On Paladins, Fan content, and Temples of Elemental Evil

Posted by ArbitraryWater (11471 posts) -

So it's fair to say that I've played enough of Temple of Elemental Evil to blog about it. Again. This most recent playthrough was obviously spurred on by the silly faux competition I started when I gifted Video_Game_King and Mento copies of ToEE because "It was dirt cheap and I wanted some entertainment". Obviously, that $5 that I spent on two copies of the game has already reaped dividends in that regard. Being that this isn't any sort of serious review blog (Icewind Dale II blog. Coming... soon-ish?), I figure we can all chillax and I'll just tell you about the weird stuff that stood out to me the second time around with the fan content version of the Circle of Eight mod. But first: A diatribe.

On D&D Paladins

Oh Keldorn. You and your overpowered anti-magic awesomeness. It's a pity all Paladin party members have been total self righteous fops from then onward.

Of all the classes in basic D&D, my least favorite would have to be the Monk. They're meant as some sort of hit-and-run DPS style class, except that they have lower HP, Lower AC, and generally lower damage output than just a fighter with a stupid big sword. Bards are also pretty lame, but the BG2 blade kit was cool so I will give them a pass. However, that being said, I think the weakest class in regular 3rd edition D&D is the Paladin, easily. While other non-fighter combat classes, such as the Ranger and the Barbarian, are known for their specialization (the Ranger becoming a much more interesting class in the transition from 3.0 to 3.5 and the Barbarian being the "Hit things really hard" class), the Paladin just feels like a concept of a character class that someone forgot to make powerful. Their abilities stink, to say the least, especially in the context of a video game. Detect Evil is generally pointless, and Lay on Hands is something that a low-level cleric can do better just by casting a spell. Thus, they are left with their Charisma based skills (Smite Evil basically being a milquetoast way to inflict like 3 extra damage per hit, although the bonus to saves is certainly nice). From a multiclassing perspective, they're not really allowed to do so, and from a Roleplaying standpoint they have a fairly strict, fairly lame code of morals to follow. Thus, you are left with a fighter type class that, while still competent at hitting things, doesn't have much else to offer besides some rather gimmicky abilities. They certainly pale in comparison to their Video Game counterparts, that's for sure. The Diablo II Paladin was the best.

"But how does this apply to CRPGs?" you might ask. Well, let me tell you. Generally speaking, the only reason to have a paladin in your party in any given D&D game is because the best weapon in the game (inadvertently a longsword), will always be of use only for paladins. So, while you may have to deal with leveling up slower (in the case of 2nd ed), or not having any of the extra feats or multiclassing abilities of a vanilla fighter (3rd ed), you can at least have a pretty cool sword that you find 3/4ths through the game that is like +7 or something (seriously. Pale Justice in IWD1 was a +7 sword). However, that said, in both of the 3rd edition D&D games I have played recently, the game decides to heap roleplaying restrictions on the player as a way to make choosing a paladin that much less appealing. Specifically, in Icewind Dale II, Paladins will refuse quest rewards (along with monks, so screw those guys too), and there is a sequence in the game that is apparently that much harder when you have a pally in your party. Similarly, in ToEE there are several ways to make your paladin "fall", which makes them lose all their abilities and literally just become a fighter without the cool feats. These include: participating in drinking contests, doing interesting sidequests for the various Temple factions, and recruiting morally dubious party members. So basically all the cool stuff. If you couldn't tell, I had a Paladin in my party this time around. I didn't make that mistake for IWD2 though.

