Dungeons and Dragons Online is Different… But In A Good Way   7 comments

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m in a regular gaming group. I know, I know. Me. Why is this a surprise? Well, gaming has never been one of my big hobbies until recently. Sure, I played games and I was a fan, but I was never the “gaming group” kind of guy. Raiding? Nah. Never liked scheduling gaming. What made me switch, I guess, was Twitter. I started using Twitter a few months ago for the giveaways and prize opportunities you see from time to time and at the same time I started following a few of my favorite writers, game companies, bloggers and well… one thing led to another. Syp, a very prolific blogger and spearhead of the Newbie Blogger Initiative (of which I am a part of), posted a question if anyone wanted to form a Dungeons and Dragons Online gaming group. My first thought was… Nah. No way. Its not me. Despite this, though, I found myself saying “Yeah, sure!” and after the feeling of foreboding that formed in my stomach cleared and we started playing I started really having fun… and found out exactly how much all the MMO experience I have from other games is worth nothing in Dungeons and Dragons Online. Here are a few things of what makes DDO different.

Character Creation

The way characters are created and how they level up is completely different, and this is where I feel the most inexperienced. I created a Bard, which I assumed would stand in the back, play a little music, and essentially offer support. So how does it play? A Two-Handed Axe wielding damage dealer that gets up in your face! Every once in a while I’ll play a song or two to buff my group or daze some enemies, but really its all about going toe-to-toe and smacking baddies upside the head. This has confused me to no end.

Character Creation overall is very open. Every level you gain is a momentous occasion! So much so, that you don’t automatically level. The choices made during leveling are so important, it gives you as much time as you need to figure it out. Most other MMOs you visit your trainer and get new skills, but in DDO you have the ability to gain the abilities of other classes entirely. Say you start a rogue. Well, after a couple of levels you could switch it up and take the rest of your levels as a wizard. This could help to increase evasion in combat or help you with traps. Multi-classing seems to be a very popular thing to do in DDO as it helps create very customized builds.

Personally, although I love a lot of depth when it comes to character creation, I’m afraid of it becoming an illusion of choice. If you don’t pick the best options, then you can very easily break your character and make it so you become less effective at the high levels of the game. I guess I’ll find out, although if anyone experienced has advice about building Bards, I’d be happy to hear it.

I’ve got bad news… I think I dropped my keys…

Loot

Just like other games, beating up bad guys, opening chests (which might be trapped, by the way), and completing quests gets you loot. The loot, though, is just… different. Its hard to explain. Instead of getting gear with stats where the weapons you have are based on your class, loot is meant to simply complement your skills chosen during leveling. If you pick proficiency in swords, you can still wield a club, it just won’t do as much damage or your chance to hit won’t be as high as a sword, but the club might be better against some enemies. Armor can protect you, but it also makes you less dexterous or can make your spells fizzle. Boots, wrists, rings, helm, and cloak instead of offering armor and stats can give you a new spells to cast, or buff a skill, like “spot” or “listen”.  So the way loot is given, confusion easily sets in when every item choice is not an obvious upgrade. Suddenly, I could wear a cloak that increases my Charisma, or wear a cloak that lets me cast “Mage Armor”. I right now have both… as I really can’t choose between them as I still don’t have a full grasp on what my character can do.

Traps and Puzzles

Picture this, you’re sneaking through a dungeon (because everyone can sneak, too… just maybe not as effectively as others) and your senses point you out to a trap ahead. A trap. Nothing obvious, like a spot of fire on the ground that you shouldn’t stand in, but a spot where spikes will come out of the ground and run you through. If you’re a rogue, you could try disarming it. If you have enough skill in “Jump”, you could jump past it and try to avoid the damage. Tricky. Or when you hit a lever, the floor gives out just like you’re Indiana Jones or something. This truly makes every dungeon feel a little more suspenseful. There could be a trap right in front of you, and if you don’t have the proper skills, you would never know until it hit you.

Then, the prize you seek is sitting on top of a pedestal surrounded by a bubble of magic. How do you get rid of it? By shifting floor panels on the ground until a beam of light hits the pedestal. A puzzle! Not a difficult puzzle, mind you, but a puzzle! A real puzzle! Now, I haven’t been playing it that long, but I really can’t wait to encounter some real mind-benders. Not going to cheat and use a guide, either. In my opinion, that just takes away the fun, but the more puzzles in the game the better.

