I promised that I wouldn’t go raving about the Henshin Mystic again. And I won’t.
Normally I also space out my posts to allow stuff to sink in and not to hog the OurDDO blog feed.
But a recent post in the thread that discusses why the Henshin Mystic class should be revamped led me to a curious epiphany about DDO and the players that inhabit it that I had to write about.
Here’s the post’s content, so you needn’t click on the link unless you’d like to (re)read the entire thread.
So, I was considering a crazy max Wis DC-based Monk. Henshin of course. Before I took the plunge I put together a spreadsheet outlining my DCs…it was very eye opening.
With a 50 Wis, which may not be MAX, but is pretty damn high…some real deficiencies are highlighted (I probably got some of these a little wrong):
Ki Bolt, Reflex, DC 50
Incinerating Wave, Reflex, DC 50
Cauldron of Flame, Reflex, DC 50
Various Finishing Moves, Fort / Ref / Will, DC 53
That’s it?! PLUS the Henshin ones are Reflex so will be Evaded…? Ugh.
Ok, well, I’ll have to be GMoF for those Ki blast ability thingies too:
Orchid Blossom, Reflex, DC 48
Drifting Lotus, Reflex, DC 48
A Scattering of Petals, Fort, DC 58
Everything is Nothing, Fort, DC 58
Ok, cool…ASoP and EiN I can work with of course…but damn, really?! Another two low DC Reflex abilities? For crying out loud…
Why would I bother when I could:
Quivering Palm, Fort, DC 64 (with an Improved Sunder prep for +3 more DC)
Stunning Fist, Fort, DC 68 (maybe with Improved Sunder for +3 DC)
Kukan-Do, Will, DC 59 (with only a 20 Cha)
Unbalancing Strike, Ref, DC 64 (Sneak Attacks! Works on bosses!)
Yeah, I’m really gonna need a solid way to get another +10 DC on those weak abilities before I can consider using them.
I commend Spencerian for actually playing it through, but I looked at those numbers and just had to walk away…
I’m not centering that poster out. But it’s a good reflection of the sentiment or mindset that gets overused in the game of late, and seen quite a bit in the forums for both the right and the wrong reasons.
Let’s break things down to three kinds of DDO player that I see here.
The Button Masher
This player might come from a console or arcade gaming world where you have limited but powerful gear while playing a protagonist or anti-hero, roving here and there, destroying and/or solving things to achieve a goal. Such games emphasize what the gear does as a device in the game (“Use boomerang to activate switch”) rather than the object’s specific caliber or metric as it relates to damage. Player characters don’t generally grow in power except from acquisition of gear or key quest objectives. Action is continuous and strategy and puzzles are common. Examples include The Legend of Zelda series, the Halo games, and the Metroid series.
When these players are introduced to RPG games like DDO, they initially enter in with a mix of confusion with things such as ability stats. After punching in some numbers, they have great enthusiasm to play at first. But their joy turns to frustration quickly when simply bashing your sword against something isn’t enough to survive, much less succeed, as their ability and skills are improperly set to the increasing challenges of the game.
Button mashers don’t initially comprehend the analytical knowledge in character design and gear mechanics as well as game mechanics and strategy common in all RPGs until they decide to ask and study for themselves.
The Pen And Paper Tactician
This player has played one or more desktop table games quite a bit at some point in their lives. If they aren’t playing Dungeons & Dragons, the board game, they’ve latched onto many, many other pen-and-paper games where flashy graphics don’t exist and the internal visualization of imaginations around a table, surrounded by fellow players, runs at maximum density.
With a dungeon-master (or game master) guiding the players and setting the stage and environment, the players create characters from a wide selection of traditional roles with ability scores, skills, attacks, and gear.
During adventures, they use dice to determine success and failure based on difficulty saves to skills and abilities such a high Strength or Dexterity. (Most of us who play DDO can feel a very familiar pattern here, naturally.)
While DDO’s game mechanics rely heavily on similar principles from its pen-and-paper version, there’s a point where this tactical precision causes a dissonance when pen-and-paper information becomes some odd sort of oracle that predicts success or failure based only on the difficulty checks or a few variations of abilities, while ignoring the unique human element found in live-action gameplay and not in turn-based desktop play. Character planners. Crafting planners. Puzzle solvers. Wikis. Forum threads that crunch the numbers. Messages of dissent and condemnation (without ever rolling up and playing that character live) come from queries that illustrate the poor statistical odds of your spell power and difficulty checks. Portents of doom are given to you that predict that your character will be gravely underpowered in high-level play.
