Inspired by the massive post on skill [point] based v. level based games over at Kreation’s Edge, here is the rough outline of a fantasy MMO character development system I’d like to see. You still quest and seek to achieve goals, but there is no fungible XP. Would you play this game?
When you log in, you are presented with a character creation screen. You may choose a race/realm and a gender, then you may customize your appearance. Choose a name and you’re in-game. There are no class archetypes. You are Joe Average until you learn something.
Character development (note, I don’t call it “advancement”) is based on the acquisition of skills points along two different continuua, each characterized by opposing “schools”: Physical Damage(PD)/Physical Mitigation(PM) and Arcane Damage(AD)/Arcane Mitigation(AM). (When I say “arcane mitigation,” I mean damage mitigation based on use of arcane skills, i.e., healing, buffing, shielding, cc. Likewise, physical mitigation is being able to take a punch or three). Here’s the idea with some basic archetypes placed for reference.
To play a palladin like character, you would develop your PM (defense) and AM (healing) skills, but note, you can’t be both a priest and a warrior at the same time.
Various skills (which would require certain skill point allocations– more on that in a minute) are acquired in-game through a combination of study/training/quest reward as well as use. To use them, each would require a certain amount of skill points specced in one or more schools. Collect them all you want a la a CCG or like LotRO’s traits, but you can only use a limited number of them. I’ll call the allocation of acquired skill points in these schools your character’s “focus.”
While there would be no limitation on what you could learn or acquire over time (a la Eve Online skills), there is a natural tradeoff among skills along each continuum and an absolute maximum amount of skills or skill point allocation. Basically, allocate your skill points in x,y coordinate fashion and that’s how your character will play.
This should avoid what I’ll call the pimp/gimp problem– Ultima’s Mage Tank or any number of horribly bad builds limited by poor irreversible early choices. You could be a tank or a melee dps machine, but not both. Likewise, you could be a warrior type with some type of magic wielding, but only at the expense of being a better warrior.
A quick example. To develop skills as a classic tank, you would strive to earn PM skill points through training questing, etc. Once learned, they are in your PM skill bank. But, each PM point you spec will reduce your PD spec. Likewise, as you increase AD, AM decreases. You don’t lose the skill points, but you can only use a limited number and focus in one school effectively negates focus in its opposite. Being an arcane scholar is incompatible with being a slavering brute. Put an absolute cap on all skills points and you can only blend the skills but not max them out.
If you could only deploy 2 total skill points (just to keep it simple) you could put both only in PM, PD, AM or AD (“pure” builds) or one in several such as PM/AM, PD/AD, even one in PD and PM. No Mage Tanks here. And, skill points from a particular school are not fungible. In order to allocate them to any particular school, you have to have earned them doing something relevant to that school. You want an AD focus, you have to earn it first.
Specialized skills would be acquired in context. Want to learn tank skills? Go study/quest/learn from a trainer that specializes in that. These could be available through quests or uniquely from trainers throughout the world the acquisition of which may require earning faction with that group (more on that later).
Advanced skills in any school would require an increasing amount of skill points allocated to the school in which that skill resides. Want to be able to use that 100 PM point skill? You have to spec at least 100 PM points to PM. Simple as that. Think of it as moving a slider from the left (away from PD) to the right (toward PM) with the limit of that range defined by the extent to which you’ve focused on that school.
As you continue to play the game and explore, you can redirect your efforts or combine previous efforts with new ones and reshape or respec your character over time. Tired of playing a tank after 2 years? Hit the books and become a mage. Once you’ve acquired the knowledge in both schools, you can simply respec while in town to reallocate skill points between them and choose which skills you want to equip before you go adventuring. I’m not sure whether there should be any penalty or cost to do this since you’ve “earned” the right to do so by acquiring both the skill points and the relevant skills.
With this system, there is no alt-itis. Tank for your group? No problem. Want to solo along to advance your Monkish interests? Also no problem. To me this is consistent with a fantasy world where there are no archetypes.
As you focus on a school or particular school, your avatar will change in appearance. Training like a rogue? You’ll start looking like one. Studying the dark arts, your avatar will wither in physical stature, etc. Look around you in game and you’ll be able to identify (at least generally) what skills a character may be pursuing. That big lug over there is probably a tank. A useful immersive tool when there is no “class” label.
In addition to “focusing” on a particular school or schools, gaining proficiency in a weapon type, maneuver, etc. would allow you to gain enhancements while using that item. Use a one-handed sword, get better at using that. Substitute magical “disciplines” for names of weapons and you have the caster’s analog there too. Use pyrotechny, get better at pyrotechny…
Weapon and Armor Limitations
What you could use and wear would be based on your particular focus. If you’re 100% PM, you can wear plate, assuming you’ve learned how to fight in it. But, if you’re all caster, don’t expect to strap on a breast plate.
Likewise, if you’re physically strong enough to wield a two handed sword, go for it, but that will be impossible to do if you’re specced to be all caster. Same if you’re agile enough to use a bow proficiently.
Use a sword, get better as sword. Use a mace, get better at mace. How hard is that?
Faction based PvP
Start with at least 6 or 8 races/countries/kingdoms/species. For sake of simplicity, I’ll just call them realms. Certain realms will be enemies of other realms while neutral or friendly with others. Each realm would have at least one sworn enemy realm but otherwise, you can travel and adventure with any character of any realm.
But, its not all carebear either though. Characters or NPCs of an enemy realm will see you as kill on sight and treat you accordingly. You can’t attack friendlies, but you can attack neutrals or enemies. However, by gaining faction with neutrals you can turn them in to friendlies. Of course, attacking neutrals will lose you faction with them as well and making friends of one neutral will likely alienate its sworn enemy… Group with folks friendly to your enemy faction you will get a temporary faction boost based on your group’s faction with that enemy. Of course, their faction will temporarily drop slightly since they’re associating with the like of you but it may prevent you from being killed in your enemy’s territory…
With skills in various schools acquired throughout the world from different trainers, players have incentive to explore and to adventure to earn faction with realms to gain access to their lore.
So, would you play this game?