Enhancements: Blessing or Curse?
One of the many novel features of Dungeons & Dragons Online is the
Ton Hammer's DDO wiki defines an Enhancements as a "special benefit
gained by a player at 20% intervals during a level." Simple,
straight-forward--the wiki definition tells you what an Enhancement is,
but it sure doesn't help you understand how important Enhancements are
(by the way, you wiki nuts should get over to the wiki site and fill it
out some more).
Trying to find a way to put Eberron's Action Points system into
meaningful use, Turbine invented Enhancements. Enhancements bend the
rules of the game system, allowing players to be more powerful than
normal. Enhancements can add more spell points, they can improve your
Skill checks, and they can give temporary boosts to all sorts of
powers. As a long-time D&D veteran, my first question was, style="font-style: italic;">Won't Enhancements imbalance the game in
favor of the player? As it turned out, DDO used a very inflated
numerical system when dealing with statistics such as hit points, armor
class, and base attack bonus. When they had all of their calculations
in place, Turbine must have felt the need to boost the the players to
compensate. One example of the this buffing of player characters is the
Heroic Durability Feat, which increases hit points by 20.
Now that I've been playing DDO for a little over a year (since launch
and beta before that) and done a lot of reading of forum posts from
launch day DDO players, I wanted to take some time to examine
Enhancements with a bit of hindsight. You see, many people like
Enhancements just fine, but there are a handful of players out there
who believe DDO would be a better game without Enhancements (with some
modifications of course). I may have tipped my hand a bit on this issue
when I made my href="http://ddo.tentonhammer.com/index.php?module=ContentExpress&func=display&ceid=386">Wish
List for Santa in December, but I want to present both sides to you
The Case for Enhancements
Based on the D&D system, DDO does not flood players with Ability
points to distribute throughout a character's life. Just when you're
tired of the grind in another MMO, you'll get a bevy of points to
spend, or some sort of Alternate Advancements system like in EverQuest.
DDO can offer no such relief for the player--no way to let him that his
character is progressing. When the MMO genre constantly provides
players with ways to improve their characters, it would be hard expect
players today to go an entire level with no benchmarks to mark
progress. It was only natural that Turbine look at the Eberron Action
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Normally in the Eberron campaign, an Action Point could be spent to
reroll a bad roll or some similar miracle. This could mean the
difference between life and death for a player, and Enhancements in DDO
replicate that effect very well. A rogue without Rogue's Action Boost
might fail to disarm the trap, killing himself in the process. The
rogue with the right Enhancement would make a successful Disarm Trap
check and live to boast about it. Similarly, a fighter hopelessly
surrounded by monsters might get pummeled to death, but using Fighter's
Action Boost could give him a quick ac buff or a jolt to attack bonus
that helps him live through. This is not unlike the Eberron Action
Point allowing that same fighter to call for a reroll on a blow that
would potentially drop him, buying one more precious round to act.
Finally, removing Enhancements would severely handicap players. We need
Enhancements to be successful. The fact is that some traps almost style="font-style: italic;">do require Rogue's Action Boost.
And some monsters are so hard to hit that getting it done without
Fighter's Action Boost takes forever. And balancing the game to make
removal of Enhancements possible--as the anti-Enhancement camp would
have Turbine do--is just not sensible. DDO works just fine as it is.
Demanding that Turbine tune it to work with out Enhancements is little
more than the whining of D&D veterans too reluctant to accept
change and recognize DDO as the stand alone product it is.
The Case Against Enhancements
One of the biggest mysteries of DDO is the audience it targets. Does
Turbine want D&D players or MMO players in general? If the main
focus is D&D players, it makes no sense to alter the system
everyone is already familiar with just for the sake of providing
artificial character development. In true D&D, characters are
developed through adventures of all kinds: combat, exploration, social
intercourse, and more. Besides, D&D players should be conditioned
with the patience to know that their characters are progressing even if
they do not get fancy points to spend every couple of hours of game
The argument for incorporating Action Points as Enhancements doesn't
tread water. See, death is very likely and often permanent in D&D.
In a moved perceived as softening the system, the creators of the
Eberron campaign decided to tilt the scales a little further in favor
of the heroes, the players. They could justify Action Points by
pointing to the fact that death comes so swiftly in D&D. Moreover,
players don't spawn at a tavern when they die in D&D. There is no
releasing a spirit to run back tot he corpse. Players who die in
D&D could very well stay dead. Allowing a player to reroll one time
over the course of an entire level to prevent one death wouldn't add up
to much, or so the line of thinking went. With DDO removing the sting
of death from D&D, Enhancements became unnecessary as a way to tilt
the scale in favor of players.
Truth be told, the real reason Turbine used Enhancements started
innocently enough but spiraled out of control. They started with the
premise that the newbie experience in DDO must not be so tough as to
scare off new gamers. They didn't want a wizard running around with 4
hit points getting killed in his first encounter or by following off of
a crate on the pier. To fix this, Turbine invented the Heroic
Durability Feat, ensuring that every starting character would have at
least 24 hit points. To make sure players weren't invincible with their
hit point bonus, Turbine had to throw more monsters into the mix. Then
as Turbine scaled monster difficulty through the upper levels and on
harder difficulties, they began to see monster that were too hard to
hit or who could land devastating blows on players. These overpowered
monsters made Enhancements necessary to balance the equation. Turbine
could fix the whole mess by going back to the basics--the way we do it
Ralsu's spoken his mind. Now
IN OUR POLL!
Enhancements: Blessing or Curse?
* Enhancements are great. Leave them they way they
* Let me be a wizard with 4 hit points who dies in
his first fight. Remove Enhancements!
* I would like Turbine to make improvements to them
but keep them.
* I don't care.
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