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

Adam Wiggins adam at angel.com
Mon Jan 18 11:58:11 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999

On Sat, 16 Jan 1999, Mik Clarke wrote:
> If someone is prepared to put in 100 hours to get a character who can
> provide them with special abilities which they cannot get from anywhere
> else, then I'd say let them keep it.  The fact that no one is playing
> the class full time, would make me suspect that the class is to weak
> (non-competative) to appeal to your normal players.  If the ability
> could be purchased from an NPC alchemist, I suspect that such mules
> might disappear.

Well, the whole idea was to make a class which had unique abilities
that were a little different from the norm.  That is to say, rather
than making alchemists just like normal mages except that their damage
spell is "poison dart" instead of "fireball" is pretty damn boring, and
is that tack frequently taken by muds trying to make a "different"
spellcaster class.  But of course, a damage spell is a damage spell, and
renaming it only spruces it up for about 10 seconds, and then players
realize it's the same old thing.

The problem is that the implementors of the class wanted to add a
character type which was unique and less combat-oriented in order to
add some variety to the mud, but still had skills that were very valuable
to other players.  (This would be in contrast to, say, Reese's fishermen.)
This is commendable, I think - it just didn't work.  The class was not
worthwhile to play "for real".  I believe there were two alchemists,
both mules, who served a playerbase of thousands.  The idea was that
alchemist, being one of 20 possible classes, would have approximately
1/20th the playerbase, give or take some.

> I suspect they are mechanisms that players use to work around
> deficencies in the mud.  Most players start out wanting to be heroes. 
> They are also a little afraid of complexity.  This leads to them
> choosing warriors and other 'front line' classes.  Very few people want
> to play support characters because they are perceived as being 'less'
> than the front line characters.  If a mud requires such support
> characters, expect mules.

Actually....that's not really true.  Clerics have always been extremely
popular on your standard hack and slash, even though they are very much
support classes.  Many players *don't* want to be on the front lines, but
they still want to be valuable to a group.  Clerics are great this way.
They are a reactive class - they cast heals when people get wounded, dispel
when the enemy summons demons from other planes, cure poison when the
enemy casts cloudkill, and so forth.  They are people you desperately want
along even though they aren't proactive at all.  *Lots* of people like to
be in this position.

Actually, AnotherMUD (the one I took the alchemist from) had a really cool
balance.  Warriors were NOT a glorious class.  They were tanks, and that
was it.  All the best tank gear was minus damage, so the very best tanks
generally did 1 point of damage (it was actually negative, but the game capped
it at 1) per swing.  All the damage was done by the mages and thieves.  Clerics
could do a fair amount of damage themselves, but of course they were vital for
keeping the tank standard.
Not only that, but being on the front lines (that is, being the tank) was a
hard career, and not one undertaken lightly.  The mobiles there were so
powerful that it was simply expected to loose a tank during a fight.  Any
tank who fled or recalled when their hitpoints were low quickly became shunned
as a coward and wouldn't be able to get a group.  The tank stayed *there*
until their lifeless corpse hit the ground, because every last bit of time
they could buy the party counted.  In general warriors took the very longest
to get to max level, because they were constantly dying.  That was their role,
and that was life on the front line.  If you didn't couldn't handle that,
you stuck to playing a non-warrior.
The result of all this was that the mud had a very nice balance between
the classes.  Warriors were certainly still common, but not in the overwhelming
way that they are on most hack-n-slash muds.  In fact, I believe clerics
were the most common class there.  Only theives were under-represented,
which is probably as it should be.

Adam W.

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