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May 17th, 2019, 12:04
Dragons… what's the big deal?

Dragons are just a creature that featured alongside many others in the great pantheon of tabletop RPG monster manuals. They were usually a high level encounter, but other than that they had no greater individuality or prominence than a whole host of other creatures. You can find more difficult opponents, more scary opponents and within the pool of dragons there was also variety, the different colours signifying quite dramatic escalations of difficulty level.

Further, dragons were used in the titular Dungeons & Dragons because dragons are probably the most universally recognisable symbol of mythological fantasy, from east to west and north to south, every culture has their version of a dragon & the ubiquitous heroic symbolism of the brave warrior who was so strong they could slay the dragon. It also began with the letter D. Or maybe dungeons was the one that needed to begin with a D.

But when did dragons suddenly become screen-covering behemoths that represent the ultimate challenge in RPGs, or even more so, virtual villains that spend their time playing chess with the puny humans like some crazed Bond villain?

In both the above cases I can imagine a Bioware game as a prime offender. Whether it be a camera that can't even show the dragon in full on-screen, resulting in the primary difficulty of the challenge being navigating your mouse pointer so that you don't click on the dragon instead of moving to a safer spot on the battlefield, or the always anti-climactic 'plot-twist' that a dragon is, for some unknown reason, spending its time being evil to humans because… I dunno, erm, because dragons as the final battle is cool?

But I'm not sure Bioware is the only offender here, nor that they are the root-cause of this phenomina. My main suspicion is that it's mainly caused by the move to 3D graphics.

In lower budget or older RPGs, usually in games where even the biggest monster will have a relatively small sprite or appear in the same box-window as all the other creatures, dragons don't ever really get presented as anything more than "just another creature". Sure, some might treat them as 'intelligent' creatures that are a bit more NPC-like, but in these cases they tend to still hold to the lore that dragons don't particularly like meddling in the affairs of men… unless there's a huge pot of shinies in it for them, and usually this just means taking the loot rather than working for it.

Even the earlier Bioware titles generally stuck to these formalities, though even both BG2 and NWN dragons were starting to show the trend towards making them too-big-to-fit-the-game-screen problem. ie: making dragons bigger and more important than they actually are in comparison to everything else, but having the same issue in, for exaple, Icewind Dale 2 suggests this was more of a technological issue as people started to become more concerned about size realism and the like.

Meanwhile the old first-person perspective style method never had this problem, you could, if you wanted, stick loads of dragons on the screen:



And still have lots of room for all kinds of other critters Likewise, an isometric game that doesn't care about relative size realism can do the same:



And, as such, also tends towards lessening the sense that dragons are some uber-entity. They are just another critter. You start by navigating goblins, then you navigate the level full of lizard men, then you do the level of Giants, then you do the dragon zone, then you go to the next difficulty jump, such as demons or demi-gods etc.

And I think it's this skewing of the dragon out of proportion and out of context that has helped cause a lot of confusion about what constitutes an RPG. If a game comes out and in that game you, at some point, fight a big ol' dragon in a boss-like encounter then people will associate the game with an RPG, when, really, what dragons represent in a 'real' RPG is just another step in the difficulty curve. In effect, imagine instead of a dragon that art had been converted to a giant eagle, does that radically alter your concept of the game? Does the game feel 'less RPG' now? Not "it's no longer an RPG", but just "less RPG"?

You know what I'm saying? Or does this all appear like gibberish and not at all interesting to you?
Last edited by lackblogger; May 17th, 2019 at 12:15.
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May 18th, 2019, 02:17
The biggest problem with the genre, IMHO, is that it's called "role playing games" when, in fact, most folks don't role play at all and try to pick the most advantageous choice. If they do role play, they role play themselves.

But yeah, a lot of people have also gotten the impression that RPG means 'fantasy game'. They believe that, if you're using swords & spells to fight imps & goblins, then it must be an RPG. Dragon? DEFINITELY and RPG! I've seen that go the other way, too. Give a character a gun and suddenly the game is a "shooter" - because you shoot things, so it must be a shooter, right?
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May 18th, 2019, 19:21
The difficulty in distinguishing a shooter from an RPG has a more common-sense reason behind it though: Someone at some point decided to make Shooters a specific genre, to which we now have the common phrases of FPS and TPS (First person shooter & third person shooter, for those reading who are for some reason in the dark as to what these acronyms mean).

So if a game is released that is either in the usual FP or TP perspective and has a solo player-character who just shoots guns all game, it's fairly easy to see why both the developers and consumers might be more excited by the descriptor FPS or TPS as oppose to a more nerdy association like RPG.

