Gear: make me care about it

lord of the rings aragorn narsil sword

“That’s all nice and well, Aragorn, but does that sword get you hit capped?”

Tyler F.M. Edwards of Superior Realities has recently given us a short summary about his love/hate relationship with RPG’s, highlighting what he likes and doesn’t like about the genre. One of the issues he has with the genre is the fact that your character’s gear hardly feels important. In fact, most games make it something replacable, merely a way to give your character bigger numbers so he can fight bigger enemies. Yeah, that makes gear important for beating the game, but how does it make it important for your character?

Maybe I’m just too much of a role-player, but to me, the equipment a hero carries says something about his personality and his past. Considering we are playing heroes in most RPG’s, I feel like the gear of our adventurers should really add to their or emphasize their characteristics. Of course your warrior will carry a sword and board, but why does he do that? Has his father taught him that the best offense is a good defense? Even better: did he inherit his shield from his dying father, hearing his dying words after that bloody raid on their hometown? Fiction is filled with examples of items that are so much part of the character we couldn’t imagine them without. Those characters wouldn’t trade in their equipment just because “it deals more damage and adds to my Stamina rating”. I mean, imagine how weird Return of the King would be if Aragorn went to the Auction House to get an upgrade for Anduril…

What I’m arguing for here is to make gear cool and personal again. Give me, as a player, to start caring not just for my character, but also for the equipment he carries. Give me ways to spend my adventure with not just fellow heroes, but also with that wand my character earned after graduating from the magical college. If the item has durability, make me really watch that so it doesn’t break and it’s lost forever. Make the destruction of an item equal to the death of a character: dramatic and plot-changing.

Alright, that might be a bit too much for video games, but it emphasizes my point: make gear more than just numbers on my character sheet. Instead of bragging about my new epic from last night’s raid, let me tell other players about my character and his blade Seven True Strikes, the sword he felled the demon lord with. Lord of the Rings Online is going in the right direction with their legendary items, but it’s not quite there yet. Let gear scale with your character, allows us to customize it, just give us ways to not feeling forced to replace it.

RPG’s are about role-playing, so please let me incorporate the gear into role-playing my character. Can’t explain why he changes weapons every week, y’know!

 

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6 comments

  1. Thanks for the mention, and I agree with what you’re saying.

    If it were up to me, gear drops would be very rare, but very significant. I’m not against replacing gear eventually, but it should be an event, not something you do every week. Each item should be special, and have a story behind it.

  2. Thanks for the mention, and I agree with what you’re saying.

    If it were up to me, gear drops would be very rare, but very significant. I’m not against replacing gear eventually, but it should be an event, not something you do every week. Each item should be special, and have a story behind it.

    Also, I had a bit of trouble with the comment system, so this might end up getting posted multiple times. If so, my apologies.

  3. I agree, but that’s also why I am not especially fond of ‘heroic gear’. If I get a legendary sword or a renowned piece of armor or a famous wand, I want it to because of a great trial, tribulation, or long series of quests. I hate how modern MMOs have taken heroic gear to all new levels where everyone is decked out in a complete set of lore renowned gear.

    A single trip to a bank is like walking through a MMO history museum.

  4. Having recently levelled to the lofty heights of lv60 I have been playing around with LOTRO’s ‘legendary Items’ (must be the most oxymoronic name ever…read on…) Getting my first was a true epic and now I spend most end of sessions destroying stacks of them!

    They build it up with one hand and taketh it away twith other!

    This being based on LOTR i was expecting some kinds of epic armour not too unlike the mithril vest given to the hobbits…truly ancient, magical equipment to cherish! In LOTRO it would be worn, used and repaired for a couple of levels and then sold as trash to an NPC vendor! Once equipped weapons/armour/jewellery becomes bound and therefore cannot be shared..becoming worthless…ODD ODD ODD.

    The Weapon doth not maketh the Man

    But is sure does help in most MMO games…

  5. I completely agree with this post. In fact the reason that I tend to dislike d20 systems like D&D is the fact that the +1 Sword of Sharpness you inherited from your dying father is just that… a low level indulgence that you will no doubt replace at your earliest opportunity. It doesn’t mean anything to your character beyond the +1 to hit and damage.

    If you want your gear to mean something I’d recommend a more story driven tabletop game that uses FATE for example. There you can make Anduril be one of your core character concepts and a weapon that travels with you for the entire story with it’s own subplots.

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