Extreme Variety and Imbalance in an MMORPG

Well, I think I’m going to go completely off the rails this week and talk about ways to completely unbalance a game.  A big part of an MMOs development team’s time seems to be taken up with balancing each of the classes in an MMO.  The reasoning behind this is pretty obvious – if one class is “the most powerful,” most players will pick it, and nobody will play those weaker classes.  A good example of this might be the Jedi class in the now closed Star Wars Galaxies.  It was so head and shoulders above the rest of those classes, that Jedi populations skyrocketed.

Partially due to the effort to balance classes, there typically are limits on the number of races and classes made available in a game.  The more races and classes available, the harder it is to keep on those classes in sync and on par with one another.

But what if both those constraints were removed?

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Retro Reviews: Glorantha, Introduction to the Hero Wars

Glorantha, Introduction to the Hero Wars is one of the first supplements to be written for Hero Wars line by Issaries, Inc.  It’s the 253-page crash course for Greg Stafford’s fascinating and complex game world – one that has existed since 1978 in various incarnations, but most famously through Chaosium’s (and later Avalon Hill’s) RuneQuest.  In that respect, Glorantha, Introduction to the Hero Wars has a lot to live up to, and the fact that it is the core world for the Hero Wars line adds more pressure to deliver the goods.  For those new to Glorantha, the Issaries supplement is the only in-print, all-inclusive guidebook to the key game world for Hero Wars.  For RuneQuest alumni, the closest out-of-print comparison is the 8th boxed set by Chaosium and Avalon Hill for RuneQuest 3rd edition: Glorantha: Genertela, Crucible of the Hero Wars.

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Retro Reviews: Shadows on the Borderland

Shadows on the BorderlandOccasionally, I will be posting old reviews I did for The Gamer (print only) magazine back in the 1990s, and consolidating them here.  You can also find these reviews on rpg.net.

You can tell when a designer truly cares about the material he’s writing, not just by the amount of detail included, but by a sense that he has been to the place he’s describing, that he’s spoken to the people who live there. From the understated front cover, which illustrates the discovery of a skull-decorated temple (and a fresher specimen in the foreground) to the deranged wallmarkings drawn into the margins of the reference section, the authors have crammed this brooding, 104-page supplement with enough adventure to keep players engaged for a good long while.

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The Secret World and Level-Free Systems

In 1978, just about 11 years after TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons burst onto the scene, a company called Chaoisum introduced a new game: RuneQuest.  While there were many, many differences between RuneQuest and D&D, the one people point to most frequently is RuneQuest’s percentile-based skill system, and the fact there were no character “levels.”  In RuneQuest, rather than templated character classes (“fighter,” “cleric,” “thief,” etc.) with pre-defined abilities, you placed points into skills, and as you used them, each skill had the possibility to improve.  So a character might have especially good skills in longsword and shield if they were a fighter-type, or magical spells if they were a mage.  Even more of a shock, your “hit points” almost never increased.  Your ability to defend (parry or dodge or block with a shield), could become very high, but your base health stayed pretty much the same throughout your character’s life.  A lowbie character with a very lucky roll could defeat a high powered one who made a very bad roll—something unheard of in the D&D world.

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Retro Reviews: Sun County (The Avalon Hill Game Company)

Occasionally, I will be posting old reviews I did for The Gamer (print only) magazine back in the 1990s, and consolidating them here.  You can also find these reviews on rpg.net.

When Chaosium sold the publishing rights for RuneQuest to Avalon Hill back in 1984, a lot of people complained that the new RuneQuest had lost its lustre, that by separating the Gloranthan setting from the rules, the game had lost the uniqueness that made playing it worthwhile. Over the years, Avalon Hill has managed to reprint some older material, while adding bits and pieces to the Gloranthan setting. Even so, nothing completely new has been added to this extraordinary world for a good eight years. Sun County manages to overcome that mistake, and then some.

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