Monday, June 11, 2012
MMOs and the Near-Death of the Roleplayer
All that being said, I DO like to Role Play. It’s just that when I do so, I most often do it by making sure that my character’s actions are “in character.” So, my brave fighters rarely run from combat (though a “tactical retreat” is sometimes called for), and I try to play the character according to the basic personality that I assign to him. He does things that he would logically do, whether they are good decisions or not.
Anyways, where was I? Oh, yeah. MMOs.
So, I am playing in a 1E AD&D game on a monthly basis. One of our players is a huge MMO player, as well as being a long-time tabletop gamer. However, in recent years he has gotten more into MMOs than tabletop. And it shows in his playing.
In an MMO, people tend to think of their characters in terms of their “role” on a team. Is your character a Tank, a Healer, a Melee DPS (Damage Per Second) or a Ranged DPS? And this, in many cases, defines their experience within the game.
However, I had several experiences where I would join a Raid with strangers (basically a special quest that requires a certain number of people, and is repeatable), only to be kicked from the team during the Quest because someone had an add-on that would calculate my numbers, and display them to the group. Apparently I was crappy at DPS.
My friend was the leader of a Guild, and at one point I had Hoofgrimm join, because it sounded fun. But again, even though I didn’t get booted from the Raid, it was the same basic experience. They were all on voicechat, and it was just an ongoing conversation about how best to handle the latest monster, and who should do what. Turned out, in-game was nothing but tactical play for the most part, and the Roleplay (which my friend touted the guild as being heavily into) was relegated to the internet forums, and special meet-ups where they would interact through private chats. At least, that was my experience.
Personally, I preferred to RP on the fly, during combat or travel. So, in the middle of a fight, I would type out some dialogue that my character would actually say, and I would do things that my character would actually do, regardless of whether he was any good at it. And this is simply not how MMOs are played.
Ok, back to my friend. His AD&D character is a Cleric. Ok, not traditionally a front-line troop, but he could hold his own in a fight. But my friend only sees a Healer whose job is to stay back and…well, heal. Problem is, healing magic in AD&D is not nearly as effective as it is in an MMO (especially when you roll for crap). So, he was constantly whining that his character had nothing to do, and that he was ineffectual.
Yesterday, he was not able to show up for game (oddly, he had made a previous commitment in an online game), so my wife played his character. And she had him do more. He was up there swinging his mace when he didn’t have any spells that would be effective. And you know what? He lived, and, more importantly, he contributed to the success and survival of the group by being in the fray on occasion. And he also healed people.
In short, when the character was played as more than just a healer, he became a more effective character. Clerics in D&D are not combat medics. They are knights and holy warriors in the service of their chosen deities. And they also heal.
To me, this just illustrates the one reason why MMOs will never truly replace tabletop RPGs. There is little to no improvisation in an MMO. There is very little opportunity to freely play a character how YOU want to play him, especially within the mental dynamic of the modern MMO player.
Now, I enjoy MMOs immensely (currently playing Star Wars…occasionally), but I have a ton more fun sitting at a table, rolling dice, interacting in person, and having my character do things that maybe he shouldn’t traditionally do, and being rewarded for the effort. I like that, at the table, we can choose to tie a rope to the Halfling and have the barbarian fling him across the chasm, just so we can have a rope bridge to cross. In an MMO, you can’t do that. You have to summon your mount and ride the long way around. If you are high enough level to have a mount, that is…otherwise you run.