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# [RPG Design Theory]Statistic-Controlled PC Perspective

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Disclaimer: I am not discussion building an RPG. I am not discussing a style of RPG, or even a story of an RPG. I am not discussing mathematics behind an RPG, nor how to balance an RPG. I am discussing Game Design. Be forewarned now: should you attempt to hijack, troll, or otherwise devolve this thread into crap, your post will be edited, if you fight the edit an arbitrary number of times, you will be probated. Only serious Designers and members need reply. Thank you. ---------------------------------------------------------------- On my lunch break today, I had a bit of a discussion with myself in my head. For whatever reason, I was recalling the olden days of my P&P RPG sessions with friends. And how horrible many of the others were at actually playing their characters by the numbers. A character with a numerically "well below average" intelligence would make intelligently tactical and strategic moves. A character with a horribly deathly ill constitution-like stat would order a bottle of Vodka from a bar. This, it occured to me today, was horrible. Idiots don''t use tactics, and sicklings don''t do hard drinks knowingly. But players generally just use their statistics to obvious gaming advantage. That Intelligence thing doesn''t do much when I can just use my Strength to lug around a few extra assault rifles. What good is Charisma when I can go in shooting? Oh, no, my Mage doesn''t need strength, just a high Intelligence and some Wisdom. The examples go on and on, folks. My thought-provoker is how to take this away from players in the mystical realm of CRPG''s, without hindering the overall experience? There are, of course, approaches towards this end. Fallout and Arcanum come immediately to mind. Especially towards Intelligence and Charisma(and assorted skills). A genius was given a high amount of choices while in communication with an NPC, while a bumbling manchild was given a basic "Ugh?" option. Charisma, to note, made some of those choices ''correct''. Interesting, but it still left them with the ability to just tinker with stats to get the ''right mix'' and play the game with characters like chess pieces, rather than extensions of themselves. Help me design a flexible way to edit the entire perception of a game, based around the statistics that determine ''who'' a PC is. I''m especially wondering less about a post-usage effect(Strength lets you carry more) so much as a pre-usage effect(you perceive or are shown the game differently due to your attributes). Quickie examples before I go to bed and let you all stew before I check in the morning: I''ll use generic d20 attributes for convenience, though this can apply to almost any PC-related stat. Strength-??? Dexterity-??? Constitution-Silent extra nutrition from food/drink. Intelligence-Extra statistics about the world and objects in it. Wisdom-Cues about how much danger is posed by certain actions/NPCs/objects in the world. Charisma-NPCs have a habit of following the character around somewhat silently, at a distance. So come on, lurkers and old-timers, let''s get this forum jump started again like it used to be when people cared about this sort of thing! - It''s a life''s work - :Image Hosting @ $5/3 Months :30Gig/month bandwidth Reseller Plan @$40/3 Month Generic WebHost: The Cheapest Hosting Around! -ryan@lecherousjester.com

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Well I think the first place to start is with character creation, there was an interesting idea that saw used only once but after adapting it I think it could be a very interesting twist. The idea is having all stats hidden. Instead of seeing numerical stats or even a list of stats, you’re instead given just a verbal description of the character. Such as:

"You are an intelligent and creative woman, with a thirst for travel and exploration. Despite your frequent health problems and shy demeanor."

I think this is one way to get the player to think more about making there character extension of themselves. Since it removes the player from traditional notion of stat tinkering.

As far as how they I used I think it’s a tougher one since it really requires a more interactive and flexible design to turn stats into more then just numerical modifiers for dice rolls.

Stats could play a role in how much time and effort a character devotes to tasks. A more intellectual and scholarly character would be willing to spend more time reading books in library, while a more athlete tic and less scholarly character might quickly become bored.

Perhaps the characters perception could in fact be waited attributed based on the characters other stats that reflect how they perceive the game. Maybe even making objects with in the game more or less noticeable and detectable. For instance a gun enthusiasts character would have guns displayed more prominently maybe they walk into the bar and notice the old gun on the wall it starts glinting and they recognize it as famous weapon. Which could the lead to interesting conversation with the bartender about the gun. While a character with almost know knowledge of guns, would walk into the same bar and the gun might appear dull, rusted and hardly noticeable from the background.

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quote:
I'm especially wondering less about a post-usage effect(Strength lets you carry more) so much as a pre-usage effect(you perceive or are shown the game differently due to your attributes).

Quickie examples before I go to bed and let you all stew before I check in the morning:
I'll use generic d20 attributes for convenience, though this can apply to almost any PC-related stat.
Strength-???
Dexterity-???
Constitution-Silent extra nutrition from food/drink.
Intelligence-Extra statistics about the world and objects in it.
Wisdom-Cues about how much danger is posed by certain actions/NPCs/objects in the world.
Charisma-NPCs have a habit of following the character around somewhat silently, at a distance.

Excellent post. Here's some of my initial thoughts on the subject: (Warning: random braindump ahead)

Poor roleplayers usually see their weaker stats as an obstacle to splatting things rather than as an opportunity for roleplay. Offering good xp incentives for roleplaying rather than purely for hack and slash is an obvious way to counter this problem in P&P RPGs, but would be difficult - if not impossible - to apply to a CRPG.

