[MUD-Dev] (no subject)

Travis Casey efindel at io.com
Sat Nov 27 23:47:18 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999

On Saturday, November 27, 1999, claw at kanga.nu wrote:
> Travis Casey <efindel at io.com> wrote:
>> On Wednesday, November 24, 1999, J C Lawrence wrote:

>>> What is the current comparitive state of paper RPG's as compared
>>> to the 1970's based MUDs?

>> State in what sense?  How successful they are, or what sort of
>> game designs they're using?

> Well, only the second of those questions is is actually
> interesting...

I figured that was what you meant, but I thought I'd make sure (and I
was too tired after getting back from Thanksgiving to write a proper
response anyways  :-)

I'm not going to answer the question you asked.  Lest I sound like a
politician, here's why:

  Muds and paper RPGs exist under a different set of circumstances.
  The things that make for a good paper RPG system may not make for a
  good system for a mud.  In particular, the 90's have seen paper RPGs
  tend towards simpler systems with more left up to the GM.  IMHO,
  moving in the same direction would be a mistake for muds.

So, what am I going to answer?  Well, I'm going to go over the
characteristics of 1970's RPGs that most muds (*) share and look at
alternatives from the paper RPG world.

(* - note that when I say, "most muds", I mean most text-based,
game/combat-oriented muds -- i.e., Diku and LP derivatives.  MOOs,
MUSHes, and other RP-oriented muds, from what little I've seen, tend
towards minimalist game systems.  And, of course, there are many
experimental muds that are moving away from the things I'll describe.)

The archetypal 1970's RPG is D&D/first edition AD&D.  (Second edition
AD&D, while maintaining a 70's-style core, has added many things, and
third edition promises to be even more different.)  Characteristics

 - A class-level based system.  That is, characters are largely
   described by a class and level which determine what they can do and
   to what extent.  Classes are rigid, with little or no ability for
   players to customize them.

   Later systems have largely moved from class-level to skill-based.
   Some systems retain classes, using them either as sets of initial
   skills or as "aptitudes" that make it easier (or, in some cases,
   possible) for characters to learn certain skills.

   A class-level system's primary advantage is fast, simple character
   creation -- there are fewer choices to make.  However, many people
   like having the ability to customize their characters.  A good
   compromise may be a template system -- a skill-based system in
   which several starting characters have already been worked out, and
   a player *can* simply choose one of those to use if he/she doesn't
   want to take the time to fully generate a character.

   Class-based systems are often easier to balance initially -- again,
   there are fewer combinations of things to look at.  However,
   class-based systems tend to add new classes as they go along.  This
   means that balance can be a constant problem, as each new class
   usually has several new abilities that did not exist before.  In a
   skill-based system, on the other hand, initial balancing can be
   more difficult, but adding a new skill does not usually have the
   potential for introducing unbalance that adding a new class does.

 - Hit point damage systems, with characters increasing in hit points
   as they increase in level.  In D&D's case, this fits into a very
   abstract combat system, in which it makes a modicum of sense.
   Unfortunately, many 70's systems kept this feature without keeping
   the abstract combat system.

   Later systems have moved towards separating out the different
   components of D&D's hit points, by giving characters defensive
   abilities that increase in reliability as the character improves.
   Hit points, in those games where they are still used, usually
   represent simple physical toughness.

   Separating out the components of D&D's hit points introduces more
   complexity, but is usually a good idea, because it means that fewer
   special cases are needed in the system.

 - Separate mechanics used to do different things.  For example, first
   edition AD&D has several different combat systems:  a system for melee
   with weapons, three systems for melee without weapons, a system for
   missile fire, a system for spells, and a system for doing
   non-lethal damage with weapons.  Some of these share mechanics
   (the weaponed melee, missile, and non-lethal weapon systems), but
   others are wildly different.  For example, weapon combat uses a d20 to
   determine if a hit is made, followed by a damage roll to determine
   damage if there was a hit.  Weaponles combat, however, uses
   percentile dice, with a percentile chart to consult for damage if a
   hit is made.  Spells don't normally require a roll to hit, but instead
   require the target to roll to avoid or resist them.

   Modern systems typically use a single basic mechanic, which is
   adapted in different ways to do different things.  This makes the
   game easier for both players and GMs to understand, and means that
   nothing has to be improvised from scratch -- you can always fall
   back on the basic mechanic.

   A single mechanic has to be playtested very well -- if there are
   oddities in it, they will affect everything.  However, a good
   single mechanic will make expanding the game to handle new
   situations much easier.

 - Binary success.  Early RPG mechanics usually gave a result of either
   success or failure for actions; the mechanics did not provide a
   means of telling whether a particular success was "better" or a
   particular failure "worse."

   Modern systems usually integrate some method of determining how
   good or bad a success or failure is.

   Levels of success or failure can be useful in combat, where they
   can take the place of special "critical hit" systems, and can also
   be useful for establishing values of created items, resolving
   contests quickly, and other situations.

 - Non-difficulty-based systems.  This relates to the previous point.
   Many early systems had no set way for the GM to increase or
   decrease the difficulty of an action, with the result that
   different GMs used different methods.  Further, no guidelines were
   given for how much of an adjustment should be used for different
   levels of difficulty.

   Modern systems usually have a set means of increasing or decreasing
   the difficulty of actions.  Normally, this ties in to the system
   for determining levels of success or failure -- i.e., a difficult
   action may require a character to achieve a certain degree of
   success or higher in order to truly succeed with the action.

   Difficulty-based systems make it easy for builders to apply a skill
   to different situations -- e.g., if a particular cliff is very
   slippery and hard to climb, one can simply increase the difficulty
   of climbing it.

There are probably more useful differences that I could list, but
these are the main ones that I can think of off-hand.  Again, I'm
speaking in this about typical Diku and LP-based muds, not about *all*

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

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