Thursday, September 22, 2011

In Which The Warlock Wants a Frost Reaver...

A few months ago, you may remember some comments that I made about Diablo III's runestone system, and how it could be applied to a potential D&D skill system.  As you might imagine, I'm a bit of a Diablo fanatic.  While I don't care much for either of Blizzard Entertainment's other titles, the Diablo series (particularly Diablo II and its expansion pack, Lord of Destruction) managed to walk that wonderful line between action game and role-playing game in a deep, horrific environment. 

Can we get a release date yet?  Please?
I've been specifically excited for the information coming out on Diablo III as it's finally managed to hit its public beta test.  While my actual chances of getting into the beta might as well be infinitesimal, the footage from the beta that's been pouring in looks utterly spectacular, and I find myself desperately hoping that the game manages to surface this year, despite Blizzard's continual affirmations that the game will release "when it's ready."

Among the screencaptured pictures and streaming beta footage, Blizzard has also updated their primary Diablo III website, including a skill calculator--complete with all runestone combinations for each skill!--and a database of all the glorious gear that can drop, as your character eviscerates the minions of the Lord of Terror.

And, oh, my!  So much gear!  So many items and so many modifiers!  Armor for defending!  Weapons for bashing!  Wanga dolls and fetishes for...well...who cares?!  They look great!

Flipping through the numerous Legendary and Set Items, something occurred to me:  there's a distinct difference between certain role-playing games.  Some games are fundamentally gear-driven--the D&Ds of the world, primarily, while others place almost no emphasis on gear.

Pick a card, any card...
There's nothing wrong with either approach, really.  There's something to be said about finding a truly unique weapon or a relic that's been the subject of a massive quest spanning numerous game sessions.  Items like the Eye and Hand of Vecna, the soul-sucking rune-sword Blackrazor, or the infamous Deck of Many Things provide definition and opportunity for character development, centered around not just the acquisition of said items, but also the use of them.  After all, who hasn't had a campaign derailed when someone's taken an unfortunate draw on that Deck of Many Things?

One of the criticisms that I've seen tossed towards 4e D&D is the element of "Christmas Tree syndrome"--characters are expected to have certain elements of gear at certain levels, resulting in a laundry list of items, few of which have any real meaning or campaign relevance.  This, I think, may be one of the reasons that I've somewhat dropped D&D for a while.

Johnny Blaze loves his Hellfire Shotgun
On the other end of the spectrum is my current games of choice, Savage Worlds and ICONS.  Gear, while not quite irrelevant in Deadlands, only becomes important as a plot point--items like Maerlyn's Grapefruit, the Riggins Hellfire Carbine, and the like were grippingly vital, but mundane weapons and the like are glossed over.  ICONS, on the other hand, doesn't even have rules for equipment!  It's entirely left to the imagination!  Any gear that's listed becomes a plot point, usable for the GM (and the PCs, in some cases) to break the rules!

Neither way is bad, per se, but the key is to make gear matter.  A hero's choices should be vital to their core.  And, as always, it should look cool...

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