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Andrew:
1. Running away is a seriously underused ability in most RPGs. Most games give you the option to run for it, but I know few players who use it, and more importantly, few games that really need it. Personality, I find the idea of using retreat in battle highly alluring for a game. Letís say you decide to fight a big bad boss, and he calmly turns your party into paste. However, letís say you run away from the first encounter, and when he chases after you, surprise him from around a corner and get that needed ďSurprise AttackĒ edge!

2. This is because the Goo King lacks any appendages to hold the sword, which in actuality is a regular sword that got stuck in the monster and developed, much like a piece of crap turns into a pearl when trapped inside an oyster, into the most powerful weapon in the game. Scary, I know.

3. Lawyers and politicians are typically not seen in game battles because most are sensible enough to know they lack any combat ability whatsoever. Happily, there does exist the ancient order of kung-fu fighting lawyers, though they have yet to be featured in any game.

4. Hahaha! Now thatís a game worth playing!

 Final Fantasy 8 and the word realistic donít belong in the same sentence.

Creatures spewing things out of their carcass are bad news. Maybe this is what spawned the phrase "You don't know where that thing's been!" But anyway, there were a few games that were better about this. In FF8 you had a salary and got things that make more sense from monsters, who were actually pretty viscious. In Xenogears, you don't get any cash from non-human things and the monsters were not any woodland creatures.

After a while of leveling my characters I get bored out of my mind and decide the world might be a bit better if I buy some stuff and move on. Or I smash my head against the wall and ask myself why you can't control how often you run into monsters.

~Zenogais Bluebane

Andrew:
Final Fantasy 8 is a terrible example of a game with sensible gameplay. Monsters that leveled up with you? What kind of crack induced haze was Square in when they okayed that piece of brilliance? And maybe Iím in the minority, but if I had a gun sword, any approaching monster would be full of bullet holes long before they got close enough for me to use the sword part of my weapon.

Iíd love it if more games included ways for the player to avoid or attract monsters. Youíd think the typical game designers would have enough sense to put in a way for the player to level bust faster or get through tedious dungeons quicker, but no, they just want to increase the play time. Argh.

 Square love the marijuana!

Hey Andrew,

Here's the one thing about monsters in RPG's that always got to me...why are the heroes fighting a plant? If it was some huge plant with massive tentacles, that could run around quite fast and catch you...then okay, but no, usually, there useless plants, with no legs, or tentacles. What? did this thing manage to sneak up on you in an open field and catch you by surprise? Or, maybe you decided to encounter a defenless plant and beat the crap out of it? The best game I can re-call with such an enemy is Final Fantasy 3 (6 japanese), the enemy called Trilium that you meet up with in battles before you're about to fight Vargas. People must know what I'm talking about, it's just leaves and green vines...and with it's fast blazing speed, it manages to poison you. Anyhow, I know this was quite possibly the most pointless letter...but, it always got to me...how do you not avoid a plant.....especially one that's stationary....

Genocrakhore

Andrew:
I have no answer for you, but plenty of speculations. Perhaps the Trilium is some sort of horrible tentacle raping demon from Japanese lore, brought to life in the high mountain paths of Final Fantasy 6. Maybe one of the creators had a bad accident that involved an amorous wreath and now fears them uncontrollably. Perhaps the Triliums is simply the result of a bored graphic artist who was burned out on monster ideas. The world may never know, but Iím going to torch every festive holiday wreath I see from now on.

 Iíd prefer obtuse shenanigan.

Hello rabbit. Or would you prefer bunny?

1. Lame monsters. I've never been able to figure this one out myself, but then, how is one supposed to be able to handle a goblin when you're a pathetic weenie just out of home-schooling? You can barely fight with a stick. Probably ought to just get rid of things like this anyway. I like my heroes to have a little bit of experience in what they do. But perhaps that's just me.

2. Impossible drops. I agree with you on this one. If you kill it, you can loot it of whatever it has. On the subject of gold, I've always figured that you are basically getting a translation of pelt/scalp/fur whatever to gold. It's what I did in my DragonRealms days, and it made sense. Makes me think of what they did with monster trophies in Final Fantasy Tactics. How you could get perfume from a monster's corpse is beyond me though...