I really like the idea of subtly changing the game world to reflect the characters strengths and weaknesses - there is a concern niggling at the back of my mind however, that while such an approaches might make the world more believable (in that all player characters are played in a way which suits their statistics) it would seem to trivialize the actual roleplaying aspect.

There is also the issue that the stats used in the d20 system can be interpreted in many ways. A low dexterity could be due to a visual impairment, or a physical deformity, or the character could simply be a flat footed clumsy oaf. A character with a low charisma might be physically attractive, but it hopelessly shy, or perhaps has a speech problem which makes it hard for him to communicate with people. There are all sorts of characteristics which could lead to someone having a poor score in a particular stat, and letting the computer 'assume' those reasons might be treading on the toes of genuine roleplayers who want to create their own.

One possibility is to develop a much more detailed set of traits and characteristics which can be used to build up a stunningly accurate description of a character, rather like the sort of description TechnoGoth was talking about. These traits can be purchased at the cost of a number of points, and the number of points you have to spend depends on how good your relative stats are. The computer can randomly generate these traits for players who don't care about the details, or can be edited by hand by the players who really want to get involved in the creation of their character.

So, suppose you have a character with a charisma of 7. This might translate into a Handsome(+2) character, with a Speech Impediment (-1) and Rudeness (-4).

You could then alter the player's perception to match this, more detailed description. The character is physically attractive, so he's good at getting the attention of NPCs and members of the opposite sex. Unfortunately, he's pretty hopeless at actually communicating with them - it takes him a few goes to make himself understood, and when he does finally succeed, he's likely to offend them, either driving them away, making them unhelpful, or actually offending them to the point where they attack. The first is relatively easy - NPC's, particularly those of the opposite sex will be drawn to the character. Implementing the other two is a bit trickier to do without doing something like restricting the options. My suggestion would be to keep the options the same for ALL PCs, albeit slightly modified to reflect their personality. So where a normal character might have the options:

1. "Excuse me good sir, I don't suppose you know the way to Elflandia?"
2. "Good afternoon. Could you direct me to ye olde weapone shoppe?"

our PC would have the options:

1. "OI! You! Yeth you in that thickly yellow thirt. How do I get to Elflandia from here?"
2. "Hey, is thith the way to the weapon thop? I THAID THE WEAPON THOP! WHAT ARE YOU LAUGHING AT THITHEAD?"

The NPC could still provide some essential help to the character, while still behaving in a realistic way - from then on, she'll be less willing to help him, because attractive though he is, she isn't going to take that sort of abuse again.

[edited by - Sandman on November 15, 2003 6:11:04 AM]

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Isn''t the question : "Where do the Character starts and the Player ends ?"
Which can be seen as "When to use Player''s skills instead of Character''s skills ?"

Most ''mind'' attributes are used within the rule system, that is they are not really here to be played but rather to complete the player''s capability. Intelligence is often used for wizards...

In a computer RPG, you rely on the player Intelligence and Wisdom, so those traits shouldn''t be on the character side (remove them, replace them by "magic feeling" attribute and "faith" attribute, respectively), the Strength, Beauty (as opposed to Charisma which not only evaluate how good you look but how good you speak and behave), Constitution should be character related.

The tricky point now is about acrobatic skill for example, is it up to the player to control the character through the pad (like in rayman, mario...) or is it up to the character to do it ?
What about fighting ? Is it the player''s skill that is used (like in a FPS) or is it the character skill ? (and then it should be turn based)

That obviously depends on the gameplay and user friendlyness you want your game to be.

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

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The d20 or ''classic'' attribute systems do /not/ work well with this system. That much I''ve incurred already. To edit the game world around /physical/ statistics seems to be a hopeless chore, even though actual game mechanics are easily changed.

Ingenu: While removing any Player-based statistics(Intelligence / Wisdom) from the game immediately strikes me as brilliant, it comes into conflict with a new issue I have thought about(which will come post-replies).

Sandman: Again, see note that comes below, but is stemmed off your idea to break up the ''core attributes'' into something more definable and explainable.

TechnoGoth: Slight inspiration from you as well. \/\/\/

-------------------------------------------------------------------
New thesis:
1) Character creation should be based outside of the range of numbers. A strong character should have visible musculature. A charismatic one - beautiful. A nimble one, fit and trim. When the statistics are re-rolled, the visible proto-character should be changed to suit the new characteristics.

2)All Player-based statistics should be taken out of mechanics. If the Player cannot use his /own/ Intelligent Intuition to piece together some game plot twist hours before it is given to him, then neither should his character.

3)(Slightly Off Current Topic)A ''Sanity'' attribute, ala Call of Cthulu would be wonderful for what I''m talking about with this entire design aspect.

And I have work so I''ll check this tonight. Happy designing, folks.

