite that does Good damage and stuns their target for 2 rounds. Once they deliver their bite they fade away, leaving only a foul stench.

Worldcarver (from here)

Legend says this heavy two-handed axe was forged in the heart of a volcano by the dying king of the fire giants, who imbued the weapon with his own life force. Worldcarver has a heavy, rune-etched blade backed with a stout hammer head. Its haft is ironwood wrapped in thick, red leather, providing a sure grip. A pale golden gem that glows with its own inner light is fitted to its claw-like pommel. Worldcarver is an unbreakable weapon, enchanted with Epic combat enhancements to accuracy and damage. It grants its wielder the strength of a fire giant and provides Superb protection from fire damage. It can be commanded to burst into flame, inflicting Good fire damage with each blow struck.

So there you have it, my thoughts on MMOs and RPGs. Isn't using them as a source of information more fun than arguing about them?
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