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The Biggest Trap of DnD Games

KranyumKranyum Member Posts: 33
Pondering over my single player adventures in NWN over the years, I realized that this type of RPG has a very serious player choice problem.

One one hand, the beauty of the game (and the dnd rpg system as a whole) lies in the impressive depth and customization power that the player has as their disposal. Every alocated point/feat/spell can take the player in a new direction resulting in vastly differnt builds with very different stregths and weaknesses.

But in the vast customization power also lies the problem - which is that when making any of these choices, you don't really know what you are going to face in the module/campaign ahead. Thus, some choices will be vastly superior to others and with limited information there's no way you can make a real decision.

Let's put it in a few simple examples:
- I am a paladin putting skilpoints into Persuade, yet in the module I'm starting there will never be a persuade check to pass
- I am a fighter selecting weapon focus (bastard sword) at creation, but the module maker has not put any magical or useful bastard swords in the whole module
- I am a cleric, preparing lots of undead killing spells in my spellbook but the dungeon I am about to enter contains no undead.

The lack of information driving these choices is the problem. You can go deep on a path and none of the abilities that you choose will ever be useful to you and there's no way of knowing if you've made the right choice until you finally play the module from start to finish, like the undead-hunter cleric in a module with no undead.

Personally this has always driven a min/max-er like me totally crazy. I"ve always felt the need to read guides on the modules in question, just to get more information about what to expect before diving in, just to avoid the bad feeling of making choices which are useless or totally sub-optimal with my character.

I"m wondering if it wouldnt be possible to mitigate this effect, by allowing module makers to disable some aspects of the campaign which they know will never impact the resolution of the module, for example:
- at character creation, no persuade skill is available if persuade cannot be realistically used in the module.
- disabling some weapons from the menu if they do not appear in the module or
- disabling spells from the spellbooks of certain classes if the module maker decides to.


So please discuss:
- do you think this is a true issue or a symptom of exagerating min/maxing
- is a solution to this type of issue needed?

Thanks,

BelgarathMTHNostariel
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Comments

  • DerpCityDerpCity Member, Moderator Posts: 268
    edited July 2018
    The first problem I feel is a fault with the module, even if minor; if the module doesn't have any good bastard swords, then the module maker didn't take enough of the playerbase into account, as bastard swords are as good as any other weapon outside of the extra feat required to use them. Unless there's a lore reason they should be excluded, the module maker should have quality versions of at least the vast majority of the weapon types - I won't be the one to ask for good shurikens.

    However, your cleric and paladin issues I feel is likely an issue of a player entering a module with false expectations, either due to a lack of proper explanation of the setting or story on the module maker's part in the game or on the module page, or due to a player not paying attention to the story or the module page. On the Vault, for instance, it tells you how much you should expect of Roleplay (meaning conversations that likely have skill checks in them) or Hack-and-Slash (meaning stab stab cut cut). If Roleplay is stated to be low, then you shouldn't take Persuade, but if it's higher then it will likely be useful. Meanwhile, I will state that, at least in my opinion, it is a terrible idea to lock in to wanting to kill one type of enemy extremely well unless you absolutely know for certain they will be common. Unless resting is restricted, there isn't likely to be a penalty to switching your spells on the fly and resting once combat is done. If you notice there are very few undead in the dungeon or module, you can just switch out to more general spells or spells specific to the enemies you can fight.

    Also, context clues within the module itself often tell you what you're going to be fighting; I'm more likely to encounter undead in haunted crypts, while I'm more likely to encounter animals and some vermin in the woods. Meanwhile, encounters in the city are likely to be player races of all classes. When these tropes are broken, it is usually told to you in some way, such as the guard at the entrance to the Beggar's Nest in the OC telling you it's overrun with the undead. It is up to the player to pick up on these clues and adapt their spells and equipment accordingly.