- It''s a life''s work
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In a CRPG, I can see a couple of different ways to get players to play according to the numbers. (And because the thread isn't about how to balance an RPG, I won't discuss which attributes belong in a CRPG, just how to work with the ones you got. *ahem* *cough*)

1) Carrot and Stick

Taking intelligence for example. In some situations, you can present the player with a number of different choices, and rate the choices according to intelligence. Then, if the player does something spectacularly boneheaded when playing an idiot, give him some sort of bonus. Maybe an experience award, maybe increment some karma counter or a luck bonus, mana from the heavens, etc. Then if a player playing an idiot does the spectacularly brilliant choice, hit him with a penalty. Less experience for the encounter, bad karma or luck, additional wear and tear on equipment. Maybe if there's a follower system, his followers might start to think he's demon possessed.

This is great for the vodka-swilling, constitution 3 mage too. Especially the party thinking he's demon possessed. I like that idea a lot.

2) Make the choices for him

If you have actions rated like in first part, then maybe the program will automatically execute the action for the proper attribute score.

I dislike this idea, as it does get rid of player freedom, but done sparingly it might add a little versimilitude to the situations the character finds himself in.

3) Muck with the attributes

This would probably work best combined with the carrot and stick method. Basically, if the character consistently makes smart choices when he's a dumb character, the program should increase his intelligence.

The evil flip side to this is that there's no such thing as a free lunch. When he does increase his intelligence, lower another stat. Or two. Or three. Or all of the rest.

Of course, you don't necessarily need to implement the evil flip side. The classic roguelike, nethack, allowed increase and decrease of stats through an exercise/abuse system. (I would say that the system was subject to abuse, except for the small fact that nethack is so freaking hard that even abusing every game feature you can find it's still nearly impossible to ascend.)

And let us not mention the evil, horrible, dispicable version of this technique that Ultima Online used. (*mutter* *mutter* tank mages *mutter*)

4) Filtering choices

The Fallout/Arcanum method can be applied to more than just dialog choices. Maybe you can only do a feint in combat if your intelligence and dexterity are high enough. Maybe you can only do a Flaming Dragon Punch if your wisdom and strength are high enough.

One idea I like is, on a turn-based combat style rpg, is to allow only certain patterns of movement based on stats. For example, a character might only be able to move in straight lines if he has a low intelligence or dexterity. With a little bit more of either, he can do some zig-zags.

5) Smart is dumb / dumb is smart

So there's a choice that seems really, really dumb, and the chracter with intelligence 18 makes it. Retcon things so it turns out to be the right thing. Like pushing the "self-destruct button" when trying to disable the burglar alarm. Make it so that the really smart person got inside the security designer's brain and realized that the "self-destruct button" is the last thing an intruder would want to push, so it's the right thing to do to get the alarm to shut off. If the dumb person, or even averagedly intelligent person hit that buttom, the alarm will shut off, but not in the way intended.

Or there's a choice that just seems outragously offensive. If the high charisma guy picks it, make the person react well anyways. Maybe the NPC likes being insulted, or respects people with the guts to pull it off, etc.

edit: formatting

[edited by - SiCrane on November 15, 2003 1:49:23 PM]

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quote:

New thesis:
1) Character creation should be based outside of the range of numbers. A strong character should have visible musculature. A charismatic one - beautiful. A nimble one, fit and trim. When the statistics are re-rolled, the visible proto-character should be changed to suit the new characteristics.

2)All Player-based statistics should be taken out of mechanics. If the Player cannot use his /own/ Intelligent Intuition to piece together some game plot twist hours before it is given to him, then neither should his character.

Sounds very familiar... oh yes it''s in my 3 years old Game Design Document

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

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2) The problem I see with this is how do you spererate character and player attributes, which apply to characters and which apply to player?

example intellegence:
If this a player attribute then how do you intergate aspect into the game when character intellegence is need. For instance during the course of the game the character finds a book titled "The application of thermal dynamics in optical based weapondry" If intellegence is a soly player based attribute does that mean any character who finds the book can read it and build a laser? As opposed to intellegence being a character based attribute in which case an intellegence rating could be used to deterime wether the character can understand the book.

but lets say for a moment that someone devises away to overcome the obstacle I just stated. What if instead of removing those stats entirely they are replaced with an assist system? For instance younger players may not be able to figure out the subtile clues and problems the designer has placed into a game but at the same time that should not prevent them from playing the game. If the "player" attributes acted like an assist the game could adjust the amount of help the player is given in those circumstances. This allows more experinced players to adjust the game to there liking, by lowering the assist attributes they would have a far more challenging experince then some one who has them all at max.

A further thought assist attributes could possible even be used to customize the entire game to the players liking. Imagine for a moment that all stats are player assist stats. What if by lowering agility it turned combat from selecting moves from a list, into a pseudo fighting game in which the player enters button combinations inorder to perform moves. Obviously that might not appeal to everyone, but it might appeal to some and thus both people can be made happy by adjusting the agility assist attribute.

A thought on stats:
It occured to me that part of the problem with players playing out of character is the lack of differential between stats points. In most game have 5 strength or 6 strength is not signficant maybe you can''t use a weapon but thats about it. What if the diffrence between points become far more signficant?

