Defining classes

It’s time for step 2 of Rich Burlews layout for designing a game-setting. Since this setting is not intended for D&D, this seems a useless step, but instead of skipping, I want to take time now to decide what I do want for the player to be instead. Mainly my idea is that the player should have a huge amount of options in-game and it’s the job of the designer to show some interesting paths to follow. I always really enjoy crafting systems in a game, but often I find them time consuming and complicated with insufficient in-game explanation. But what if the player really wants to enact a certain profession. I think that should be possible. So instead of predefined adventurer-classes, I’m looking more for activities and professions, perhaps just skills to describe and regulate player activities.

I also believe picking a class at the start of a game discourages experimenting with the player character. Rather I think the preferred activities should flow from the characters abilities. A nice feature of this game might be a game option where the character is ‘born’ with certain talents, and the player has no influence on which ones. For example only 1 in 3 characters will then be generated with magic capabilities, and it’s the players job to make the best with the given set of talents. Perhaps to become a famous weapon-smith is the chosen career. Or become an ambitious priest for one strand of the religion.

But for one moment, lets assume I am going to divide players in classes, what would be useful? Well, since just playing a blacksmith in an RPG isn’t that exciting, and neither is a pacifistic priest, let’s assume there will be combat for every player. And why not start with classifying in the way characters deal with combat? First we got the general melee of close quarter ‘Fighter‘. Next there is the ranged fighter, or perhaps plainly the ‘Archer’. Then there are those that use magic, shortly referred to as the ‘Mage‘. And lastly there are those that use trickery and ‘Stealth’. These basic classes are not exclusive. A Mage might hide from view, and an Archer will likely switch to a melee weapon when his enemy gets too close. But this is a good way of separating different skills involved in combat.

Other main classes might be gathering, crafting and performing. Those would be the more miscellaneous classes. I believe I have some great ideas how to classify attributes, skills and player activities, but that’s something I like to reveal and discuss in one go, so I’m not going further into it now. Suffice to say, there will be plenty possibilities to perform different professions and studies in-game.

Looking at it from a broader sense, what type of characters should be in the game? Well, I already spoke about farmers, sailors, priest, but I will try to come up here with a list of classes of (non-)player-characters, that I feel could be in the game. How about we first divide the list in to groups of characters:

  1. Common folk
  2. Middle class
  3. Warriors
  4. Rulers
  5. Scholars

Well, I don’t know if this fits all I seek, but it will do for now. Perhaps I will add more class categories later when needed. Lets expand on the first one: Common Folk.

  1. Farmers
  2. Servants
  3. Peasants
  4. Slaves
  5. Beggars
  6. Miners
  7. Sailors
  8. Hunters
  9. Shepherds
  10. Paupers
  11. Pickpockets

Next one up is the middle class.

  1. Blacksmiths
  2. Traders
  3. Merchants
  4. Artists
  5. Alchemists
  6. Carpenters
  7. Weavers
  8. Bakers
  9. Innkeepers
  10. Middleman (a ship’s mate, a work overseer)
  11. Thieves
  12. Smugglers
  13. Assasins

I realized now it’s hard to distinguish here, because some middle class characters also fit in the scholar or ruler categories. A mage that has a shop for his products, or a state official. Anyways, next is the list of scholars.

  1. Mages
  2. Alchemists
  3. Priest
  4. Tutors
  5. Librarians
  6. Monks
  7. Teachers

And right into a list of ruling classes. Actually my definition here is a bit like everyone that has legal power over another, whether just or not, is a ruler in some sense.

  1. Kings (and other Royal family)
  2. Dukes
  3. Counts
  4. Any other Noble
  5. Slave-owners
  6. Constables
  7. Clergy

I skipped the warrior set of classes, but that was on purpose, because most likely the PC will fit into one of these.

  1. Adventurers
  2. Guards
  3. Soldiers
  4. Knights
  5. Archers
  6. Outlaws
  7. Bandits
  8. Heroes

Now that I’ve made these lists I’m not sure how useful they will become in the game itself, but it did give me some base idea about what’s all involved. This list is far from complete, and I’m not happy with how the classes don’t fit nicely into categories, but by trying to do so, it becomes much easier to see common grounds and in what way they could then be categorized.
Next time a post about a topic in which I’m also far from having decided, but on which my direction of thinking is at least much more clear and logical: Races.

