[MUD-Dev] Consistent Characters

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 30 14:56:22 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

Thursday, November 30, 2000, 11:04:13 AM, Jeremy Hovance <jhovance at cscc.edu> wrote:
>> Travis Casey replied:

>> > How do you know it's out of character?  Are all paladins the same?
>> > Can paladins not be mistaken?  What if I want to play a fallen
>> > paladin, and am in the process of having him fall?  What if I want to
>> > play a flawed paladin -- a good man with a bad temper?  Simply by
>> > leaving off the "attack" option, you're both giving me information
>> > that I might not have had (that this is someone I'm not supposed to
>> > attack) *and* restricting the kinds of characters I can play.

> I fail to see how leaving off the attack option for a good-aligned paladin
> speaking with a good cleric is restricting roleplaying. Complexity in
> coding social functions or the unspoken social protocol invites
> ambiguity, loopholes, rulelawyering and metagaming.

Simple; it makes the assumption that the paladin *knows* that the
person he's interacting with is a good-aligned cleric.  What if:

 - the cleric is travelling incognito?

 - the paladin doesn't know this cleric, and has just been fighting
   with someone/something that looks just like this cleric, but got
   away?  (E.g., an evil character using a disguise, a shapeshifter,
   someone with an illusion on them to make them look like the

 - the cleric is of a god who the paladin has been misled to believe
   is evil?  Example from a D&D campaign of mine:  dark elves are
   commonly believed to be evil by surface dwellers, because the
   surface elves claim they are.  In this campaign, however, dark
   elves were not evil -- they were Lawful Neutral -- but they still
   hated the surface elves.  Since I allowed clerics to be of an
   alignment close to that of their god, the players encountered a
   dark elf cleric of the dark elven god (who, of course, the players
   also believed to be evil) who was lawful good.

   If I'd prevented the party's paladin from attacking the dark elf
   cleric, they would have known something was up.  Allowing them to
   attack, but for the paladin to later find that some of his paladin
   powers were failing (because his god knew, even if he didn't) was a
   great role-playing experience for the players... and taught him
   the valuable lesson of not attacking without making sure of what
   you're doing first.

Many, many similar scenarios can be created.  Here's one that recently
happened in a game I'm playing in:

  Our characters were deep underground.  We'd promised a group of
  gnomes living down here that we'd try to wipe out the derro that
  were attacking them.  The gnomes had given us a map to help us find
  the trolls, which indicated that we'd have to pass through an area
  where they thought there might be a hidden temple of Juiblex (a
  demon lord).

  Unfortunately, the map was incomplete, so we were still having to
  explore tunnels and try to find our way around.  Our party had just
  narrowly survived a couple of encounters, and we were trying to find
  a place where we could blockade ourselves in to rest and recover
  spells.  As we entered a chamber, our front row was suddenly
  attacked by an invisible foe, which we started fighting.  Then, a
  mage appeared (i.e., came out from being invisible), flanked by
  two giant wasps.  We immediately attacked them, killing the two
  giant wasps and seriously injuring the mage.

  The mage counterattacked with a fireball.  We all failed our saving
  throws, and the mage rolled well for damage, with the effect that
  everyone in the party except the three warriors was killed.  Working
  together, the fighters started in on the mage.  Unable to cast
  spells without being interrupted, the mage surrendered.  The
  warriors, extremely angry about the death of the rest of us, were
  strongly tempted to kill the mage anyways, but the paladin mastered
  her anger and prevented the others from killing the mage.

  The three of them returned to the gnome city, carrying the bodies of
  the dead and dragging the trussed-up, gagged mage behind them.  The
  gnomish priests were able to resurrect the rest of us.

  When the mage was finally questioned, the true story came out:  he
  was a good mage who had been drugged and taken down deep into the
  earth.  He came out of it to find himself deep under the earth,
  being carried along by mind flayers.  He had come out of it sooner
  than they had expected, though, so he was able to start casting
  spells, and fought his way free of the mind flayers, taking along
  the clothes and magic items he'd had when they captured him.

  Down there, he wandered for days, not knowing how to get out.
  Without his spellbooks, he had only the spells he'd had memorized
  and the couple of magic items he'd had with him.  He'd been
  terrified that more mind flayers would come for him, and he'd also
  run into some kind of monster that could generate illusions, and
  barely escaped from it.  Finally, he'd holed up in the cave where we
  found him, needing to stop and sleep for a while.  He'd made himself
  invisible, and managed to summon an air elemental and place it to
  guard the entrance.

  When we came along, we ran into his air elemental.  He hadn't
  counted on encountering friendlies down here, so he'd just told it
  to attack anyone who entered.  He was woken up by us fighting his
  air elemental, and, seeing that we were beating it, decided to use
  his remaining summoning spell to bring forth the two giant wasps to
  guard him.  Then, when the wasps were killed and he was attacked, he
  used his last remaining combat spell -- the fireball.

  We, of course, had simply assumed that he was evil because his
  invisible monster had attacked us, and because we weren't expecting
  to find anyone good in this area either.

  This whole sequence involved a lot of roleplaying; the paladin's
  player roleplaying her anger and struggle to do the right thing, the
  other warriors' players roleplaying their anger as well, and their
  argument with the paladin.  Back at the gnome city, the other
  characters contrived to question the mage without the paladin or my
  character (a priest of the goddess of healing) present.  The mage
  tried to tell them his story, but they refused to believe him,
  threatened him, and physically assaulted him before my character
  showed up.  I then roleplayed rebuking them for attacking a helpless
  prisoner, sent them away, healed the injury they'd done to him, and
  then talked to the mage to find out his story.  I forgave him for
  what he'd done, asked his forgiveness for my own part in the attack,
  and promised him that we would see that he got back out to the
  surface world.