Example:
A factorial system. meaning that
2 strength compared 1 strength would mean 2x as strong
3 to 1 would mean 6x
4 to 1 would mean 24x
3 to 2 would mean 3x
4 to 2 would mean 12x
4 to 3 would mean 4x
and so on...

This would make the stats have a far greater impact on gameplay and possibly even force the character to play in the confines of their character. Since your 4 strength soilder maybe able to defeat a room full of enemies with only a sword but your 1 strength major definetly won''t be able to beat the same room full of enemies with just a sword.

3) Sanity I always liked the idea of sanity, ever since I included it in an early gothic themed pen and paper rpg I was working on high school. Although I took to further step basicly it was used for more the just sanity checks. Whenever it decreased the player made a role on the dementia table and thus their character was stricken with a new dementia, it made things rather interesting when the swab dashing vampire know finds themselves plagued with invisable mosqutios. The dementia could be lifted if they regained sanity. Although it would be harder to transfer this into CRPG since the dementia would have to be represented soley through in game means. Although it could work. I personally think it would be a rather amusing if a character with a certain dementia could gain valubale clues by conversing with windmills.

"1) Carrot and Stick"

I have to say I really dislike this idea, I would hate to play a game like that. I would much rather not have the option presented because I''m deficent in that stat then be penilized because me idea of what 3 intellegence means is diffrent then the game designers arbitray desicion on what 3 intellegence means.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document

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When I use to play P&P RPG games if you tried to do something beyond your stats you usually ended up doing something embarassing, painful or both. For example if you want to dodge the bullets matrix style then pull out your own gun and shoot all the enemies between the eyes but you only have a dexerity of 3, so you end up getting tangled in your own tranchcoat and fall to the floor in a mess of flailing limbs and cloth.

On the flipside if someone with high stats wants to do something dumb go ahead and let them, everyone makes mistakes

Clippy:"OMG, A NUMBAR! Let me format it for you"
Unsuspecting Student: "Ahhhhh! Damn you paperclip you ruined my paper. A thousand deaths upon you!"

"Game Programming: Without programming you''ve just got game"

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Perhaps its time to think backwards.

We have 6 stats to define a character, and a subset of skills and disabilities to further define that character. However, the point of roleplaying is to define your characters and behave according to a role, NOT a roll. By rolling dice, we figure in accidents or sheer luck, but we don''t tell the player how to behave given circumstances. Numbers work great in equations, but we don''t have equations for noticing a fine gun in a bar.

Now, lets suppose for a second that we don''t define out characters with 6 stats. Lets assume for the moment that we don''t need these variables, because there are other ways to perform the calculations that we need. Lets also assume that we want the most effective way to define our character''s behavior. Given that requirement, it seems more to the point that a characters should be define useing words, rather then numbers.

My suggestion, rather then rolling for stats, we present our players a list of Attributes. Proficiencies, Drawbacks, Benefits, whatever. So, rather then fiddle with numbers, the players pick specifically what traits the character will have.
* Loves Guns
* Favorite Color: Red
* Agile
* Hates Violence
* Low Alcohol Tolerance
So, this character which I''ll call Vash and consider myself clever, has enough definition to behave appropriately in a role-playing context. Perhaps we need more focus by defining some kind of Crappy-Okay-Decent tier with skills, but we should be able to extapolate the numbers that we need when it comes to hard calculation.

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Inmate2993: I like your idea. GURPS would be a good place to get a HUGE list of advantages/disadvantages (and even quirks) from, considering that is one of the core components of the system.

Another thing to do for the ''mental attributes''(even if you use an advantage/disad only system) would be to just indicate which option is most in character. You could give each response various attributes (all the attributes of the player and more), and find then sort the options by how much they match the character. If the player constantly picks one entirely out of character, maybe find what is in common with those choices (using the attributes associated with them) and have the character gain those attributes (and lose opposing ones) as the character advances (levels up, gains character points, whatever). This way, if you select a limitation like "chivalrous"(sp?) but always pick answers that are far from it, are rude, etc then your character loses that description and eventually gains the disadvantage "rude" or somesuh (which can make things harder for the player, maybe it means all responses have their ''rudeness factor'' increased, so even the least rude choice is still taken as somewhat rude by NPCs?). It would be much more difficult to do in a multiplayer game, but not impossible. You''d just need to enumate pc<->pc actions as well, and maybe delay evaluation of them to a period of time (so you can see if player A gave player B something for nothing, or for something that player B had to go get, etc).

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Inspired currently by the "role not roll" idea, I want to toss yet another point out.
What if the game kept track silently of ''conducts'' ala NetHack. So that when you finish the game, you can be told things such as "You never intimidated another character." or "Trigger-Happy Bastard! You used combat in x out of y possible choices!"

Allow a player to play however he or she chooses, but list their conducts at the end of the game, so that they might be inspired to attempt to play it through differently.

