Saturday, October 8, 2016

General RPGs' Accessories

RPG heroes are dumb, man.

When it comes to RPGs, there are 3 mainstays of equipment: Weapon, Armor, and Accessory. Sometimes a game will differentiate separate parts of armor (Dragon Age 1, for example, has equipment slots for boots and helmets in addition to the body armor), sometimes a game will have multiple hand slots for weapons or shields determined by the player (DA1 also does this), sometimes a game will differentiate different types of accessories (to continue the example, DA1 has separate slots for equipping necklaces and rings, allowing for 2 rings and 1 necklace on every character), but in the end, it almost always comes down to these mainstays. I mean, not always, I’ll grant you (AeternoBlade, for example, has 3 slots for accessories, but Freyja’s weapon and armor are set in stone for the game’s duration...not that you’d ever want her to stop using the most insanely deadly sword in RPG history), but still, this is the case like 90+% of the time.

Accessories tend to be the most interesting and useful of these mainstays. After all, the bonuses from weapons and armors tend to just be simple increases to attack and defense. Yes, there are many weapons and armors that have other effects, and those can be exceptionally useful, but generally, accessories are the pieces of equipment that provide varied effects that can change your playstyle or be manipulated to make your characters unstoppable in 1 fashion or another. Is the deadliest part of an upcoming boss fight the enemy’s Damage-Over-Time effects? Throw on a couple rings that prevent Poison or Bleed conditions. Want to attack 8 times, that’s 8 fucking times, in a row in Final Fantasy 6? Throw an Offering and Genji Glove on a character. Want to just be actually, honestly indestructible in Lufia 2? Equip the Egg Ring (although by the time you can get the damn thing, you clearly don’t need it anyway). Accessories can cause you to regenerate health every round, increase the damage of critical strikes or attacks to hit elemental weaknesses, activate bonus skills on characters that normally have to choose between them, give immunity to status ailments and instant death attacks, increase stats, confer extra experience and money at the end of battles, lower the cost of spells and abilities, give elemental resistances, increase the amount of actions you get per turn, make healing spells and items more effective, empower attack skills and magic, and do so much more. A wide and varied number of accessories in a game can allow for party customization in RPGs which otherwise have no such opportunities.

So, of course, this begs the question of why the hell RPG characters only ever equip, at most, a few of these things at a time.

I mean, think about it. Let’s take Final Fantasy 6 as an example. If, say, protagonist Terra decides to equip both a Gem Box and an Economizer (Soul of Thamasa and Celestriad in the later translation), she can cast magic twice per turn (4 times if you abuse the Quick spell), and all spells cost her only a single MP. Being able to throw Ultima around twice (or 4 times) with no worry of running out of magical ammo for it is pretty awesome! But that’s just 2 accessories working in tandem--an orb and a necklace, it seems. Well, there’s nothing about wearing an orb (however that works) and a necklace that should stop Terra from also tying a Ribbon around her neck or wrist or wherever the Ribbon item is kept--she could have all that magical attack power, AND be immune to status ailments! For that matter, there’s no reason any of these accessories would get in the way of her wearing a White Cape, increasing her defense and magical evasion. And underneath the cape could be the wings of some Cherub Down, to ensure that she’s immune to all Earth-based attacks. And why should any of these accessories prevent her from putting on a pair of Marvel Shoes, granting herself faster actions, health regeneration, and additional protection from magic and physical damage? None of these accessories get in the way of one another, so if Terra really wants to be an unstoppable force of nature, she could equip them all. Hell, even the ones that would get in each other’s way don’t always have to be exclusive. I mean, I think the Beads accessory is supposed to be worn around one’s neck, so you’d think Terra wouldn’t be able to wear it and the Economizer at the same time, but it’s not like it’s physically impossible to wear 2 necklaces/pendants/whatevers at the same time. She could totally wear both, no problem.

Why does my protagonist in Dragon Age 1 only wear 2 rings? There are 35 different rings in the game that give beneficial effects. Just 2? Fuck that, I want a ring on every damn finger! And toe! Hell, if it means more spell resistance and critical damage, go ahead and pierce my Grey Warden’s ears with a couple of those magical rings each, and her nose, and tongue! Deck her out like a punk rocker with a fetish for costume jewelry! I like it, so I wanna put 3 dozen rings on it!

There are 39 different amulets in the game? Pile’em on! By the time I’m done with her, people are gonna be mistaking her neck for a cluttered keychain!

How many stat-boosting, effect-giving magical belts are there in Dragon Age, again? 32? Bring’em on, who said that belts are for the waist only? Throw 5 around my city elf heroine’s waist and then start strapping’em around her legs, arms, wherever they’ll go! If it means extra Cunning stats (somehow) and better health regeneration, I’ll make her look like she just came straight outta one of Tetsuya Nomura’s wet dreams!

It’s just always seemed silly to me that RPG characters have some arbitrary accessory limit imposed on them. You can only really wear 1 set of armor (maybe 2, I guess, if you have separate armors for clothing-type and real-armor-type), you can only grip 2 weapons and there are actual pros and cons to the issue of whether to go with 2 weapons, a weapon and shield, or just a weapon gripped with both hands. But nearly every RPG character has got a neck, 2 wrists, 10 fingers, 10 toes, and so on. There’s no reason they can’t wear 20 different magical rings into battle, a couple of pendants, several bracelets or at least 2 gauntlets, and so on. They’ve got access to all these incredible ability-boosting baubles, but they only ever wear 1 - 5 of them at a time! C’mon, Wild Arms 2’s Ashley, you’re trying to save your world from terrorists, an ancient demon, and an actual living universe that’s trying to eat your reality! You need to get serious about this shit! Pin the Sheriff’s Star on your chest, AND wear a pair of attack-increasing gloves! At the same time, you idiot!

