Narrative and lure – the lure of a good MMORPG lies in immersion, exploration and friendly competition. Players should feel coerced by other players and NPC’s to act out the roles they signed up for. If a player rolls a warrior, he should quickly find himself under the strain of a diligent overlord, that punishes and shapes him into the warrior he or she was born to be. If a player rolls an archer they should be quickly wrapped up in hunting and shooting practice. If a player rolls a mage, they should quickly encounter clever puzzles and philosophy. A diplomat will seek to recruit and pick out his well-trained guard.
NPC Mentors/World Actors – The weakness of most MMO’s is that they rely on players to generate simple narratives or hack away at linear challenges. To break this system, players should be frequently introduced to NPC Mentors, that shape them to be a certain way, and encourage them to become mentors for other players of their type. A warrior should be taught to fell like a warrior, and take pride in teaching other warriors. They should be taught to respect each other and the importance of the unit for survival. Failing to follow the direction of an NPC mentor, which will be found frequently throughout the world. Will likely mean death, a quick ticket back to the start.
These NPC mentors will deliver/teach narrative in such a way that encourages players to repeat their experiences without them. NPC mentors add to the flavor of any scene. Picture a war-torn general giving his pre-battle siege speech to the players and NPC’s found before the start of a siege battle. A diplomatic lesson of who to trust, or a sell-sword lesson in who to rob.
Narrative Rewards – Players should be rewarded by GM’s, not for chugging their way through instanced content, but by leading genuine player narratives and inspired acting. This kind of behavior should be recognized by GM’s. GM’s should carefully levy large rewards, lend NPC armies or bonuses, to aid in the development of a strong player story.
Limitations – Limitations are the key to providing an effective combat experience. An archer may be strong at range, but his arrows will soon run out. A shielded warrior may be able to block most attacks, but fatigue will cause his blocks to weaken the more they are used. As a mage casts spells, he also drains his fatigue, causing him to move much slower and have reduced effectiveness. The aim of the game is more like a chess match, to pick your moments wisely, and recover in the moments between.
Factions sell-swords and balance – There are three factions, one that seeks to build communities, settlements and technology. One that seeks to preserve nature and magic. And one in-between the two, sell-swords that can change sides. A player chooses a faction and builds reputation with it for advancement. Sell-swords on the other hand, are free-roamers, they go where the moneys at. Whichever is the weaker of the two factions, nature or humanity, levy’s free extra gold(debt) to recruit player and NPC sell-swords that even the odds. This helps create a balance between the factions. Sell-swords will be expected to roam and travel a lot between places, padding up the losing side of any battle. Sell-swords that work together, as unit’s, can expect to earn more gold than those that go it alone. Successful sell-swords, that successfully defend their applied target, will be rewarded more increasingly, the greater their success. As a group of sell-swords becomes more successful, defending weekly keep battles. They can expect to be pitted up against steadily increasing odds. Using other sell-swords and NPC’s against them to eventually beat them.
Humanities factions will want to claim the main cities and chop down forests and rocks for resources, much of their plot will be diplomatic and hierarchal in nature. Wild factions will want to preserve nature, living more peaceful and reserved lives in secluded forests and hills. Sell-swords only care for money, and will use their ability to organise themselves against the odds. Each faction will be composed of sub factions, that drive the narrative and roleplay for different types of players.
Three times a year – The realm should be locked up in complete chaos, the biggest battles of each season. The winner of these momentous events, will drive a large part of the player narrative, which factions are ultimately more successful, it will also prepare a harder challenge, to dethrone the winner, padding the loosing side out with more and more sells swords and secrets, to fight back. What this means is, if one faction easily wins the first battle, they can expect to have a much harder fight the next time.
Community – Small, concentrated communities within a larger one is key. NPC events, hunting, attacking, exploring – should be frequent, easy to notice and the most rewarding.
NPC drivers – loud, obnoxious and well acted NPC’s should motivate player roleplay. Timers will alert players to NPC event’s about to begin, before you know it, you might be signed up to a regiment and lent guard Armor to defend the realm from bandits, or
Spawn points. When a player dies, he shouldn’t be able to just stroll back into the battle where he left off. Spawn points will be VERY limited. If you die, it should feel more like you genuinely die. Taking you far away to respawn in your faction’s major city. This will encourage players to plan more effective attacks, or place more value on travel/movement. It will also maintain large hubs of player activity, no matter how large the greater world becomes. When you die, you don’t take your gear with you, forcing you to rely on guilds, players and backups to regain it quickly.