- It''s a life''s work
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Forgive me for being blunt...But why even bother developing such a player personnel perception system if when all is said and done, such RPG games always are going to require combat skills to succeed?

quote:

For whatever reason, I was recalling the olden days of my P&P RPG sessions with friends. And how horrible many of the others were at actually playing their characters by the numbers. A character with a numerically "well below average" intelligence would make intelligently tactical and strategic moves. A character with a horribly deathly ill constitution-like stat would order a bottle of Vodka from a bar.
This, it occured to me today, was horrible. Idiots don''t use tactics, and sicklings don''t do hard drinks knowingly. But players generally just use their statistics to obvious gaming advantage. That Intelligence thing doesn''t do much when I can just use my Strength to lug around a few extra assault rifles. What good is Charisma when I can go in shooting? Oh, no, my Mage doesn''t need strength, just a high Intelligence and some Wisdom.

Just from reading that I gather that the problem isn''t exactly the players...rather it was that possably your game DM seemed to allow such out of character actions/choices to occur and/or the emphesis was always on combat to resolve conflict rather then character interaction.

One of the best P&P RPG games I ever played was basied on the D&D rule set, and with a very good DM at the helm...The DM generated all the characters and assigned them to us...The story was basied around a village (the PC characters were guards and other low level characters) that had become exposed to the black plague...there was no magic or monsters...and the only combat we got ourselves into was against a dozen easy to defeat small rats that had gotten into the grain storeage cellars...Most of the game involved not only trying to protect food stores from the rats, but trying to keep the population from panicing (includeing a couple of NPCs who took advantage of the unfortunate plague situation to "paint" a few fellow villagers as practicers of witchcraft)...It wasn''t exactly a normal D&D hack and slash dungon quest type thing and all the more memoerable and enjoyable because of it.

But I think that is what it all boils down to...if the story/goal/purpose of the game is to run through some quests fighting monsters on the way...then the perception system being described only adds complication in acheveing such goals, and not exactly fueling the players desire to play through the character rather then playing the character as their combat pawn...I think the only way to get players to "act" through the characters (as you want them to) is to place the game emphesis and focus on such non-traditional RPG activities...no huge game worlds, no epic wars with orcs and wizards, none of the traditional cliche RPG trappings...focus the game on the seemingly smaller events and situations that you noticed your friends acting out of character in...then blow them up, make the empheseis, the risk/rewards, be basied entirely on how players "act" through their characters rather then how well they succeed in combat...and if it means modifying the D20 rule system, so be it..

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Yes, sadly most rpgs these days are becoming going back to the old hack slash with story thrown into key points format.

I think the key to improving player perspective and thus rpgs as whole is two fold.
1) Humans are qualitative creatures not quantitative.
2) There is more to role-playing then combat.

1) Humans are qualitative creatures not quantitative.

The traits and character description instead of stats I think is a good wait to bring this about. By having the players construct their character by choosing traits, characteristics and flaws. The player will more readily associate themselves with that character since it will feel more like a really person instead of a collection of numbers. Those Traits would then impact the game and choices the player makes as well as acting as limitations to keep the player in character by having antiTraits these being the inverse of traits. The character acquires them by repeated and major actions that oppose that trait.

For instance if the player choose the trait "Chivalrous". This might make them treated warmly and welcomed by most people as well as allowing them to enter the homes of the nobles. The antiTrait of that might be "Fallen Hero" which would replace "Chivalrous" if the character repeatedly did unchivalrous actions like killing unarmed people, stealing and hurting bunnies. The antiTrait would result in them being disliked by most people they meet and barred access to some establishments.

Like wise allow the player to overcome flaws by sufficient amount of successful actions within the confines of that flaw.
Such as if the character has the flaw "Tactless" which cause a negative reaction during conversations. If the player is able to successfully obtain their goals through conversation enough times then the flaw is removed.

2) There is more to role-playing then combat.

The one of the main difference between Pen and paper and computer rpgs is the fact the most pen and paper rpgs reward karama/experince/etc for role playing and not combat. That is because they are more about the experience then combat. So why is it that CRPGs are all about combat? What if there was no or little exp gained from combat? What other means could designers employ to award experience and encourage role playing? There could be exp reward for remaining in character. Why not allow the character to improve through actions, solving puzzles and overcoming obstacles.

There most be a million and one ways to include character development without resorting to combat. Also why most combat always end in death? It would defiantly add more to games if there where other ways to resolve combat. For instance one game I player called "persona 2" allowed you to converse with most enemies and convince them to help you instead of killing them.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document

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I think the biggest obstacle to moving CRPGs away from combat is simply technical. A human DM is infinitely more able to come up with complex, engaging, interesting, and believable situations. With a combat focused system, the computer has something concrete to work with. As TechnoGoth mentioned, humans are more qualitative than quantitative. Computers, however, are the opposite. They are far better number cruchers than artists and writers. I think the key is not to reduce the combat in some way, but to improve the other role playing abilities.

