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Valdain the King

Oldschool Leveling Systems Confusing

30 posts in this topic

Sometimes I start to wonder what that even means? I read on Gamefaqs that Baldurs Gate 1 and 2, Fallout 1 and 2 and Icewind Dale 1-all have oldschool leveling systems in the rpg. That is I guess because your stats don't level up for the most part. What doesn't make sense is a few things. Planescape torment is similar but because you gain a stat point every level I guess not.

Geneforge series is oldschool like those games but follows the same as Planescape. However, like the BG and IWD games you make most of your changes or improvements early on to level 9-11. So in essence they are similar to oldschool.

I just want to discuss what is oldchool in leveling design. I am going to guess and say that Avernum remake and all Avadon are far from oldschool in leveling systems but that would just be a farce. I guess there are really no realistics in rpg video game leveling systems.

Eschalon and Divine Divinity in 'their' terms are not oldschool. Those gamefaq guys confuse me sometimes :(

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"Old school" does not usually have a fixed, formal meaning, unless you are talking about hip hop. It's just used informally to distinguish between older and newer categories along some line that somebody finds meaningful. So, without the original context, no one here can really tell you what it means.

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"Old school" does not usually have a fixed, formal meaning, unless you are talking about hip hop.

 

i am now intensely curious about what the fixed, formal meaning of old school hip hop is

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i am now intensely curious about what the fixed, formal meaning of old school hip hop is

 

[media]

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That's Tru-Oldschool, yo. There is no formal meaning! :p

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I think the closest to canonically old-school leveling would be strict adherence to D&D, especially pre-3rd edition: you get some health, some other static bonuses, more spells, and maybe a choice or two, but mostly you just get better at what you do. It goes along with class-based systems. By that metric no Spiderweb games meet the requirements; they're all skill point-based until Avadon, and the classes in Geneforge are much too loose to meet D&D requirements. Avadon comes closest, but you can still end up with substantially different builds within a class.

 

—Alorael, who notes that the "old-school leveling systems" are D&D-based games plus Fallout. And he doesn't think Fallout is old-school at all. But hey, if it is, it's close enough to Avernum that Spiderweb games probably also make the very widely indiscriminate cut.

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If you wanted to be really, REALLY old-school, you'd do that with a spirit level - or even a T-square. (Or *is* that a spirit level? Doesn't look like the one I have, but I guess things have changed in the carpentry trade since my grandfather's time.)

Edited by springacres

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Plastic, everything uses plastic these days, but you can see the bubble part of the spirit level in the center.

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Ah, yeah, what threw me off was the way the bubble was set up. I think the one we have has several bubbles set into the body, as opposed to just one on top. :)

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Of course, these days mobile 'phones have spirit levels installed on them (the iPhone's is found by swiping to the right whilst in the compass app), so you no longer have to carry a hefty bit of metal (or *i's red monstrosity) unless you're looking to cause a bit of aggro.

 

(of course, you DO look a bit ridiculous using the phone in that way)

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In that case I think Eschalon would classify. You get some health, sp and some stats that don't do as much as other. Skills for weapons and what not are what make your character slowly get stronger. I think that stats do very little in eschalon compared to weapon skills.

The Quest is more diverse. You don't get health when you level, you don't even get mana or sp. You get stats that are somewhat useful. Strength and dexterity are only mildly important with damage. They affect what skills you get. Intelligence and endurance are more important because they actually give magic points and health. Skills are like Eschalon the most damaging effects for weapons and magic.

Geneforge 1 is the closest with fallout 1 and 2. You get some health and other points but really you gain less the more you rise in level. At level 10 I had to invest more in weapon skills for a minor gain. The thing with that is that you are already so powerful at that point it doesn't even matter. Once you get beyond higher levels you just become harder to kill and weapon points are maxed, very much like infinity engine rpgs.

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Of course, these days mobile 'phones have spirit levels installed on them (the iPhone's is found by swiping to the right whilst in the compass app), so you no longer have to carry a hefty bit of metal (or *i's red monstrosity) unless you're looking to cause a bit of aggro.

 

(of course, you DO look a bit ridiculous using the phone in that way)

No. Unless your phone has an actual bubble in it, it is not a spirit level. It may be a level, but it lacks spirit.

 

—Alorael, who has used many bubbles. As opposed to *fingers* mainly.

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In 1st Ed AD&D, your basic attributes (Str, Int, Wis, Dex, Con, Cha) did not change once they were generated when you created your character (barring rare exceptions). Leveling up improved your hit points every level, number of spells every level, thief abilities every level, to hit every few levels and saving throws (resistances) every few levels. That said, few of the old CRPGs followed that convention.

