[MUD-Dev] Storytelling and Gods (fairly long)

Matthew Mihaly sarapis at achaea.com
Tue Mar 2 15:31:51 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999


At 11:40 AM 3/2/99 -0600, Raph  wrote:


>Lastly, the playerbase is highly resistant to change. This means that in
>general, the parameters for both a static narrative construct OR a
>simulation tend to be narrowly defined. We can't generally do things like
>cause continents to sink, cities to die of the plague, etc etc, because it
>scares the bejeezus out of the newbies, horrifies the players who lose their
>standing or accumulated possessions, and disturbs those whose sense of
>familiarity with the environment is the biggest reason why they still play.

I think you are quite wrong, I'm afraid. I'll provide an example below.


>Thus, it could be argued that the absolute best tactics for mud storytelling
>are:
>- encourage players (through the provision of tools for this purpose) to
>form groups with conflicting goals (philosophical, territorial, etc) of
>*some* sort that are a) significant in impact b) achievable yet c) not
>overly destructive of the environment. This is a large design issue which is
>in many ways frankly contradictory to basic design principles in many mud
>code bases today.
>
>- assiduously report the "latest news" in conflicts, cast as story and
>narrative, with context, embellishment where necessary, and if need be,
>presented in such a manner as to encourage ongoing conflict, picking of
>sides, etc.
>
>I don't know of any gaming muds that expressly attempt this in the manner I
>describe.

We do, and we are most definitely a gaming mud. In fact, we do a) large scale
things that have a destructive environmental effect, and b) things to
encourage
conflict between groups. Furthermore, I tend to write histories of major
conflicts and dramatize them up, etc, in order to provide more of a coherent
history for Achaea (I'm a stickler that everything must tie in with the
over-arching histories and mythologies that I've written).

I'll provide two examples of large-scale desctructive acts. First though, I
will again say that I vehemently disagree that destructive things cannot be
done in a mud, and I think that the reason you think they cannot is that, from
what I gather from your previous posts, you don't place a whole lot of
store in
the idea of Gods. To me, Gods (and I don't mean coders, imps, or wahtever you
call them. I mean Gods in the Greek sense of the word...each with agendas of
their own as far as the players are concerned) are the factor that allow these
things to happen. When something really bad happens, the players can still
maintain their faith that their God will not let them down, and that they will
be saved through the grace of the Divine. 

Example #1: The Coming of the Morning Star.
I'm including the official "history" of the event below, but briefly, here is
what happened:
I wanted 3 new player-Gods: God of the Sky, an evil God, and Goddess of Light.
After having found suitable candidates to play these roles (not easy), we
needed reasons why a) the God of the sky was making a re-appearance (he's
mentioned in the mythologies, so we couldn't just "create" him out of
nothing),
and b) reasons why this new evil God and the Goddess of Light were suddenly
popping into existence.

The basic story then was that a black hole and a star collided out in the
cosmos somewhere and the release of energy created Apollyon, the Malefactor,
and Aurora, Goddess of Light. Sadly for the mortals, the release of this
energy
killed every player (bar one lucky bastard), all mobiles, and all plant life
(plant life is crucial to players generally). Afterwards, some other Gods
intervened to clean up the lingering radiation, but this didn't solve the
problem of the plant life and such being dead. Essentially, the Druids and
Sentinels (Sentinels are an off-shoot of the Druidic class) had to go about
regrowing the plants to replace them, etc.

Did this have a huge, permanent destructive effect? No. I'll agree that huge,
permanent destructive events shouldn't be used too often (although I
completely
disagree that they cannot be used at all). But, it A) provided a lot of
excitement in the land, and people talked about what happened for quite
awhile,
and b) it gave the Druids and Sentinels something very in-role to do to
"solve"
the problems created by this. Again, the official history is included below if
anyone cares to read it.

Example #2: The Nature Wars
The Nature wars resulted from one of our Gods, Gaia the Earthmother, managing
to actually slay Twilight, God of Darkness. This was completely unacceptable
from an administration standpoint, as Gods must never be seen to be vulnerable
to a single force, lest mortals lose fear and respect for them. So, the person
playing Gaia was asked to leave. Gaia was much-loved by players and so Her
sudden absence had to be dealt with somehow. What we did was have a few of the
other Gods band together to attack and imprison Her essence in the Gaian Tree.
This caused a HUGE amoung of outrage among her followers, as they were
extremely devoted to her. Some started talking about quitting Achaea, etc etc,
for without their Goddess, what was the point in living? (Again, I emphasize
that if you do not use Gods in this manner in your games, you are losing out
bigtime, and so are your players).

