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Jack of all Trades

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Theres something attractive about being a jack of all trades - or god forbid a genuine renaissance man. Current Skills/abilities systems in rpgs, MM or otherwise reward players for concentrating on a small few skills. How could current systems be adapted to put the jack of all trades players on level ground with the others...?

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The key point of jack of all trades is that he is the master of none.

You cannot put him on 'level' ground with specialised classes, because that would be ultimate class to play.

Tanks like a warrior, nukes like a mage, heals like a priest. Who would play those three classes then? The appeal of jack is to be able to combine multiple playstyles into one and do a variety of things, but to be as effective as the specialized classes, you need to use all of your abilities to complete any task.

While a mage could easily kill the monster, you will have to whack it a bit longer, but then you can heal yourself, and withstand some damage. In the end the effect is the same, but you are more flexible both for yourself and the group.

Druid in World of Warcraft seems to be a good example of multifaceted hybrid that does quite well. However, wow still requires you to specialize in some branch, so eventually you end up with 75% of base class A and 25% of two other classes. And yes that's 125%. Due to your flexibility you can pull out tricks other classes cannot, but when it comes to straigh efficiency with a given task, you're not as good as others.

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I agree with most of that apart from the assertion that putting him on a level ground makes him the ultimate class to play.

What if by improving all or most of your abilities you gradually improve more quickly, meaning that while in the short term they are inferior to anyone who's specialized, at some point in their growth can match the specialists' skill levels (or very nearly).

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Original post by thelovegoose
I agree with most of that apart from the assertion that putting him on a level ground makes him the ultimate class to play.

What if by improving all or most of your abilities you gradually improve more quickly, meaning that while in the short term they are inferior to anyone who's specialized, at some point in their growth can match the specialists' skill levels (or very nearly).


In that case, there's no need for the specialist anymore. As the name hints - specialist is specialized in something, meaning that he's the only guy around who can do that. If you have a druid nuking targets and healing your party at the same time, why would you take two mages and two priests, while you can take 4 druids and just shift their role during the encounter? That's with assumption that they're doing it with at least 90% efficiency of the other class.

The strenght of jack of all trades, or a hybrid class, is that it can combine multiple playstyles and adapt to the situation, while rigid specialized classes do not have that freedom. Giving such class too much advantage in any of the fields will leave to a severe class balance issue where too many people play the class as it is almost as good as others.

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I think in am MMRPG a Jack of all Trades (JoaT) would be almost impossible to implement well. This is because each group has a large number of people in it. For a JoaT to exist in this, there would have to be more "roles" than there were players in the group, otherwise it would be better for the group to just use specialists (as all eventualities would then be covered).

In a single player RPG it becomes easier to implement as there will usually be fewer characters than "Roles". This then makes the JoaT a valuable choice. When the situation is unpredictable, then the flexibility of a JoaT becomes an advantage that can offset it's poorer levels.

The advantage of a Joat is flexibility, if you can choose specialists to full fill all the roles in a group, then there is no reason to take on a JoaT. However, you can design a game (or adventure) where flexibility in character abilities are more important that their level. When you do this, then you increase the value of a JoaT.

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Original post by sunandshadow
If instead of having classes determined at the character creation phase you allowed any character to build any stat and skill, this would give players an equal choice whether to specialize or generalize.


Ultima Online originally was a allowed a player to choose and generalize over other MMO's such as EQ or WoW. What I noticed is that in EQ/WoW, every warrior is just a clone of every other warrior, every mage a clone of every other mage, etc. In UO, the vast majority of players ended up just being clones of every other player depending upon what was the stat/skill of the week.

I personally feel that until RPG's are reexamined, stats, skills, etc are pretty much pointless.

Most games pretty much just involve fighting, and can be boiled down to the sacred three. People who specialize in fighting don't want people who can cast spells to be just as good fighters, and vice versa. And even games which allow hybrid classes have problems. WoW which allows druids, shamans, paladins, etc, while they aren't as good fighters or mages or theives, etc, end up allowing the player to choose those classes because they have specialized skills all their own, which honestly makes them less than a true hybrid.

