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VACRMH
01-19-2011, 11:12 AM
I decided to look into a few of those huge collections of Dungeons and Dragons games. I've ordered a few, and I own some of the more recent games (Neverwinter Nights, Baldur's Gate, Planescape Torment) and even with those games I have issues playing them.

Prepare for an odd rant/question set.

For background, I'm not a PC gamer at all. I do enjoy some point and click games, and I've been playing here and there as a kid with a Tandy, but I never got deep into it like some people have.

I also know that some of these games have huge manuals to them, especially D&D games. And while some people say I can just look it up online, I made sure to track down real manuals for the games I've bought. I actually bought the huge manual for one expensive collection, but bought the discs of the cheap collection, saved a few bucks that way :)

Anyways, here's where I'm confused. I guess I'm not sure what the developers wanted me to get out of these games. It's probably because I didn't grow up on PC games, so I'm not sure how exactly the best method of playing is.

Example: In Planescape Torment I could talk to just about every person in a town, and get tons of information from them. I'm talking about spending over an hour learning the backstory of the town, when it may not even have anything to do with the game. I know theres a rich history for the Realms and such, but do they expect me to talk to everyone and know all of this? Or should I be more selective?

Example 2: In just about any D&D game I've played, combat is often a 50/50 chance of life or death. I would assume that's why they all seem to have the ability to save anywhere, but if I'm saving and reloading after anything goes wrong, am I cheating? It drags down the pace saving every five minutes.

Sorry for rambling. I'm sure alot of people will say that the games aren't for me (Which is a good chance, I can barely focus on a simple RPG like a Tales game, dear god the amount of time people seem to put into classic computer rpgs), but before I give it another shot, I kind of want to know how others play them.

Perhaps I'm missing something, you know?

Gapporin
01-19-2011, 12:05 PM
As with any RPG, talking to people can be beneficial, or not. While most people don't really say anything of value ("Floria is the town north of here", or somesuch), perhaps one or two kernels of information can be gleaned from the conversation. If the conversations you hold with people explain the backstory of that given game, then it would be my assumption that this is something that the developers want you to know; otherwise they would have edited it or excised it completely (or, perhaps, confined it to a couple of pages in the manual). I don't think it's something you must do, but it doesn't hurt anything, so why not?

It's nothing new, anyways. Most Japanese adventure games require talking to the same person three, four, five (or more) times before the plot is advanced.

As for Example 2, I don't think it's cheating to save/reload (although I realize that could become cumbersome), or else the developers wouldn't have given you that option (think Rogue/Nethack, where death is quite permanent). If it still doesn't sit right with you, perhaps you could set boundaries for yourself to give you a challenge (for example, don't save until you reach X, only save when Y is achieved, etc.). It's pretty much a personal preference, I think.

What ye be playing? If you primarily play console/Japanese-styled RPGs, maybe you need something to ease you into PC RPGs (Septerra Core, perhaps?).

VACRMH
01-19-2011, 12:18 PM
Thanks for the tips. Usually with older games they assume you know what to do, so I guess if I grasp a better understanding of the engine, I can save less. What I mean is if I know the right ways to attack, heal, and so forth, maybe it's not as bad when I have someone die. It requires more research on my end :)

I'm not playing anything just yet. I just bought "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Collector's Edition Vol. 2 " and "Forgotten Realms Classics", so I have a choice of 16 or so games.

I do have Septerra Core, so maybe I'll try that out first.

Trebuken
01-19-2011, 06:26 PM
You will get a different experience with the older games. They are graphically less impressive, may require graph paper -- though I suppose everything is mapped online somewhere -- and a lot of patience.


A 50/50 death ratio is not so bad; if you try to rush into it you'll have encounters you cannot manage. Try to explore everything and complete all simple tasks and you can proceed with a minimum of deaths.

I've played all of the AD&D games and have probably completed half of them; mostly the older ones, and mostly 'back in the day'.

Jorpho
01-20-2011, 09:06 AM
Lauded as Torment is, pretty much everyone seems to agree it is not a game for people who do not want to read.

