[MUD-Dev] Containing automation?

Travis S. Casey efindel at io.com
Tue Jul 20 15:36:33 New Zealand Standard Time 1999

On Tue, 20 Jul 1999, Asmodeus wrote:
> On Tue, 20 Jul 1999, Koster, Raph wrote:

> > - you can't tie it to an advancement model then, since all players would
> > advance steadily at the same rate from it. Certainly not a usage-based
> > advancement model. I have come to hate usage based advancement models though
> > (and will gladly explain why if anyone asks. :)
>  Again, I'm asking "why?"  Anything besides the opportunity for lots of
> macroing by the players to advance through that advancement model?
> Unfortunately, IMO, usage-based models make the most logical sense: With a
> straight XP one (like traditional AD&D, for instance), the player
> (amazingly) gets better at doing everything by killing monsters.  It
> doesn't matter if he/she/it actually used those skills--they get improved
> anyways.  What other advancement models are out there?

I'd also like to know why Raph hates usage-based advancement.  The only
problems I see are (1) use of macros to advance and (2) possible player 
boredom/frustration if beginning skill levels are too low or if
advancement is slow.

On the subject of other advancement models, though:

 - Training-based.  The PC has to seek out a trainer and spend time 
   training.  Trainers may charge (either money or services).  Cost
   is in time and whatever the trainer charges.

There are variations on XP-based training in the pencil-and-paper
RPG world:

 - XP Source:  XP doesn't have to come from killing monsters.  It may be
   given for completing missions, roleplaying, getting treasure, or 
   anything else the game designer wants to give XP for.  Note, though,
   that some options that work well for P&P games won't work as well 
   for muds (e.g., roleplaying-based XP).

 - Limited use:  XP may only be used to raise those skills which the 
   player used in gaining that XP.  For example, if XP is given for
   completing missions, after each mission the player might be given 
   some XP, and have the option of raising any skill that his/her
   character used to complete the mission.  (Automating this could be
   a bit of a problem, but I see a few possible ways).  A common variant
   of this is to give two XP pools:  one that can only be used on skills
   that were used in the adventure, and another than can be used however
   the player wants.

 - XP flavors:  There may be more than one kind of XP.  Advancing may 
   require a certain amount of each, or skills may have to be advanced
   with a certain "flavor" of XP.  Some systems allow exchanging one
   kind for another, but with a loss (e.g., you can trade 5 Warrior XP
   for 1 Mage XP, or 5 Mage XP for 1 Warrior XP).

P&P RPGs also commonly combine multiple advancement methods:  e.g., GURPS
uses a combination of XP (given for completing missions and roleplaying)
and training.  First edition AD&D used XP (for killing monsters and 
getting treasure), but required characters to find a trainer and train
once they'd acquired enough XP to go up a level before they could actually
gain that level.

In games which combine different methods, there's usually a ranking to
them -- e.g., it might be possible to go up quickly by gaining XP, where
training might take weeks or months to go up just a few levels.  Sometimes
methods help each other -- for example, training for a day AND spending
Y XP might bring you up a level, while just spending XP costs 2*Y to go up
a level, and just training takes a week.

(Unfortunately, long training times won't work as well in muds, since
players aren't going to want to spend long stretches not being able to
play.  In paper RPGs, the GM can simply say, "Ok, it's two weeks later" --
in a mud, you can't do that as easily.)

Bushido used XP flavors in profusion -- it had warrior XP, magical XP,
priestly XP, and Honor (those weren't the terms used, but I don't remember
the exact terms).  If I remember right, any of them could be used to
raise any skill, but the type you could get depended on your class,
and how each type was gained differed -- warriors had to defeat
opponents in combat, mages had to cast spells, etc.  Honor was required to
reach higher levels -- if your character's Honor wasn't high enough,
he/she could not advance, no matter how much XP he/she had.  (Bushido was
a combination skill-based/level-based system -- higher levels gave bonuses
in some skills, but were also a measure of your reputation.)  Ninja were
the exception -- they could not gain Honor and did not have Honor

In an AD&D game I ran a few years ago, I used a variation on this idea,
coupled with the individual XP awards from second edition and some other
changes.  Briefly, it worked like this:

XP was given for achieving goals -- both mission goals and personal goals.
That XP was "flavorless", and was divided up among the character's
classes for multi-class characters [1].  Characters were also given XP for 
using their class abilities to accomplish things -- thus, mages got XP
for casting spells, fighters for defeating (not necessarily killing!)
enemies, thieves for using their thief abilities.  That XP was flavored --
if you were multi-classed, it only went to the class which's ability it

Thus, a fighter/thief who only fought and never used his/her thief
abilities would go up much faster as a fighter than as a thief.  This made
things more interesting, since players could have characters that were
mostly X but sometimes did Y as well.  Standard AD&D multiclass rules
don't work as well for that.  (Let's not even mention the dual-class rules
-- I detest them.)

In a fantasy mud, you could borrow from both Bushido and Fantasy Wargaming
-- instead of having classes, have each character have four levels:  a
Fighting level, a Magical level, a Priestly level, and a Rogue level.
Have four XP flavors to match, with each flavor being gained a different
way.  XP can be used for "its" level, or traded for XP of another type at
a 5->1 return.  

For a skill-based version, you could divide up skills into those four
categories, possibly with some overlap (e.g., some skills belong to more
than one category).  You could add a fifth category of "general" skills
for ones that don't fit with a particular group.  XP can be used for
skills in its category or the general category, or traded for another type
at a loss.

You could also add a training requirement to this -- the PC has to seek
out a trainer in order to raise a skill.  Possibly the PC might only have
to find a trainer at certain breakpoints -- for example, you have to get
training in the skill from someone who has it at a higher level at least
once for every ten points you gain. If you don't get training, the skill
still advances -- but it advances at half normal rate until you get
training.  You could also add an option for PCs to train each other.  For
more fun, there could only be a few trainers for high skill levels --
e.g., if you want to train Necromancy above level 20, you have to seek out
the Black Mage in his tower and convince him to train you.  At very high
levels, the only "trainers" available might be ancient tomes or other
things, like demons or gods.

Usage-based advancement also has variations -- it can be combined with XP
(e.g., you get flavored XP by using a skill -- it can be used for that
skill at 1->1, for a related skill at 2->1, or for an unrelated skill at
5->1) or training (e.g., for every 10 points gained by use, you have to 
train at least once or you'll start to go up more slowly).  What
constitutes a "use" of a skill may vary, and how often you can get a "use"
might also vary.

For example, Second-edition AD&D's individual XP awards are usage-based:
however, the abilities in question must be used either in dangerous
circumstances or to achieve mission goals.  Runequest states that a use
must be "significant" (up to the GM to decide, though guidelines are
given) and that only one usage check can be made once per game session.
On a mud, you might limit usage checks to once per hour or something
similar.  If you have different difficulties, you might also want to 
change advancement based on the difficulty of the check vs. the skill

       |\      _,,,---,,_        Travis S. Casey  <efindel at io.com>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'
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