Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Crunchy Numbers, Mmmm

Hello everyone,

Since my last post, my partner and I have been busy hammering out all the million details which have to be considered when balancing races. Although that task is far from complete, this post is a bit of an update to show those of you who may be interested in such things the way we're going about it.

We are taking an approach to race, class and skill gains which will have a familiar feel for ROM-stlye gamers, but which also has some significant (and we think awesome) changes. Our goal is to make a game which is easy to play but difficult to master, and to us that starts with character creation.

In creating a character, players will first choose a race, which comes with preset base stats: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, and Luck. For example, Elves will start with Str 1, Dex 4, Int 5, Wis 4, Con 1, and Luck 5.

(Sidenote: currently we're working on a 5-point scale, which lends itself easily to balance and all that junk, and which will be doctored once things are all sorted out to reflect max stats of 25.)

Next, the player will choose one of only three very basic classes, each of which offers a +1 stat bonus: Mage, +1 Int; Rogue, +1 Dex; and Fighter, +1 Str. For example, an Elf Mage would get no class bonus to stats, since as an Elf his Int would already be maxed out, but an Elf Rogue would have as his base stats Str 1, Dex 5, Int 5, Wis 4, Con 1, and Luck 5.

Finally, players will have two bonus stat points to allot however they want. For example, a player could give his Elf Rogue character +1 to Wis and +1 to Str, or +2 to Con, or +2 to Str, or +1 to Str and Con. In other words, he will be able to tailor his character in the way which will best suit the role he intends to play. Note that currently we are discussing having these two bonus stat points occur not at creation, but later as the character levels or possibly as it accrues additional XP after reaching level 50.

Essentially, we are organizing skills by class and stat, and player access to skills will be based on those two things as well. Simply choosing the Fighter class, for example, will not guarantee that a character will gain access to all possible Fighter skills. An Elf Fighter, with a +1 Str bonus, can put both of his bonus stat points into Str and still only have a Str of 4. Although several good fighter skills will be available at Str 4, the very best ones will require Str 5, which no Elf Fighter will ever be strong enough to learn or use.

However, it will be possible (and encouraged) for players to learn skills outside their own class, which they can do at a -1 stat penalty. Our Elf Fighter may not be able to learn the most elite Fighter skills (which only a very strong Fighter can use). However, he would still have Int 5, which means that after factoring in the -1 stat penalty suffered when attempting to learn Mage skills, he would be able to learn everything up to rank 4. Not the best -- but close. Therefore, a player who wishes to play a warrior-like character who has some Fighter ability, some Mage ability, and some Thief ability would find himself with a very nicely rounded character. If he wants to play a very powerful mage with limited or nonexistant Fighter or Thief skills, he can do that too.

Although it may seem limiting, at a glance, to have so few classes, our concept of the game is actually designed to provide the opportunity for very rich character customization, because though there are only three basic classes to choose from, characters will not be limited to their class when it comes to gaining abilities.

As of right now, I have only finished crunching numbers for stats for four races: human, elf, dwarf, and giant. Still to come are Tiefling, Goblin, Orc, Ogre, Garou, Variel, Seidon, Dragon, Spirit, and Undead. Whew!

As I work, I'm putting all the data into one spreadsheet which I've made available online for anyone who is interested in the inside scoop as to race/class possibilities. If that's you, then direct your browser to:


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Races for Real

Hello everyone,

I've been having trouble building lately because I've been trying to work on the city I want to make into my epicentre of culture, a blend of all races and beliefs in the centre of the world. But it's proven extremely difficult for me to create a city of culture without having a strong idea of the people who make the culture. Which brings us to races which will populate the land.

Our goal is to create a game with a great story which ties everything in it together in a meaningful (though usually hidden and secret) way. It's the formalist in me. It's been the mechanics of going about that which have been hard to nail down. Where to start?

At first we thought about doing something completely new and different from our first mud, DR. But once we got into specifics, we began to realize the extent of the work we would need to do to start from scratch, and decided to use as much of DR as we feasibly could.

Early on, we brainstormed about races. It was an exciting and heady time, because we had finally broken away from DR and were in a place of endless possibilities where we could do and make anything we wanted. But so early on, we -- or maybe just I -- didn't really grasp the scope of just how different we could make things. We worked off of a list of DR races, changing a couple, axing a few, adding a few.

The problem was, I didn't have a good idea of what I wanted to use for a creation story. So while I had a vague idea of what races we would have and what the people of our new world might be like, as I got deeper and deeper into the creation story, the more I began to realize that the races we had picked first would just not work, not as they were. There was nothing to tie them into the story, and too much chance that they would be tied more strongly into other stories, motivating people to bring in mythology from the world outside the game rather than embrace the one we are creating -- something we really want to try and avoid.

