Level Up (A5E) Wildstar and its Insight into Player Mindset

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
So, Wildstar. Glorious MMORPG from bygone days. Beautiful themes, gorgeous setting, oozing with character, great systems design... absolutely terrible endgame. It failed because Carbine Studios were former WoW Devs who felt WoW lost it's "Hardcore Raiding" style and wanted to make a new MMO focused on -that-. Which made end game content into a massive wall for the majority of players that it wasn't worthwhile to climb, and lead to a small and elite community of end-game content players who felt accomplished but lonely in an MMORPG.

Anyone who understands the most basic premise of "Massively Multiplayer" has to understand that in order to succeed you need vast appeal across various levels of skill, drive, and availability. This is -why- WoW moved away from the "Hardcore Raiding" style toward something that would be more appealing to as wide an audience as possible to get as many concurrent users online at all times as they could manage. And they've done it pretty well for the past 18 years.

But Wildstar had some beautiful designs. And one of them I want to share, right now, is Player Paths.


In the game itself, these four paths resulted in players performing an "Extra Set" of sidequests, events, and activities related to their path but divorced from the core story, the main combat loop, or their class and race storylines. Each of the four paths also had multiple activities to do in a given zone, so while it wasn't a massive part of your leveling experience it was certainly a fun little character-detail that helped to flesh out the world.

"But Rachel!" I hear you say. "How does that help us design TTRPG Material and write our own adventures?" And the answer is: Those four paths are player-interest loops.

People who play Wizard or Warlock are often looking for more than Fireball (okay 'often' is a strong word...). They're also looking to play the knowledgeable character, the one who finds secrets in writing and clever loopholes in texts and knows to "Speak Friend and Enter". They want to play the Scientist. The character who is insightful and knowledgeable and uses wit and wisdom to overcome a problem.

The Explorer? Rogues, Rangers, Fighters sometimes, various characters who want to seek out and do the exploring bit. To find the secret treasure or climb to the top of the nearest tree to look out over the forest to figure out where the party is. They're the ones on the lookout for traps and hidden passages and places to sneak through to avoid trouble.

Settlers are the party Parental Unit. Organizing and arranging items, looking for or creating havens, taking the "Cook" Journey Activity all the time. Clerics, Druids, Bards shockingly enough. Yeah, playing music to entertain your party to wipe away (or protect from) levels of strife? That's Settler type stuff. And it's not just buffs and heals in and out of combat, it's a tendency to try and build connections and society.

And, of course, the Soldiers. Always on the lookout for trouble. Trying to find new and interesting ways to fight. Not just "Get into fight" but also "Protect civilians" or "Ambush". While all the martial classes fit into this mindset, so do Wizards and Sorcerers and Clerics and such. These are your players who try the super cool jumping off a cliff to add damage to their attack maneuver. The ones who swing from the chandelier to knock people out the castle window.

Identifying these sort of players is often fairly intuitive based on their class and skill choices. And building encounters for them can range from simple to implausibly difficult... But Wildstar -had- those sorts of encounter designs. And we can crib off of what it did right while lamenting what it did wrong.


So what does this mean for me?

Well. It means I'm going to look at this idea, as well as @xiphumor's "Homebrewing Options" and start developing Exploration Challenges based on these four mindsets, plus his Big, Bad, and Beautiful mindset, plus the Dungeon Delver's Guide's awesome NODES system. Making exploration challenges that apply to these four general archetypes of player and exist in a wider and more developed structure.

What does it mean for you?

It potentially means being able to use another perspective to better tailor your games to your players. Or to better convey your personal desires in TTRPGs to your Narrator during that Session 0.

And thanks to the Internet... we have the full list of every Path quest ever written to use as a reference point.


Yeah... I really do love designing stuff for A5e. And this is gonna make it a lot easier to design exploration challenges.

Special thanks to PJ Coffey for helping me break some of my struggles in writing exploration challenges and letting me loop back into MMORPG design in our talk this morning. Dude is amazing and deserves massive credit.
 
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Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
As a follow up:

Practically no player falls into only one of these categories, even at a given point in time. But even if they're in a fighty mood, a "Scientist" player will still enjoy your efforts in creating sciencey events for them to interact with.
 

It looks like a really handy way to include optimal side plots in adventures. If the main thrust of the adventure is "an army is marching toward town, so make allies before they attack," have one ally who will join if you solve a small mystery, and another ally who joins if you resolve some non violent family dispute, and another who is hidden and needs to be discovered through exploration.

It can all work for the whole group, but it's sort of a writer's/narrator's checklist to ensure the adventure doesn't feel too straightforward.

Oh, and yeah, I really adored the Big Bad Beautiful post.
 


SakanaSensei

Adventurer
Someone else talking good about Wildstar! Never thought I'd see the day, absolutely adored that game.

One thing I've thought of doing in my next campaign is adapting paths into leveling tracks that players can choose during session zero. If someone wants to be a Soldier, they get experience from fights. Someone who's more interested in learning about and solving mysteries a la the Scientist can get progress that way, Explorers can level by making discoveries much like Cypher System, and Settlers could level by using money to enhance the lives of NPCs or building up bases of operations.

It'd probably take a lot of effort and would definitely be easier in some systems than others, but I think it'd be a neat way to let players define their motivation and gameplay loop.
 


SakanaSensei

Adventurer
Honestly, at this point, I'm about 6 inches from creating a Sci-Fantasy setting in the Wildstar Style.

Like a lot of my work is circling around that point ready to tip over the edge and tumble headlong into the madness.
The strain would make a cool hazard to deal with, and the elves essentially being gone with their half-elven children leading a galactic evil empire is neat. Add in alchemically preserved sentient undead, fuzzy goblins, and a whole lot of western vibe and yeah, it's a fountain ready to be drunk from.