I admit, I haven''t played a lot of pen and paper RPGs, but I have played a few. A computer DM can only respond to a certain set of player actions and can only invent a certain set of situational responses to those actions. However, a human DM can come up with a logic response to strange and unexpected player behavior. For example, if you wanted to see what was in a dark cave without entering, a logical thing to do might be to toss in your torch to light it up. The only action a typical CRPG would probably support is to drop the torch. It''s not so much the inability to represent a character in a qualitative way as it is the ability to respond reasonably to such a character. Consider the spectrum of responses you''d get if you walk down the street and asked people where the bus station was. Probably you''d get a couple people that would ignore you, perhaps somebody who gets angry that you''re bothering them, and mostly people would just point you in the right direction and continue on their way. That''s the scope of a typical CRPG. However, those catagories are so broad. The way they talk when they point it out, their body language, their first impressions of you, etc. The problem with qualitative stats is that they''re still stats. It''s still a mapping of a fixed set of predefined attributes onto a fixed set of responses. This is just the stuff that''s popped into my mind while reading the thread, I''ll have to give it a lot more thought to see where it leads to and what kind of solutions I see and such.

Now, about role playing. When I play an RPG, my goal is usually one of a small set. To win, where I reach the end, defeat the final boss, find the lost treasure, etc. To explore/grow, where I find new areas, learn new abilities, discover hidden secrets, etc. To achieve, where I reach some self-defined arbitrary goal, such as reaching a certain level, winning without using a certain weapon, finishing in under a certain time, etc. I can also think of one more goal, which I don''t think about much while I''m playing: interaction, to talk to people, make relationships, learn stories, etc. Those aren''t definitive catagories, or probably the only catagories, but I think they illustrate at some ideas. Firstly, the computer is bad at interacting. If I want to interact with people, I have friends. Perhaps this is more of a goal with MMOGs, but I''ve only play a little of those so I can''t comment. At any rate, interation in a MMOG is the same as in real life, you''re getting to know people and talking to them. NPCs just can''t do that well enough yet. Secondly, the remaining three catagories are inherently about stats. They''re about finding the best combonation of moves and weapons, figuring out which stats to upgrade, know where to find the best stuff. Since the only feedback I have is statistical, that''s what I have to use to evaluate my succes in those three areas.

This just came to me as I was writing the end of the last paragraph. How else can I define those catagories? Can they be expressed in ways that aren''t definite, even as qualitative stats? How can I win without achieving some definite goal? Obviously, even in real life, "winning" is some goal we''re trying to achive (unless you''re never satisfied), a definite point of success, say becomming a CEO, or getting a 85% average, etc. When I''m looking to achieve, it''s a similar situation. I want to set the new high score, see how long I can go without sleep, finish my homework in under an hour, etc. They''re all finite goals with some "statistical" measure of success. Exploration and interaction are different though. There is no "winning" to exploration, only to find something new and different. And there are no bounds in interaction. Perhaps we need to not look for a way to eliminate stats, since as I see it, they''re a necessary part of gameplay. Instead, we maybe need to try and use them to influence the character into areas that are less finite, where there is no "statistical goal."

Hopefully at least some of that makes sense. It seems kind of incoherent at times to me, but oh well.

tj963

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We talk as if these games are written and created by machines!
And I admit, your arguments are valid in the theory that machines are at their current point in evolution, not creative enough per se to write games. But it fails in the fact that the machines do /not/ write the games. Every choice decision, every storyline twist, it is all done by human hands and ingenuity.
Pick up Deus Ex, and kill as few people as possible. Then replay it and slaughter everyone. Both ways are possible.
Start Morrowind. Try all the different styles of play.
Those examples are not just random occurences, they were designed and implemented by our comrades in the industry.

We are designers, my friends, and instead of looking at a problem such as this and simply saying "not possible. useless. why bother?" we should take in the steps of those that are getting paid to do design work, and FIND a way to implement this sort of thing. I cannot believe that those designers we want to become simply sit in an office and say "Oh, we''re making a shooter? Well, we need a pistol, shotgun, and rocket launcher. On the double." Instead of taking a problem or idea such as I have proposed and giving up because we''d rather spend creative-time re-writing a Final Fantasy/Quake/Starcraft game, we should use it to actually CREATE and DESIGN something.

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I think the biggest problem with non-combat parts in crpg''s is that the game writers can in no way take into account all the possible things the player might want to do. This is (currently) a point where pen and paper RPG''s are much more enjoyable than computer RPG''s - you have far less constraints.

I do believe however, that improved physics models, and clever techniques for handling social interaction can and will increase the amount of ''freedom'' that players in CRPG''s have.

About the original topic of this thread: I think that in *single* player games, it is completely up to the player whether they want to roleplay or not. You should definitely do everything you can to make the game immersive, but if a player wants to power-play, that''s his/her choice and i see no reason to impose penalties or whatever on that. The best option (in my opinion) is adding lots of limitations and possibilities that are based on the player''s character, to serve as reminders of the layout of this character. Different dialog choices for different chars are the classic example. Just make sure there are no stats that are completely irrelevant to characters - in a lot of D&D-inspired CRPG''s wisdom and intelligence are of no conequence for fighter characters, and thus players would be *very* tempted to just ditch those in favor of more useful stats.

