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9 Lessons GMs Can Learn from World of Warcraft

I started playing World of Warcraft [1] (WoW) at the end of 2005, and it’s been a blast so far.

Me being, well, me, I’ve been thinking about what lessons GMs can learn from WoW ever since I logged in for the first time, and here they are: 9 GMing lessons you can learn from World of Warcraft.

One thing before we get started: WoW was developed by a massive team of game designers, over a long period of time, for quite a bit of money.

Your game is put together by you, over however much time you can squeeze in around real life, for free.

Does that mean you can’t run a fantastic game? Absolutely not! But it does mean that few games are going to hit all 9 of these high notes, and that’s okay. Every game you run should be a learning experience [2] — these are lessons, but they’re also goals.

1. Everything should be fun

Many massively multiplayer games require that you kill endless armies of the same boring enemies to level up. You can do this in WoW, too, but the quest system is so robust and rewarding that you don’t actually need to.

Every moment of every RPG session you run might not be fun, but there should be a lot more fun stuff than boring stuff [3]. I know that sounds basic, but think back to your last session — were there low points? Did one of your players seem bored? Did you slog through something dull to get to the meat of the adventure?

Those are all opportunities — things you can work on to make sure you’re maximizing the amount of fun everyone at the table, including you, has at every game.

2. Details matter

As a longtime player of an older MMO, Ultima Online, and after a bit of experience with EverQuest, one thing that really struck me about WoW is how many of the details they got right — it’s a very polished game.

Taking a bit of extra prep time to really sex up your encounters [4], make a couple of extra notes about key NPCs or work on props for your game [5] can make a similar difference at your table, too.

3. Travel should be easy

The Warcraft world is massive, but getting from place to place is simplified by the inclusion of mounts, gryphon “taxis” and free ocean voyages. Travel thus remains part of the game — as it should in tabletop RPGs — but it doesn’t distract you from doing fun stuff for very long.

4. Item management should be simple

With a bank box, several bags, automatic stacking of like items, game-wide mailboxes and countless other features, WoW makes dealing with your character’s stuff very simple. Item management can be a massive pain in the ass in some games (D&D, anyone?), but you can take steps to speed it up [6] — which leaves you more time to focus on having fun.

5. Every class should have lots of things to do

When WoW characters group to tackle quests and dungeons, every class contributes different talents — and every player has something fun to do. As a GM, you should design every adventure to include multiple opportunities for each PC to shine.

6. Style should shine through

WoW absolutely oozes style — and it’s got a unified style. When your games have their own vibrant, obvious style that ties everything together, they become richer, more memorable and more fun.

7. Everyone should leave every session jazzed about the game

In nearly 200 hours of gameplay, I can count the number of times I’ve logged off frustrated on one hand. WoW delivers fun very, very consistently, and you should strive to do the same thing in your games. If something isn’t fun, don’t do it again!

8. It’s okay to make changes after the campaign begins

WoW’s developers tweak the game through patches — many players would say they tweak it too often, but the principle is sound: Don’t be afraid to change things that aren’t working, add new elements or otherwise alter the game after it begins. Just don’t forget to include your players in this process!

9. Err on the side of being over-the-top

Part of WoW’s style is that everything is larger than life — slightly (or more than slightly) cartoony, in a good way. In tabletop gaming, just as you shouldn’t hoard your best ideas [7], you shouldn’t be afraid to be over-the-top.

Your players are much more likely to look back fondly on a slightly too-crazy game than they will on a slightly too dull game, after all.

Questions

If you play WoW, here are a couple of details about my WoW experience to put things in perspective: I’m still on my first character, a level 42 (currently) rogue on Icecrown, a PvM server. What do you think I’d put on this list after another 6 months of gameplay? Another handful of alts? After playing on a PvP server?

Whether you have or haven’t played WoW, though, what do you think of these lessons?

Update: I submitted this post to Slashdot [8], and it’s generated some heated comments [9] over there — definitely worth checking out if you want to see some different perspectives on this article.

28 Comments (Open | Close)

28 Comments To "9 Lessons GMs Can Learn from World of Warcraft"

#1 Comment By Brian Carnell On February 18, 2006 @ 10:01 pm

“Many massively multiplayer games require that you kill endless armies of the same boring enemies to level up. You can do this in WoW, too, but the quest system is so robust and rewarding that you don’t actually need to.”

