Thursday, May 26, 2011

Item Advancement

There's a lot of talk on the NERO boards currently about adding additional levels of weapon/armor advancement to the game. People are kind of up in arms about the fact that you either have a normal weapon that can break, or a magical weapon that lets you ride unicorns and smite your enemies forever... or something like that.

Item advancement is a tough topic for every game. You have to find a way to put the gear treadmill at a reasonable enough pace for people to stay interested. Make it too hard or too slow, people will get frustrated. Make it too fast or too easy, and people will get bored.

So what can be done? Let's look at the ways that some other games handle it.

D&D (3rd)
Magic items are super easy to come by, but somewhat difficult to make. They are pretty much required for handling some encounters. The major limitations are item slots and the fact that they become exponentially more expensive as the quality increases. This could be considered the baseline for item availability, as this was honed after years and years of dorks playing the game.

Magic items are harder to come by, and even harder to make. When you're at a good game, they shouldn't be mandatory, but they definitely give a significant boost to players when they have them. Sometimes, magic weapons are mandatory (but this should be uncommon). Plot is permitted to put items out, but not enough that everyone gets magic items at events. In addition, the way that items are put out often make them disappear, but that's a plot issue more than anything else.

In Exiles, I would classify guns/technology as magic items. These are extremely easy to come by and they never expire, but are essentially required. Players can upgrade their guns/technology to let them carry more bullets or fire faster, but it becomes incredibly expensive towards the highest tiers of guns. Technology and magic items (they do exist) both require players purchase skills to use them, and those skills may not be available to all classes. Magic items are often 1/ever effects and technology items often cost a lot of money to power.

Items last a number of events that the players play. Guns are easy to come by and pretty much required. Like Exiles, better weapons are often defined by how many rounds they can fire and how easy it is to fire those rounds. I don't have a lot of experience in that system, so I can't really say how some of the more magical items work, but there are some minor trinkets and such that make lives easier (1/ever spells, full meditation, etc).

Mirror, Mirror
I'm not sure how easy it is to get magic items, but if you want one, you can get one by buying a skill (Signature Item). Your signature item will last forever and even if you lose it, it will come back to you (barring extreme circumstances). I don't believe having a magic item is required at all. Magic items give two tiers of benefits (minor and major), with minor ones acting like 1/event skills and major offering some constant effects.

I'm not going to pick one system that I think is the best. But I do believe, just by looking at these systems, that NERO is significantly behind the pack when it comes to item balance. NERO needs to do something to make items easier to make/find, and possibly reduce the power of those items. Reducing the power wouldn't happen without some significant overhaul, but making the creation process easier shouldn't be too hard. Drop the ridiculous component costs, un-tie extensions from a batch, and allow re-extensions, and you should see the magic item system become significantly more balanced.


  1. Just a thought that came to me reading this, I have not really explored it, but I think NERO could benefit from a separation of Magic ITEMS from Magic WEAPONS.

    Magic weapons could then come in a wider range. Simple things like rendered or Magic Aura being a bit easier to get, and things that do something special, like increasing damage or adding an aura could become a bit harder, maybe even with delimiting becoming required for certain things.( I would also remove the or drastically change the number of effects policy)

    Then Magic items, things not enchanted to do more damage as a weapon could become a little more common, but again have a separation of power. Much like D&D where at lower levels you expect to not have a magic weapon, the you get a +1 sword and that is what you have, then you get a better one and so on.

    Using the Delimit Formal we have the ability to control that a bit, but it is not used because it takes up a slot, and very people would do that.
    A simple reworking of that issue would allow us to put things out that did not "expire", but become worthless to the person using it after a certain level and unusable before a certain level. IF carefully considered this could lead to a good "flow" of magic items through the player base.

  2. Mark Henry ~MariusMay 26, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    I think items would be much cooler if they started at as very basic items and then through quests get augmented.

    i.e. you make a magic sword, and then through quests it becomes +1, +2, and then +3. A problem I see though is everyone will want items and it will be difficult to run that much personalized plot.

    SO, perhaps as treasure a group gets a magic shard as treasure. This shard could add +1 aura, 1xday effect, or a cloak. The group would then decide who should get the item and for what purpose.

    This scenario everyone could be working on 1 really cool item and they would have too work together to get a shot at improving themselves.

  3. @Mark

    The problem is that this doesn't address the difficulty in making magic items.

    Honestly, I'd like to see the "Extend" formal cost a few more components, but would allow any effect cast into that item to be extended to a certain date. Then let players extend existing effects. All of a sudden, people can start building effects on to their weapons without having to have all the components and such at once.

  4. Mark Henry ~MariusMay 26, 2011 at 3:28 PM

    I agree.

    I don't play during the winter. So, I save my LCO formal I get when I NPC for the next year so I can have a +1 weapon, it's a viscous cycle lol.

  5. I think extensions are the most problematic part of the NERO system. Newer players start saving components and tell me they want an item, so I tell them the cost for it... but when I mention that they'll probably want a 2-year item and that will cost another 15 components (and at least one P2 or P4), they look sad indeed. And my character generally asks for components in payment for the casting... so that makes it even more difficult for them to get an item.