[MUD-Dev] Re: Levels versus Skills, who uses them and when.

Adam Wiggins adam at angel.com
Wed Jan 13 17:01:22 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999

On Wed, 13 Jan 1999, Koster, Raph wrote:
> BTW, one factor that is overlooked here is the "mule" phenomenon--it's
> rampant on UO, perhaps because of this very design concept. I had never
> heard the term before Meridian 59, but I am sure it must have existed
> before. This is where players simply make alternate characters to make
> use of the lesser-used skills. Your "main" character fits a
> stereotypical ubercharacter ideal, but you make alternates for those
> occasions when you want the secondary skills. In UO, that is generally
> for the crafting skills.

Yes, this is a common problem.  In an attempt to make skills that
are less cookie-cutter (eg, a new skill to do damage in combat, or
a new spell which gives protection from <X>), many designers come
up with stuff like craftsmanship, or a skill to repair items, or
something else that isn't necessarily used on the front lines, so
to speak.  If these skills are useful enough, people will always
make excess characters whose only purpose is to show up, deliver
their skill (eg, fix Bubba's sword or create a new helm) and then
promptly get logged off.  Someone trying to play one of these
character types as a full-time thing is then not so valuable; they
certainly can't sell their skills for any descent price, as the
designer(s) probably intended.

With that in mind, I think it's folly to design any skill which can
be "muled" this way.  Designers should definitely take this into
account.  For example, if one was making an alchemist class, who
brewed potions and powders which were useful in combat, players are
always going to want to have an alchemist mule who makes the stuff
and then hands it off to the 'real' characters for later use.
The designer should probably set it up so that the potions are of
limited, or perhaps almost no usefulness, without the creator there
to use them.  Perhaps they have to be invoked somehow in order to
work properly?
Another example would be a mage who can surround any target with
a D&D-style fireshield.  Typically a warrior would want to "bum"
a fireshield from the mage and then take off to do combat.  If, however,
the mage has to maintain the spell in order for it to work (that is to
say, it doesn't just have a fixed duration), and perhaps the spell can
only be maintained from close range (maybe only in the same room),
that's a pretty good reason to bring said mage along - and to protect

Anyone else have any good examples/ideas of how to make skills which
work this way without making muling rampant?  I've yet to think of a
good way to make a object-repair skill work this way, for example.

Adam W.

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