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  1. Imagine this: You're walking down the road when, suddenly, bandits spring out of the bushes! They say "We're going to kill you and take your stuff!" They refuse any further conversation than this. They automatically know where you are so there's no avoiding the encounter with stealth. Invisible walls form a sphere around you so there's no escape until all the bandits are dead. You fight to the death, collect the loot and XP from the bandits, then the game otherwise continues as if that encounter had never happened. My opinion is that this has absolutely no place in a roleplaying game whatsoever. Before I can tell you why I think this, first I have to tell you what I think a roleplaying game should be: An RPG is a series of questions posed to the player (usually implicitly) and a set of systems the player can use to give their answers. The DM sets the scene asks "What do you do?" and the player says "I do X." When I play an RPG, I want interesting and meaningful questions and systems that allow me to give my answers in a satisfactory way. There's a lot to be said about the systems but today I want to talk about the questions, specifically the "interesting and meaningful" part. Let's give another scenario: You're going down the highway with a dead body in your trunk. There's a loaded handgun in the glovebox. A cop pulls up behind you and turns on his sirens. There's several different approaches you could take here, each with its own set of risks: Do you floor it and try to get away? Do you pull over and try to play it cool? Do you grab that gun out of glovebox just in case? If you screw up, there's several different consequences depending on exactly how you screwed up and how you act to try to fix your mistake. The consequences range from mild (you get away with a speeding ticket but no suspicion from the cop), moderate (you have to kill the cop to get away, so now you're wanted for 2 murders), or severe (the cop arrests you after finding the body). Furthermore the situation is both defined by the earlier context of the narrative and your answer defines the later context of the narrative. Are you guilty? If you are, who did you kill and why? If you aren't, why is the body in your trunk? Are you being framed and trying to cover up the (false) evidence? If you are, are you trying to find the real killers and find justice, or are you just trying to get back to your life as fast as possible? How much deeper are you willing to dig yourself in? Compare this scenario to the one I posited at the beginning. There's no proper context because the bandits just pop in out of nowhere and you never hear from them again. They're attacking you for no reason except that they're bandits and, thus, the Bad Guys. You have no choices in what answer you can give except Fight to the Death, or stand there and die and reload a previous save (and get attacked again next time you go through that area). There are no meaningful consequences because you either win and continue with the game, or you don't. It fails as a Question to pose to the player by every conceivable metric. Yet this scenario is absurdly common; Probably 99% of your time in your average CRPG is spent wasting your time with this nonsense. Why?
  2. OK, I worked on this quite a bit, and I'm a bit nervous to throw it out there, but here goes. *note, I will be using some DnD terms, but naturally these would be different ingame. Premise: Of all the RPG games I’ve played, many have failed to deliver on the exploration elements in the wilderness, relying on set-pieces and tedious random encounters. Going into the wilderness, if at all possible, consisted of ticking off certain boxes “quest complete” and moving on to the next area. This leads to the wild areas to be empty of meaningful content pretty quickly, except for said random encounters. I have in an inspired moment come up with a suggestion which would hope to accomplish the following: Encourage exploration. Increase diversity of wilderness content. Make the world come alive with emergent gameplay. Avoid undesired content for those who simply wish to pass through wilderness areas without being delayed. Have more mechanical uses for ranger skills like "wilderness survival" without making them gimmicky. The idea is divided into sections. The road. The wilderness The "wisps" and forest lights. 1. The road. Players can decide whether or not they wish to remain on the road. The roads are well travelled and (relatively) safe. If a player wishes to continue on without exploring, all he or she has to do is remain on the road. Nothing (or little) will happen. 2. The wilderness. Players can venture off the road. When this is chosen wilderness survival skills will be useful. This might require some creative programming. The idea is that when venturing far enough from the road, the map becomes generated, and finding the road again may or may not be possible. Players would walk around in forest covered areas. (one example) And an area around the party would be cut away and navigable. A wilderness survival or similar skill would determine how fast surrounding foliage is cut (becomes navigable), how fast the track regrows behind the player, and how large a radius around the party is cut. This is to give the player the notion he is walking around in a vast forest (or other wilderness) without permanent landmarks. In the wilderness several things could be uncovered: Players may come across hostile spawns, goblin camps, forest traps, hidden treasure. These would be few enough between that a player wouldn't just stumble across it immediately. Returning to the road would be possible using fast travel. (and perhaps a high enough navigation skill) However, this would not be possible if the player started following a trail of... 3. The wisps and forest lights. The wisps are just a generic name for what are in essence may different types of