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Sass & Sorcery

Turning D&D into an "MMO"

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(Inspired by something I read on rpg.net this morning, and seem to be unable to find again. Sigh. Crazy awesome idea, though.)

What if instead of the "traditional" D&D setting, the world operated as a MMO, in the vein of .hack. The setting would be self-aware: that is, the characters "know" they're just digital avatars; NPCs are either other "players" or limited-response AI, and the difference is obvious to the PCs (the color of their 'name' tag, maybe even a profession descriptor). Quests, loot, rewards, etc. would be "known" to the PCs, as they'd either be explicit "in-game" or indexed on a spoiler site. Any bit of information the players want *will* be accessible, without direct "in-game" experience. (Though "new content" areas could lag behind on the virtual spoiler sites :P)

Mechanically, it'd be rules as written, except for the rules concerning death; the standard 'death penalty' is experience loss or item decay, neither of which I'd be thrilled with introducing. Perhaps the ghosting effect from WoW, combined with encounter regeneration/respawning. Things like D&D 4E's tier structure is great for emulating the expansion model; levels "unlock" with the new content. As for the crafting aspects of MMOs, I could take or leave (despite my EverQuest and WoW days being all about the crafting, heh); for the most part, D&D crafting rules aren't all that great, when present, so it might be best to leave them aside.

"Where's the role-playing?" you may be asking. Same place it's always been, but it really depends on what you mean by "role-playing," and how important immersion is to the experience. This meta-heavy style isn't exactly the most conducive to immersion in your playing piece's history and personality, though it can and does happen in actual MMOs; the other "players" will, naturally, react to such "arpee" with buy-in of their own, or scoff at the "silly folks taking it too seriously."

As for rules ... I don't think any one edition is better- or worse-suited for this kind of tongue-in-cheek play; depending on the flavor of MMO you're emulating (EQ and WoW are rather distinct experiences, despite sharing many similarities), different editions of D&D provide different foci and granularity. For me, I can't decide whether oD&D or 4E is the better fit, depending on how granular I want it. Either way, I just might propose this as a filler spot between campaigns, or whenever someone needs more prep time. Or convince on of the other two to run it, 'cause this looks like a fun break from our more traditional sessions.

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  1. Farcaster's Avatar
    Is the artificial construct of the MMO so intriguing that we'd actually like to sit around a table and roleplay people who are playing an online game? I don't quite get why this would be appealing. MMOs for me are a virtual realization of the RP experience, but they have serious limitations. This is the advantage of table-top games over digital ones. The game is only limited by the imagination of the Dungeon Master and the players. When I come to the gaming table to play D&D, the last thing I want to strive for is replicating the MMO experience.

    But, that's me...
  2. kalvinlyle's Avatar
    What can you steal from MMO's and CRPG's that will work in table top? The crafting system and the collecting components maybe. I think the adventure design in CRPG's is generally better than in table top games (although completely linear and un-improvable <-- that's not a word). The better question is as Farcaster says, "why would you want to?"

    Making a table top game like an MMO, is like trying to make a chicken more like an egg...

    Personally I have never played an RPG that comes anywhere close to the table top experience. Maybe Fallout or Planescape Torment were the closest? But that's like comparing tofu to meat. They are just different and I'd argue the table top experience is better, if less consistently so.
  3. Sascha's Avatar
    It's taking the familiar (fantasy roleplaying) and turning it sideways. Source-wise, Mystic Revolution and .hack both play with the idea. The game-within-the-game aspect appeals to me, as a means of humor and commentary, and as a vehicle for the types of interpersonal drama (dramedy, really) I enjoy, both in tabletop games and other media. It's also a method of repackaging stock fantasy into something I find interesting, especially of the epic or high fantasy flavors (which I find quite dull).
  4. templeorder's Avatar
    Sounds like sort of Tron-ish scenario. Could be intriguing... but since i stay away from MMO's mostly it would probably not interest me as a player. As a GM, that sounds challenging for the novelty of it.
  5. Sascha's Avatar
    D'oh! Why didn't I make the TRON connection? Flynn's a good model for players in this little thought experiment.
  6. Nanban Jim's Avatar
    It's Deconstruction and the 4th Wall, man. In fact you could really highlight this by using, say, D&D4e for the online game... but then one session suddenly whip out Twilight 2013, or Shadowrun, or some other completely non-d20 system and tell the players, "Make your characters' players: The game has left the monitor." Suddenly you're in the real world (yet another deconstruction, as this sense of "real" and "player" is yet again a step away from our sense of it). Rules in the Real World are different (that's why I suggest a non-d20 system), but the threats are linked. A rival Guild takes it too far? The ever-improving AI of BeastWorldMMO suddenly becomes SkyNet? Also, to what end? It could be the problem can only be solved in the Real World. Or maybe it's the opposite, you're using the Real World to highlight how the Players (not the ones at your table, but the Players characters who are Players of their Characters... this is going to make me dizzy) may be neurotic, addicts, lazy, etc according to the Real World, but their power (you could go all Neitzschean or Pseudo-Neitzsche with that) comes when they enter the game world and become one with their Character, creating a classic god-avatar scenario...

    The mind boggles at the possibilities. Sascha, excellent concept. It's easy to dismiss (as others have proven, and as I initially did too), so good on you for looking beyond the surface.