Imaginary Realities 1999 February Edition

Summary of February 1999 issue of Imaginary Realities. Imaginary Realities was an ezine dedicated to MUDs.

Summary of "Advancement the Old Way" by Jeffrey Boser

Most advancement systems mirror 1970's Dungeons and Dragons with increasing difficulty to gain levels and decreasing returns of skills and rewards, and some sort of max experience caps. Part of this set of restrictions was because it was easier to do with paper and pencil. However, with computers, these restrictions can be discarded.

Having the computer do the calculations allows for new ways to calculate success and removing caps to skill advancement.

Summary of "Completely Classless" by The Wildman

"Korthe, Head Coder and Co-Admin on Grok: The Earth You Never Knew" that was planned for beta in March of 1999.

The author started role-playing with Dungeons and Dragons and the four basic classes: Fighters, Magic-users, Thieves, and Clerics. This evolved into dual and multi classing for the sake of variety. The problem with the classed systems was that all characters of the same class and level were almost exactly the same, ... and that was boring.

Later the author found classless systems, "like Torg, Heroes, GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System), and others.... With the ones that worked, every character was different. Even if you followed some sort of character template, it was rare that two different people chose the same set of skills." This variety led to a richer gaming experience.

Later the author tried various MUDs and found even boring class system with a hack-n-slash theme was fun if the atmosphere was friendly. Later the author joined a team creating a classless MUD. The classes were replaced with professions in the hope of encouraging specialties without pushing characters into being all exactly the same as in a classed system.

At the time of the writing (1999), the MUD was not yet in beta.

Summary of "How (not) to puzzle a player" by David Mallard

David administrates an LPMud that works to improve human-AI interactions.

Quests and puzzles in MUDs provide challenges combat cannot. Sometimes they are required for advancement. They can be as grand as the quest for the Holy Grail, or as simple as returning a lost library book.

Don't let syntax be the puzzle. Meaning, make sure all synonyms for the required commands for the completion of the puzzle are included, so the user isn't stuck on figuring out the correct command long after having mentally solved the quest or puzzle.

Avoid distance as an obstacle. This favors players with automappers and speedwalking, and makes the quest less fun for players that cannot use those or teleport. If distance must be part of the quest, make the reason obvious and consistent in the game world.

Combat as part of a quest may turn off players that prefer puzzle solving over combat.

"You might also consider broader questions about how many paths lead to the solution of your puzzle: Are there any actions, besides the ones that you have allowed for in your code, that the player could reasonably assume will work? If so, and if you don't intend to allow these actions to work, what reason will you give the player? For example, if the puzzle requires the player to set fire to an object and your code supports using a torch to start the fire, will you also allow magic spells that produce fire to work?"

Make decisions a process of discovery when completing a quest rather than a random chance. For example choosing between two doors, one of which results in instant death, isn't as well thought out as providing a means to discover which door leads to certain death.

Use hidden objects and red herrings to spice up puzzles and quests. Remember to leave hints for the player to discover when trying to find the correct solutions for quests and puzzles.

Lastly, remember to make puzzles and quests fit logically into the game world. Make sure syntax and other non-game related factors don't impede the solutions. And, consider game balance of the obstacles if they present burdensome challenges to some players but not others.

Summary of "Organized Roleplaying Events" by Alan Schwartz

Alan AKA Javelin is the maintainer of PennMUSH and God of M*U*S*H (telnet 4201).

When planning live-action roleplaying game (LARP) events, find a game first. The author recommends Interactive Literature Foundation (no longer exists). They had a great game bank of potential games to run

Next decide the when, where and who including the length of time, the number of GMs needed and how many players there will be. Email players their character data the day before, so they can digest it.

Build out the play area with an existing MUD or a custom one made just for the event. If the size of the event justifies multiple GMs, provide a private way for them to communicate with each other.

Make sure to caste important characters, but expect some to not show up. You might need to re-caste some important characters on the spot.

"At game time, the GMs should gather the characters together, outline any rules that haven't been provided ahead of time, and explain how players can get GM help. Then the GMs can sit back and watch the fun begin! If everyone's been well-prepared, these events often run themselves, taking on lives of their own."

After the LARP is finished, spend 1/2 an hour having each character/player introduce themselves and reveal anything missed during the game. If you have logs for everyone to enjoy, let them know how to get ahold of them after the game.

Summary of "Remembrance" by Ted Kern

"Ted Kern is Broadman and Delta from Discworld mud, and also from Legend mud."

A letter to "Karyn", a player on LegendMUD that died in a car accident in real life.

"Sometimes we get so blinded by the fact that we are playing a game, trying to discover its mechanics, solve the riddles, achieve powerful levels, that we forget about the real people that we pass by on the imaginary streets every day. Sometimes it is only through tragedy that we can appreciate what it is that we have, and what we have lost."

Real people live beyond the MUDs that we play. We don't realize how we affect them and they affect us.

[SUMMARIZER'S NOTE: This is one of those instances that I wish our overly restrictive copyright laws allowed abandoned literature to be preserved. The letter and the article are very touching, but will disappear when the last "pirated" copy is found and destroyed. We truely live in the digital dark ages.]