What rather offended me about Torment is that it is perfectly willing to throw out obscure D&D terms like THAC0 and AC and 3d6 without offering any kind of adequate explanation, even in the manual. But come to think of it, the lack of a cheesy in-game tutorial does a lot for the atmosphere.

VACRMH
01-20-2011, 10:01 AM
Yeah, I'm thinking that should I be more understanding of how D&D works, that it would be easier to get into the games.

I suppose it's just a learning experience, that will decide if these games are right for me. I used to own Eye of the Beholder on SNES as a kid, and I remember first not understanding that I couldn't just click on the attack button over and over, and then learning that my characters in the back couldn't attack, because they were in the back row with no projectiles, and then learning how to use spells, ect.

I think EotB will be the first game I'll try when my packages arrive. I'll read the manual, gather what info I can on understanding how the D&D rules are applied to the game, and try to immerse myself in it.

I've always loved the idea of just how much there is to these games. Huge backstories, tons of memorable characters, making maps, and so forth. But when you've grown up playing games that hold your hand and often times don't let you go where you shouldn't, it's hard to adjust to how they should be played.

Thanks again for all the replies. Hopefully I don't sound too crazy trying to describe what I'm looking for.

soloman
01-21-2011, 03:47 AM
Planescape is 100% about the backstory and unlike almost every RPG in existence you will miss out on maybe 50% of the plot if you don't talk to everyone and do the sidequests. Without spoiling anything, Planescape is about how one man caused a ripple in the center of the multiverse that caused dramatic changes across every plane. Getting the good ending and piecing everything together is probably the best experience I've ever had in any video ever. I'm not even exaggerating.

As for D&D, the games you bought use Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2e rules. If it doesn't include "Advanced" in the title then it uses Basic/Expert rules. Neverwinter uses 3.0 rules while Icewind Dale 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, and Temple of Elemental Evil use 3.5 rules. This may sound confusing but the games are an abstraction of the true rules and there is a lot of crossover (except Temple of Elemental Evil which is almost a perfect clone of the tabletop game).

The basics of combat are simple: low AC keeps you from getting hit, low THAC0 (to hit AC 0) improves your chances to hit. AC is improved by armor, magic, and high dexterity. THAC0 is improved by magic weapons and high strength. Saving throws are used to avoid special attacks and magic; the lower the better. In the turn based games, everyone has invisible initiative rolls which determine who goes first. In the real time games like Eye of the Beholder and Baldur's Gate, everyone acts simultaneously. D&D combat is notoriously deadly at low levels so no, you're not doing anything wrong.

Cleric magic focuses on buffing and healing while wizard magic focuses on debuffing and damage. The best cleric spells are healing magic but you should have some multi-hit buffing spells memorized like bless and prayer. As a general rule, damage spells suck and debilitating spells are game winners (this is in direct contrast to JRPGs which confuses a lot of new people). Sleep is an early game winner as low level enemies almost always fail their saving throw. Other godly wizard spells are confusion, haste, mirror image (personal protection spell), and summon monster. If the game has the spell, always stick with summon monster because D&D battles are won by dominating the action economy IE acting more in combat than your opponent.

The ideal party layout is two fighters, a thief, a cleric, and a wizard. If you have an extra slot then make another fighter. Don't fall into the paladin/ranger trap; these classes have neat sounding abilities but are underpowered because they were designed for roleplaying challenges which simply don't exist in the computer games. The thief will act as a primary archer and, in the later games, trapfinder/disarmer/lockpicker. The cleric, when not healing, acts as a backup fighter. The wizard, when not using area spells, will be acting as a backup archer (albeit a poor one).

For the older games, specifically the gold box ones, you'll want to have some graph paper or an Excel document to create a map. Making maps has been a staple of old school D&D so it's a must. You have to play these games conservatively at low levels; don't push too hard when you could camp instead. Save after every battle and reload when things go poorly. Reload a save when you don't get max hit points. The games are very much combat oriented and there's no point in pulling your hair out because you want to play "fairly."

