[MUD-Dev] RE: [MUD-Dev] Fantasy clichés

Michael Tresca talien at toast.net
Sun Jul 9 11:27:21 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

Brian Green wrote:

> I find D&D is a nice "lingua franca" to discuss things.  Most people
> interested in game development (especially pen and paper games) know D&D
> and how it works.  Saying a monster is like an "AD&D Umber Hulk" puts a
> pretty good image in most people's minds.  Plus, where would we be if we
> couldn't talk about (and often bash) levels? :)

Definitely a double-edged sword here.  For one, some of these critters are
(as TSR has claimed in the past) unique beasts that have no basis in
folklore, and thus defendable in a court of law.  Umber hulks, beholders,
and a host of others that some people may think are mythological in origin,
are actually TSRological in origin instead.  In terms of game development,
it's important to know the difference.

Second, D&D itself is something of a moving target.  Dragons in First
Edition were not nearly as tough as Second Edition.  The gaming populace you
target will probably determine what preconceived notions they bring to the
MUDding table (so to speak).  For example -- werewolf and vampire powers are
now so heavily influenced by White Wolf's Vampire and Werewolf, that to
ignore those two game systems and target only the AD&D version (which aren't
quite as exciting or in-depth) is likely to irk players who know WW's game
system better than TSR's.

What disturbs me is that D&D is fast becoming a standard which contradicts
myth and legend.  It's one thing to stretch the limits of what constitutes a
dragon -- it's another when you have an original creation or fantasy myth
dating back several centuries, base a monster off of it, then someone cries
foul because it doesn't fit the D&D paradigm.  D&D makes it very easy to
pump out stock monsters, but it can make a horrible noose for creativity.

If there's something wrong with the mindless legions of multi-player games
today, I submit it's because we now have such a rigid paradigm where you
"can't go wrong."  Elves, dwarves, hobbits -- put in enough elements, and
you've got a fantasy game.  As long as your goblins are small, your ogres
are large, and your swords all look like long swords, you're guaranteed to
be labeled in the fantastic genre.

This harkens back to the plight of the casual gamer issue.   The casual
gamer is not going to know the lingua franca, and if game creators depend on
it, then they're creating yet another barrier for new players to overcome.
Better to reinforce your own unique fantasy myths through consistency within
the game itself.

Michael "Talien" Tresca
RetroMUD Administrator
telnet://retromud.org 3000

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