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Old 07-21-2006, 11:51 PM   #1
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For years I looked for a mud that had a magic system which wasn't your typical fireball-tossing magic style. I never found one which I cared for.

I'd really like to incorporate this idea into my own MUD now that I'm getting back into designing the world.

My question is: Do you think anyone would be interested in a more subtle magic system?

Maybe subtle isn't the word. Low powered is more like it, depending on your point of view.

My thought would be to have certain spells, like ventriloquate and other illusionary spells, be a mainstay. Along with those, you would have 'trap' spells. If a mage has time, they could cast a spell that would set magical ropes around a person and hold them in place for a while.

Another trap spell might be a small damage spell set to go off in a particular room if a mage chooses to activate it. In essence, most magic would have more to do with being prepared and having a good sense of strategy/timing than actually being super powerful. A smart person would be very afraid to attack a mage on his home turf.

My idea hinges around a general idea that doing something like casting a fireball at someone would do a ton of damage, and probably knock the target on their ass for several rounds too, but it would also drain the spellcaster significantly. I.e. most 'fully leveled' mages might get off a fireball and two smaller spells if they started with all of their mana. That might be a little extreme--I'd have to see what balance called for, but that's the general idea.

Another thing I'd add in would be 'group' spells, in which a group of two or more mages can combine their mana to cast a more powerful spell. Some of the spells would hinge on the actual number of mages casting it, while some would have more to do with a required number of mana points.

An example would be a Dragon Summoning spell that requires at least seven full-powered mages working together. If the mages are not fully powered, then it would take more mages to cast the spell, till their combined 'pool' of mana reached the required amount. I.e. it might take seven mages to cast the spell, or it might take ten.

Another example could be a transportation spell that requires two mages to cast. Two mages working together could cast it at almost no cost, because it would have more to do with their being two of them to speak the correct words together than with any actual difficulty in the spell.

This would also make magical enhancement items a lot more valuable. I mean, if you have a wand that can cast a fireball three times per day, you'd really hate to lose it if the spell had a major effect.

Say a mage got his hands on a 'ring of transportation,' that lets him cast a transportation spell without needing another mage working with him. That would be a major asset to a mage who made his living as an assassin, or a thief.

Any thoughts are welcome, from 'this sucks' to, 'so and so has already done it, and better' .
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Old 07-22-2006, 10:14 AM   #2
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Is this going to be a pk-oriented MUD? If magic is going to be this weak, there's going to have to be something to prevent melee classes from completely dominating... i.e. if mages are weak, warriors have to be too. If this isn't going to be a pk-oriented game, then balancing one class against another isn't nearly as important, and you could probably make it work.

Having spells that require multiple mages to cast is a neat idea, but for a startup MUD, you're not likely to have enough players on at one time total - let alone just mage players - to let them use any of it. That might be something you should put on the back burner and develop some day down the road when the playerbase could support it.
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Old 07-22-2006, 01:09 PM   #3
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Contributive casting is something we discussed seriously several years ago, along with all the appropriate handwaving, checking for proper sphere of the contributors, many items to be held and used, lots of nifty incantations, etc. We even had spells that required the contributing team members to be standing in the proper terrain - ie swamp for a swamp gas cloud to obliterate their foes.

It looked great on paper.

However, once we modeled it out, included the delays for generating enough mana so that each person could contribute properly based on their spellcraft knowledge, the time spent to cast the spell, and all the ancillary 'costs,' it became evident that there was a lot more dead air and waiting going on than actual fun and results.

What turned out to be a total blast in theory would have turned into a total grind in operation, and would have driven casters to tears of boredom.

We tried striking several steps and requirements to alleviate this tearful potentiality and found that doing so removed the theatrical qualities that had given it the on-paper draw.

We tried cutting back on the number of players needed to power a super-spell, peeling away the onion layers one at a time, until we discovered that -without the necessities that we'd started with- we had little left of any appeal.  Might as well be one guy in a room casting magic missile for all the fun it generated...

Bottom line: what may be great fun in the design stage can lose a lot of sparkle and shine on repetition, and can introduce grind into the processes which can quickly rival that of many crafting systems.  Plus there is the truth mentioned above pertaining to new games - it may be a very long time before you'll get enough players at skill level to actually pull something like this off - if it takes two mages to get anything done, and all the game has is one.. how fun is that?

