It all began with D&D. It was the early 80s. I was an elementary school girl sitting by herself in the classroom with a book during recess because I wasn’t interested in playing house with the rest of the girls. But I wasn’t the only person in the classroom – and I slowly became aware that the group of boys huddled in the corner were talking about interesting things. Elves! Dragons! Trolls and goblins! And then one day I realized that they weren’t talking about books, they were playing a game. Naturally once that hit me I immediately had to play, too. And now, here I am, decades later, still playing tabletop RPGs and video games, and writing about them.
So when the opportunity to give Dungeons and Dragons Online a whirl for its upcoming 10th anniversary came around, I couldn’t resist taking her for a spin.
And now I’m wondering how it was that I missed this gem. It’s not one of my beloved sandboxes – there’s the probable answer – but it is something else that I love; DDO is a game where your choices matter. They matter so much, in fact, that even people who’ve played the game since its launch still play around with making new character builds and experiments! How glorious is that – a game out for a decade and even old hats still have fun experimenting with it? There are warnings galore about how easy it is to gimp a character by experimenting, but that’s half the fun! And it’s not as bad as it might seem. In most games, messing up a character would mean shelving it and either quitting the game if you don’t want to start again or making a new character.
Not in Dungeons and Dragons Online. Remember the wondrous thing about the old portal games on bbs? REMORT???
In DDO, remorting lives! It’s called reincarnation, and via reincarnation you can change everything from stats and classes to race and gender. Not only does this allow the continuous ability for players to experiment, but it keeps low level zones populated. Even now, 10 years in, I was not alone in the low levels of the game; there were more experienced players around to help me. Not all were friendly of course, I met plenty who had no time for a newb who didn’t have the quests memorized, but I found a welcoming guild to run around with, so just ignore the dungeon runners. I have often wondered how remorting would work in an MMO, and thus far it seems it is as marvelous a system as it was in the old bbs.
If you’re familiar with D&D 3.5, then DDO character generation will look very familiar. As you can see here, I am making a drow rogue. I focused her with a dexterity based two weapon fighting style, but I have seen many other variations of rogues running around. One that I will have to try at some point is an intelligence based trapper. I’ve heard that int-based assassins work very well as well. Add in multi-classing, and you have a whole host of interesting things to try. There are even feats that you can only gain by reincarnating, so the longevity of the game is remarkable.
I want to try a monk/rogue, and a necromantic wizard who turns into fun things like zombies, vampires and liches. Thus far I’ve tried a rogue, a warlock, a monk, and an artificer. I must say I am madly in love with my artificer – she shoots lightning blasts and has all the rogue skills I can’t resist like use magic device, disarm traps and open lock. Plus a pet mechanical dog. What is there not to love? Why did I never try this game before?
But I promised a game where choices matter. They’ve made all stats important with secret doors and puzzles that require the various stats to open. Pump all your points into strength? You may be able to break down that heavy door, but good luck getting that intelligence primed rune to open. Haggle gives you better deals from the NPCs, perform boosts sonic damage (great for bars!), the healing skill not only boosts the amount you heal with healing spells but increases the health gained from resting and lets you revive companions who have been knocked out. Spot and listen let you detect secret doors without searching and discover invisible mobs – if my spot wasn’t high enough those transparent orcs wouldn’t be visible at all. I don’t have a screenshot of it, but invisible mobs detected via the listen skill don’t appear this way, they simply cause red flashes to appear in their vicinity. Jumping allows you to access more places in the game as it actually increases your jumping height; balance increases the speed at which you can regain your footing when tripped. It’s really quite marvelous.
And thus begins the tale of an artificer, her mechanical dog, and bard henchman! Stay tuned for more!