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Old 02-21-2006, 11:03 PM   #1
Drealoth
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I found this a few days ago, and I figured I'd share. It's long, but there are lots of good ideas and it's definitely worth the read.

Enjoy.

http://mu.ranter.net/theory/index.html from his homepage at http://mu.ranter.net/
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Old 02-22-2006, 11:25 AM   #2
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OK, OK, I admit I skimmed some of the sections...but I read most of it.

I've been thinking about this though (from the document):

Quote:
Originally Posted by

In conclusion, unless you completely rule out player character mages in any uncontrolled environment like an MMORPG, you will never approach an analogue to a heroic myth mage. The only thing you can do is try to limit player accessibility to magical powers and then work on balancing the class types, so at least the mages will be relatively uncommon.
So, what are the solutions to the 'mage probem' (if there even is a problem)?

Should mages be 'relatively uncommon'?

How have WOT muds solved this 'problem'?

I think this question overlaps into two other general areas: should mage information on your mud be opaque, and can the mages do a lot that isn't combat-related. I'm in favor of both.

And did you look at his link to Book-a-Minute?

Thanks for posting it.
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Old 02-22-2006, 12:15 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by

Should mages be 'relatively uncommon'?
Only if that's what your design calls for. Certainly, there's nothing about mages that requires them to be any rarer than any other type of thing. There's a possible world fiction for virtually any decision.

--matt
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Old 02-22-2006, 01:33 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Ide @ Feb. 22 2006,18:25)
So, what are the solutions to the 'mage probem' (if there even is a problem)?
The problem has nothing to do with mages, but rather with a disparity in power level between player characters; the exact same argument could be extended to any class. Not every knight is as skilled as Sir Lancelot, not every barbarian is as strong as Conan, and not every mage is as powerful as Merlin. Place any heroic character into a game where the other characters are non-heroic and you're going to run into balance issues - even that 'farmer' PC is going to be seriously overpowered in a mud where the rest of the PCs are farmyard animals.

But that doesn't mean you need to make knights, barbarians, mages or farmers 'uncommon', only that you need to consider how balanced they are against other character concepts within the gameworld you're designing. Place Merlin in a game where the rest of the PCs are gods, and he's going to suck.
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Old 02-22-2006, 06:49 PM   #5
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I found the document overall interesting, just from a theme and world design part, and I'm not even interested in fantasy as a genre.

While I agree with a lot of what he says in the document, I think he's definately more into the RPI than just hack and slash action. Nothing wrong with that, but he seems to be barking up the wrong tree if his aim is MMOs.
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Old 02-22-2006, 07:17 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Feb. 22 2006,23:33)
Quote:
Originally Posted by (Ide @ Feb. 22 2006,18:25)
So, what are the solutions to the 'mage probem' (if there even is a problem)?
The problem has nothing to do with mages, but rather with a disparity in power level between player characters; the exact same argument could be extended to any class. Not every knight is as skilled as Sir Lancelot, not every barbarian is as strong as Conan, and not every mage is as powerful as Merlin. Place any heroic character into a game where the other characters are non-heroic and you're going to run into balance issues - even that 'farmer' PC is going to be seriously overpowered in a mud where the rest of the PCs are farmyard animals.

But that doesn't mean you need to make knights, barbarians, mages or farmers 'uncommon', only that you need to consider how balanced they are against other character concepts within the gameworld you're designing. Place Merlin in a game where the rest of the PCs are gods, and he's going to suck.
The problem that he points out is that, unlike swordplay or archery, magic has no real world basis making it difficult to include.

Another problem is the way that magic is approached by a typical RPG designer. Having resigned himself to the idea that magic just makes things happen for no good reason, he cannot stop himself from turning magic into an all-inclusive overwhelming technological advantage. Magic becomes air superiority, rifled barrels, and force fields, all in one package. Small wonder then that almost every character in any MMORPG is considered gimped unless he is a mage to some extent.

The only solution for this is constant vigilance and hardcore balancing. It also helps if your basic game design and mechanics are modeled around a no-magic environment, so you can at least get that part right before you try to balance in a magic system. Remember that magic wasn't included in the original Dungeons and Dragons until Eldritch Wizardry. This was the correct approach. The ensuing generic and boring magic system was a result of a lack of imagination, not a flaw in the overall design process.


He's definitely going for a realistic game though - World of Warcraft clearly is over the top and unrealistic, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work.
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Old 02-23-2006, 04:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Drealoth @ Feb. 23 2006,02:17)
The problem that he points out is that, unlike swordplay or archery, magic has no real world basis making it difficult to include.
Actually I strongly disagree with that view - the fact that it has no real world basis makes it very easy to include, because you don't have to worry about balancing it against things like "realism" and historical data.

Take a look at some of his other views - it seems apparent that he's having problems balancing weapons* and armour*, for example, because of the historical "arms race" ways in which they were developed.

But magic is fictional, and thus doesn't have those problems. You could create a magic system designed from the ground up to be well-balanced - not just between different schools of magic, but also between mages and warriors - without having to worry about historical precedent.