Um, how far exactly have you gotten in WoW. Too many of the quests are “go grind 20 of Monster X”. Then you turn it in and the follow-up is “go grind 20 of Monster X^2”. That and the FedEx runs “Now that you’ve killed 20 of Monster X^2, go talk to that yahoo over there.”

Even as good as WoW is, its still a long way from a PNP-type experience.

#2 Comment By Kuipo On February 18, 2006 @ 10:36 pm

While what brian may be right that you must kill monsters to complete a quest. This is only partly true in my opinion.

I believe too many players open the quest window, look for the objective, and accept the quest so they can get the job finished asap. However, if you take your time with the quests, possibly read the text they NPC provides. More often than not, there is some sort of story or plot to killing these monsters or running this package across the world.

Now, I’ll agree that not every plot or story is great. But if you give it some thought it might just be more fun to play.

Now onto what the author is asking… What to do now? Well I believe it’s all in how you like to play. Here are a few options:

1. If you like to do massive raids with people, (10 to 40 people in a group) then I’d say continue on and get to 50+ asap. There are plenty of solo or group quests to get you there.
2. If you like solo play, as I do, then make SURE you don’t rush to 60. Take your time… find new places to go, new things to do, make friends or go back in the game to do some quests in area’s you put aside in choice of another place to level.
3. If you want competition… PVP is great. However you are more than likely going to get a younger age group even if it is a RPGPVP server. Quick note… You WILL NEED a group to level past about lvl 20 as then you begin to get hunted by the other team.
4. Focus on what you called.. the details. Go play some of the pvp battlegrounds they provide. Focus on a craft and see if you can get some good crafts to use or sell. Adventure to places looking for little books and reading them. Or you could RP with a few friends or just random people.

Hope some of these might help ^^

#3 Comment By Alan On February 19, 2006 @ 12:32 am

I do not mean this in any way to be flaim, just from personal experience on WoW. I have a 60 Horde Warrior on Deathwing (US) (Enigmad), and quite a few alts.

1. Everything should be fun

Not everything is fun. Of course some of it could be blamed on the actual players, but the grind for BGs rep and gear for high end instances is painful. Yes, it is fun for awhile but gets old very very quickly.

5. Every class should have lots of things to do

In WoW at level 60 every class doesn’t necessarily have lots of do. Mages have become more of a drink vendor than anything else. Plan to make a damage dealing warrior? Prepared to get complaints from parties and raids. I have a 60 warrior who when I go with my 2h, I still maintain all aggro and out damage rogues, and most of the time, all other classes, still they complain I don’t have a shield and 1h at first. It’s frustrating.

7. Everyone should leave every session jazzed about the game

I wish this was the case, and it may just be because I’m 60, but I will sometimes leave the game pissed off due to lag, or due to the fact that at 60 there is nothing to really do unless you can find a group who is wanting to do the same thing as you. If you can’t find that group, there’s nothing to do and end up blowing money at the AH.

8. It’s okay to make changes after the campaign begins

I do agree with what you said here. Yes, sometimes it is too often and breaks add ons (which is another major plus going for WoW), but the fact of adding linked AHs, linked channels so you can be more spread out was something everyone was thrilled about and throughly enjoyed seeing done. Oh, and the AQ event. An amazing idea. Opening the gates on a PvP server is going to be a blast and can’t wait to partake in it. I won’t be able to go into instance for awhile, but the idea of forcing the two teams to work together is just going to wreack havic, and better believe I’ll be there all night ganking people.

I guess my main complaint about the game is just once you hit 60 you think wow, this is what i worked so hard for? This sucks. Then you decide to get gear and such and at first it’s fun, then it just keeps drawing out becomming harder and harder. Once you have decent gear, better pray you can get in a guild that can down Nef, or even Ragnaros and Onyxia.

#4 Comment By Jegschemesch On February 19, 2006 @ 12:58 am

Hey, I have a 60 priest and 60 mage on Icecrown. What’s your toon’s name?

#5 Comment By pumpina On February 19, 2006 @ 1:31 am

Getting to 60 is the start of the game. After 60, you have to be in a decent raid guild to get gear. You end up with two distinct grinding games, the second worse than the first. All of these observations are from a noob’s perspective. Play to 60 days and see how you feel about the game.