And this could be the crux of the problem, in that no-one ever coined the term FPM or TPM: First person magician or third person magician. Or even First person swordsman or Third person swordsman. Possibly because people who buy sword or magic games likely don't have the kind of playground peer-pressure to demand their games have a more 'badass' sounding sub-category.

I mean, imagine if Skyrim was commonly referred to as a FPM. Imagine if that whole category of game was. Then we likely wouldn't have these definition problems so badly in the first place. For example:

Wasteland 2 doesn't get confused for an FPS, everyone is happy for it to be an RPG. But Fallout 4 will regularly get called an FPS. However, while Pillars of Eternity doesn't get anyone calling it anything other than an RPG, Skyrim has people regularly calling it a 'walking simulator', because there's no FPM in the discussion sphere.

Don't forget, roleplaying doesn't necessarily mean one is assuming the living embodiment of someone else, that's called acting, roleplaying just means performing a role, like if your looking for a job you ask the community what roles are available, to which you might choose Butcher, Baker or Candlestick Maker. A roleplaying game doesn't have to offer anything more than a class to be a roleplaying game. What makes it a roleplaying game, as oppose to a Candlestick Maker simulator, is that all three have to work together to defeat monsters, by each using their specialist role to do so.

So, inherently, an RPG has to be party based. Hence why Wasteland 2 is an RPG and not a shooter. X-Com-likes don't consider themselves RPG because their teams are all of the same profession, they are all professional soldiers, doing a specific job, so it's more of a soldier simulator than a case of random individuals with extremely varied skills and specialties being thrown together for potentially any reason.

Hence why the Diablo-likes used to be looked down upon as not 'proper' RPGs, pretty much entirely because they were solo-character games. If you only played through Diablo once then you could argue you're just playing a necromancer game, for example. Your necromancer isn't playing a role in a team, they're just hosing down enemies by themselves the same as they would in something like Streets of Rage or Double Dragon. Same issue with Zelda games and their partial RPG reputation.

So imagine if you took Wasteland 2, reduced it to a single character and converted it to a modern AAA first person perspective: You now have a first person shooter more than an RPG. Now imagine Pillars of Eternity, reduce it to a single character and convert it to a modern AAA first person perspective: You now have an FPM more than an RPG.

And I'm not necessarily blaming any specific company here, I'm just using the most well known examples for the sake of ease of communication. I tend to lay most of the blame on the desire for those AAA 3D graphics that demand realism, because it's that very specific format which tends towards larger character models, reduces the amount of opponents one can have on the screen, and demands a more single character experience.
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May 19th, 2019, 12:34
Originally Posted by Zloth View Post
The biggest problem with the genre, IMHO, is that it's called "role playing games" when, in fact, most folks don't role play at all and try to pick the most advantageous choice. If they do role play, they role play themselves.

But yeah, a lot of people have also gotten the impression that RPG means 'fantasy game'. They believe that, if you're using swords & spells to fight imps & goblins, then it must be an RPG. Dragon? DEFINITELY and RPG! I've seen that go the other way, too. Give a character a gun and suddenly the game is a "shooter" - because you shoot things, so it must be a shooter, right?
Originally coming from pen & paper, I clearly see that it is *very* difficult in C-RPGs to *actually* play a role …

Because developers just aren't able to implement all kinds of choices …

Most developer, though, follow the formula of a "young boy rising into manhood or even into godhood" by presenting C-RPGs in no other way than in advancing into some kind of "power creep". And loot, of course.

It is no surprise that the Munchkin kind of "role-play" is the most favourite one.

Modern C-RPGs are meant to be "dominating games", with the player dominating everything else. Though combat, mostly.
And, of course this attracts like-mimded people. Peope who WANT power creep. People who WANT to dominate others, even in an video game. People who WANT do dominate everything else within the game by choosing the most powerful option. It is an open secret that if given the choice between playing a dragon and a human, 90 % would clearly choose the dragon, because of the power and therefore of the domination effect.

Modern RPGs are nothing but domination games, especially when they have no meaningful story.

And domination and diplomacy contradict one another in the eyes of most players. Diplomacy is for weaklings. Slaughtering is for real men !


In my own setting I'm placing - out of sheer personal taste - Unicorns in the same power league than dragons - mostly because I'm totally fed up and sic of the old cliché "dragons are the most powerful creatures EVAR !!!111eleven".

In one rather fragmentary piece, I call both "atom bombs, and one of them with a free will" (the Unicorn, of course ! ).

DDO in a way kind of opened my eyes of how different dragons *might* be : They can assume human form. Of course, any power players would LOVE that. But not me : I'm rather thinking of how strage such a *different* body for dragons might be … Toilets, anyone ?