EDIT: Since you're playing Eye of the Beholder first, I'll give you some specific tips.

-In the front row you'll want a fighter and cleric with a thief and wizard tagging in the back. The fighter should ideally be a dwarf because they have higher constitution meaning more hit points. I usually make the cleric a dwarf too and multiclass as cleric/fighter for extra oomph. The thief won't see much action and neither will the wizard so they can be elves or halflings. Only humans can be certain certain classes but they're seriously underpowered and worthless. I guess you can choose human if you're one of those people who have cosmetic needs but humans lack the abilities of other races.

-YOU SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST ONE DWARF IN YOUR PARTY BECAUSE THIS GAME HAS RUNES WHICH ONLY A DWARF CAN TRANSLATE. It's not necessary to win but they provide invaluable tips to defeating certain traps.

-Always start a fight from afar if you can. Have your archers toss whatever they have available and let the enemy come to you. Never engage an enemy directly in melee without softening them up if you can't help it.

-Mapping isn't necessary as the dungeons are small but it certainly helps in later levels were secret doors and such become confusing.

-Stack your saves. Do this for all video games but you never know if you'll screw yourself permanently.

-If you have the room to do so, attack an enemy and then back up immediately. By the time they approach to reengage you, your attacks will refill and you can hit them before they hit you.

-Never back up into a corner. Enemies can stalk you across the entire dungeon so it's not uncommon in lower levels to end up surrounding unknowingly.

-This is one of the easiest of the D&D games because it's based on the old Dungeon Master video game, not so much D&D. There are a lot of abstractions so don't take the knowledge from this game into other D&D games.

VACRMH
01-21-2011, 10:37 AM
Wow, thanks! I've got the graph paper ready, just waiting on the games now to give it a shot. I'll keep all your advice in mind :)

calthaer
01-21-2011, 01:47 PM
I never played a whole ton of those old hack & slash dungeon crawlers - mostly Bard's Tale, back in the day (if that wasn't too obvious from my avatar).

Much like the vast majority of games back in those days, it seems like - even for RPGs - story was secondary. It seems, to read the history of it, that many of the people in those days were even playing D&D much like the computer counterparts play out - as hack & slash treasure quests with fairly inept storytelling.

Most of those games do have a progression of areas (dungeons, whatever) through which you're supposed to go, but the game often does not warn you in advance what that progression is. Bard's Tale, at least, often required some sort of "password" or the possession of an item before one could enter the more advanced levels...not every game does. Sometimes you just have to wander into a cave or dungeon, get completely whacked down, and then figure out that that wasn't where you're supposed to go.

Mapping can be challenging, and does require graph paper, as many have stated. Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate was actually the first game that had an automap. I always wished I had finished that game. I got an Apple ][ emulator loaded on my Nintendo DS, along with all of my saved games from my old diskettes (transferred them to the PC using a program, can't remember the name)...but I checked back in on my Bard's Tale II characters and couldn't quite take the grind. I realized that I probably needed a whole lot more levels to be able to take on the dungeon I had reached, and that it would require a lot more grinding.

In that sense, the pacing of the game is tied to the method used for mapping...you generally progress enough during the long, slow process of mapping with graph paper that you're able to face the challenges at the dungeons' end.

But every time I think I miss that, I go back and realize why I never finished it to begin with...I might never do it, now. Maybe when I retire.

Ze_ro
01-29-2011, 02:45 PM
If you're not quite ready to go all the way back to Curse or Pools, but you still want some AD&D, maybe try out Menzoberranzan. It's quite a bit more modern, and might be a good way to get your feet wet without jumping in the deep end.

--Zero

Damaramu
01-29-2011, 03:42 PM
I really enjoyed the Dark Sun games back in the day. You might want to look into those as well.

soloman
02-01-2011, 12:36 PM
I never played a whole ton of those old hack & slash dungeon crawlers - mostly Bard's Tale, back in the day (if that wasn't too obvious from my avatar).

