Monday, October 22, 2012

How Battlemaster (MMORPG) showed me a wealth of non magical rewards.

It might look fun
now but it will lose
its appeal in book 11.
This post is all about how the game Battlemaster  and how it showed me that there are plenty of opportunities for success without having to stuff my gamebook full of powerful magical stat boosting items that   don't fit into the game world and would lower the chances of using the same character in a future book unless they had to lose the items somehow (causing annoyance) or the power of the enemies had to increase (which may lead to power creep).  

Lone Wolf books suffered from this problem when the hero got the Sommerswerd, a +8 combat skill sword that deals double damage against undead creatures and absorbs hostile magic in book 2.  In order to balance out this massive bonus, certain encounters were made harder if you had the Sommerswerd and in book 12, using the Sommerswerd might lead to instant death.

Battlemaster is a text based RPG set in a low fantasy. low magic world.  I actually came across it when I was googling an Atari ST game of the same name.

Battlemaster showed me that there can be plenty of rewards and character development in a setting without having to give players tons of magical items or gold pieces.  Instead, success is obtained by taking part in great deeds such as fighting for your country or trading, being part of a team and roleplaying.

It's not about the mace
or the magic.
You can have two (or three if you donate enough real life money to the website) characters who are nobles and who can belong to one of several classes (the main ones being warrior, courtier or priest, but warriors and courtiers also have subclasses).  Priests play a very different game to warriors and courtiers and have nothing to do with healing magic.   

You can also have one character who is an adventurer. They may become a noble one day, but at the moment, they play a very different game which involves scratching a living and fighting unnatural horrors personally rather than taking part in state affairs and fighting them as part of an army.

An example character sheet
from the tutorial.
Unlike a lot of role playing games, you do not have many attributes to think about.  Your main personal stats are honour and prestige which are linked to how courageous you are and how involved you were in important events in the country respectively.  Your character also has values in certain skills, depending on what class you are.  Most classes can train in the swordfighting skill, but there are other skills such as leadership or oratory.  Not a strength, dexterity or wisdom in sight.

I'd make a joke about a badly made
arrow but there wouldn't be a point
to it.
You can get wounded, but the extent of your health is measured by being OK, lightly wounded, seriously wounded or dead.

Death, however, is an extremely rare occurrence and is only possible if you are executed for commited a serious crime or a series of crimes or decide to duel someone to the death and lose.  You cannot die in battle unless you are the hero class or you are an adventurer and you battle a powerful undead creature or monster.

In addition to your personal stats warriors and courtiers can also command a unit of soldiers with a selection of paraphernalia.  

This means that instead of fighting to survive, gameplay is based more around making a name for yourself and roleplaying with the other players.  Rewards come in the form of wealth, honour, prestige, fame, titles, responsibilities in the realm and, if you make some contacts with adventurers (as they are the only characters who can talk to sages and wizards), important artefacts or maybe even the ability to cast spells.

If you like more role playing based rewards, you could write your family history in the wiki, try to top the infiltrator stats board or you could write role play messages to all of your fellow players about literally anything.  you could write an acoount of a battle that you were in, describe the undead or monsters you fought  (there are no descriptions in the instructions presumably to increase the role playing potential for the players), how one of your soldiers tripped and banged his head or what you had for dinner.  Roleplaying opportunities are everywhere, including a guide on how to name your unit.   

There are many ways to be rich and successful without power creep or by amassing a huge pile of magical items.  One of my gripes with some gamebooks was that even as a famous adventurer who had seen many campaigns, you only carry a sword and some food until you go on this adventure which just happens to be in the one place with a disproportionately high magic item density.

Adventurers in this game can find items but most are useless (apart from selling them or possibly being components for unique items) and the useful ones are non magical (apart from portal stones)

Almost all of the awards in battlemaster are non magical.  Even the effects of the artefacts (prestige increase and possibly a skill boost) could just be down to the effect it has in peoples' heads rather than due to any magic.   

The only definately magical items are portal stones (which don't seem to active yet) and spell scrolls (which I didn't know about until I started this post) and these items are very rare.

Just explore and enjoy.
However, none of this matters.  Despite the game focusing on being in a team and role playing rather than amassing items, Battlemaster is still a game of infinite opportunity with the potential to be a great success who is part of a great story and all of this is done without having to unbalance the game by obsessing over stats.

I have not mentioned all the features of Battlemaster but it is well worth a look in if you enjoy role playing RPGs.

Battlemaster was also the reason I started writing gamebooks.  My first attempt at writing a four hundred paragraph gamebook was based on Battlemaster.  It went awry when my attempts at randomising the paragraphs went pear shaped (I just put the numbers in as I went along and soon lost track of which paragraphs went where). However, like all complete disasters, a lot of great things came from it, and it inspired me to write at least one four hundred paragraph gamebook just to prove that I could.



  1. Even though I didn't really enjoy your previous posts on games, I did enjoy this one. I'm definitely going to check out Battlemaster. I also liked the ideas from it for gamebooks; I'd like a gamebook that is based around these ideas.

  2. This actually sounds really cool... I'm kinda tempted to go try it.

  3. I can see the passion coming through it does sound pretty cool! #Moria I was playing NetHack last night and I read a scroll, the message popped up "You are being punished for your disobedience", my character then had a ball and chain attached to his ankle, it asked what to call that type of scroll, #50ShadesofNethack ?! I prayed but that only assuaged my character's hunger, since I reckoned my character was a fugitive it stole several scrolls from a shop, luckily the first scroll my character read was a scroll of teleportation and I teleported about the map- the storekeeper summoned the Keystone Kops but I didn't see any, I went down a few more floors being whacked in the leg by the ball and chain each time before fainting of hunger and being killed by an ignominious creature.