Edit : I just remembered a very special dragon : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puff,_the_Magic_Dragon
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Last edited by Alrik Fassbauer; May 19th, 2019 at 13:44.
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May 20th, 2019, 00:31
Isn't the very definition of competition "a battle for dominance", whether it be a sport, a board game, card game or computer game? Aren't all forms of competition just versions of 'power creep'? The general idea of pretty much every computer game ever is the idea that the game becomes more complex over time, whether it be Mario through Monkey Island or Tetris through Grand Theft Auto.

While RPGs gradually make you more powerful, the good ones usually do so in a way that still makes you feel nervous of the next encounter, isn't that the whole reason Dark Souls is so popular, after all. So, are you sure you're not confusing complexity and gradual difficulty increases for power-creep?

I've no doubt some people do get a power-buzz from RPGs, but I see no reason why they wouldn't get the same power-buzz from poker, monopoly or GTA? I mean, I agree min/maxers are really boring people, in the classic notion of the term 'a bore' due to their exceptionally narrow and tunnel-visioned mindset, but they're probably the same with all the games they play, not just RPGs, so I'm not sure why you'd make such a big case for RPGs being especially at fault here for what is a generally common human condition.

Likewise, I've no idea why you blame combat in RPGs. If all the stats related to non-combat skills, such as diplomacy, then they'd just min/max those as well and strive to be 'the best diplomat' or whatever. Are you sure you're not fitting the facts round your theory instead of looking at the facts and then making a theory?

Playable dragons sounds great to me, not from a power point of view but just from a novelty and variety point of view. Why the heck not? I mean, I know why not for traditional reasons, those being that you usually start at level 1 and dragons are considered a very high level enemy, so it's not a level 1 option. But if the game made it work somehow, then sure, why not. Maybe a end-game level druid can shapeshift into a dragon? Sounds great to me. Very entertaining. Etc.
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May 21st, 2019, 14:32
Originally Posted by lackblogger View Post
Playable dragons sounds great to me, not from a power point of view but just from a novelty and variety point of view. Why the heck not? I mean, I know why not for traditional reasons, those being that you usually start at level 1 and dragons are considered a very high level enemy, so it's not a level 1 option. But if the game made it work somehow, then sure, why not. Maybe a end-game level druid can shapeshift into a dragon? Sounds great to me. Very entertaining. Etc.
I'll leave this here:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/3…agon_The_Game/

Game is on my wishlist and IMHO has an awesome premise (I think there was a crowdfunding campaign for it too a while ago), but lack of updates make me think it is (unfortunately) pretty much dead in the water.
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May 21st, 2019, 18:13
Originally Posted by lackblogger View Post
Isn't the very definition of competition "a battle for dominance", whether it be a sport, a board game, card game or computer game? Aren't all forms of competition just versions of 'power creep'?
No, I don't think so.

In my eyes, some of these "contests" are just a kind of "match or non-match ?"

Plus, in ye olde days, these contests could be done with some kind of … what's the word … "sportsmanlike" … That's why referees are there in soccer / football in the first place. And rules, too.

Last year I was watching a video - a lecture (kind of) about men and women. Held by a woman named Birkenbihl.
In it, she was saying something important.
Quoting from my memory (original in German language) :

"Women are. Men must fight for their being day by day."

This opened my eyes towards the question whether there must always be conflict or not.

Today, i say : No.
"Conflict" is an invention by men to have a reason to carry out contests, and to find out who's the biggest badass.

Plus, my newish theory hat humans are - as I put it - pack animals. Humanoity has Alphas, Betas, etc. - a hierachy, essential. I fear it might even be built in into our genes. And that's the reason why ranks (like in military) exist in the first place.

But yes, "conflict" is an invention by men. I don't really need conflict. Sometimes, it's just good to sit in a cosy, warm chair and drinking some hot coffee. No conflict needed at that moment.

And games are to 99 % produced by men.
And men *want* conflict.
And men *need* conflict - because they are tested ALL OF THE TIME. From the first breath to the last breath - at least in an male environment - but even women test men, because they wanted to have the best partner for their offspring, and they are so much more selective in that.

"Women are. Men must fight for their being day by day."

And that's why there are so many contests.

As a sidenote, yes, contests are there with women as well. But they are a contest of being - because a "bauty contest" is a contest how a person liiks like - and the look (or in this case, the beauty) of a person has (normally) nothing to do with for example muscular strength (about which so many men's contests are about).