    So, in my opinion, the problems you point out are both problems between the module maker and the player. It is the module maker's responsibility to facilitate a general group of players who seek to play their module unless a specific group is being looked at, such as a module made specifically for druids. Meanwhile, unless the module maker is really bad at conveying things to his players, it is up to the player to adapt to the situations being thrown at them, and unless you're told the module will be loaded with one type of enemy you shouldn't prepare to encounter that enemy en masse.

    pscytheProont
  • dTddTd Member Posts: 181

    Mines Bigger! :)

    On a more serious note, yes there should be some information as what the module is about and what type of play can be expected. If you don't see anything like that, why are you downloading the module in the first place?

  • pscythepscythe Member Posts: 116
    edited July 2018
    There is always re-rolling. Luckily Bioware had the foresight to let you be your own DM with DebugMode.

    Grymlorde
  • ShadowMShadowM Member Posts: 399
    edited July 2018
    exagerating min/maxing.

    I do not see any of those three you mention as real problems only minor issues. Did any of the three stop you from finishing the module or having fun, no.
    So there no Persuade as dialogue choices, but the story and combat is great and you had fun.
    There no bastard swords, but you have all the other weapons in the game and easily pick one that has some great magic item properties and move on.
    The cleric goes into a dungeon thinking there undead, but there is killer bunnies. Oh no I go back out of the dungeon an rest with different spells and move on.

    GrymlordeProont
  • fluke13fluke13 Member Posts: 317
    Actually, the more information you have, the less choice. If you have all the information, then you make a calculation, not a choice... to make the best character possible for the task at hand... world of Warcraft style

    Phantasmasuperfly2000
  • Mantis37Mantis37 Member Posts: 824
    When I DM the adventure changes based on the players. Games can alter their content based on classes, or procedurally generate it as in roguelikes.

    BelgarathMTHProont
  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 644
    A module maker is able to disable most of the character options in their module with the use of a custom hak for the module, some things like skills will still show up but they can't be selected. The problem is that module makers don't always put in the effort to cut out unused elements, just as they don't always make an effort to give uses for each available option and make each choice viable.

    GM_ODA
  • BelgarathMTHBelgarathMTH Member Posts: 4,824
    edited July 2018
    The advice to "just switch out spells" doesn't work for an undead hunter cleric, as this is a specific build requiring a very specific feat setup.

    First, you need to take Sun domain at character creation. It's also very helpful to take Good domain so you can turn outsiders as well as undead, or Plant domain so you can turn vermin.

    Then you want to take several very specific feats such as Extra Turning, Empowered Turning, and so forth. You will also likely spend attribute points on charisma at character creation which you wouldn't spend there otherwise.

    None of these decisions are reversible. Once you take them, you're locked in. If you've created a turning specialist cleric and there's nothing to turn, you're gimped.

    Luckily, in the original campaigns, there are lots of things to turn. The most popular modules such as @Savant1974 's "Saga of Aielund" and Adam Milller's "Shadowlords/Dreamcatcher" series also feature lots of turnable monsters.

    For those who move on to Neverwinter Nights 2, the original campaigns for that are very undead heavy, making turning specialist clerics quite viable there.

    Back to the Baldur's Gate series, undead turning is very useful through most of the trilogy, and everybody knows how OP undead turning is in Icewind Dale.

    Really, I think a D&D world that doesn't have anything for clerics to do is badly created, and I put that on the dungeon master who created it. Clerics blasting undead with their holy symbols is a main theme and an archetype of the game. It's just not D&D to me without plenty of good old skeletons, zombies, ghouls, ghasts, and vampires to fight.

    On a historical note: Gary Gygax came up with the cleric class because of a friend of his that wanted to play a kind of vampire warrior, and was throwing off the balance in his game. For another player, he created the cleric to be a kind of Van Helsing foil to the vampire player. Then, the cleric started to get too strong. So, he came up with the blunt weapons restriction to limit the cleric to d6 weapons and forbid d8 weapons, and reduced the hit dice from d10 to d8. That compensated regular fighters against the clerics.

    And the Vancian magic system compensated fighters against both mages and clerics.

    AerakarProontGM_ODA
  • ShadowMShadowM Member Posts: 399

    The advice to "just switch out spells" doesn't work for an undead hunter cleric, as this is a specific build requiring a very specific feat setup.