At this point, many of Gaia's followers started researching ways to release
her. They came up with all sorts of plans to get her out, and sent many
offerings of dead things, gold, etc her way, in order to see if that would
assist her in getting free. From an ooc point of view, we Gods knew that Gaia
had to return, but we had to find a suitable mortal to play her role. Once we
found one, the Gods (not me. I tend to stay out of such affairs as I have too
much influence over the mortals) had to go into action. Twilight (the one who
was originally slain by Gaia) claimed the forests as his own, and I coded
it so
that the sacred Groves of the druids and sentinels (poor things, they are
always getting screwed with...each Druid and Sentinel has a particular forest
location for his or her own, and can activate a wide range of powers from
there, from calling down lightning on those in the forest, to 'installing' a
hive of bees from which they can feed, and from which angry bees can be called
to attack enemies of the Grove), were covered in darkness, and were
weakened so
much that they became nearly useless.

Obviously, this caused a lot of outrage, once again, among the mortals. They
were furious that Twilight would do this to them (it's funny that almost none
or none of them ever thought to say, "Hey, Sarapis (that's me) wouldn't let an
entire skill set be destroyed for the sake of role), and they vowed to double
their efforts. Wars broke out between pro-Naturists and anti-Naturists, and
game usage went way up. The Druids and Sentinels were very unhappy and
distraught, but despite all this, they seemed to be enjoying the action
immensely. Eventually, through a variety of measures, they were able to assist
in the release of their beloved Goddess, and once again life was good.

(end of examples)

Ok, now I realize that neither of these events is on par with a city becoming
plagued out or a continent sinking, but the principles are similar, I think.
You CAN completely mess with mortals, but as long as they are given some sort
of hope, it acts as a motivator to them. To me, it is the existence of the
Gods
that provide this hope. Many of the naturists prayed to Aurora during their
difficult times, trusting that somehow she wouldn't let them down. I don't see
an event like a continent sinking to be any different really, provided that
there really IS hope. I could see, in the future, for instance, taking one of
our cities and doing something very bad to it for a few months, but allowing
some players to find out, via dreams while sleeping or whatever, that there is
some difficult, and probably tedious, method to bring the city back. _Every_
mortal with any ambition at all would be higly motivated to be the one that
saved the city, etc. 

Again, I stress that in my opinion, without the presence of role Gods to guide
things and provide hope, this sort of thing probably isn't practical, but with
them, it is not only practical, but desirable. Of course, as you said, Raph,
there's no real way to do this sort of thing regularly (can't keep up coding
and design-wise), but doing it regularly also isn't desirable. If some massive
event happens every other day, they lose their impact and players start
getting
ho-hum about things.

I know most of you will probably read this and think "He's a loony" but I am
generally amazed by the complete lack of role Gods in muds generally (and I've
seen nearly no mention of them here aside from things I've written). You only
have to look at real life and history to realize the nearly absolute power
that
religion can have over people. When a horrible event happens, what do people
often do? Turn to whatever God they worship to provide hope.


<Start of full text of Coming of the Morning Star. Feel free to skip as it's
just here for your entertainment value>

On the 13th of Lupar, 208 years after the fall of the Empire, the single
greatest catastrophe in the history of our world took place. It was an event
that was to have far-reaching consequences for Achaea, and one whose effect
lingers on even today.

It was a day in late summer much like any other. The sun was shining brightly
and the birds were twittering their songs of love. But there was a note of
unrest, and perhaps the first tastes of fear in the air. For during the
previous night, Averroes, the Prophet of Shallam, had dreamed a dream of
cosmic
destruction; of an event so catastrophic that it would alter the balance of
power in the heavens themselves. His warnings were largely ignored, however,
and he was mocked by some of the more foolish in the land. When the flash of
light came, however, trickles of belief broke through the walls of
ignorance in
the minds of the populace. 

"We looked to the sky, and there was a star shining so brightly it could be
seen in the full of the afternoon sunlight! Just about all I could see was the
sun and that star, because that first flash of light nearly blinded me."
--An unnamed citizen of Ashtan

"Horribly, the beautiful star began to, well, LEAK, like it was going down
some
sort of drain. There was a lot of panic, and the pixies were running about in
sheer terror, screaming something about the Morning Star."
--Vellis, the butterfly collector of Minia

Then came the second flash, and pain, and death. All the plantlife on the
planet died, and much of the animal life, when Aeon, God of Time intervened.
Though a strange God with stranger motivations, he apparently sought to
prevent
the countless deaths that were about to occur. Stopping, and then reversing
time, he turned events backwards. But to his horror, he found that he was
unable to prevent events from proceeding just as they had the first time.

This is the story of the Coming of the Morning Star.

