A lot of threads about specific gameplay elements have tended to gravitate toward contention about these two issues:
1) “What are the differences in gameplay between the original Fallout and Fallout 3?”
2) “Do the gameplay differences mean that Fallout 3 should not be considered a sequel?”
I think these questions deserve their own thread.
Moreover, the first question shouldn’t be ignored; if you believe the differences are too great, it would be more interesting to know what you think the differences are, than just to have lots of sound and fury that doesn’t address the specifics.
Typically when posters mention PnP gaming, it’s in the context of a claim that we’ve abandoned pencil-and-paper gameplay. It seems like even many “Bethesda supporters” have come to accept that idea as a given.
With, as ever, the caveat that I’m speaking for myself, not for the whole company: I don’t take that as a given at all. And I would encourage everyone, fans and detractors alike, to be more skeptical about that claim.
There are a lot of very familiar arguments surrounding the subject of PnP; inevitably, they will emerge here. If no one else wants to take them on as they present themselves, I think I could give it a go. Time permitting, naturally.
I want to point out something potentially surprising, which you (meaning anyone who’s reading this) might not have considered before:
You have never played an RPG where all relevant character stats were determined solely by character skill and not player skill — and, moreover, you wouldn’t want to.
How can I make such an audacious claim? Well, let’s momentarily consider a stat like Strength. In a purely stat-driven game, whenever you want your character to do anything strength-dependent — whether bashing a door open, lifting a huge weight, smiting a foe, etc. — there are formulas that take your character strength into account. It doesn’t matter whether you, the player, are a wimp or a musclebound powerhouse: every time your character needs to use his or her muscles, the only thing you as the player are doing is rolling the dice.
Now, imagine how a PnP game would work if Intelligence worked the same way.
Every time you wanted your character to take some action that relies on using his or her brain, the only thing you as the player would do is roll the dice. No fair using your own intelligence! No choosing where to move, or whom to attack. No choosing who to talk to, or what to say — indeed, no choosing anything, because making choices is a function of intellect. To put it succinctly: if your character’s intelligence were governed solely by statistics, your character would be an NPC.
Obviously, that’s not how it works. In any PnP game with an Intelligence stat, a character’s effective intelligence is a blend of the character stat, and the player’s real-world intelligence. Furthermore, that blending is absolutely foundational to PnP gameplay. (And if anything, it’s the player’s intelligence that dominates; a PnP player makes free choices much more often than making INT rolls.)
My point is simply this: The hybrid nature of character intelligence means that it’s not, and never has been, a question of whether it’s valid for a “true” pen-and-paper game to allow a hybridization of player and character skills. It’s only a question of which skills are valid to hybridize, and to what extent.
(EDIT — two quick side notes:
First, when playing a PnP game, you can and should allow your character’s intelligence to inform your decisions about how to role-play that character’s actions and dialogue — but this is a function of player choice, not a function of character skill. The original Fallout actually “out-PnP’d PnP itself” with the low-INT dialogue, but it still didn’t oblige you to make idiotic decisions in other contexts, e.g. combat.
Second, if you’ve played a PnP game that doesn’t have an Intelligence-type stat, then I admit it could be fair to say you’ve played an RPG where all stats were determined solely by character skill and not player skill. On the other hand it might be equally fair to say that its designers didn’t include INT because they acknowledged that character intelligence is governed primarily by player intelligence.)
I’ll make it shorter:
Some people claim that “true PnP” requires “character skill” to be completely free from the influence of “player skill.”
The point is that this claim is not true — not even remotely true — for character intelligence.
Every time you make any kind of decision for your character, your character’s intelligence is not only influenced by player intelligence, but in fact dominated by it.
This is not my experience on the Fallout series of classic RPGs, but does he have a point anyway? Time to discuss.