a different character system

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Joined: 21 Feb 2006
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Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:06 am    Post subject: a different character system Reply with quote

Everyone is familiar with the conventional character system on muds; a player logs in and creates their PC. There are many variations from there; classes, levels, classless, levelless, practices, skill trees, skill groups, multiclassing, remorts, tiers, permadeath, the list goes on, but pretty much a player has their PC.

Of course it's not that simple: multiplaying, bots, players trading passwords, storage characters, farming characters, levelling up your friend's newbie character. But these are mostly extensions of the core concept -- a player has their PC.

All of that is a long introduction to say that for a new game I'm working out a different character system, something I'm excited about as a player, but I'm not sure about all of its ramifications in practice.

Here's the idea.

A player creates a new account. From that point they have a choice of one of several settings to choose. A setting is a piece of the game world, such as a society or a place. For example,

Welcome, Biff. Choose your first setting from these choices. More settings will open up to you as you progress through the game. You can learn more about these choices by <foo>.

1. The blood sport circuit
2. The resistance
3. The lesser noble court

Once they choose a setting they choose their first mob. A mob is a lot like a mob in any mud (though with more detail than usual). It's a creature made for a specific setting, with gear, skills, and so on already built-in. A player will start out with a few choices. Like,

Choose your first mob in the blood sport circuit. You can learn more about each choice before selecting it by <bar>:

1. Gallons the fist-spike brawler
2. Rems the dog breeder
3. Brutus the bookie

A mob also starts 'in the middle of a story' -- basically already in the middle of a quest or task that the player learns more about when they starting playing the mob.

When a player successfully completes their first mob's quest, they may have another quest with that mob straight away, but they may also see that mob 'put in the background' by the game.

At that point they can RP and/or bash with the mob as with a typical PC, or they can go back to mob selection and choose another one.

The more a player progresses playing different mobs in their setting, the more progress is put to their account as a whole. As their account progresses, more mobs of different power levels open up to them, as well as more setting choices. They also obtain more options to affect their chosen setting -- its buildings, economy, what events occur and so on.

However one of the most important benefits a player receives from progressing with their account is opening up the chance to play actors. Actors are powerful 'NPCs'. They don't RP or bash like players can do with mobs. They play more like a strategy game. Players with enough 'mob XP' get actions to take with the actors, influencing events on a broad scale, perhaps benefiting their setting with wealth and new gear, or opening up new places to discover and explore.

A key element here is that multiple players can play the same actor. Once a player chooses a mob, though, only that player has access to the mob. Progress made with mobs and actors generally accrues to the player account, encouraging development with that one account.

While mobs generally exist to be 'in a story', there would be repeatable content and generated content the player can run with that mob. Otherwise a player might play out all the content in a setting rather quickly.

This system does not allow for as much player customization and development of a single character. However it still allows for customization and development, just at a higher level -- at the level of influencing the setting with mob play, and then the broader setting with actor play. This is the kind of game I would really enjoy but it could be I'm in the tiny minority Smile.

Another question is, can something belong to multiple settings? For example, would play of a specific mob give progress to a player in two settings? I think it would be viable and interesting to have synergies between settings, but it'd have to be carefully charted out.

So in the end, what does this system give that a 'regular' PC with quests, and maybe the actor system, would not? First of all is the emphasis on setting. Usually it's the other way round on a mud, with the 'I' of PCs front and center. I think it'd be cool to flip that around. Second is the emphasis on the 'story now' when you jump into a mob. It's really easy to play when the mob is all set up and everything is moving when you hit the ground. It'd be less complex than heavily customizing a single PC, but on the other hand easier for a casual player. Third is the multitude of perspectives you get with mob play. Again I really like this aspect. In a PC-based game you put so much work into your character you may not branch out very much beyond a few characters. Of course for many players this is what they like, but I'm excited about a different take on it.

Just as a side note, I think the background system KaVir wrote about could work well for templating out characters in a game like this.

Anyway, I'm curious about what people think, what pitfalls you might see, and similar work that might be good references.
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