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File:__houraisan_kaguya_touhou_….png (500.87 KB,1226x885)


Am I the only one who thinks that traditional RPG progression systems are weird from a game design standpoint?

The reward for playing the game well (leveling your characters, using the right equipment, etc.) is your party becoming more powerful and thus the game becoming easier, which seems counterintuitive to me. Ideally, you'd want to give better players more of a challenge, or at least not less.

I've had this on my mind because I've been replaying RPGs I had as a young kid, and it's disappointing to see how easy they've become now that I know how to manage my party properly.


File:cerberus.png (122.85 KB,400x480)

Yeah, progress should involve higher complexity, not just numbers going up. It should lead to more mechanics having to be used.
When playing SMT4 I was disappointed by how buffing was gradually simplified from affecting a single character's stat to Luster Candy/Debilitate affecting all stats for a whole group at the same time, later bosses sidestepping the elemental system by using almighty attacks, being immune to ailments, or how apparently superbosses nuke you if you equip immunity to their regular moves.
I did make a sick-ass Cerberus though, that was nice. The only demon that managed to match the MC's damage output.


Your party should become more powerful. Rewarding the player for doing things right is game design 101. Directing growth is integral to the RPG experience. Opening up the world as you become able to take on harder areas is what makes you feel like you're progressing and not just going down a checklist. With a proper difficulty curve, the game should still become harder even as you get stronger.


I think youre on the wrong train here.
Let me rephrase.
The result of playing the game well is the game feeling easier.


Gaining new tools and abilities to explore methods while enemies become more impossible to defeat. A danmaku RPG synthesis.


Nobody would bother looking for the best equipment if that didn't give them any advantage in battle. I agree that mindless grinding should not be rewarded though. Some RPGs (Saga Frontier, FF8) ramp up enemy stats as you level up, so that grinding actually makes you weaker, and provide other, more interesting ways of raising your stats. A more traditional approach is to simply make XP scale in a very non-linear way, so that grinding becomes useless past a certain point.


I think going into a traditional RPG looking for a challenge is the wrong mindset. They're usually focused more on telling a story and/or providing rewards for grinding out objectives.

Most modern RPGs in the traditional style even have an easy mode you can play if you want to skip the grind. Since the "difficulty" of a battle is mostly a stat check it's simple to adjust enemy stats in the background, the higher the numbers the more you have to make sure you grinded enough levels and equipped the right equipment/abilities to counter the enemy.


I spent the entire day in FF11 killing rabbits and mandragora to increase 1 level


I think that in the traditional, turn-based RPG the progression system makes sense. You gain power and make challenges easier to overcome as you attain more completion of the game. One of the biggest trappings I feel that companies fall into is holding the mindset that difficulty should always scale to make the game harder for someone as they progress. However, this is actually counterintuitive because it makes progression feel either meaningless or in the worst case a punishment. In recent memory Diablo 4 suffers from this as you just feel weaker and weaker as you level up until you're all the way in the 90s. As a more classic example, Oblivion becomes a chore to play through on higher difficulties if you don't allocate levels correctly because enemies WILL outscale you and heavily impede your progress. On the other side of the coin I can see where it can be annoying to just be an immortal god because you know the proper formula to building up your party. It trivializes the game into playing only one way with no creativity, although I'd say that's more of a problem with metagaming more than anything nowadays. Although I can't say it's not fun sometimes to step outside the main town in FF2 and beat up my party for a day until I've maxxed out unarmed/life and every spell, but grinds usually should be more balanced towards being easier in later zones than easily available right at the start.

One solution to this problem I've found in games has been to have a really well-crafted world balance. In which either the overall power of the world is not that far off from where the character starts/finishes, thus keeping the world somewhat dangerous the entire time because even at your max level, if you're careless you can get killed. It encourages thinking about actions more than it does thinking about grinding/what you need to become the strongest.

