Posted by : David Guyll June 02, 2011

These pregens were WAY cooler,
back in the day.
In the wake of Daggerdale's disappointment, I decided to write up a list of stuff I'd like to see--and not see--in a digital game adaptation of D&D.

GENRE
Personally I prefer an action-role playing hybrid like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, but even action games can be a blast if done right as long as they mix in some sort of advancement system, such as God of War or Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Regardless it would need to offer meaningful decisions during character creation, because as fun as those old D&D arcade games were I might want to play a fighter that uses something other than a sword and shield (or is of another race, for that matter).

SETTING
My general preference here is at the least no Forgotten Realms. Almost every D&D takes place in Forgotten Realms, and frankly if I wasn't already tired of the setting on the table I'd be tired of it by now. Going with the implied setting would allow for a lot of creative freedom, though I'd like to see more of Eberron than just some parts of Xen'drik and Athas would look pretty badass on screen. Basically, try something new--which in this case doesn't technically have to be new, but merely another pre-fabbed setting.

It is okay to venture out of the Realms, have a set
character, and still have a successful game.
CHARACTER BUILDING
Just stick to the existing model out of Player's Handbook and let players pick their race, class, feats, skills, etc. There's really no reason to deviate from this model, even if you're doing an action-only game. Provide at least four races and classes, each with two or more class features to choose from for a larger variety. Which races and classes depends on the style and setting of the game: In the implied setting I'd expect your typical fare of human, elf, dwarf, fighter, cleric, wizard, etc. If you're going with a horror game in Eberron's Shadow Marches? Give us half-orcs, shifters, druids, barbarians, and the like.

Being able to pick a gender wouldn't be unreasonable (even for an action game), but for the love of god avoid stupid hairstyles like mohawks, or whatever the fuck those "double-mohawks" are called. Skills could have applications even in an action-game; for example Endurance might help shake off poisons, while Athletics might help you climb or swim faster. Finally when it comes to feats, just give us an assortment of the usual fare along with a handful of class-specific stuff.

MECHANICS
I expect the game to utilize the actual D&D mechanics as much as possible, especially if it is a turn-based game. Even if you go with real-time--or whatever you call real-time that lets you pause to make decisions in combat--you can still make it work, and Daggerdale really fell flat in this department by not including action points, opportunity attacks, healing surges, power resource management (or well, powers), skills, and probably some other stuff I'm probably overlooking.

  • In a real-time game action points could be used to just increase your attack/movement speed for a short period of time, or even linked to an ability in order to instantly use it (ie, ignore cooldown time). 
  • Neverwinter Nights had a way of handling opportunity attacks, so 'nuff said.
  • Healing surges would be great for not having to lug around 50+ healing potions of various grades, as well as encourage better tactics and resource management.
  • Encounter powers would refresh once an encounter has concluded, kind of like how in Dragon Age your health/mana/stamina just max out after a short period of time once you wrap up combat.
  • Daily powers could be recharged at the end of an adventure, or if the players find a "campsite", which would be areas of an adventure zone where players would be able to take an extended rest, probably just once. They would be stuff like bedrooms, secluded glades, safe houses, secret rooms, pocket dimensions, airships cabins, or any other locale that you as a DM might let your players hunker down for a night and recuperate. Some might prompt for random encounters.

ADVENTURES
Actual adventuring occurs when the players find a hook and actually decide to head out, fast-traveling  to an adventure "zone" or module like how you go from place to place in Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Fits the theme of D&D, where the DM just glosses over lengthy travel times, and you could still work in random encounters (they did it in Fallout and Dragon Age).

Adventures would have minor and major quests, a set number of encounters, and a set amount of treasure, again, like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. I prefer because it helps ushering you through the story without a bunch of senseless side treks and padding to distract you, a pitfall that I've run into all too often in games like Grand Theft Auto and Assassin's Creed. Adventures could have optional quests that could provide extra rewards or change how the story plays out (like killing a monster or having a NPC die). On the other hand, I could see small side-treks that operate like delves; unrelated to the plot and only a few encounters.

Treasure
Use the loot system as written. Characters already have a lot of flexibility without having to mill through damaged this and cracked that, which is just made worse by the fact that Daggerdale also had shitty magic loot. Restricting magic items to the four or so that players normally get each level also helps make them more meaningful when finally discovered.

CONCLUSION
I'd like a D&D game that allows for the customization of the paper-and-pencil version, complete with an actual plot that I give a shit about. This shouldn't be too difficult, and games in the past--Planescape: Torment comes to mind--have come close on the mechanics front. If the game must be a straight forward action-hack-fest, then at least provide a somewhat discernible story with some character development that matters: four pre-fabs, mostly worthless feats, and a smattering of "powers" wasn't sufficient years ago.

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