    First, you need to take Sun domain at character creation. It's also very helpful to take Good domain so you can turn outsiders as well as undead, or Plant domain so you can turn vermin.

    Then you want to take several very specific feats such as Extra Turning, Empowered Turning, and so forth. You will also likely spend attribute points on charisma at character creation which you wouldn't spend there otherwise.

    None of these decisions are reversible. Once you take them, you're locked in. If you've created a turning specialist cleric and there's nothing to turn, you're gimped.

    Luckily, in the original campaigns, there are lots of things to turn. The most popular modules such as @Savant1974 's "Saga of Aielund" and Adam Milller's "Shadowlords/Dreamcatcher" series also feature lots of turnable monsters.

    For those who move on to Neverwinter Nights 2, the original campaigns for that are very undead heavy, making turning specialist clerics quite viable there.

    Back to the Baldur's Gate series, undead turning is very useful through most of the trilogy, and everybody knows how OP undead turning is in Icewind Dale.

    Really, I think a D&D world that doesn't have anything for clerics to do is badly created, and I put that on the dungeon master who created it. Clerics blasting undead with their holy symbols is a main theme and an archetype of the game. It's just not D&D to me without plenty of good old skeletons, zombies, ghouls, ghasts, and vampires to fight.

    On a historical note: Gary Gygax came up with the cleric class because of a friend of his that wanted to play a kind of vampire warrior, and was throwing off the balance in his game. For another player, he created the cleric to be a kind of Van Helsing foil to the vampire player. Then, the cleric started to get too strong. So, he came up with the blunt weapons restriction to limit the cleric to d6 weapons and forbid d8 weapons, and reduced the hit dice from d10 to d8. That compensated regular fighters against the clerics.

    And the Vancian magic system compensated fighters against both mages and clerics.

    No it is still viable, you confusing optimal with viable.
    Even if he did make undead hunter cleric (which he did not say he did, he said he expect undead in the dungeon not that he expected undead to be the main theme of the whole module) and there were no undead (it a bandit cave) he still have access to spell that make his class selection viable to play through the dungeon with 3rd edition rules. So no you are not gimped I have played the specific build you talking about and taken them through many adventures that did not even have any undead and still did fine and had a fun time. I have played every edition of D&D and in the older editions you statement would be true but not with 3.0 and up.

    DerpCitydTdGrymlordeProont
  • ArchaosArchaos Member Posts: 1,419
    It's lazy to just disable options to fit the module.
    It's better to expand the module to include many options.

    Especially with undead. What kind of module doesn't put the most common enemy type in the rules, in it?
    The only kind that comes to mind is a very Rogue/Thief-focused module and even then, what kind of a Thief module doesn't have a crypt with undead and treasure?

    Not only is it lazy, it's also boring if there's no variety in the game.

  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 644
    I wouldn't say it's lazy not to include undead just as it isn't lazy to not include gods as some highly praised settings do as a major theme. Including a lot of undead doesn't make a module or dungeon well designed either, I've played plenty where the design was poor and amounted to farming experience points. If there is no reason for undead to be there then they should not be added just because.

    It's quite difficult to make a weak cleric in NWN due to all of the cut corners and changes of implementation made in their favor. Besides that even if you don't specialize in turning you can just use healing spells and undeath to death.

    DerpCityProont
  • numosnumos Member Posts: 14
    edited July 2018
    No builder is obligated to make sure there every single build and character type is optimal. I don't even think that is the hallmark of a good module. Just because you like being a cleric with a bastard sword and sun domain doesn't mean its ideal for every module. In fact, I'd argue some of the best modules out there (Honor Among Thieves, Almraiven) focus more on very specific character archetypes. That is fine.

    Creating an entire hak pack to disable options seems like an enormous waste of time. Good documentation should be sufficient.

    There are really three solutions to this:

    1) Relax. Stop worrying about being the best. Role with the character you made and adapt them as needed. You can have just as much fun "making it work" along the way rather than calculating what is ideal.

    2) Module builders should, ideally, give you some idea of what you might face. "This adventure takes place in orc-infested wilds of the Vast," "This adventure takes place on the streets of Calimport where nests of wererats scheme below." From a player's standpoint you might just need to use your brain a bit. Favored enemy fey might not be too handy in a desert adventure; favored enemy outsider might not be too handy in a rustic adventure.

