The Art of Playing An RPG? (POLL INCLUDED)

Hi All,

In recent conversations with various people, I am beginning to wonder if the art of playing an RPG is becoming less known. I am the first to admit that I am old-school and come from a PnP (pen and paper) background, but things definitely appear to be changing …

Maybe I am alone in my observations, but it seems to me that there appears to be more “casual” players who prefer different aspects of a NWN2 module than what I imagined would be the main source of player built (and requested) modules.

I mean, when I build a module, I focus on how players can build their PCs/party in such a way to overcome different challenges in different ways. However, I have found that there appears to be less “challenge” in modules and/or even desired by players, than I expect from a properly designed RPG.

Perhaps it is just my imagination, but it seems to me that some players (at least) appear unaware of how best to even play a module. Unless they can kill a beastie in two swipes, find a key in the room next door to open the chest in the current room, etc, then it causes too much of a challenge. It’s as if they desire a more “shallow” experience without any of the real challenges or considerations to a PC build.

Have those days (and players) really gone … a dying breed … or do any still exist?

So, OK, here is the poll … and please leave your own comments too!

Thanks, Lance.

  • I like it simple … Don’t even lock the chest and doors.
  • I can handle a little challenge, but don’t tax me too hard.
  • I like to have different ways to challenge my party build.
  • I think things should be a challenge. No point playing otherwise.

0 voters

3 Likes

I like balanced and coherent adventure. I’m not into characters building. Too many monsters totally bother me (it’s NwN not Diablo …). I hate getting magic items or gold too easily and I think it’s best to encourage players to craft stuff themselves.
What is difficult to do well are the dialogues: I find it unacceptable that a barbarian with an intelligence of 10 or less can solve a riddle alone. No self-respecting Game Master would allow that in PnP. I also do not see a high level magician settling in a village lost in the middle of the forest, where there are no books or enough magical material necessary for the practice of alchemy. No more than we would see a druid in a city like Baldur’s Gate. However, it’s my opinion and it only concern me.

5 Likes

Modern games have spoiled a lot of younger players into expecting quick rewards for little effort. I think you have to get them committed to the adventure first before starting to ramp up the difficulty.

6 Likes

In my younger days, I liked the hack’n’slash action adventures. Now, that seems so mindless. I prefer a good story and heavy challenge. It makes you want to find interesting ways to accomplish something in order to meet the greater goal. I do like it when there is more than one way to accomplish that goal as well. I absolutely hate it if you have to go to an online walkthrough just to figure out how to play a game.

5 Likes

In Kotor (Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic), some puzzles were a bit like that. Not necessarily difficult, but when you plan to play after comming back from a hard day of work and progress in the game, but you are stuck to solve a problem of which you do not see the real utility… thats the perfect way to kills the mood.

4 Likes

Yes, I agree … but do you know how many players actually bother with crafting? Or, how many builders bother trying to implement it in a way that works! I am surprised at how much this can be ignored by players, even when it can make a big difference to their party strength.

I think modern games may well be to blame. To me, there was a golden age (around 2000) when you needed to think to be able survive or improve. Now, it appears to be less about thinking, and more about acquiring just by basic smash and grab tactics. There is room for some items like that, but I have been disappointed by modern RPGs appearing to lack any cerebral requirement.

Hopefully, if you haven’t already, you may enjoy the challenge of my module. :slight_smile: It has plenty of player agency, which sounds like what you mean … and requires a degree of thinking to accomplish the better goals available. EDIT: Although I supply a walkthrough, I only have done so to help highlight if there is an issue. i.e. Use it if you get stuck to tell if there is a bug or just something you missed. That is one way I think it is good for a walkthrough.

Thanks all, Lance.

3 Likes

I voted “I can handle a little challenge, but …”, although I feel the poll is too simple to express my actual opinion, so a little bit of explanation here: I like all aspects of RPGs to varying degrees and as such I do enjoy good challenges in puzzles and combat, too, but my main interests are actually story-telling and exploration, so if the flow of the game comes to a halt because combat gets so hard that I feel I need to be an expert on builds to overcome it, or puzzles stop my progress in the game and make me get stuck until I solve them, then I don’t really enjoy it anymore.

I don’t want a strategy or puzzle game when I play an RPG, I want an exciting adventure with light elements of both and more, but they shouldn’t get in the way of story progress and exploration. When in doubt, “it was pretty damn hard” is more off-putting to me than “it was a little bit too easy”, because while I like to be challenged from time to time, I don’t like the game coming to a halt and getting frustrating.

I don’t think it has anything to do with the times though, it’s just that people like RPGs for different reasons, and it isn’t all that surprising either, seeing as RPGs are a hotchpotch of many different elements.