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Religion rambles

In this post I try to focus my thoughts on the settings Religion. I’ve decided there will be a main religion with 3 or 4, maximum 5, passive gods. Unexplained phenomena will be attributed to these gods and together they cover all topics/classes of worshipers. Worship will be regulated by a pretty dominant church or churches for each god, that actively discourages other beliefs. The strength of this religion will lie with the priests.

Lets call the followers, beliefs, churches, etc. of one of these gods a strand for now. Perhaps one strand dominates the others, or one strand is dominated by the others. This is great for conflict and a setting of suspense. The oppressed strand(s) might rebel with the players help, or perhaps the player becomes a champion for the dominant one and helps oppress another.

Right now I want to shape out this main religion some more. How many gods exactly? Why are they revered? How do they relate? What are their spheres of influence?
I don’t want to create to much imbalance between the different strands, so I think each strand should have reasonable groups of followers in each class of civilization. That rules out a ‘god of labour’ and his counterpart ‘god of rulers’. I’m more looking for a set of gods where for example sailors have a different ‘patron god’ then farmers, or craftsmen. Also each of those groups of worshipers should do more than just tolerate the other gods. How about a cooperating pantheon? Sailors have one patron, but under certain circumstances they do pray to/worship the others. Back to the question of how much gods there are again, I think it’s really time to start answering that now. Let’s make a list of topics with each 3 to 5 elements that encompass all aspects of life. A bit like Rich Burlews list of polar opposites, but now with 3 to 5 elements, one for each god.

  1. The classical elements: Earth, Fire, Air, Water (, something like Aether)
  2. Elements of earthly planet: Land, Sea, Sky
  3. Physical quantities: Time, Place, Color, Matter
  4. Partly Greek pantheon: Love, Sea, War, Science, Underworld, Lightning, etc.
  5. Part of 8 Divines: Dragon/Time, Life and Death, Beauty, Wisdom and Logic, Air, Love, Mercy, Work and Commerce
  6. Emotions: Anger, Joy, Fear, Sadness, etc.
  7. Virtues: Truthfulness, Justice, Love, Humility, Trustworthiness etc.
  8. The 7 Classical Virtues versus Vices
  9. Aspects of life: Work, Rule, Growth, …

Well, I can go on but I already see that it is really hard to find nice divisions in three, also the more complex divisions like emotion or virtue always need more elements ergo more gods, then I want. Actually, I have already decided what I’m going to use. I usually don’t like using this set of elements because it’s so unoriginal as can be, but I’m going for the 4 classical elements. Advantages of it are, that it encompasses all aspects of life, it is very familiar to players and  it’s exactly my preferred number of gods. Also I believe it’s not that unoriginal to use for a religion. Most games that use Earth, Air, Fire and Water use them for the magic system. I already have some other great idea for that which I will discuss extensively in later posts.

What I see in the ‘EAFW elements’ is this: Sailors have the ‘Water god’ as a patron, but for swift winds or respite from a storm might pray to the ‘Air god’. Just so will the farmers have the ‘Earth god’ as their main deity as he gives them fertile soil, but they need the rain provided by the gods of Air an Water. And perhaps they are well aware crops don’t grow without sunlight, provided by the most major manifestation of the ‘Fire god’: the Sun.

Lets ‘flesh’ them out somewhat. The Fire god will definitely be female. Main reason is that it breaks with the stereotype. She’s a might be bit a seductive, but also quick to anger. She is not about destruction, but can’t really help she likes to see things burn. Let her be the god of strong (fiery, burning) emotions like love and hate. Apart from obviously fire and the sun, other things that might be attributed to her could be light and energy. Mind that I’m not yet giving names to the gods here, as I really want them to fit well and not be some quick choice.

Next up is her counterpart, the Water god. Just to set it firmly as a counter, let it be male. I’m not looking for another Poseidon. Rather a more slow and evading character. Looks like this is working out to be a dividing of polar opposites over the 4 gods. Perhaps an image might be in order of what I got right now.

I know, it’s not Photoshop quality, or any quality for that matter, but I’m really no artist, and this does convey the message.
Anyways. I’m not really looking for just opposites, so perhaps I should look for more divisions in 4. Right now I’ll just go on with the next god: Earth. I see it mostly as a male. ‘Mother earth’ is a familiar way of picturing this element, but that hints to (plant)life and nature. I’m seeing this element here more as rock and dirt. Perhaps a golem-type would be how he is depicted. In any case, this is the bulky man with low voice and such.