That said, I'd say it definitely warrants a serious look.  I have no doubt that someone else can take a much more intelligent approach to this than I did, and turn it into a rollicking fun success.  Just because it didn't work for Legends of Karinth doesn't mean it wouldn't work just fine for you.
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Old 07-22-2006, 08:16 PM   #4
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Well, since I'm still learning how to code right now, I have a -lot- of time to think about this and try to figure out how to balance it out.

I know, experience is the best teacher, but I've probably got at least three years or more to plug away at it .

Aarn--The mud, as I plan it now, will be RP oriented. PK, however, will not be as strictly controlled as it is on most muds. On most of the ones I've been on, you have to send in a note, etc. to justify any PKing. My plan is that anyone can essentially do -anything- with their character.

So long as they don't get caught. If another player(s) finds out, and the word gets spread around, then it cuts off most of their RP option unless they band together with another murderer/thief/whatever.

So yes--it will have to be balanced out somehow since, while not PK based, PK will definitely be a constant threat. I don't want to turn warriors into wimps, so I'll probably need to find some way to make the mages a little more hardy.

Fern--Thanks a billion for sharing.

What you had sounds quite a bit more complex than anything I was considering. I didn't plan on adding in required items/terrain/entering of commands/etc.

My basic idea was simply that if both of the mages know the spell, they just type in something like, 'link with [player name]' and then once a mana link is created between the two mages, one of the mages types in the spell to be cast. The game runs a check, and if they both know the spell, then it can be cast if the other member types in a confirmation that they want to assist in casting the spell. If one of the party doesn't know the spell, a message like, "This spell is not known to all party members, and cannot be cast," will come up. Or something a little more polished .

My thought is that 'linked' spells wont require a skill percentage check, or that the spells themselves will be so easily practiced in a non-casting manner (i.e. RP skill leveling) that it'll be nearly impossible to mess up the group spells--my thought from the start has been that doing that would help remove some of the possible frustration.

As for the point about not having enough players, I've considered maybe some sort of an 'apprentice' set up. Possibly when the player reaches a certain level, they can 'buy' a mob to be their apprentice, and though it'll be a relatively weak mob and need protecting, it can be used to cast -some- group spells. Not all, but some.

Then when/if there are ever enough players, I could either phase it out, or modify it accordingly.

As for leveling, I plan to let it happen by typical hack-and-slashing, or by RPing. Most muds seem to have a much lower ratio of RP-exp points than what you could make by going out and hunting mobs, so my hope is to balance it out and make them -almost- even.

If anyone has any more thoughts, or points to make, they're definitely still welcome . I've been wanting this for years, and I would love to try to find a way to make it pan out. I'm pretty motivated to make this work--I'm (I hope ) smart enough to work through this. And if I'm not, then I'm hoping I can find someone who is. Like I said--I would really like to find a way to work this out.
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Old 07-24-2006, 07:13 AM   #5
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I'd be happy to offer some suggestions, NotL33T, though as Fern wrote, some things sound a lot better when you're tossing ideas about than when it comes time for implementation.

I'm a big fan of subtle magic.  When spells and magical items are sufficiently rare and subdued it creates an RP atmosphere I find desirable, one of true appreciation and respect for skilled casters and those in possession of unusual items.  It seems that you feel the same way, so let's talk about the biggest obstacles to this and how to avoid them.

Perhaps most important is the question of balance.  Most muds have classes that are clearly distinguishable from one another, typically in some combination of fighting, magic, and stealth.  Usually it's pretty clear to experienced players which classes have advantages in which areas - for instance, pk.  

A quick but necessary aside: I've played a fair number of games, but for this topic I'll be drawing on my time in DartMud.  This is a skill-based game: there are no levels, and exp is gained neither by killing nor by RP.  There is no exp in the classical sense, simply skill points that can be gained by practicing the skill in question.  For mages this means practicing spells in different mediums, crafters craft things of varying complexity, etc.  Each skill is practiced differently and learning them all can be a daunting task, but also rewarding.  It also means that a single character could learn skills from all the traditional classes - there is no arbitrary distinction.  To avoid having every character "maxed out" there is skill opposition, so that it is in fact harder for a fighter to learn magic, but not impossible.

In terms of the system I've described, it isn't necessary to balance the other classes with mages - which is ultimately a losing proposition.  I would use a system in which anyone could learn magic, and reward players who focus on it.  This serves two purposes: the majority of players can use magic without worrying about being underpowered, and it allows people who want to focus exclusively on magic - knowing full-well they won't be on par with fighters - to do so and to derive pleasure from it in the way that some players enjoy so much (in the same sense that there are players of disadvantaged classes/races in any mud).  I suspect most of us derive great satisfaction not simply in being 'better,' but in being unique, and in finding subtle rewards for our time and effort.