But - there's still another theory of mine . That "beauty" is unconsciously regarded as a sign of "fitness in the second generation", because the les a person must physically work, the less disturbed the development of the body is - and therefore amore "beauty" a person can develop. Imho. and that's why there is the formulation "the beautiful ones and the rich ones" in the first place, imho, because both are often one and the same.
Because rich ones often don't need to physically work hard.
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May 21st, 2019, 19:13
I have no idea what any of this has to do with either singling out RPGs from all other types of games nor where dragons fit into your random bullshitathon sperg of really quite sexist claptrap and utterly naïve drivel, but it only takes two seconds of research and half an ounce of life experience to know that girls are not shy of combat situations:

A VICIOUS attack by a gang of teenage girls left a psychiatric nurse so badly traumatised that he was unable to work for more than six months.
The teenagers, two aged just 14, repeatedly punched and kicked Neil Davidson, 46, and stamped on his head in a sustained assault. The psychiatric nurse, who has worked with some of the most dangerous criminals in Scotland, was overpowered, beaten and left traumatised by the vicious gang, Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard.

Suffering post-traumatic stress, panic attacks and agoraphobia, Mr Davidson was unable to return to his job in a forensic ward at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for almost seven months, losing 3000 in wages as a result. Speaking outside court yesterday, Mr Davidson said: "If I had been assaulted at work, as I have been, it would have been fine because I would have known what to do. It’s like a switch going on and your training comes into play.

"But this was out of context and I did not know what to do. I froze with fear and felt totally disempowered. I really thought I was going to die. I had just lost my father and this attack knocked me for six. "It has just been dreadful and I am still living with the long term psychological effects. My social life has ceased and I have become a recluse. I find it so sad to see young girls behaving like that."

Depute fiscal Alison Innes told Sheriff Andrew Bell that Mr Davidson had been walking to a bus stop after visiting a friend at about 11 pm on April 7 last year in Ferry Road, Edinburgh. He saw four girls approaching him and one demanded his personal stereo earphones, trying to grab them from his head. One pushed a lit cigarette close to his face while another struck him to the ground, knocking off his spectacles.

The girls then punched, kicked and stamped on his head and body as he put up his arms to protect his face. It was not until a man living nearby ran from his house to say the police were on their way that the girls ran off. One witness watched in horror as several girls grabbed Mr Davidson by the clothes and struck his head on the ground. She said the nurse was doing nothing to retaliate and "was not even swearing at the teenagers".

Mr Davidson was taken to hospital and treated for numerous cuts and bruises. One of the 14-year-old girls was caught nearby and arrested. She admitted attacking the stranger and, when charged by officers, replied: "I am not sorry". Another of the girls told police that someone in the group saw a man and wanted to "batter him".

Today, Deborah Gold, a 17-year-old domestic assistant at a nursing home, of Ferry Road Drive, Edinburgh, and two girls, now aged 15, who cannot be named because of their age, pleaded guilty to the assault. A fourth failed to appear, and a warrant was issued for her arrest. Defence agent Gillian Law said that the girls had been drinking vodka before the attack, but had not been drunk.

Sheriff Bell deferred sentence for background reports and advice from a children’s hearing. He said: "The effect this attack had on the unfortunate victim is enough in itself to show how seriously this matter must be regarded by me."
And it might surprise you to learn that all humans come from a culture of hunting. For food. If you are utterly desperate to make some pseudo-philosophical dribble-fest out of a perfectly technical thread then how about associating RPGs with our natural instinct to go out and hunt for dinner, an ideal form of harmless escapism for a culture that is more accustomed to sitting on a sofa watching a movie while waiting for a pizza to arrive… both guys and gals.

And that's the problem with pseudo-intellectuals who seem obsessed with the why why whys of life, you always end-up stuffing your unproven gibberish into every thread you can, regardless of merit or relevance, utterly convinced that you are so right because that's the nature of an ego.

I bet my reply here doesn't even deter you. I bet you don't even flinch in your self-convinced self-brainwashing and will view this post as merely another 'bunch of words' that represents nothing more than an opportunity for you to reply with another disjointed post of off-topic singular claims that all just repeat whatever key words you feel are 'pushable' today.

You know, like your idea that everyone else is 'trying to be dominant via conflict' where as you are merely 'observing and reporting' this, most likely completely oblivious to the fact that the only person attempting "domination via conflict" here is actually yourself by continually forcing through only one specific brand of complete horseshit and attempting to apply it to all subjects without giving two shits about the thread you gleefully destroy by doing so.

Like a person barging into a library and holding up a religious text while preaching lines from it at full volume. "You are reading evil texts you sinners, this book is the only book, this book is the one that's right".

I could be wrong of course, you might actually want to talk about the technical consequences of video game design and the perception of dragons in RPGs…
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