Point & Counterpoint: Realism at D&D High Levels

Flagg: Let's see where do we start.

Applebrown: heheh. think about Throne of Bhaal [expansion pack to Baldur's Gate II] and what concerns you about the high levels you can attain.

Flagg: I was thinking about the translation of Pen & Paper roleplaying into a computer RPG.

Applebrown: What about it?

Flagg: P&P is about roleplaying. CRPG's are about gaining levels.

Applebrown: Well, one of the objects of CRPGing is to create more than just leveling but have a story element as well.

Flagg: In the end, it is all about what level you can attain. Just look at Throne of Bhaal.

Applebrown: Why do you think there's a consistent trend to increase the amount of levels someone can gain from game to game in a CRPG?

Flagg: Simple, because they are unable to produce an effective and truly challenging AI for roleplaying games.

Applebrown: What do you mean by that?

Flagg: Take a look at BG2. It is so easy to rest and fight and then take a rest. Fight and then rest. There's hardly any challenge in that. Thus the only way they can make it challenging is by giving you an incentive to fight. the incentive being XP and thus more levels.

Applebrown: What about the fact that each quest was a separate and quite often intriguing mini-story?

Flagg: Well I am not saying that the game storyline wasn't great. It really was. It is just that they propel you from level 1 to level 23 in about 250 days over BG1 thru BG2.

Applebrown: In its essence, what's wrong with being level 23?

Flagg: In essence there is nothing really wrong with it, but it just doesn't feel right in the way that it is done. I remember the earlier games such as EOB. In three games you could only get to level 18 or something. There you really felt that you deserved it when you leveled up. Here it is something that is constantly happening.

Applebrown: I think that's because of the hardcore factor of the EOB games was higher.... in BG2 and games today, people are needing more of a constant thrill rather than working a lot towards a goal... there seems to be less time or people are more impatient today than they were in the early 90's.

Flagg: Less time ???? BG2 = 200 + gaming hours.

Applebrown: BG2 was a time sink yes... but it didn't seem a waste of time when you were playing it. There was constant progression from all angles, while in games like EOB there was a long time before a level gain and its progression mainly came from items and deeper exploration.

Flagg: Okay, level 23 is defendable, but they are taking it another step with Throne of Bhaal; here they propel you in a matter of just a few levels from level 23 to level 40.

Applebrown: That does seem to be dramatic. <laughs> I apologize, I coudn't help but agree with you there.

Flagg: That is what I thought about PS:T. They had a pretty decent leveling system right up until the end, when you suddenly gained a huge amount of XP. They will probably do something similar in the add-on.

Applebrown: What do you think the point is of that... to propel a player suddenly into godhood?

Flagg: Very simple, they attract players by saying that their character will be able to reach high levels. They are, however, unable to "normally" satisfy this in the game and thus they need something spectacular to suddenly give the character a boost.

Flagg: Let me ask you this. What is the fun of playing a level 40 character? What is the challenge?

Applebrown: I would think the challenge is about the same relatively speaking as it would be for a level 5 character, except your array and their array of weapons has increased dramatically which leads to more choices.

Flagg: Well you are missing an important point. What are you going to fight at that level taking the Forgotten Realms setting into account?