We've tossed around the idea of linking spells, but I think it would balance far better if it had been included since the mud's inception.  Since you're starting fresh, a few issues I think are important:
 A major pitfall of mudding is that people simply can't play all the time (though I know some of us have proven exception to that rule at one point or another).  While it is very important that characters rely upon one another, don't go so far as to make it inconvenient for people to get things done in a reasonable period of time.
 I'd avoid the 'npc apprentice' bit.  The purpose of group casting is to a) balance powerful spells and b) increase player inter-dependency.  Npc's defeat that on both counts.  I'd argue that making it a challenge to cast some spells is very rewarding for players.  Here's an example: one of the most powerful spells in Dartmud is 'reincarnation' (not terribly surprising in a mud with permadeath).  In terms of aura (aka mana, spell points, etc) it is extremely draining not only to cast but to practice at all.  When Dm was younger and mages weren't as knowledgeable or powerful, it was almost unheard of to find anyone who could skillfully cast a reinc - a fact that would probably shock a lot of our newer players, since mages these days (15 years later) are far doughtier.  Back then, however, groups of mages would have to pool together to support whoever was doing the reincarnation, and far from being a grueling experience you'll often find older players who miss the 'good old days' (well, who doesn't?) when people had to rally together more to get things done.  Bottom line: don't worry if it's hard at first.  As my favorite comic strip dad often says,  "It builds character."

You mentioned players being able to do anything with their character.  Kudos.  Just one caution: a lot of mudders shudder at the mention of "unrestricted PK" because it often boils down to people repeatedly killing each other and generally being complete and unfettered a-holes.  Dartmud has absolutely no PK restrictions, so long as it's done purely in-game.  Griefing is almost unheard of, because few people with time invested in their characters are willing to throw that away for senseless violence.  Permanent death is a heavy penalty, so people RP and band together by necessity.  If you don't have permadeath in your mud (and I'll warn you now, a lot of mudders can't stand the idea), then you'll have to carefully balance how griefers are dealt with by the players.  

Lastly, you wrote that you'd try to balance hack'n'slashing with RP exp.  There may be muds out there that have worked it out to a point acceptable to its (remaining) players, but in my opinion it's a path fraught with pitfalls.  You can hardly find two mudders who'll agree on what level of RP a mud should have, let alone a fair and balanced system that involves two systems of exp rewards *and* at the same time balancing the levelling rate of two wildly different classes (if you take that route of a traditional class system).  My final suggestion for you is to use a skill-based system.  These can be easily tailored to fit the needs of classes and group casting, and I find that it makes more sense to practice what you use than to kill things as a raise-all.  In any case, rewarding RP with exp is a blurry, imprecise, and inevitably subjective area better left alone.  The best systems give players broad power to administer themselves.

I trust I've touched on some points of interest to you.  After so many years of mudding, I hope my experience can be put to some good use.  I've been rather liberal with my sharing of Dartmud's core concepts, so if down the line you do make use of these ideas, I'm sure the creator staff would appreciate any kind mention.  Good luck, and if I happen upon your mud one day I'll give it a try.  You best be nice to newbies!
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Old 07-26-2006, 01:19 AM   #6
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" Good luck, and if I happen upon Aarn one day I'll give it a try. You best be nice to newbies! "

Aarn isnt the name of the game hes creating lol.. That was who he was replying to.
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Old 07-26-2006, 10:01 PM   #7
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The SMAUG codebase already has the machinery for multi-caster spells built in (which, incidentally, can be built online with no coding whatsoever, thanks to the SMAUGSPELLS system), although very few SMAUG MUDs make use of it. On the SMAUG flagship MUD itself, various cleric spells were made multicaster, but they were rarely ever used, which sort of lends evidence toward what others are saying.

You might be interested in the magic system at GodWars II, although if it's like I remember, itll take a solid day of playing before you can access any of it. It's not that it's multicaster there, but I'd classify it as more subtle than most: rather than "cast fireball", you manually perform actions (snap fingers, point, clap hands, etc) which, performed in right combinations, invoke the magic.
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Old 07-26-2006, 10:41 PM   #8
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I also like the idea of what I call skill-oriented magic combat. For ages, on Clandestine MUD, we used a "cast blah" see result system that is standard on most MUDs. Most newbies would play spellcasters, as being a caster class was easier to learn than being another class - and we could not easily correct this, as it does not make sense when balancing player-killing to have spellcasters to not be on par with other classes.