guiding lights. These lights are different in shape, colour, and behaviour, but stretch out emergent in front of a player's party. Wisps are come across randomly, and should be fairly uncommon. (but common enough that any adventuring party will come across a few at least during their game if they choose to visit the wilderness areas) Wisps lead places, different wisps lead different places. Once a party has decided to follow a trail of wisps for a few moments, the following happens. Fast travel back to the road becomes impossible, you'll have to see it through. (you can choose to not follow a trail in order to avoid that. The game will have to register whether or not you were following it) Losing the trail of wisps (distance of your closest party member to the trail becomes too great) ends in quest failure. No encounters with monsters or loot, you're following a trail and it leads somewhere, you won't be distracted. Wilderness survival (or similar skill) will tell players the following: No or low skill: Forest lights exist and they lead places. Low to intermediate skill: following lights can be dangerous. Low to intermediate skill: some lights are worth following. Intermediate skill: Different types of lights lead to different encounters. (I'd love for this to be randomized for each game so no assumptions can be made) Intermediate to high skill: This type of light leads to this encounter. High skill: These are the types of lights and these are the types of encounters they lead to. Upon following these ghost lights, wisps, foxlights, forest lilghts, glowing mushrooms, whatever, players will be led to an encounter relevant to the type of light-trail they followed. I've come up with a few quest ideas, but naturally many more are possible. Upon completion or failure of one of these quests (which would be removed from the questpool afterwards regardless) players are returned to the road. Possible outcomes for following a trail: "spiritual" Players are led to a druidic ritual in a grove, if there are druids in the party, they can assist, if not the player will be able to observe the ritual and guard the druids (or not) as they complete the ritual. If no PC druids participate, you'll see the death of said druids after ritual is completed. "spiritual" players come across a scrying pool in the forest. It shows the player one random vision. (multiple instances possible) "spiritual" players come across a stone henge circle, players with a high knowledge of the arcane can use the circle to learn a powerful ability, alternatively the site could be destroyed with disastrous consequences (deliberately or not). Ideally each site offers multiple ways to experience the encounter. So a stone circle might be seen differently by a wizard than a ranger, or cleric. "trickster lights" leads no-where, party eventually admits they are lost. "trickster lights" leads to a clearing where if the party rests, they are set upon by enemies. "trickster lights" leads to a nymph in her pool, she may or may not torment the party with riddles or tricks. "trickster lights" leads to an Elven feast. When trying to enter the feast clearing, it vanishes, after 3 encounters players are confronted and asked why they keep barging in. multiple outcomes possible, one of which is that they join the feast. If they do, they're subtly (I'm counting on you MCA!) enticed to stay. "oh, right before old george here was about to tell you this ancient piece of lore!" staying might lead to more information, trinkets, but eventually players would figure out they're being duped into staying. After they leave camp, they'll find the road again, alternatively they might decide to stay in camp long enough that they wake up in a compromised position with no elves in sight, leading the party to wonder if it was ever real. "firelights(encounter lights)" leads to a monster to be defeated "firelights" stumble across a bandit camp "homelights" lead to settlements, either hermit houses, the house of a powerful witch or wizard, maybe a sapient monster (I always enjoyed the DnD monster manual description of a Rakshaka, living in a swamp.) You may or may not find yourself welcome. "unresolved issue" lights lead to ancient wrongs you might be able to right, or at least learn about. I've some other quests I thought of shortlisted, I'll just name the title, as I am sure you can think of interesting encounters. "Dead town possession" "wizard's mighty spell" "angry dead"(maybe unlikely what with the soul mechanic) "zombie swamp"(idem ditto) "hermit" "wandering traveller" "mysterious mist" "firefly display" "ancient battle" "ancient ruins" "death pond" "fake trail" "dragon's den" I believe these encounters and quests would be much more memorable because: They'll be your main focus, you won't be busy doing other quests in the meantime. You found them through exploration, making acquiring these quests a reward in it's own. They'll be unique. These quests are not forced on you, you will only do them out of a desire to see more of the world. You can't go back, the experience will be all the more mysterious and special for it. They reward players for different play-styles in different ways, the wilderness lore/survival trait makes your decisions more informed, but you can also choose to randomly follow trails. So a city-bred party may make more mistakes and find themselves lost once or twice, while still having had an interesting thing occur. Furthermore they remove a nuisance from the game for those players who don't enjoy random encounters. They'll be random, but unforced. The player gets to decide how much of this content he or she feels up to doing at any moment. Want to go from A to B? you can. Want to mindlessly or mindfully stumble upon bandits, goblins and treasure chests? You can. And do you wish to get lost in the wilderness and find some special content? You can. What do you think?
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