21 August, 2013
I hit a major milestone in with my main characters: I true reincarnated one of my characters. To those of you who haven't played the game before, that might seem like an odd idea, but I think it's actually a rather interesting and old idea.
Let's take a closer look at it, shall we?
What is reincarnation?
In Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO), reincarnation is a way to re-do your character. A lesser reincarnation is a way to fully respec your character from level 1: you can change appearance, redistribute your attributes, choose all new skills. Being a free-to-play game, the main way to qualify for reincarnation is to buy an item from the cash shop; the items ("hearts of wood") can drop randomly as well, but they are rather rare and cost a lot on the auction house.
True reincarnation (abbreviated TR) is where you take a high level character and start over at level 1 with a few perks. The first thing you need to do is to have a level 20 (or higher) character; level 20 was at one time the highest level before expansions raised the level cap. After you reincarnate, you start over as a level 1 character, but you get 2 more build points to buy stats, you get a perk based on your dominant class from your "previous life", you get a decoration around your name, and your character is ever so slightly taller than other characters. You can TR the same character multiple times, gaining some bonuses each time; although the stat buy points only increase your second and third lives. To do a true reincarnation, you need an item you can either find randomly (rarely), turn in tokens from doing high level (epic) quests, or buy it from the cash shop.
You also get to keep a lot of the equipment you gained. In DDO, many times the equipment you get from a quest will have a minimum level below the level of the quest. So, on your next life, you will have access to any gear you kept and be able to wear it sooner. There are some specific and powerful items ("green steel") that have a surprisingly low minimum level and are highly prized for people who want to TR; you get these items from running a high end raid and collecting ingredients.
The downside of a TR is that you have to earn more experience to gain gain levels. It starts small at lower levels (5% more to get to 2nd level on your second life), but increases per level. So, you have to spend a lot more earning experience in subsequent lives. You also lose the "favor" you earned from doing quests your previous life, but you do keep the account-wide unlocks you had earned from before.
A reincarnation of an old mechanic
This mechanic might seem odd to MMO players, but it was found in some text MUDs. This was usually called "remort" where you could start over but gain some benefits. One benefit was access to races or classes not available before. Other games would let you keep some bonuses from your previous character. The goal was to allow a player who got to "max level" some options. Keep in mind that raiding wasn't even available on most games, so there wasn't an organized "elder game" like there is in MMOs. I suspect the original implementation was a neat way to reward a dedicated player who got a character to max level, but eventually became a mechanic that other games used from the start.
I never played on any text MUDs that had this system, actually, but I read a lot about it. It's interesting that there are a few game mechanics like this that never made the jump to MMOs. Of course, if you know your MUD history then you know there are still a ton of space we could explore in modern MMOs that had already been established in MUDs and early MMOs.
Options for the next life
My "main" character, Sowilo, was an 18th level ranger, 1st level bard, and 1st level fighter. Since Ranger was his dominant class, I got +2 to ranged damage, and +2 to my elemental resists. In my new life, I'm going to be mostly a Ranger, but I'm focusing on melee weapons so the +2 to ranged damage is only going to be useful for those times when I can't just run up to something and beat it to death with my axes.
I also reincarnated another character, the first one I got to level 20: a monk/rogue on another server named, surprisingly enough, Psychochild. I focused on damage (particularly with the Rogue's sneak attacks) and was a capable trap finder. The monk gets a +1 to melee damage upon TR, which will be useful as I create the same type of character.
My two true reincarnated characters have very different backgrounds. While Sowilo is part of a regular group that plays about twice per week, Psychochild is a character that I started out solo, but later mostly played in pick-up groups. Sowilo is intended to fit within a static group, whereas Psychochild is intended to be a little more self-sufficient since pick-up groups may not be as well-rounded. Psychochild's trap-finding and removing skills are valuable for a party.
In both cases, however, I'm playing mostly the same general type of character. As I mentioned above, Sowilo's past life gives him a bonus to ranged attacks, so it might have made sense for me to focus on ranged attacks by choosing to focus on bows as a ranger, or even go with a completely different class like artificer that gets proficiency with repeating crossbows. I am changing the character slightly, where this life I'll be the trap-finder for the party. I'm not sure how many non-ranger levels I'll take, but I'll probably end up with 2 levels of rogue and maybe 2 levels of Rogue. I might take 4 levels of rogue or some other class for more variety, depending on how the mood strikes me.
In addition, I'm playing largely the same character for Psychochild. Again, I really enjoyed the character and wanted to try a slight variation. My previous character didn't focus much on Constitution, so I had rather low hit points; this new life I put my additional stat points into Con. :)
One motivation for playing the same character was that I really didn't want to try a wholly new character and find out I just didn't enjoy the gameplay. Since the experience requirement goes up, it'll quickly become a slog to run all those quests again with a character that just isn't fun. I'm not sure how many times I'll TR these same characters; these are the first ones I've done after over 3 years of playing the game.
Another option is to play a completely different character. The person who played the Cleric in Sowilo's group decided to roll a Druid instead. He was still going to be our healer, but he a change of pace. Although now he's feeling a few pangs about how the other character could have developed if he tried the same build again.
Different types of gameplay
What's interesting is that TR adds a new form of gameplay. In WoW, you had two major types of advanced/elder gameplay: group content like PvP or raiding, and creating alts. In group content you usually focused on improving a single character, collecting marginal improvements for things like gear. There's something about focusing on a single character as your "avatar" in the world that appeals to certain people.
Others prefer the variety of having a rotating cast of characters that suit a mood instead of focusing on a single character. It seems this is more popular with people who solo a lot; although, I group almost exclusively in DDO but I mostly played a bunch of characters. I have about 9 different characters I have played regularly across different servers back in the peak when I played a lot of DDO.
But, reincarnation adds an interesting twist to the decision to focus on just a single character. Given the increases in character power, it's reasonable to assume that these characters would be more capable of soloing content, especially with a well-tuned character. You also focus on building a character in a different way: you focus on getting stuff that will help you through multiple levels rather than focusing on getting incremental improvements at the highest levels. And, to be honest, raids were never a big focus in DDO in the time I've been playing.
TR aficionados tend to throw themselves into TRing. There's a limitation where you can only TR once per week, and for some people that's too restrictive. In other words, they work a character from level 1 to 20 in less than a week and have to wait before they can TR again. DDO even provides a long-term goal for people who like to TR in the form of a special feat called "Completionist" that requires you to have had a past life of each available character class; but, that feat at least tells you "You win DDO!" :)
A different mechanic
The newest expansion for DDO is going to offer more options for TRing. After the level cap increased, there was a system of "epic destinies" introduced for characters in the highest levels. People who are adept at grinding were able to work through those quickly, so the new expansion will introduce a new way to TR your epic destinies which previously persisted through TR. I know very little about that system, so I can't really examine it.
One interesting side note is that your character name might need to be picked a bit more carefully. Your Cleric "Healerdude" or your scimitar-wielding Ranger "Ddrizzztt" might be a bit out of place if that character becomes a Sorcerer in a subsequent life.
As I said, I find this to be an interesting mechanic that comes from text MUDs but that was largely ignored by modern MMOs. I think it offers an alternative to people who don't want to grind the few raids DDO had to offer.
What do you think? Do you think you'd be willing to give up a max level character for a little bit of extra power? What other types of elder games would be interesting?