Much like the vast majority of games back in those days, it seems like - even for RPGs - story was secondary. It seems, to read the history of it, that many of the people in those days were even playing D&D much like the computer counterparts play out - as hack & slash treasure quests with fairly inept storytelling.

Most of those games do have a progression of areas (dungeons, whatever) through which you're supposed to go, but the game often does not warn you in advance what that progression is. Bard's Tale, at least, often required some sort of "password" or the possession of an item before one could enter the more advanced levels...not every game does. Sometimes you just have to wander into a cave or dungeon, get completely whacked down, and then figure out that that wasn't where you're supposed to go.

Mapping can be challenging, and does require graph paper, as many have stated. Bard's Tale III: Thief of Fate was actually the first game that had an automap. I always wished I had finished that game. I got an Apple ][ emulator loaded on my Nintendo DS, along with all of my saved games from my old diskettes (transferred them to the PC using a program, can't remember the name)...but I checked back in on my Bard's Tale II characters and couldn't quite take the grind. I realized that I probably needed a whole lot more levels to be able to take on the dungeon I had reached, and that it would require a lot more grinding.

In that sense, the pacing of the game is tied to the method used for mapping...you generally progress enough during the long, slow process of mapping with graph paper that you're able to face the challenges at the dungeons' end.

But every time I think I miss that, I go back and realize why I never finished it to begin with...I might never do it, now. Maybe when I retire.

The games often have very intricate backstories which you can read in the college sized manuals, but the focus of tabletop RPGs is the player's story, not the game's story. If the players ever feel like they're not the stars, you're doing a bad job as game master. Some later adventures have a nice plot buildup with detailed side characters but they're just that; side characters. When the players can ruin any planned event simply by saying "We don't want to go there" it throws a wrench in any kind of scripted plot you might have. Transferring this into video games, nobody likes it when their ultra powerful character is shot down by the Big Bad Evil Guy because the plot says so. People complained about not being able to raise Aeris from a simple stab with a sword, well in D&D you have to be careful about forced deaths because high level players can literally go to heaven/hell and physically force a person's soul back into their body.

Long story short, the players make up the story and not the guy running it. That's not to say that you, the Dungeon Master, can't do a damn good job creating a detailed world with interesting characters (and anyone interested in roleplaying should read this guy's Dwimmermount campaign (http://grognardia.blogspot.com/) which is 100% on the fly) but don't blow a gasket if your players completely circumvent the Shakespearean plot you spent 100 hours writing.

Edmond Dantes
02-03-2011, 06:47 AM
1. Be selective. The thing with dialogue is that Western programmers think they should "immerse you in the world," which is why they load you up with fluff and some old PC games came packaged with novellas instead of short summaries in the manuals, while Eastern developers tend to be more straight-to-the-point. While both methods have advantages, either way you have to puzzle it out.

2. No, saving/reloading is not cheating. On the other hand, your ratio for success is much higher if you have some sort of plan (though not always--I remember getting wiped out by black dragons several times in Gateway to the Savage Frontier!)

3. Yes, knowing something about D&D (specifically back when it was called AD&D) does help.

The deal is most early PC RPGs were basically "Adventure Modules," except whereas the booklet modules were released for dungeon masters who were having a game that weekend and not enough time to think of a scenario, computer games like Wizardry were for people who couldn't wait until the weekend to get back into the dungeon and needed to hack some monsters NOW! (This, incidentally, is why the Gold Box games allow you to manually set the stats--the idea was supposed to be that you'd import characters from your pen n' paper campaign).

Now, back then a lot of gamers really liked harsh environments in their settings--it made them feel like "Real men" and gave them a sense of accomplishment if they actually managed to solve the Tomb of Horrors. So yeah, in your average PC RPG the overriding thought process is "Evolve or Die." This turned out a bit harsher in computer space than in paper-space, because one can account for human ingenuity and allow that thief to find a way to hide from that pack of kobolds then steal their treasure when they're gone, while the other requires the thief to only use solutions that are programmed into the game and if "hide until they leave" isn't one, that thief is screwed.