* Of course it's a bit strange to insist that weapons and armour within a fantasy world should be exactly the same as those in the real world. If magic exists, and is a potent tool in battle, then the chances are it will have had a profound effect on the development of more mundane weapons and armour.
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Old 02-23-2006, 05:49 PM   #8
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I can see a lot of merits in designing a world on this kind of basis... if you're running a pencil and paper game with a known group once a week.

Short version of theme that it sounds like the author is implying (with plenty of extrapolation on my part, of course):
About 1400 Europe or so. Most people still live as peasantry. You have your normal governmental types, artisians and military... but one difference. In this world the power of magic is being discovered. In this game magic is new, just being discovered, and more than likely has some science based reason why it works (even if we don't quite know it yet, I envision what he has in mind for magic is like the 'magic' of Fullmetal Alchemist, that is, a form of advanced alchemy that looks like what we today view as magic). Magic is likely something that takes years of study to be able to do well, and while some military applications are being used now (perhaps using water to create fog to confuse enemies), it's mostly a science where most of the effort is still spent trying to enhance the food supply and keep living. That is, perhaps mages are viewed more like tradesmen than anything special, and they might even have a guild.

Then find a couple reasons 'adventure' type PCs could exist, even close off mages to initial application, and off you go.

This doesn't even go into the concept of fantasy clerics, but... wow, this actually sounds like a theme I'd enjoy GMing.
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Old 02-24-2006, 12:32 AM   #9
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I wonder what the advantages and disadvantages of a 'craft-based' magic system are (I also like this idea), you could call this other things, component-based maybe being more popular. A system that doesn't include verbal and somatic elements.

Some advantages:

o ties into your other craft systems.

o component availability is a constraint on magic use (balancing)?


Some disadvantages:

o not as popular as verbal and somatic systems among players?

o what's to stop players from farming components other than an arbitrary system design? Do the spells require mana? If so how's it really that different from any other magic system?


Quote:
Originally Posted by
I can see a lot of merits in designing a world on this kind of basis... if you're running a pencil and paper game with a known group once a week.
Yev, you seem to imply that the system the original essay author describes woudn't be as good for a mud. Why not?
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Old 02-24-2006, 01:13 AM   #10
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I think that in an RPI environment with a well structured economy, a spell componant system would be great.

You could foster all sorts of cool stuff. Powerful spells that require the most rare and expensive spell componants - or even an alchemy like system where the player's skill in magic is tied to the quality and type of spell componant. Imagine something like being able to channel your death and fire magic through the thousand year old petrified heart of a dragon.

The entire system could be based upon lore - the player finding scrolls and books outlining various spells and their componants. Of course they could experiment on their own as well, with the risk of their experiments blowing up in their faces...
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Old 02-24-2006, 11:27 AM   #11
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The reason I say in person with well known players is that the players would be more understanding than in a MU type environment. Does it have potential in a MU as well? Definately, but personally for my fun:work ratio I'd enjoy running it with pen and paper with 5 other people than for dozens of players, at least at first. Part of the reason is I'd want to balance things with a small group, and secondly because it's easier to manage basic economics with a human instead of code. If someone made a MU like that, though, I'd definately at least look and probably say, "Man, that's cool."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ide
o not as popular as verbal and somatic systems among players?
Interestingly enough, even D&D has material requirements for many spells in the technical sense, and I suspect it's still one of the best known 'roleplaying' systems around. I /think/ Asheron's Call worked with components as well. So it's not that it's impossible to implement and succeed.

To go with the 'basic theme' I established a couple posts ago: Common items that are also components are probably relatively inexpensive, since there aren't enough mages to influence demand or supply of said items... but obscure items used in magic may be hard to come by, since there's not much of a market yet, so what can be done is limited. - It could work, but you're going to need players to understand that mages in this type of theme are not combat machines or glass cannons, but more like tradesmen.
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Old 02-24-2006, 11:31 AM   #12
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Regarding spell crafting, an interesting thread over at mudlab.org:

http://www.mudlab.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=52
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Old 02-24-2006, 02:54 PM   #13
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I've always thought magic was one of the most over-used aspects of fantasy games.  It's one of the things that almost turned me off the genre, I had to resist the urge to vomit when I first tried WoW.  There were just too many swords and mainstays of fantasy.  Recently I've gotten over that though, and have started to sort of enjoy WoW, but I still think games should either ease off the magic or switch it to a more inventive style.

I've always envisioned a realistic MUD with Medieval lifestyle more like it was in real life, but that would be incredibly boring to most people so it'll probably never get played.
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Old 02-25-2006, 02:20 AM   #14
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That thread seems to have a lot of interesting points... I've read stuff about 'creative' magic before, so to speak. I think it'd require players that understand what they want to do is subject to judgements moreso than usual.

And yeah, WoW is a game where you end up accepting that it's a fantasy game that aims at realism so little that you don't really think about it beyond basic things like: Mounts are faster than running. And 'Getting hit hurts.'
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Old 02-25-2006, 12:48 PM   #15
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What a great link! Thanks, Drealoth!

I really like the iconoclastic tone of the author... one of the things I most miss about the Good Ol' Days of RPGs is Gary Gygax's acerbic tone in the authoring of the first edition of AD&D. The smoothed down writing in today's mainstream RPGs just isn't as good a read.
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