Role-playing [was Re: several messages]

Matt Chatterley root at
Sun May 11 21:40:52 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

On Sun, 11 May 1997, Adam Wiggins wrote:

> This is an interesting question, and I think one that any potential imp
> should ask themselves before embarking on creating a role-playing game.

It's a very interesting question, and linked to some fairly
'controversial' issues. :)

It's also very important that you define your boundaries when creating a
role-playing based game, because there are many types of 'role-playing'.
To me, it can range from simply being 'in-character' in terms of how
things work (a thief character is expected to steal more than kill, and
the opposite for a warrior type character, for instance), to something
more 'hard core' like a game (such as one of the WoD muds) where the sole
aim is to role-play a quite complex character in detail, and everything
happens through role-play methods (often little is automated in any way),
and there is a clear break between in and out of character.

> My personal belief is that role-playing is something that should occur
> naturally, just a part of playing the game, rather than being a seperate
> element that is upheld strictly on the part of a player sitting behind a
> keyboard.  That is, I see people discussing 'enforcement' of role-playing
> all the time.  Huh?  The very idea is ludicrous.  More commonly I see people
> trying to 'encourage' role-playing by creating external rewards, ie wizinvis
> immortals giving out RP "points" (gag).  These people are missing the
> point.  It's a game, people do it for fun, so they are going to do whatever
> is fun and natural in a given game.  If RP is not a fundamental part of the
> way the game is played, it's never going to be given its due, regardless of
> what the admin or a few zealous players may try.  This is the reason people
> RP in pen-and-paper sessions - because that's the point of the game.  If
> you didn't RP, it would be nothing more than a bunch of people sitting around
> rolling dice for no particular reason.  (The numbers/combat mechanics in
> most pen and paper RPGs just aren't interesting enough to make it an end
> in itself.)  I think MUSHes fall into this same category - the only people
> they attract are those interested in some serious role-playing.  There's
> just no other reason to play them.  Dikus have their powerbuilding, LPs
> their puzzlesolving and guilds, YaMUD its artifact-creation, and so forth -
> these have other reasons to play besides RP, so players may or may not RP
> depending on how the game is set up.

There are certainly stereotypes attached to code-bases yes, and you'll
tend to get players expecting those stereotypes, initially. Theres no base
which is 'suited' most to anything (in theory.. although technical details
as to doing certain things make it so), if it's well built by the admin.

There are certainly 'hard core' roleplaying games set on LP bases, and
less RP orientated MUSH-based projects out there.

In general, I think that 'forcing' RP and in some cases 'ICness' too much,
artificially is a very bad thing, though, and agree with you. :)

> In addition, people like to categorize people in hard and fast molds.  The
> two most common are the role-player and the power-mudder.  When admin/imp
> type people get talking about players on the r.g.mud groups, they like to
> talk about ways you can attract the first sort of player and how to get
> rid of the second one.  The truth of the matter is that the lines are far more
> blurred.  People simply adapt to the environment they are in.  One of
> my old roommates was a power-mudder extrodinaire (he introduced me to muds,
> in fact) - he'd log onto a mud and 'beat' it without a matter of days by
> playing the numbers.  Yet this same person can role-play as well as anyone
> I've ever seen when we'd play GURPs or Runequest, and I sat there and watched
> him spend two weeks writing up a character history for a MUSH he wanted to
> play.  I'm the same way - I role-play when it's fun, and power-play when
> that's fun.

Stereotypes and stereocharacterisation are very nasty things indeed. :)
Amongst some of the less enlightened MUSHers are theories that all people
who play LPmuds or Dikus are "twinks" who won't be able to RP properly. Of
course this is rubbish. There are exceptions to all sides of such
situations. Although people will often be into one type of game, and stick
with it (hence the 'powermudder' and so forth labels), there are those who
play many different kinds of games and like the variety. :)

> Given that, then, you only need to decide a) what's the focus of my game,
> and b) how am I going to achieve that?  Chris L., for example, seems
> to have decided that he's interested in a strategic game which flexes your
> intellect more than your creativety.  For him to expect his players to
> role-play is probably pretty silly.  Nathan, on the other hand, is creating
> a game which reads like a piece of sci-fi fiction which allows the players to
> direct the action as they see fit.  It would probably be nearly impossible
> to play his game and *not* role-play.

