The folks at Turbine, working closely with Wizards of the Coast, have taken the latest setting of a classic pen and paper (P&P) Role Playing Game and brought it to us in full living dynamic color. Using the current rules set for Dungeons and Dragons, now 3.5 for those keeping score, Turbine has created a MMORPG that brings to life the world of Eberron. They have endeavored to create a computer-based system that uses the rules for character creation, advancement, combat and secondary skills. The current P&P rules set is called the D-20 system and uses a 20 sided die to determine the success at skill use and to resolve combat situations. In fact, when required, an actual D-20 will appear on the screen to show you the number that was “rolled” virtually for you by the computer.
Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) was designed to recreate the P&P adventure style where friends traditionally gather together around a table to play a game. You have your character, a dice bag, a bunch of lead figures and pizza for snack time. Your characters’ party would get together in the game and go on a grand adventure, kill a bunch of monsters, find fabulous treasures and go home (or not if they were unlucky). In the DDO environment it will run basically the same way – well, all except for the pizza since it’s a bit of a challenge to pass a slice over the internet - you and all your friends will log on, meet in the town of Stormreach and go on an adventure together.
When you start up a quest (which in DDO is a goal oriented mission set in a dungeon, much like the dungeon modules you can get for the P&P version) it is a unique instance of that dungeon that only you and your friends will have access to so you don’t have to worry about other players showing up and ruining your fun. Consider this scenario: you and your friends are sitting in your living room playing D&D when some random gamers who you have never met come into your house and start playing with your dice, moving the figures on the game mat and eating your pizza. Now, something like this is most likely not going to happen while playing the P&P version of D&D and Turbine has the same attitude about DDO. When you begin an adventure they want it to be just like the experience you would have sitting at home with your friends. No interruptions and no annoying strangers.
Character creation will be just like in the D&D rules set. In fact, your character sheet is basically the same as the one in the D&D player’s guide. You will have the option of being Human, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling or Warforged (a golem type race created specifically for DDO). Class options include Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer and Wizard. While other races and classes may become available in the future, there are the ones currently planned for players at launch.
Alignment is still a factor in the game, but is not quite as stringent as it is in the P&P game. In DDO it is not that the characters actions define his or her alignment but more that the alignment that is chosen will be a tool and a guide for the player to help determine the character’s actions. There may be some effect on the way in which certain NPC’s react to the characters based on alignment through your actions and the choices that you make in the game will speak much louder than words.
Turbine wants DDO to be about the adventure in a dungeon, not about the overland travel to get to the dungeon. Besides, “Overland Travel to get to the Dungeon & Dragons” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. They solve this dilemma by transporting you and your party directly into the dungeon when you begin a quest.
You will not be limited to only playing with your friends either. DDO boasts a number of landscapes and “free” adventure settings, which will be a type of “instanced” dungeon that will allow anyone to enter until the maximum capacity for that instance is reached. This will give the players an opportunity to play with other people outside the city environment.
When you log into the game you will always appear in the city of Stormreach. The city is basically the area of the game where people can meet and chat in a non-hostile environment. There will be shops and numerous NPC’s wandering about for you to chat and interact with. This city is also where you will find the NPC’s that can send you on missions and quests. The city of Stormreach is the hub of the game and is designed to keep all the players together so that both new people in the game and experienced players can interact and help each other. Unlike in most MMORPG’s where the newbie towns become ghost towns as soon as the initial player base levels beyond the local hunting grounds and they go off to hang in the higher level areas where a first level character would die just looking at the landscape. In DDO, Stormreach is not only the hub of the game but also the social center where the in-game society can meet, greet and grow together and develop a dynamic life of its own.
Advancement and experience (XP) will work a bit differently that you are probably used to. The dungeons and adventures will be goal oriented so rather than having to hack your way through all the monsters or trying to level by killing off the entire population of rabbits on Eberron, you will gain XP by completing the goals associated with the dungeon. If you can work your way through a dungeon without killing a single monster you will get the same XP as you would if you slew every creature from the dragons down to the white mice. Everyone in the party will share in the XP, no more worries about the uber-warrior wading in with his 2-handed battle axe and killing everything and getting all the XP and leaving the poor thief and cleric with none for themselves.
Treasure and loot will also be handled differently. Monsters will not drop treasure or items in DDO. Instead, treasure will be found in chests that will be scattered about the dungeons. As with warriors and combat, here you don’t have to worry about the thieves taking all the good stuff and leaving you with a pink bonnet while you’re out killing all the rabbits. Everyone in the party will get a pull from every chest with the loot being generated when you open the lid. This way everyone has a chance at something good and/or useful and no one gets left out.
One major change in the system from the P&P version to DDO is in the use of magic. Rather than the mages being limited to a set number or spells per day (or per dungeon) mages, clerics and other spell users now work off of spell points (mana) which will be consumed at different rates depending on the spell being cast. One of the leading factors in this change is that in a P&P setting combat encounters tend to be few and far between in an evening of gaming but in an MMORPG setting there will usually be much more potential for action and combat and giving a mage 2 shots with his magic-missile spell then making him go into melee with a staff wouldn’t be much fun, or fair, to the player (or extend his/her life expectancy by much).
At launch DDO will have no crafting and no PvP. What it will have is copious amounts of good old classic D&D adventures and loads of fun for all involved. I for one am looking forward to the opportunity to put DDO to the test and see if I can revive some of that gaming spirit from my younger days of dungeon stomping with my friends.