On Fan Content and Item Creation Feats

I also played Temple of Elemental Evil with the New Content mod, which features several additional sidequests meant to be more exciting and varied than the game's general fare. Indeed, the first one of these actually has the virtue of bringing your party up to level 2 so you don't have to do as many dumb fetch quests in the initial town. However, this has one major, major, major drawback that I don't think the creators entirely intended: You get far more items and XP than should probably be allowed. This leaves your party at a higher level (my group being level 7 or 8 when entering the titular temple, when in the base game you'd be lucky to be level 5 ish), and when combined with generally broken Item Enchantment (You can enchant overpowered weapons and will totally have the spare cash and XP to do so), actually has the weird side effect of turning the endgame of a CRPG I previously deemed "Really, really, really hard" into something resembling a hilarious steamrolling massacre. Rest after every encounter? Poppycock! How about I just clear out the entire 4th floor of the temple without resting instead? My +3 Holy Flaming Freezing Keen *insert character weapon here* can murder a few more bugbears today. I admit, I have yet to finish it, but if I can deal with the high priest and a couple of giants, I can deal with that Balor in the fire node. I don't need to keep playing to tell you that.

The fan content itself is well made, for what that's worth. Obviously they're using modified versions of assets that are already in the game, but some of the things they have done are quite impressive. One of the later areas is the entire city of Verbobonc, which while an unfortunate amalgamation of fetch quests and "Not especially hard" battles against drow, is impressive enough in scale, at least for a game that has exactly two dungeons. It's a pity that this nerfed difficulty actually makes the game worse, since that was such an integral part of the base game in the first place. It's not even funny.

On... Anime?

I'll keep this brief, but I do like what I've seen of the Persona 4 Anime. While the first episode was fairly, but understandably rushed, considering they're condensing 90 minutes of exposition into a 25 minute episode of TV. The second episode fares much better however, as Charlie Yu actually talks more than 3 times and the pacing is notably less harried. I'm interested in seeing where this series goes, even if as a fan of the game, I can't really tell how it would be perceived by someone who doesn't have any understanding of the source material.

On a related note, I saw Evangelion 2.0 yesterday. Enjoyed it, and the way it goes off the rails in a potentially even more insane direction. Honestly, I don't even understand why I enjoy a franchise as self-indulgent (if not straight up pretentious) and oft incomprehensible as EVA, but there's something about the batshit insanity and strangely nuanced characters that appeals in a bizzare way. Whatever. This blog isn't about anime. If I wanted to talk in great detail about that, I would've made an account on AnimeVice.

#1 Edited by ArbitraryWater (11471 posts) -

So it's fair to say that I've played enough of Temple of Elemental Evil to blog about it. Again. This most recent playthrough was obviously spurred on by the silly faux competition I started when I gifted Video_Game_King and Mento copies of ToEE because "It was dirt cheap and I wanted some entertainment". Obviously, that $5 that I spent on two copies of the game has already reaped dividends in that regard. Being that this isn't any sort of serious review blog (Icewind Dale II blog. Coming... soon-ish?), I figure we can all chillax and I'll just tell you about the weird stuff that stood out to me the second time around with the fan content version of the Circle of Eight mod. But first: A diatribe.

On D&D Paladins

Oh Keldorn. You and your overpowered anti-magic awesomeness. It's a pity all Paladin party members have been total self righteous fops from then onward.

Of all the classes in basic D&D, my least favorite would have to be the Monk. They're meant as some sort of hit-and-run DPS style class, except that they have lower HP, Lower AC, and generally lower damage output than just a fighter with a stupid big sword. Bards are also pretty lame, but the BG2 blade kit was cool so I will give them a pass. However, that being said, I think the weakest class in regular 3rd edition D&D is the Paladin, easily. While other non-fighter combat classes, such as the Ranger and the Barbarian, are known for their specialization (the Ranger becoming a much more interesting class in the transition from 3.0 to 3.5 and the Barbarian being the "Hit things really hard" class), the Paladin just feels like a concept of a character class that someone forgot to make powerful. Their abilities stink, to say the least, especially in the context of a video game. Detect Evil is generally pointless, and Lay on Hands is something that a low-level cleric can do better just by casting a spell. Thus, they are left with their Charisma based skills (Smite Evil basically being a milquetoast way to inflict like 3 extra damage per hit, although the bonus to saves is certainly nice). From a multiclassing perspective, they're not really allowed to do so, and from a Roleplaying standpoint they have a fairly strict, fairly lame code of morals to follow. Thus, you are left with a fighter type class that, while still competent at hitting things, doesn't have much else to offer besides some rather gimmicky abilities. They certainly pale in comparison to their Video Game counterparts, that's for sure. The Diablo II Paladin was the best.

