The scene above describes one of the infinitely many scenarios that a group of players could dream up as part of a role-playing game. While RPGs are a well established video game genre nowadays, their history dates back to before the rise of computer entertainment. The secret of role-playing games is that you are never too old to play make belief. Today I will try to explain to you the powers of the most powerful graphics engine in the world: your own imagination.
So what are role-playing games exactly? The clue is in the name: a group of players comes together and they each assume the role of a fictional character in a game world. To make sure everybody agrees on what is and isn’t possible in this game world, there are often established rules. The game is usually led by a Game Master, or GM in short, who prepares the game world, and who narrates the story as the players let their characters interact with the game world.
Tabletop role-playing games exist in many shapes, but the most well-known by far is Dungeons & Dragons, which has itself become pretty much synonymous to tabletop RPGs. Dungeons & Dragons - D&D for short - is set in a fantasy game world not unlike that of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Playable races include humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings, and each player chooses to play one of many classes such as cleric, fighter, rogue, or wizard. Many worlds with their own lore have been created in the D&D multiverse, such as Fearûn in the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, and others.
Like other RPGs, in D&D the group is led by a GM, which is called a Dungeon Master or DM. Each player (usually between three and six players) controls one character with their own abilities. They interact with NPCs (controlled by the DM) to find out more about the world and their quest. This may come with many challenges. At times, instead of the DM deciding what happens, you may have to roll a 20-sided die (the famous d20) that determines how successful you are in using a certain ability, such as bluffing or intimidation. Your character’s stats can provide bonuses or penalties. These die rolls give the game a level of unpredictability. They not only make the game more interesting, but they also create for some memorable moments: a bard might lose all its musical abilities by rolling a 1, or a paladin might convert an entire village to their religion by rolling a 20.
The point of these interactions with NPCs is that you make your character act in a way that is consistent with their background story and their abilities. A barbarian with low wisdom will not always make smart decisions, and a warlock with little strength will not go about lifting heavy rocks. If you play your characters really well, the DM might even give you additional in-game advantages.
Once you have figured out your quest, you will most likely head to the game’s namesake: dungeons. Dungeons are generally mapped out areas filled with monsters, puzzles, and deadly traps. Combat is another big part of most role-playing games, and one of D&D’s core pillars.
Combat in Dungeons & Dragons is turn-based. On each turn, you can move, perform an action (attack, cast a spell, hide), and a bonus action (varies wildly by class). The same holds for the monsters you are fighting, except that they are controlled by the DM. Again, the dice come in. Dice determine whether your attack hits, your spell takes effect, or even whether you succeed in avoiding the fiery breath of a dragon. Dice are also used to determine the amount of damage you do. In that sense, the dice are similar to the randomized damage in video games.
While role-play and combat are the most important parts of Dungeons & Dragons, this is only scratching the surface of the game. Your character will level up, and gain cool new abilities, with lots of choices along the way. You will accumulate magic items that can aid you in your adventures, or have adverse effects if you are unlucky. Over time, you and your fellow players will together tell the story of a merry band of adventurers, and build lore together.
When talking about D&D, many people will immediately connect it to the stereotype geek. Truth be told, you need to have at least some level of affinity with dealing with character statistics on paper (or in a mobile app these days…), but role-playing have come a long way and are only gaining in popularity. While Dungeons & Dragons used to involve quite a bit of math, the latest edition (Fifth Edition) goes back to the roots and has relatively simple rules. The term “easy to learn, hard to master” definitely applies.
This is one of the things that has made Dungeons & Dragons so popular: it is really easy to get started. The authors of the Dungeons & Dragons rules have made a basic version of the rules freely available online. You won’t get all the customization options, but there is enough to get a game going. Check the Player’s Basic Rules on the official website here. The bottom of the page shows some next steps, but I will summarise them here as well: to get started, you need 3 things: a campaign, a DM, and players. It is recommended to play as a player before thinking about becoming a Dungeon Master, but the D&D Starter Set will get you started either way.
For me, it didn’t take much to fall in love with the possibilities of tabletop RPGs. Being a bit of a maths and game mechanics nerd sucked me into the character building straight away, but the true power comes from the fact that with games like D&D, you are not limited to what a game engine allows you to do. Want to go full Jackie Chan style and use a nearby ladder as weapon? Nothing is stopping you! (Except for maybe the DM.) The unpredictability and almost infinite number of possibilities together are a catalyzer for creativity and memorable moments. I have seen people become truly emotional over the fate of their characters, and become truly inspired by the role-playing of one player. Video games these days do great things, but they don’t even get close to the amazing things that happen when you sit around the table with some other people.
If you are still not convinced: D&D does not only exist to play, but is also highly popular to be consumed as a podcast or web series. For example, take a look at the highly famous Critical Role, played by voice actors, or Acquisitions Incorporated (which has some live sessions featuring Star Trek actor Wil Wheaton). If you want to know more, or need any D&D tips, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. I’m happy to get you going!