#6 Comment By Joost On February 19, 2006 @ 4:50 am

Hahaha, 200 hours? No way you can draw conclusions after just 200 hours. Better make it 2000 hours first.

#7 Comment By DM T. On February 19, 2006 @ 6:02 am

WoW and RPing…
Oha, talk about difference between RPG and MMORPG.
I’ve played UO for three years and I can honestly say that true RPing can and does happen in MMORPG.

I can go on about my 60 warrior and the fun of raiding in WoW, but that’s not the point of this post.

Quest & Reward is something you can learn from WoW. There are many good items to find in the game, many of them are quest rewards. Tailoring the rewards to the quests is essential both in MMORPGs and in your personal D&D game.
Hand out a +1 sword after the entire party managed to banish a Type III Demon and close the gate before all hell breaks loose can really lower PCs morale, just like killing Ragnaros after wiping 19 times and all you get is 2g30s 🙂

That’s it for now,

#8 Comment By Ron On February 19, 2006 @ 6:03 am

Better make it 2000 hours first.

2000 hours is a 40 hours/week work-year. There’s no way I could fit that into my life.

#9 Comment By Anthony On February 19, 2006 @ 8:26 am

Sometimes I wonder if people who write comments actually read the posts. Good summation of sound GM principles. Keep it up! Not only should traditional GMs take heed, but other MMOPRGs designers.

#10 Comment By Atul On February 19, 2006 @ 8:40 am

To those who have level 60 players and think the game is boring: why do you play it, then? Why did you even get to level 60? The point of playing any game isn’t to get to the highest level and have all the best gear, it’s to have fun. Unlike a lot of games, WoW is really what you make of it: if you’re bored, odds are there is something else in the game you can do that’s more fun. If you’re tired of killing the same things on your own, then try fighting something much higher level than you, or try fighting a bunch of easier monsters but at the same time, or explore some place you’ve never been before, or help newbies, or plan a guild event, or join a group, or try Battlegrounds, or duel someone one-on-one, or do some crafting, or go to the auction house and play the eBay game for a while. And if you still aren’t having fun no matter what you try doing, then stop playing the game. You can always come back later if you want.

In any case, I agree with pretty much everything the author says here. This is also a good list of what distinguishes WoW in particular from every other MMORPG out there–while WoW hits these 9 principles all the time, most other games don’t.

#11 Comment By Martin On February 19, 2006 @ 8:46 am

Brian: There are definitely only a few templates for the quests I’ve seen to date, but what set them apart for me was that they gave you a concrete reason to kill 20 of monster X — unlike UO and EQ did as of several years ago (not sure about now).

Kuipo: Thanks for the tips on getting the most out of my WoW experience. 🙂

Alan: I’m very curious to see what the game is like at 60, because from what I’ve heard a lot of players get frustrated about the things that you mentioned in your comment.

Depending on my own experience, it might make for a good follow-up post. 😉

pumpina and Joost: Yep, I’m a WoW noob. We’ll see what another 1,800 hours (man, that sounds like a loooong time!) does to my perspective. 😉

DM T: Good point about tailoring quest rewards — thank you for bringing it up!

Anthony and Atul: Thanks. 🙂 General principles were definitely what I was shooting for, and I’m glad you liked the post.

#12 Comment By Wyvern On February 19, 2006 @ 3:26 pm

You have got to be kidding me. How on earth can a computer game that is inherently combat orientated possibly be of any value for improving pen-and-paper GMing?

It’s a totallly different medium. A computer game does ‘kill the monsters, take their stuff’ ‘monty haul’ style campaigns quite well because the computer does all the annoying number crunching and looking up crit hit tables for you. This style of gameplay is, to be quite frank, a mindnumbing chore to sit through when playing at the tabletop.

Want my advice on how to improve GMing? Take an old source book for White Wolf, ignore the excesses of teenage goth angst, and look through the section entitled ‘Storytelling’. Any system will do, in fact, as long as it predates the abomination that is D20, a development that seems to hae single-handedly dragged PNP roleplaying back to the dark ages.

Therein you will find the things that are the tools of the true GM, plot hooks, characterisation, story arcs, that will put the Fear into your players and create a far more memorable game than any amount of random entities from the Monster Manual or +4 Swords of Dobber ever could.