3. Human life. This one is difficult, as you get into the difference between PC and console here. In PC RPG's you usually don't have to kill a lot of people to proceed. Morrowind only requires that you kill about 3 people in order to beat it. Not the way I'd prefer personally (too much assassin in me), but it's an option. On console there are too many battle engines utilizing random battles, so you get infinite amounts of enemies. I've always hated random battle systems. This is one reason I've liked Persona, even if it had random battles. At least you could negotiate out of a battle if you wanted, unless your foe was some fanatic.

4. Random encounters. I liked Earthbound for systems here. If you obviously overpower your opponent on the worldmap, they'd typically try to flee from you. If you're strong enough the game would simply award you the exp and gold for the fight if you should run into the enemy, without having to do the actual fight. Made things much simpler when returning to old territory. Of course, I also hate spending inane amounts of time leveling up in a game unless the battle system itself is absolutely fantastic to play with. Can't remember the last time that happened.

Need a question? Hmmm...playing any games right now? Working on Wario Ware, Inc. and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow right now. Haven't touched my PS2 or GC in a while now. ::mutters::

EDekar

Andrew:
1. Well, the hero could always start the game with a few levels, like Cecil and Kain in Final Fantasy 4, or the hero could have a few friends and REALLY have to struggle for the first few battles. Better yet, have the player use other means to make their characters stronger. Weight lifting and training for the fighters, and lots of book learning for the mages. Course, it would have to be done in a fun way...hrm.

2. Good point. Though I still disagree with the standard of monsters dropping gold. Iíd MUCH rather have innovative side-quests to earn money. I mean, arenít most adventurerís also bounty hunters too? What about picking a side job doing dishes in the local townís bar? That could lead to an amusing side game and a way to push the story ahead.

3/4. Random battles = Lazy/stupid creators. Seriously. An enemy should be able to see who theyíre about to fight, make a decision whether to engage, call for help, or run like hell. This isnít rocket science, since a goblin probably wonít attack a bunch of heroes in shiny armor, but will attack a farm boy with a stick. All the creators have to do is take some time on gameplay, instead of putting all their effort into the stories. Which is a bit stupid, considering how many RPGs Iíve stopped playing out of sheer frustration at the presentation.

 Getíem boys! Heís being realistic!

I don't think that the shortcomings can really be blamed on just plain laziness of creators.

I mean it would be nice to have all these features and such but from their perspective they have deadlines to meet. If they included all those little things then another aspect of the game, say the story would have to suffer.

Besides, they are only making a game. It doesn't necesarily have to be "realistic".

-Executor

Andrew:
Excecutor, I never asked for a bunch of half-assed rationalizations for the problems of RPGs today. Deadlines are part of professional game design, but that doesnít give designers a good reason to ignore glaring flaws in the initial design of a system, especially when you consider how many professionals out there have taken steps to get rid of these problems. Quite simply, a game doesnít have to be realistic, but that doesnít mean they also have to have crummy play mechanics.

 Taking it back to the early days!

All modern RPG's are, in some part, based on Dungeons & Dragons, so let's look at D&D for the answers. The single Imp trying to take on the 4 most powerful adventurers in the world is just absurd. Without even looking at the CR/XP chart in the DMG, you can tell something isn't right.

Perhaps developers should be taking a close look at the 3rd Edition DMG, specifically pages 101 and 166, which deal with generating battles for a party of adventurers without making the battle too hard or too easy. You have a party of 4, who are all level 5.

The chart tells us that either 1 monster with a Challenge Rating of 5 or 6 (ex: Manticore, Wyvern) is a battle the party can handle, but will use up roughtly 1/4 of their available resources(CR[Challenge]=PL[average level of party]). This party would have the same challenge when facing a band of 12 Orcs, or 2 Dire Wolverines. Now, facing something like a single Mummy (CR=3), the party should win decisively, since the challenge is two levels below the party. Why not include these calculations in generating random encounters? Instead of that single Imp trying to take on the party, maybe he'll have more and more help the more powerful you get, or eventually you will move out of their threat range altogether, and simply never see them again.