You see where I’m going here.
My gameplay style fits my character class. It’s all about balance to achieve enlightenment, stability and, of course, perfecting that superior mystical practice of kicking ass. Many others that play, too, realize that we should follow a middle path.
The gamer has been around. They’ve played consoles. They might have played arcade games if they’re old like me. Dabbled in pen-and-paper games once, perhaps, or have played them quite a bit. All in all, they enjoyed something from each. They surely have generated a preference to a particular type of game or game style, or might find their fun in the diversity.
The gamer has learned that mashing buttons wildly on a console game won’t work, but mashing buttons in a specific pattern gets results. When they roll up a pen-and-paper character, the gamer might find it more important to have a good team of friends that don’t take the specific character stats too seriously or question the dungeon master’s campaign too harshly.
When things go pear-shaped, he loves the fun you get from the fallout, especially if the dungeon master takes the cue, gives the party an out to save themselves, even if it’s going to cost them their loot, experience, or their dignity. PnP gamers enjoy the adventure over the number-crunching and the odds.
Most importantly, while the gamer never goes in unprepared, he’ll never shy away from an opportunity. Despite the odds based on other player calculations, the type of folks in the party or the difficulty of the fight ahead, they sometimes just go with the flow and see what happens.
The gamer’s experience means that they’ll likely take a character that should not survive in a high-difficulty quest, based on probability demonstrated in the many variables one could roll up, and (with good resource management and teamwork) not only survive but emerge triumphant.
It’s a Game, Silly
I speak from a bit of authority. I have a Bachelors of Science in Parks and Recreation. Yep. I have a college degree in playing.
It’s important not to overdo the math in game play. When the math goes overboard in the right way in recreation, you get the scariest but safest roller-coasters that pull more G’s than some jet fighters, making you feel like death is coming around the next drop but leaving you safe and sound at ride’s end. That’s a principle known as apparent risk.
When the math heads in too draconian a path, you get stoic, Vulcanized probability, devoid of the human dynamic, which is often naturally unpredictable. The flavor of the gaming moment, the sense of adventure, is lost in over-number crunching, of application of tactics without regard for what trouble the party’s rogue can stir up, despite being in a quest where combat is more prevalent than trapfinding.
While it’s important to study the numbers in DDO to ensure you have enough of this and enough of that, nothing in number crunching will ever substitute for experience and certainly not in simply trying something out. I’m not only speaking of the experience in confirming that a tactic will work reliably based on the math, but sometimes just going into an adventure and telling the numbers to go frak themselves.
In that mindset, LEERRRROY…JEEENNKIINS had it right. He had a damned good time (although he went about it in the wrong way) and he even had some good chicken while in play.
While Leeroy did move before thinking, his party showed a bit of dispassionate overthinking. Not in their expected goals, but perhaps in a distillation of that very moment before play, and even during the chaos that Leeroy started. Gaming is not just measured in success or failure, but in the pleasure of the moment.
I have a personal example. Some time ago, my guild had just completed a Shroud run and were looting the chests. As I completed looting one chest, I hear a distinctive whine I’ve only heard in a couple of quests–the sound of something charging up and not in a good way.
One of our guild’s most reliable, enjoyable and incredible players, who specializes well in party healing, had decided to drink a Potion of Wonder. These things have random effects. Recently, the devs thought it was funny to add “detonation pack” as one effect.
Most of the party was blown to kingdom come by the Shroud altar. It took a few moments of confusion before the party realized what happened and erupted. Not with anger or threats or rage, but bursts of laughter and disbelief.
No amount of cold calculations can anticipate the fun our party experienced by getting blown up real good. As a reward that all of us took back that night, none of my other guildmates will EVER let that player live it down during later raids while we buff up, eternally memorializing his decision by reminding all players to drink future Potions of Wonder at a minimum safe distance.
I’m determined to go back to that thread with a video or a completion screenshot with my Epic Mystic, triumphant in some Epic Elite quest, with a significant amount of slain enemies and few to no deaths of my own. I’ll have Quintessica dance a jig.
But I’ll have a smile on my face as well. Not because I showed up the naysayers, but because I had a damned good time trying not to die, or managing to win despite the odds.
Win brilliantly. Die gloriously. Fun, always. Hope you get blown up good real soon.