Artificial Restrictions: Equipment

I’ve never been a fan of artificial restrictions because, well, they are artificial and feel that way. What is an artificial restriction? Anything that limits a player’s freedom in the world without a logical in-game explanation.

Perhaps the most obvious artificial restriction that is prevalent in current MMOs relates to equipment. I’m a mage so I can’t wear metal armor or wield a sword. I’m a rogue so I can’t use blunt weaponry (hasn’t anyone heard of blackjacks?) or hold a tower shield. It sure didn’t stop Gandalf from hacking his enemies with a sword, so why can’t I do it?

Of course, a powerful wizard with uber platemail, a deadly flail, and an impenetrable shield isn’t very fair, is it? Actually, it is. What’s to stop me from driving a semi truck somewhere, acquiring a bazooka, and firing at my enemies?

Well, luckily the police and security systems protecting such weaponry, but that’s not the point. The point is, if I managed to get to the bazooka in my semi truck without crashing (I probably couldn’t even start the thing, mind you), there’s nothing preventing me from using it.

But I’d probably get myself killed in the process. I don’t possess the required skills to correctly handle large firearms while wearing a baggy clown suit and floppy shoes (Oh, I forgot to mention that I’m dressed like a jester in my mind’s eye).

How does that translate to an online game? That sorcerer could very well run around in plate armor with sword and shield in hand. But, he lacks the strength to inflict terrible pain with the sword, the plate would absorb some of the energy expended in casting, and the shield would limit his ability to gesture, making it difficult to control his spells.

It’s logical counterbalancing versus artificially restricting. And, in my mind, it’s a far superior solution to what we use today.

Why would a mage prefer using a robe to other armor types? Leather weighs him down and slightly impedes his ability to gesture, metal conducts his energy and makes it go to waste, and the robe is woven with arcane precision and augments his powers.

Why would a mage prefer using a staff to other weapon types? One, because his gnarled gem staff was created with the powerful arm of a treant and crowned with an enchanted dragon eye, which considerably improves his magical abilities. Perhaps more importantly, because he doesn’t have to expend effort in training the skills and attributes used to wield a weapon (honing a weapon skill enhances strength at the cost of his intelligence going down due to lack of use).

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every skill set, there is an equal and opposite set of skills. For every attribute, there is an equal and opposite attribute. You get the point. I’ll talk a bit more about skill sets and attributes in my next entry. Everything at a cost (how many quotes can I use in one entry?). You absolutely should be able to use any item in the game, at your own peril.

What happens if an inexperienced tactician wields an ancient blood-forged demon maul? Most likely, she’ll become possessed with an insatiable bloodlust, attacking all around her until she becomes consumed by the weapon’s power and dies.

What about our wannabe Gandalf with the sword and shield? Our fearless mage with his razor-edged sword of utter doom will probably cut off his own leg (stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself…).

What about a rogue with heavy armor and a two-handed staff? A dashing rogue in plate armor and a lightning-imbued ebony staff will never be particularly stealthy or swift (what with that unwieldy metal armor). Or he’ll explode.

The examples I provided might be a little too involved for direct implementation, but the idea is solid and useable. By defining logical actions and reactions, inheriting from that general template, and being able to define more specific consequences at a lower level, it’s perfectly feasible.

Down with artificial restrictions that limit player freedom, immersion, and fun. Vive la revolution! Err, up with in-game reasons for everything and letting players do what they want to do (risking life and limb for making ill-conceived decisions).

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