XP also tends to be static in console RPGs, which is another problem. I do not "learn" as much frombeating up a spider the 700th time. The first game I remember really addressing this is Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, but there might have been others. In CotM, as you levelled up, fighting monsters who were stronger than you and really taxed your magic and/or items got you more XP, fighting wimps that fall with one whip lash got you less. Eventually, most creatures would only give out 1 EXP, because they were no longer challenging. Personally, I would like to see an approach more like the one in the previous paragraph, but at least non-static XP is a start.

Sorry for the length of the letter, I have concision issues.

-rob "hangman" mcg

Andrew:
Some good points. However, D&D is one of the most unfair systems in terms of letting luck rule the day for characters. I recently started playing a campaign with some friends, and my character, a rather belligerent evil gnome, and managed to roll nothing but 4's when it came time to attack people. At least in console RPGs, they donít dick around and have one of your characters miss a DRAGON for an entire battle, and justify it with, ďUh....you missed and got your flail stuck in the ground. Whoops, now itís caught on a root. You got it out but it smacked you in the face. Gee...again? Iím really sorry, Andrew.Ē BAH!

Maybe I need a more benevolent DM.

 How DARE you use common sense here!

Regarding point #4: If the game can do a quick run-through of the battle with everyone attacking and determines that the heroes receive less than (oh say) 10 pts damage before whooping the monsters, can't we just say we win, give us the putzy exp and cash from fighting the low low level stuff at the beginning of the game, and let us be on our merry way without distracting us for a minute every 10 seconds?

And well, for the first 3, this is where the tried and true "classic" pnp rpgs shine - think D&D or Palladium. Monsters and monster subgenres (goblinoids, undead, etc) are well-established, so there's no fighting bees (unless they're giant bees and part of a plot device). Items are usually limited to what the monsters are carrying, or what they have in their lairs. This is a Good Thing on so many levels. Plus I suppose there's the corpses themselves that you could use for fun stuff, I think Secret of Evermore did that too? And well, #3 is something that I'd stick with, but with a pen-and-paper RPG there's so much other stuff you can do. For example, you get stopped by a bunch of guards that want to arrest you. Do you (a) kill them, (b) cast a sleep spell on them, (c) fight them with intent to KO, (d) run away, (e) run and hide, etc, etc. Oh wait, it's a scripted console RPG combat? Well absolutely A then. *sigh*

- Vaevictis

Andrew:
4. Ah, the dream of gamers everywhere.

1, 2, 3. Congrats, youíve proven that with a good DM and some friends, pen and paper RPGs rock the socks off all other forms. Le sigh.

 Thar be dragons everywhere!

My biggest gripe about most RPGs is the monster/balance of nature thing. I guess D&D started this but video games have continued the legacy.

How the hell can there be a fully balanced and functioning system of nature when the world is plagued with thousands of "Spawns from Hell" or red dragons running around? What chance does a bear have in surviving the woods when they have to worry about Magical Orcs at every turn.

My other issue is the issue of humans surviving. Around the starting towns, most monsters are common place creatures incapable of wiping humans off the face of the earth. The problem is, once you reach the third or forth town (not counting the one that inevitibly gets wiped out by the enemy) the monsters are god-like. Every random battle breeds a monster capable of destroying an army. Fortunately, they never think to invade the nearby town filled with merchants, thieves and innkeepers.

Thats my main gripe, though many modern day setting RPGs tick me off more (but thats a different letter)

Tad Ghostal.

Andrew:
1. It could explain why all the bees, birds, and bugs are attacking the heroes. Sheer panic brought on by all the nasty creatures that have invaded their homes.

2. A very good point, especially when most towns are definitely lacking in guards or defensive walls. My only guess is that towns leave large amounts of food and jewels outside of the town, and the monster raid the pile instead destroying the village. Of course, when a bunch of freaking heroes get in the way of a frost giant who has got his hands full of shiny things, you just know thereís going to be a fight.

 ďRetartedĒ indeed.

About those retarted random encounters, where your level 99 and taking on creatures you fought at level 1.

I think that the way Earthbound did it was the best I've seen so far. I mean, when you reach a certain level the monsters would actually run away from you. It was great for two reasons.

First, it kept the game going by not making you fight a million worthless fights against monsters who give s**t for xp.

Second, it added a sense of "realism" to it. When was the last time you saw a bee charge you form across the street?

