J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Wed Apr 8 15:43:01 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

Largely I'm going to play devils advocate here. 

On Sat, 4 Apr 1998 13:21:19 PST8PDT 
maddog <maddog at best.com> wrote:

> Lately I've been thinking again about the virtuality of virtual
> characters.  A few years ago I posted to rgm.something about having
> transportable characters, i.e. characters that could roam from mud
> to mud and essentially be the same character.  At the time I was
> looking at muds as a traveler might, such as Dr Who.  I think only
> two people liked the idea, me and someone who wouldn't publicly
> admit it.

Its been a long discussed theme, all the way back from the time of
Ranum's portals back in the '80's (see the MUD FAQ's).

> So of course now I'm thinking in terms of virtual virtual
> characters.  Partly, its because I've had an email conversion with
> the creator of the Window-- a generic RPG and some other material
> that I've been looking at.  And partly because I like to try out new
> ideas but I don't want to rebuild big chucks of work.  It's the same
> sort of idea that drove GURPS, RIFTS, and FUDGE.  Now I'm thinking
> in terms of GRUMPS (GeneRic Universal Mud Playing Syste.  One
> advantage to creating GRUMPS is that anything could be converted to
> GRUMPS, or GRUMPS converted to anything.

The first problem is that any such system is based on a core set of
mechanical assumptions -- and of course they do not translate to
systems which don't use those assumptions, or which base on (entirely)
different sets of principles.

Next up, given a set of systems which allow conversions between them,
say, A, B, C, and D, it is going to be difficult (if not impossible)
to do such convserions without data loss (A->B->C->D->X where X is
_not_ A, and worse when X translates to B etc he is different yet
again in a new series of oddities) without requiring the base models
(if not the systems themselves) of each of the systems to be

All of this can of course be worked around -- but it will be at the
cost of a large degree of homogeneity in all the supporting systems.
Is that cost worth it?  Is it worth it this early in the field's
development?  I would argue that the field and the technology (tightly
coupled) are not rich enough to support such standardisation moves

> The pencil-and-paper people (yes, real people made of
> pencil-and-paper, it's amazing technology), have conversion charts
> to do essentially that. But in a MUD I could use GRUMPS to build a
> horde of things and just work with GRUMPS, or have my things go
> through a GRUMPS->something converter and I could enter a world
> based on the new system.

There are obvious problems with attempting to translate physical
objects between systems:

  Bubba has a gold coin.  It is not worth much in world/game A.  He
portals to world/game B.  Gold is incredibly rare and valuable there.
Bubba is instantly as rich as Croecus.  Bubba does the standard
arbitrage trick and repeats the trip, this time with a wagon full of

  Okay, you could diminish the gold repsective to its value in the
relative worlds.  But his is a mock solution as the value may be
multiplexed or otherwise complex (the valued items are the steel nails
holding the ship together (ignore the possibility of wooden pegs)).

  Bubba has the same gold coin, and this time travels to world/game C
which takes place undersea with fish-like bodies.  Gold there is a
powerful toxin.  The gold is rapidly eroded by the acidic water and
everybody dies...

Thus your virtual characters -- BUT the same problem exists if the
translations are done for mechanical factors:

  Bubba originates from a high gravity world, wanders off to a
low-grav world and suddenly finds that he can whup Tiamat using only
his left nostril.  

Okay, so you scale strength and the rest of it per the standards of
the old and new world:

  Bubba is a rougueish over-muscled barbarian old fart.  He's not the
fastest or strongest on the block, but his supplemental stats largely
ensure that he always comes out of the cauldron alive.  (Translation:
extremely high experience based stats).  Bubba moves to a new world.
His various stats are scaled appropriately so that he is still an
over-muscled old-fart.  However the new world is entirely based on
puzzle solving, not brute force so his old experience stats count for 
naught.  Or do they?  Should they be scaled appropriately, or should
he be the babe-in-the-woods?

Whichever side you pick of the last one you're going to be wrong some
of the time.  

> If you have such an engine or have the energy to help develop one or
> at least have one or two darn good ideas about it, send me email
> frankc at maddog.com. Or visit me at blackrabbit.mudservices.com 1150
> where I'm currently working on "Toxic Springs" based on Waste World
> from Manticore Productions Limited.  (its a freebie project and
> should take me about 23 years to complete).

If there is sufficient interest in this I'd have no problem hosting a
list for this and web archiving it in a similar manner to wot MUD-Dev
will be (yes, yes, it is coming).

J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

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