Recently, we stripped away that system and went to a chant system for most spells, which requires timing, forethought, counter-spelling, movement, etc - and added in a more complicated-to-use ranged spell system... this has made casting a lot more dynamic and benefits those with more skill who want to play caster classes, without being over-powered.

Specifically, though, for your ideas - here are my suggestions. I really like the idea of a very powerful(but simple) "fireball" spell taking up a ton of mana and dealing heavy damage. Timer it - make sure it cannot be immediately recast. Otherwise, Mages will find ways to quickly restore their mana and keep "bombing" their opponents with powerful attacks. If balanced right, spells that drain a lot of mana and are on various "timers" will allow casters to face meleers, though with caution.

As to your combined casting idea - here is what I suggest and warn of; first - be careful that it is not boring. Simply linking up and casting a spell may be effective, but it won't excite players. Instead, link up and cause a "mini-game" to appear; for instance, some kind of "magic elemental bar" that they have to balance, or some sort of short, but randomly designed maze where they have to find each other's "spiritual" self by moving around and finding each other within a short period of time(say, 30 seconds to a minute, depending on the size of the maze) and then join together to "cast" the spell. All of the sudden, you have a dynamic, skill-oriented, always changing mini-game that runs the ability to team up for spells... casting can be made fun with things like that. We use ideas like that on Clandestine for casting, fusing with other players, escaping from Hades, travelling to remote areas via a doorway, blacksmithing, technocrafting, and more.

In short, anything can be made dynamic and skill-oriented without messing with the "balance fundamentals" of the system. If you can first player-test a system that is balanced(aka, combined casting is not over-powered and mages are comparably strong to meleers), then you can go from there to make all of your skills dynamic, creative, and even into mini-games for certain things(especially combined skills/efforts). I know this has been a mainstay at Clandestine MUD for a long time, and is probably our best feature.
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Old 07-29-2006, 08:08 AM   #9
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Thanks for pointing that out, Daedroth... I'm not sure what to make of the fact that the only response to my post was entirely off the point, but I'll certainly fix the error.

As long as I'm posting I'll reopen the question: what do people think of subtler magic and its practical implementation?
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Old 07-30-2006, 01:59 AM   #10
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Kiev--First off, a word of major thanks for the warning on the RP exp system. I hadn't thought of that before.

I have to say I'm not a fan of skill based muds. I played one for a while, because I was RPing with one of the other members, and the whole system bugged the crap out of me. I would really like to find a way to make this work without using a skill based system.

I'm very much a fan of class and level based systems. I know there are arguments for and against them. I just like them.

I hope you wont take what I'm saying the wrong way--I truly appreciate your taking the time to write what you did, and your post pointed out some shady areas in my own plan that I'll have to fill in. I'm very glad you pointed those pitfalls out to me before I stumbled into them . Now I can try to figure out a way to either plan around them, or work with them.

One thing you mentioned that really resonated with me was how players like to be unique rather than all powerful sometimes. That's how I've always felt about my characters.

Maybe I'm stepping into another pitfall here, but one idea I'd had lurking in the back of my head was to try to have there be no such thing as an 'untrained mage'. Basically if you want to learn magic, you have to join a Clan or House, who would have teacher wizards (NPC's). Then you would be restricted in your spells to what you could learn from that wizard, plus whatever you could learn by doing quests or bribing wizards (PC's) from other houses to teach you.

I.e. a very rich mage with a lot of friends could know a lot of spells. Also things like, "I have a ring that wards against scrying, you know the spell of Mind Poisoning. Teach me how to use it and you can have the ring," would be possible . Again--very dependant on magical items of any value being pretty rare.

DonathinFrye--thanks so much for the input . I don't know about creating a mini-game around the process... I'll have to think about it some more, but the basic idea is to have the rewards for casting the spell be great enough that it's worth it.

Similar to the fireball being a knock-you-on-you-ass kind of spell, something like summoning a dragon isn't going to be anything to sneeze at. My hope is to create such an RP flavor and general excitement that the mere idea of several mages working together would be fun enough.

The fact is... I -want- it to be hard for mages to get together and summon dragons, or just stand toe to toe with a warrior. However, if the dragon -is- summoned, we're talking some major ass-kickage about to happen--it's the kind of thing that would happen if the mages were trying to take control of a city. Or if the mage does dare to stand toe to toe with a warrior, the mage is either stupid, or that warrior had better realize his butt is about to be fricasseed .

I want mages to not be over powered, but at the same time to be dangerous enough in their own way that people just really don't trust them. There's going to be 'no magic' laws enforced in most of the great cities, and mages wont be welcomed in many of the smaller cities and larger townships.