Overpowered gear – fortunately, the difference between a very good sword and a standard sword are marginal. A standard bastard sword will still disable a player with one well-placed charge. Damage is akin to God Of War’s god mode. You can take one or two hits, but certain things will instant kill you. The main difference is how quickly the sword swings, which given the limited health pool, will be crucial in making the first blow. However, a fatigued warrior with a good sword, is still slower than a fresh warrior with a bad one. The constant rebuying of lost gear will drive the games player economy and thirst for resources. Some players won’t like it, but ultimately, it will drive a unique experience, that those that stick around will come to respect.
Statless gear – gear won’t have decipherable stats. Just a basic rating from poor to grand. The only way you’ll be able to tell two grand swords apart is from their visual look. How fast/effective they “feel” in combat, and how much the player salesman makes you “think” it’s the best sword crafted in the game. This experience will be a little similar to Star Wars Galaxies old crafting system, in that every item had a near unlimited combination of stats based on the quality of materials used.
Carriages/boats/autotravel – some players will want to return to where they last left off. If a player doesn’t want to ride back manually, he can hop in a carriage and take a break from the game, as his players carted back for him. This takes time, but no effort. Carriages leave at set intervals, limiting the amount of players that can return to one place. This means that in order to have lots of players in one place, you need to plan-ahead. The most effective form of travel, boats, are always available. Making cities near water more easily accessible than those in say, mountains.
Horses – All players can use horses, horses are fixed points, meaning they never disappear, but can be stabled for safe keeping. This is the best strategy, if you don’t want your horse killed by a random player. This encourages players to remove the horse clutter, without the need for them to disappear into your pockets. It also punishes players that don’t use the games mechanics effectively, hide them well, or at least leave someone/something to guard the horses. Horses can be bred by players within major settlements, this is where the best horses will come form, the strength of the horse will depend on the area where it was reared.
Living in the wild – One major pull of the game will be in it’s beautiful landscape. Some players will fight together over settlements, others will want to get away from it all. The world will be full of beautiful magic, secret chambers, forests and clues. If done well, the secrets of the greater world will be so bountiful, that there may be areas within the game, so secret, that players will not want to share how they got there. The general aim of this is to encourage player communities that are defended not by walls, but secrecy. To enter these areas, you may have to solve complex puzzles or defeat large rock golems. Think of an enchanted forest, that under the wrong hands, can be burnt down for resources. Some will want to defend the beauty of it. Others will want to chop it down and use it. Player factions should encourage a players motivations for either side.
Siege’s. Throughout the realm are multiple castles, towns and various places to take ownership. Major settlements can be claimed by players, providing perks and bonuses to the controlling faction, as well as control of that areas defences. Major settlements can be sieged once per week at specific times. During such times, NPC’s will start a random siege plan. This means there is a limited window to defend or take over major settlements. Different settlements will have different times. Meaning a player should find a settlement with a siege time that works for him/her to defend it in the week. Claiming a settlement might grand you additional perks in the challenges that surround it. You might get additional NPC soldiers, horses or weapons on a nearby raid.
Food – to combat fatigue, slow movement and a host of other problems, players will have to hunt and eat regularly.
Fatigue – most actions generate fatigue. The more you do something in quick succession, the weaker is becomes. If you charge three times in a row without resting, the third charge will be a lot weaker. If you shoot 5 arrows in a row, the last arrows will be much more likely to be blocked/dodged/deflected. If you cast too many spells, the effectiveness of your spells will dwindle. Most actions generate fatigue, including running and climbing.
Deflection – depending on your class/weapon combo, you have a very small natural chance to parry/block flying arrows, even when your not bracing or shielding.
Bracing – You can block the next attack/few attacks, depending on your weapons and class.
Shielding – You can block both attacks, and arrows, the shield gradually recharges, but like bracing, can be broken if attacked in quick succession.
Archers are deadly at range. The archer gets 10-15 arrows that can cause significant damage/weakness if hit successfully. It must take a little time to draw the arrow and be a little difficult/random to fire. Because there are only 10~ arrows and not an unlimited void of infinites, accuracy is crucial. A hit to the leg will limp an enemy until he is able to find medical aid. 4-5 arrows will kill a player, as will a direct hit to any head that has no helmet.
Through the limitation of arrows, archers will be forced to use arrow barrels to restock, or recover them on the field after they’ve been fired. In the event of a siege, it’s likely that the enemy will recover more of the defenders arrows as the battle goes on, as eventually, all the arrow barrels will be depleted, and shot onto the field. (assuming the arrow barrels we’re filled in the first place).
Once an archer as used all of his arrows, he is forced to enter combat with only a short sword/dagger. This is the archers weakest moment, the short sword may be able to dispatch a few npc footmen. But it won’t stand up long to another player warrior with a greataxe or shield/sword combo.