If your party is more concerned about the treasure yeilded from killing Demon Lord X than the terrifying build-up to facing him, or about micro-managing their haul of items, then you have failed as a GM.

#13 Comment By blackwood13 On February 4, 2013 @ 8:48 am

Dude…you’re my hero. I agree 100%. And I do play an online MMORPG, but it isn’t WoW or UO…it’s LOTRO, which is, in my humble opinion, infinitely better than WoW, which I tried first. But these MMORPGs can’t hold a candle to PnP games, and while we can learn these lessons that Martin illuminates us, I would not lay these points at the feet of WoW, or *ANY* MMORPG.

#14 Comment By DM T. On February 20, 2006 @ 12:25 am

Wyvern wrote:
“Any system will do, in fact, as long as it predates the abomination that is D20, a development that seems to have single-handed dragged PNP roleplaying back to the dark ages.”

There are a few disturbing issues with the D20 ruleset, that in a whole, it gives Min/Max Players the ability to shine. But I really think you’re missing the whole point of the Open Gaming License, which enables other companies (White wolf among them) to produce Campaign resources without the need to purchase a whole D&D or like-games licenses.

When you look at RPing, every type of game have a set of rules, be it MMORPG on the computer, D&D 3.5, Paranoia, Vampire: The Requiem/The Masquerade.
RPing itself, have nothing to do with the ruleset. It’s just the style that you (the GM) and your players play the game.

I won’t discuss D20 vs. the world on a post about MMORPG vs. Pen & Paper gaming. What I do want to emphasis is that RPing can occur no matter what frames you’re using to set the environment, it’s all up to the participating parties to play it out.

#15 Comment By BVC On February 20, 2006 @ 6:58 am

Your table top game is full.

Position in queue 523, estimated wait time, 1 hour.

^

The one thing that will never happen in table top RPGs that makes them better than WoW currently.

#16 Comment By Wheeler On February 20, 2006 @ 9:08 am

I think the point about travel being easy is wrong. Many of the great stories are about travel. I think one of the failings of WoW is that travel is easy and boring. The taxis take forever to get where you’re going and there’s no interesting challenge in it.

#17 Comment By Cassie On February 20, 2006 @ 9:32 am

Leaving frustrated.
Yes it happens, but for me it is LAG. I’ve boosted system RAM, replaced my video card, and so on but every so often LAG strikes anyway. Waiting on your mailbox to open for 20 minutes is not fun.

Over 60.
I have one Alliance Hunter over 60, and a couple serious alts on the way in Alliance and Horde plus some not so serious. I have no problem staying interested as an over 60 character. Grinding? Well sorta, I mean I’ve been in Scholo (for example) a dozen times looking for a certain drop. But each time is still interesting to play with different people and their different styles. Most of the dungeons after the early ones, have enough to them that they take a bit of skill and coordination to accomplish.
So why do I have other characters on the way up? Well in watching others I find myself thinking it might be fun to try to be a priest or druid or…. Actualy with the variation in characters and content I figure I’m set for years of play. Plus they are always adding stuff. (By the way are the Gates open yet?)
“wink”

#18 Comment By Waldo On February 20, 2006 @ 10:34 am

1. What is “more fun” for some players differs from others. I’m not certain this is useful advice as it is *very* general and can differ widely between groups of players. Haggling over the price of armor may be a yawn for some players but juice up hardcore role-players who want detailed NPC encounters. I think it’s a no-brainer that we play games to have fun… and no GM wants to run a boring game.

2. Which details? Detaills can also bog down a game. As cited for #1, merchant interactions might be considered too much or too little detail depending on the situation. As another example, the effects of weather (heat/cold/dehydration/precipitation) could be a boon or a bane to a campaign. Detail is great, but not if it requires lots of tables, die rolling and other mechanics that slow down play. Perhaps you mean “Descriptive details matter”. This is another example of “Your mileage may vary.”

3. Baloney — The WoW example does not translate well to table top. In a MMOG, traveling can take up hours of time where the player isn’t “playing”… just running from place to place, which is why game programmers try to make it easier. In table top games, the traveling *IS* the playing. Plot hooks, encounters, story side bars and all kinds of other interesting action happens between point A and B. Once in a while, you can have use the “You have an uneventful two days on horseback” shortcut… but if you use that constantly and then ask one time, “Are you setting up a party watch for the night?” you tip off your players that this time something might happen.