    3) On a Persistent World I think DMs should offer some kind of option to rebuild a character if a poor choice is made. This doesn't mean unlimited rebuilds. It does mean if there's no Parry gear, and its not well advertised, let the Fencer reroll with expertise or something. Again this can be fixed with good documentation.

    DerpCityGrymlordevoidofopinionProont
  • GrymlordeGrymlorde Member Posts: 83
    edited July 2018
    Just as every good DM hands a new player a list of house rules (if there are any), so too does a good module designer document any changes to vanilla NWN.

    Likewise, if a module differs from standard NWN play (as defined in all of the OC modules) then the designer must document that. For example, if there are no persuade checks then it should be stated thus because persuade checks are part and parcel of standard NWN. I once played a thieving adventure that never had any trap components for sale nor any opponents to drop them. That designer should have stated up front that Rogues will not be able to craft or buy traps because it is customary and usual for Rogues to craft and/or buy traps, especially in a thief-themed adventure!

    However, it is not the designer's responsibility to document optimal builds for the module. I think it is far better to give hints as to the type of adventure and let the player figure it out. For example, an adventure set in the desert doesn't need to state that builds should be optimized for deserts. Likewise, the designer can say something about searching ancient tombs in the desert but not bothering pointing out that there will be undead and poisonous snakes.

    Think of this way: What is the minimum that the player as well as their character need to know in order to have a good time (be successful)? Starting off in the desert? Absolutely. Teleporting to the frozen North? Let that be a surprise. The adventure takes place in the world of Conan the Barbarian (Hyboria)? Yes, as the character would certainly know that. Any deviation from the rules or customary NWN-Forgotten Realms play? Absolutely! Monsters that have different powers than standard NWN? Let that be a surprise! >:)

    DerpCityProont
  • GM_ODAGM_ODA Member Posts: 142
    edited July 2018
    Kranyum said:



    I"m wondering if it wouldnt be possible to mitigate this effect, by allowing module makers to disable some aspects of the campaign which they know will never impact the resolution of the module, for example:
    - at character creation, no persuade skill is available if persuade cannot be realistically used in the module.
    - disabling some weapons from the menu if they do not appear in the module or
    - disabling spells from the spellbooks of certain classes if the module maker decides to.


    So please discuss:
    - do you think this is a true issue or a symptom of exagerating min/maxing
    - is a solution to this type of issue needed?

    I feel your pain.

    *casts Bigby's Shoulder-pat of Consolation*

    Seriously though, I do understand. I bites to be a hammer in the toolkit that goes on a plumbing job.

    As a builder, I always try to make 'everything worth having at some level'. In a PW this is easier to do than say in a smallish single-player module. I agree that reading about a module in advance (as much as a prospective player should, short of metagaming) to ensure they build a PC that has a chance to shine.

    I am not sure if there is a general cure for, say, skills that don't get used so much, but there may be a cure for the 'weapon specialization/focus' ... a builder might place loot as tokens such as 'weapon' or more specific perhaps such as 'sword' and when picked-up by any character, the token is transformed into a specific item such as 'longsword' or 'bastard sword' - even giving a chance to have i be of the sort the creature initially picking it up may specialize or focus with by means of a simple scripted detection. :smiley:

    Also, builders, please try to make everything worth having at some level - it is especially nice when there are several ways to get around an objective-blocking-thing, and more so when various skills might 'win the day'. For example, when a 'specific key' is needed to get past a locked door, making the key available to the PC by several means is best; combat is the most obvious, but persuade, theft, intimidation, or other means come to mind. Engage the PC in the world as much as possible, give them the options and the players will have more fun.


    edit to add... @TarotRedhand 'lazy' is a very poor word choice. It is exceedingly hard to build 'something for everyone' into a thing as narrow as a concept for an adventure, exceedingly hard as the frame may provide little wiggle room in the design. It is easier in the frame of a PW because the scope of the thing is inherently bigger than a 'one shot' - where the one-shot can be much more detailed, the PW tends to be broader in scope and perhaps lighter in detail. All building takes time, good building takes the most time. Time is valuable. I've seen your work, and I'd never say you were 'lazy', more like 'focused on what matters when it counts'.


