Way back in the TorilMUD days… and back before then I am sure… I began to subscribe to the “no empty slots” theory of equipment.
Basically, in your typical RPG/MUD/MMO, your character has a set number of equipment slots. They vary from game to game, but generally correspond to the basics of an armor set. And since anything equipped in one of those slots is likely to add something to your character… a little more armor, or maybe a stat bonus…. there is no reason to leave a slot empty.
In TorilMUD, and especially in equipment impoverished Leuthilspar, where elves and half-elves started, when you were starting out, you would wear anything. For example, there was one good ring you could acquire as a young elf… the pearl ring… which actually boosted your armor by 4. That wasn’t much on the 100 to -100 scale that was used back in the day (100 was a completely unarmored, inert character, while -100 was the best you could get, and they related to the % dice rolled for a hit) but it was something.
However, the pearl ring was coveted because of this, and it only showed up once per boot, so if you didn’t get to the mob carrying it (an elf in town, who would be assisted by guards if they were around, so you had to take care) you were out of luck.
So a lot of us wandered around with another item on in the ring slot, a piece of string. It came from the Goblin’s trash pile in the Faerie Forest.
All the piece of string did was help your save versus paralysis. But that was better than nothing, right? Who knows when you might need that boost to your save! (Realistically, by the time you needed it, you had ditched the string for something else. But you didn’t know that at the time, and had probably forgotten all about that string when you were standing, paralyzed by those vines south of Waterdeep, slowly waiting to die.)
Because that is the way it went… and the way it goes today. First you get some piece of equipment to fill a slot, because something is better than nothing. Then when you find another item for a given slot, it becomes a comparison; is this new thing better? Early on those decisions are usually pretty easy.
Eventually you wind up at higher levels and having to compare the relative merits of one set of stats versus another. In TorilMUD with the melee classes it was always the trade off of +hit versus +damage, or strength versus dexterity versus agility, or armor class versus stats.
In the early days, in TorilMUD or EverQuest or even early World of Warcraft, getting equipment was haphazard early on. Since then the process has been bound to quests. Following the quest chain keeps your armor at an appropriate level and likely even offers up armor that is specifically for your vocation.
But things have essentially remained the same. You get your first piece of equipment for a given slot, then spend your career upgrading it.
What seems to have gone missing somewhere is the equipment with bad stats that off-set some great boost for your class.
From TorilMUD I recall the Polished Bone equipment that had good armor and a boost to strength, but penalized dexterity, which in turn could impact your hit roll. Or the Dolomite armor set that had great armor, but which was very heavy. If you were not maximum strength and playing a strong race (ogres, trolls, or barbarians), the weight of the set would not only eat up your movement points, but could impact your agility to the point that it would start reducing your armor class.
There was a green gemstone earring that was -4 strength, but which granted protection from fire. If you were going to the Plane of Fire or the City of Brass, you often needed to take the strength hit to go to those places.
There were equipment items that covered other slots. There were “whole head” helms that prevented you from wearing something in the face slot, and “whole body” armor pieces that took up the chest, leg, and arm slots and which favored one stat, usually armor class, over all others.
And then there was the dead rat.
Actually, I think it was actually called “a very dead rat.”
This was another item from the Goblin’s trash pile. It was wieldable as a 1h blunt weapon, but had a very low damage roll and had an -10 to hit modifier. So it was a really bad weapon, and heavy to boot a I recall, but a lot of tanks kept one stashed away in his bag for specific situations.
If you were facing a mob that was unbashable and had a damage shield up, that dead rat might save the day. Generally, with a damage shield mob, you waited for the shield to go down and when the mob began casting the spell for the shield, you would knock it down with a bash and keep it down so the shield was not a problem.
But if you could not bash the mob, then there was trouble. Every hit by a melee class on that shield causes damage to the attacker. I have seen hasted rangers kill themselves in a couple of rounds attacking a shielded mob. So you either had to have a magical solution that would protect melee classes from the shield, or you had to kill the mob with ranged attacks only.
However, you still needed a tank. If the tank wielded that dead rat, and maybe shed a bit of hit enhancing gear, you might get by with the tank missing enough that your healer could keep up with the damage.
Not an ideal solution, but the dead rat gave the possibility of an alternative solution.
Do we still have that in MMORPGs today? The item with a bad stat that is useful in certain specific situations?
I realize that with dungeons and raiding that players may favor a given stat or protection, but that is a trade off of one bonus against another. I am looking more for taking a serious hit in order to meet a goal.
Is there a dead rat left to wield in games today?