4. Again, WoW is a bad example. Who would want to give players some large “closet of holding” that can be accessed at “the bank” in town? Now, I know that’s not what the linked article advocates, but I’ve often thought GMs let players carry way too much as it is. Even if you don’t want to deal with encumbrance, don’t let your players get away with carrying the whole “dungeon” back to town with them.

5. Perhaps this should be retitled, “Help get all players are involved.” There may not be a plot element for every class… but that doesn’t mean all the players can’t contribute somehow.

6. You also need substance. Style isn’t everything. Consistency is also important. A horror campaign will have humorous moments, but if you thrown an over-the-top toon-esque session in the middle, you’ll break your atmosphere and hurt the game.

7. Sometimes sh!t happens… Characters die and players may not always be happy at the end of a session, but that’s not always bad. Just be sure that overall, they like the game — the point is to have fun, after all (but that doesn’t mean nothing bad should ever happen to a character).

8. Somewhat of a no-brainer, but there may be a better way to emphasize this point — Don’t hold onto a story element your players don’t want to play. Sometimes we GMs get so enamored with one of our ideas, we’re dying to see how the players handle it… but then they surprise us and try to avoid it altogether! Or just don’t seem interested. Then we try to get them to approach it from a different side, and they still avoid it. At this point, we may be tempted to railroad them into the situation. Players will resent this and it might sour the game temporarily (or worse). Let it go. As much as you might love a plot element, if the players circumvent it, leave it be. It’s possible they may actually choose to come back to it later, but don’t force it upon them. Put it on the back burner, figure out how it might impact the game world if left to resolve itself (but don’t use that to force the players either) and then move on.

9. Within reason… Don’t break the atmosphere as mentioned earlier.

#19 Comment By Phaltran On February 20, 2006 @ 11:22 am

I gave up comparing tabletop to computer games in 1986. I had run several successful campaigns and felt myself an accomplished DM. I strongly disliked all of the administration (papers, dice, number crunching, story writing, etc.) that went into providing a few hours of entertainment a week. When I played Ultima IV for the first time, I immediately felt “Yes, this is how simple the game should be. Let the computer do all the work. Let me play.”

What I’m wondering is that if you’re such an avid RPG gamer (table or computer) and a freelance writer for the RPG industry, what took you so long to investigate WoW? My wife and I have played WoW almost every night since it was released in November of 2004. We were both grateful to find something that helped me kick a 7 1/2 year UO habit. Based on your relatively short amount of time in the game, I consider this article a “First Impression.”

You wonder what’s next? Here’s my list for you:
– play several different classes. The game is very different for each class: specific quests, different challenges to beat mobs, different roles in groups.
– play both Horde and Alliance. Two completely different worlds exist in WoW.
– Get any character to 60.
– Get involved in high level instances.
– Play on a PvP server. I do not like nor promote PvP, but hearing co-workers complain about it, I know it is more challenging and more rewarding.
– Play Battlegrounds. Similar experience as PvP server, but more like a game within a game.

I disagree with several posters here, but everyone has their opinion including me.

Overall my primary reason I feel WoW is enjoyable and appealing to so many people is because it can satisfy numerous playstyles.
If you like story and details, then take your time and read every quest and talk to every NPC you can find.
If you like kill the monster, grab the gold and repeat, go ahead.
If you like socializing and expanding your RPG experience, there’s plenty of space for that as well.
If you like fighting other players because NPC monsters are too boring, by all means play battlegrounds on a PvP server.
Fast, slow, explorers, achievers, socializers and player killers. They can all find something enjoyable in WoW. When I hear someone say “I’m level 60 and I’ve done everything, so I’m leaving,” I am always certain that they have hardly even seen the world.

One of the main reasons I quit tabletop gaming is also the one thing I dislike about MMO’s: jerks. In a tabletop setting, if someone is being a jerk, sure you can kick them out of your house, but they’ll likely take revenge on you or someone in your group. In MMOs after trying to talk and reason with them, I just turn on the ignore filter or report them to the GM and let the GM take care of the problem.

