Third Person Mudding?
by Ken McQueen
Many players are turned off by dull and lifeless one-line descriptions or ones that
inject a little to many assumptions about the activities of the character experiencing
them. Fortunately, it is possible to write and read the dreaded description from a
shared perspective that allows the creator to tell a story and the player to experience it
as they choose.
An implied part of the description.
Playing a mud is a bit like reading a story that is writing itself largely on the fly
in response to your actions. Room descriptions provide the background while players and
mobiles act out the plot as the protagonists, antagonists and all the extras. However, the
action is not set and the author (the mud and builders as a whole) does not take the part
of all roles defining everything they do or do not know or can do. It can however set the
In a mud, it is commonly assumed that you are playing from a first person perspective.
The mud reads your input as what you are doing as the character and responds with what
stimuli you receive in return as if it was all exactly what your character sees and knows.
But this is not necessarily true; in fact, one could as easily experience it all from the
third person perspective. In this perspective, the mud reads your input as what the player
wants the character to do and responds by telling the story of what actually happens.
This allows for all sorts of informative possibilities. If you treat the
"storyteller" as some sort of highly trained bard or traveler replete in the
legends and tales of the land as well as place names and the like. It is possible for the
player to be regaled with all sorts of information that is completely out of context to
the current conditions and what the actual character knows.
By way of example, I'm going to show how a fairly hideous room description by normal
standards can be transformed into something that doesn't step on too many toes. Please
note that the following description was taken from November's Article "Use Your
GDI!" by Aaron "Ajax" Berkowitz (how convenient right?).
You've come across a wide, wind swept path that is covered with dead leaves from
the overhanging oak and maple trees high above you. A sudden gust of wind sends a chill
down your spine, and you shiver slightly and peer ahead, suddenly alarmed at how quiet it
is around here. The path continues to the east and west; to the east you spy the dark and
gloomy Forest of Fear, and westward lies a grim and forbidding castle, awesome in size and
sinister in appearance.
As was said previously, this whole description assumes several things about you that
just won't hold water all the time. The author of that article solved the problems of
those assumptions by removing all offending information. However, that is not entirely
necessary. Indeed, by the intermediary of your guide (human? maybe not), you might still
learn much of the information contained above and a fair bit more (if desired). Indeed let
us render it thusly:
A wide path, sometimes swept by the prevailing westerly winds of the region, runs
out of the depths of the notorious Forest of Fear to the East. The branches of oak and
maple trees hang over the path entombing it in a silence found to be alarming by many who
come here. The path is known to be covered in dying leaves, knee deep in snow or bare dirt
depending on the season and can become a dangerous mire after strong rain. To the west
stands Doom Castle, awesome in size, sinister in aspect and the western terminus of the
As you can see, this description sounds like someone talking to you (a knowledgeable
and talkative someone even), rather than you actually experiencing it yourself. You can
then take the choice as a role player to either have your character understand everything
perfectly about the place or to be left wondering what those tall brown and green things
that stick in the ground are.
Of course, all this requires that builders may need to change their writing styles and
that players may need to adjust their perspective, but such is the eminently bearable
burden of a world in which everyone's information requirements can be met simply.
December 1999 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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