[MUD-Dev] "Mud-school", character-gen and role-playing

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Tue Jul 11 12:11:39 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

Tuesday, July 11, 2000, 2:02:24 AM, Greg Miller <gmiller at classic-games.com> wrote:
>   Adam wrote:

>> In a nutshell: you choose virtues like "You have giant blood, and are much
>> larger and stronger than a normal human" or "You have a careful personality,
>> all Botch skill rolls get a bonus of +2" and flaws like "You are bad at
>> communicating spells and get a -4 to all communication rolls" or "You have
>> a big nose that people find commical".  Each one has a score, with flaws being
>> negative and virtues being positive.  You choose as many flaws and virtues
>> as you like, but you must end up at some constant (like say, 0).

> Kind of like advantages and disadvantages in GURPS?

Yep; same thing, just different terminology.  Advantages and
disadvantages (or ads and disads, for short) is the general RPG
terminology for it, but there are a lot of synonyms.

> My understanding of 
> the D&D 3E "feats" system is that it's designed to allow more or less 
> this sort of personalization, although the mechanic is different (all 
> positives, with a limit to how many you can choose, as I recall). 
> Someone else (Travis?) mentioned 3E on the list, perhaps someone who's 
> paid more attention to it could detail WotC's system.

Well, since 3E isn't out yet, all I can tell you is what I've read on
the rumor sites.  It works like this:

Feats are learned "special abilities" that characters can get.  For
every three levels you earn, you gain a feat.  Fighters gain bonus
combat-oriented feats, which is that class's "special ability".
Certain feats are only available to certain classes, and some feats
have other prerequisites -- minimum levels, minimum ability scores,
other feats you have to know already, that sort of thing.  Many of the
feats used to be proficiencies in 2nd edition.

Examples (note that some of these refer to other 3rd edition things.
I'm not going to try to fully explain everything here; if you're
curious about what something is, ask.):

Stunning fist:  lets you make an unarmed combat attack that has a
chance to stun your opponent.

Combat casting:  gives a spell-caster a +4 to any concentration check
needed in combat to continue casting a spell.

Combat reflexes:  increases the number of "attacks of opportunity" a
character can make in one round.

Deflect arrows:  allows the character to make a Reflex save to deflect
incoming arrows.

Improved initiative:  gives +4 to initiative.

Magic Craft, Forge Ring:  allows a spellcaster to create magic rings.

Metamagic, silent spell:  allows a spellcaster to prepare a spell
without a verbal component.

Mounted archery:  halves penalties for firing a bow from horseback.

As you can see, these are more akin to "special skills" than to
GURPS-style advantages.  3E also has skills; the main difference
between skills and feats is that feats are binary -- you have them or
don't.  Skills have levels.

>> This would be especially interesting to implement on a mud, because you
>> could make a dynamic "economy" of character traits.  Each time a trait
>> is chosen, its cost raises by some tiny amount (say, 0.01).  Each time
>> a trait is present and not chosen (or, alternately, if the trait is not
>> chosen at all within a 24 hour period) its cost goes down by 0.01.  Only
>> whole numbers are displayed to players.
>> This means that the most "popular" character traits will quickly become
>> inflated, and people will start shopping amongst the more uncommon traits.
>> Which is a desired effect as far as I am concerned.

> Neat. Definately gotta file this message for my "cool ideas" folder.

The Theatrix RPG has a system which works very well for it, but may
not adapt well to most muds or to more rules-heavy paper RPGs.
Instead of ads and disads, Theatrix has descriptors.  A descriptor
describes some aspect of your character; it can be positive, negative,
or both.

If a descriptor is used in a significant way, the player has to spend
a Plot Point to "activate" the descriptor for that scene.  On the flip
side, though, if the GM uses a descriptor against a character in a
significant way, the player gets a Plot Point.  Uses of a descriptor
that don't actually make a difference to the game are free.

For example, let's say a character has the descriptor "bard".  If the
player decides that his character is going to play in the inn where
the characters are staying, he/she can play really well and that would
be free.  If, however, the characters were trying to get into the
castle of an evil lord and the player wanted his character to play so
well that the lord invites him and his companions into his castle,
that would cost a plot point.

Another example would be a character with "vampire" as a descriptor.
If the character shows up for a meeting by flying in as a bat instead
of driving there, that's free -- it doesn't really make a difference.
If, however, the player wants to have the character get away from a
lynch mob by turning into a bat and flying away, that would cost a
plot point, since that's significant.  If the GM arranges things so
that a major fight takes place in sunlight and the vampire can't
participate, the player would get a plot point.

One interesting Theatrix rule has to do with continuity; if a player
can't or won't spend a plot point to do something his/her character
should logically do, the GM can require the player to come up with an
explanation for why.  For example, if the vampire above was out of
plot points when the mob came after him/her, the GM could demand an
explanation for why the character doesn't turn into a bat.

This sort of system solves several of the problems with "standard"
ad/disad systems:

 - There's no worry about the GM or the system under- or over-valuing
   an ad or disad.  The cost or benefit of an descriptor naturally
   works out in play, through the mechanism of plot points.  For
   example, combat advantages typically are assigned high values by
   most RPGs -- but if the game is low-combat, they may not actually
   be worth that much.

 - If the campaign changes in a significant way, the value or an ad or
   disad naturally adjusts with it.  For example, water-breathing might
   be very useful in a campaign set in a Venice-like city.  However,
   if the party moves to another city, it may suddenly be nearly
   useless.  In a standard setup, the player may get upset about
   effectively losing the points spent for that advantage.  In
   Theatrix, the player is simply no longer activating that
   descriptor, leaving those plot points free to use with other

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

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