I'm so happy I have the soundtrack, it's such a joy to listen to still.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
The strain would make a cool hazard to deal with, and the elves essentially being gone with their half-elven children leading a galactic evil empire is neat. Add in alchemically preserved sentient undead, fuzzy goblins, and a whole lot of western vibe and yeah, it's a fountain ready to be drunk from.

I'm so happy I have the soundtrack, it's such a joy to listen to still.
For everyone else, there's Youtube!


Though if I used it as a basis, I couldn't strictly use "Strain" or "Chua"... I'd need to file the serial numbers off and couch it all in different terms...
 

SakanaSensei

Adventurer
For everyone else, there's Youtube!


Though if I used it as a basis, I couldn't strictly use "Strain" or "Chua"... I'd need to file the serial numbers off and couch it all in different terms...
Oh, if you're talking about work you're making then 100%, renaming stuff is necessary. Me, a humble DM in a home game? Y'all are riding chocobos and that's that lol
 

WarDriveWorley

Adventurer
Honestly, at this point, I'm about 6 inches from creating a Sci-Fantasy setting in the Wildstar Style.
Baby Love GIF by LINE FRIENDS
 


Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
Anyone wanna help me create a name for this thing? I'll drop the short narrative timeline and premise, here.

It’s been 300 years since the birth of the Imperium during the Ecclesiastic Devastation. What was once a coalition of worlds battling against massive theocratic uprisings and invasions coalesced behind a powerful figure, Emperor Coetus Alden. Despite the occasional border war or expansionist drive under a given Emperor, peace reigned within the sextant. But even an empire at war must fight an enemy. And after the majority of priests and crusaders were killed in battle or executed in the wake of it, the Empire turned upon its own citizens.

The Iron Order was born merely 30 years after the end of the Ecclesiastic Devastation. A band of mage-hunters that scoured Imperial Space for mystical texts, witches, wizards, and magical bloodlines. Some disappeared into black sites. Others were executed publicly. For the people had to know that their Emperor would keep them safe from magic of any kind. A strange power held by only a few and wielded with forbidden knowledge that often drew the eye of terrible beings from other realities.

And with that knowledge was lost far more. Magocratic civilizations were destroyed utterly along with their art, history, architecture, and accumulated knowledge. Entire worlds were burned and cleansed by orbital bombardments to ensure that none of their mystical knowledge would slip out into the sextant, hidden in dry treatises of animal lore or the coding of three dimensional star charts.

The Gods, if they ever existed, have retreated from the sextant. Have withdrawn their blessings and their powers, their hands from the lives of the public. No more does their righteous fury fall upon their foes, no more does the clergy wield their sacred zealotry. They, like what sources of magic yet exist, hide in the darkness between the stars, lost in time and space. Their return, should it happen, will be a reckoning.

However not all sat well within the Imperium. Civil Uprisings occurred on dozens of worlds throughout the centuries, oft quelled by Imperial Soldiers and the Iron Order. Each uprising made the Emperors more and more aggressive. Culminating in the failed rule of Coetus Alden VII. Named for his ancestor, he was a petty tyrant whose grasp exceeded his weak will and weaker military acumen.

Taking direct control over the military would prove to be his ultimate downfall as the Commonwealth, a collective of worlds which battled back against the Imperium, was led by former soldiers, statesmen, and leaders of passion and skill. Ultimately, the Emperor himself fell to their glorious heroes, or cowardly assassins, depending on who tells the tale of that fateful day.

While the Imperium was shaken that day, and many worlds broke free of its yoke, it was not destroyed. A Regent rose up, Dione Ravinger, who has ruled the Regnum since the Emperor’s Death 20 years ago. 20 years of a cunning, capable, powerful ruler whose leadership has increased the Regnum’s might while preparing to reconquer wayward worlds. Some question why a Regent yet holds the throne when Emperor Alden’s son has long since reached adulthood.

Those people disappear swiftly after uttering the question.

Now, a new galactic war rages between the Regnum and the Commonwealth worlds, displacing peoples from half a dozen worlds that have fallen to the conflict. Three standard years have passed since the fighting began, and there are no signs it will end even as both sides scramble for the resources needed to maintain their offense, and defense. Word spreads of ancient powers moving in the vastness of space, in the darkness between the stars…
 


Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
So one of my thoughts for the title is:

UI_TBTF_Arkship_Tract_01.png
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UI_TBTF_Farside_Tract_01.png
UI_TBTF_Deradune_Tract_03.png
UI_TBTF_Celestion_Tract_02.png


If you played Wildstar to any degree, you ran across these comic book covers scattered around the game. Sometimes they were posters on a wall (some you could put in your in-game housing!) other times they were set-dressing pulp comics sitting on a coffee table, and there were also collectable copies that Explorer characters would find as nifty little rewards for their exploration.

Tales from Beyond the Fringe is not copywritten. How do I know? Copywrite search. But also, because I knew there was a graphic novel called "Fringe: Beyond the Fringe" and there's no way "Tales from Beyond the Fringe" would've gotten used if copyright litigiousness was an issue.

It would also play into the tropes of Wildstar, being a sort of wild west pulp action sci fantasy conglomerate of concepts.

After all: They used Moxie as a character attribute.

And it plays into my love of the over the top art styles of old pulp covers, so win-win, there.

BUT! I'm also absolutely open to spreading out from that particular phrasing and style. It's just an anchor in my mind. B-Movies and Pulp Comics are great for sci-fi and fantasy and sci-fantasy. And Carbine Studios? CLEARLY knew it.

 

SakanaSensei

Adventurer
Tales From Beyond The Fringe would be an excellent title to work with for all the reasons you said!

My little heart can’t take this. I’ve missed Wildstar for years.
 

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