    *casts Bigby's Shoulder-pat of Consolation*

    Post edited by GM_ODA on
    DerpCityvoidofopinionProont
  • KranyumKranyum Member Posts: 33
    Aaezil said:

    My man - DnD is a group game not a solo game. One char caunt/shouldnt be able to do it all in all encounters. Having a well balanced group fills in the holes that individual characters have.

    But then in nwn why do you only get to make and control a single character?

  • pscythepscythe Member Posts: 116
    Kranyum said:



    But then in nwn why do you only get to make and control a single character?

    So that you can go join other PCs in PWs. :)

    GM_ODA
  • KranyumKranyum Member Posts: 33
    pscythe said:

    Kranyum said:



    But then in nwn why do you only get to make and control a single character?

    So that you can go join other PCs in PWs. :)

    My MMO playing days are over - can't really be bothered playing with randoms any more. Single player all the way!

  • pscythepscythe Member Posts: 116
    I play single player too and I actually prefer controlling just one character rather than a whole party. Just like Diablo. Less mucking around.

    DerpCity
  • TarotRedhandTarotRedhand Member Posts: 587
    @Aaezil said

    My man - DnD is a group game not a solo game. One char cant/shouldnt be able to do it all in all encounters. Having a well balanced group fills in the holes that individual characters have.

    In that case what is the point of multi-classing or having henchies?

    TR

    Zwerkules
  • AaezilAaezil Member Posts: 131
    Its like nobody here even knows what d&d is

    GM_ODA
  • KranyumKranyum Member Posts: 33
    Aaezil said:

    Its like nobody here even knows what d&d is

    We are, of course, here talking about computer games based on dnd.

    DerpCity
  • GM_ODAGM_ODA Member Posts: 142
    Kranym said "We are, of course, here talking about computer games based on dnd. "

    Yes, and as a DM since 1978, my feelings on this is, the more like tabletop D&D the better the D&D based computer game.

    For those who enjoy solo play, there is NOTHING stopping you from joining multiplayer and just SOLO gaming it. You'd be getting the benefit of new worlds to explore and more chances at systems that will tickle your fancy such as henchman support, pack animals, and the sort of stuff that makes solo play more fun.

    I still have all my D&D gear from versions 1 through 3.5e and I use it to craft my PW, just as I have been doing since 2004. Come see how close to D&D a NWN or NWN:EE module can be, visit us sometime and tour with me the tutorial area - we have features beyond most any AAA title you've ever seen. More, this is only one PW. Note, modules are built and often set-aside by the builder so you get what you get when the builder says "done." With a PW you get what is built over the course of months, sometimes years... a thing slowly polished and perfected over time. Everyone should experience both types of module.

  • FreshLemonBunFreshLemonBun Member Posts: 644
    There are of course AD&D modules made for a single PC and also the single player mode of 4e D&D.

    DerpCity
  • GrymlordeGrymlorde Member Posts: 83
    D&D player & DM since 1977 (whitebox 1974 rules).

    D&D was designed for large groups (10 players were quite common back in the day) but also provided a way for solo players to succeed with henchmen and hirelings. The most famous example is when Rob Kuntz (Greyhawk co-DM) solo-played Tomb of Horrors with E. Gary Gygax as the DM. However, Robilar while the only PC did not solo the infamous death trap. Robilar took along various and sundry henchmen, hirelings, and charmed monsters. And much to Gygax's consternation, Robilar survived. However, most of Robliar's staff died.

    3rd Edition was designed for a party of 4 -- cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard specifically -- to run through dungeons with no henchmen or hirelings at all.

    History lessons aside, in NWN henchmen, summons, animal companions, & familiars as well as multi-classing and magic items (+skill items) go a very long way to make single players successful.

    DerpCitypscythedTd
  • AaezilAaezil Member Posts: 131
    You have all that material yet still fail to see the spirit of the game?

    Le sigh

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