Turning D&D into an "MMO"
by, 05-07-2010 at 04:35 PM (3770 Views)
(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.