But this question is really difficult to answer in a general way, it all depends on how it’s done. The difficulty definitely shouldn’t be due to obscure design decisions and it should not limit players too much, so that it becomes a game of “guess what the author wanted you to do here”, with only one specific solution. That would be more like a point and click adventure to me than an RPG. :wink:

9 Likes

^ agreed. There are many ways to play Nwn …

my option ? tuff fights, decently immersive story or just full-on sandbox, no railroading and no puzzles Lance. /jk - will try yours

4 Likes

:astonished: … Jk … phew … :relaxed: :+1:

3 Likes

Indeed, it’s difficult to find the balance between forcing players to follow a certain direction and offering them several playing options. However, the options offered to the players must be aligned with the avatar that we play a bit like in a theatre play.

3 Likes

Already that making an NwN2 module completely alone is a difficulty in itself (almost a job). There is a huge difference between making outdoor and indoor areas, scripting and dialogues. In short, a team of three distinct individual is ideal. The icing on the cake is having one or more voices actors.

3 Likes

Hi Olivier, @Olivier_Leroux

The poll was deliberately a little vague to encourage feedback too. :wink:

Now this I have some sentiment with … but what if the game offers other means of resolution, but the player just cannot get past their “expected” approach? That’s probably my main point. i.e. I have seen players “give up” because they cannot continue along a path they found because they cannot find a solution. In years past, such an issue may require a player to backtrack or approach the game from another angle before solving the best way to do something. Sadly, I believe some players now appear to resort to finding other ways (outside a game) rather than work within a module’s design.

Again, this is where I think it can be difficult for builders, because we don’t know how much a player knows when playing D&D … or a particular style of RPG … a modern approach or an older generation approach. Note, I am not talking about poor design, but different design. It seems like some players prefer quick-fix challenges rather than play for the long term. If it is not solved within two to three clicks, then it’s not worth pursuing kind of thing. Again, don’t get me wrong. I also do not like to backtrack for every quest. However, I do think players appear less forgiving on anything that requires a little more than instant success nowadays.

I’m not so sure … I mean I have played a lot of games and I have noticed a definite trend in the way games are presented, reviewed and even advertised and eventually play. But maybe I am just alone in this?

Agreed. There is, however, a recognition that some players still appear to fail to recognise how some things are done because they have not experienced certain D&D rules before. i.e. They fail at the game because (again) pre-conceived ideas based upon their own experiences … and I believe a lot of these experiences (modern) have reduced players expectations or they required input to succeed … or so it seems to me.

Thanks, Lance.

2 Likes

@raymondsebas

Well, I think part of the problem is exactly that … some players do not even realise there can be a different path!

And I think that hits the nail on the head for me … It’s as if players insist the way they go should always be possible, even if they only have a 1st level fighter versus the dragon … and then consider there must be an issue because they do not appear to be able to reconsider their path…

What is causing this limited style of playing?

It’s as if some players refuse to think more about their potential options … I don’t know … Maybe there are so many RPGs out there now that when something with a challenge is faced, it’s easier to drop and swap than consider how best to approach something.

By the way … I am not commending “difficulty” as some modern games suggest … I own and played Dark Souls … and detest it! What a waste of money! That was not what I call challenging, but frustrating. There is definitely a difference, and I am concerned that player’s may be missing the distinction.

Thanks, Lance.

1 Like

I totally agree with this. And it’s a really hard question to answer. For me the old-shool RPGs like Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate never interested me. Sure, I bought the first Baldur’s Gate when it came out and played it many hours (remember liking it) but I never finished it. It wasn’t until KOTOR that CRPGs really hooked me (and after I played KOTOR I bought NWN).

A good RPG, in my mind, don’t throw everything at you at once. Let the player get accustomed to the world and how the adventure is to be played. If there are certain elements that are new to players that you want to introduce, I think you need some kind of tutorial, or a way to ease players into your game. Begin with easier tasks that get the player invested. Introduce a strong story and likeable characters. For me that’s always been the most important thing. Don’t get players frustrated the first thing you do, because of too hard a task to do in the beginning.

The best game I’ve ever played on any platform is KOTOR. That game did everything right. The mood, the characters, the mystery, the story, the music and the perfect conclusion (That game didn’t begin with: “Ok, you need to do these 10 complicated tasks, the first thing you do” but began with simple stuff). So for me it’s the games after 2003 that really to me took games to another lever. It was now not just a game anymore, it was an experience. Another game that, in my mind, is almost perfect is The Witcher 1 and The Witcher 3. I loved how the “killing of minions” in The Witcher 3 didn’t give you any experience points. The Mass Effect games are also great in my opinion. Especially the first one.