 

Also, I would rather have an analog level than a digital (smart phone) level if I am leveling anything that I care about.

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So the consensus is that "some health, some skill, maybe spells and ultimately just getting better at what you do." All the games I play have that, lol. Infinity Engine plus NWNights and Fallout 1 and 2. I honestly don't see how Geneforge doesn't make it. All of the infinity engine games are exactly like that. You make your big changes early on, little changes later on. That's as close as you will get for my version of that term. The other interpretations are too dang confusing. The Quest, you don't get much stronger past level 10 and the highest level is 40 or 50. Eschalon and the new jeff games don't constitute whatsoever, Avernum especially. Avernum the Pit and Avadon you are constantly making big changes throughout leveling which doesn't make sense. Once you get to a point, you just get mildly better a little at a time. Would Elminster get much stronger at a higher level than he is currently. Heck no! He is already capable of destroying anything. He just gets mildly better with each level at that point. Kotor 1 and 2 are on that list which I just created :/

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If you can't see the difference between assigning points (Fallout, Spiderweb games) and getting largely class-based benefits (Infinity Engine, NWN) I don't think the distinction is going to mean anything to you.

 

—Alorael, who also thinks that imagining the leveling of fictional characters is an exercise in futility. He can just as easily posit that an Elminster gaining a few levels would be much, much more powerful. He could single-handedly ensure the total dominance of good over evil and go on a planes-spanning crusade for truth and justice, unstoppably destroying the Hells and the Abyss. Because levels.

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I dont know, I am just a fool. I guess there is no telling how much stronger or powerful one character can get when they are already at full power. Whether they make strong leaps every level or small leaps from time to time. Either way that's why there is only one Grandmaster Kane or Athrogate.

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You make your big changes early on, little changes later on.

 

A completely inept player would make all the wrong large-scale decisions at the start of the game, and since you can only fine-tune those wrong decisions as you get to the higher levels, it's possible that the poor chap finds it impossible at some point to proceed any further; if this happens after the person has reached more than halfway through the game, he ends up cursing the developer and vowing never to buy any of his games again.

 

A character customization screen at the beginning, therefore, should ideally be a farce, because the ludicrous player chooses stuff based on the front-page graphics and erroneous first-impressions. The real powering up can happen later on, when the player gets a better picture of how the game really works.

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I think the closest to canonically old-school leveling would be strict adherence to D&D, especially pre-3rd edition: you get some health, some other static bonuses, more spells, and maybe a choice or two, but mostly you just get better at what you do. It goes along with class-based systems. By that metric no Spiderweb games meet the requirements; they're all skill point-based until Avadon, and the classes in Geneforge are much too loose to meet D&D requirements. Avadon comes closest, but you can still end up with substantially different builds within a class.

 

—Alorael, who notes that the "old-school leveling systems" are D&D-based games plus Fallout. And he doesn't think Fallout is old-school at all. But hey, if it is, it's close enough to Avernum that Spiderweb games probably also make the very widely indiscriminate cut.

 

Geneforge, Avernum and other older spiderweb games: You get health, spell points but mostly you get better at what you do. The only difference is that what you do changes from level to level. You are mastering different things but its all very similar to a d and d class. Is that what you mean with close enough to fallout 1 and 2?

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Geneforge and Avernum's levelling systems aren't really similar to D&D classes at all, though. In D&D, you gain a level in a class and you get whatever that class gets at the next level in it. In Geneforge and Avernum, you gain skill points which you can allocate to whatever skills you like.

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D&D has one big choice immediately: what's your class? And to a lesser extent, what's your race? It balances the difficulty of making an informed major decision right away by dint of trying to make all choices balanced and viable (with mixed results) and by having become the paradigm of roleplaying such that everyone knows what they're getting when they pick rogue, or wizard, or cleric.

 

—Alorael, who thinks he didn't make his point clear. A D&D-like system gives you improvement at your main schtick when you gain a level. Fallouts and Spiderweb games let you improve in anything when you gain a level, be it your main focus or something that your character has never done before. A D&D warrior never learns any magic, ever. An Avernite soldier can suddenly start casting Heal whenever it's worth the points.

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D&D has one big choice immediately: what's your class?

 

3rd edition is admittedly a bit of an outlier here, on account of a la carte multiclassing being a thing. if someone's main familiarity with D&D was with 3e i could see how they might see some similarity between that and avernum/geneforge. there's still a pretty significant difference in scale though

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AD&D 1st edition had multiclassing for non-human as an initial decision or a human could change class and no longer advance in the old class or use those abilities until the new class exceeded the old one. But you were pretty much locked in when you create the character.