I’ve seen the MMO industry in its infancy. Now that it’s about 10 years old, I believe we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. I also believe that WoW has gotten a big piece of the formula correct and any future MMO’s that want to be successful will emulate parts of Blizzard’s design and implementation.

Martin, I’m curious if you have tried (beta) D&D Online. I played the stress test and didn’t care for it at all. Too many details forced upon you, ability to solo disappeared quickly, the interface was cumbersome, conversation was difficult and the movement un-natural. Mostly I disliked the current ruleset. An elf paladin able to shoot a bow is just wrong in my fundamental D&D world. Since DDO *should* be closer to the tabletop experience, I’m guessing it would be more of a fit to your expertise and I’m interested in your impression of it.

#20 Comment By masterzora On February 20, 2006 @ 4:19 pm

@Wheeler:
“I think the point about travel being easy is wrong. Many of the great stories are about travel. I think one of the failings of WoW is that travel is easy and boring. The taxis take forever to get where you’re going and there’s no interesting challenge in it.”

I don’t think that’s what Martin meant. I think he means that, in an average campaign in which the travel adds nothing extraordinary to the game, feel free to make the travel easy and short. If your session centers around a bit of travel, you obviously don’t want to follow this one.

#21 Comment By Hawk On February 20, 2006 @ 4:36 pm

1. Everything should be fun – Yep agree there.

2. Details matter – Yea they do. But compairing EQ1 to WOW is like Pong to Frogger. 2 different lvl/generations of MMO. Now I agree with WOW even being more polished then EQ2. That is a good compair. But each learn from the other and correct/change things as they see fit.

3. Travel should be easy – Yes, but not boring. Long trips with nothing to do (i.e. EQ1 with that bloody boat trip) is not good.

4. Item management should be simple – YEP YEP!! If you can’t put it away quickly to go do more hunting, you might as well not even go.

5. Every class should have lots of things to do – It’s called balance, but mostly all games are not balanced even WOW. The dev’s will always have a soft spot for a certain class/race and do more for them then the others, or slack off and give the others basic quests instead of more detailed/enjoyable ones.

6. Style should shine through – depends on what your going for, and what you get. Some like ANime type toons, others like detailed/RL type toons. Each game I have played,(every many MMO’s in last 6 years), even Earth & Beyond was unified. I don’t see like drawn toons and real pics used often in MMO’s. They are mostly all unified with “thier” style.

7. Everyone should leave every session jazzed about the game – Interesting, if your jazzed you should still be playing, not ending a session. Feel good, that I would say. Not feeling like you just got beat up by a 3 year old.

8. It’s okay to make changes after the campaign begins – Yea, to a point. You keep changing then you beak things. All MMO’s change things after launch, it’s a never ending/changing world you log into.

9. Err on the side of being over-the-top – UM, why? Fantasy is fantasy, not larger than life. A true MMO for RPG is to be able to drop in, play your toon, and bounce out. Not sit there figuring out why your head is 14 times bigger than what is supposed to be, and why.

Is WOW one of the best MMO out there, sure. Will it be forever, nope. New genereations of games are being developed and made all the time. Yea, your points are valid, but other point could be added to it as well. But most are common sense to any playing MMO’s for a while. Will we all agree what is best, nope. There again, never come close, so for the FPS style player coming into MMO’s they will not even think of things you have listed. Great job on them though, well thought out.

But posting from tabletop to MUD to MMO, thing have come a long way since ZORK and the others.

So until next time,

w
w
open gate
through gate
close gate
w
w
w

#22 Comment By DM T. On February 21, 2006 @ 1:59 am

Another aspect I’ve noticed about WoW and my current D&D campaign is the way players take roles.
In WoW, each class really shines at a certain role (Except druids, I guess).
The Warrior can TANK most efficiently with great AGGRO management skills, Mages and Warlocks can AoE effectively, Priests are the best healers, while Paladins and Shamans can really buff up the combat and Rogues deal the quickest damage available (Sneak attack anyone?)

Some of my players who veteran in WoW, have started managing their tactics accordingly. Suddenly, they give more thought to feats like Imp Disarm and Imp Grapple and not just the Specialization and it’s likings.

All in all, I think playing MMORPGs can help out your tabletop gaming (whether you’re a GM or a Player). The boost to running a successful campaign has always been through the sheer amount of experience you have in RPing, be it computer generated or completely inside your mind.