I thought about breaking opposites by having 3 gods of the same gender instead of 2 by 2, but I strongly feel the Air god should be female. Perhaps there is some other way I can break with opposites. I’m thinking back here to one of the strands being oppressed a little. Either fire or air are possible. The other two are much more necessary for normal folk. I think Fire is the odd one out. So the strand of fire will either be dominant or neglected. Back to the Air goddess, her character will be somewhat uncaring. Air just ‘goes with the flow’.

I’ve written about each of these gods as having a character, but again: I’m not intending them to be walking the earth. The church (which also needs some new name and quirks) portrays these gods with images and in preaches, but is mostly based upon human interpretation. The way their strands in church act, might be a good representation of their gods character. I’m thinking now about the church having different orders for each god, and different temples/houses of worship. I haven’t thought much about this yet, so I’ll keep that for a later post. Perhaps I will also come to naming some items, so refers gets a little more tangible.

ip will be regulated by a pretty dominant church, that actively discourages other beliefs
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Setting up a setting

In creating a setting for the game, I try to follow Rich Burlews steps in his series of articles: “The New World”, where he writes about creating a new D&D setting. although I have another use in mind, I find his line of thinking very helpful and logical. So lets set off.

Step 1: Purpose and Style
My purpose is obviously to use the setting for a cRPG, but it might serve more purposes. I don’t want to create a campaign yet. I want the setting to fill a whole world. Something like a full planet is too grand a scale to fill, but perhaps a continent. That doesn’t mean I don’t have to think about planetwide topics like climate, geography or even shape of the world. After all this is fantasy, so why not an inverted world or some other strange thing.

I do completely agree with Rich Burlew that the setting should not have an “Overarching Story”, but rather be a place where there are a lot of possibilities for conflict, exploration and adverture. Main questlines can evolve from religious disputes, wars between nations, or upcoming (world)dictators.

Though I did create some campaigns for a pen and paper RPG once, this is the first setting I am fully constructing. I am also quite into the High Fantasy, so I don’t expect to be as original as Rich in my concepts, but I do hope to give the setting something unique.  Also I remind myself now of how I really enjoyed the Morrowind setting and much less the Oblivion setting. In retrospect that might very well be, cause Oblivion was much more traditionally Medieval in looks and feel than Morrowind and it all seemed much more familiar.

Taking a look from a player perspective. I do want the world to feel reasonably normal. No gimmicks that go far from earthly physics. I had a momentary thought about a world on the inside of a sphere instead of the outside, like the world of Pryan in the 2nd novel from Weiss and Hickmann’s, The Death Gate Cycle.
The idea is really nice, but it doesn’t fit in normal physics (as an evolved world). Neither are completely water- or underwater-worlds really grasping for the player. So a spherical planet it is, with earthly climate and geography.

Now, about time and technology. Ingame time is not relevant to set yet, as that also depends on history, but compared to our own: I think a broad ‘timeframe’ would fit best. Some lands or continents with late Medieval perhaps even renaissance, and also regions with dark ages. This has the advantage of giving more available gameplay. When players have done everything interesting in the “dark ages region”, they can move one to another region with new culture to explore and new artifacts of greater potential to find. This might prevent boredom for players at high levels.

At this point Rich makes a list of assumptions based on D&D. I look for inspiration on this aspect mostly to Morrowind, as it really appealed to me, while I expected a more traditional setting would have appealed more to me.
My list here is as follows (examples in brackets):

  1. A Human type race is dominant. (Imperials)
  2. Every player can perform magic
  3. Local Gods are active, can even be killed (The Tribunal, Aedra)
  4. Mainstream Gods are passive (Imperial cult)
  5. Magic (and) goods are easily available. (Every town has magic items in shops)
  6. Earth is just one of multiple planes of existence (Oblivion Realms)
  7. Magic and tech of ancient times were more advanced (Dwemer, Ayleid)
  8. Magic costs mana and its effect parameters are predefined by the spell

Some of these are practical things for a player in giving a sense  of familiarity which makes gameplay more natural. I want to keep a standard human race for the dominant species for that reason. Gods must also be present, but I like the main religion to have passive gods. A whole range of gods feels cumbersome and seems a little pagan. I really like the idea of the Tribunal Temple gods from Morrowind, but those are living gods. I think my main religion will have 3 or 4 passive gods, that divide all domains of worship(pers). More gods means the interactions or conflicts between followers become hard to track, while less gods, 2 or 1, would give much less possibilities for story. I’ll get back to this.

