[MUD-Dev] Storytelling in a PSW from a Player's Persepctive

Michael Chui blizzard36_2002 at yahoo.com
Wed May 21 21:23:37 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

--- David Kennerly <kennerly at sfsu.edu> wrote:
> Michael Chui wrote:
>> Assign a couple strong-minded GMs to the task of maintaining
>> fictional consistency. Give them the power to figure out where >
>> the best place for a crew of unlikely vagabonds to overcome a >
>> fearsome dragon. Give them the tools necessary to find out what
>> kind of disruptions killing a dragon in the area might entail,
>> etc., etc...  And then give them the responsibility of deciding
>> whether or not the player's story will work. If it doesn't, but
>> needs a bit of tweaking, let them work with player to design it.

>> I know one of the main problems with such an approach is high
>> admin visibility, which I hear is a big no-no.

> Another danger is deception.

> The only part of the design wherein role-playing is encouraged is
> the intention.  Whereas, the machine implements:

> I'm not attempting to misquote or quote you out of context.  I'm
> attempting to strip intention from execution.  Please bear with
> this butchery for a one more paragraph.

> We intended roleplaying, but designed a grief machine.  Only in
> the best case will a noble soul follow our intentions.  In the
> mediocre case, a mediocre soul will pay lip service.  But cars
> don't crash in mediocre cases.  In the worst case, some apparently
> noble soul will (1) place fearsome dragons in the land, (2)
> disrupt the area, and (3) design a convenient reward for whomever
> most everyone declares unworthy.

Well, in response, I want to point out that I would give this power
to "strong-minded GMs". That would mean wizards that are hand-picked
for dependability as well as creative ability. I'm pretty sure such
people exist, and equally sure some of them will find their way into
my game soon enough.

I find it hard to believe that GMs, particularly ones held in such
high-esteem and charged with that much responsibility, would cause
wanton destruction in such a manner. Providing for the odd GM who
aces our interview, yet still goes and griefs, is most likely a bad
idea. Limiting power where power is precisely what is needed will
result in unsatisfactory results.

I think that a reasonable guideline is that if the disruption
affects any player that isn't one of the people designing the quest
(or has said they will be joining it) directly or by too much, the
GM shouldn't allow it. When I said disruption, initially, I meant
throwing wrenches in economies, burning NPC villages, etc.

> 1. Roleplay!  I am sorry to be so short of design insight in the
> department, but in my experience, a player either roleplays or
> doesn't.  And if she wants to encourage roleplaying, she plays her
> role to a "tee."  Memes pass very well by example.

I've been convinced by the idea of designing player expectation. I
want to make it so that when a player comes to my game, they EXPECT
roleplaying, and thus will roleplay themselves. I know I can't make
everyone roleplay, but I think this will increase the number.

> 2. Certainly your objects in the world can improve the fictional
> consistency.  Something that players often do is use the
> vocabulary that the designerse created.  Even when I named all the
> spells in pseudo-Gaelic, players used those terms.  In the
> context, it literally helped fictional vocabulary.

Oh, definitely. I am hoping to complete at least one artificial
language before beta, and from that, to derive racial languages
(something like the way Proto-Germanic branched off into English,
Dutch, Afrikaans, and German). But you're pointing out something a
bit more mundane, which I'll take into account. :)

> 3. Of course, your quests can too.  I'll just give one example.
> At one time, I designed second-order fictional objects.  There
> were certain monsters, such a lich with a staff with a gem on it.
> A generous player, Cole Younger, drew the art for the lich robes,
> hood, and a staff.  I called the staff a phylactery (the gem that
> holds a lich's soul).  And then wrote a legend that wove the lich
> into the story line, history of the world, and the theme of the
> wizard class.  The legend was parcelled out at various stages of a
> group quest.  Each member of the quest had their own legend, item,
> history.  In short, these players had the ingredients for
> fictional consistency.  What they do with it is their perogative.

But I think this was the original idea, in a way. You design the
background for the quest, hand the players a chosen bit of
knowledge, and let them run with it. My game aims for minimal admin
involvement and minimal maintenance, even during quests. I want
people to be able to create their own quests without asking admin
permission. Some things like that can't be granted, though, as you
pointed out earlier.

> 4. I think player events do help; e.g. Asheron's Call.  When doing
> so, leave the events in place.  Create some seasonal events.
> There were some old posts here about that, about encouraging an
> in-character calendar of events.

The AD&D DMG also suggests an in-character calendar of events. The
anecdote of a situation in which you don't have one was
amusing. I'll need to develop the culture along further before I'm
ready to do this, but I'll definitely have something.

> 5. I also think creative contests help.  I can't prove that they
> do.  It's just that I did these in Dark Ages for two years
> beginning in 1999, and players continue to tell me that it made a
> difference for them personally.

Any suggestions in this particularly? I've heard of OOC art, music,
and literature. I've participated in writing/poetry and trivia
contests inside the game.

> 6? The service provider may consider publishing roleplaying
> activities, much like a journalist publishes socially laudable
> activities.  But I worry that the service provider might be
> promote the a lot of insincere activity.  They'd promote the image
> but ... well... freedom fries anyone?

I think, while it's a great idea and all, this might bring out the
wrong image. Wouldn't it make roleplaying seem like (1) a
spectacular and obvious thing and (2) a feat of superhuman
capability? Meaning, of course, that they won't believe that
roleplaying is a normal activity, which it ought to be.


>   (Scroll down to my post, titled "Social Intelligence" on May 17)

I was reading nearly everything down to your post, then I started to
get dizzy and felt faint, so I didn't really process it. =P I'll
re-read it tomorrow. Some of those systems have some great potential
(like the decide traits at char creation and check conformity

Michael Chui
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