by Derek Harding
There seems to be some confusion and misunderstanding about
advancement on muds. This article is a discussion of the issues
surrounding advancement and why there are limits to how far a
player can advance.
When this advancement gets out of control in a few areas this
can lead to significant problems. This is a problem currently
being faced on Discworld, where some task-based awards were too
generous and the advancement too easy.
Putting out those fires that erupt all over the place from uncontrolled
The first question to consider is: 'Why can't players simply
A few moments spent thinking about this leads one to the
inevitable conclusion that in some respects they could. Apart
from number overflows, there is no real reason why a player
couldn't just keep advancing within the system.
However, when one starts to think about what players would
do once they reached a very high level things look a little less
rosy. What happens is that players find there are no more
challenges left to the game. There is nothing left to
achieve. You can kill anything, steal anything from anyone, cast
any spell or ritual at will. I know it sounds idyllic to a
player struggling to improve but oddly enough that is the point!
All a mud can really offer is the struggle to improve and the
sense of achievement that comes with succeeding in that
struggle. Once the struggle is removed there is nothing left to
gain, no goal, no further up the ladder to climb.
Now of course, we could just keep creating tougher, more
perceptive, more magic-resistant NPCs. The fact is that
players who keep advancing at the rate of newbies will
always outstrip our ability to code greater
opponents. Furthermore, the general development of the mud will
be hampered because all resources will be put into a vain
attempt to satiate the few extreme players.
For this reason all muds (as far as I know) apply one of the
following three mechanisms for limiting the level of players and
hence keep them within the range that the mud can cope with and
Muds such as Realms of the Dragon employ this mechanism. They
regularly delete all players to prevent anyone from
maxing out the mud.
Hard limits are most common to Diku muds. You
reach a certain level and cannot advance beyond that level at
all. On some you are immediately retired, on others you may
achieve wizard status. Either way there is no further
In this mechanism the speed of advancement and/or the
increased ability given by advancement tends towards
zero. That is, it is on a decay curve getting smaller and smaller
the higher you get. This is the mechanism that Discworld has
chosen to use. It means that you can keep advancing but
advancement becomes slower and slower the higher you get.
So raise the limit!
People's first response is to say that the current rate of
decay of advancement is too low and that we should raise
it. They usually see this as a solution to the problem. In
reality though it only puts off the inevitable. Because the rate
of advancement tends towards zero there will always come a level
at which some players believe they are advancing too slowly. No
matter how high we set that level they will still reach it. The
only constraint on where that level should be is whether or not
we have NPCs and mud features to support players of that
This can also be rephrased as, "we should raise the level
limit", or "we should not purge the characters so often". There
will always eventually be a time at which players reach their
When you get down to it all a mud can really offer to players
is a period of time (or range of levels) in which they can play
the game and advance and improve their character. Ultimately
there will be a limit to the practical advancemet that they can
achieve. On Discworld they are quite welcome to continue to play
but they must understand that advancement will become
increasingly slow and increasingly unrewarding.
April 1999 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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