"But how does this apply to CRPGs?" you might ask. Well, let me tell you. Generally speaking, the only reason to have a paladin in your party in any given D&D game is because the best weapon in the game (inadvertently a longsword), will always be of use only for paladins. So, while you may have to deal with leveling up slower (in the case of 2nd ed), or not having any of the extra feats or multiclassing abilities of a vanilla fighter (3rd ed), you can at least have a pretty cool sword that you find 3/4ths through the game that is like +7 or something (seriously. Pale Justice in IWD1 was a +7 sword). However, that said, in both of the 3rd edition D&D games I have played recently, the game decides to heap roleplaying restrictions on the player as a way to make choosing a paladin that much less appealing. Specifically, in Icewind Dale II, Paladins will refuse quest rewards (along with monks, so screw those guys too), and there is a sequence in the game that is apparently that much harder when you have a pally in your party. Similarly, in ToEE there are several ways to make your paladin "fall", which makes them lose all their abilities and literally just become a fighter without the cool feats. These include: participating in drinking contests, doing interesting sidequests for the various Temple factions, and recruiting morally dubious party members. So basically all the cool stuff. If you couldn't tell, I had a Paladin in my party this time around. I didn't make that mistake for IWD2 though.

On Fan Content and Item Creation Feats

I also played Temple of Elemental Evil with the New Content mod, which features several additional sidequests meant to be more exciting and varied than the game's general fare. Indeed, the first one of these actually has the virtue of bringing your party up to level 2 so you don't have to do as many dumb fetch quests in the initial town. However, this has one major, major, major drawback that I don't think the creators entirely intended: You get far more items and XP than should probably be allowed. This leaves your party at a higher level (my group being level 7 or 8 when entering the titular temple, when in the base game you'd be lucky to be level 5 ish), and when combined with generally broken Item Enchantment (You can enchant overpowered weapons and will totally have the spare cash and XP to do so), actually has the weird side effect of turning the endgame of a CRPG I previously deemed "Really, really, really hard" into something resembling a hilarious steamrolling massacre. Rest after every encounter? Poppycock! How about I just clear out the entire 4th floor of the temple without resting instead? My +3 Holy Flaming Freezing Keen *insert character weapon here* can murder a few more bugbears today. I admit, I have yet to finish it, but if I can deal with the high priest and a couple of giants, I can deal with that Balor in the fire node. I don't need to keep playing to tell you that.

The fan content itself is well made, for what that's worth. Obviously they're using modified versions of assets that are already in the game, but some of the things they have done are quite impressive. One of the later areas is the entire city of Verbobonc, which while an unfortunate amalgamation of fetch quests and "Not especially hard" battles against drow, is impressive enough in scale, at least for a game that has exactly two dungeons. It's a pity that this nerfed difficulty actually makes the game worse, since that was such an integral part of the base game in the first place. It's not even funny.

On... Anime?

I'll keep this brief, but I do like what I've seen of the Persona 4 Anime. While the first episode was fairly, but understandably rushed, considering they're condensing 90 minutes of exposition into a 25 minute episode of TV. The second episode fares much better however, as Charlie Yu actually talks more than 3 times and the pacing is notably less harried. I'm interested in seeing where this series goes, even if as a fan of the game, I can't really tell how it would be perceived by someone who doesn't have any understanding of the source material.

On a related note, I saw Evangelion 2.0 yesterday. Enjoyed it, and the way it goes off the rails in a potentially even more insane direction. Honestly, I don't even understand why I enjoy a franchise as self-indulgent (if not straight up pretentious) and oft incomprehensible as EVA, but there's something about the batshit insanity and strangely nuanced characters that appeals in a bizzare way. Whatever. This blog isn't about anime. If I wanted to talk in great detail about that, I would've made an account on AnimeVice.

