Planar Attunement in 1.5 (Rift)

Upcoming in 1.5 is a new system of advancement for post-50 characters.

As you “attune” to one element, you unlock abilities to help fight beings of that plane.

It starts by allowing you to bring out a regular rift of the plane you chose with a specific lure, giving you greater dps against beings of that plane, and giving you better resistance against that element. The lure just opens normal rifts, but hey, no more hunting for an invasion if you need an air rift for the Water Saga, or a death rift in Freemarch, just get a friend to open the right type for you!

Depending on the abilities you unlock, you will receive greater spellpower or attack power while wielding a specific weapons, a fluff ability, and a small boost to a particular stat.

More information in this great overview at Zam that links to more specific charts for each class after the overview.

My first impression is to wonder why secondary stats receive a boost from some elements, rather than it being primary stat or endurance only for that class. Such as Clerics receiving INT bonus from Death and Fire, same as Mages. These are supposed to be s very minor boost, but of course the min-max is going to go Death or Fire as a Mage, and Cleric Tanks will end up gently nudged to attune to Life, where Warrior and Rogue Tanks will be nudged to attune to Earth.

Weapon choices for boosts to spellpower and attack power seem odd, especially for clerics and warriors. Some choices are for weapons that don’t really exist in the game yet, such as for a two-handed axe or a polearm. The increased endurance of Earth for Clerics is paired with a bonus to Staff or Wand, not that useful for a tank. (Unless by “wielding” they mean “equipped” and you can only choose to add points into one weapon type, not both. That wasn’t clear from the guide. If that’s the case the bonus to wand would be chosen by Cleric Earth tanks and give an equal increase to the bonus to mace available to Cleric Life tanks.)

Hopefully they’ll work out the details a little better, and keep the power creep to a minimum when they bring out the second and third tier of this system.

I’m hoping for some visual fluff in later honeycombs, like a soft glowy aura (like the low-graphics version of the Gem of Boundless Energy, which is just an oval glow around you) or eyes, or weapons. I think that would be really cool to see on the field of battle.

A History of Barding as it applies to Videogames

So why is it that many games just don’t get what bards can be? Let’s have a look at the historical roots of the Bard, both in real life cultures and in gaming cultures.

First, ancient cultures around the world used chants and songs as a way to promote community, change and uplift moods, drive away bad spirits, and bring healing. This was part of being a Shaman, but also part of ordinary life for everyone. They used drums, various wind instruments, and stringed instruments, made from natural materials.

In the Celtic Tradition, the Bard had three main tasks. To rouse people to battle; to make even the most hardened warrior cry; and to soothe people to sleep. They were a specific rank and training of Druid class in Celtic society, honored as negotiators and storytellers, keepers of lore. At the word of a Bard, battle would end, or begin. Historically they did not fight, themselves, but oversaw the fighting of others. They were part of the religious elite. Their words and their songs, had power.

As the Druid tradition was stamped out by invading Christians, the songs and lore were lost save for the songs of the people, sung in taverns and homes across the land. The Bard was now merely a minstrel or troubadour, a traveler bringing news along with entertainment for a night’s lodging, or gaining entry to a court or even a sponsorship by great talent for diplomacy and music – plus good looks and seduction skills.

Troubadours who wished for sponsorship had to act like nobility, enough to not be out of place at court. They would not stoop to lowly activities such as tavern brawling, injuries could ruin their career forever.

Music remained part of religion however, in songs and chants of monks and clergy. The secular music was seen as base, impure.

Game lore such as The Elder Scrolls universe has the Bard as a type of Assassin, a rogue who gains entry to noble presence by talent and diplomacy, then either spies or kills someone with the use of poison or dagger. They take inspiration for the Bard from the Troubadour era of music. In gameplay, the Bard in Oblivion has buffs to help the party fight better, and uses either daggers or bow for more personal combat based in Rogue abilities.

In the history of Dungeons and Dragons, again the Bard draws from the Troubadour root, in this case from the Tavern musician who has never seen the inside of a court but wishes he was high class enough to do so. He’s a rougher fellow, often not at all above brawling, with a bit of warrior and a bit of rogue thrown in for good measure. Hard drinking, hard playing, and hardly fighting. He can sing, wench, and steal your purse to pay for his companions to stay in better quality sheets – either legitimately through his songs or by pickpocketing. But the memory of Troubadour history haunts the D&D Bard as he’s made the butt of jokes for playing lute and seeming somewhat poncy, especially if he only supports the party by singing rather than fighting. Nobody cares about the Bard. Right?

