[MUD-Dev] Striving for originality

John Bertoglio jb at co-laboratory.com
Fri Jun 7 10:34:01 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: "Edward Glowacki" <>
> On Thu, 2002-06-06 at 18:13, John Bertoglio wrote:

>> Limiting power interesting notion. A constraint/feature I have
>> never hear used is the idea of a mana pool based on location.
>> Most systems create a situation where spell casting power is
>> based a mana supply controlled by an individual persona.
>> Typically, this supply increases with level creating part of the
>> balance problems mentioned above. A way to constrain the power of
>> magic would be to assign a base value to a zone based on terrain,
>> time of day, phases of the moon or any other combination
>> factors. Since I believe that even a fantasy world should have
>> reasonable (if fantastic) physics, this would allow for the
>> concept that mana conversion has a reasonable basis and is not
>> infinite. Couple this with a model that increase the risk to the
>> party with the level of the magic and you could strike a better
>> balance. Once the mana was depleted in a region, mana based magic
>> would not work.
> I have actually envisioned something akin to this for my own
> yet-to-be-designed-or-built game, with the exception that
> characters still have a reserve of mana available to use when the
> mana in an area is sparse.  This reserve would vary in size
> between characters, and could be increased with character points,
> practice time, or whatever your skill currency is.  Do you learn
> another fire spell, or do you increase the size of your reserve so
> you can go longer in mana-poor areas?

Note that my suggestion still allows for the notion of a personal
mana pool. But, in keeping with Edward's suggestions, the "cost" of
increasing one's personal (portable) mana pool should be very high.
There is still a potential for differentiation in mana use and
recovery based on individual skills, level and/or class. An
important part of the proposal was the idea that items could be used
to store and transport mana derived from other areas.

As I said before, I like the idea that a world should have physical
rules. They do not have to be the same as our world, but they should
be internally consistent. If you can pull power from the air, it had
to come from somewhere. The laws of thermodynamics (TANSTAAFL)
should apply even if they are totally warped. It is my belief that
most balance problems derive from not using some kind of physical
model as a basis. Most advancement/damage models are built on the
desire to reward user participation and loyalty. Because they have
no touchstone to provide a reality check for their metrics, most
online worlds have vague, unsatisfying physical rules that create
(at best) an unconscious feeling that things are not right.

MUD designers would do well to look at Half-Life mods like Counter
Strike and Day of Defeat. While there is lively debate in those
communities (Is the sniper rifle too powerful? Why can I only carry
two grenades? Etc.) but the debate is centers on changes of +/- 20%
or less. Because these designers use real world physics as their
baseline, they get close to balance on the first pass. The weapons
they model were all designed for the same purpose and reflect
standard engineering trades-offs. Tweaking the balance is required
because the simulation cannot fully reflect reality.

>> This method would create a lot of interesting tactical
>> possibilities. A standard "Magic Missile" spell with its limited
>> damage would be very reliable. A powerful spell would deplete the
>> area mana rapidly and suddenly leave the mages without a role. At
>> first glance, it would seem to be a good idea for a magic-weak
>> party to cast powerful spells to deprive the opponents of mana
>> power. However, the risk of a low level magic user trying this
>> would be very high.

> I was thinking more along the lines of low mana areas simply
> taking a lot longer to regenerate your mana, but the mana in an
> area wouldn't be depleted by the action.  The actual removal of
> mana from the environment would make the dynamics of the game
> significantly different, and I'm not sure that's what I was
> looking for in my game (have to think about it some more now... =)
> ).  At any rate, I seem to be leaning towards a magic-heavy
> world...
The goal in the proposal above was to create zones which were magic
friendly and those where it was sparse and rare. In addition, we
were trying to avoid the situation where a low level mage has spell
power that is the equivalent of throwing rocks and a high level mage
has spells with the power of a 16inch naval gun (along with a rate
of fire admirals only dream of). An important component of the
balance problem is the fact that with advancement comes many orders
of magnitude of power increases.

By tying some of the power of magic to location, we have the effect
of creating tactical differentiation.

What I envision is a situation where a group of personas who do not
use magic (out of preference or for role playing reasons) found a
town/fortress in a low/no mana area. Magic users who attempt to
assault them will pretty much have to bring their mana with them.
The magic is powerful but must be used carefully to gain the desired
result. A previous post suggested, it is impossible defend a
fortress against magic users who wield spells that approximate
tactical nukes.

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