Jaleewa

Andrew:
Actually, whipping rocks at a hornetís nest will make them charge you for quite a distance. But I digress! Yes, EarthBoundís battle system was masterly, and I donít know why most future game designers ignored it. You fools! *sob*

 Who else wants to bet this guy was/is a bully?

Hello,

School shootings don't do anyone "a favor". No one "deserves" to die for something like bullying. Sure, they may not be the brightest, or most socially accepting people, but think about what you said, and how ignorant it is.

The people doing the shooting are being even more intolerant of other people, and put simply, lack the simple mental stability that keeps everyone else from pointing a gun at someone we don't like. To add insult to injury: If someone teases you and calls you crazy (or something to that effect) and you shoot them, well that pretty much proves their point.

Normal people don't carry out acts of violence like that. There is nothing talented or creative about taking the cowards way out to end your problems. Truly talented and creative people know how to cope with the fact that not everyone is going to be like them (or like them), and even know how to *gasp* accept the criticism from these people knowing that in the grand scheme of things, its insignificant.

You even added a line stating that we didn't have to agree with you. Well, no SMURF. What a thought that was.

Nick Hale

Andrew:
1. Youíre making the assumption that someone who routinely beats the crap out of people he barely knows with no provocation is more sane then the person who finally hauls off and ends this threat to his daily life. Besides, bullies are generally more popular then the people they hurt.

2. Iím not talking about teasing. Everyone has to deal with smart ass little twits like you Nick, and beating the unholy crap out of you really isnít an option, though posting your email address is almost as satisfying. Of course, I wouldnít use bullying tactics on you.

3. When I refer to a bully, I mean a person who steals, cheats, intimidates, routinely uses his fists over his brain, and has a mean habit of causing physical pain to others for little reason. Your definition of a bully seems to be the giggling chatterbox cheerleaders at the back of class who say demeaning things to people with unfashionable clothes.



Quickies

Given that much of the RPG industry, both electronic and pen&paper, cantrace its roots to Lord of the Rings, it seems strange for so manygames/worlds to feature both dark elves and orcs.

Iím sure Iíll get nice thick letters on this tomorrow, but dark elves are from D&D, and were considered a lot classier then orcs for evil creatures, so orcs got shunted into the ďstupid thugĒ spotlight, despite claims from LotR of their origins.

you should really think about what you are saying man , yes when theres a school shooting its normally the bullys killd but many times theres loads of innocent victims caught in they way like at columnbine there was no bully involved they wanted to shoot up people because it was hitlers birthday and 4 people they didnt even know died

And your point? Iím NOT defending situations where a couple of insane kids with stolen fire arms who praise teh gr34t satin go off the deep end. Heil stupidity!

Can some please send me some maps for arc of land that shows were secret areas are how to get and all that other stuff cause I just found this place where that little girl u get from the forbidden ruins mom is barried

Read over your letter before you send it. Arc of Land? Honestly.

Someone wrote google a question about freeloader and was given info about the freeloader pc games. But i'm pretty sure the person was wondering about a freeloader like the one for gamecube that lets you play imports.

Given, but this is a column about RPGs. Why would we get questions about something like Freeloader in the first place?

A new game store opened up near me and carries imported games. My question is how do I know if the games will be available in Japanese and English, or if that is even available in any game.

Thanks

Well, call me crazy, but how about you just...uh...ASK THE OWNER. >_<

The Final Grumble:

Weekend of monsters means more questions for and your brilliant mind to figure out!

1. Why do monsters roam around in small, seemingly random groups? Youíd think that a band of trolls would stick together to fight off other monsters, but it always seems to be just one or two, who are easily pummeled by heroes.

2. For that matter, where are the monsterís homes? Donít they have parents? Villages? Tribes? Nests? Burrows? Why canít the heroes clear a monster threat forever from an area, ala Actraiser?

3. Why donít monsters get together, have a war party, get really wasted, and go attack a town? Itíd be pretty damn cool to fight off a goblin horde in a game.

4. When I kill ďArmen the KnightĒ why did I get one potion and a handful of gold? What about his full plate mail and sword? I steal from everything else, why canít I strip Armen to his skivvies?

Andrew "Potter!" DuffClaire Belton

Oh admit it. You know tomorrow you'll be reading the new book too.

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