Another solution, and my personal favorite, is to have a more well-crafted world littered with secrets and challenges that can still be tough to even 100% completionist players. While this is still usually made easier by doing all prior exploration and such, it's still made in a way such that the area/bosses are tuned towards you at that level. Like superbosses or superdungeons. Although I can see people having some issue with this still because after you do all the superbosses you'll usually be able to breeze through the final segments of the game whether you unlocked an ultimate item or not. To me, I don't mind as much if the context of the superbosses in the lore makes sense as to why they are so much more powerful than anything else you encounter. Also, while it benefits from another quality that I think helps alleviate the trivialization of typical RPG progress, Elden Ring does a pretty good job at making sure it's final zone and secret zones are a level above everything else even if the rest of the world before it can be pretty simply trivialized by exploring and doing the dungeons.

Which leads me to the final quality of a good RPG that breaks from the trappings of turn-based trivialization, a more complex combat system than turn-based. It morphs the game from just being about having the bigger numbers to having a semblance of reaction-based skill incorporated into it. I think this really helps for games since it allows them to design harder encounters that aren't just ridiculously unfair because they hit for insane damage or do one-shots based on random chance, and gives the player an out from the numbers standpoint to either make the game easier/harder but still beatable. I think the ability to customize your experience and go through the entire game while adjusting the difficulty to your liking like this is probably what lead Souls to become such a major success.


I mostly agree. I think in general the satisfaction of leveling up comes from a mixture of visuals, actual power, and relevance, while the game should continue to be challenging because otherwise the coolness wears off fast. Gonna rant a bit to ground it.

Back in WotLK I felt powerful when blinking around and kiting the fuck out of a group of enemies as a fragile frost mage, or proccing gigantic pyroblasts all the time with a fire build. Even though both builds required endlessly repeating my rotations, raid bosses had various mechanics that required skill to get right. But look up something like the fight with Beelzebub in SMT4 and you'll see it's basically the same as any other bossfight: attack, candy, debilitate, dispel, heal, restore mana, four characters each using maybe 3/4 samey moves. I love his design so I was happy to have him alongside me in the final stretch of the game, but it didn't make me feel powerful. In WoW, I had enough spells and stuff that it felt much cooler than spamming AoE with every demon in every turn of every fight. Adding some embroidering to my pants or enchanting my cloak didn't make me feel any better, though, it was kinda boring. Stats weren't what made it great.

I think the most important example of greater power being both cool and kinda boring in turn-based combat is the exponential power curve of casters in tabletop caused by the bajillion options they start to gain as they advance. It ends up trivializing encounters and it's a complaint I see a lot when it comes to people talking about their experience with higher level play, there is such a thing as too cool.
Two cases of increasing turn-based coolness that do have better mechanics and remain difficult to me were Epic Battle Fantasy 5, where the difference between 10k and 1M damage depends on how good you are at combining equipment/stat increases/conditions/elements/etc., so you do 90% extra attack, -90% defense, double damage from enchanted, 50% extra from condition, 70% extra from element, 30% from weapon, double crits, all of which you have to set up with a good deal of actions with cooldowns, choices, while juggling all the other mechanics. Etrian Odyssey too, I've heard it never stops whooping your ass but continues to be awesome, though I dropped EO5 at the Hippogryph fight (not a fan of grinding). The golem and FOEs certainly required a particular skillset, organization, and reactivity to get done, and I don't remember there being one exact way to do it perfectly. (Also the shaman is sexy.)

TES is pretty infamous when it comes to scaling, with seemingly nothing inbetween it being a chore and breaking everything with potions and magic. I've only played Skyrim, but it sucked. Fallout 3 was also painful compared to New Vegas, especially in the swamp DLC where everything was a bullet sponge, while in NV I was gibbing people with a bigass anti-materiel rifle and explosive bullets. However, that's an example of becoming overpowered that I think is alright only because in all of these the combat is bad, plain and simple. If the combat mechanics are good, it should always remain tough.

