[MUD-Dev] Role-Playing Games Are Not Dead

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 29 17:18:19 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Wednesday, November 28, 2001, 3:31:54 PM, Matt Mihaly wrote:
> On Tue, 27 Nov 2001, Travis Casey wrote:
>> On Saturday 24 November 2001 6:47, Matt Mihaly wrote:
>> Definitely; muds are not P&P RPGs, and to simply copy things from
>> P&P RPGs without recognizing the differences is silly.  On the
>> other hand, though, that doesn't mean that none of the techniques
>> of P&P RPGs are useful -- only that they shouldn't be used
>> blindly or unthinkingly.

> No, but I don't see the techniques of P&P as being any more
> inherently useful than the techniques used in French cooking. Both
> can inform a MUD, and I don't see any real reason why one is
> inherently more useful. Both are entirely different activities
> from MUDing. (And if you doubt me about the French cooking, then
> you should have been in my head yesterday.)

> I'm overstating the case a little to make a point. I think many
> people on this list have never played a MUD that wasn't trying to
> be D&D. Most of them seem to try to be. Bash monsters to get kewl
> l00t and xp so that you can bash more monsters to get kewler l00t
> and xp so that you can bash more monsters. That's the basic D&D
> experience. (Argh, don't flame me, you know it's true, regardless
> of whether your particular D&D sessions were like that or not.) I
> think because of this relatively homogenous experience, there's a
> feeling that there is some fundamental relationship between D&D
> and P&P generally, and MUDs. I would say there is no fundamental
> relationship between the two, and I deny that P&P games have much
> to teach us about MUDs.

That's the basic D&D experience, yes -- but I'm talking about RPGs
in general, not D&D in particular.  I've been saying for years that
I think trying to copy D&D is a bad idea.

As long as you're dealing with the level of individual characters,
there's tons of stuff from P&P RPGs that are related to things in
muds -- attribute and skill description methods, task resolution
systems, skill trees, advancement systems, magic systems, combat
systems, and so on.

Further, there are related areas outside of mechanics.  P&P RPGs
also have to deal with such areas as "how do you direct a story
without force-feeding it to the players", "how do you deal with
players suddenly acquiring huge amounts of money", "what do the
monsters do while the players aren't watching", "how can you
anticipate strange player strategies", etc.  These sorts of things
get discussed on this list -- and they also get discussed on paper
RPG lists and newsgroups.

> I think your time is far better spent studying political science,
> anthropology, economics, psychology and the other social sciences
> than reading D&D rulebooks, which, I reiterate, I think is mainly
> a waste of time if you're trying to learn something about MUDs.

I'll readily agree that most of the D&D rulebooks would be a waste
of time; however, I wouldn't agree that all rulebooks of all paper
RPGs would be a waste.

And I certainly don't believe that paper RPGs should be the be-all
and end-all of what people building muds should look into.  All I'm
saying is that there is room for cross-fertilization of ideas and
the like.
>> That mainly leads to differences in GMing technique, though.  A
>> good P&P RPG system's *mechanics* are perfectly usable for group
>> vs. group conflicts.

> Again, I'm ignorant of most P&P systems. Are there systems whose
> mechanics really are good for player-run governmental
> organizations in opposition to each other?

That depends on what you're asking there.  I can't think of a system
off-hand that has mechanics dedicated to exactly that.  However,
that doesn't mean that there isn't something that could be adapted
or could be good for inspiration... just the other day, I ran into a
system in an AD&D module for handling a group of players trying to
destabilize the government of a city.  That was an NPC government,
but that still might be good for inspiration.  (The module is "Night
Below", BTW.)

> Who the heck do they govern?

NPCs, of course.  There are systems that have rules for PCs trying
to govern a territory, and there was a discussion on just that topic
on rpg-create a year or so back.

> For dealing with real hatred between the participants?

I'm not sure what you mean by "dealing with".  Do you mean dealing
with characters attacking each other in the game, or dealing with
player-level disagreements?  There are systems for dealing with the
former in games -- e.g., systems for handling duels, insults, and
the like.  The latter isn't generally handled through rules, but
I've seen discussion of the situation and how a GM can try to handle

> P&P RPGs always struck me as requiring cooperative participants to
> work.

Which sense of "cooperative" do you mean -- that the members of the
group are all cooperating with each other, or that the members are
willing to cooperate with the GM's running of the game?  The former
is the usual situation, but is not a requirement -- many people,
including myself, have run paper games with two competing groups of
players in the game.  If players won't cooperate with the GM, that's
a much bigger problem.

One area that paper RPGs can't help with is how to handle grief
players -- there, you just don't invite the bastards back.

> They also seem to require roleplaying.

Well, I'd say that to expect a roleplaying game not to require
roleplaying is a bit silly.  I suspect we may be using different
definitions of what "roleplaying" is, though.  What do you mean by
it here?

Again, I'm not saying that paper RPGs are a perfect model for muds,
nor that all questions that arise in muds can be handled by seeing
how some paper RPG deals with it -- all that I'm saying is that I
think paper RPGs and muds have to deal with a lot of the same
situations, and looking at how various paper RPGs and their GMs have
handled a situation may be helpful in coming up with a way to deal
with it.

Sometimes it'll show you what *won't* work.  Sometimes it'll show
you soemthing that won't quite work, but could be modified.  Rarely,
you might be able to just lift out a system.  And sometimes it won't
help at all.  But to just say that paper RPGs aren't relevant,
period, as some people seem to want to do, doesn't make sense to me.

Travis Casey
efindel at earthlink.net

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