 

3rd edition also added prestige classes as another way to change your initial character.

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Among the old time CRPGs, Wizardry had prestige classes, and that was during the time of 1st Ed AD&D, you also gained in your characteristics (Str, Int, etc), but you did not have skills and could not radically change your character. The first three games in the series essentially used the same convention.

 

Going back to the original post, even though I believe that I was around for "Old School" paper and computer RPGs, I have no idea what "old school" actually means in this context. While AD&D was the industry leader and arguably inspired the vast majority of the 1970s and 1980s CRPGs (kind of hard to get more old school for computer games than that), there were competitors to AD&D with different rule sets, and due to copyright restrictions and personal preferences of the programmers, the 1970s and 1980s CRPGs tended to use AD&D concepts, but did not try and implement AD&D rules. Actual, successful (imo), computer implementation of the AD&D rules came after the "Old School" CRPGs.

 

I suppose Baldur's gate uses an "old school" PAPER RPG leveling construct, though certainly by the mid 80s and probably earlier there were PAPER RPGs with skill point type systems instead of AD&D leveling type systems. I think that the sentence would have to be edited to say that they use "old school AD&D leveling" if you wanted to be accurate.

 

I suppose an equivalent debate would be are the Spiderweb games "old school" or are they turn based with lower-res graphics than the current state of the art? Other than the fact that I enjoy them and they are turn-based, I do not consider the look of the Spiderweb games that close to the early Wizardry, Sierra-OnLine, Bard's Tale, since those did not have top-down graphics. I suppose the interface is fairly close to Ultima's. I never did play Rogue in its' early forms so I can't throw that in.

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Spiderweb games, and other similar games, are indeed the direct descendants of Ultima. The other obvious influence, though the influence may have been indirect in Spiderweb's case, were the AD&D "gold box" games such as Pool of Radiance. There were a large number of computer RPG's in the early to mid 90's that combined elements of Ultima (like using top-down views for both walkabout and battle modes) with elements of the "gold box" games (like having six party members and special encounters at specific locations). In Spiderweb's case, there are a LOT of elements in Exile 1 that reproduce elements from the early and middle Ultimas in remarkable detail. Using the same map for combat and walkabout in towns, the keyword-based dialogue system, the three primary stats, levelling every 100 experience with scaled XP rewards, having spell points and capping them at 99, wandering monster groups that move freely on the world map, the implementation and display of food... there's also the matter of the Black Shades in Avernum 4. Besides Ultima, Jeff has also mentioned Wizardry and Eamon as early influences, and he's been straightforward in discussing the elements he loved in games like Planescape: Torment and Dragon Age.

 

However, the skill point system? That's a Spiderweb original. Though there were already RPGs, both on paper and on the computer, that allowed you to increase your stats and skills with skill points in lieu of having classes, there weren't many. Ultima and Wizardry had classes, the console RPGs that followed in their footsteps had classes, the AD&D-based games had classes, even the major roguelike branches had classes. And it was something Jeff cared about. Exile 1 and its documention contain tiny statements of outrage against class-based systems (along with rants against overly weak blessing spells and weapon poisons, among other things).

 

So, whatever is most old school about SW games, it's definitely not the levelling system.

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However, the skill point system? That's a Spiderweb original. Though there were already RPGs, both on paper and on the computer, that allowed you to increase your stats and skills with skill points in lieu of having classes, there weren't many. Ultima and Wizardry had classes, the console RPGs that followed in their footsteps had classes, the AD&D-based games had classes, even the major roguelike branches had classes. And it was something Jeff cared about. Exile 1 and its documention contain tiny statements of outrage against class-based systems (along with rants against overly weak blessing spells and weapon poisons, among other things).

 

also, elves

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Jeff did better than fuzzies and bobbits, though.

 

—Alorael, who opines that the increasing presence of classes and the retraction of totally free choice to place skills is, in fact, Jeff mellowing in his middle age.

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I suppose, but not by much. Nephils are practically indistinguishable from the Felpurr race in Wizardry 6+. Slitherzerikai, likewise, are distinguished from the generic Lizardmen of AD&D (and, again, Wizardry 6+) only by their affinity for spellcasting -- something that is increasingly sidelined and taken back in SW in-game depictions of their culture as time goes on.

 

The Vahnatai were rather more original, of course.

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Oh, sure. There's nothing original about sliths or nephils, really. They're just better than fuzzies and bobbits in name and, I think, in execution. Not that early Ultimas did much in the way of developing races.

 

—Alorael, who does think the nephil and nephar combined race at least adds a little bit. Sadly underdeveloped, though.

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