[MUD-Dev] The Best Guy on the Mud Thing

J C Lawrence claw at varesearch.com
Fri Sep 17 15:30:55 New Zealand Standard Time 1999

On Thu, 16 Sep 1999 18:14:21 -0500 
Koster, Raph <rkoster at origin.ea.com> wrote:

> http://www.acvault.com/features/i_mages_edit.shtml

At the same site at:


our own Raistlin <yu219121 at yorku.ca> writes:


PowerGaming and Role Playing
Written by Sayeed 

Possibly the most ferocious debate in the Online RPG community
relates to PowerGaming and Role Playing.  These two juxtaposed
factions appear to be the antithesis of one another, and so their
supporters' virulent flaming contests litter the message boards of
Online Role Playing Game (ORPG) fan sites, each faction attempting
to completely disprove and therefore annihilate it's "opponent." As
in most cases, however, the two sides are not, in actuality,
opposites, and indeed one would be devalued considerably without the
other. The purpose of this article is to show how PowerGaming
affects ORPG's and how Role Players may associate with purist

The true ORPG, whether set in a Medieval, Contemporary, or
Futuristic setting, is designed for a very clear purpose. To
transport players into an exciting new world, allow them to change
and progress in that world, and allow them to enjoy simulated
adventures there which they are not able to experience in Real
Life. In short, ORPG's are designed to give players a new
life. Whether modeled after famous characters in novels, or created
from their own deeply hidden desires, players develop new personas
whose decisions and ambitions they fully control. This is where
PowerGaming, "Gaming for Power," is an important part in the
character development of most Role Players.

To understand this, one must first comprehend the phrase "Gaming for
Power." In a Medieval world, "Power" might come in the form of gold,
magical ability, melee weapon skill, missile weapon skill, or any
other article which provides influence over other
players. Therefore, PowerGaming in a Medieval world would mean
"Gaming for articles which provide influence over other players."
According to certain Role Playing Guru's, this philosophy is
inappropriate and misplaced in a Role Playing setting. Those gurus
are, in a sense, correct, yet at the same time they are also very
incorrect. To illustrate this, let us examine a common Role which
one might adopt in a Role Playing setting, a mage, or more
specifically, one called Raistlin.

The Avatar of mages, DragonLance's Raistlin embodies many virtues
which a large proportion of magic users see as sacred and universal
for nearly all becoming Sorcerors. What is Raistlin's most prevalent
attribute? An insatiable lust for power, power which gives him
influence not granted to him by his physique. Let us take another
famous character, Shannara's Garet Jax. An honorable brigand, Garet
Jax takes great pride in his skill with a deadly pike, which gives
him a great amount of influence over others. Now let us examine a
different character type, Tolkien's Gandalf, and you will most
certainly note that Gandalf's maniacal drive for power is definitely
not one of his defining characteristics.  Gandalf, though, is unique
in the important fact that, throughout most of the Lord of the
Rings, he is the most dangerous living thing on Middle Earth
excepting the Dark Lord. If we were to look back at a younger
Gandalf, however, one which perhaps was not so well versed in the
methods of wizardry, we might find that he did have some concern for
advancement and progress in terms of magic power. In the Lord of the
Rings, Tolkien makes it a point to express exactly how able a
magician the worthy Gandalf actually is. Altogether, we might also
discover that, by and large, almost all fantasy authors make it a
point to focus on the traits of their main characters which give
them influence over others. How do those characters achieve such
admirable levels? By working hard, by striving to progress in those
oh so influential domains, in essence, by "PowerGaming." Thus, with
such prominent supporters of PowerGaming, even the most avid Role
Playing guru must allocate some PowerGaming motivations to almost
all their characters. We are all PowerGamers. (excepting very few)

Despite this prominent fact, there is still discord among the
aforementioned factions of ORPG Gamers, and only a fool would label
that conflict as wholly arbitrary. Actually, the basis of
ill-sentiment among these Gamers is not concerning the existence of
PowerGaming, but instead the extent of its pervasiveness in
ORPGs. Simply put, a "good" PowerGamer is one who blends his/her
search for influence with Role Playing, while a "bad" PowerGamer is
one who reasons out the best methods to gain power, in or out of
context with the rest of the world, and works wholeheartedly to do
so and reach a "maximum" level of power. To the "bad" PowerGamer,
immersing himself in the world is not seen as beneficial to the
pursuit of power, and so he speaks and acts in terms of stats, hint
books, web sites, cheats, etc., terms completely out of context with
the game world and a mundane interruption to Role Players who
attempt to immerse themselves in a fantasy environment.