A jack of all trades character shouldn't be as good as a specialized character. It's just not right for a person to invest hundreds of hours when another person can invest 2 hours for certain tasks. At the same time, a better RPG shouldn't require specific classes to be required to complete a worldwide task. It's fine if a fighter gets to do fighter specific tasks, or a mage, mage specific tasks. But have alternative routes a player can go in a world specific quest that challenge a player based upon his or her chosen skillset. (IE: The Chrono Cross Sphinx. A fighter would choose to attack it whereas a mage might choose to try solving it's riddles. But unlike Chrono Cross, you get rewards based upon the way you completed it).

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Original post by sunandshadow
If instead of having classes determined at the character creation phase you allowed any character to build any stat and skill, this would give players an equal choice whether to specialize or generalize.

Uh. As would having classes, no? Obviously, letting the players choose between warrior, priest, mage and something that's a bit of both (edit: yes, both three) would give all players an as equal choice.

Not that classless doesn't relate to or isn't the answer to absolutely everything though.

I think Edtharan quite nailed it. If the situation is unpredictable, you can't always rely on every character staying in their spot and performing their skill. If orcs come ambusing in the middle of some fight, you migt well run out of healers that can't fend off ambushing orcs. Etc. In your typical MMORPG, you know that the orcs come along 2 minutes into the boss-fight because you've fought the same scripted fight a dozen times already, so you know when the priests should move to where and so on. I'd imagine it'd be possible to do things differently.

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Balancing hybrids and specialists is extremely difficult. The best way to illustrate this is to look at the situation of hybrids in World of Warcraft.

In short, the hybrids of World of Warcraft are far too good at everything they can do. Before the expansion, Druids and Paladins were considered just as good as Priests, if not better. Not sure how it is for healing now, but now what happen with healing to Priests seems to be happening with Warriors and tanking. And I won't mention damage dealing which every class can specialize into...

But that isn't because Blizzard is incompetent at balancing. Before, when the hybrid classes couldn't match the specialists, players of hybrids encountered a big problem: they weren't wanted for serious content. In the big raids, the difficulty was so high that guild leaders wanted to maximize their potential by having the best tanks possible, the best healers possible, and the best damage dealers. The jack-of-all-trades lacked effectiveness, by design. Blizzard couldn't lower the difficulty too much, otherwise they'd lose the hardcore player base. So, the only thing Blizzard could do was buff the hybrids so they are good enough to pull their weight in a raid... and good enough means comparable to a specialist.

What this means is that if the content is too easy, a true jack-of-all-trades is more advantageous. If the content requires you to squeeze every ounce of skill to defeat a boss, a jack-of-all-trades won't be of much help. It's extremely difficult to find a balance between the two.

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The point then is that the game must be balanced to stop everyone being the same kind of character, as variety leads to a more enjoyable experience.

I don't think I explained this that well above, but one way to balance it would be that if you want to be a jack of all trades, you have to spend some portion of the game at a real disadvantage before you start to see results. The idea is that the higher your average skill level, the more your skills improve as you gain experience, but skills increase more slowly as they get higher. This means that improving in every area will set you up for faster development across the board despite being left behind by the specialists in those skills.
The idea being that you will learn some things from developing one skill that are applicable in others.
The effect is that if you want to be a jack of all trades you have to put up with being a bit weaker at the start. Would that be acceptable in single player or MMORPGS?
Anyone ever played that 80's board game "the game of life" you either chose college or straight into a job - the job got you ahead quickly, but the education saw you at an advantage in the long run.

Separately, there are certain skills that you improve simply by being a jack of all trades. Communication, project management, design, problem solving generally, general knowledge... not especially relevant to the existing breed of role playing games. How might these or similar traits be built into a JoaT class?

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The main problem is that most RPGs focus to heavily on combat for a Jack of All trades to be useful.