Last but not least (and I believe it's a particularly good example) is the comparison between calling down fire and brimstone in Gothic 1 vs Planescape: Torment.
In Gothic when I finally got to the endgame and became able to use the Rain of Fire rune it was surprisingly disappointing, because there was nothing good to use it on. I returned to the biggest town with the biggest amount of dudes, and went around in circles killing everyone with ease until I realized all the generic NPCs respawned the moment I stopped looking at them, it was totally pointless. And it's just a few pieces of fire coming down here and there. But the opposite happened in PS:T, where the most powerful spells have their own sick-ass cutscenes with awesome visuals. When you use Meteor Storm Bombardment, you're shown destroying a whole-ass asteroid and bringing down its fragments to wreck everything around you. I think the former fails because you're pointlessly hitting a bunch of rubber dolls versus actually worthwhile enemies in the latter at the same time that it's a better spectacle.


File:[SubsPlease] Isekai One Tu….jpg (215.77 KB,1920x1080)

*I'm referring specifically to Japanese RPGs, never been big on the Western style

Eh, leveling up and gaining new abilities and stuff is one of the more interesting parts of an RPG to me. Revisiting old areas and mopping the floor with enemies that used to give you problems is a satisfying feeling.
The way any game is intended to work is to throw a challenge at you and force you to a learn the skill and/or gain knowledge to pass it at which point it will give you a new one. In an action game you will learn how to fight one slow enemy, then one regular enemy, and eventually you're able to fight 10 fast enemies at once and you could restart the game and kill those first enemies with your eyes closed. It's a great feeling, but it doesn't really work with RPGs. Some bosses require you to find a solution, but once you know it you can't really experience that again. The boss is weak to fire attacks or he casts a party-wide sleep spell every 4 turns is the kind of thing that you learn rather than muscle memory.
If every character started at max strength with all abilities I think it would be very difficult to design while still being entertaining. You wouldn't start out fighting against slimes if you had Level 99 Apocalypse, or if you did then how would you distinguish it from fighting demigods in a turn-based system?

Unlike real life and even some games, it's a guarantee that you will gain power and prestige as you continue to play an RPG. I think it's why so many genres have taken aspects of it, although when done by big studios it resembles the villainy of a game's halfway point boss before the demon behind the scenes is exposed.

Alas, the era of the JRPG has been over for a while now...


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To make a "traditional" RPG challenging, two aspects of making games easier must be addressed: power and knowledge.
Power simply comes from grinding so player gets bigger numbers on stats, while knowledge provides the best equipment and point allocation to make the game easiest to beat.

Both of these must be addressed to make the RPG more challenging. To discourage grinding, the easiest way is to introduce a level cap on the player which gradually increases as story progresses. This way when the player enters a new area he won't be able to breeze through. Combining it with a level scaling system further discourages players from grinding to the level cap.

And to prevent previous knowledge making the game easier, the game must have some kind of built-in "randomizer" mechanic where the "best" strategy will be different for each new game, forcing players to relearn and reinvent a new strategy for every new game. This greatly increases the replaybility of RPGs and I'm wondering why pretty much nothing have this built-in.


I believe there's an RPG Maker game that does just that: Fear & Hunger. It has all the basic mechanics you'd expect from it, except there's no leveling up, and a bunch of stuff is randomized each run, although the main elements remain fixed. From what I've seen, knowledge is your most important resource, and feeling truly powerful requires a lot of learning. Someone here had been playing through it, maybe they can add to this.
There's also Toki Tori 2 and Superhot as kinda puzzle hybrids that don't have any progression at all but are still challenging, I think the same could be done for turn-based combat but not if stat increases continue to be central to gameplay.


I've played Fear and Hunger before, even posted about it on kissu. I agree it's more heavily knowledge based than the usual RPG which makes the usual strat of grinding useless. Although I'd say that prior knowledge can always make the game easier to an extent, don't think that there's any game where this isn't the case. It's part of the learning process of trial and error in these games to understand how it works and then manipulate your way to completion. Even with random generation or item placement, you'll understand better how to use what you find on subsequent runs. This is kinda the entire spirit of roguelikes, and probably what makes them some of the most replayable time vampires.


>I think the most important example of greater power being both cool and kinda boring in turn-based combat is the exponential power curve of casters in tabletop caused by the bajillion options they start to gain as they advance. It ends up trivializing encounters and it's a complaint I see a lot when it comes to people talking about their experience with higher level play, there is such a thing as too cool.

At least in D&D, in my experience the caster problem is more of an issue with the "15 minute day" style of play, where you take a long rest after every encounter. Because casters are supposed to be able to do something super awesome once or twice a day, but start to fall off after sequential encounters as they spend their spells/spell slots. While weapon-based classes should have more consistent output.

Pocket dimension spells with no costly component exacerbate the problem because now there's a always a safe place to hide for a day and come back fully healed an spells restored. Leads to kind of boring game sessions because nothing is a challenge unless it can either instakill the players or the DM gets tired of it and starts making homebrew monsters with 10x health and reduced effects from save or die/save or sucks spells.

I suppose you could also do something like "you have to beat the dragon before he razes the city" or "all enemies in this dungeon respawn at midnight". Every once in a while that might not be bad, but feels kinda hamfisted if it's used all the time.


Most games do have some sort of soft level cap, either by having limited available XP (set number of enemies, quest, etc.) or by increasing the amount needed to level up until it becomes unrealistic to grind past a current point. Both are generally more natural than simply stopping growth because I said so.

There are tons of games that try to build in roguelike randomizer elements and they generally don't make things any better. Even putting aside the difficulty of designing a tight experience when you never know what the parts will be, learning the details of a game and attaining mastery over them is a huge part of the appeal. If you don't know what's coming, every playthrough is just blind guessing without you ever having gained anything. Much better to just add a difficulty level geared towards optimal play for the replayers.


I've never done tabletop, but are most encounters just "wild kobold appeared"? I'd think there were enemies enacting evil schemes that would progress if you did that video game shit. Having a DM should make it super easy to go "you rest a day in your pocket dimension while the goblins burn down the village and rape all of its inhabitants."


I think that by the time you're around level 8, full casters like sorcerers and wizards have more than enough slots to go through multiple encounters with just one long rest, especially if they're using CC well. I used Hypnotic Pattern as a warlock in one fight against like eight dudes and managed to take out half of them with a single action, super efficient spell.

Personally I haven't found myself in any situations with a deadline like that. The campaign I played consisted of going around looking for the shards of the mcguffin, so you're searching for a lost expedition in a mine and come across the bugs that killed them as well as some fey leaking in from a portal, there's a banshee with some zombies in an abandoned town, or a sneaky medusa in a dark labyrinth. It lasted like two years and a lot of stuff happened, but we weren't really saving anyone. (In fact, we brought about the end of the world.)


the "murder hobo" joke is pretty true for most tabletops I've played, most players aren't too concerned about what happens to villagers and stuff, it's more about leveling up and getting loot.

Also setting up the logistics for something like a goblin attack on a village becomes complicated, you've got hundreds of villagers and goblins theoretically on the field but you have to abstract everything not near the players and it tends towards more of a "fight goblins until the DM says you're done" kind of situation.

Far more typical adventures is exploring a dungeon looking for some kind of treasure like >>111232
said. Maybe of use in stopping a greater evil. It gives the players more agency in exploring, dealing with traps, ambushing or being ambushed by enemies, and retreating when necessary.

yeah you should have enough to keep going, but there's people who like to burn their top level spells at every fight and then want to rest as soon as they're out of high level spells, even if they have plenty of mid-lower ones still. 5e has some improvement on this with spell recovery in short rests at least.

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