The best archers will shoot a moving player from quite a distance, this will be no easy task, due to the fatigue that builds up, causing frequent shots to be more difficult. An archer could use a crossbow to reduce the fatigue while aiming, but the wind up takes much longer.
Warriors are deadly in melee. The warrior can fight in many ways, using a sword/shield combo, the warrior has the ability to enter guard mode, guard mode raises the shield in front, deflecting all arrows to the body and legs. If multiple arrows or attacks hit in quick succession, the shield defence will break. Forcing the warrior to move from cover to cover as his defences regenerate. This defensive ability makes the warrior a good choice for the front line of a siege battle.
Alternatively, the warrior can weild a great weapon, a bastard sword, spear or greataxe. Each have their strengths. The greataxe or bastard sword’s are natural counters to the shield. If a charge is built up long enough, they can break the hardened defense of the shield barer, or with enough damage, even break the shield. This comes at a drawback though, as warriors without shields are more vulnerable to a deadly archers arrows.
The spear is a unique weapon, light enough to be combined with a shield but with less power than the great-axe and bastard sword, and less finesse than a standard sword. It can be thrown for significant damage, but this comes at a cost. Once a warrior throws his spear, he must fight with only his shield or offhand until a new weapon is recovered.
The best warriors will use cover it’s best potential, and strike with speedy violent force when the enemy is weakest.
The mage provides a support role. Focusing on several main spells. The mage fights with magical weapons. It’s weak to charge attacks and has only a very limited chance to deflect arrows with a magical wind defence, that refills over time.
Mage shield. Every once in a while, the mage can throw down a bolt of frost to the ground, which fractures and splits into a larger icewall. Once used, the icewall remains for a while to be used as cover by your allies, but will gradually crumble due to damage, or time passed. Icewalls can be combined with other mages to form larger defences. But a siege weapon will crush right through an icewall.
Icelance, the icelance is effectively a warriors spear. It can be thrown and works in much the same way. Except unlike the spear, a mage can regenerate a new icelance every so-often. Be mindful, as icelances, like regular spears, can be thrown back if missed. Ice-spears explode on direct hits, causing a stumbling/slowing effect on shielded targets.
Warp – Mage’s can warp, every-so-often, bending space and time to move faster through the void, reappearing somewhere else to escape danger or engage an enemy from behind.
Cauterize. Mages can heal wounds and damage. Ice-walls provide effective cover for healing players on the field. If a mage see’s that his allies are wounded by arrows. It’s probably a good time to drop an ice-shield and start cauterizing the wounds. Cauterizing wounds takes the length of an animation, as arrows are pulled from other players and their wounds are magically sealed shut with fire magic. The bigger the wound, the longer this will take. If the enemy knows your healing behind an icewall, they may seize the opportunity to take the fight to you.
The diplomat’s main job is survival, he is the weakest character, but also one of the most important. To take over a castle, a group or guild must get a diplomat safely to the enemies keep. Only a diplomat can claim ownership of a castle. To do so the enemy players must first be removed. Taking ownership of a castle or settlement gives you power over a castle’s functions, allowing you to close and open the main gates or rebuild/replan the castles defences.
The diplomat doesn’t fight directly. Instead, it has three to four npc bodyguards that fight for him. If these bodyguards are lost, they can be recovered by claiming independent npc’s found around the battlefield.
Using your command, you can tell your guards to charge, assisting other players. Or even shield wall, forming a moving defence for yourself and your allies that other real player warriors may also take the initiative to join onto. As they are NPC’s their effective combat skill isn’t amazing, but as your controlling three of them, they can be used quite efficiently to support other players around the battle field.
If the task master is lost, his NPC’s will beserk on the nearest enemies.
The lure of the diplomat is to feel important, walking around surrounded by more players/npcs that padd out your influence. Players should expect diplomats to drive civilian narratives that wrap up other players. A warrior might speak to a guardsman and sign himself up for duty. A diplomat will speak to another diplomat, aiming to be the catalyst for confrontation and developments.
In theory, diplomats aren’t any stronger than the other classes, they’re just designed to lure players into a cause. Making them seem more important by their guards, which are expensive and timely to re-recruit when lost. This will help to keep the diplomatic playerbase down, as they will have to wait for more soldiers to be trained if they loose their own. For this reason it’s wise to convince real players to join your NPC comrades. You should expect to play other classes while your soldiers are on cooldown, because your not much use in combat without them. In theory, you could enter a battle and claim random NPC’s that you find. But these NPC’s will be much weaker than trained bodyguards. Perhaps even farmers with pitchforks.
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