[MUD-Dev] Scripting Languages and Magic

eric ericleaf at pacbell.net
Tue Oct 7 18:54:32 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "gbtmud" <gbtmud at hotmail.com>

> I am attempting to write a new MUD codebase, and I was wondering
> what people have done as far as magic systems. Specifically, I was
> thinking of letting the players define spells in a custom
> scripting language so that new spells could be created on the
> fly. My question is, has anyone already done this? If so, what
> pitfalls are there to avoid, and what functionality should I
> add/subtract? Any input would be helpful on this.

I've done some things along these lines. My goal has been both to
create a powerful magic system but also not to boil it down to what
only a programmer would enjoy. For flavor I intended to produce a
system where a "magic word" (ie something like Shirak, for any
Dragonlance fans) would produce the desired results. I also intended
it as an open system, meaning any character can attempt to shift
time, with possible ill effects if they fail. The system is much
less research oriented (like you see in most novels and games) than
exploration and creation. Think the difference between chemists and
physicist versus historians and archeologists. You have a general
knowledge of the basic building blocks, fire, water, earth and
methods to shape and control, then everything else is up to the
player to understand and create what they wish.

My system had a very basic linear logic and used symbols for
meaning. For instance to light a torch would be a simple evokation
of fire, whereas a fire ball would require both the evokation of
fire and a control to shape the desired effect. A fire wall would be
another simple extension of that theme. The problem I had with this
is that everything becomes very generic.  This was also because the
test base for this magic system was a quake3 mod and I wanted to
keep the symbols down so that spells could be created in a fast
action based environment. With a more involving mud you could go
much further with many more symbols and more complex controlling

One obvious problem with a language is that most of the exploration
and learning process becomes a cut and paste affair. Maybe the first
few people will get to explore and discover their magic powers but
everyone else will be reading messageboards and webpages, much like
most MUD maps, story lines and secrets. With a pure scripting
language you will literally draw an exact parallel that you
currently see in the cracker/hacker world with script kiddies that
know nothing but the magic words, playing with power beyond their
grasp. One possible solution is to individualize all language
constructs, where one person types "huj" for a light spell, another
would type "zaa" or whatever.

I can go and dig up my design documents and go into more depth if
something like this is what you are talking about. I never got too
deep into the ultimate system since its a large undertaking. But
magic being what it is this could be limitless. Certainly something
easily expanded which goes well with many MMOGs.

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