Imaginary Realities 2001 January Edition

Summary of January 2001 issue of Imaginary Realities. Imaginary Realities was an ezine dedicated to MUDs.

Summary of "Alchemy Alternatives" by Ilya

Usually, some class is given a spell that allows them to make potions. This is a missed opportunity for creating a whole alchemy system.

"To succeed as a new game system, alchemy must be interesting, dangerous, rewarding, and unique. Especially unique. It must have results or powers or advantages available in no other way."

Keep it interesting by letting alchemists experiment with components to see what they can craft. For example, maybe the base recipe requires expensive/rare/hard-to-get ingredients. Let them search for cheaper and easier substitutes.

Keep it dangerous, because experimenting could result in explosions or poisons. Even when the crafting itself didn't kill you, testing the new thing might.

Keep it rewarding by allowing the skilled and patient alchemist to undercut expensive NPC shops and practically put them out of business.

"These are the five pillars of alchemy: process, component, reagent, effect, and analysis."

  • Process - the crafting step, such as exposing to the new moon's light, or placing next to a certain type of plant
  • Components - anything ranging from a gnat wing to a chunk of lead.
  • Reagents - the component that starts the process of change, like a match starts a fire. Reagents should be far more rare than the components being crafted.
  • Analyses - check purity, or come up with new component/reagent suggestions. This might be done through touch, taste, special equipment or some other means. After analyses, the alchemist knows what to try next.
  • Effects - The learned, or desired outcome. Not just death or poison.

"Effects is where this could really shine. Take some time to think of effects that aren't just one more way of hashing up an enemy -- there are plenty of combat effects that boil down to magic missile (only bigger and harder). We don't really need more of those! Subtler effects could be more useful and interesting, and might make roleplaying more interesting too (creating impatience perhaps? or sneezing? or itching?)." The effects could be an ongoing function that happens randomly, like an involuntary sneeze or other involuntary actions until the effect is removed or wears off.

Summary of "The Exercise of Power" by Damian Campbell

Damian Campbell played a wizard named Sekiri on Discworld MUD.

The story was a day in the life of a wizard, including visiting several locations by magic means, helping out a dwarf, a younger wizard or two, and getting an item fixed. All this was told in a style familiar to those who have read to source material.

Summary of "Mud Administration, Can You Handle It?" by "The Crimefighter" Steven Lucas

Steven Lucas was an admin for Promised Land MUD, maintained The COMPLETE Abermud List, and the Mudlist.

Running a MUD is expensive. Hosting easily costs $50 per month.

Coding and debugging skills are a must.

Admins have to enforce rules on players that don't like you or following rules. Some players literally are only there to make your life miserable. That is the fun for them. They cheat. They shout NSFW content. They won't go away, and keep creating new accounts, so zapping them isn't enough.

Admins become a shoulder to cry on for some players with serious real world issues. "I've taken this role a number of times, it's not fun, it's usually heartbreaking, and it's emotionally draining. Many times you don't know the answer and struggle to come up with some idea of what to do based on past experiences or knowledge."

Summary of "Mutinies and You" by Vashkar@Split Infinity

Vashkar was from Split Infinity MUD.

All MUDs face the threat of hackers. Those that survive with good security still have to deal with political issues and discontent within player base of the MUD itself. Political issues can evolve into real world issues, like a site lockout requiring a costly legal battle to get the site re-opened. And then there are social engineering approaches to take over control of a site and its MUD.

"Next, the staff-stealing attack. Let's say you're a coder who has given plenty to a mud, and doesn't want to stay at a mud because of something the mud owner is doing that you really have a problem with. You can perhaps start your own mud. It's not that hard. Flip through a book on C or C++ and it's a breeze. Then you can find like-minded coders on the old mud to leave there and join you on your new mud, promising not to make the same mistakes. In fact, you can even tell them to bring whatever code they want from the old mud. It's a relatively quick way to overthrow a mud owner."

Then there is the boycott attack. Players and coders boycott until some demand is met. All it takes is on charismatic player or coder to start this boycott.

Finally, there is the petition attack, that overloads the owner with whiny ASCII spam from many sources.

There are different styles of MUD leadership ranging from dictatorship, to monarchy with advisors, to pure democracy by the players. If done right, the last one is going to generate the most loyal players.

Last resort with player discontent, or admin discontent, is you're the admin and quit if it's no longer fun. If you have open dialog with the disgruntled coders and players explaining what your goal was, and what went wrong, you might get feedback that you like and can compromise with.

Summary of "Theft of Ideas" by Selina Kelley

Selina Kelley was an admin for Prophecy MUD and an editor for Imaginary Realities.

The author contemplates whether "stealing" ideas from other games is immoral. Stealing code definitely is immoral, but ideas seen in other games is more akin to using general life experiences to flush out your game.

"I consider myself a moral, ethical person. I don't really consider that using an idea taken from another game is wrong, as long as I don't pretend to have thought of the idea myself. I always give credit where it's due, and would never attempt to pass myself off as an ideas genius."