[MUD-Dev] Player vs. Character Skills

Ananda Dawnsinger ananda at greyrealms.com
Fri Jul 21 11:01:43 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

Sorry to respond to two messages at once, but they really are a set...
>From: "Raph Koster" <rkoster at austin.rr.com>
>To: <mud-dev at kanga.nu>
>Subject: RE: [MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev digest, Vol 1 #163 - 25 msgs
>Date: Thu, Jul 20, 2000, 4:54 PM

>Another perspective on this same issue: I ran into an interesting
>perspective when discussing design with someone else in the computer game
>industry recently. He disliked some ideas I suggested regarding "social
>professions" in an MMORPG because they were means of advancement that
>measured your actual, real-life skill at certain things that were social in
>nature--eg, using reputation systems to propvide advancement for being good
>at social activities like getting crowds to come to your tavern, for
>example. The logic was that in an RPG, the point is what skills reside on
>your character, not your "self."

Unless it's one of the many game systems that specifically rewards
roleplaying, of course...

I've run into this attitude myself on occasion.  It tends to give me hives
-- probably because I've specifically seen it expressed as "I don't like
bards, because it gives some people an unfair advantage just because they
can write well in real life."  I think my instinctive reaction says more
about me than about the position, and not necessarily anything good.  To be
blunt and unflattering, one of the reasons why I enjoy these games is
because I do write well and it gives me a chance to show off.

That said, I really don't think a strongly "level" system (one that does not
take player skill/quality into account; at the extreme, one that penalizes
the "best" players in order to enforce a level playing field) works in an
online environment.  Yes, a MUD is a game (except when it's not), and you
want to make sure that everybody gets a fair shake.  But a MUD is also a
community, and it's not good for a community when those best suited to
community-building are not allowed to bring their abilities and talents to

I think as designers start trying to make huge, broadbased games to capture
the mainstream audience, the temptation to keep the playing field level will
be very strong.  I also think it's something of a mistake.  Why do we watch
movies and television?  To let the experts entertain us.  Why do we read
books?  To let the experts entertain us.  Why do we listen to music?  To let
the experts entertain us.  I don't think there's a long-term future in a
game in which everybody is an expert and even the best experts can't be any
better than anybody else.

OTOH, you do need to give all players a fair shake.  There needs to be major
parts of the game in which anybody can excel.  I also think you can do that
and still allow players with special talents, skills, and abilities to

>From: Colin Coghill <C.Coghill at auckland.ac.nz>
>To: mud-dev at kanga.nu
>Subject: Re: [MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev digest, Vol 1 #163 - 25 msgs
>Date: Thu, Jul 20, 2000, 9:39 PM

>I don't see any fundamental difference between a character that can 
>do "jump across grand canyon" or "trick ambassador fred into giving 
>me land".
>I think the current focus on games letting you have physical skills
>that you don't otherwise have but not giving you mental skills (in game)
>that you don't have comes mainly from history. I would think that most
>people who played "tabletop" RPGs (and MUDs) originally tended to be
>more intellectually skilled than physical, and it made sense for the 
>game system to make up for physical skills but not bother with mental 
>Nowadays, and in the future, I think it may balance out a little more.
>I think it would be fascinating to have an RPG that let me play, say,
>a hotshot lawyer. When I have no legal training myself.

I do think it's good to allow players to play a lawyer without needing to
have studied law, or to negotiate settlements with neighbors without special
knowledge or training.  It would be good to see games with modeling of
certain mental skills.

There is, however, a fundamental difference between "jump across Grand
Canyon" and "be well-respected among your peers."  Or "organize a healthy,
functional player group."  Or "write a limerick."  Or "be a reliable news
source."  Or "be a great roleplayer."  Or "be a sweet, likeable person."

   -- Sharon

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