Since Psychochild pointed out that the terminology used in the title for this series of posts is erroneous, I am open to suggestions as to what to rename this. For the time being, I’ll keep the same title, to maintain continuity.

Inspiration hits you for 10,000 damage. You have died.

I’ve talked before about inspirations – occasions when a crafter gets the seed of an idea for a new item recipe. World of Warcraft has a couple of systems in place which have similar goals: Discoveries in Alchemy, and Research in Inscription.

Discoveries are relatively simple. While crafting any alchemical concoction, the character has a small chance of spontaneously learning a new recipe. It’s simple, and conjures that ‘Eureka!’ moment pretty well. The concept is that, while the player is levelling their skill or creating items for sale or consumption, they have a chance of gaining a new recipe.

Inscription works to the same effect, but is a focused effort. Like it’s name implies, the character is studying the nature of their craft, and learning something new. Unlike discoveries, Inscription Research is a recipe unto itself, with a set of materials that are required to perform. The end result is a new inscription recipe and a few scrolls of some kind – usually the ‘buff’ kind, but sometimes of the type used to place enchantments on to give enchanters a means of creating a product they can sell to others.

Inspirations share a few aspects with these two systems, but would go further and be more elaborate to play a bigger part in the acquisition of new recipes. The discovery system would work well with any of the crafting activities I have mentioned in previous posts: Creating an item, deconstructing an item, repairing an item could all have a chance to trigger an inspiration. I also mentioned that deconstruction could easily be split into two distinct processes: reverse engineering, which would give more experience and a higher chance to gain an inspiration, but less leftover materials, and deconstruction proper, which gives more materials, but less experience and less chance for an inspiration. This gives us the ability to give the player a meaningful choice: what do they want more from this particular item? This expands what we can do with broken and ‘junk’ items, too. Some forms of junk might give inspirations from a table of more generic items, while others might only give one specific inspiration for a specific item – the undamaged version of the item being deconstructed. Thus the player is given an incentive to explore the system, figuring out which action to perform on each type of item they encounter.

In Need of a Fix

On the subject of item repair, if using a system of item decay where maximum durability decreases slightly every time an item is repaired, eventually leading to reforging (essentially heavy duty maintenance that requires materials rather than just a click of a button), we could also give players a higher chance of gaining an inspiration, since reforging would occure less often than regular repairs. Also, this could solve the issue of deconstructing powerful weapons for inspiration: repairing or reforging the weapon would give a chance to get the inspiration to make copies of it, with reforging having a higher chance at generating an inspiration, since it would occur less often. A cost in currency or materials could be applied to each instance of item repair as a money/materials sink, which could also be useful as a means of deterring players from ‘farming’ or ‘grinding’ inspirations by repairing items at 99% durability.

Another thing that could be done with item repair would be to have certain items be unrepairable. Perhaps the basic items a crafter creates, or the ones more likely to be ‘grinded’ would be unrepairable, thus turning them into ‘consumables’ with a limited lifespan. This could also apply to certain items found in the world as drops – to use a WoW example, anything of  white or grey quality could be unrepairable. An associated idea to give crafters another service would be ‘item appraisal’, which would tag an item as ‘appraised’ and give more information on the tooltip. The reason I mention this here is that whether an item can be repaired or not could be part of the ‘hidden’ information that becomes visible in the tooltip. Perhaps a whole subsystem could be implemented using the appraisal mechanic where equipment tooltips only have the barest minimum of information until the item is appraised by a craftsman. Since this would give the craftsman experience, and would require no materials or currency costs, this would be ‘free’ experience that crafters can gain from helping out adventurers, and thus the service could be provided free, or for whatever tip the adventurer cares to give, or for a token fee.

De-deconstruction

Another way to make deconstruction and inspirations play a big part in crafting is to have items deconstruct into components that can also be deconstructed. If you look at diagrams on how swords are made, you will see that the sword isn’t made from one piece, there is the blade itself, with t’s tang, which is wrapped in leather before a pommel or counterweight is attached to the end. Before the pommel, though, the crossguard must be put in place. Depending on the type of sword, there are a number of additional ‘parts’ like inscriptions or filigree on the blade, or the oil used to polish it, the whetstone used to sharpen the edge, and so forth. For baser items, deconstructing could result in a few items of varying quality, from ‘repairable’ to ‘worthless’. A blade might just need sharpening, but the leather wrapping of the grip might have rotted to the point where it must be discarded (the item does not yield it as an item) or can be salvaged to make something else (it can be sold to a vendor or leatherworker Player Character). For more complex, or powerful items – those we don’t want an abundance of in the server – deconstructing might yield a number of parts that need to be deconstructed by other crafters for inspirations. Thus, the creation of a single item can be made into a group effort. Thus, these items would require a lot more effort to make, and would remain relatively rare. Depending on how rare we want to make these items, we can even have some of the materials for the components be gathered from monsters or from specific locations around the world. As a further exploration of this idea, crafters might have to obtain the inspirations for different components of a single item from deconstructing a number of items of the same type: the player might have to deconstruct a number of broken mithril swords to get each of the inspirations required to craft the blade, crossguard, hilt wrapping, and pommel, for example, in the process also gaining the inspiration to put the components together into a new mithril longsword.

Continuing on that train of thought, in the The Burning Crusade expansion for World of Warcraft, blacksmiths learned a series of ‘progressive’ recipes that allowed them to create extremely powerful weapons associated with each of the weaponcrafting specialisations: Swords, Maces, and Axes. Each subsequent recipe in each of the progressions required the weapon from the previous recipe, and additional materials, essentially ‘upgrading’ the crafted weapon into a more powerful form. This idea could be adapted to the inspiration system in two different ways.