Killing Monsters Does Not Give Experience

Unless the quest was to specifically kill a monster, experience is gained by completing quest objectives and you get no experience for killing monsters. This means that if you’re not the most hardy of characters, and killing the monster isn’t necessary, you could just sneak past them. Most times, they don’t even have loot on them. Unlike other games where you could pass a group of mobs, but doing so means missing out on their loot and experience, there is no penalty for skipping them. It becomes a tactical choice instead of mandatory or a punishment. This gives the feeling that every encounter is important, and gives many different ways to complete each quest.

The weekly DDO group watching the scene unfold below.

A Brave New World

Overall, all of this leads to one conclusion: I have no idea what I’m doing. I probably won’t for quite a while, either. The learning curve is pretty steep. With all of these points, even though some of them can be found in other games, like puzzles in Star Trek Online or situational loot like in Guild Wars, they really set Dungeons and Dragons Online apart. My main fear is somehow messing up my character with the really complex character system, but this is the way Dungeons and Dragons players like it.

Even though it’s totally out of character for me, I’m really glad that I’ve joined this weekly group. Not only are the guys I’m playing with awesome, but the game itself is growing on me week after week.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – For some good reading, check out some of the blogs by fellow weekly group members: Professor Beej, Psychochild’s Blog, Warrior Needs Time Badly, and Bio Break (although Syp hasn’t found time to play with us, despite starting the group in the first place. :P )

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7 responses to “Dungeons and Dragons Online is Different… But In A Good Way

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  1. - Glad to see people trying DDO :) It really is rather unique among current MMOs, isn’t it?

    – That cloak that casts Mage Armor is what you might see people in DDO referring to as a “clicky” — you will run across a lot of these. Keep the useful ones especially once they start coming at reasonably useful caster levels — since spells continue after you take the item off you can carry a few in your bag and swap them in just to cast the spell.

    – Yes, messing up your character is a possibility but the easiest way to do that is to multiclass without a well thought out plan, so as long as you don’t do that you’re probably okay if you make whatever choices seem most obvious for your class.

    – Next time you are at the trainer looking at enhancements, check the box that shows ones you aren’t eligible for yet, and look for your class’ prestige enhancements and what it will take to get there. Some of them are very nice, and they also sort of serve as hints to what kind of roles your class is meant to fit into as well.

    – If you’re not familiar with D&D already, Google for the D&D 3.5 SRD… it’s free and has the core rules and class descriptions. While DDO doesn’t match the pencil-and-paper rules exactly, this will help to give you a better sense of what all the character building options actually mean.

    – check out http://www.rjcyberware.com/DDO/ for a character builder you can use offline to plan your development

    Hope you keep enjoying it :)

    • Wow. Thanks a lot man! All this will definitely come in handy.

      I had a feeling about “clicky” items, like a ring of water-breathing where other rings are better, and that’s more situational, but glad to see it confirmed. I will definitely have to take a look at that character builder. I see a lot of research ahead of me. :)

      Thanks again!

  2. Rob beat me to a lot of the comments I was going to say. But for a good guide to bard builds checks out this forum thread at DDO.com http://forums.ddo.com/showthread.php?t=249865. There are several builds dependant on race. I’m currently using the Half orc build as a guide for my first bard character and he’s really coming along nicely :-)

    Good blog, I shall be adding you to my rss feed. Look forward to reading more as you progress!

  3. Man, I really want in on this! I’ll probably ask fellow NBI bloggers to do a once a month traipse to D&D land for at least 3 hours or so. Sometime. In the not-so-foreseeable future.

  4. I was surprised to learn three things from your post: Leveling in other games is not like in DDO. Treasure in other games is not like in DDO. And I’m apparently the only one in your static group without a blog.

    Is that really us in the ice cave picture? Is that our handsome elvish ranger at the bottom?

    • Yeah, leveling is definitely different, and loot is surprisingly different, too. And yes, you don’t have a blog. :P Although, to be fair, I just started this one only a month ago, so its brand new.

      And yup, that’s us, though your head is barely in the picture. I tend to take quite a few screenshots…

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