[MUD-Dev] Re: Leaving characters in play

Adam Wiggins adam at angel.com
Tue May 26 15:54:52 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On Sun, 17 May 1998, Travis S. Casey wrote:
> On Friday, 15 May 98, J C Lawrence wrote:
> > It is this point which ghas persuaded me to almost entirely move away
> > from round based combat.  I refuse to place the entire game and all
> > players on a pacing clock (humans shall not wait for machines), but
> > not using a global clock while using usably long combat rounds opens
> > the combat system for all sorts of interesting abuse due to the
> > inconsistant time scales.
> In true round-based combat, as used in the paper RPGs which created
> the term, there is no pacing clock.  Humans aren't waiting for
> machines -- they're waiting for other humans.
> I'd call what most muds use timer-based combat -- there's a timer
> which determines how often automatic combat routines are performed,
> and which thereby places limits on how slow someone can be and still
> get their action in this turn, and sometimes on how often one can
> enter a command.
> A true round-based combat system is difficult to implement on a mud
> for one reason:  there's no easy way to tell if a player is still
> there or not.  In a paper RPG, if a player has to get up and go to the
> bathroom, the other players and the GM will definitely notice that
> the player is leaving, and can then either choose to wait or to have
> someone else decide what that PC will do while the player is gone.  On
> a mud, it's not that simple.
> It would be easy to add an "auto" command for players who have to go
> for a few minutes but want to stay in the fight -- "auto" would tell
> the game to autopilot your character.  When you returned, entering any
> command would take your character off autopilot.
> The problem then becomes one with careless players or players who are
> suffering extreme lag or lose their connection.  A lost connection isn't
> too hard to handle -- many muds already have methods for handling
> them.  However, to handle the other two cases, there needs to be some
> kind of timeout -- if a reasonably long time goes by without a certain
> player entering a command, then the mud would need to either put that
> character on autopilot or handle it like a lost connection.
> This eliminates (or at least seriously reduces) the advantage to "fast
> twitch" players, those who use scripting, and those who can type fast.

I would postulate that this is the method already in use by most muds.
You get combat rounds, during which the default action is "swing".  No
input (either because you're a slow typist, or you're lagging, or more
likely just don't want to do anything different) means continue to do
that.  Typically using different skills and spells forces you to "give up"
that blow; ie, you cast a spell, so you don't swing; you decide to do some
defensive action (dodge, parry) so you don't swing or have a reduced
chance to swing; or you use an offensive skill such as tackle, headbutt,
kick, breathe fire, or whatever that goes in place of your swing.
There are two problems.  One is that the rounds are very short; on the
order of three seconds.  I usually think two to three rounds in
advance in this case, and pre-type all my commands.  I think ahead
further if there is signifigant lag.  Second is that many or even most of
the combat commands you issue happen somewhat independantly of the combat
round, especially on the cheesier (read: closer to a stock codebase) mud.
Like so:

% attack bubba
You swing your staff at Bubba, which he dodges.
Bubba swings his sword at you, cutting your arm.
You swing your staff at Bubba, which he dodges.
% cast 'death-o-matic'
You cast the death-o-matic spell at Bubba.
Bubba is dead!

Spellcasting occurs outside the timeframe of combat.  To be consistent, it
should behave like so:

Bubba swings his sword at you, cutting your arm.
You swing your staff at Bubba, which he dodges.
% cast 'death-o-matic'
You raise your arms and prepare to cast the death-o-matic spell.
Bubba swings his sword at you, cutting your thigh.
You cast the death-o-matic spell at Bubba.

One could assume that by making the combat rounds take longer in RL time
but by increasing the number of things that happen during them, as well as
queuing the combatant's commands until combat unfolds, would be an
easy-to-make improvement on this existing system, without necessarily
getting into combat points or other more complicated order-based systems.

% attack bubba
You engage Bubba in combat.
% cast 'death-o-matic'
You will cast death-o-matic at Bubba next round.
Combat commences!
Bubba swings his sword at you, cutting your arm.
You fumble the death-o-matic spell.
Bubba swings his sword at you, cutting your thigh.
Round finished.

> Every character has three stats related to damage:  Resilience, Size,
> and Accumulated Damage.  When a blow is suffered, the character makes a
> check on Resilience against the amount of Accumulated Damage he/she had
> *before* the blow landed.  If the check is failed, the character dies.
> If the check succeeds, the character adds the amount of damage taken
> to his/her Accumulated Damage.  However, each character has a limit to
> how much Accumulated Damage he/she can take:  Resilience multiplied by
> Size.  If Accumulated Damage passes this point, the character dies,
> even if he/she did not fail a check.
> Features of this system:
>   - The chance of death, barring massive amounts of damage, depends on
>     what Accumulated Damage was *before* the blow.  Hence, you can
>     better control how likely someone is to die from a first blow.

*And* it gets rid of the problem of people failing to kill someone that's
lying on the ground bleeding.  How many times have I, as a newbie on some
silly new mud, seen the following:

You tickle the rabbit with your shortsword.
The rabbit is mortally wounded and about to die.
You miss the rabbit with your newbie sword.
The rabbit is mortally wounded and about to die.
You tickle the rabbit with your shortsword.
The rabbit is mortally wounded and about to die.
% quit

>   - Beyond a possible initial "safe zone", where the character can't
>     die except from a massive amount of damage, there is always a
>     possibility of death, however small it may be.  This would help
>     discourage "tanking" and similar tactics.

Indeed - if one were not careful, in fact, one could imagine brining a
pack (say, 20) of newbies to fight the mighty dragon, each one tanking a
single blow.  (I would imagine that if you were to make such a radical
change in the damage system, you'd also be changing conventional notions
of tanking, rescuing, and so forth.)

> If using a round-based system, this could be done via action points,
> or, if using short rounds, by making some actions take more than one
> round to do (possibly with an option to abort in the middle of an
> action).

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