Sorry guys, angry rant time. It seems I’m always reading things that piss me off.

I’ll say this up front: I didn’t read the article. The one that I’m kind-of-but-tehcnically-not ranting about. This is actually a game design rant, and it’s some thing pretty close to home, hence the rant. I get the EN World newsletter and I like it, but I’m always reading things that piss me off — and this time, I blame Wizards of the Coast.

Now, the words themselves might have been from the newsletter-writer himself, or they might have been quoted or paraphrased from the designers over at WotC but for the purpose of this rant, I’m going to assume that whoever said them knew (or thought they knew) what they were talking about. First, a skill monkey isn’t a character.

I’ll say it again. A skill monkey is not a character. They aren’t a character type, either. You know what a skill monkey is? They’re a key ring. They carry the fabled Keys of Plot Advancement. They are a relic, an artifact of the past, and they need to die in a fire. Horribly. Multiple times. Because of what they represent.

Is the door locked? Call the skill monkey. Is there a trap? Call the skill monkey. Need to bribe someone? Call the skill monkey. Need someone to scout ahead? Call the skill monkey. You know what the skill monkey represents? Really poor creative-slash-game design. Why do you have one person you turn to for everything-not-combat?

More to the point, why do you ever have a situation where only one character is relevant to its solution? Chew on that for a minute. No really, take a full minute. CHEW ON IT. Why would you EVER create a situation where only one character (or in the case of overlap, two or more), is relevant to the solution?

Two words: Bad. Design.

Every character should always be relevant. That’s where you need to start. In fact, you need to excise the very concept of “role protection” or whatever that jazz is supposed to be about. There is no skill monkey. There is no healer. There is no tank, and no DPS. Kill the concepts. Expose them to the wild. LET THEM DIE.

You know what they really are? Player choices. When a player just wants to relax and play it safe, they heal instead of wading into combat. When they want to get hand-on and solve a problem, they wade in and start fiddling with things. When they want to make more money (sure, we all do!), they enroll in a technical school.

This is especially important in solo games.

Now, you probably aren’t thinking about solo games, and that’s okay. Most people don’t. Lots of people need a group to feel secure in their nerdiness, and that’s okay. Sometimes, you want to be nerdy with just one friend, and that’s okay too. Sometimes you want to be nerdy by yourself. All are equal. No one is nerdier than another.

But what works well for one can work well for another, and it makes more sense when you think about the classic problems in cooperative games. If someone doesn’t want to participate, that’s their choice. But don’t enforce non-participation. It’s short-sighted. Narrow-minded. Old. Broken. Generally a bad idea. In a word: stupid.

Okay, done ranting. You can go about your business.