#2 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6082 posts) -

I know how irritating it can be to have comments that don't really add to a conversation, but this is a fantastic blog, Arbitrary. I really have nothing more to say than I'm looking forward to playing Temple of Elemental Evil one of these days.

Moderator
#3 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11471 posts) -

@Sparky_Buzzsaw: It's weird how it doesn't send me a PM whenever you specifically comment on any of my blogs. If anything, this recent experience has removed some of the magic of that initial playthrough of the game, and while it's still clearly great and obviously unique, it may not be as high on my "Best of 2011 that didn't come out in 2011" list as it might have been if I had not done this. In any case, I get to see Mento and VGK make shots at each other in their individual blogs, so that's clearly an accomplishment for mankind.

#4 Posted by Video_Game_King (35985 posts) -
@ArbitraryWater said:

I get to see Mento and VGK make shots at each other in their individual blogs, so that's clearly an accomplishment for mankind.

You mean you figured out what Part 4's gonna be about?
#5 Posted by Mento (2438 posts) -

@ArbitraryWater: The blogs and forums have a weird bug at the moment where they won't notify you about the first post in a thread/blog you make, but will for every post thereafter. For me it's usually VGK I get no forewarning about.

I'm at the nodes myself. The fights up to now have been a mixed bag difficulty-wise: The toughest time I had was with the two Noble Salamanders in the Fire Temple (though I only just killed three easily enough), the documented Imeryd's Run fight, the Water Temple High Priest and the tower brigands - two of those fights were made deliberately tougher by the mod, perhaps to offset the lower difficulty you're talking about. Hedrack was a pushover though, even with Iuz helping him out. As were most of the other named henchmen fights, which should've been more difficult from a narrative standpoint at least. That Balor though... I'm going to have to come back to that one. Hopefully he doesn't summon a second Balor the next time I fight him. I hear there's some Holy weapons lying around the nodes, which is something I'm unable to enchant weapons with myself, so I'm going to grab those and any treasure I can find and get back to Nulb for some craftin'.

@Video_Game_King: Uh oh? Honestly, I have no idea what my Part 3 (or 4, counting the intro) will be about. I think I'll finish the game first then dwell on it.

Moderator
#6 Posted by Hailinel (23868 posts) -

I don't really understand why some Persona 4 fans are so worried about how non-fans perceive the anime.

If you enjoy it yourself regardless of the reason, you're still enjoying it and shouldn't feel concerned with how others view it.

#7 Posted by Video_Game_King (35985 posts) -
@Mento
 
That's because you're doing an abridged version of it (I've been wanting to make a Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged joke, but I can't find the intro music, so here's this, instead). I'm just writing down everything I've been doing, which means I'll probably write the final version about four blogs before it's posted. Also, you may wish to check my image uploads.
#8 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6082 posts) -

@ArbitraryWater:

It happens in my blogs with every first comment. I'm not sure what's up with that, but it can get fairly annoying when I leave people hanging with their comments. I hate not at least acknowledging helpful or positive comments.

In any case, I also should say that in general, I find paladin classes to be pretty useless across the board. I like them best when they're a buff class specialist, as then they're actually useful for others. But normally, I just don't see the point.

Moderator
#9 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11471 posts) -

@Mento: The thing is, since the level cap has been removed, my party is now all level 12. Also, my barbarian has Scather, the best weapon in the game (a bastard sword that you get for rescuing Prince Thrommel, waiting a few days, and then going back and forth between Hommlet and Nulb until you get the random encounter.) Since it NEVER misses, I can literally crank up power attack to max and hit guys for upwards of 40 a hit... not even counting criticals. Oh, and did I mention that every time an evil character attacks me I get a free attack of opportunity? Broken difficulty is broken.

@Hailinel: It's more out of curiosity than any sort of insecurity. The same reason I have no idea if either of the Rebuild of Evangelion movies effectively convey the necessary background information to someone who never has seen the original series before. I mean, I understand why these 14 year old children have to pilot giant biomechanical robots fighting monsters made of gnostic imagery, but does the guy who watched EVA 1.0 because he's heard good things understand? You're right though. It's kind of meaningless for me to ponder that kind of stuff.