But yesterday, Parvi and I sat down and talked it all over: the pros and cons of having standard fantasy races. What kind of players we want to attract: both people who enjoy fantasy, and people who normally avoid fantasy. What kind of races might best attract them: if we want people who don't have a high opinion of fairies and elves, would a mud based on fantasy races repel them? On the other hand, Parvi and I both agree that if we start a new mud as a player, making a character for the first time, we are turned off by a list of races which we don't recognize or know anything about. It's a bit much to expect a new player to read a thick manual about race before picking one, when there are a thousand other muds out there.

The question is how to make a mud that is fresh and new while still retaining the familiarity of what has been around forever -- and of course how to tie the races into the creation story we are writing.

I decided to sit down and go over our race list again. I wanted to make races which new players would be able to recognize, but that I would be able to tailor to the specific story of our mud. I also wanted to make the more generic races have interesting twists to appeal to both experienced and new players, and include radically new and interesting races which play very differently than typical mud races.

After much thought, here's what I came up with:

Human -- default race
Elf ------- quick, delicate, magical
Dwarf ---- short, stocky, iron constitutions
Giant ----- big, strong, intelligent

Tiefling -- warped version of humans
Goblin ---- warped version of elves
Orc ------- warped version of dwarves
Ogre ------ warped version of giants

Garou ----- can shift into wolves at will
Variel ---- can shift into birds at will
Seidon ---- can shift into sea serpents at will

Sprite ---- ephemeral, can neither attack nor be attacked
Dragon ---- start out as human, but gain power and abilities with age

Undead ---- cannot be chosen at creation; can quest to become undead and gain access to death magic

I have them blocked into groups because I think of them in categories. The first group are humanoids, designed to be a reliable choice for players new to the mud: they will play like one might expect, with a few interesting twists. Each of these races will get its own city, with all the appeal of a city, including rooms and houses to rent or buy, but I will come back to that more later. I am leaning towards having these four be the only races which can become embraced.

Tiefling, Goblin, Orc, and Ogre will be our evil races (though I am planning, with permission, to pattern the goblin city and culture on the Goblins webcomic by Tarol Hunt, so they won't really quite be evil...). We need to flesh these out a lot more, but we think there's a lot that can be done here, again offering up that familiarity with a twist for those who prefer to play evil. If the good races can be embraced, maybe something else, new but as powerful, can be done with these ones...hmm.

The next three are all shifter races. Wolves, giant birds, and sea serpents: each will have unique abilities when shifted, such as the serpent's ability to breathe water, which will be a remarkable ability when combined with some of the new redit room code we've put in. I can't help loving the names of them. It's the Rowling in me.

Sprites are a completely new kind of character, at least for us. Sprites will be made of Spirit, and they will be able to wander wherever they want, through any door, see and talk to anyone they like. But they won't be able to pick anything up or carry anything. Creatures of air, they'll have no possessions and nothing to fear. It will, however, be possible to banish a sprite from a room where he may be unwanted. This race is designed to allow players to explore the mud without fear of death or attack, to see what's out there without risk.

Dragons are also a new character type for us, and one I think is going to be really fun to play. We've decided to make dragons into a player race which begins life as a weak, frail human. For the first ten years of a dragon's life, he'll be weak and powerless in nearly every capacity. The next ten he will be somewhat stronger, and by his third decade he would be on par with a normal adventurer. After that, however, the dragon would begin to grow stronger. In the fourth decade the dragon would gain the ability to shift into the form associated with dragons, sinuous airborne creatures of wing and scale and claw, tongue unfurling a burst of flame, with all the benefits and abilities such a shift grants. Increased age will grant dragons increased power, up to their hundredth year, when they will gain extreme power -- as long as they can stay alive. Dragons will be as immortals, never dying, but if they are murdered, they are reborn as juveniles just on the edge of the fourth decade. We can make this race because of the new system of time which Parvi has made -- it has opened a lot of doors, and this one might be the biggest.

The last race, Undead, won't be available at creation. Rather, characters who wish to pursue death magic will be required, at some point in their training, to make the ultimate sacrifice to their craft. The path to get there, and the reward for doing so, are as yet undecided (though I had one idea about undead status granting immunity to piercing and slashing weapons).

The next thing to do is figure out all the stats for each race, and to build cities for each race, and to write stories for each race. I have a great idea for the dwarves that I am itching to get started on, so I will sign off for now.


PS I am looking for someone who knows how to make a website using Dreamweaver. If you know how and would like to talk to me about either starting up a website for us, or helping me get started with a basic template I can play with, please send me an email at