Coming to the points about magic on my list, I would really like it to be more naturally integrated in a world. Magic is mostly now an added concept with well described effects, but it never interacts with the world itself. For example, I’ve hardly ever seen a game where a mage crushes an enemy by levitating a boulder above someone’s head, instead of just blasting him with a fireball from his hands. So magic should in my opinion interact with the world-physics. This demands that I bend some laws of physics, but also puts some boundaries on how far I can change. It must still be comprehensible to the player. This implies a good restriction on magic in general, so I think not everyone should be able to perform magic. Neither are other planes of existence plausible. And I also think I will be really sparse with magic items, especially in the ‘dark ages region’. Magic will be some form of science, where more advanced species/civilizations have more advanced magic.

In later posts I will get into this magic as science idea more and in much greater detail, but next post will be about this main religion idea. I think.

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What’s going on (in this blog)

Last post, coincidentally being the first one, I talked about wanting to design my own RPG, and why I created this blog for it. Since creating a real RPG is still out of my league I’ll define now what I do hope to achieve, and what kind of presumptions I take. I hope to keep it still in broad terms, to slowly build to the more narrow definition I have in mind, but that’s probably not possible everywhere.

I want to design every aspect of the game up to the real programming. This means I won’t program any real game, because I  but I do want to think about how some of it could be programmed. I might try some things to see if the controls or interface I want to use are practical or if some idea from a turn-based game works out in real-time.

And there it is. The first presumption. I want the game to be as much real-time as possible. As much as possible, because it might be necessary to pause for selecting other controls or options, depending on whether the controls are quickly available.

On the other end of the design-spectrum: I want to design a fantasy RPG. I do like Science Fiction but not nearly as much as I like those games with swords and magic. I don’t want to use an existing setting, because it is way to much fun to think up my own. This means thinking about and coming up with geography, history, science, culture, and of course a good story. Or perhaps even multiple.

Creating individual characters or quest or things like that has a low priority, but I do want to design a concept for them. This means answering questions like how to keep track of different quests or how they relate, whether they interact. And how will the player interact with the Non-Player-Characters? How will the conversations be interactive and how is disposition dealt with?

Last paragraph was an example of what is in my definition part of the game system. The rules of the game. Other important parts of this are the set of attributes and skills and how they influence the actions the player takes. I do want to think about what values and what types of mathematical formulas lie behind the system, but the complete formulas still depend on game balancing and have to be determined through testing. Which I can’t do yet since there is no program.

To get back to that, I do want to keep the game ‘programmable’. By that I mean that it should be possible for me and some friends who have a lot more experience in programming to create the artwork and code for a small working game which includes all game elements, and some examples. But not yet a full world filled with levels, quests, characters, enemies and items. If such a game would work out well, the adding of content would be simple, and a community of players could contribute perfectly to such things. Right now neither I nor my friends have enough spare time for this, but if I can motivate them enough, perhaps in the future …

Well, there is still a lot to be designed first, and another important aspect is the interface. The way the player has influence on his character(s), because it determines whether the game-play is exiting, easy, dull, complex or impossible. Since this is about designing a computer game, its logical to assume the use of the keyboard, but how about use of the mouse? A lot of post will deal with selecting a good set of controls, but this is again based on what the game-play looks like.

Which is again another section. What is the philosophy behind the game-play? What actions are possible in this game? What choices does the player have? What makes this game fun? Perhaps you will take some of this for granted, but it is worth a good look at established rules of RPGs, because doing things differently might make for unique game-play. And again everybody has different opinions on what they think is fun.

I hope I’ve created a decent frame now to understand what aspects I will be writing about. This frame will also be my main classification for the different categories. Posts will probably jump around between the categories as I come up with different ideas to tackle and I might take a leap back from some ideas to take a more philosophical approach. More should become clear as I add or refer posts and I hope it converses to be the backbone for a real game.

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The hardest post so far

And what is it that makes this post so hard to write?

Well let’s start with this post being the first post of my first blog ever. And I don’t like writing much.
It’s not that I can’t write anything decent, but I hate starting to write because everything I need or want to say is garbled in my head and I don’t know where to start. Hence also the name of the blog. But I’ll get back to the name later.