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I totally agree with you that as designers we need to focuse on creative multiple game play possibilities and allow for the player to act in a variety of ways. My intention was not to dismiss the creative aspect of the game, but merely to point out that those creative aspects are created by a developer BEFORE the game is released and the paths that are created are independent of player actions.

You mention Deus Ex (I love that game) which is a perfect example. The ability of the player to play the game in a very stealthy manner or to go on a killing spree are both options that were designed and programmed beforehand. For example, what if the player wants to not complete a certain mission? Deus Ex cannot handle that. What if the player wants to land the helicopter in a different place? This is what I mean when I say that the computer cannot compose the story in the same way as a human. The only way around this problem is create a world so large, with enough options that unless the player is being completely ridiculous, it can handle it. As much as we can reduce these limitations the better.

I think Deus Ex is also a prime example of stat fiddling also. If you want to play as a very stealth character, you improve that stats and collect the augs that improve that. A similar situation takes place if the player wants to play as a fighter. In a way, the stat fiddling IS the role playing. In order to take on the character type the player wants, they fiddle with the stats to make that character. In a combat based RPG, the player DOES role play when they stat fiddle, because if a character is merely a fighting machine, then the way they fight and the stats they emphasize is the logical way to shape a character. How else can the player shape their character other than the stats, especially when non-combat decisions have little effect on the story? On a related point, in a more social RPG, a player would just just spend time fiddling with social stats, because that is the main method they have of shaping their character. To use something from Run_The_Shadows original post and sum up this point, players make extensions themselves, and determine who they are by the stats.

In terms of more concrete implementations, I thought that wasn''t the point of this thread. From you''re posts though, it seems you are actually somewhat interested in it though. If you''re not, feel free to edit this out. Anyways, I think the only way to make player''s characters more of an extension of themselves without stat fiddling is to remove them. Even social statistics will be fiddled with. In real life, how does one find out their abilities, social, phsical and (maybe not this one in real life) magical? They use them. For example, a swordsman knows he is good with a sword because he can defeat others. The best archer in a small village may be the worst in a country. Thus a player''s perceptions of their character must be based on the results and opinions of others in the game. If they see that they can kill mice with their magic arrow and that it takes 3 to kill a goblin, then they can start to measure their ability. Instead of comparing levels and stats with their friends, they''d say things like: "I brought down a massive troll with only 2 arrows!" "I hacked the mainframe in 7 and a half seconds!" A similar notion applys to social situations. If a character repeatedly tries to talk to npcs and finds them unhelpful, he can conclude that he''s got some kind of social issue. Maybe he''s wearing the wrong clothes. Maybe he''s got a different accent. Maybe he''s asking rude questions. By giving th play this kind of non-numerical feedback, the player has to think of his character in real life terms, not abstract numbers. In addition, this also yields a form of character personalities. Hopefully this is moving towards what you''re looking for.

tj963

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quote:
Original post by tj963
In terms of more concrete implementations, I thought that wasn''t the point of this thread. From you''re posts though, it seems you are actually somewhat interested in it though. If you''re not, feel free to edit this out. Anyways, I think the only way to make player''s characters more of an extension of themselves without stat fiddling is to remove them. Even social statistics will be fiddled with. In real life, how does one find out their abilities, social, phsical and (maybe not this one in real life) magical? They use them. For example, a swordsman knows he is good with a sword because he can defeat others. The best archer in a small village may be the worst in a country. Thus a player''s perceptions of their character must be based on the results and opinions of others in the game. If they see that they can kill mice with their magic arrow and that it takes 3 to kill a goblin, then they can start to measure their ability. Instead of comparing levels and stats with their friends, they''d say things like: "I brought down a massive troll with only 2 arrows!" "I hacked the mainframe in 7 and a half seconds!" A similar notion applys to social situations. If a character repeatedly tries to talk to npcs and finds them unhelpful, he can conclude that he''s got some kind of social issue. Maybe he''s wearing the wrong clothes. Maybe he''s got a different accent. Maybe he''s asking rude questions. By giving th play this kind of non-numerical feedback, the player has to think of his character in real life terms, not abstract numbers. In addition, this also yields a form of character personalities. Hopefully this is moving towards what you''re looking for.

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Just a few thoughts, I am not quite sure where this is going to go:
Why not seperate combat statistics and social statistics?
Combat statistics can be easily represented as numbers why social statistics are best represented as an attribute e.g. ''cared of spiders'' or ''will not hit a woman''

Some kind of stat fiddling should be allowed for the combat stats (this includes mage stats like wisdom), as in real life a warrior can choose to work on his strength, or his speed etc,
however this will be affected by your social stats (e.g. if you are ''highly motivated'' you will gain stats faster than someone who is ''lazy'', if you are ''overconfident'' you will think you are better than you actually are). Remember that even if you are good at magic, you still might put you foot in your mouth every time when it comes to conversation (combat intelegence v''s social intelegance).

Social stats however would be determined as the game goes on. The player would start with a few randomly generated ones but would not know what they were, but they would show up as the character learns more about themself (for instance if you curl up in a ball crying for mummy the first time you see a spider it is fairly obvious that you are scared of spiders so that attribut will show up on your stat sheet. A fear of spiders could be aquired if you have a bad experiance with spiders (e.g. strung up in a tree to be tomorrows meal) and could be overcome or lessened by facing your fear.