There are many reasons why PowerGamers do this. Gamers who have no
experience with pen'n'paper or any other forms of Role Playing may
not know how exactly to properly Role Play, and so instead play
ORPG's as they play any other game, Quake for instance. In that
case, unfortunately, they also do not realize the joy of truly
existing within another world, and the lasting entertainment
provided by it. Other PowerGamers might just be bowing to Peer
Pressure, for when a good Real Life or online friend brightly greets
you with a "Hey Ma' Man, Duud, Wassup'?!?!", it may be hard to stay
in character. Also, when a newbie asks what he should click to get
his stats, a good player, Role Player or not, feels inclined to help
him, even if the newbie didn't add "OOC:" (Out Of Character) before
his text. Being out of character is contagious, and when other
members of a party catch it, it is difficult for the group to get in
character once again. Alternatively, a player may PowerGame because
he feels that, even in a world designed for it, Role Playing takes
too much effort, or is less fun that just playing as he would in a

The solution? Too often, "pure" PowerGamers do not have the will or
the desire to advance to Role Playing enjoyment, yet for cases in
which they do have it, it is entirely possible for them to learn.
There is only one solution which will turn "bad" PowerGamers into
"good" PowerGamers, and that solution is "In Context

The difference between the types of PowerGamers is that the "good"
PowerGamer diversifies himself, not purely searching for power, but
involving himself in the in context social aspects of ORPG's as
well.  Shallow characters with only one focus, in books, in RL, or
in ORPG's, are always boring. Dull for those associated with them
and dull for themselves, compared with the appeal of a character
with a range of motivations and attributes. Raistlin Majere not only
lusted for power, but also felt deep jealousy for his brother, scorn
for those less intelligent than him, a tinge of longing for trust
and love, an unpleasant obligation to those he felt he "owed," pity
and care for the weak and forsaken, and many other traits which gave
him a deep and interesting personality. PowerGamers who similarly
diversify will find their ORPG experience considerably more
rewarding for themselves and also for those around them.

Unfortunately, Role Playing Gamers do not always find themselves
surrounded by well-meaning PowerGamers ready to learn how to Role
Play. More often, they come across those who either have no
inclination to learn or whose sole desire is to interrupt the Role
Playing of others. In addition, out of character arguments about the
benefits of Role Playing may do more harm than good if they are done
in game. When either in or out of character, Gamers teach best by
example. For those Gamers who do not which to be disrupted by the
bad examples, people who do not Roleplay or have no regard for its
needs, luckily there are many appropriate responses.

The most important of these responses is Role Playing. If faced with
"SER kOOl MACHO DuuDLEy" who asks "WassUP G?" the best response is
to stay in character and Role Play. How does one Role Play in this
situation? It depends entirely on the personality of the character
you have created. An understanding Paladin might respond "Pardon me,
Sir, I do not understand your dialect." A self-serving merchant (and
FED UP Role Player) might blurt out "I have not time for fools, do
not plague me!" (or a less harsh response to prevent ill will) A
sarcastic thief might just ignore the player. As long as a player
keeps in character, and Role Plays, there is no "wrong"
option. Breaking character, however, would be the worst thing one
could do. Once a Role Player loses his character, it is very hard to
go back. If the purpose of playing Online Role Playing Games is to
Role Play, then breaking character is the only way to lose the
game. Therefore, if bothered by pure PowerGamers, either the SER
kOOl MACHO DuuDLEy variety or even by someone who is just having a
conversation about his new PII 450 with some friends, the automatic
and best reaction of Role Players should be to keep in character and
not abandon game immersion. The best response is to ROLE PLAY.

Yet what to do if SER DuuDLEy is persistant? If conversation among
OOC friends does not end, and they use the ORPG world as an "IRC
world" where they also get power and kill things? Simple, AVOID
NON-ROLE PLAYERS. If you meet them, stay in character. If Role
Playing when talking to them does not prove contagious, leave. If
you have friends who pure PowerGame, then message them outside the
game, asking them to Role Play when they talk to you. If SER DuuDLEy
persists in following and annoying you? Create a macro, or a
standard response to non-Role Playing. "I do not understand, you
speak strangely" for example. (Some people might advocate "OOC: I
Role Play." or responding with "OOC:" to newbie queries about
interface, that's up to you.) Repeat the response continuously if
their questions or comments cannot be understood in a game world
context, or if they speak in too unconventional a style to be
believably in context. Very important, for those Role Players who
constantly complain about being hassled by rude players, or players
is why it's there (Again, if it comes to this, then players might
want to "OOC: Ignore list being used." And yes, UO has an ignore
feature, and I suspect EQ, AC, ME and AP will all have ignore
features. Hopefully, we can trust ORPG companies to prevent the
ignore feature from filtering Spell Words, so reaction time to
spellcasting is not decreased).

In conclusion, PowerGaming is an essential part of Role Playing, yet
it can be taken too far. In the event that it is, there are many
ways to respond to it, the most important of which is to STAY IN
CHARACTER. If we, the ORPG Gaming Community, put a fraction of the
effort into Role Playing ORPGs as the development teams of those
games are putting in making them, then the rewards in enjoyment we
will reap as we wander in fantastic and immersive worlds will be
many times the work we have invested.


