Wielding The Dead Rat

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.

No exit on this map

The Goblin is down south

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.

Have shovel, want mallet!

Have shovel, want mallet!

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?

12 thoughts on “Wielding The Dead Rat

  1. saucelah

    No. I think it would blow minds. I really miss that kind of choice from my tabletop days, something with an irresistible bonus and a near-crippling weakness makes for interesting play.

    But MMOs will never be the replacement for tabletop games that I wanted them to be. Not any time soon at least.


  2. bhagpuss

    I struggle to remember the last MMO I played where I felt it made the blindest bit of difference what armor or weapons I used. Possibly Vanguard five years ago although even there I’m not sure it really mattered.

    For my playstyle, which generally doesn’t include any raiding and little at-level dungeon-grouping, I never need to do more than put on whatever drops along the way to max level. I don’t like linear quests so I rarely follow the core storyline and therefore don’t even have that basic level of gear. It’s by no means uncommon for me to notice at level 20 or so that I still have starter gear in some slots and nothing at all in others.

    It seems to make very little difference and hasn’t for years. I was playing my Level 80 GW2 Warrior a couple of days ago when an item dropped that I thought might be an upgrade, which gave me cause to look at what she was wearing. At level 80, most of her gear was between levels 50 -70, much of it Green (second-lowest useful level). I hadn’t noticed because leveling her up had been fast, fun and easy.

    I wish we could go back to the days of early EQ, when I would spend hours killing Orc Pawns just to get a set of no-stat, minimum armor class, does-not-display Cloth armor. For my plate-wearing cleric. When I would chase down every Decaying Skeleton waving a sick in case it might be the coveted Cracked Staff, a 1HB weapon slightly better than a stick of celery. Or when I counted myself lucky, very lucky, to have a Flame Beetle Eye in my ranged slot because it cast a dim glow. Nothing else, just that.

    Bring back the days when what you wore and wielded mattered. When even a minimal upgrade made a perceptible difference and a good upgrade could be literally game-changing.


  3. Jenks

    MMOs have evolved to remove all choice from the player to streamline the experience into exactly what the developer has planned. Nowadays, if the developer didn’t specifically think of using the rat to keep agro, you’d probably get banned for exploiting instead of lauded for creativity. Dark times, full of bureaucrats.


  4. Zenver

    EVE. I think that’s the only mmo people do clever things in anymore. Not that I have much experience with other mmos.


  5. Gorbag

    Resist sets fit in this category, I think – two ways, since they also no longer exist. Tank gearing is very much a trade-off, though – HP vs mastery vs avoidance vs mitigation, and different bosses calling for different mixes of stats. Healing, too, has a throughput vs regen balance. No big red — stats though, more’s the shame. Given our access to information in the modern gaming era, such things might be difficult to balance; too good and everybody uses one, not good enough and noone does.


  6. Matt

    Well, if in WoW there were a dead rat, someone would inevitably figure out how to one-shot disc priests or something with it, meaning it would be nerfed into complete uselessness eventually. Balance in general tends to mean that multiplayer games don’t have as many items like this, while in single player games they are all over the place.


  7. SynCaine

    Darkfall sorta has this.

    For instance, daggers have the highest DPS of any weapon, but have the lowest reach, making them terrible for PvP (unless your target can’t run because they are blocked inside your house or in a Wall of Force). They were decent in PvE vs mobs that did not run around much, but again, this can be tricky.

    Two of the top-end staffs different in casting speed; one was fast, one was slow. For insta-cast spells, the slow was best due to its higher damage mod. For most others, the faster was better in PvP, but again “it depends” comes into play.


  8. mbp

    There was a butter knife that was very popular in Lotro for Champions to use when interrupting bosses with Clobber. The butter knife was fast but had very low damage so the normally high damage Champ could keep interrupting the boss without any risk of stealing aggro.


  9. Prki

    In GW 1, i dont remember clearly, but the point was to lower your health as much as possible (55 Monks), so you can survive soloing wit some kind of buff which kept damage at percentege of total health…
    You would wear armour with – health or something…


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