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!