#10 Edited by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -

In the pen and paper world, the ability to detect evil, be immune to disease, and to lay on hands is great. A fighter who can heal without relying on cross-boy, basically. 
 
In the video game world there have to be some smartly laid out bonuses for paladins, or you wind up just resenting them. I actually liked the RP restrictions in IWD/2, but unfortunately they interfere with basic play when you realize that the person you boosted in diplomacy is also going to cheat the party out of its income. I see this as a balancer, since if you spam diplomacy you can get away with stuff, but since IWD/2 is/are combat-heavy on purpose, I can't tell if they're encouraging you to fight instead, or just not thinking it through. 
 
I liked some of the alt Paladin builds, I can't remember which one... Inquisitor? Detect evil and true sight are pretty useful if you're not familiar with the game layout, I guess. Undead Hunter's immune to level drain, Crusader's immune to fear and hold. They have limited applications, but the level drain one might come in handy especially in BG2. Still, it's the alignment thing I have a hard time with, I guess. I really liked what they did with the character whose portrait you show, showing absolute belief's dark side.

What's funny is that the monk, too, SHOULD be great. Some of its immunities have a lot of value in the pen and paper version, but yeah, it didn't really translate. I actively hated my IWD2 monk.
 
Evangelion... is it even possible for someone who's never seen the series to even be able to catch up anymore? I still don't know what's going on, and I like Gainax stuff. Sometimes.
 
EDIT: Also, yes, frigging user mods tend to not care about balance. It's a sign of a good mod that you don't notice a pronounce loot difference, since loot is just another form of leveling, as far as I'm concerned. This stuff has to be measured, people!!

Online
#11 Edited by Egge (446 posts) -

Thoughtful discussions of the D&D ruleset are way beyond my level of expertise (perhaps in large part because of my almost complete lack of pen-and-paper RPG experience), but I've always loved playing a Paladin in fantasy roleplaying games such as Baldur's Gate, Diablo or Might & Magic etc. I guess it has something to do with their comfortingly rigid moralism (regardless of whatever gameplay restrictions such a world view may give rise to), which is so far removed from the paralyzing ambiguity of real life. There's no escapism like seeing the world in black and white and righteously cleaving the heads of Orcs...

#12 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11471 posts) -

@Egge: You see, my Pen and Paper experience pretty much comes from when I was 14 and stupid, trying to DM a game without any understanding of how making an actual D&D adventure would work, which when combined with people not really showing up ever, led to that initative imploding upon itself. So basically, I've never actually had that genuine P&P experience either, which is why ToEE is the ideal D&D experience I've always wanted without the need for pesky humans. I've also always found D&D's rigid morality system to be enjoyable in its non-ambiguity. It's just that I find roleplaying a lawful good character to be rather dull. Why be a law abiding goody two shoes when you can be a chaotic neutral "selfish bastard" or a lawful evil "oppressive jerk"?

@ahoodedfigure: I'm sure Detect Evil in particular is extremely useful in actual pen and paper (as are a lot of the semi-worthless spells that ToEE decides to include within its arsenal), but it's still no good as far as Video Games are concerned. The BG2 inquisitor kit however... easily one of the best in the game, considering that the most dangerous enemies you fight in that game are always mages. No need to have the player character have it though, since Keldorn happens to be that class. He may not be as good a melee fighter as Minsc or Korgan, but being able to cast dispel magic and true sight instantly at double character level makes some otherwise nightmarish scenarios far more manageable.

I am probably the wrong person to ask about Anime in general, considering my overall experience outside "Whatever was on Toonami back when I watched Toonami" is rather slim. Nonetheless, if you don't feel like wading through the 26 episode original series and the mind-rape bummerfest that is End of Evangelion, then I think that you could probably just start with Evangelion 1.0, since those movies are meant to be a retelling/reimagining of the original series... and if what I have seen in the most recent movie is any indication, the story could go in a dramatically different direction from here on. As I said before though, not sure how well it conveys some of the background information if you don't know it already.

