Metagaming RPGs

It is becoming increasingly apparent that I am ruining RPGs for myself.

In the past two weeks or so, I have been playing Shadowrun Returns and, most recently, Dragon Age 2. In Shadowrun Returns, you can choose one of the six preset classes to play, or mix and match your own. Now, in some games of this type, I am more than fine with choosing something that simply sounds cool to play. For example, in Mass Effect the combo of a teleporting Shepard with a shotgun focus sounded fun. In WoW, I picked paladin because paladins.

With Shadowrun Returns though, none of the classes particularly jumped out at me. I was inclined to pick Decker (aka Matrix hacker) because that is sort of the whole schtick of the game, but it sounded rather boring to play in the case that there wasn’t a Matrix portal to hack into. And that is sort of where everything fell into place. The game clearly would not make hacking required, else they would force your character to be a Decker. And since the rest of your party are basically generic NPCs with no dialog that you pick from a vendor, you can safely cross out any class that is unlikely to get access to the best stuff. So… Mage it is.

And that worked. Perhaps too well. It reminded me a lot of my time with Fallout Tactics – or really any game where you can construct your own party – in that you can relegate certain party members to be experts in a niche specialty that you would never force your main character to do. There is no sense being a Rigger or Shaman, for example, because all that means is that your character’s purpose is to buff the nameless NPCs you take with you. This caused problem when I tried playing the subsequent Dragonfall “expansion” though, as I didn’t feel like playing a Mage again, but every other option felt bad. So I didn’t play it.

I am finding my metagaming even applies to more traditional RPGs though. In Dragon Age 2, your class choice is limited to warrior, mage, or rogue. Being a Bioware title, much of the draw of the game is going to be your interaction with your fellow party members, whom have classes of their own. Not all party members are created equally however, especially in terms of how interesting their dialog is, so you sort of have to tailor your class choice around what the more interesting party members bring to the table. For example, given how the existence of rogues at all signify there will be traps and locked chests, choosing to play as a rogue yourself allows you to replace the two rogue party member options in the event that neither are all that compelling to you. This logic does not apply to mages though, as  A) every class has an AoE spell, and B) healing spells can largely be replaced via potion use. In other words, precisely because there is no replacement for Lockpicking, playing a rogue makes for the optimal choice.

Unless, of course, you end up liking both rogue characters. In which case you are sort of screwed.

To be honest, I am not sure what it would take to defeat this circuitous thinking, beyond blunt force trauma. I suppose in both cases, there is an element of specialty that, if removed, would allow me to make the decision of which party members to bring based on how I liked them. Indeed, that was largely my experience in the Mass Effect trilogy – the special abilities weren’t all that special, and so pick who you like. Or I suppose I could simply forgo whatever goodies might be locked into the various in-game chests and simply lean upon the logic that none of the traps I encounter will one-shot my characters (because otherwise the designers would have forced you to bring a rogue). Hmm.

I don’t remember doing this throughout the Baldur’s Gate series. In fact, I was a monk throughout those games, which was about as close to useless as you can get. But since I loved having the rogue (Imoen), warrior (Minsc), and cleric (Jaheira) in my party all the time anyway, I didn’t feel deficient. Now that I think about it, weren’t those basically the only Good companions you could have anyway?

In any case, I am finding the trend of my agonizing on the character creation screen continuing for the foreseeable future.

Advertisements

Posted on September 22, 2014, in Philosophy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Darn it, I thought this was going to be an article about the old school classic pen&paper RPG from Metagaming: “The Fantasy Trip”. Successor to Melee and Wizard. Precursor to GURPS.

    [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fantasy_Trip or http://rpggeek.com/rpg/445/fantasy-trip%5D

    Like

%d bloggers like this: