Gaming Related Experience #2: Computer RPGs
Right, so I kind of touched on this a few weeks ago when I said that player choice is really damn important. The most open world has boundaries at some point. However, I think some rpgs are immersive enough to scratch some of that gaming itch. Right now, I'm playing through the original Fallout on PC. (I picked up a bundle of Fallout and Fallout 2 for five bucks at the used bookstore)
Incidentally, I thought I once read that Fallout was originally supposed to be a GURPS game. I don't know what happened to that, but you can see some similarities in the game's mechanics: modest attribute numbers, varied and granular skills, and a system of "perks" not unlike the Advantages, Merits, or Edges of your favorite character building game.
Although I'm only partway into it, Fallout seems to have a pretty interesting world with a lot to do. The game seems to frame three basic approaches to your quest: combat, stealth/thievery, and diplomacy. They offer three pre-generated characters that epitomize one of the three approaches. (Though you are free to alter them or even scrap them and make your own character from scratch.)
My experience so far tells me two things:
1. It's usually possible to solve a quest through any of the three paths, with a few exceptions.
One of the first quests you can take involves rescuing a girl held prisoner at a camp of raiders. If you are a badass, you can just shoot your way in and kill everyone. (You can also challenge the leader to go mano a mano with you if you're a martial artist type) If you are super sneaky, you can sneak in the back way and pick the lock on her cell. If you're diplomatic, you can barter for her freedom or even bluff the lead raider into letting her go.
2. You really should specialize in one of the three paths. I've found so far that being sort of sneaky leaves you unable to really sneak into any place. If you aren't a stone badass, combat often does not go well for you.The speech options on the game are entirely reliant on what your Speech skill (and sometimes your Int and Cha) are. You end up like the poor Red Mage in Final Fantasy III, where you can do everything...and you suck at all of it. I'm trying to make a character who is sneaky and good at martial arts, though I find that I'm tempted to learn to use guns... even if I'm good at these three things, I'll be terrible at the laundry list of other skills...I find that I want to just keep restarting with a new character so I can see what capabilities I'm missing out on, or so I can tackle a quest in a different fashion. I had this same problem with Arcanum, but to a much greater degree.( Combat? Magic? Science? Thief Skills? Social Skills? Of magic, which of the sixteen schools? Of science, which of the eight disciplines? Do I want to be a melee fighter? A gunslinger? Throwing weapons? Arrrrrgh)
I guess this is one reason I like character classes so much. I have a thing that I can do, and (in theory) nobody does it better than me. Of course, a proliferation of character classes tends to lead to games where there's a sourcebook or two full of guys who do what you used to do better than you. (3.5 Tome of Battle, anyone? RIFTS? White Wolf? -"Yeah, we're the True Brujah, biyotch.")
I know you can specialize in point-buy systems, but I always feel tempted to try to cover all my bases.
It's funny; when I run a game, I like to give my players lots of options. I like to include sub-classes and things. On the other hand, my tastes as a GM and tastes as player often have weird discrepancies.
A final disclaimer: one of the two times I tried to run a campaign of Pathfinder-a game that has something like 20 classes last I checked- my party was literally a fighter, a wizard, a cleric, and a rogue. Go figure.