#13 Posted by endaround (2138 posts) -

The big issue with Paladins (and Cavaliers since they are basically Paladins without any of the priestly stuff) is that they tend to take away their best abilities in CRPGs. In 2 ed it was gaining useful followers and a warhorse, in 3 ed its the warhorse.

#14 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -
@ArbitraryWater: @Egge
 
I dunno, I never felt that the morality system was unambiguous in any version of DnD, paper or software. In the games you can get Lawful Good sometimes slaughtering without cause, often killing when they could bring people to justice (thus why Detect Evil is useful (just like stealth is useful); use it to find targets, slay, repeat)-- except when you're allowed to bring people to justice by the game (if that happened; my recollection's fuzzy), then you have to or the scenario writer will come after you. Even the IWD Paladin party betrayal doesn't quite make sense, since they just as easily could donate the money to charity or whatever and let the party keep their share. They may be consistent within a single game, though sometimes not even that, but you really don't know what to expect from game to game.
 
Chaotic Neutral is often simply described as crazy and completely random, rather than mercenary (neutral) and outside the law (chaotic), though I was never fond of the former interpretation (it could just as easily mean a fanatic for chaos (whatever that means), since they'll do anything for chaos, good or evil). Lawful evil is an alignment you'd share with Mind Flayers, who are less oppressive jerks than psychopaths who appreciate fine art and know how to keep the Underdark slave/food barges running on time.  And True Neutal is fucking goofy when you see them trying to hammer it into Druid behavior; good old Jaheira was, well, good for the most part. Thankfully 3e just forced partial Neutrality on Druids so it made a lot more sense.
 
Chaotic used to be shorthand for "pretty much evil" and lawful the opposite, but the moment they added good and evil they showed how flimsy the system was, because people have endlessly, fruitlessly debated what constitutes good and evil in a fake universe with a rubbery pantheon where most of the world is based on player assumptions and GM world building. I will say I like that alignment encouraged players to philosophize, though. Probably what spawned Planescape, which is cool.
  
And yeah, Keldorn is fine, unless you hate the motherfucker like I did and kick him out of your party after a few short breaths.
 
Toonami was pretty much all my experience with Japanese animation before online video but after my brief infatuation with the fan sub community. I've only recently started to catch up and it's slow going; so much of what is popular in Anime looks like cloned dreck to me. Mindfuckery, however, is totally fine :)
Online
#15 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11471 posts) -

@ahoodedfigure: I believe the Knight class (basically the Dragonlance version of the paladin) would give 10% of his money every time the party visited a temple in the Krynn Gold Box games. They could do something like that in the hypothetical next D&D game, but I have no idea if that game exists or ever will exist. You seem to know something about 4th edition, is there anything that would prevent an easy translation to CRPG format? Or is it just that there is exactly one developer who would willingly make a D&D RPG in this day and age because everyone else has moved on?

While we're on this weird semantic tangent, True Neutral is always the D&D alignment that I find the hardest to understand. Is it just hating everyone? Is it a schizophrenic appeal to "keeping the balance", siding with both good and evil depending on who is winning? Or is it merely being ambivalent about everything? I guess that's why 4th ed added the "Unaligned" alignment. Oh well. My favorite break down of alignments clearly has to be the Batman one.

If you are cool with mind fucking, then you are good to go. It's not even hard to find any of that stuff because it's all somehow on youtube despite the number of international copyright laws that are no doubt violated in the process. I'm not even just talking about EVA, at one point I encountered a user that had every single episode of every single star trek tv series uploaded.

