[MUD-Dev] D&D vs. MMORPG "complexity"

Paul Schwanz pschwanz at comcast.net
Tue Apr 15 10:23:33 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

Derek Licciardi wrote:
> From: Paul Schwanz

>> It isn't that the MUD offers more complex gameplay, but that it
>> has a much more complex problem to solve.

> This assumes that the problem being solved roughly equates to
> replicating the tabletop experience in a more massive scale.

Actually, if my statement assumed anything, it assumed an
understanding of what you proceeded to spell out.  As in...

> I believe the complexity is even greater than that because
> limiting MMOs to the tabletop RPG function set, ignores the more
> complex abilities the MMO medium is just beginning to show.

Exactly.  Those more complex abilities are about creating a living
and breathing virtual world and not merely trying to mimic the
tabletop RPG function set.  In a sense, D&D gets its life and breath
from the GM and can therefore make due with a more static world and
rule set.  When you try to mimic D&D in an MMO, you shouldn't be
surprised if you end up with a game world with little life or

A player-directed world is completely different to a GM-directed
campaign.  Getting thousands of players to work together and to
contribute to making a virtual world come to life in a productive
way is such a different and more complex problem than getting a GM
to do the same with a number of close friends around a table.  So
much so that D&D really has very little to offer in the way of
solutions.  When designing an MMO, I think you'd be much better off
reading John Locke's "Second Treatise on Government" than reading
D&D rule books, since the former comes much closer to addressing the
sort of problems you are likely looking to solve.

For me, this was obvious the week after UO was released (for many
others it would have been obvious much sooner through their exposure
to other MUDs, but UO was really my first such exposure).  The
primary problem UO struggled to solve was not how to provide more
levels, more monsters, more loot, or even more complex combat.  In
fact the main issue had vanishing little to do with tabletop RPG
function sets at all.  I was introduced to a new term while reading
a review of UO in NextGen magazine in which they gave UO low marks
because of rampant Player-Killing.  Player-Killing?

So, exactly which parts of the D&D ruleset did the developers fail
to mimic so that they were now faced with a PK issue?  Under what
section should we look to find how D&D suggests we implement a
player-directed economy for thousands of players: an economy without
arbitrarily fixed floors or ceilings and one that gives players
freedom to be competitive, gives advancement or other incentives
based on rational economic participation, and at the same time
manages to avoid price-fixing?  Which D&D volumes should I read to
understand more clearly how to offer thousands of players the
freedom to generate content for themselves and for each other
without at the same time subjecting my players to things they will
find extremely offensive and subjecting myself to lawsuits?  What
D&D supplemental should I buy that will spell out how to implement
governments so that thousands of players can work together to build
an online empire or how to implement social organizational
constructs that can convert thousands of individual gamers into true
members of a community?

Yes, these are a much different and a much more complex set of
problems to solve.


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