Oh and that orc war-chief? I think he’s gonna have a very bad day...
A rundown of the master skillcape perks and the reworked 99 perks. Also thoughts on August’s slim pack of content and looking forward to what’s coming down the line in the Month Ahead Q&A. And, Jean Luc Picard is ready to say make it so once more!
Clan improvements are here featuring the avatar rework, changes to the citadel, clan broadcasts, and the removal of orts. Also thoughts on the beach and what exactly is #AdventureCalls?
July has come and gone and with that normally one would expect a plethora of RuneScape updates. July was unique in that the entire month there wasn't a single planned headlining RuneScape update. Jagex knows this, the players know that, and steps have been taken to rectify what happened. Instead the end of the month saw some much needed improvements to the clan system. July has also been one of the most tumultuous months that Jagex has had in a long while.
One of the factors that lead to this was Jagex's released experiment of RunePass. RunePass took influence heavily from Fortnite's battle pass where you complete specific challenges to unlock rewards. To progress against what was called the "gold track" you needed to purchase RunePass with bonds or real world currency. Tanis wrote about the ensuing community discussion that resulted from RunePass this month in an article entitled, Give Jagex a Pass.
This also raised many questions within the community about the value of membership and what exactly are we paying for today as RuneScape members. Cireon took a critical look at this issue in What is Membership Really? July was indeed a month of introspection for many RuneScape players as well as us on the content creation side of the community.
July wasn't all doom and gloom though. The month Alex also took a step deep down into the Temple of Aminishi. We've previously talked about The Temple of Aminishi before from a Dungeoneering or combat perspective but there's another: audio. As it would turn out and one would expect in 2018, the Seiyru boss fight is indeed enhanced by the music tracks that pay. Have a read to find out how in Alex's Analysis: The Right Music. Also this month David begins the process of explaining how the tick system can be an advantage to combat rather than a detriment. Did you know you can cancel abilities by activating others? Or maybe that you can squeeze an extra tick of damage in? Find out exactly how that happens in Unlocking Full Manual: Taking Advantage of the Tick System, Part 1.
The month was rounded out with a couple of non-RuneScape themed articles as well. This month I also invited Choto from Clan Quest to write a guest article for us on gaming subgroups. Choto is the lead content editor at Clan Quest responsible for their monthly magazine. Choto is also credited with starting his clan subgroup, the Hoodian faith. This got us thinking, what exactly is a subgroup or sub-culture in the gaming community? Read about gaming subgroups and the Hoodian faith in The Hood to Rule Them All. I also wrote about recording RSBANDBUpdate! The RSBANDBUpdate! audio workflow has existed for years and has been refined to a point where it's almost transferrable. Read this if you want an overview of how the audio of RSBANDBUpdate! comes to be.
July saw Sorensen57 run away with our Strength Skill of the Month. Sorensen gained 53,666,932 experience while Pyrnassius came in second with 28 million experience gained and Jhammo came in third with 3.8 million experience gained. Congratulations Sorsensen!
This month we also say goodbye to Colton, hopefully temporarily, as he takes an extended leave of absence from RSBANDBInformer! Colton has written on any number of subjects, most of them lore or story related. From meeting the Mahjarrat in Mahjarrat Lore Part 1
and Examine This, a rundown on the examine menu being both functional an providing a lore insight to the NPC Profiles series, including the much acclaimed Gnome Child. Give some of these past articles a read as they chronicle RuneScape history in a way that hasn't been done before. And to that we owe it to Colton. Thank you.
One of the most consistent complaints about the current state of the Evolution of Combat in Runescape 3 is that six years later, the tick system still creates problems, especially in high level encounters that require what feels like immediate response time. The tick system is one of the most fundamental elements of RuneScape that makes it a different game from almost any other. Instead of actions or events happening in real time, they occur following a 0.6 second tick system. While this can sometimes make combat feel clunky, especially when combined with revolution automatically using abilities and the click to move grid based movement, it is also ripe with opportunity to be exploited to your advantage. For the purpose of this article, much of what I will be discussing will be in the context of full manual, but nearly all of it is absolutely possible while using revolution, it will just require the same sort of precision normally reserved for full manual. It is worth noting that while the majority of what’s discussed in this article doesn’t require magic, being able to manually cast auto-attacks makes things much easier, and reading through this may help readers understand why magic reigns as the utterly dominant style, with or without C4TAA in the mix.
First, I’ll give a brief vocabulary list for those not familiar:
1) Lossless auto-attack — this refers to the ability to cast an auto attack without resetting global cooldown. Sometimes these are not truly “lossless” as they can result in a loss of a single game tick, but essentially they do not trade off with the use of an ability.
2) Lossless debuff — the same as above, but with a debuff such as vulnerability.
3) Ability cancelling — manually casting another ability before the channeled ability you are currently using is completed in order to maximize the number of abilities/minute used.