🙂

#23 Comment By Martin On February 21, 2006 @ 9:03 am

(Wyvern) If your party is more concerned about the treasure yeilded from killing Demon Lord X than the terrifying build-up to facing him, or about micro-managing their haul of items, then you have failed as a GM.

Actually, this is a perfectly valid play style — it’s not too far off from the core story of D&D, for example. It’s not my favorite way to game either, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s “wrong.”

(Wheeler) I think the point about travel being easy is wrong. Many of the great stories are about travel.

masterzora nailed it on this one: What I was getting at is that in a lot of games I’ve played travel has been a distraction — something the group (or even just the GM) felt that they “had to” play out, even though it wasn’t all that much fun.

Cassie: Having just died 8 times in Uldaman last night, I see what you mean about the dungeons getting tougher in WoW. 😉

It’s good to hear that your interest hasn’t flagged after substantial post-60 play.

Waldo: Your points are all good ones — there are lots of ways to play. This article has a point of view, and it’s interesting to get feedback from folks (like yourself) who see things differently. 🙂

(Hawk) Everyone should leave every session jazzed about the game – Interesting, if your jazzed you should still be playing, not ending a session.

Why not do both? In my book, there’s no substitute for leaving the session pumped-up to play the next session — if that fails to happen a few times in a row, it’s usually a sign that there are problems with the game.

Thanks for the feedback. 🙂

#24 Comment By Roger On February 21, 2006 @ 9:15 am

There’s another big difference between WoW and your tabletop game.

Consider how character death works in WoW. Contrast to your home game.

I’m not exactly advocating switching over to the WoW version of death, but I think it’s worth some consideration.

#25 Comment By Martin On February 21, 2006 @ 9:35 am

Roger: I considered that one for the post, but in the end I decided that it conflicted with too many games and play styles to make the list.

It’s definitely worthy of consideration, though — I think many players have been frustrated by random PC death in D&D, for example (although many players also enjoy knowing that random death could happen).

There are games that treat PC death in non-traditional ways, though — Primetime Adventures, for example, doesn’t have any mechanics for PC death (or hit points, etc.) at all.

If a player thinks their PC’s death works dramatically, they can include it in the game. So in PTA it’s not an inconvience, it just flat out doesn’t happen unless you want it to.

#26 Comment By Jeb On February 21, 2006 @ 10:50 am

Good thoughts. Here are a few more:

– Message Quests. These quests are common in WoW (Take this letter to X). These are also highly appropriate to any fantasy campaign and could easily be integrated. Tabletop PC groups are traveling all the time, and many NPCs would have reasons to ask them to carry letters. This could be a great way to get a disinterested player more involved in the game as their PC has a simple quest that involves interaction and that can lead to additional quests.

– Item Management. For me, D&D has always placed too much emphasis on items. One of the things that I like about WoW, though, is how you have to pay to maintain your items. However, this would be a pain to implement in tabletop.

– D&D Paradigm / Runequest Style. While much of the WoW structure comes from D&D (classes, leveling, etc.), much of the play style comes from Runequest (minor magics as special abilities akin to Bladesharp). With feats, D&D 3.x has moved much closer to this type of system, but there is probably more that could be done. Action points, certainly, are a mechanic that can provide some of this flair. Action points are also a tabletop mechanic that would be difficult to translate into an MMORPG. As Robin Laws has observed, players like the fiddelly bits. Blue Rose/True 20 and Conan d20 both have interesting, and very different, takes on how to add more player choices in character design and during play.

#27 Comment By Martin On February 22, 2006 @ 8:30 am

Jeb: Message quests would definitely translate well to tabletop D&D games, and I think your reasoning is sound — who better than adventurers to carry a message through dangerous territory?

#28 Comment By Martin On February 22, 2006 @ 8:56 pm

(Phaltran) What I’m wondering is that if you’re such an avid RPG gamer (table or computer) and a freelance writer for the RPG industry, what took you so long to investigate WoW?

I just realized that I never answered this question…

Two reasons: One, I was worried I’d get hooked on it like I did with UO — and that it would keep me from gaming, freelancing and doing all the other things I love to do.

Two, up until December my PC couldn’t handle it. 😉