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Continuing on my previous article's idea of role-playing and multi-playing causing extreme conflicts, another question comes to mind. Does giving players access to all of their statistics in numerical form draw away from the ability to role-play?
There are two sides to this issue. Players typically have the mindset of "Things shouldn't be too hard on us"; however, it is still a persuasive argument. The worlds Muds create present varying degrees of reality. Most base the amount you can carry on strength, hit points on constitution, etc. Having access to your statistics in the convenient form of:
STR: 18 CON: 18 WIS: 10 INT: 12 DEX: 15 CHA: 5
helps players equip their characters and prepare for upcoming levels by programming an alias in Zmud to equip a full kit of +stat eq. This helps lead to the idealized "power house" character that can take down many a feared creature without blinking. And, from a player's standpoint, this is a good thing. Also, it gives an easier way to fine tune characters in departments such as alignment, amour class, and damage.
However, the administrators of muds will quickly learn that if you wish for role playing, too much information can be bad. First, most players will have the tendency to gossip things like "I have a Strength of 18/90, does anyone have a heavy sword?" The easiest fix to this problem is to place prime statistics in general groups such as: "Below Average, Average, Above Average, Exceptional". Second, along with the removal of numbers from prime statistics, numbers can be removed from Alignment. Certainly, having the knowledge that you are five points away from being evil is nice, but it doesn't necessarily scream role playing. A better system, which promotes role playing, is to have descriptive titles in blocks of, say, 100, 200, 300. Terms such as "Holy" and "Truly Evil" work, but even more descriptive phrases (like Demonic) work just as well.
I will concede that some numbers are necessary. Not having of idea at your hit points pushes the fine balance between role playing and realism. Hit points, Mana, and Stamina are three statistics that hiding would cause more trouble than benefit. Again, gold and experience fall the same way. A statistic that lies on either side of the fence is Armor Class (AC). AC is easily written as "AC: 15" or "AC: -15", but it could also be written as "Naked" or "Heavily Armored". Again, AC usually doesn't come up too much in player discussions, much less than Strength and Constitution, and shouldn't really be worried about. The same holds true for damage effects and hit roll effects. Those could be broadly described instead of saying "+55 damroll". Much like disguising the AC level, disguising damage and hitroll effects is not a necessary change, but is a possibility (and might be seen through with magic if desired).
A total change of perspective (depending on how "in depth" you want your realm to be) would be the removal of levels from the mud. I'm not saying that the complete idea of levels should be removed, players can still progress from level one to level 200 if they like; however, broad class titles such as "Swordmaster" or "Squire" create a better feeling of a new realm where the knowledge your character carries matters as much, if not more, than the player's skills. A mage,walking up on a warrior, might infer that he is a skilled fighter, but a fighter approaching the same might be the only one to deduce that he is in reality a blademaster. Again, it is not necessary for role playing, but if you re going to remove some numbers, this is a change that carries a great deal of benefit.
Once again, like mutlti-playing, too many numbers will not necessarily create an environment not suited for role playing. However, it usually doesn't help to contribute towards an ideal world where everyone picks a role for their characters and leaves the numbers aside.
November 1999 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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