Other reasons this post is so difficult: I don’t have much experience in writing for a possibly relatively large audience. Possibly relatively large, because an audience can take almost all sizes from 0 to ∞ on the Internet, depending on whether anyone thinks what I write is worth reading. Apart from essays for school or university I only wrote one article for a larger audience, but that was in a scientific magazine with a lot of jargon and in my native language. Yes, I think writing in English is difficult, even though my understanding is pretty good.

Also, I haven’t decided (or even thought much) about what tone I want to set or what kind of structure or style I want to use. I certainly hope to write something to entertain others but trying to be funny has all to often the opposite effect. Just as for me trying to write something flawless almost always leads to no writing at all.
If I try to get my paragraphs and sentences too neat and too slick is takes so much time to write them that I’ll find no fun in doing so. Which often leads to me not writing in the first place. The fact that you are reading this is already quite exceptional, because I must have managed to finish this post and deemed it worthy enough to hit “Publish”. But that point is still a bit ahead.

Because first we (or rather I) have to go through the reason I started this post in the first place. Which is of course to explain why I started this blog in the first place. And the answer “Because I can” isn’t going to satisfy me here.

To say it simple: I want to design the perfect Role-Playing-Game.

Still reading? I’ll elaborate then: I love computer games like Morrowind, Dragon Age, Fallout etc. but I always think of ways it can be even more fun. I’ll probably talk about those games, how they inspire me and whatever else I want to say about them in separate posts, but for now the gist is that I can think of improvements for each of those games, and I would love to play the game that has it all combined. The perfect RPG.

Problem is, there is no such thing. Foremost reason being that everybody has different ideas on what should be in a game and how it should look. So, how about my perfect RPG? Well, I certainly haven’t found it, and I don’t think I will. No-one is going to make such a game just for me, so how about I make it myself?

Well, I can’t. Making a game anywhere near the games I like so much seems to cost millions of euro’s (or pounds or dollars or whatever but I’m for euro’s) and takes dozens of people years of full-time work to create. I don’t have that much time, certainly not enough money, and not even the right skills to work on such a game. I’m no writer or artist and though I’ve had some practice in C, I’m a lousy programmer.
And even if I could do all the work myself or could get other’s to do it for me, I still wouldn’t know what to make. I don’t know yet what my perfect RPG would look like.

Of course I’ve got all these ideas in my head about what I like, but it’s a complete chaos of random ideas. Before I can finish thoughts on one part of the game I get distracted by an idea for another part of the game. And this ranges from programming to graphics to setting to story etc.
So I want to create some order in these ideas. I started with jotting down notes and little drawings on a notepad, but often when I wanted to write something down, I had forgotten my notepad or I wanted to look up something on the Internet first. The notebook is all worn now from keeping it in the bag with my laptop, and every time I wanted to tell some interested friends of mine about my ideas it was a bit of a hassle with this notebook.

So came the idea to keep a notebook on the Internet. I thought about building my own website, so I could just give anyone interested a URL and keep my notes tidy and together, but I haven’t any real experience with building websites. The format of a blog seemed to be the ideal solution. And here it is. And why then the name Creative Order?

Because I hope this blog can help me turn the chaos of the ideas in my head in some sort of order. The ideas come in a pretty random order, which a blog is perfect for. The whole thought process can be found back in archives and links and pictures can be added easily in each post.
Creative, because all those ideas spring forth from my creativity, and I hope in writing everything down I can at least create enough order to finish some parts of this hypothetical RPG.
Lastly, Creative Order, because the domain randomorder was already picked by someone else and I didn’t want to make some silly variation with hyphens or numbers on that.

Now I still want to explain 2 things. Why I write this blog in English, and why I am hoping to make them in to full length posts instead of just jotting down small notes.
Well, I want others than just close friends to be able to make something of it, because I have the (perhaps quite incorrect) notion that more people might enjoy reading about this design project, and I can reach a much larger audience when writing in English.
And secondly, I hope to practice my writing skill and my English writing. Bit of a lousy reason perhaps, but I can still use it as a good excuse when asked why I waste my time designing a hypothetical computer game. That perhaps only I hope will ever be created for real.

Well that’s more than enough for now for explaining the existence of this blog. The next post will be really into practical game design because I’ve had it for now with all this justifying my blog and I can’t wait to get some good game ideas into the world. Let’s hope this blog will grow to be a nice place for brainstorming and thinking over different aspects of RPG design. Sorry if the writing of this post was quite chaotic, but perhaps it will improve in time as I learn to be more Creative in finding Order.

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