I hope you enjoyed or learned something from this article, now let
me tell you my opinions on Role Playing and Power Gaming, which you
have probably already guessed. Keep in mind that these are only my
own preferences, not what is "Right" or "Wrong," but what suits ME,
and may not be fact, so you may not wish to read past this point.

As you've probably guessed, I think there's little benefit to pure
PowerGaming. Pure PowerGamers do not realize how enjoyable Role
Playing is and so aren't getting the whole ORPG experience, and in
the process of their "Quaking" they disturb the experience of other
Role Players. This does not have to be caused by Murderers (PK's),
and can be caused by only their conversations. It is almost
impossible for pure PowerGamers to affect only themselves, for they
will undoubtedly affect others. Even if a small group of players
converses out of character, then those who wander by them will hear
their conversation, and "suspension of disbelief" will be stretched
to the limit. Role Playing and pure PowerGaming are two very
contagious organisms, fighting for our support, so if pure
PowerGamers are heard by others, then those others might break
character, or think it is appropriate to do so, and this will catch,
spread, and possibly be reinforced by other pure PowerGamers until
new arrivals in the world automatically think Role Playing is not
appropriate in it. Yes, we all have the example of UO to learn from
(I learned a lot), no matter how much we do not want to hear about
it. However, though I may be wrong, it seems like Role Playing is
securing a foothold and spreading even in UO, so perhaps we can hope
for better things and think more kindly of it.

I, like most Role Players, dream of a Graphic Role Playing
environment, and look forward to the enjoyment I will have when such
environments comes to fruition, hopefully reflecting the thrill of
pen'n'paper Role Playing Games. Whether it be in Asheron's Call,
EverQuest, Middle Earth, the Awakening Project, (an exciting and
revolutionary ORPG project taking shape at
www.dtcomputers.com/awaken) or some other graphical MUD, I know that
when Gamers build this atmosphere, enjoyment will come. And yes, I
say the Gamers will build it, because in the end, no matter how much
effort developers go to, it is ultimately the choice of Gamers
whether the world will be another Quake or a true RPG. Personally, I
would love for developers to force people to Role Play and create a
more enjoyable world for all, but (unfortunately in my opinion) Role
Playing is not something that can be forced, and comes only from
willing players.

Something I've been thinking about lately. Trends are important, and
they should be set properly. When we Beta Test, it is largely pure
PowerGaming. Is this a bug? Will this work? Will this paradox reveal
a bug when I create it? How powerful should I be to complete this?
Should this weapon be upgraded? How fast did I advance today? When
the Beta Test is over, however, the final world will start fresh and
new, and in my humble opinion, the PowerGaming Beta Test, in most
senses, should be completely forgotten. "Oh, I was here during the
Beta test." should be completely wiped from the minds of players, or
at very least they should Role Play it well. Personally, if I could
mix Role Playing with pure Beta PowerGaming, then I would, just to
set a trend for the world, because trends stick and Beta Testers
will have importance in the final world. Forming good habits is

I'll leave you with this? ROLE PLAY. STAY IN CHARACTER? DO NOT BREAK
CHARACTER! No, I do not think I've said this enough times yet, and
will probably continue to say it and possibly write more about Role
Playing. You CANNOT Role Play too much. When you're by yourself in
the Dastardly Jungle of Aruykhan, surrounded only by NPC Wild Men
and trees, you should CONTINUE TO ROLE PLAY. This is for your own
enjoyment, but also for the player crawling out of the pit of the
Aruynien Dungeon, who, stumbling across you, may hear your character
lapse. Role Playing is HABIT FORMING, it isn't hard to pick it up,
and it gets easier as you learn more about your character, a
learning experience which is thoroughly enjoyable. Yes, even when
you're alone it is important.

To conclude, let me tell you of my brother. It may illustrate my
point more clearly.


I was waiting for the bus to arrive one day in the town in which I
lived, Awali, with my brother. While we were waiting, my brother
drank a can of Coke, then threw it down into the sand.

"It's just one can." He said.

"Don't do that!" I cried, "It's littering! If others see it, they'll
copy you and then the whole damn island will be littered." So my
brother kicked the hot desert sands over the can of Coke until only
a small bump in the sand betrayed its presence. No one was around to
see him do it.

"If no one can see it, no one will copy me." He said.

I thought about that for a while, stumped, until the bus was
approaching, when I realized my brother's mistake.

"But if you say that, so will they, and if everyone can use that
same logic, then-" I wasn't allowed to finish, for the clamorous bus
had arrived, and we both got on board and prepared for the 30 minute
ride, in 40 degree heat, to school.


In the end, the enjoyment we get out of a Role Playing Game will be
decided by how good are its Role Playing Gamers, so let's ROLE PLAY!
(all the time)

(I'm going to keep saying that until I hypnotise every RPGer in the


J C Lawrence      Life: http://www.kanga.nu/   Home: claw at kanga.nu
---------(*)                Work (Linux/IA64): claw at varesearch.com
 ... Beware of cromagnons wearing chewing gum and palm pilots ...

MUD-Dev maillist  -  MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

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