Another crazy idea: Stuns

While waiting for the Rise of Isengard patch to download (12%!), here’s another one of my crazy ideas for MMOs, partially inspired by the hand-wringing the LOTRO devs go through when they try to decide if bosses should be immune to fellowship maneuvers. (Not for nothing, I labeled Barad Guldur as LOTRO‘s worst instance in an article a few months ago, owing to the fact that everything, save one type of trash mob was FM-immune.)

Suppose you have an ability in your hotkey bar that says it does 1,000 damage. Now, when you hit a mob with it, it doesn’t actually do 1,000 damage. Sometimes it misses. If it doesn’t, then it hits for maybe 800 damage against a regular monster (with 20% damage mitigation), 700 against a mid-level monster (30%), 600 against a boss (40%), and 500 against an uber-boss (50%). We all understand and accept this.

Now, suppose you have a power whose tooltip says it stuns someone for 4 seconds. If it doesn’t miss, it stuns a regular enemy for 4 seconds, a mid-level monster for 4 seconds, a boss monster for 4 seconds, and an uber-boss for — well, usually zero seconds, since they’re typically immune to stuns. Why’s that? Because the uber-boss (and many regular boss) fights are supposed to be difficult and the notion of your stun working and giving you 4 seconds of a respite are probably considered overpowered.

Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t stuns — not to mention any type of debuff — also be affected by the target’s defenses? Going with the same 80/70/60/50 defenses, why can’t we stun the regular enemy for 3.2 seconds, the mid-level for 2.8, the boss for 2.4, and the uber-boss for 2 seconds? Or increase the higher-tier monsters’ defenses so the stun is only 25% effective, down to one second, at its highest level?

The same applies for debuffs. If I can inflict -50% run speed for 6 seconds, why does that have to be the same no matter what kind of enemy I’m facing? Any reason why that can’t be -40%/5 for weak monsters, all the way up to -15%/2 for uber-bosses?

In many pen-and-paper RPGs, there are “saving throws,” an all-or-nothing roll you make to avoid binary states, such as slowed/not slowed, stunned/not stunned, wounded/not wounded, or even dead/not dead. Some games do allow for lesser effects if a save is made on a successfully executed attack, and the possibility to avoid it altogether. This has been ported over, almost verbatim, to MMOs (and other RPG-style games). No game, however, would use this same approach to damage. In the case of my hypothetical attack, above, would you be happy if it did exactly 1,000 damage some of the time and zero damage at other times?

CC effects also reign supreme in PvP, and are a major bone of contention in the war between PvE-ers, who want to use their CC on AI foes, and PvP-ers, who want to be CCed as infrequently as possible. So why not add this kind of defense to personal gear? Tired of being stunned and slowed all the time? Equip the right gear and that 4-second stun will only take you out for 1.5 seconds, and the PvE-er can still happily stun away NPC mobs with little care for the PvP balance.

The biggest issue facing this concept is probably that players love consistency. If you expect that your stun will lock something down for 4 seconds, you plan that it will lock the target down for 4 seconds. Introducing a psuedo-random variable into the mix will lead to some gnashing of teeth and rending of (hopefully cosmetic) garments. To which I say: Get over it. Life isn’t perfectly predictable, and your game shouldn’t be either.

Hey, up to 44%!

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