I was reading a Q&A blog post written by Keith Baker yesterday. He’s the original creator of the Eberron campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons (first released back in the 3rd edition era). This is my favourite setting, the one in which I’ve been running a campaign. It is also the background setting for Dungeons & Dragons Online the MMORPG created by Turbine. Reading the Q&A had me wanting to play the game again but, sadly, I’m too quickly reminded of its faults.
To be fair to the title it has some very positive points. The approximation of the 3rd edition D&D rules is *very* good, adapted for real-time combat and MMO tropes such as the combat role trinity (tank, healer , damage dealer). The character creation and progression system is amazingly deep and complex while offering a great ‘template’ system to allow MMO players who are unfamiliar with D&D to skip much of this complexity. The storytelling is also pretty good with generally imaginative and lore-appropriate quests.
But the core design of the game is about repeating the relatively small number of quests (each quest is an instance or dungeon) on different difficulty settings. It probably represents a sensible compromise for available budget vs content replayability but it also makes the game more grindy and less alt-friendly than other MMOs. You will repeat all the quests many times to level even on one character.
This combination of grinding dungeons and the relatively slow levelling speed led to what I would consider to be a tendency towards elitism and min-maxing of character builds to an extreme. Random groups for dungeons were a mad head-long dash from start to finish with little concern for healer mana or tactics. I’m talking here about the pre-free to play days especially and I was in a guild and they played this way too. Since free to play I’ve only played as part of a levelling trio but the game isn’t designed for small party cooperative play, it expects full party groups (6 players) if you want to progress at a half-decent rate.
So I’m left frustrated that I’d like to play the game but feeling less than thrilled with the quantity of content available and the rigidity of the party size. We muddled by as a trio until level 5 or 6 but by then the content was too challenging for such a small group.