This allows for all kinds of interesting options, for example if the player is ''Overconfident'' then the stats that show up on his combat stat page would be higher than they actually are.

Once a player knows that they have a problem then they can attempt to change things, however if they are not aware that they have a speech defect they will not be able to fix it. For example a player with a fear of spiders could deliberatly seek out spiders and face his fear, but if the spiders get the better of him then his fear could get worse.

In short what I am trying to say under all that rambling is why not make the stats page display what the PC thinks his stats are rather than what they actually are.

Stuart

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Just a few thoughts, I am not quite sure where this is going to go:
Why not seperate combat statistics and social statistics?
Combat statistics can be easily represented as numbers why social statistics are best represented as an attribute e.g. ''cared of spiders'' or ''will not hit a woman''

I wonder if the same way of handling people like:
character:good-looking, trained-in-weaponsmithing, very-charismatic
could be used for combat in such a system with traits such as:
adept-with-scimitar, etc
The problem with handling combat in addition to this "new"/non-statistic driven game is perhaps getting away from statistic-driven combat as well. Of course, avoiding combat mostly or altogether could just as easily make for an interesting game.

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I think that having a system where stats are affected by a character''s perception of themselves don''t solve the real issue, which is how the player percieves their character. If a player sees "Courage = 10, afraid of spiders" that is just a translation of "Courage = 10, Courage = 7 with spiders". It doesn''t abstract the statistic for the player in any way, it just hides th numbers. It still leads to the same basic stats fiddleing, just with an added twist.

Reading through the last APs post has also brought something else to my attention that is present in both mine and his ideas. It''s the concept of self-discovery and what that means in terms of the game. While it works fine for a player to pick up a sword and be so terrible he injure''s himself with it, it''s not nearly as reasonable for him to go and talk to someone and be so rude he get''s slapped without having some realization that it would happen in advance, unless is was an accident or something. Unless the character is going through the old "I woke up and now I can''t remember anything" routine, having the character not be familiar at least somewhat with his/her personality is unbelieveable.

For social stats, perhaps the statistics should define a range of actions, much like was suggested before. However, they character needs to start off with a blank slate, so that their characteristics can be difined by the player. For example, if there is a character that is always quiet and keeps to himself, he can still make a speech, but he will not be nearly as eloquent as an experience public speak. Or maybe he''s so quiet that he can''t even do it at all. It''s kind of like a player can act however they want, but the farther it is from their natural tendencies, the more difficult it becomes.

tj963

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Let me refine my idea just a bit.

In regards to a player entering a room and noticing an antique Gun displayed on a wall, that type of thing could have an associated attribute, like Antiquity_Interest:Guns. Some kind of MMORPG or MUD, or even just the GM would check for the existance of this attribute and if it was there, they''d point it out as a classic Smith and Wesson crack-open revolver. If the attribute wasn''t there, then its just an old gun.

As for deriving battle attributes, since most RPG roll to determine effects anways, we just have a class of combat attributes, and a set of attributes on weapons, and from them we determine the numbers required. It would be probably neccessary to keep some kind of record of progression, like level, or perhaps a tiered description like I recommended before. Regardless, we take related combat attributes, Weapon_Skill:Sword, Manual_Dexterity, Good_Targetting, and we consider some constants related to them. Suppose we roll a 2d6 to determine a hit, those three skills could act as +1 bonuses to a base that we pick off of level or whatever. And then for damage dealt, you assign a base from the weapon and have a +1 bonus from the Weapon_Skill:Sword.

My point is that you can pull out what we''ve considered basic from having a list of attributes. What the benefits are that with such a clearly defined list of YES/NO determinations, you can construct a world that can easily figure out how to describe itself to a player, and the player isn''t stat-tinkering because theres no specific numbers to deal with on his end.

if Horny_Bastard then
"Theres a great looking blonde dancing in the middle of the crowd."
else
"Theres a crowd around a woman dancing."

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I think you will always need the numbers for fighting. Even if you use statements like ''proficient with sword'' the numbers are still there, just hidden. And as I pointed out, in real life you can choose to build up your strength or your speed. If your stats represent how good you think you are then it alleviates some of the problems of stat fiddling becuase the stats that the player can see can only be used to gauge the players progress. You cannot compare them with another character becuase one character who thinks he is strength 5 could be stronger than another character who thinks he is strenght 10.
The only way a player can judge how good there character is in real world terms is to get into fights.

Also, ''fear of spiders'' would equate to more than just a lower courage around spiders becuase it could have an effect on the party intereaction. For instance evil characters would laugh at your fear, practical joker types might put spiders in your bed etc.

Stuart

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quote:
Original post by StuartD
I think you will always need the numbers for fighting. Even if you use statements like ''proficient with sword'' the numbers are still there, just hidden.

Again, I think that depends on how you handle combat (of which there might be 3 similar ways dominating the market it seems), if it is necessary at all.