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Alter Aeon
BAT Mud

Articles Section
Choices and Burdens

A Vanguard soldier decides to poke his head inside a miniature Nemoni starship and gets jammed, sparking a series of hilarious news stories and a line of novelty headgear.

A pilot lands a large freighter in a sacred Qua canyon, wedging the vessel and creating an interstellar incident.

A Timonae hacker runs out of luck trying to crack security codes aboard a stolen starship, triggering the self-destruct sequence and causing the destruction of part of a city on Demaria.

On OtherSpace, our bread and butter are these sorts of cause-and-effect reactions that create a chain lightning storyline in which every player has the potential to make a difference, for good or ill.

When the outcome of a character's actions favor the character, you probably won't hear the player behind that character complain. But when actions yield negative results such as embarrassment, injury or death - for themselves or others - inevitably you will find some players who complain that staffers are out to get them.

Some complain because they seem to repeatedly be the target of public ridicule or physical abuse, and cry admin conspiracy. In truth, it is usually happening simply because the player behind the character just has a knack for taking stupid actions that yield bad consequences. It's always easier to blame the admins than yourself, after all.

While I still believe in-character actions should yield in-character consequences, I recently decided that a character should have the opportunity to outsmart the player behind the character.

I created the +cricketfactor, inspired by Jiminy Cricket, who served as Pinocchio's moral compass and tried to keep him on the straight and narrow.

How it works: In a refereed RP situation where the player is clearly about to attempt something with disastrous repercussions, the staffer overseeing the scene tells them to type +cricketfactor. This command checks the character's intelligence stat and rolls a result. If the result is favorable, the staffer drops hints that the character might want to reconsider their current course of action. It is then up to the player to decide whether to listen and let their conscience be their guide.

You can lead a player to wisdom, but you can't make them think.

On one hand, I don't like it, because it requires staffers to coddle certain players a little too much. But quite a few players choose not to use it. They understand that their in-character actions might yield unpleasant consequences and they choose to run with it. These are also the sorts of players who refuse to use our +luckrolls to get out of life and death situations: If they live, they live; if they die, they die. So be it.

On the other hand, I really like +cricketfactor because it puts the burden on the player - not the staffer - if they ignore the advice and end up in trouble, humiliated, hurt or dead.

I recently got to see +cricketfactor in action recently on Luna, as three players staged a commando raid in a deep underground tunnel using high explosives. They +cricketfactored and the referee warned them it was a dumb idea.

They did it anyway. The two who survived the collapse are paralyzed, but they can't say they weren't warned.

Maybe if I assign an experience point cost to +cricketfactor, players will put more value on the advice.

I could call it a stupidity tax.

Wes Platt is the creator of OtherSpace and developer of Star Wars: Reach of the Empire and Star Trek: The Lost Missions (www.jointhesaga.com). He's the editor of Online Escapes (www.onlineescapes.net). And he's the moderator of the Top MUD Sites roleplaying forum.

Part 22 - Pebbles and Boulders