[MUD-Dev] Character development [was Re: ]

Travis S. Casey efindel at io.com
Thu Apr 9 08:16:07 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On Wed, 8 Apr 1998, J C Lawrence wrote:
> Travis Casey<efindel at polaris.net> wrote:
> > I know... it's been a while since this was posted.  I've been
> > working two jobs and my wife is pregnant, so I haven't had time to
> > reply to any interesting mail in a while...
> Congratulations!  First kid?

Yep... we practiced parenting on our two cats first.  We're expecting
our new arrival at the end of August, and have no plans to find out
the baby's sex until it's born.

> > On Monday, 23 March 98, J wrote:
> Could you make sure you get a bit more compleat attribution than just
> the first initial please?

Whoops... I'm not sure how that happened.  My mail software is usually
better than that.

> >> Character development is fundamental to the concept and definition
> >> of a MUD.  The only variation in application of this definition
> >> between games like Tron, and say LambdaMOO, Duris, Sojourn, MUD2,
> >> etc, is that the character development occurs solely in the human
> >> player for the former, and partially in the virtual character for
> >> the others.  This creates a scale of development locale with some
> >> MUDs having the balance of their character development in the human
> >> player, and some almost utterly in the virtual character.
> > It should further be noted that "character development" doesn't have
> > to mean "an increase in character power."  It could mean *any* kind
> > of change to a character, including personality development.  For
> > that matter, character development could include a *weakening* of a
> > character in some way -- although most mud players would probably
> > not enjoy playing in a mud where their characters get weaker with
> > time.
> True.  An idea I've been playing with for a while now for more
> "typical: MUDS is the idea that the character as a net whole never
> changes, but that the balance of allocation of stats changes.

If you want more traditional advancement, but don't want characters to
grow too powerful, you could combine this with a slow "growth" system.
This would keep characters from getting powerful too quickly, but also
give the players the ability to rearrange their characters over time
to adapt (e.g., if the player discovers that they'd like the character
to have more capabilities with magic, the player can sacrifice some of
the character's other capabilities to gain them).

A few random thoughts on character advancement/generation... 

Some paper RPers prefer to develop characters in play rather than 
generating them at the start.  The idea is that the player may not
know enough about the gameworld when the game starts to be able to
generate exactly the kind of character he/she would want.  Thus,
some aspects of character generation are delayed.

A more concrete example of this is to give the players the ability
to "hold back" a few attribute/skill/whatever points and assign them
when they want to.

Of course, some muds already use a variation on this sort of system --
allowing players to choose such things as guilds after their characters
have entered play.

Skill decay has been mentioned here before, I believe, but since we're
on the subject of advancement... the idea behind skill decay is that if
you don't practice something for a while, you start to lose your ability
at it.  The paper RPG Harnmaster requires players to spend advancement
points on maintaining skills, or else they will decay.  On a mud, it's
fairly simple to keep track of how long it's been since the last time a
skill was used or its value checked and adjust it downward based on that.

Of course, you may wish to have different skills decay at varying rates,
and there's also the issue of whether it should be easier to relearn a
skill that you used to have.  Something that's been noted on the RPG
groups recently is that skills rarely seem to decay all the way back to
zero -- for example, I recently started riding bicycles again, and had
no problems with mounting, stopping, keeping my balance, etc., but I
can't do wheelies, jumps, balance on it for a long time without moving,
etc. like I could when I used to ride bikes.

One possibility with skill decay is to have decay be the reverse of
gaining a skill -- skill advancement is normally easy at low skill levels
and gets harder as you advance.  Skills should decay quickly at high
levels (a world-class anything pretty much has to practice every day to
stay in top form) and more slowly at low levels.

Some paper RPGs have set limits on how much a character can know; AD&D
with the limit on "spells known" for mages; The Fantasy Trip, which 
limited the number of skills a character could have to his/her
intelligence score, and others.  The Fantasy Trip allowed characters to
forget skills in a couple of ways so that others could be learned, but
none of those ways were easy.

An alternative to class systems that I've come across recently is an
aptitude system.  When a character is created, the player can divide
up a few points among various aptitudes that the character can have.
For example, in a traditional fantasy game, the aptitudes might go
along the lines of the traditional classes:  combat, magic, religion,
and stealth.  All characters get a default aptitude of 1 in each category,
and are given 4 extra points to divide up among the aptitudes.  Thus,
you could put all 4 into combat and leave the others at 1, or you could
go for being a generalist and make them all be 2.

When a character applies advancement points to a skill, the points are
multiplied by his/her aptitude in the area the skill falls under.  This
allows a warrior-type to learn magical skills -- he just has to spend
more points to do so.

Last thought -- traditionally, players choose their characters attributes
and classes/skills separately, although possibly within certain limits.
(E.g., you must have at least X strength to be a warrior.)  An alternative
possibility is to have skills/classes/aptitudes/whatever give attribute
points.  The attributes would then be at least partially pre-set for each
character -- the player wouldn't have to worry about any minimums, since
the character would already meet them.

I think that's enough rambling for now... if people are interested in
these sorts of ideas, say so and I'll see what else I can scrape up out
of my memory.

       |\      _,,,---,,_        Travis S. Casey  <efindel at io.com>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'  Keeper of the rec.games.design FAQ:
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