Rampant Games - Character Skill vs Player Skill
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July 1st, 2011, 10:17
This is an area we struggled with a lot on our NWN persistent world.
The article seems to mainly discuss physical skills (accuracy etc.), but we had the largest debate about intellectual skills. It seemed quite easy to come to an agreement (for Thain at least) that one of the differences (though not the major one) between an action PW and a RP PW was the role of character skills in determining combat outcomes as opposed to player skills. For physical skills that was fine - the NWN engine isn't particularly great for twitch skills anyway, and combat/area design can help weigh it further towards character skills with player tactic choices and judgement calls.
But what happens when you're trying to RP an intelligence stat? If your character has low intelligence, does that mean you shouldn't be utilising combat tactics and you should just charge in/let the computer sort it out?
Worse is during quests, especially those of a research/investigation type, which we had plenty of: notably the 'main quest' which had a particular choke point in progression that required characters to successfully be 'interviewed' about their knowledge of the Island's lore, history and the ongoing situation. We didn't want it to be just flag based (ie, visit location X and your character automatically knows the answer), instead the lore and clues were available from a large number of sources and could be inferred from ways we didn't want to restrict to simple flag setting options (talking to other player characters, for example!). Is it now metagaming if you can remember the lore/picked up on the clues, but your character's stats suggest they wouldn't be able to easily? What about the other way around - your character has great intellect and reasoning etc., but you as the player haven't picked up on the clues/can't remember the answer?
It's a tricky one - that quest had to be able to be progressed, so we didn't want to enforce penalties for bad stats, and though there was some debate as to whether to drop hints for characters with higher stats, I was aware that ultimately the goal of the game is for the players to have fun, not run a fantasy simulation exercise. The player would have more fun by doing the investigation and finding out the answers across the whole game. Working with other players was encouraged, though not necessary, and a whole party only had to go through the 'interview' once as a party, so different people could contribute to the answers (provided people in the party were at that stage of the quest). In the end we used stats to add flavour and value, rather than help or hinder progression.
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