[MUD-Dev] Striving for originality

Matt Chatterley matt at eldoops.co.uk
Fri Jun 7 10:18:09 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


On Tue, 4 Jun 2002, Sanvean wrote:
> On Tue, 4 Jun 2002, Matt Chatterley wrote:
> <introductory verbiage snipped)

> We haven't had any trouble with a complex magick system, and I've
> gone so far as to complicate it further by thinking how spells
> interact with each other and the environment -- for example, one
> sector type dampens most spells, while another doubles most travel
> related spells.  Players have reacted to these systems
> enthusiastically.  Do remember that as some players gather such
> knowledge, they'll be passing it along to others, so not everyone
> will be coming into it cold.

As longer standing list members may recall, this isn't the first
Magic thread that I've spawned. It's a favourite game system for me,
certainly (and one of my favourite parts of fantasy literature --
the sheer space which you have for expression in such a topic is
incredible).

Some of the ideas which I currently have in terms of environmental
interactivity are:

'Mana' flow: Although 'mana' will probably not be the final name for
magical power, the base concept is that the energies permeate the
whole world, and flow from it. Magic-users are characters whose
bodies are slightly different to others (the little jumper which
enables them to harness this power is enabled, whereas by default it
is not) -- they are able to channel and shape this power. Hence, in
some areas, where more power has accumulated (think of magic in this
theme like groundwater in a way; theres more in some places, and its
possible for it to collect into 'puddles') magic is more
powerful. There are also some (relatively rare) dead-zones where
there is little or no power (in some, no magic will work, in others,
it is very weak).

'Radiation theory': As magic is channeled from the world, through a
mage and used in an area, that area can be 'changed'. If a lot of
magic is used, some strange things might start to occur. The power
which is used for magic is a natural force, and unbalancing nature
too much can be very dangerous -- don't try any great works of magic
in graveyards. The leakage could have disastrous side effects
(unless you're also a good runner!). As well as predetermined side
effects on some things, there will be general side effects on all
materials near the spellcasting.

The elements: Weather will almost certainly be a part of the game
environment (tiring faster in very hot weather, dehydration, getting
wet in the rain -- maybe catching a cold, etc). Mages who learn to
use magical power to influence the weather (although, to have a
significant effect over any area will require quite a lot of energy)
might be very feared, or highly valued.

> One approach, though, might be to have some basic cantrips and
> small spells that aren't so complicated, and which act as
> introductions to the concepts that will be involved in higher
> level (and accordingly more complex and powerful) spells.

Mm. I'm envisioning a whole chain of magic, really -- at the lowest
level you have cheap conjuring tricks (but using 'real' magic --
genuine tricks, essentially cantrips -- things like low power light
spells, basic levitation of objects, etc). These are likely to be
very simple, low power spells with little battlefield application
(although the ingenious mage with a strong selection of these might
be very handy while adventuring).

As you go up in terms of spell power you go through more traditional
spells (fireballs, magic missiles, magical locks, teleportation,
create-air, ursula's magical umbrella, etc). The more power, the
more 'raw' the effect -- the very highest power spells would involve
the use of raw magical energy to affect changes in the environment,
or simply blasts of 'raw power'.

> A magic system is one of the places where you can seriously make
> or break a game's atmosphere.

Absolutely. It's why I'm loathe to have an unchanging, static list
of one command word spells which everybody gains as they go
along. Wheres the fun if Fred the wizard (level 63) has exactly the
same spells as Jim the wizard (level 58), and both are striving to
gain the whirling-zap-of-incredible-naughtiness spell at level 70?

Far better if Fred is a bit more powerful, because he's spent more
time out in the field, while Jim has a couple more spells -- he
spent more time in his tower and in the town researching and
building them.

Something else which appeals to me, is the idea that you can have
several similar spells which are slightly different (maybe not all
as good as each other), and that a character might gain their game
world fame through one.

Imagine how delighted Ucalyptessia's player would be if her spell
(Ucalyptessia's impenetrable magelock) were bought, copied and
handed around, so that after taking a break from the game for her
summer vacation, she returned and found that it was now a common
spell, whereas only three of her friends knew of it when she left! 
I'd probably wet my pants if this happened to me ;)

>> The old player-killing chestnut pops up too -- should I choose to

> I'm pro player killing, because there's a significant chunk of
> players for whom it's important. However, (imo, as with all of
> this), you want to avoid scenarios where more powerful players sit
> in some location killing newbies just for chuckles --I've hit
> games where that happens, and it's discouraging to the point where
> I've moved on, rather quickly, to a less frustrating environment,
> and I suspect that reaction is not atypical.

Yup. I think my approach will probably be to align game balance so
that any conflict carries some risk, and that a strongly bound
together system of guilds will encourage an environment where people
watch each others backs to some extent.

I'm also contemplating some sort of system where older guild members
might be able to 'sponsor' newbies, to get them started, and turn
them into useful, productive members of a guild.

--Matt

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