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Torment, D&D, and the history of game mechanics

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Dungeons and Dragons system was the creator of modern roleplaying game systems, innovating many features that are the core of computer games today. That said, the history of computer games has also been one of radically moving away from roleplaying game mechanics and content

D&D innovations

  • Character attributes
  • Damage vs HP
  • Levelling to gain new skills and more HP
  • Status effects such as Fear (loss of control of the character in a similar manner to Stun effects)
  • Crowd control itself, although its name is strictly an invention of or at least popularization by MMO players
  • Resting to regain HP
  • Control over events ostensibly given to a third party, neither game creator nor game player, by means of Randomness in events -Random Number Generator RNG. The problem with this is that control over events is not only very much justified in being in the hands of either the game creator or the game player, but it is better off in their hands. Game creators can tell a story with control, and game players can exercise their skills with it

The most radical changes in computer games were in the first person shooter, stripped down to only the HP vs damage mechanic and healing items, and adding temporary hit points in the form of 'armor'. The most important change of all was the removal of randomness. This was an obvious move in the light of a 3D physics engine, where space and time could be simulated, attack speed and movement speed set, and all the tactics devisable from those could be played out in a test of skill between the computer enemy Artificial Intelligence and the skill of the player, rather than results artificially created by the fait accompli of randomness.

The so-called 'roleplaying computer games' ignored physics completely, mostly because of their 2D roots, but also because of the tactical innovation of turn-based combat. They added other innovations to and removals of tabletop mechanics as well, including:

  • Slight alterations of the attribute system
  • Radical alterations of the class system
  • Radical alterations of the skill system, up to innovations such as:
Buying skills with points gained per level, rather than obtaining them automatically
Skill-based systems including games in which attributes gained are determined by which skills are used
  • Magic points or spell points
  • Resting to regain MP
  • Potions that regain MP

While the Planescape Campaign Setting had always been integrated more or less fully into the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset, as did even computer games like the Neverwinter Nights series, Planescape: Torment took some features from D&D and left others out completely.

E.g., while Strength is seemingly stuck with the old D&D rules of going up to 18/10, 18/20, etc., other attributes can be levelled directly up to 19. Note that the first level of fighter specialization at level 7 gets around that completely, and raises Str to 19 directly

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