One of the things that first got me excited about my first Dungeons & Dragons character—my “magic-user” to use the old fogey term—was not simple combat magic. Sure, Magic Missiles were pretty darn cool, and you could generally take down an orc or two with them, but some of those early utility spells were pretty great. I remember reading those early spell descriptions out of the 1st ed. Players Handbook and thinking about creative ways they could be used. Remember Detect Magic and Knock? Levitation? How about Wizard’s Eye, the spell that allows you to see around corners or down the hall? Sleep was almost more powerful in its way than those early damage spells – you could possibly put a whole group of monsters to bed, and subsequently, death. Tenser’s Floating Disk for carrying your stuff? Spider Climb, which allowed you to skitter up walls temporarily, and Tongues, which allowed you to speak another language.
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?