Games that I don’t personally like are the Bethesda games. I’m not into the open world stuff. I tried with Skyrim (or was it Morrowind?) many years ago, but to me the world felt empty. I also tried with Fallout 3 (I’ve finished Fallout 1 but that was SO long ago) but in there the NPCs you met also felt empty. I am also not drawn to the newer games from Obsidian like Pillars of Eternity, since that is the old school Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate approach. I am actually one of the extremely few that prefer Dragon Age 2 to 1 and 3. Dragon Age Origins I enjoyed very much, but 3 I never finished because of all the boring side quests like collecting shards on large maps, where you after 2 hours searching on a large map to find a way to for example a mountain top, eventually got told by the game: “Oh, you can’t go to that place yet, since you haven’t done this and that”.

When it comes to NWN1 and 2, it was so long ago I played the main campaigs and expansions. I remember thinking the OC of NWN was ok, but really loved SOA and HOTU (I still remember the character of Deekin to this day). I liked NWN2’s main campaign but it was MOTB that got that game to really shine. I bought but never played SoZ, since that didn’t interest me, but I needed it to play modules that required it.

I also never been that interested in crafting for some reason. I like a puzzle if it’s not way too difficult. The thing about making the perfect party with the most perfect skills for combat has never interested me either. I was interested in hack n’ slash when I was young, but I’m not young anymore. Sure, it should not be too easy in a fight, but if you have to be extremely thorough with tactics to manage a fight, then it’s not for me. It just doesn’t interest me.

3 Likes

Personally, I believe that many commentators here should be interested in joining their talents according to their strengths (exterior areas, interior areas, scripting and dialogues and if possible voice actors and hak making) to make THE module. Not a campaign, but THE module of community cooperation from NwN. The best module on which the community would agree. Just my thought.

6 Likes

@andgalf

I hear what you are saying, but here is my concern … There are some aspects of the game (based on D&D) that I would have thought players would have grasped relatively easily … even if the original NWN did not cover them. For example, food and rest rules … In D&D these are quite well established … and yet NWN changed them (fair enough) … but the question is why would players then struggle with such “elements” now? I mean they may be “new” from a NWN point of view, but not from D&D or an RPG aspect in general. We aren’t talking brain-busting difficult … just acknowledged.

I am encountering this same rather “tedious” aspect of DA3. I know we can ignore it or come back later, but it’s not clearly explained … and that just caused a loss of interest.

Again, I understand a person’s lack of interest in crafting in a game … I honestly do, as I know it is not for everybody … However, if that is the case, then I would expect a player to be able to adapt to the situation another way … e.g. If they are not going to craft an item, then they need to consider acquiring items or taking care of those that they have. To be clear here … it is NOT about making the perfect party (I agree with your sentiments here), but about a player’s apparent inability to sometimes adapt to a situation where a different approach is required … as I say, it’s a if they reach a certain point and then fail to reconsider potential solutions for a style they may prefer.

Thanks, Lance.

2 Likes

Well, in my case, I’ve never played the english or american version of pen and paper D&D, so I’m not that familiar with the rules.

1 Like

dark souls is one of the best designed games of the last decade. it got a connected world heavy on exploration. a story which is both mysterious (not in your face) and lets room for interpretation. lots of secrets to find and no overabundance of loot. gloomy, well designed areas overflowing with atmosphere. a fighting system which rewards thinking and the ability to read your opponents and their moves. plus the feeling of accomplishment after every single boss fight - it’s just so good!

what i like in more “traditional” crpgs are multiple solutions to quests and clever quest design in general. some obvious, some not so obvious. quest solutions shouldn’t all be handled through dialogue but use other gameplay too. as an example: instead of clicking on a stone blocking the way to place a bomb through dialogue let me throw the bomb directly at the stone. challenging and interresting fights but also encounters which can be avoided - like through skills. areas worthy of being explored. not so much for the loot, but for little bits of side story or flavor text. a need to handle ressources well, like gold and potions. a setting which leans more into low magic where magical artifacts are rare and have a story.

3 Likes

@raymondsebas

I am already making a THE module … It’s called THE … (fill in the blank)

OK, joking aside, I think it’s because it would probably be an impossible task … I mean even in this poll, we are currently split in three ways about what may constitute a fair “module”. There are those (like myself) who may baulk at certain aspects of design, and others for their own reasons baulk at/dislike our approach.

The current approach of sharing work is probably the best solution for a varied set of modules… the problem is none will suit everyone’s tastes, but we do end up with a good selection. :slight_smile:

Thanks, Lance.

1 Like

i wouldn’t call d&d’s official stand on food and rest rules well established. those things are heavily dependent on the dm, the group playing and the edition they are using. since 4e wizards also introduced short rests to give players more room to breath. something which was surely homeruled by some folks since b/x. there are other rule systems which do those things way better, like torchbearer.

3 Likes