[MUD-Dev] Character Restraint & Capture (bounty hunting)

Matt Mihaly the_logos at ironrealms.com
Wed Mar 3 08:57:15 New Zealand Daylight Time 2004

On Tue, 2 Mar 2004, John Buehler wrote:

> The reason that we have courts in the real world is to convince a
> jury of who did what to whom and why they did it.

That's only partially true though. We also have a jury (or judge) to
try to determine the intentions (and state of mind at the time) of
the defendant. (And for a bunch of other reasons as well.)

>  The code of law > decides the appropriate punishment.  In a game,
>  the software knows > what's going on, and the actions of the
>  player characters can be > examined to determine exact
>  infractions of the game's "laws".  The > 'code of law' can
>  become, quite literally, the code of the law > system in the game
>  world.

I have to say, I don't think software knows much at all about what's
going on in the virtual world it runs. It is capable of knowing the
individual actions but falls flat on its face when it comes to the
context of those actions or the intentions of those involved in the
actions. Without taking those into account, you cannot approach
anything that essentially everyone considers justice (I assume
you're still talking about the idea of justice systems, not just PK

> It would take more than "I was killed by K" data to make many
> judgements, of course.  Each action that can be interpreted as an
> aggressive action must be incorporated into the ruling system.
> The archer attack that you describe can easily be interpreted as a
> murder by three individuals based on simultaneous attacks by them.
> If one of them made an attack an hour beforehand, and the victim
> was completely healed prior to the archer attack by the other two,
> there would be no ruling against the first guy - other than
> assault, perhaps.  You can go by the American code of justice in
> large part.  Assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault,
> murder, and so on.

I'm not sure what you're trying to solve here. It's not the
"justice" thing, because justice has as much to do with context as
it does with actions. Extreme example: person A kills a guy in a war
and to many (most?) people who are on his side, he's a hero, because
he was ordered to do it by what they view as an authority (the
government) who has the moral authority to condone and perpetrate
violence against group X. The context of the killing/murder
validates it as a moral action to many (most?) people, while person
X killing the same guy outside the context of war would not be

Similarly, the game is incapable of telling the difference between
someone hitting the wrong button and someone intentionally screwing
with someone.  It's also incapable of telling the difference between
someone provoked or lured into attacking to someone who set out to
attack. These nuances are absolutely key elements of all accepted
physical world justice systems.

> The NPC judge does offer the possibility of roleplaying a judicial
> system, but it also imposes the requirement that a victim visit
> the judge.  That could be onerous to the victim.
> Criminally-minded players would then perpetrate their acts in
> places which are far from judges.  That would produce lawless
> areas, which might be self-defeating to the original intent of the
> game - to have a code of law.

Well wait a second, that was NOT the original intent of this
discussion. A code of law is not the same thing as what most of your
players will view as justice. Having a code of law is easy. Having a
code of law that satisfies its customers (for the most part. The
guilty rarely want to accept it.) is much, much harder. All of our
city-states in Achaea have their own codes and we admins have a code
we impose as well. I am not intimately familiar with the city-state
codes, but I can tell you the PK rules the admins in Achaea enforce
are a big compromise in terms of justice, between justice and
practical concerns for how much time admins can reasonably expect to
spend investigating the context of an alleged offence or the
intentions of the involved parties.

We've basically tried to do what the original guy (Jester?) was
proposing: Strictly limit the context that the code of law
considers. It allows our admins to follow a fairly (though not
completely) rigid framework for resolving
PK/thievery/general-messing-with disputes which are by far our
largest CS area. However, they've gotten kind of complex and are
still insufficient. Unfortunately, they're running up against the
limit of what the players are willing to accept in terms of
complication. You can find a general summary of the PK rule help
files here:


  Detailed explanation of what gives PK cause here

  The player killing rules here:

  The system whereby players may hire assassins or champions to
  fulfill PK cause for them here:

  The system whereby organizations gain the right to take out
  contracts on people here:

The -only- reason these work is because we have human admins
handling the enforcement and judgements. They're able to take into
account enough nuance to make them acceptable though far, far from
ideal, as a semblance of a justice system.  Without that human
oversight, players would simply continue to find loopholes (as they
always have, and always will in any system that even attempts to
support enough nuance to resemble a system of actual physical world
justice) to abuse, or we'd be punishing a lot of people who don't
deserve it for whatever reason (lack of intention usually).

Imperian, on the other hand, takes a much more adaptive approach,
and they allow "rp reasons" that don't have to be predefined (as in
Achaea's system) for PK-type offences. They still have human admins
acting as judges, but the admins are allowed to look into the
context of the alleged offence much more deeply. (Achaea is about 4x
the size of Imperian, which accounts for the different approaches so

Achaea used to do this, as this can actually give players an
out-of-game sense of justice, but it's very difficult to sustain
with growth. We found trying to untangle all the complex rp players
were doing to decide whether they had reason to slay someone else or
not to be too time consuming at a certain point.

Anyway, to summarize:

  1. What players sense as real 'justice' requires context and
  intention to be taken into account.

  2. Software does a terrible job of taking into account both of
  those.  (Humans hardly do a perfect job but they are orders of
  magnitude better at it.)

  3. Unfortunately, having humans do it requires lots of time to
  research the issue.

  4. The solution? I have no idea. We have some pretty interesting
  stabs at it in our games but they are all very far from being
  great ones. The best that can be said for them is that they're run
  by humans, and humans are, so far, the only things capable of even
  approaching justice.  Fundamentally, this is why most games either
  pitch themselves as PK games (Shadowbane) so as to ensure its
  whole playerbase is essentially consenting or put sweeping coded
  restrictions on PK (EQ, DAoC, SW:G, etc.) that almost utterly
  obliterate context or force a limited context (like DAoC's RvR
  stuff) on PK. Human judge admins don't scale so easily.

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