Sunday, April 29, 2007

Gruul's Lair, The New Kind of Raiding, and the GM/PC split.

The whole blogging to myself premise would work a lot better if I checked my own blog more often. I've been meaning to write this one for a while, since the Gruul's Lair run, and I think that might have been in March.

I am, unquestionably, a gamer, but I am in some ways also a game designer. The only real experience I've had at this in my role as a DM, but in addition to that I have a ton of fake experience as an armchair designer jotting down world design and play theory to myself for a project that will probably never come. I have at least enough experience to have a key design theory. My key principle is that you should make it challenging and unexpected, but you should never make it unbeatable, and you should always be open to the players out thinking you. Basically I want the players to be constantly on their toes. I'm told that my thinking is very similar to that of Gygax in that it's a GM vs PC setup, but from what I've heard he was more intent on crushing the players, whereas I'm happiest when my side has lost but only through the ingenuity and skill of the players. I recently got to see this design theory from the other side, and I can see why not all players approve of it.

Lets head back into Azeroth, the world of warcraft, where things have changed. In the old system raiding consisted mostly of getting 4o people together to go take on some uber-monster. The fights weren't that hard, each boss had some key trick but nothing all that grand. In the old raids you could usually explain how to overcome the trickiness of a given fight with one or two commands. Things like "When he heliports in to your group stop dealing damage and wait for the tank to grab him again." or "when she drops bombs on us make sure to stay out of the fire" or "take out the adds first" It was a trick yes, but it wasn't tricky, especially when there were 40 of you. As I said things have changed though, in the new world Blizzard has kicked it up a notch. Non boss encounters, what are known as "trash mobs," are being given things such as "This guy will charge whoever is 2nd on the aggro list every now and then, so healers watch out, and tanks there's nothing you can do to stop it." Is it harder? Yes, but more then that it shifts a lot of the burden from the character to the player. The person at the machine has to know what they're doing now, or they'll get spanked. The random charge is only the start of it too, there are now several points in the game where your five person team is just going to have to accept fighting six things at once. If your team is on the ball then one of them will be in a frost trap, one will be sapped, one will be turned into a sheep, one will be tanked by a hunter/warlock minion, the main tank will have one or two on them at a time, and the healer will be sweating and flying across the keys.

I can guarantee that last part because I'm a healer and I can say from experience that whenever someone else isn't doing their job right the burden comes to us.

This new style of gameplay is best shown in the new raids. The best example I've seen is one known a Gruul's Lair, a 25 person run. There are three trash mobs before the boss first boss, but those trash mobs are simply vicious. Massive ogres that can easily kill a non-tank in one shot, and every 10-15 seconds they charge whoever is 2nd on the aggro list, and not only hit them, but Cleave them. Cleave, in case you don't know, is a massive sweep that hits an arc of targets, so when they rush towards one of your teammates they hit everyone near them as well. These are harsh but the boss is Epic. I stand in reverent awe of whoever designed this fight.

First of all the boss if the ogre king and his four advisers. You have to fight all of them at once, and they're all immune to all forms of crowd control. Each of the advisers is a different kind of character, and your team has to split into little groups set up to counter each one of them individually.

One is a Shaman who will just throw lightning at you. The lightning is incredibly painful, and since it's a magic effect it doesn't matter how much armor you have. For this one you get someone who isn't normally a tank to wear a lot of magic resist and stamina gear, they do everything to keep focus on themselves while the healer assigned to them does everything they can to keep them from dying. Another is a warrior. He sounds like a very standard fight, get someone with ultra high armor to keep him busy, someone to heal the armored guy, and everyone else shanks him. It would work that way except that he has fiery blood, by which I mean that he creates blasts of fire around himself periodically, so you'll have to fight him from a distance. The third is an ogre mage. He has a massively powerful protective spell, so for this fight you have to have a mage use spellsteal to gain the ogres own protective power then have the mage, the class most likely to be killed instantly by one mistake in a normal raid, actually tank the enemy. It's one of the greatest inversions of traditional class roles you can find. The fourth one is my personal favorite, he's a warlock. He summons an ultra powerful Felhound that will route your team if you try to fight it while fighting the warlock, so you have to have one of your own warlocks enslave his pet, and use his pet to tank the ogre warlock. Without a warlock on your side it's impossible. And the last one, yeah, he's the ogre king. Those four I just listed are his minions. Once you get through all of them you can face the actual boss.

It's an amazingly tricky fight, but even as we died time and time again I felt an amazing sense of respect for the designers of that fight. I'll never again criticize a PC for complaining that one of my scenarios is just a bitch, but by no means do I intend to stop. I've seen the next level of the game, and my aspirations are clear.

*Man Spell check hates all the MMORPG terminology. Including the phrase MMORPG
** Somehow spell check things the word Aggro is okay, but doesn't like the word Mage. WTF is that?


Post a Comment

<< Home