Playing Drox has started me thinking about DoP again and its covenant system. This system was a lot more limited (obviously) but it also had its charm. I started thinking about what the basis for a balance mod would be. I see 2 big exploits in DoP:
1. The player gate, which can be opened at any time, at any location (almost), and used as many times as the player wishes. This is a problem because... well, because you can't balance a game this way. It encourages a strategy of opening a gate next to any challenge, then going back and forth to get supplies or to recharge your health. No enemy can be really too strong, because you always have the option of whittling down their health slowly as you teleport straight to their location.
2. The option to trade your stuff with other covenants no matter where you are. First of all, covenants don't know how to say no to items they don't want. You can see that they don't want some items because if you ask them to pick something they want, they won't choose some items. But offer them the item and click on "what would make this possible?" and they'll always name a price. Why is this such a problem? For one thing, it allows you to manipulate covenants with all sorts of tricks. For another, it means that you effectively have near-infinite inventory. You can almost always sell your items to the covenants, which both raises your reputation with them and gets you a steady stream of gold. Why go back to the trader (except for the crappiest items that don't even show up on the trading screen) when you can just trade with the covenants so effortlessly at any time and clear space in your inventory?
For 1, I considered removing the gate stone altogether. However, that would be a problem, especially for underground areas to/from which you cannot teleport via area gates. But then I found this awesome command that allowed me to make it such that you can create town portals only in dungeons and within the town itself (for shortcuts) but not in the outside world. I think this makes a lot of sense -- there was never that much of a reason to have the town portal in the first place. Just having the infinite town portal as an option means that if you don't abuse it, it's your own fault if you start lagging behind. So I think this is a fairly elegant solution, and it also gives more 'depth' (pardon the pun) to dungeons, which can now be explored relatively more easily than outside areas.
For point 2, I wanted to make it such that you can do anything but give your items to factions unless you're back in Jorvik. I didn't manage to do that, so at one point I took away the ability to offer items at all. Eventually though I settled on allowing item selling to covenants, but only if they want the items. You can't click the items to offer them to covenants -- they're too braindead to say no. But you can give items by asking the covenant what they would like. I think this is a decent compromise given what I can do with the modding tools.
These 2 changes serve as a pretty good starting point for a balance mod. There has to be some standard and limits to balance against, and if you can teleport back and forth, and effortlessly sell all items, it removes those limits. Anyway, I'm not saying I'll actually proceed with the balance mod at this point. I was just interested in trying these things out in an experimental fashion. Let me know what you think of these changes.
Grab it here.