Quite right! The atmosphere of the game itself must be conductive to the
sort of activity you wish to take place. Thrusting weapons at people and
presenting them with a huge amount of things to mindlessly kill will
encourage mindless killing, and so forth.

> The project I'm working on is probably somewhere inbetween these; I have my
> roots in diku and computer RPGs where the point of the game is character
> development (mainly aquiring and practising skills and spells), but we're
> also working to make the game have a lot of mood and flavor.

Good luck. I'm somewhat of the same way - LP (MudOS) is my favourite
server, but I've been a D&D fan for quite some time (no arguments over
whether the D&D rules suck or not, please <g> It proved the base for quite
a good home-grown system, a lot less mechanical, and a lot more fun), and
I'm trying to work my game into something that you have to think about to
play. While it might be somewhat 'adventure' orientated, and can involve
hacking things up, you'll find the degree of 'hack/slash' depends on your
character.. warriors fight more, thieves fight less, and so forth.

> We've strived to put in a lot of things that make the game seem different
> depending upon what character you're playing.  I think I've already mentioned
> the example of:

<g> I just said this above, we're thinking on similar lines, I think.
> [big dumb ogre types 'look':]
> You see here a big pile of coins.
> [human types 'look':]
> You see here several hundred coins.
> [Rain Man types 'look':]
> You see here 327 coins, one of which has a small scratch on its underside.

Yeah, basically 'details' which make the environment seem more realistic,
and more consistant.
> More pratical stuff for player involvement involves simple size issues (those
> jhaa'rdk are *constantly* hitting their heads when walking through human
> cities), intelligence (it's frequently easier for a minotaur to rip a door
> of its hinges than try to figure out how to work the knob), racial balance
> (your dwarf walks into the dwarven keen and is warmly greeted, his wounds
> tended to, and given a hot meal...whereas he walks into the elven city and
> everyone gives him the cold shoulder), character creation which gets the
> player involved (like the lifepath stuff we dicussed last month), religions
> which are actually different instead of just a different set of prayers
> for clerics to use, and so on.

<g> Some of this stuff (reaction of NPCs to the race of the PC, religion,
and so forth) are hot topics on the mailing list my wizards use, at the
moment. It's the sort of stuff we want well beaten out to really add
something to the game, rather than being hollow.

> Part of the trick, I think, is just making sure that you and anyone else
> who is working with you has a clear vision of the driving purpose(s) behind
> the game (that is, what makes this game fun?), and then makes sure that
> every element somehow contributes to that.  If you're going the mood/role-
> playing route, then you should make sure that all the numbers are hidden
> enough that the players don't have to worry about it; they can just play
> their characters as they should, and things will work as expected; rather
> than, "Gee, I'm suddenly hitting a lot harder.  Oh, it must be because that
> last point of strength put me over a breakpoint of damroll."  If you're
> doing a power-playing/strategic game, then the mechanics should be clear
> enough that the players can get clear data about the situation and then
> apply strategic knowledge.  (This doesn't necessarily translate to showing
> numbers, although frequently numbers are just easier all around.)  I've
> seen far too many power-playing muds try to 'go role-play' by hiding a few
> numbers.  All this does is frustrate the players, since they can't play
> the game effectively anymore.

Well observed.

To clarify a little upon the inital question, and strike into one popular
issue in more detail:

If you have a 'hard core' roleplaying game, and roleplay just isn't
happening as you'd like it, how can you direct it? Should you drop hints
or clues in some form, hoping that a good player might spark things up, or
direct things subtly by use of an admin-run NPC?

	-Matt Chatterley
"Fishing is complete and utter madness."  -Spike Milligan

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