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Dhruin May 6th, 2009 16:02

Rampant Games - RPG Design Post
Jay Barnson has a really interesting post on Tales of the Rampant Coyote that raises a number of issues but centres on the place for really difficult scenarios that force unusual or experimental solutions (and not the typical good combat tactics). Using the D&D module Tomb of Horrors as an example:

The result? The most powerful spells in that adventure were not the fireballs and lightning bolts and insect plague spells. In fact, Tomb of Horrors virtually gave away the trick by having very few monster encounters in the entire adventure. No, the "trick" to both of these adventures (well, Necropolis was actually a collection of about eight adventures) was the use of utility spells. And creatively thinking outside the box. And connecting patterns together. Oh, and - if possible - interrogating prisoners (or even interrogating the dead with spells like Speak With Dead).

Things like Divination spells were the chief weapons in a caster's arsenal. The Disintegrate spell, when I ran the adventure, was not used against enemy forces, but was rather used to bypass a really deadly-looking trap. That's right - Disintegrate CAN be used to obliterate stone, wood, and steel too - not just enemies. Or did you forget?
More information.

wolfing May 6th, 2009 16:02

That's something that I keep saying again and again that we've lost in MMOs. In Everquest there were lots of non-combat spells that were fun and sometimes useful in certain situations. Spells like 'treeshape', levitate, eye of zomm, flare, etc. didn't do anything for combat, but I loved using them, and they were great for roleplaying. Sadly, every MMO I've played after that only include combat spells. Spells either do damage, buff/debuff or heal, oh and teleport. Sad, very sad.

RampantCoyote May 6th, 2009 22:24

Yeah - again, thinking "outside the box" in an MMO is frequently a ban-worthy offense. I really get the feeling that the newer editions of D&D (both 3.x and 4.0) tend to encourage players and DMs alike to do things in a very particular, controlled, limited way.

Then there were things like using the cannon to blow up Lord British in Ultima IV (was it IV?), or to blow up doors in V or whatnot. I remember even getting a little creative in Baldur's Gate I and II, using a rogue as a forward observer for the party's major spell-slinger, so I could lob an early fireball or whatever on an unwary mass of enemies. Or the ever-popular use of summoned creatures as trap detectors. Not exactly pinnacles of creative dungeon exploration, but it was something.

Guhndahb May 7th, 2009 01:28

I've always far preferred utility spells over combat spells. I always marveled at the power of the simple D&D spell "Know Alignment". When D&D games started coming out without this spell I was shocked. Who wouldn't want such a useful spell? And that's just one of many.

RampantCoyote May 7th, 2009 08:55

Ironically enough - in the beta version of the Pathfinder RPG (sort of the spiritual heir to D&D 3.5 edition), they eliminated the "Find the Path" utility spell - it was just too dang powerful. Yeah, "Power Word: Kill" is just fine, but "Find the Path" is a game-stopper!

Makes me think they know a thing or two about the power of those kinds of divination type spells.

DArtagnan May 7th, 2009 09:30

Oh yeah, I couldn't agree more.

Generally, intellectual challenges are few and far between, and among those few who DO implement them - they tend to make them overbearingly easy, so as not to actually challenge anyone - but merely delay them for a bit.

Whether it be traps, puzzles, wordy riddles - or anything like that, I continuously lament the lack of them done properly. I love to be challenged like that - as long as it makes sense in context, and is a fair test.

Obsidian did some "decent" ones in Neverwinter Nights 2, but again - it's rare these days.

I'm not sure when it went truly out of fashion - but I guess it's around the same time games went from enthusiasts to casuals gamers. Not a date set in stone, but probably the late nineties or something.

I long for even the simpler challenges, and I recall with sweet nostaliga the stuff you had to figure out in games like Dungeon Master and Black Crypt.

One of the best examples of this done right is Realms of the Haunting, though it isn't a CRPG in the strict sense. It has plenty RPG elements though, and it's still pretty playable if you haven't already tried it. There are some excellent puzzles and traps in that game, that really fit with the context of the stuff going on.

Oh, and I know people love to bash Ultima 9 (most of it well deserved), but that's an example of dungeons done RIGHT. It may not be a particularly good game overall, and I'm sure it isn't very Ultima-ish - but the dungeons were some of the best in many years, and I definitely recall some great puzzles.

I'm getting the urge to replay that one just for the puzzles.

buckaroobonzai May 8th, 2009 21:53

SOme other modules from that era of AD&D that were as good were Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, Castle Amber, Lost Tomb of Martek etc. Of course, you can play all these modules (including ToH) on a pC if you play the NWN 1 module versions!

aries100 May 8th, 2009 23:27

I can pinpoint the exact date (or at least the year) or very near when the hardcore things (like puzzles etc)went out of fashion in RPGS. I did't have internet for nearly a 1-1 year from early 1999- middle 2000 (or maybe early 2001). During that time the IT-bubble burst, several independent sites were forget into global media corporations; gamespot were sold to the corporation that owns it today, and much much more. The time period is of course not an exact date, but more of an around 2000 thing…

It was around that time that the global media corporations discovered they could make money selling (a lot of) games, and so they streamlined games for the masses. And ordinary people (meaning not hardcore rpg players) do not like to run around trying non combat solutions; they just want to blow things up when thet get home from a very frustrating day at work (I know this, since I play Fate wheneversomething or someone frustrates me…)

As for hitting unsuspecting enemies with a fireball, I have done (and do) the same thing in BG1 and BG2 - preferable casting entangle or web first. Works very well - after I've sent the rogue ahead to do a bit of scouting…

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