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Advancing Advancement

by Tony Wooster

For the players, by the players

I've been around, once or twice. I've traversed my share of muds, playing and advancing through a good deal of them. Save for purely Role-Playing intensive worlds, it's rare to come across one that has a unique or inventive advancement system. It's all going out and killing to get training points, experience and so forth.

This irks me no end. All of these muds, and, though they invest multitudes of time in other sections of game design (better areas, bigger areas, more commands), it's exceedingly uncommon for me to run ashore an innovative advancement system. It's one of the (many) areas of muds that are studiously ignored.

A rare North American animal.

This is probably because it's difficult to imagine a system where killing isn't the main way to advance. More often or not, it's because it's the main focus of the game - go out there and slay the big bad dragon, or kill the deadly, poisonous, flying, horned, hooved, antlered jackelope. Although, that's not always the case. Even on a good few of role playing muds (not MUSHes, etc) killing is the best and quickest way to establish your character, even if role playing is the focus of the mud.

Mostly, though, it stems from fear to stray from the known, the common ways of thinking. I've been posed the question, "How do I make a better advancement system..." several times. I always come up with answers akin to: "Well, if they're a baker, they could, uh... bake for more training points? Yeah!"

What I didn't realize before, but what struck me when considering future prospects for myself, in the real world, is that undoubtedly, I do not make my own decisions for advancement. Oh, I do on a small scale, that's for sure. The decisions I make, whether to spit in my boss's face on any given morning are certainly within my realm of control. When it comes down to it, however, the stamp of approval comes from someone else.

Are you thinking what I am thinking, Pinky?

So it hits me.

Give the player him/herself control over the minute details. Let them role playing their character however they want, but advancement could viably come from someone else.

It seems to me, a fair enough way of advancing would be the idea of letting other players 'rate' a player. That is to say, if the player role plays himself well, goes out and kills the big bad dragon, or whatever the focus of your mud is, another player might just feel like rating the dragon-slayer guy up. And should that person do something very out of character or not in line with the role playing for the environment, rate him down.

There would, of course, be limitations on this system. Ooh boy, would there ever.

No soup for you!

There are problems, to say the least. I am sure at least one of my (two) readers has at this point fallen to a grievance. "What happens if I make an unpopular character? What if I want him to be revolutionary! A harbinger of doom and rebirth?"

Two things: First of all, in order for this system to work, you have to give a certain level of trust to your players. You have to trust them not to abuse their powers. And if they do? Take it away. Ratings should be as objective as the users can make them; a little bias is to be expected, but you should warn that it's probably not good to rate someone you really really hate, or really really like. Some bad conclusions could be drawn from other players for such an action.

Also, only let players 'rate' someone below them. The players with the highest standing defer to the Gods. In this way, you can control what kind of player lives and advances on your world, with small sub-groups amongst them. You reward what you think is proper, and punish where punishment is due. The people who want to stay in high standing will more readily adhere to game rules, because that's why they're there in the first place.

This is slightly dangerous, because it may introduce favoritism, so you'd have to police it well. Though, if you implement it well from the base, there shouldn't be much of a chance of it getting out of control.

As for your harbinger of change, you have to consider how a person would normally achieve a noticed rank such as that. Walk around on the streets, see the guys ringing a bell and saying, "The end is near! Give me money!" Laugh. They won't change anyone's minds, or barely. The people who have brought change often rose first, and THEN led crusades. Or their ideas had come, and people supported them.

It's an inherent side effect of the system. It works in theory.

A Grand Finale of Epic Proportions (Honest!)

No; it hasn't been tested. And, no; this grand finale will actually be boring as hell.

After all this, I am hoping at least this has set one or two subconscious thoughts into motion, and so be it, it may materialize into a mud someday in the far future, or maybe not.

But the best I could do was lay my thoughts out to be torn to shreds by the Imaginary Audience.

Oh, and if you liked the article... Rate me up, please? I am just need one more training point!

Tony Wooster muds all over, with a current mudding home of Final Realms. He used to work for The Two Towers mud as a builder/coder. He is a slacker at large.