That’s a long way to drop from being an honored figure of religious ceremony, wearing a gold torc to symbolize that your standing is only equal with that of the highest chieftains in the land, advisor to kings, with the power to walk on a battlefield and STOP THE WAR by a single word!

So here’s the problem with Bards in gaming. Music in the real world is a physical action. It’s enjoyable. Most other classes’ fighting styles have an equivalent physicality. When you watch a fighter slash at things with a sword or axe, you can feel it. When a mage casts magic, it’s done with a staff or wand, again as a physical action. The animations, if done well, have a weight and depth of reality to them.

The Bard plinks at a lute. Lalala. Look at me playing lute on a battlefield, lalala!
There’s no illusion of physicality and it’s rather silly overall.

So, there are two types of Bard in gaming. There’s the fighter Bard, who splashes deeper into real combat, based on street fighting and tavern brawling, then there’s the “useless plinker” Bard who only supports the party with buffs but can’t fight. Or, well, do much of anything. If it can’t be mesmerized by song, the Bard has no other tricks. If facing a boss, the plinker is a helpless cliche about to be burned to a crisp by the Dragon, who is conveniently immune to the Bard’s only ability: song. Only a REAL fighter can save them, either by might or by magic.

The music part of Shamanism is reduced by games, and only the Shapeshifted warrior remains. Yet that physical tradition of spirit-transformed melee combat is satisfying to play.

Druids speak with faeries and nature spirits, and those aid them to fight. Again, physical combat and sometimes spells cast at a range, as a hybrid type of playstyle.

Bards, plink. Lalala.

My vision of what a Bard could be in games, is based in part on a book called “The Soprano Sorceress” by L.E. Modesitt, part of a series called The Spellsong Cycle. In it, a music teacher is tossed into a fantasy world where songs have power. I’ve always felt that music has a real magic to it. Some games in the sci-fi genre use sonic death boom weapons, but that power is rarely given to Bards in games where fantasy Shamans turn into bears and fight with greater endurance and strength purely from magic.

What if you took that “useless plinker” and made it a real Mage? The playstyle of a plinker is already closer to that of a caster – they stand away from the thick of battle and play an instrument instead of using a real weapon such as sword or dagger. Real nukes and real heals would be possible, and would have that illusory feeling of physicality like the rest of the Mage class, as they use a focus crystal for singing, or an instrument glowing with magic that congeals then goes BOOM! to nuke an opponent as they cast a spell of song.

Let’s honour an older tradition of Bard in newer generations of games. Recognize that the Bard has a caster type in basic abilities, and that if expanded that could be a wonderful, powerful and FUN playstyle. Stop relegating the Bard to uselessness as a failed and cowardly Rogue going lalala on the field of war! Bards are Mages of Song.

Music is a type of magic, and that magic has not been fully expressed in games.

A Tale of Two Craftings

So you all know by now that I started playing Rift because I was upset with a few major things in my “main” game, DDO. Rift has now become my main game, despite more boring gameplay mechanics overall, because it simply does things BETTER. Customer service? Check. Intuitive UI? Check. The ability to change your build/role somewhat easily to suit your current party makeup? Check.

Crafting that makes SENSE? Big. Effin. Check.

Let me tell you about Rift’s crafting system first, so you can then understand just how big of a disappointment it was for me to try to craft in DDO – what used to be my favorite game.

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PVE vs PVP (Rift)

With the new free transfers Rift’s offering, I decided to transfer my less-played cleric off to another shard and start a new one to play with lowbie guildies.

Wow. What a difference.

To backtrack a little, this particular cleric is completely water-themed, she’s a Warden which is the water-based healing soul, and has blue hair. So after transferring her away I ended up playing her more because the current world event (Waves of Madness) is water-themed so I wanted event items for her.

So there I was, on a PVE-RP server instead of PVP-RP. There’s still no RP of course haha. I just started noticing that I was much, MUCH happier with that character all of a sudden. I would log off happy and content.

Going back to my mains, I’d be irritable and annoyed. Ganked just trying to get to a rift for the daily. Ganked by being camped after being ganked. Ganked while stealthed on my rogue just walking around because anyone higher level can STILL SEE YOU which is just ridiculous. Ganked in the middle of a group and nobody even stopped to help, over and over and over. Got to the point I’d get ganked and just log off upset, knowing that for at least half an hour to an hour I’d be unable to achieve any of my objectives, more if it was prime time. Wait in queue in Meridian for hours unable to quest until a group actually got together for a dungeon.

