[MUD-Dev] Striving for originality

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Fri Jun 7 15:29:37 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

Friday, June 07, 2002, 9:44:47 AM, John Buehler wrote:
> Matt Mihaly writes:
>> On Thu, 6 Jun 2002, John Buehler wrote:

>>> If you want to do damage, get a sword.

>> Ugh. This illustrates what is, to me, the singlest ugliest trend
>> in MUDs (whether graphical or text), which is the idea that thing
>> <X> -should- work like Y. To me, saying that something like magic,
>> which doesn't exist in the physical world, should have properties
>> Z and effects A, B, and C screams box-thinking. Surely magic can
>> be whatever a designer designs it to be. There's nothing
>> inherently good nor bad about magic doing damage, or not doing
>> damage. It's all dependent on your specific design. We have enough
>> people who can't or won't think beyond D&D as it is. Let's not
>> create new boxes.

Well... I'd put this a different way:  be aware that your boxes are
boxes.  IMHO, there's nothing wrong with "I think that this set of
rules for magic is good for this type of game".  What's wrong is, "I
think that this set of rules for magic is the only one that should be

> There are implications to the introduction of any capability,
> whether 'magic' or based in some activity that uses a traditional
> prop, such as a sword.  Or a chair, a tree, a bucket or anything
> else you can name.  As software designers, we can make any player
> action through the keyboard do anything that we want.  This is a
> given.  Should objects that appear to be swords be used by
> characters for actions that swords were traditionally used for?  I
> assume that they should.  How can magic go into such an environment?
> Should magic be permitted to supplant any of these items while they
> are still in the game environment?  I assume that they should not.
> Therefore, I assume that magic is best relegated to actions
> orthogonal to whatever I already have props for.

One problem that comes up -- the more props you have, the less of a
niche there is for magic.  What is there that can be done by magic
which can't be done any other way?  You can heal people with bandages
and time.  You can create things with skill and material.  You can
turn rock to mud with picks, hard work, and water.

If magic shouldn't duplicate any other skill or ability, then what
should magic be able to do?  In order to create a niche for magic, you
may find yourself having to leave out non-magical ways of doing

> If magic can be implemented such that it is no more effective at
> doing what the prominent props of the world are capable of doing,
> with appropriate checks and balances, then I could see magic
> providing the same functionality as those props.  For example, if a
> warrior walks up to me with a sword, intent on lopping my head off
> (I know magic), then when he gets close enough, I can reach out and
> touch him, casting a spell that knocks him back twenty feet.  And I
> must have some corresponding alteration to discourage my excessive
> use of the ability - lest I supplant some other conventional social
> convention or prop ability.

IMHO, one of the main fantasy tropes that's missing from a lot of muds
is that magic is rare.  D&D had very powerful magicians, and any
player could choose to be a magician.  That worked for a couple of

 - The players were a small group, so even if magic was common
   among the player characters, it could still be rare in the

 - Low-level magicians were very weak -- they needed the protection
   of other characters to advance to a point where they became

In many (most?) fantasy muds, though, these are no longer true.  The
players are a large group, so there can easily be dozens or hundreds
of magicians gathered around.  And low-level magicians aren't
generally as weak as in D&D, so that it can be possible to solo
adventure with them and survive.  But there's been no corresponding
change in the ultimate power of magicians -- they still gain great
powers at high levels.

The end result is that magicians start to make other character types
superfluous.  One way to fix that is to de-power magic -- but there
are other ways.

 - Make magic rare -- design things so that not just anyone can be
   a magician.  The minus side here is that players are going to
   hate it -- no one's going to want to be told that they're not one
   of the lucky few who get to play a magician, just because of the
   roll of the dice.

 - Make it easy to start a magician, but make magicians very weak
   initially, and take a while to get powerful.  The minus side is
   that those willing to go through the process will be very

 - Set things up so that magicians are needed, but don't have much
   real effect -- the main thing that a magician is for is countering
   enemy magicians.

... and I'm sure other people can come up with other methods.

Travis Casey
efindel at earthlink.net

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