#16 Posted by endaround (2138 posts) -

@ArbitraryWater: Its more that the D&D license has been in a sort of limbo. Atari got it from the corpse of Interplay. But while that was happening, Wizards of the Coast was buying out TSR. Then Hasbro, with designs on making computer games of its own, bought Wizards of the Coast. And so we had a bunch of lawyers deciding what goes where and how as Hasbro tries to decided if they want to publish in house or let Atari have it for a while, which now isn't exactly a healthy publisher (yeah it's a lot like Interplay/Bethesda). And this doesn't even get to the new Neverwinter MMO bering made by Cryptic that was supposed to be rather strategic at one point but then Cryptic was bought out by Perfect World makers of a bunch of "free to play" MMOs and the latest press release makes it sound like that is out the window.

#17 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -

@ahoodedfigure: I believe the Knight class (basically the Dragonlance version of the paladin) would give 10% of his money every time the party visited a temple in the Krynn Gold Box games. They could do something like that in the hypothetical next D&D game, but I have no idea if that game exists or ever will exist. You seem to know something about 4th edition, is there anything that would prevent an easy translation to CRPG format? Or is it just that there is exactly one developer who would willingly make a D&D RPG in this day and age because everyone else has moved on? 

Licenses are good if you know you'll get higher sales and lower development costs for your investment in licensing fees. I think the license doesn't carry the sheen it once did, and I can pretty much point to the first Dragon Age and Mass Effect for showing everyone that a rulesy fantasy/science fantasy game can be done without leaning on existing rules.  But since it's always been a niche market anyway, when they moved away from the license few others followed. I guess some people like DDO, so it's not completely disintegrated, but I really don't know how much of that follows the rules.
 
I sorta wish I was more familiar with the Gold Box games; the Dragonlance setting always seemed interesting to me, but it never had a strong pen and paper presence.
 
A little primer on why I think 4e won't be easy to translate:
 
Unless it is a turn-based strategy game, as 4e now manifests for the most part, you will have to change some rules. The game itself relies a lot on players making tactical choices for their character, including where to push an enemy unit after certain attacks. I can't imagine that sort of control being easy in an action-with pause system. You have a character that, as part of their power, can move an enemy involuntarily a few squares so that you can put them in a bad position for another attack. This would either have to be an AI thing, which would be potentially problematic, or the game would have to pause and you would place the enemy where you wanted. Many, many powers do that. Others involve choices as to where to apply damage, that sort of thing. 
 
So, given the current market's prejudices against turn-based anything I see people being afraid to implement what is basically a FFTactics/Ogre Tactics/Whatever rules system. If they could get past their unwarranted fears, there might be something there. But it would feel like a Tactics game with upgraded 3e rules, I think. It would be a big mistake, though, if they took 4e in whole-cloth, because there are certain rules there that are completely unnecessary. Skills, while thankfully streamlined, are used sometimes to resolve situations instead of the player using their ingenuity. That's only good if the players are afraid to play the game.
 
Then again, what do I know? Maybe it's purely a business decision and has nothing to do with design.
 

While we're on this weird semantic tangent, True Neutral is always the D&D alignment that I find the hardest to understand. Is it just hating everyone? Is it a schizophrenic appeal to "keeping the balance", siding with both good and evil depending on who is winning? Or is it merely being ambivalent about everything? I guess that's why 4th ed added the "Unaligned" alignment. Oh well. My favorite break down of alignments clearly has to be the Batman one.

It's my opinion that alignments were there because they fit together in a nice system, and that they often didn't bother to try to work out the details too much. True Neutral feels like that at times. A Druid will champion nature, so they believe in something, but they will fanatically defend nature such that, as the rules say, they will do whatever it takes to defend it, including doing chaotic or evil things. But this seems to contradict the balance idea, which says that they try to measure the good and the bad, and make sure neither has primacy (which seems to be in potential conflict with protecting nature). Both are used as devices by writers, but basically comes off as crazy and sort of useless. A third interpretation would be from the "if I picked a thing I like a thing" attitude, so they try to stay out of any fanaticism, not allying completely with law, chaos, good, or evil. Their beliefs, then, like off the alignment axis and so they don't really connect to these esoteric concepts. This one I like the most, but no one ever really uses this explanation except me. Used this way it could apply to just about everyone, and it could suggest that those who believe in one of the four extremes set themselves up for bonuses and penalties associated with that alignment, as if they were believing in some sort of god. I've wanted to actually make the alignment system a shorthand for a pantheon itself, actually.
 