Talked with a friend and they said they loved being ganked. They love the adrenalin hit, and find it boring to just quest knowing they only have mobs to face, and it’s never going to be exciting. They look forward to hitting cap and ganking back.

Another friend said that the only way to handle being on a pvp shard is to have enough friends to protect you. Well… I have odd sleep habits. When it’s 4 hours before anyone I know is gonna log on, and I just want to close a couple of rifts for the daily, it’s really frustrating to lose 2 plat from ganking and be unable to even get to the rift.

Takes all kinds to make a world I guess… I’ll take questing in peace and only fighting players when I CHOOSE to over that. Sometimes I just want to log on and get things done and grow my character’s abilities. My opinion of people who gank, despite my friend, is that they are pathetic creatures who only go for the easy fights where there’s no challenge. Where’s the glory in easy kills? It’s just bullying, and bullies are losers by default or they wouldn’t have to bully to feel anything approaching self-esteem. So I don’t look forward to hitting 50 and ganking them back, because I think ganking is completely stupid in the first place. Give me a GOOD fight!

I’ll really miss a few great people from the PVP shard, but it’s totally worth it. I was beginning to hate logging on, and now I just feel happy and relaxed, eager to level my lowbies, eager to finish up story quests on my main. And I look forward to being able to afford the 125 plat for a level 50 mount instead of losing money every day and being more poor at 50 than I was at 35.

I’m an achievement junkie not an adrenalin junkie I guess… call me a carebear for it if you want. Sometimes you just have to know where you fit in the world. I’m a lover not a fighter, haha. 🙂

The Bard Soul

In Rift, the Bard is a very frustrating class to play, although it has some amazing (and very close to amazingly OP) skills. It has very many abilities none of which can be put in a macro, it requires OCD micromanagement without personal feedback on the effectiveness of your actions, low dps, and it’s been pigeonholed into an unsatisfying support role despite great healing capacity. In PVP someone noticed playing a Bard is focused and has no options for survival unlike a Cleric who can take focus fire and bounce around going lol.

Mouse

No cheese for YOU, bard mouse!

The problem:

Motifs do not provide the Bard with any immediately or long term effects. Everyone else feels their feedback by increased healing or damage that they can actually measure in parses. The Bard can cast the Motifs in any combination they want with zero consequence. They can delay their casting by any duration. They can do them at any time during combat. Essentially, as long as those five abilities are cast every 30 seconds no one will ever notice a difference. The Bard becomes an automaton and is forced to waste five global cooldowns every thirty seconds.

TL:DR

Please redefine Bards as healing plus support, not just support by itself. Make Cadence into an Armor-type spell that allows Motifs to do mediocre amounts of both damage and healing on each cast (give each Motif the same healing and damage as one hit from former Cadence). Shorten duration of Motifs and weave them together to automatically create finishers which do damage OR healing but not both at once like the Motifs do with Cadence on. Low in the Bard tree, have effective single-target healing (but lower dps for Bard splashed souls rather than Bard main souls), then after deep specialization into aoe targeting (Amplification) and healing effectiveness (Music of the Planes), give them secondary raid healer status, with a combat raise at 51 points (Dancing Bones) and a big mass heal on a cooldown (Verse of Perfection).

I think this would keep the spirit of the gameplay that was originally intended for Bards while being fun and effective, eliminating hotbar clutter, as well as giving some synergy for Rogue souls in PVE and PVP at various levels of Bard points. Obviously the numbers would need to be balanced, and the personal dps of the Bard needs to remain low.

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River of Souls (Rift)

(First published Tuesday, April 5, 2011)

Wow a world event just one month after launch? This may pull me away from playing DDO for a while. Really enjoying Rift so far.

It’s a lot like wow (which I hated), and the gameplay is much more boring than DDO, but at the same time there are a ton of little details they got so right I just want to keep playing and exploring. The story is also a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. I mean, time travel, really? But it’s not so bad. Also most of the “kill x to get y” quests are ON THE WAY to the “rescue this npc or fight this boss” quests so you don’t feel so much like you are JUST doing “kill x to get y to level up” like in wow.

I swear the game is giving me ADD tho, I’m trying to do a quest then see a shiny and have to stop for the shiny, then there’s a crafting node, then another, then a rift opens up and oooh have to do the rift… oops yeah I’m supposed to be questing. Ok let’s quest. Ooohshiny! Wait I gotta get this shiny! Oh, another rift opened up, omg an invasion force?

Also I got a twitter now. Go follow me!

Lei ❤