Far away, though not far enough, there was a sun, but not like the sun that
illuminates Sapience and provides succor to the cold, and that is the
source of
all life. No, this sun was far larger than your own, and far more powerful.
But the heavens have their celestial dance, and as this sun danced its slow,
stately dance across the palette upon which I have painted, it encountered a
bottomless pit, called Abaddon, destroyer of worlds. Not sentient, it
nevertheless was compelled by its very nature to attack and absorb all into
itself. Like a mindless, sightless behemoth, it lumbered and sloughed,
consuming all within its path.

Until it met with this sun, this shining epitomy of light. Then it had met its
match. Attacking it, it began to gorge itself as never before, but the sun was
too much. After some of its energy had been eaten away, the sun exploded,
as it
lacked the energy to hold itself together. 

Abbadon, the pit, tried to consume this massive outpouring of energy, but
failed. It had gorged itself past its limit, and it too exploded, carrying
with
it energy that was to the first explosion as an ocean is to a drop of water.

The energy from this explosion, the winds of the stars, streaked across the
heavens, instantly obliterating all in its path. But like all things aside
from
the Logos, this wind of the stars was finite, and its power began to dim. The
world that Sapience is on, however, lay too close. While the world itself was
not destroyed, the intense energy killed nearly everything alive on the
continent, which happened to be the side of the planet facing the explosion
when the star winds arrived. The forests were scourged, the seas purged of
life, and the cities became heaped with dead rats and people.
The sole survivors were the Mhun who live and work in the lower levels of
Moghedu, including the Great Mhunna and his bodyguards. They were deep enough
within the earth to survive, while those in Azdun, such as Lachesis, did not
fare so well. Strangely, one mortal man, with a strange, foreign-sounding name
survived. It is unknown why, but Averroes has theorized that this man was so
pure of spirit that somehow the same protections that exist for Gods protected
him too. This is, of course, just a theory.

Sarapis, the Logos, explained:

"To understand this event, mortals, you must first try to grasp the magnitude
ofit. This was an event of such power that one of the Elder Gods, Aeon, was
not
able to prevent it. Such a thing has not been seen since the days of the Chaos
Wars. The unnamed sun was one of the largest and most powerful in existence,
but even its power was dwarfed by the amount of energy contained in Abaddon.
When the sun exploded, causing Abaddon to explode, the power was such that the
fabric of reality was wrinkled, twisted, torn, and eventually it found its
outlet in the creation of two new sentient beings who embody the forces
contained in these explosions: Aurora, Goddess of Light, and Apollyon, the
Malefactor."

After the apocalyptic wave of deaths that followed in the wake of the star
winds, a God not seen since the Chaos Wars appeared, apparently awakened from
His slumber by the great energies unleashed in the explosions. He, Vastar, the
Skylord, saw his realm polluted by lingering killing energy. Drawing it out of
the atmosphere in the same way that water condensences, he drew it all into a
shimmering ball of energy high above the continent. 

"Oh child, 'twas like nothin' these ole eyes have ever seen. I saw the hand of
God! I did! It reached out, and it snuffed that deadly energy right out, like
it was just slappin' a firefly."--A wandering gypsy woman.

Soon after this, Oneiros, God of Peace, and an Elder God, in an effort that
must surely have been a sacrifice even for one of his power, restored life to
the forests, and grasslands of Achaea. The mortals were, of course,
resurrected
by Sarapis, after praying extensively to him for succor.

What are the lasting results of this, you ask? We are, as of yet, unsure.
Perhaps the Logos and the other Divinities have a plan, or perhaps not. We do
not and cannot know, unless the Gods choose to tell us, or unless we are
blessed with prophetic visions, if the remains of Abaddon and the unnamed sun
will plague us in the future.

Yet, this historian cannot help but feeling that though our world was blasted
and death enveloped her as never before, it is yet a day to be celebrated. For
today, we have experienced new communion with the Divine. Though in the
future,
there is no doubt that some of us will suffer as a result of Aurora or
Apollyon's actions and decisions, such is our lot as mortals. We must find joy
in the Divine, for it is only through the eyes of God that we can truly see
ourselves. Whether our souls sing in harmony with Aurora's goodness, or
resonate darkly with the sombre strains of Apollyon's music, we are richer for
knowing them.

We must also celebrate the return of one who has seen and done so much,
Vastar,
the Skylord. God of old, he was one of the first created by Ayar-now-Sarapis,
and his return is an occassion for celebration by itself. With the new
Divinities, and His return, we cannot help but be joyous, and forget about the
suffering that our world sustained today. Blessed are we and glory be to the
Dwellers of the Garden!






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