[MUD-Dev] Death and Permadeath and Corpse Retrieval

Sean Middleditch elanthis at awesomeplay.com
Tue Jan 13 23:20:33 New Zealand Daylight Time 2004

On Mon, 2004-01-12 at 15:01, Spot wrote:

> I've been thinking of different ways to handle death and corpse
> retrieval and was wondering what are some ways that you've seen it
> addressed in games that you really like?  I'm thinking of a system
> based on my justice system where if you aren't a "nice" person the
> penalty for dying is more servere or worst yet, may be permanent
> if your really bad.

> The goal I guess is a completely PvP allowed game, but to reward
> people for good behavior and punish those that want to be bad.
> This way you don't need to "magically" punish those by having
> "guards" just appear out of no where and attack the offender.
> "Evil" items in the game would give those people that choose this
> lifestyle a fighting chance, but the "Holy Avenger" type items
> would result in a permanent death, but would require their weilder
> to adhere to the strongest moral code in order to keep such items.

Personally, I find this too limiting in terms of role playing.  Evil
characters are just as valid as good players.  In fact, it is a
rather well received fact that later installment of the NWN games
offer equal rewards for evil characters that those good characters
receive. (Different rewards of course, with different goals to
achieve them.)

If you offer rewards for a particular type of behaviour, the
behaviour most commonly found will be that which gives the rewards.
If this is your goal - a player base of nothing but goody two-shoes
types - then that is fine.  But that makes the entire player base
rather one sided.

My personal preference with death is the simple 'credits' system,
where credits are earned by pleasing your deity.  For evil
characters, depraved and vile acts do best (defiling a holy temple,
whatever), while for good characters it would be noble acts.
Obviously, in the case of either,it should be difficult to
accomplish acts - killing a peasant wouldn't help earn credits,
since you can kill them in large numbers very easily.

Likewise, rewards aside from death need balance.  Evil acts can
indeed bring about the law (which should be avoidable), but doing so
can gain rewards - loot from the guards/villagers you kill, pacts
with powerful demons, whatever.

Letting the game community build up not only good but also evil
characters can be quite interesting in regards to role playing.
Imagine an evil death knight who amasses a number of followers (in a
guild, perhaps) who challenges the local high-level paladin to a
battle for ownership of the temple of the sun god (or whatever) -
kinds of intrigue and sub-plot which can shape your world and game
story, but which no GM could orchestrate so well and hope to include
the player base in the deeds.

Of course, there is a difference between evil characters and bad
players.  Evil doesn't mean the player runs about killing everyone
she sees and looting the corpse; that's just being an ass.  If you
don't have a mature and imaginative enough player base capable of
making dynamic evil characters who enhance the game more than
irritate other players, then it may indeed by necessary to simply
limit the advantages of being evil, and thus reduce the number of
players who would choose to walk that path.

> The game would "hide" much of the numbers from the players, to
> keep them from guessing how long they have to wait or how many
> good acts equal a bad one...so they wouldn't know exactly where
> there karmatic standing is when they die.

That's always good for just about all game mechanics, imo.  ;-)

> I just think that a system could be devised to counter the PvP
> players attitude to be complete dicks, without comming up with
> artifical penalties for "bad" people.  I'd like a game where most
> people would just "choose" to be good, because the benefits are
> simply more than those who want to be bad, but not force anyone to
> choose either lifestyle.

Well, again, a player base of all goody two-shoes isn't realistic.
I would (from a philosophical standpoint) argue that even the best
of people have evil tendencies, and the worst of people rarely have
many redeemable qualities.  Life *doesn't* reward those who are
good, which is why bad is so attractive and common.  Law and morals
are all that one has to hold them to being good; I can personally
attest that there are a lot of bad things I'd have done over the
years if I wasn't worried about legal repercussions.  ;-) Of course,
I also have a number of moral reasons for not doing certain things,
as well.

I think what you are aiming for is to reduce how often evil players
are asses to other players (killing them for no reason).  Even the
utmost evil doesn't just kill everyone in sight, *because of fear of
the law*. If killing is a crime, with stiff penalties, evil
characters can exist, but would need to find more creative methods
to be evil than simply killing other players.  A system that offers
rewards for those creative acts, rewards equal to those of being
good, players will be drawn towards those activities.  Otherwise,
evil players may well be forced to slay the good characters in order
to get rewards they couldn't achieve while playing in character.

> Then assuming you are slain, how to handle corpse retrieval, vitae
> penalties, lost items, what the slayer is allowed to loot off your
> body...I've got a system that I think will handle this, but wanted
> as much input as I can on making it better.

Well, so far as looting, I personally dislike the whole idea.  In my
ideal game, when you die, you are not lootable.  You can be
resurrected or, after a set amount of time passes (based on your
strength/level), you respawn with one less life credit.  If you're
out of credits, your deity does not intervene with your death and,
thus, you go on to heaven/hell, and are permadead.

This also means there is no reward for killing other players.
People have less reason to be dicks if there isn't a reward for it.
If players want to kill things for loot, there are NPCs for that.
NPCs don't get pissed and quit the game because of players with a
violent streak.  ;-)

Of course, death needs to be punished.  Life credits should, again,
be hard to come by (and harder to obtain as you become more
powerful), and other penalties could be applied - perhaps you
equipment (or some of it) is indeed lost, just not sent to the
killer.  (Maybe it is put in special market shops where you have a
chance of repurchasing it, or it may be purchased by another.)  You
can also offer 'minor' loot to the killer - things like a percentage
of gold.  Or, if you have advanced combat damage, acts like severing
a limb/hand would make the victim drop whatever they held in that
hand, which the attacker could then take. Altho, in most games, a
weapon is a highly prized item, and that could be too much of a
reward for the killer and too high of a penalty to the victim for
merely being ambushed by a jerk.

It would be nice to see your more-indepth ideas to comment and
discuss the pros/cons of them.  ^,^

Sean Middleditch <elanthis at awesomeplay.com>
AwesomePlay Productions, Inc.
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