[MUD-Dev] Re: Levelless MUDs

Jon A. Lambert jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com
Mon Jun 15 22:56:07 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On 15 Jun 98, Holly Sommer wrote:
> On Fri, 12 Jun 1998, Matt Chatterley wrote:
> > I suppose the key things to look at are *exactly* what is influenced by
> > levels, and how else you might handle it. Swap in other things which make
> > more 'sense' (for instance, apply a strength stat to damage instead of
> > level, and so forth).
> After going over it with some who have played in this environment, and 
> others who have written code for it, the following things have been 
> highlighted:
>    o We'll have to move from a %based skill proficiency system, to one
>      which has no artificial ceiling (100% is max... hey, is anyone 
>      perfect at ANYTHING?) where you have skill bonuses and penalties
>      (+8 on pick lock) and that each skill has a counterskill (working
>      on a -5 difficulty lock, for a net effectiveness of +3) while
>      throwing in some luck (so roll a 3d6 and get <= net effectiveness,
>      where 18 is always a fail, and 3 is always a win)

I find many balance problems using linear bonus/penalty adjustments
in conjunction with using a bell-curve probabilty to calculate 
chance of success.  The chance of failure or win using the roll 3d6 
is 1 in 216. Add a +1 or -1 bonus increases these odds dramatically.
Once you reach cumulative bonuses of +/-5 or higher the odds
become ridiculously easy or hard.  It's very hard to scale equipment,
stat, and situational bonuses on to such system.

The system I use requires a roll of 100 or greater for an activity's 
success.  A open-ended d100 is rolled (virtual die of course).  If 
the result is high (96-100) a second roll is made and added and if 
that is high (96-100), a third roll is made and added, etc. On a low 
roll of 1-5, a second roll is made and subtracted.  If that roll 
is high (96-100) a third roll is made and subtracted, etc.   Skill 
bonuses and situational modifiers are added together with the 
result and the final result is compared to 100.  If its greater the 
action succeeds, if it's less the action fails (on some skills it 
may be partial success instead).

>    o Remove the level restrictions on eq. This is what the builders
>      objected to the most (see below). I am of the mindset that levels
>      could still be left in place for deciding relative "power" of the
>      eq (and the goodies/bonuses/penalties/etc. which go along with
>      the more desirable eq), but that if player characters no longer have
>      player levels, then there is no level check for using eq: you 
>      found it, you can use it.

I think level restrictions on equipment are very artificial so I 
reject the notion on thematic grounds.  However I'm sure it's 
possible to develop an in-game rational, I'm just not partial to 
doing so.  

There are also some serious problems with game balance in a system 
that has level restricted equipment.  Since powerful equipment is 
restricted to powerful (in levels) characters, it serves only to 
magnify power differentials between characters.  Even without 
equipment considerations, the power differential between a levels
almost doubles with each level advanced.  Add the ever increasing 
bonuses of level-restricted equipment, this power differential is 
almost doubled again per level.  

There is an alternate solution that I like.  Restrict equipment 
through availabilty.  Implement an equipment economy, where equipment 
must be created and is often unique.  Equipment is also destroyed 
explicitly, through wear and tear, and perhaps even decay.  

>    o Give players who wish to not killkillkill something else to do, which
>      represents well-spent time. Player houses, quests, let them run a
>      city, RP, etc.

Let them create/invent equipment, research new spells. :)

> Essentially, levels are being used for two things:
>    1. Determining when you can learn a skill
>    2. Determining when you can use eq
> We have considered using skilltrees - sets of prerequisites - for skills. 
> This removes the artificialness of "sorry, you can't learn dodge, it's a 
> level 20 skill in THIS game, and you're only level 3), and of using 
> rune-based magic, so that you don't have situations where "fireball is 
> just a level 30 version of magic missile).

You might find the Gurps magic system of interest here.  Spells like
fireball may have prerequisite spells like heat metal and create 
flame.  Instead of a skills being keyed to levels let them be keyed 
to prerequisites.  Unique skills may have ranks/levels/skill trees of 
their own.  One can find such systems of rankings in martial arts and 
a number of different areas.  Tree and wall climbing might prereq 
rock climbing and mountain climbing, for instance.  I could be wrong 
about these skills, but its very helpful to find someone who has 
experience with them.  And in many fantasy skills, ala magic, you are 
on your own.

> Well, my initial thoughts were "toss it out on the table and let people 
> (the staff) pick at it, and make suggestions on how to possibly make a 
> transition. I never envisioned the mayhem that a mere suggestion would cause.

I don't envy you here.  These are dramatic transitions which may 
alienate a significant portion of your playerbase.  There is one 
important thing to remember, most (definately not all) players who 
have played a game for awhile form social bonds to the some of the 
other players on the game, even estwhile enemies.  And besides, 
what's the playerbase turnover at your mud?  Is it 6 mos, 9 mos, a 
year?  It may also attract many new players as you say. 

--/*\ Jon A. Lambert - TychoMUD     Internet:jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com /*\--
--/*\ Mud Server Developer's Page <http://www.netcom.com/~jlsysinc> /*\--
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