Finally, the approach to dungeoneering wasn't to hear a story or anything. It was literally to pretend you were like those fantasy heroes you would've read about in the 1960s back when Television was too boring to watch so you had to read about Batman figuring out why a banana is like a writing desk or else Conan trying to find the secret latch that opens the chamber of glistening jewelry. That line in The Last Unicorn where Prince Lear says he's done heroic deeds and solved dangerous riddles--that was supposed to be you. Again this goes back to the whole "evolve or die" thing--the assumption was that if you failed, then you were the weak link, not the game. It wasn't until it started impacting sales that they started relenting, and for the most part "relenting" meant "included free clue books as a pack-in."

If I may insert an opinion, games like Zork are a slightly more accurate take on what the pen n' paper scene was like. Stuff like Experience Points wasn't really that important on paper--obviously, nobody is going to DM a "players run around for five hours killing Kobolds" campaign. EXP was basically a reward for having succeeded, not a means to success in and of itself.

If I may interject another opinion, this is one reason I slightly prefer the Eastern style over the Western one. Japanese developers like Yuji Horii took the trappings of D&D and actually adapted them with regards to their new medium, so EXP is more utility and money doesn't become totally useless until you've found all the best equipment. Western developers, meanwhile, spent decades trying to make RPGs basically computerized pen n' paper campaigns and (as far as I know) never quite figured out what was wrong with having a mostly level-2 party fight off three level 5 assassins.

That being said, plenty of western RPGs that are worth playing. One series you might want to try as a transitional piece is Ultima--the games are actually kind of Console RPGish (in fact games 1-5 are basically what influenced the standard console RPG style). Might and Magic and Wizardry are also good, in the former's case you want to play the console ports of the first two games (the original PC versions weren't very good). Not sure what to recommend for directly D&D-licensed games though as personally I don't like many of them (I did like Eye of the Beholder though).

soloman
02-08-2011, 07:25 AM
I do agree that Zork is pretty close to playing an actual tabletop game with a DM sitting in front of you (that DM being the game's parser). Beyond Zork took it a step further with attributes and a primitive battle system. It's a game where you can easily screw yourself out of a win but it's like a text adventure roguelike; take notes, draw a map, play a little at a time and eventually you'll get it.

JRPGs have their place in my videogame life but I don't like the sacrifice of customization for narrative. For me, RPGs are very much a power fantasy and the whole point is trick out a character and see how far they go. If they die, learn from your mistake and try again but a little luck is usually factored in there. If there's a narrative, then it should make you feel like your impact on the story is causing waves. I love the Elder Scrolls series but Oblivion really put me off because you play errand boy to a king despite fighting demons and sealing gates to hell. In Morrowind you became a deity incarnate and could punch a god in the face.

Last JRPG I remember playing that felt like a real "adventure" was Dragon Quest VIII, funnily enough. They give you a narrative but don't skimp out on the exploration and character customization. It's a linear game but it never holds your hand like others so discovering the next town or exploring off to the side feels like you have control over the situation, not the developers telling you this is where to go. I tried playing Final Fantasy XIII but it was literally like playing a movie where you run forward until the next segment. IMO if you're going to make a story heavy game to the point where exposition eclipses gameplay then drop the ham-handed combat and just give me an adventure game. I couldn't imagine playing Heavy Rain if I had to stop every 5 minutes to battle someone in turn-based fisticuffs.

Edmond Dantes
02-11-2011, 07:55 PM
Suffice to say I guess, each type of RPG has strengths and weaknesses.

Just lately I was playing Dragon Warrior III and Might and Magic III. I wound up not liking DWIII for its grind-tastic nature and I wound up not liking M&MIII because I think I accidentally sold a plot item (that's one thing you have to watch out for in older PC RPGs--some of them allow you to do stupid stuff that'll force you to restart the game).

The most entertaining RPGs I've played lately are the King's Field games, which are Japanese but play like American games. I have no idea what that says about my tastes.

soloman
02-11-2011, 08:41 PM
It says you have good taste because King's Field is one of those underappreciated series. It's like everything good about Ultima Underworld except focused solely on exploration. Probably the first game to truly scare me with its haunting atmosphere. Definitely makes you feel alone and isolated.

