[MUD-Dev] Player characters as a prey species

Ling Lo ling at slimy.com
Mon Jul 9 10:12:51 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Since today is not a special day, I've come out of hiding.

On Sun, 8 Jul 2001, Jon Leonard wrote:

> At a (board-)gaming event last night, JCL brought up the idea of a MUD
> where players are not the dominant species in the gameworld. Instead
> they're prone to being eaten by city-size dragons or some such.

Hrm.  I'm sure this idea has been suggested by JCL a while back.
Something about PCs having the equivalent status of a badger in the
foodchain.  <cue randomly searching kanga>


Okay, didn't have anything to do with badgers or small mammals at
all.  My memory has a fault!

> One of the possible purposes of such a game is to provide a
> mechanism by which more powerful characters get removed from play
> (permadeath implied).

I would say it's cool and twistedly elegant as a designer but it
would depend on implementation, as ever.  Just make sure the player
has no complaints when the character keels over due to some chunky
golem having a bad day.  I think there's some sort of curve one can

If the y-axis is advancement, in whatever form, and x-axis is time,
then the curve should be a bell curve except the demise should be a
lot faster than the rise.  The above implies a sawtooth which, as a
player, would be deeply unsatisfying.  Of course, it depends on the
height of the curve.

No or little advancement means the player doesn't mind death (so
long as things like preferences and settings are stored somewhere,
this is where having an account setup is handy), whereas lots of
advancement means it would be rather foolish to kill the player's
character on a whim.

Perhaps it would be nice to see trade-offs instead of pure
advancement.  Getting good at one thing makes you bad at another,
gaining extra powers causes instability or makes you an enemy of a
certain faction or requires you to Feed the Hunger. :) Like a
blessing to get +1 on a sword (I apologise for stooping to D&D
language but it seems to be our only common frame of reference
within the mud community) leaves a magical residue inside the sword.
This residue, in turn, makes it more likely for a leech sprite to
nibble on your sword (and this would be a bad thing since it weakens
the material).

"With Power, Comes Insanity!!!!!"

Except it's rather hard to make the player turn into an insane
villian bent on taking over the world!  Unless there is a higher
power beating the character with a big stick, a la Black & White
except the player is the Creature.  Hmm...  That has a strange but
oddly compelling appeal for me.

I blame it on my childhood.

Another thing is that insanity is a bit more insane than the average
person thinks it is.  In the same way genius doesn't involve having
a photographic memory but I digress.

> Comparisons to the paper RPGs Call of Cthluhu and Paranoia came to
> mind immediately...  They depend a lot on the flavor of the
> gameworld, which may or may not be an intrinsic propery of games
> with short character life expectancy.

Ah...  Rather different context to what I had in mind above.  Still,
I'm exploring. :)

> A variant on the idea is one in which some (nearly?) undefeatable
> monsters always hunt the most powerful character available.  This
> is a rather gameable mechanic, but it does serve to limit the
> supply of high-powered characters at any one point.

Are high powered characters bad?  How about renormalising the mud on
occassion so new characters start with more powers and existing
characters get pushed up a bit depending on their lag.  Of course,
this would only work within a numbers mud (prod certain Diku muds as
the examples) since there's a finite variety of powers.  It would
have the implication that to get ahead in the game, the player would
have to work for it but the imparted advantage is only temporary.

As usual, I'd expect a game setting to explain why the above would

> Another idea I had this morning was something along the lines of a
> slow permadeath.  Suppose that each character has a healing
> multiplier stat, and that all health-recovery effects, (healing
> spells or natural recovery, etc.) get multiplied by it.  If
> certain monsters do damage that permanently reduces this stat, it
> could make it such that characters simply can't be played forever.

I'd much prefer this one...  I can also see that you're a gamer, of
the non-computer type, Jon. :)

Whilst I'm typing, I thought I'd stray the topic...  You can stop
reading.  I'm just randomly chatting instead of posting this on a
webpage.  A few months ago, I was chatting to Per Vognsen and we
came up with a odd little setup.  I'll assume a sci-fi setting like
Dune the movie, dark, damp and damned.  Since it folds in a number
of inspirations, JCL can have credit too.  In retrospect, it is
actually JCL's body hopping idea but wrapped in a digestable
form. ;)

The player starts off in the game as a person just like any other,
the exception is that the player is a player and therefore should
have special powers to distinguish this fine specimen.

In this case, the player has psychic/empathic abilities which allow
minor influence on the will of some susceptible npc.  The game
itself concerns the usual mudding case of just living in an
alternative universe, getting cash, equipment, contacts and social

This ability can be enhanced by cunning extra retrofits (illegal for
reasons detailed later, it also makes finding a place to do the
fitting an adventure).  The idea is that the players make up less
than a wee fraction of the entire population in the universe and
there are a lot of npcs but only some npcs can be influenced.  With
the right empathic enhancements, it is possible to exert a stronger
influence.  This influence allows part of the player's mind to be
stored on the host.

It follows that, with enough enhancement, it would be possible to
store all the player's mind over a number of hosts.  Permadeath
exists but each new storage host makes death less of an
inconvenience.  As the game progresses, the player moves up in the
gaming ladder, from influencing a single person to give out money to
influencing a small shipping crew to whole political entities.  This
design is like peeling an onion except it's supposed to suck in the
player into a deeper gaming/story context instead of crying.

This entire setting would take place within an existing political
system, old timers would not want the upstarts to take their place
(which is why enhancements are illegal) but these upstarts are
useful as pawns.  The different levels of players occupy different
stratas of play within the same playing field but it should be noted
that the new, weak players don't get noticed by the heavy hitters
but the reverse is not true.

I've left out tracts of detail since I've decided I should stop.

One more thing before I sign off...  Time variant races!  Each race
perceives time at a different pace.  Like the wee Gerbils of the
Planet Tom would see a dot instead of a picture on the television
screen ("So why do these humans stare at a black box with a dot on
it moving very slowly?").  The Rockies of the Planet Andie thinks a
reaction time of one hour to be rash!  (hint: Rockies play once a
day via PBeM or a suitable client of some sort).

N..e..way.  This posting should make up for the last three years. :P

  |   Ling Lo

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