By - July 1, 2014 - 2 Comments

Console Cleric #3: How Diablo III helps D&D

imgresAh, Diablo.  Where you went through 16 dungeon levels killing monsters before entering Hell itself to fight a Prime Evil.  If you read DungeonMastering.com (thank you), then you most likely play or at least come across video games.  Console Cleric was a column that looks at various video titles to see what digital counterparts can add to tabletop sessions.  A long time ago in a column far, far away our controllers took a tour of the Warhammer 40K-based Space Marine, but this time we see how the demonically besieged world of Sanctuary in Diablo III is an idea mine for D&D games.

Diablo III takes place 20 years after a demonic horde from the Burning Hells poured out to rampage.  An omen of a falling star from the skies awakens all the ancient evil.  Now 4 new Heroes drawn from the classes of Barbarians, Demon Hunters, Monks, Witch Doctors, & Wizards- are called upon to adventure together.  Along the way they’ll learn the plot through talking to various NPCs and reading journals while breaking barrels/crates/urns to find more stuff.  Through co-operative gameplay they must kill a ton of enemies who grow in power, loot bodies, upgrade the magic items in their 14 item slots, then fight a boss.  Repeat.

While that may sound like stereotypical D&D, consider the following aspects about Diablo III that might be ported to your tabletop RPG games:

1) Monsters can have 24 traits (special powers) to modify them In Diablo III the baddies can be Fast or Plagued or Vampiric or Molten.  So you could be fighting normal skeletons one screen only to later fight Frozen Skeletons- where they explode in a blast when killed & if you’re nearby your guy could be temporarily iced solid.  Other Diablo traits that might fit well for adding to D&D creatures include Fire Chains (burning links between the monsters), Vortex (reverse knockback, pulling characters towards the monsters), Avenger (killing one only makes the remaining tougher, which stacks), & Waller (creates temporarily barriers to separate the Heroes or trap them).  Once you establish what the modifiers from a Diablo trait are, you can quickly add these improvements to any monster in your game & instantly make it more deadly, err special.

2) Health Globes & Health Potions are helpful, but instantly helpful  In Diablo III health replenishment doesn’t immediately work, as it takes several seconds for the cure to be felt.  Nor can you just drink a bunch of potions all at once; there is a 30 second ‘cool down’ before you can get the benefit again. Consider having there be similar delays in between spells & potions in D&D as immediate HP regeneration isn’t as realistic as there being some time for the body to heal.  Half a minute between being able to drink another potion is 5 rounds but you could adjust this for shorter or longer as you see fit.  However Diablo potions restore a pre-set amount (60%) which if using similar pre-determined various totals for D&D healing would save some dice rolls.

3) Magic Items Sets make magic work better In Diablo III some of the magic items fit a theme, & when you are able to pair 2 or more of the pieces in a set together, they all get additional powers.  So in the Captain Crimson’s Finery set, if you have the Captain’s Satin Sash (belt slot) + the Captain’s Bowspirit (pants slot) you’ll regenerate health.  But if you can later find the Captain’s Whalers (boot slot) you’ll also get a big resistance bonus to all elements to reflect no doubt the the Captain’s legendary experience traveling in every climate.  Now, rules for magic item sets can already be found in WotC’s Magic Item Compendium, but if you haven’t had sets in your games consider giving some sort of modifier to characters- or NPCs- who have multiple similar magiks, maybe these influence each other.  So if you were carrying a Bag of Holding as well as an Efficient Quiver perhaps reaching into one reaches into the other as well; i.e. the extradimensional spaces become linked.  Or you have 2 items which protect against fire.  Their abjuration ‘fuses’ making you even safer versus flames but gradually you start to become more sensitive to cold, to the point where it damages you more.  Get the idea?

4) A fallen Hardcore hero cannot be revived  In Diablo III, there is an optional setting called Hardcore that you can create a character on.  It basically makes your guy mortal rather than semi-Immortal. Normally in Diablo, aka Softcore, when you die you just gradually lose 10% of your magic items’ durability, & only have to pay the blacksmith to repair them when they’re broken to zero.  That’s it.  Moreover each time you do die, you can choose to resurrect by your corpse, at the last checkpoint, or even all the way back in the complete safety of town. Hardcore completely erases this triviality. “You have but one life, eager hero.  If you should die, though your deeds will be remembered, you shall not return again.”  Die, you die.  Game over man, game over.  I could go into why this makes the game awesome, but a guy named Alex Sassoon coby already smartly summed it up in a 2012 piece called “If You’re Not Playing Diablo III Hardcore, You’re Doing It Wrong: Nothing is beautiful and everything hurts; why you should embrace death in the Diablo universe.”  So what if in D&D death was final?  Every deity in every pantheon in your universe no longer grants Resurrection, Raise Dead, or even Reincarnation.  Maybe this is from a mutual agreement or maybe they have somehow lost the power for this power.  Whatever the case, the players learn (perhaps after trying to bring back a follower or other NPC) that this is something which can no longer be done.  Imagine how this would change how death is seen.

Although seeming somewhat like just another button masher, Diablo III has a lot to it.  And I don’t just mean Nightmare Mode, Hell Mode, & Inferno Mode.  Or the 100 Paragon Levels you can advance through after you’ve gotten to Level 60.  Or finding the 4 keys from the Keywardens to build the Infernal Machine for 100,000 gold so you can then “open red portals to special dungeon areas where Ubers, super powered versions of certain quest bosses, must be defeated,” in the hope that they’ll drop a Demonic Organ, which, once you have collected 3, let’s the jeweler build you an infamous end-game item, the Hellfire Ring, for 50,000 gold after Squirt the Peddler has sold him the plans for TWO MILLION GOLD.  {cough}  Or even the ‘secret’ Whimsyshire boardwith it’s clouds and ponies.    The monsters, the maps, & the items have a near endless variety due to the randomization from the game’s engine.  But there are clear formulas for everything & if you spend some time with it, various ideas from Diablo III can really have an impact on your D&D games.

Look into it, maybe even give the game a try, & let us know what you think.

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Written by MythicParty

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  1. Nuntius Gris says:

    I’ve actually found this article very very useful, thank you!
    Specially the “monster-modifiers”, are an excellent idea. If you manage to avoid rule over-complication, those modifiers could easily turn Goblin n°573 into something quite special.
    The item sets idea is also pretty good to make a quest around it, having the PCs trying to find the different pieces based on clues of their locations.

    I’ve never seen Diablo in this perspective. Thanks again!

  1. [... Ah, Diablo.  Where you went through 16 dungeon levels killing monsters before entering Hell itself to fight a Prime Evil.  If you read DungeonMastering.com (thank you), then you most likely ...]

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