Setting the mind to work
Letters to the editor
- David Mallard
- Scatter ///\oo/\\\
So You Want to Start a mud
- Robert M. Zigweid
Tasks: a new variety of quest
- Hugo Jonker
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I will write about the rent system in muds, with an attempt to explain
why it exists at all. I will give a few reasons for and against
and some possible alternatives
to rent in the mudding world.
A Rent Virgin
You start playing a new mud, wander around a bit, meet a few
people, read a few of the game's policies and help files.
You decide that is enough for your first visit; mud school
can wait! Being a careful player, you type 'save' and then 'quit.'
What is this? You cannot quit without losing all of your equipment? The
game insists that you rent at an inn?
Cosy atmosphere with wood floors and quaint sky lights.
Bravely you take up your new quest: seek out the hallowed halls of
the inn, then utter the power word 'rent'!. You wander the city until
you locate an inn.
You dutifully recite the incantation 'rent' (or perhaps 'offer'
first, then rent). Mystical lists scroll before your eyes and
arcane formulas numb your uninitiated mind. You wobble, you spin,
you feel weak, but you seal the transaction: you rent.
As you begin to disconnect, perhaps you see a few
unrentable items drop to the floor and the latest cutesy good-bye
message from the mud administrators.
Thus goes your first experience of rent in a mud. In the beginning,
it is a slight hassle. Later, it can become a monster, forcing you
to stay on longer and longer, working ever harder to keep all those
lovely goodies you have gathered in your adventures. The lovelier the
goodies, the more they cost to rent. And rent often costs more the
longer you leave the game between logins. No money? No problem.
We will just take away that pretty shield of total invulnerability!
Rent: WHY does it exist at all?
So why have rent on a mud? Most people hate it, few really like it and
it is inconvenient. What is the deal?
Here are some pros and cons about rent:
Pro: Rent solves the economy problem in muds by sucking up the players'
cash. Your high level characters have too much cash and nothing to
spend it on? Make them pay rent and soak the money up.
A huge number of mud players are self-centered
egomaniacs steeped in every form of socio-politico-ethno-economic
class envy. Result: players get annoyed when
someone else has more than they do. You'll know they're
doing it when you hear repeated chants of 'fairness!' and 'balance!'
Silence these class-envy whiners! Two specific examples, both pro-rent:
Rent tends to reduce whining about overpowerful
gear in the hands of unworthy or too-weak characters.
Because it gets really expensive to give away
the good equipment, people tend to give away good equipment less.
Rent tends to reduce hoarding of equipment, since it
becomes prohibitively expensive to do so.
Reducing a huge source of disparities in equipment
can be a very good thing!
Pro: Rent systems make a certain sense: It is reasonable for expensive
items to be costly to maintain or store. A rent system does this
perfectly; however, so would an equipment-repair system.
Pro and Con: Rent creates pressure to play longer and more often.
Some people will respond to this pressure, however many rebel and
leave the mud altogether.
It definately makes it much harder for the casual mudder, who only
has a few hours a week to play.
Con: Rent is vastly unpopular. In a recent poll, a substantial
majority said they will never play games with rent.
Alternatives to rent
The main overriding reason for having rent is to eliminate the
hoarding of equipment
and money. Here are a few alternatives that look at and
address this problem on a mud.
Part of the reason this problem exists at all is
that muds rarely have anything like a functional
economy. New money is created constantly, and
there are very few things to spend it on.
Limit the number of good items: Perhaps there can only ever be
three in any player's file or on the mud at any one time.
This limitation creates its own problems though, I will admit, and I do not
really like it. This solution can be an alternative for some specific
higher powered items in the game.
Level-restricted items: Only players of high levels can even hold
those high-level high-power goodies. This is probably an undesirable
option, since it is highly unrealistic and hard to justify. However,
this is easy to code and it does restrict the usage of the item so it
is often used in games.
Forget item saving altogether: You log off the game, all your
goodies are gone. This is also very unpopular with a huge
part of the gaming world, though it certainly has a long history. This
was the system the first LPmud used, and many LPmuds which came after
it used it as well.
This has very similar problems to rent, if not more problems, in that
it forces people to play for long periods of time.
Decay: Make items wear out, and make repair expensive or impossible.
Interference: Perhaps powerful magical items carry their own
cost to the user, and this cost increases geometrically with
each additional item worn or wielded. One magical item? Not a
problem. Two items? Perhaps wounds take forever to heal.
Three items? You can walk, or talk, but not both. Bad news!
Imprinting or Tuning: Give items their own preferences.
This would be something like the alignment based item flags seen
in some games now, but much more. Alignment based item flags restrict
the usage of the item to those who are in alignment. Items might attune to the
first player who touched them. Items might scoff at being used by
inferior players, or betray their unworthy owners.
Level-scale items: If your characters have a level, let your
items have levels too. Characters lower in level than their
equipment get less power out of them.
Example: Elven boots with armor value of 12 and
giving a bonus to magical power of +6. The boots are level 20.
The boots work fine for a level 20+ character. A level 10
character gets half power.
Make all items of true power special-purpose once-only
player-made-and-enchanted items that are fantastically
costly to create.
I know there are plenty of great ideas floating out there that will
help build a world that has a nice consistent feel to it while still
preserving the fun of face-to-face fantasy roleplaying. These include
other great alternatives to rent. I'd love to hear about them.
March 1999 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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