I do see what you mean, though... You've definitely given me some food for thought in regards to making the casting fun to use by adding some aspect of a game, or challenge, to the spell.

Here’s another idea I had toyed with, but I’m really not quite sure how much I like it:

The general idea of the magic should remain the same—i.e. fireballs kick much ass, portals are difficult to create, it takes more than one mage to summon a dragon… all of that would remain. However what if the spells were ‘stat’ dependent?

Lets see if I can even explain this:

All players are subject to four basic stats (or five, or six… this is just a rough idea): Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence (which would control how much mana you have, plus how many spells/skills you could learn), and Health (health and movement). Players are given a set number of points to put into those stats (I know this is not very unique yet ) and if they want to play a warrior they pour all of their points into Strength and Health, if they want to be a thief they’d have mostly Dex, with a bit of strength and Health.

Any player, regardless of stats or class, can practice –any- skill. A thief could learn how to bash people to the ground. A warrior could learn to be stealthy. However, to practice any skill outside of your particular class incurs an extra cost in practice points—i.e. for the warrior to learn how to backstab someone, they might have to give up knowing how to trip an enemy and how to use a shield proficiently. Also someone with 5 points of strength trying to bash someone with 10 would be pretty ineffective.

For mages… if they select an option to have the gift of Mana Control, they have a fifth stat to worry about: Magic. This stat has nothing to do with their actual amount of mana, or with what spells they can –learn-. It does, however, have an effect on which spells they can cast, and it eats into their other stat points.


Zod the mage has 40 stat points. He puts 2 in magic, 14 in strength, 6 in dex, 10 in intelligence, and 8 in health. This would make Zod a pretty wimpy mage, but he could pin down and sit on most of the other mages in town if he wanted .

Zod knows the spell to create a portal—but it requires a full 10 strength in magic to create a portal. So Zod would need another mage of at least 8 strength in magic to complete the portal. Or two other mages with at least 4 strength in magic each.

Zod also knows how to create a fireball. This spell requires only two points of magic strength to cast, but it costs a hell of a lot of mana. Zod could create one fireball and a few small spells from full mana. However once those were used up, he would still have some impressive warrior abilities to fall back on.

Our second mage is Jane. Jane puts 10 points in Magic, 7 points in Strength, 7 points in Dex, 14 points in Intelligence, and 2 points in Health. Jane is a powerful mage, and can learn more spells than Zod can due to her greater intelligence. She can also cast more in a row than Zod can because her extra intelligence gives her more mana. However, a few hits would take Jane out of any battle, and once her spells are used up she’s barely got enough warrior/rogue/whatever skills to fall back on and get to safety—if she’s quick.

Jane can cast a portal by herself, and can get off more fireballs in a row than Zod can. The cost of the fireball spell is decreased for her, because of by how much she exceeds the required magic strength, and also because she just generally has more mana than Zod does due to her superior Intelligence stat.

Jane also knows a Cutting spell that lets her disrupt another mage’s spell. However it requires a strength of 12 to cast. If Zod also knows the spell, he and Jane can link up together and cast it, since their combined magic strength equals 12. It will cost a lot more for them to cast than it would if Zod had a higher magic strength, though. It’s possible that casting that spell by itself will drain their combined magical strength, whereas it wouldn’t if Zod had more strength in magic and in Intelligence.

This would be a huuuuuuuuuuuge pain in the ass to figure out how to code, I have a feeling, and then even more so to balance out. However I think it just –might- lend that edge of customization that I’m looking to include. For instance if someone really wanted to play an assassin mage, they could basically stat up their character like an assassin, but then throw one or two points into mana—just enough to get them some low-level spells. It would be a sacrifice, though, on their other abilities.

They’d be missing out on those one or two stat points somewhere else, for starters, but also as a ‘mage’ class they’d have to pay more for their assassin skills than an ‘assassin’ class would. So it could make a clever mage more versatile, while simply impeding a less-skilled player.

For mages, this would once again make magic items invaluable. Lets say, for instance, there were a few –incredibly- rare power boosting items. Like say a ring that added ten points to your magical strength while you wore it—if Zod wore it, it would turn his 2 points into 10 points, making him able to cast the portal spell by himself, and reducing the cost of his fireball spells (although not increasing his amount of mana).

Of course this would make it absolutely imperative that those items be incredibly, incredibly rare. And they probably wouldn’t lend that huge of a power boost, either.

Further thoughts on any of this are 100% welcome .
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