That Batman system is great, and shows how hard to nail down alignments can be. 3e even mentioned a certain Garret the Thief, in a pretty clear reference to the Thief series, but they painted him as evil because he stole stuff. To me that made no sense; if anything he was neutral because good or evil didn't concern him for the most part. Just self-preservation. This would make him Chaotic Neutral in my book, because of his irreverence toward authority, but then CN is supposed to be "crazy." This is starting to remind me of those weird debates the ancient Greeks had.
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#18 Edited by Egge (446 posts) -

@ahoodedfigure: Good points, but in general that sounds more like sloppy implementation of a basic idea (an alignment as unequivocally named as "Lawful Good" should be what it sounds like it is, right?) than, say, any deliberate ambiguity on the part of the scenario writer or ruleset creator. Of course, an alternative explanation would be that since any made-up moral categories in a roleplaying game exist in an uneasy, parasitic relationship to the real world it follows that the nice and tidy little system is in constant danger of being sullied by the uncleanliness of ambiguity - as long as there are actual human beings reading/interpretating/working creatively with the scenarios/rulesets, that is. Thus, if we were to exterminate all those pesky outside observers, the D&D moral categories would work so much better. Or, as your discussion regarding the flawed nature of the Neutral alignment suggests, perhaps not...

#19 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -
@Egge: I guess the philosopher me is destined to ask: which would you favor if you're lawful good, if you had to choose between them? Law, or good? Some people try to make LG characters somehow infallible just because they have all their niceness settings to the max.
 
Without my gods idea, you have all sorts of strange gray areas. What it is, what it really is, and was probably behind the original design, was a roleplaying guide. Kids would take on a role but not know quite what their fighter actually believed in. They could fight, sure, but if they couldn't stick a sword in the problem, what then? The alignments helped focus people, and gave the DM some leverage to tell them they weren't acting within their alignment, which is great crowd control for when people get the loot-lust in their eyes.
 
But it wound up backfiring because just like many rules, you could fiddle with the details and worm your way out of a lot of things.
 
In most games the virtual DM's decisions are pretty much set. Without the ability for the game to adjudicate, alignments, without some sort of game mechanic function, start to hem in creative writing. You can gleefully kill evils and usually get away with it, until they finally seemed to start to hammer that down in BG2. I guess I'm not a big fan of alignments anyway, because of the hampering and oversimplification of characters.
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#20 Edited by Yummylee (21242 posts) -

As you are yet again playing a CRPG that I haven't played (though considering my... limited experience with the genre I could just say ''you're playing a CRPG'' and still have the same desired effect) I again don't have much to contribute... What I can say is I'm all for the Paladin in most games (WoW in particular when I used to play that oh so long ago) when given the chance; I just love the idea of being a self-sufficient tank who wields hammers, most often gets some super-slick ultra Religious plate armour that's all shiny and shit, and equally often likes to makes sentences out of meaningless proverbs.

#21 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11471 posts) -

@Abyssfull: The thing is, the D&D paladin really isn't much of a tank or a blunt weapons guy, as far as I can tell. He's more of a fighter who can occasionally cure disease, for as generally worthless as that is in a video game context. And really, this isn't my first time playing TOEE. This is more of a reactionary post to the blogging competition I started in regards to it. I blogged about it the first time back in February. Really, at this point obscure CRPGs are this blog's bread and butter as far as content goes. I've been considering writing a rant about Titan Quest and Diablo clones in general for a while, so maybe I will grace my blog with that.

#22 Posted by GreggD (4477 posts) -

I rolled a Paladin in BG and BG2, respectively. It gets SO MUCH BETTER with the Steven Rattazzi voice option. Man, that guy can sell some of the most awful-sounding dialogue, were it read by anyone else.

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