Edmond Dantes
02-22-2011, 08:24 AM
King's Field makes you feel alone and isolated? Well, to some extent.

One thought I wanted to add to the OP here, the best way to get started with PC RPGs is with the Ultima series--they're very pick-up-and-play, basically they're console RPGs with an emphasis on freedom.

BydoEmpire
02-23-2011, 03:50 PM
I recently started re-playing Pool of Radiance on the Amiga and was a little surprised how well it held up and how much fun I had. I really enjoyed the strategic combat of the gold box series which you don't get in "1st person" RPGs. Having to place your characters and consider their movement adds a whole new dimension compared to, say Wizardry, Bard's Tale, or Final Fantasy 3. I was a little nervous about how much grinding would be necessary, but I leveled up in only a few hours. Gaining a level in D&D is a big achievement! Reading the back story in the Adventurer's Journal was also a blast - they laid out the story more with a few pages of text than you could ever do with a 5 minute FMV. I love reading the monster descriptions in the manuals, and all the random journal entries. To me that's part of the experience.

On the other hand, I tried replaying Might & Magic on the Apple 2 - one of my very favorites from back in the day - and it was almost unplayable to me. Just too tedious to map, and extremely difficult combat. I was surprised how much I didn't like playing it in 2011 because it was one of my favorites. Granted, I didn't give it a whole lot of time, but that's kind of the point. I don't have tons of time for gaming these days, and with PoR I felt like I was making progress even if I only put in half an hour.

One thing that bugged my about computer versions of D&D games is that because the games are so combat-focussed a lot of the spells are practically useless. The person-to-person (or person-to-monster) interaction is very stripped down. Also, having to rest for hours to regain spells feels a little... awkward in computer games. When I first discovered JRPGs I was kind of amazed that you could start a game with so many hit points! And basically not worry about dying right away. It was a cool change of pace. But over the years I've kind of gone back to enjoying the classic CRPG formula.


spent decades trying to make RPGs basically computerized pen n' paper campaigns and (as far as I know) never quite figured out what was wrong with having a mostly level-2 party fight off three level 5 assassins.Hah, that's a good way to put it. I was so pissed starting out IceWind Dale and dying in the first 5 minute over and over because my party ran into a group of 10 kobold's and it took several attempts to beat. You shouldn't freaking die in the first 5 minutes of a game. Ever. I did go on to really enjoy the game, but it was frustrating in the beginning.

Edmond Dantes
02-24-2011, 12:54 AM
Hah, that's a good way to put it. I was so pissed starting out IceWind Dale and dying in the first 5 minute over and over

You sure the Kobolds didn't have Force Pods, Mr. Bydo? ;)

Incidentally re: Might and Magic--try the NES version. It's a big improvement and has built-in automapping.

I somewhat agree about grid-based combat, but it can get tedious sometimes (the TG16 game Order of the Griffon was a prime example--getting into combat every two seconds works in something quick like Final Fantasy, but with the Gold Box system you need to pace it out more). Personally, I like real-time combat as per Ultima Underworld or the afformentioned King's Field because I like that level of direct control, as opposed to the abstraction you usually get with menu systems. That abstraction is necessary, of course, but still.

NayusDante
02-28-2011, 09:52 PM
I've been playing Baldur's Gate the last few days, I'm on Chapter 4 and need a place to grind. Rangers and ranged weapons in general are VERY easy to play, but my mages just die in one or two hits.

NayusDante
03-06-2011, 04:00 PM
Well, instead of grinding, I exported my character and started the game over at lv6. Yeah, it lets you do that. Level scaling is also broken, because it sets met party members to one level above your current level, so now I don't have to deal with a lv6 main character and his cadre of lv1 featherweights.

When you see how the D&D rules translate into games like the goldbox series and the Infinity Engine games, you gain a new appreciation for Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.

Edmond Dantes
03-06-2011, 08:06 PM
Too true.

Actually, lately I've been thinking of giving up on PC gaming.