Sunday, 1 August 2010

Combat & Roleplay

A little while ago, I asked fellow blog readers to give their preference to a module's design. The blog post was titled: A Module Referendum (Poll: A Hung Module?) The idea was to find out what style of game readers preferred. At the end of this post, I ask readers for further feedback. Here are the results:

ROLEPLAY: Of the forty responses, it was interesting to learn that there is still a slight preference for a combat and roleplay (27%) combination (with minimal puzzles involved) over the combat and adventure combination (25%), which prefer puzzles over roleplay. Looking at the roleplay and adventure (puzzles) standalone preferences, roleplay is still preferred by 3 to 1 players. Comments made by an Anonymous poster and ElfinMad suggested to me that more concise conversations may be the way to go rather than larger monologues. What the poll results don't make clear is whether people also associated the term "roleplay" with using their PC's various skills outside of conversations as well as within. Interpreting the results as I see them, it would suggest that around 65% of players prefer modules with roleplaying in them than without.

COMBAT: Without doubt (and probably as expected really) 85% of players have a definite desire for combat in one form or another, with only 15% of the votes having combat at the lower end of their gaming preference. An Anonymous poster at the time said that they preferred more specialised encounters with more unusual monsters than monsters at every turn, and this was seconded by a comment by ElfinMad. Without further feedback, I am going to make the assumption that this would be the general agreement with perhaps an exception of around 2-5% who may simply prefer a good hack and slash regardless of foe.

ADVENTURE: Interestingly, the adventure preference did not score as high as I thought it would do, coming in at around 55% of players who like to have puzzles in their game. I should point out, however, that there are still twice as many people who prefer a more focused adventure (puzzle) oriented game (5%)to a focused combat one (2%). Furthermore, this result may have been skewed by the fact I included "exploration" as part of the description in one of the options. I was pleased, however, that both of the posters (Anonymous and ElfinMad) had a definite preference to having puzzles in their game, as this would also be one of my own preferences.

Personal Preferences

Personally, my own favourite combination for a module would probably be along the lines of an "even split", with perhaps more of an edge towards puzzles and exploration over roleplay. My own score divided over 100% would be something like:

Combat 40%: Combat for me can be any type of creature as long as it makes sense for the situation and potentially offer a challenge. I don't mind areas where there is no combat at all, but do like to be able to test out a newly acquired weapon from time to time. As a large proportion of the game is about acquiring new items and overcoming adversaries, then it is no surprise that I also find this part of the game important.

Adventure 40%: For me, however, there must be as much adventure as there is combat. By adventure, I include exploration, discovering texts, using skills and solving puzzles! I love being challenged in this way as it allows me to develop my characters in a way that I feel I can use to overcome different obstacles other than resorting to combat. As long as puzzles fit the situation, I am prepared to overlook the style of the puzzle. E.g. Logic puzzles are still a fun diversion to get past a lock. In some respects, I see how I "adventure" through a game more like roleplaying (playing my role in the game) than what is considered roleplaying when interacting with NPCs.

Roleplay 20%: Roleplay is necessary. Personally, however, I can often find NPC conversations difficult to appreciate and, like other comments made at the time, I prefer NPCs to keep conversations to the point and not veer from the main issue. I can see the attraction in using one's PC skills to change a conversation path, but only if it gives a benefit of some kind for doing so. Most of the time, however, NPCs appear a means to an end to me and simply act as the go-between to getting to grips with the story proper. In this sense, I see NPCs more as the story providers than a gameplay aspect and so do not mind less of this in my own style of game.

Better The Demon

How will my own module score? I think the final result will probably be close to an "even split", but with results possibly being skewed by my own playing preferences. If I was to hazard a guess at the final outcome, I think it will probably be something like:

Combat 40%: There will certainly be some areas that will not have any combat, but at the same time, I hope to include areas where players will be able to visit time and again if they like chance encounters (like world maps). All monster encounters should make sense, and I hope to ensure combat is not included simply for the sake of it. I will also try to make combats vary according to different creature abilities. Every creature can be attacked (except on some rare occasions), but there are always consequences.

Roleplay 30%: With respect to roleplay, I will try to include as much variety as possible and involve PC skill options whenever and wherever possible. I will try to ensure conversations are kept concise as possible, but also allow slight variation for those who prefer to develop the three main conversation skills: bluff, intimidate and diplomacy. Success in these will give XP rewards, which I hope will make conversations objects of fun and play as well as developing the quests and main story.

Adventure 30%: I love designing modules with adventure in mind, probably because my background is one of a DM and I always enjoyed watching players try to solve a puzzle to get past a certain point. Where possible, I have tried to include different puzzles for different points in the game. Most of them allow for an alternative means to solve them (bypass them), but there is bonus XP for solving them. Furthermore, bypassing a puzzle costs the PC in other ways that a player may prefer to keep.

Give Your Personal Feedback

What about you? Now is your chance to give a more precise score (from 100%) of how you would prefer your game. If you are a player, tell me your personal scores for the different categories. If you are a current builder as well, then give me feedback on how you have designed your module. Furthermore, if there is a category you think should be added or a comment you would like to make about this, then please do.


Frank Perez said...

It's interesting that there are about as many people who prefer combat/roleplay as there are who prefer combat/adventure. Without crunching any numbers, I estimate that there is a statistical tie between those two options. One would think that having a combat/roleplay/adventure combination might be a good way to capture a wide audience, but no, your poll results say otherwise. It's either one or the other. There is no middle ground.

Then again, polls are not a reliable way of capturing market preferences. Just ask the people who built the Edsel.

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Frank,

Yes, there does seem to be a bit of a split. Unless, of course, people define these categories differently as to how I/we think of them. :)

However, as roleplay is almost a definite requirement, then as long as the adventure part is also included (and optional for those that do not like it), then maybe there is still a way to please both camps.

As I say in my blog, I actually prefer the adventuring side of things, but can quite easily accept the roleplay side if well done. After all, it is teh way the story is conveyed for the most part and so is rather essential.


Wyrin said...

It's also very subjective in terms ofm how people interpret roleplay and adventure - these terms will evoke different memories/opinions in different people

that said - the poll shows a desire for variety and that you can't please everyone, so take from that what you will! ;)

Lance Botelle (Bard of Althéa) said...

Hi Wyrin,

Interpretation of the two types is what I wondered as well.

Polls are a very rough guide at best, but it is interesting to get some feedback all the same. There's always a slim chance of pleasing just one more person with design ... hopefully. ;)