The first would entail the crafting of the ‘base’ weapon. This would give a chance to learn the inspiration for the next upgrade of the weapon. Using the example of the mithril longsword, after creating a few of them, the crafter could gain an inspiration to create an engraved mithril longsword, which would require all the materials used in a mithril longsword, and then some. Alternatively, and as a means of giving crafters yet another service to provide, the inspiration would be for the actual action of upgrading a mithril longsword into the engraved mithril longsword. This would then allow the crafter to contact all the players who had purchased the sword from him previously, and offer this new service/product to them. The differences between the two are subtle, but meaningful: in the first case, the crafter now has a means to gain experience while using items he can already craft – essentially, an item that would go into the economy would become a crafting component for this particular craftsman – possibly meaning that he would be in the market to buy other crafters’ mithril longswords, rather than gather the materials to make his own – while in the second the crafter gains another service they can provide, and it allows us to deal with the problems created by Nodrop/Soulbound items – since the process of upgrading would probably use a similar system to that of enchanting in WoW, allowing the crafter to ‘trade’ the service for money while consuming items in their own inventory.

The second way of adapting progressive weapon recipes would be to make the crafting of the different components be the source of the inspiration for additional components. Again, using the example of the mithril longsword, the player crafts a number of mithril blades, and gains an inspiration for an elaborate filligree. After crafting a few of these, and gaining experience from the process, they would eventually gain the inspiration for the recipe that uses the filligree, which is the upgrade to the sword they were making the blades for, but which also uses those same blades, as well as the filligree they had been crafting.

The A-muse-ing Quest

Another means of acquiring inspirations would be to quest for them. The very same repeatable quests that spawned this series of posts, repeatable crafting quests, could easily award a series of crafting recipes for the profession associated with the quest. In fact, doing these crafting quests could be the source for a set of crafting recipes, giving players an additional motivation to start doing the quests in the first place. These recipes would be the basic essentials that all crafters need to start plying their trade independently. The actual process of crafting the widgets that the player must hand in, however, could also be a source of inspirations for new recipes. By having a few different recipes that can be gained from these crafting endeavours, with a limited drop rate, we could create a situation where the player can choose to either keep grinding out the quest in order to gain the new recipes, or choose to move on when the experience is outweighed by the amount of work required to complete the quest. Chances are some players will stick with the quests to get the full set of inspirations available from them, for completion’s sake, while others will go do something else that allows them to gain experience faster.

Perhaps, and borrowing from WoW again, one of the inspirations gained from crafting Turn-In Widgets would be a single-use inspiration to create an item that starts a different crafting quest, which requires the crafting of a different item. This item, when turned in, would complete the quest, which would then unlock another repeatable quest to turn in more of this new item. This could be a way to give crafters a way to keep progressing, while breaking up the monotony of the repeatable Turn-In Widget quest.

Another interesting way of acquiring inspirations would be to read books. These would be found all over the world as ground spawns, and could be picked up by anyone. They would function as books, in that they can be clicked to open them and read the text inside. Certain books, when clicked, would give the character an inspiration, if they had the right profession for that particular book. This would pose the question of whether a single book can impart only a single inspiration, and then self-destructs, or whether more than one person can learn from a single book. If any crafter of the appropriate profession can read the book to get the inspiration, do you pass the book on to your friend after you read it, or do you destroy it in order to try to maintain the rarity of that particular inspiration and your chances of making a profit from it? This is probably an idea I’d like to explore in more depth.

What do you mean, Inspiration?

The process of gaining and applying inspirations could work in several ways. One idea I had was that the player would gain a buff called “Inspired!” or “Eureka!”. While under the effects of this buff, the player would need to acquire a piece of paper, a pen, and ink, and combine them to create the recipe. To this end, I figured the way to go would be to have an introductory quest when the character first learned a profession, the reward for which would be the craftsman’s pen. The ink and paper would then be consumables bought from a vendor (a small money sink). The pen would be the ‘usable item’, which would require that the inspiration buff be on the character to use, with the ink and paper as reagents. This would simulate the process well – the idea being put down on paper and then learned. It also has the advantage that it could be used to expand the inspiration mechanic by allowing for partial inspirations – essentialy chunks of the complete idea, parts of the recipe. These partial inspirations could then be traded around among crafters in order to try to assemble all the parts of a particular recipe. Partial inspirations like this could also be a inter-professional, with the possibility of a blacksmith penning a partial inspiration for a tailor, for example. In a crafting system with some amount of inter-dependency between crafters, partial inspirations would probably make good bartering material. Partial inspirations could either be parts of specific recipe – “The Armadillo’s Hide, part III”, or they could just be combined for a random recipe selected from a set – “Partial Tailoring Recipe: Combine 4 of these to complete a Tailoring recipe.” – The decision would also have to be made whether the recipe created is selected at completely at random, or whether concessions are made towards the player – recipes they already know will not be generated by combining the partials.

Craftsman’s Log, Supplemental

Rather than having a bunch of look-alike items in the character’s inventory, however, inspirations could also work as a form of ‘Crafting Quest Log’. When the character gains an inspiration, it is entered into their Crafter’s Log, with a series of instructions that must be followed. When the instructions are completed, the inspiration disappears from the log and the new recipe is automatically learned. This would have the advantage that it could take the place of a questing system for crafters, and allow for content creators to give crafters all kinds of crazy things to do in order to learn new recipes. The disadvantage over the first system is that it doesn’t create anything tangible for players to mess around, trade, or barter with.

Perhaps a combination of the two would be possible, with different inspirations giving one type of inspiration or the other. Or perhaps the process of penning down the inspiration is what opens up the ‘quest’ in the log. It would probably be a matter of how involved the system is meant to be.

In the next post in the series, I will cover the actual process of crafting items.

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