A specialist is better then a non-specialist at their chosen field of expertise. While a jack of all trades has a wider breadth of skills but no where near the depth in any a skill of a specialist.

This means that any time a task requires a single set of skills the specialist will dominate. If a task requires are wider set of skills then the Jack of all trades will dominate.

Now if more rpgs let you accomplish missions through a combination, of stealth, burglary, computer, hacking, and fast talking rather then just gunning everyone around you down with a machine gun then the Jack of All trades would have a place in games.

But unfortunately they don’t. You can’t get very far in most games with focusing on your combat skills.

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In Neocron 1 the jack of all trades class did excel in Solo/Skirmish-Type-PvP, since they had decent offense and competitive health and armor supported by defensive and healing spells.
I think the commando-type is a nice role for hybrids, go in, use your breadth skills take down single enemys, dont get caught by a big group, do what you've come for (dispatch sniper, blow up a vehicle, sabotage a trebuchet, kill wounded enemys behind the lines)and finally try to escape living.

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Original post by thelovegoose
Thats true, it would ruin the fun of having roles in a group....


Would it ruin the healbot methodology? A person "a" is switching with person "b" because a is too wounded to take it too long. Perhaps it might be too difficult concept for some MMO players.

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It si all down to predictability vs Unpredictability. If an encounter (mob, boss fight, etc) is predictable (known weaknesses, attack patterns, etc) then specialist characters will dominate they can be hired to match what challenges that are expected. However, if the encounters are going to be unpredictable, then the generalists will have the advantage.

If you make some encounters predicable and other unpredictable, then you can achieve a balance between Specialists and Generalists. Unfortunately, having unpredictable encounter is very hard to do as we usually have only a certain amount of space (processing power or thematic space) with which we can craft an encounter. Because of these limitations, the encounters we do create will be in some respects predicable. Also, with a large enough group, they will usually have enough specialists to handle any variations with an encounter.

Therefore generalists work well in game where the content of encounters are unpredictable and the party members are limited.

In a game like WoW, if you made the small group raids (and have them for all levels of play) have unpredictable encounter in them, then this would give the generalists a place that they could shine, however, they would still be less useful in the large raids (which is what the MMO bit is all about anyway).

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Original post by NestorPL
The key point of jack of all trades is that he is the master of none.

You cannot put him on 'level' ground with specialised classes, because that would be ultimate class to play.

Tanks like a warrior, nukes like a mage, heals like a priest. Who would play those three classes then? The appeal of jack is to be able to combine multiple playstyles into one and do a variety of things, but to be as effective as the specialized classes, you need to use all of your abilities to complete any task.

While a mage could easily kill the monster, you will have to whack it a bit longer, but then you can heal yourself, and withstand some damage. In the end the effect is the same, but you are more flexible both for yourself and the group.

Druid in World of Warcraft seems to be a good example of multifaceted hybrid that does quite well. However, wow still requires you to specialize in some branch, so eventually you end up with 75% of base class A and 25% of two other classes. And yes that's 125%. Due to your flexibility you can pull out tricks other classes cannot, but when it comes to straigh efficiency with a given task, you're not as good as others.


Or a paladin, good reason why I quit the game when I had a pretty established priest and warrior. Idiots with that game now.

Anyways, with a jack of all trades, it really isn't effective, or nearly as such unless you are with a large group in a MMO, think of a shadow priest from WoW, not as good damage, not as good healing, but can do both, just not as effectively as a specialized classes. You saw a lot more of those in a 40 man raid than a 25 man because those spots were more valuable because there were less spots.

The matrix online allowed pretty much anyone to be anything at any given time, and beside the point of there being zero content in the game there is no reason to pick any one person over another, and that would be the case if the 'jack of all trade' was on level with specialized ones.

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My point in all has been that actually in the end the jack of alltrades isn't actually a master of none. He has a longer route to success, and has to tolerate derision from the lifestime specialists but ends up a master of many...

Is there any place for that character in an rpg or mmorpg? Or are people who play computer games for that long so deprived of sunlight to understand simple di vinci lessons?

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