Taking advantage of the tick system has received a lot of attention lately due to the broader community learning about four tick auto-attacking and continuous four tick auto-attacking. The debate over whether these are healthy for the game and how to proceed moving forward is an article entirely on its own, but I’ll briefly outline these two forms of combat. 4TAA and C4TAA revolve around the ability to manually case auto-attacks with magic and take advantage of the different speeds of wand and staff auto-attacks. Staff autos are slower, but much more powerful. 4TAA involves switching between a wand/offhand and staff for every single ability, allowing you to simultaneously cast a staff auto with your staff ability in exchange for waiting a tick. While this is seemingly a high amount of effort, this method is well worth learning because it results in an approximately 5% gain in overall DPS. C4TAA (now no longer possible) worked due to the ability to bypass the global cooldown for staff auto-attacks, allowing players to cast a lossless auto-attack with every single ability, which resulted in a massive, something like 12%, gain in DPS. If these percentages seem small, note that the different between using 4TAA or not is at least more than double the improvement a player would get by upgrading from a t90 to a t92 weapon, but will be even higher if the player using T92s isn’t switching weapons.
There are several easy ways to take advantage of lossless auto-attacks without manually casting them, and they work for any style. The most obvious is simply tagging your target. When initiating a fight, you can start with an ability, but starting a fight this way will not grant adrenaline and is a waste of a potential auto-attack. Instead, tag your target with a debuff or an auto-attack and then use an ability, which will start you off with adrenaline gained from both the auto-attack (3% for ranged/melee, 2% for magic) plus the adrenaline from an ability with no cost. The next is another that most people have probably used, but not noticed, and that’s the lossless auto that comes with a damage over time ultimate ability. Using sunshine, metamorphosis, deaths swiftness, and berserk all put your abilities on cooldown, but they allow you to cast an auto before your able to use an ability, without resetting any of their cooldowns. Ensuring you always get off this lossless auto is a great way to slightly improve DPS. For anyone who has fought Araxxor for example, using berserk just as Araxxi spawns on phase 4 allows you to “tag” her with an auto attack inside of your berserk, which can easily hit up to 7,000 damage with proper gear/aura. For this reason, it’s always best to use an ultimate ability with a two handed weapon to get the much higher damage. (If using a planted feet switch, simply switch to your 2H weapon immediately after using the ultimate ability and you’ll get the auto). This is also a great way to get off a lossless vulnerability, especially at the start of the fight.
The next major category of lossless auto-attacks is with defensive abilities. If you’ve ever done high-level PvM, you’ve probably used abilities such as Freedom, Anticipate, Resonance, and Devotion. These abilities all work similarly to damage boosting ultimates, in that they reset the global cooldown for abilities but not auto-attacks. With all these abilities you can sneak in an auto-attack before your next ability becomes available, which can make a huge difference over time. When I was learning how to duo Vorago, my partner and I realized that we were leaving a massive amount of DPS on the table by not taking advantage of lossless autos that can come with defensives and adding them made Phase 5 of our kills exponentially easier. Freedom in particular is a special case, as it’s the only ability that resets the cooldown for both your main and off-hand auto attacks (I don’t know if this is intended). This means that using freedom with a wand and off-hand can let you cast both an auto-attack and a debuff (or two autos) for free, which is worth it for the bonus adrenaline gained on its own.
While lossless auto-attacks with magic could be the subject of an entire article, as I noted above, one important usage is with the ability detonate. Detonate is a channeled ability that once charged to 100% can do up to 350% AoE weapon damage, functionally making it as powerful as an ultimate ability. In most cases, using detonate is not worth the charge time and loss of potential adrenaline gained, but in some cases it’s fantastic. Examples of when this ability truly shines, and another reason magic is currently such a dominant style: bosses with a reflect mechanic, notably Vorago but also Araxxor’s web mechanic, or a charged attack where the boss is immune from damage, for example Telos phase 4 during fonts, and clearing large numbers of minions, (Telos P4/P5, lured chargers at Beastmaster Durzag, mobs in Elite Dungeons). Due to how long the charge is on detonate, everything will be off cooldown when you’re ready to release, allowing you to get in a lossless auto with Detonate. To achieve this, you have to simultaneously hit your auto-attack and Detonate and then immediately use an ability. I find the easiest way to do this to be hitting my auto keybind, clicking Detonate and then hitting an ability keybind (usually Dragon Breath). This can allow for you to pump out a lot of damage, and in a place like phase 5 telos can be used to get a huge heal with blood barrage if you’re on ancients. As you can see in this gif, you will see me get three hit splats on the dummy all in one game tick from utilizing this method, a big improvement in DPS vs just Detonate.
While there is a lot more to talk about in the era of utilizing the tick system, I hope this will at least give readers a small amount of insight into what’s possible with the Evolution of Combat, and why high level PvMers love it so much.