And yeah, I know the reason for this from the gameplay perspective. Obviously, if you want any sort of game balance, you can’t give a character the option to load themselves down with as many accessories as they’re actually able to wear. Well, that’s great and all for design mechanics, but that doesn’t mean that it makes sense from a narrative standpoint when Hero McSwordbutt decides to take off the ring he’s been wearing because he wants to try on a new cape. Just because you have to do something to maintain game balance, that doesn’t mean it needs no explanation whatsoever to justify it, if it goes beyond the laws of common sense (I’m looking at you, Adventuring Party Size Limits). You still should do or say something to make some sense of it.

I’m telling you, the day some RPG hero realizes that she’s got more than 2 fingers, and that her neck and hands occupy different places on her body, we’re gonna have the most overpowered game character of all time.


  1. I think this is probably your funniest rant on this blog (at least so far).

    "not that you’d ever want her to stop using the most insanely deadly sword in RPG history"

    It might be easy/convenient to update this rant if you're low on time or something. I played the demo of Aeterno Blade and the sword's time-manipulation powers seemed a bit overpowered like Xenoblade's Monado.

    Some RPG series (like the Mega Man Battle Network series) have a grid "minigame" where you have different abilities that each have different shapes and powers, which helps to provide a "solution" to limit the power-up. I haven't played Super Smash Bros 4 for something like a year, but I think the Smash Run mode uses the same concept with its power-ups. In an RPG with a non-technology setting, that would probably translate to dressing up your character visually, like in a character creation screen... which probably wouldn't be too fun.

    I think a system like the WRPG inventory weight system could work for providing an appropriate accessory limit (a character might only be able to wear accessories up to 500 grams, for example, and weaker accessories have lower weights, while more powerful accessories have a higher weight).

    Also, I don't know if you'd count it as an RPG, but the Wii/Wii U/3DS game Rodea: The Sky Soldier had the script writer from Tales of the Abyss in it, so it might be worth looking into (I don't think its narrative elements are very good personally, but that's subjective).

    1. Glad you enjoyed the rant! It HAS been a little while since I really just went for an overall funny rant...gotta remember to start throwing more jokes into my ravings.

      I'm planning on updating that rant at the end of the year with the AeternoBlade at the top of its list, actually. I'm pleased as punch that you remember it well enough to connect it to this. I was considering putting the Monado on the list last year, too, but that plan was nixed once the plot revealed the rather big caveat to the thing.

      Thanks for the heads-up on Rodea; I'll take a look and see if it seems promising.

  2. Now I want to see an RPG where the hero does indeed realize that.
    For an explanation an RPG could use, this is what my silly brain came up with: "So all these accessories are enchanted. Now, if you wear two accessories, the enchantment of the two accesories work against each other and cancel each other out. So remember to always only wear one accessory." Sure, it's more of a copout than a real explanation, but it's something.
    Hell, you could even develop on this idea and make it a gameplay mechanic, like group your accessories in different groups and only allow to wear one of each group because two of the same group would cancel each other out.

    1. Yeah, that's a bit of a copout, but you're right--it's something, at least, and I'd accept it. Chrono Trigger's explanation for limiting a party to 3 to travel through time wasn't airtight, but it at least existed and made some sense.

      You've got a good idea, there, honestly. It reminds me a little of a certain mechanic from Dungeons and Dragons RPGs, in that the bonus enchantment of "+(Number) Armor Class" on a piece of equipment doesn't stack with the same enchantment on a different piece of equipment (in other words, if you have a +2 ring and a +3 ring equipped, you only see +3 to your AC). Since that's one of the major enchantments for magic rings in D+D, most games in the D+D universe might not even have enough rings with other types of enchantments to use all your available fingers and toes on. Still, that's not actually explained out or anything, either. Your proposal actually sounds pretty effective and simple as a way of making this whole accessory thing work and seem reasonable.

  3. I'm reminded of an old fanart of FFVI's Edgar, wielding some fusion of the Autocrossbow and Chainsaw, while wearing the Chainsaw's hockey mask with the Drill placed on top.

    So what you're saying is you'd be down with Nomura's penchant for belts and zippers if these articles were interchangeable and had itemized stat gains? I think I would be, as much as I hate myself for saying it. I could do with some quiet self-awareness in these sad times.

    And I'm recovering from an elaborate wisdom tooth removal, with two painkillers and a muscle relaxant on speed dial. I'm not even supposed to be smiling. So stop being so goddamn funny.

    I think I can answer the Terra question. You see, even though she should probably have the intellectual and emotional capacity of a toddler, in Gau's story arc she shows a firm grasp of aesthetics, sharing strong words with someone for probably the first time in her life over clothes. Terra, putting it simply, is a bad bitch who's fashy as fuck, and she don't need no stats to make her happy. Seriously, how is all that cheap jewelry supposed to mesh?

    1. Or maybe years of using Monster Hunter to play dress-up with wyvern slaying action figures has finally broken me.

    2. Dude, we're gonna get Nomura's bizarre zippered-belts-wrapped-around-size-28-shoes fetish anyway. Might as well get something out of it.

      Describing Terra as a bad bitch who's fashy as fuck brings a smile to my face, incidentally.

      I wish you a speedy recovery from your surgery, sir!