  I then had to go back to the rest of the party and tell them his
  story, and defend it against their disbelief until they relented.  I
  sought out the paladin, who'd been missing all this time, and found
  that she was tearing herself up over how she'd treated the prisoner
  -- and my news that he was good only made it worse.  She asked me
  for forgiveness, and I promised to intercede on her behalf, but
  reminded her that she'd have to get the mage to forgive her as well.

Which is where that game left off last time we played, before
Thanksgiving.  Now, imagine if we were on a mud where "good"
characters weren't allowed to attack each other -- not even
indirectly, to avoid people taking advantage.  The mage's elemental
would not have been able to attack us, and we wouldn't have been able
to attack the mage.  We would have known instantly that he was good,
and treated him as such.  A huge roleplaying opportunity would have
been lost.
To me, restricting what commands are available is adding complexity,
not removing it.  In order to do it in a way that makes sense, you're
going to either not have these sorts of scenarios happen (which, IMHO,
makes the world much less rich) or try to build enough intelligence
into the routines that they can recognize when the restrictions should
not be applied.

The supposed goal of all this is to prevent people from not
roleplaying their characters properly -- but it seems to me to
actually be making *significant* roleplaying more difficult.  It
simply doesn't make sense to me to keep good roleplayers in
straitjackets because some people don't want to roleplay their

> Paladins aren't all the same, but all of them have similarities, due
> to martial training. If you want to play a fallen paladin, pick a
> fighter class with a shady alignment or an anti/dark paladin
> class if they have it. 

That eliminates a huge part of what can be truly significant about a
fallen paladin, though -- that people remember what he was like before
he fell, which may make others treat him differently than they would
another evil character, in hopes that he can be redeemed.  If I were
to start off playing a paladin who has already fallen, none of the
other players will have had the experience of having known my
character as a "good guy".

> If you're in the process of falling, that sounds like an important
> plot point for the paladin's order. The other paladins should get
> together with this paladin and staffers to further develop the
> plot. Something like shouldn't be left to a character's whim ("I'm
> bored, so I think I'll kill somebody...but I'm a really good person.
> Honest!") or defined by a single keystroke.

I haven't said that it should be left to whim or be defined by a
keystroke -- all I've said is that the *opportunity* for paladins to
do wrong should be present.  A character who can never even be tempted
towards evil isn't interesting, IMHO.  If someone wants to play a
paladin, I think the player should have to try to walk that line,
rather than being artificially protected from doing anything

> A good paladin with a quick temper would make better roleplaying,
> if the impulsive temper were expressed in angry outbursts. You don't
> need an attack command to pose pulling out a sword at someone.
> If the other person is a decent roleplayer, they will respond
> accordingly. (On the more graphic-based games, you could have a
> 'ready' command that pulls out a weapon but does not attack.)Just
> because there's no coded attack button doesn't mean that you cn't
> roleplay out an attack. If there is command to allows the attacked
> person to add an injury to themselves, they can even end up with
> coded injury. 

Here we come to a matter of feel.  For me, this just wouldn't work.
Perhaps I'm too used to not having these sorts of boundaries -- I'll
admit that this could well work for others, but to me, there would be
no drama in seeing a paladin play-acting being angry at another
character when I know that the paladin *can't* attack that character.

> Just like a good book or movie, a good roleplaying game requires a
> suspension of disbelief. Overreliance on code narrows a player's
> imagination and destroys any suspension of belief. 

That sounds like an argument that I'd make from over here... it takes
more coding to prevent a paladin from doing something "wrong" than it
does to simply give him/her the same options in all cases.  And it
takes *much* more coding to try to prevent a paladin from attacking
someone he knows is good, while allowing him to attack someone he
doesn't know is good.

> The larger that an online game becomes, the greater a need for
> consistant, unambigious standards. Because it is those standards
> that form the first level of adminstration and the players can spend
> less time asking for adminstration or clarification.

Personally, I'm not interested in running a large online game; I'm
interested in running an online game with what I see as good

> If you won't trust the client in player's hands, why would you give
> them carte blanche with something as fundamental to world view as
> character classes?

I'm going to assume that's a rhetorical question, since I've never
said anything, here or anywhere else, about not trusting the client in
the player's hands.

>From my point of view, I'm not giving them carte blanche with
character classes -- one character is not a whole class.  I'm giving
them carte blanche with *their character*.  Further, as I've said
before, I've never said that actions shouldn't have consequences --
quite the opposite.  If someone wants to play a fallen or falling
paladin, I think they should be able to do it, but they'll have to
take the bad points along with the good -- like being hunted by their
own order, progressively losing their paladin abilities, and so forth.

> A paladin has special benefits over a
> regular fighter and the price for those benefits is being held to a
> higher standard. 

Yes -- being held to it.  To be metaphorical, I think a paladin's
player should have to walk that moral tightrope -- not just pretend to
walk it while having a wire harness to prevent him/her from actually
falling without consciously deciding to.

> Giving a paladin the ability to do something so uncharacteristic just
> for the whim of the smallest possibility cheapens the character class.

I think that *not* allowing them to do wrong cheapens the character

> If my character knew that one paladin was going around
> striking down good clerics or good people in general, I would look at
> all paladins of that order with a lesser respect.

Good, I say.  You'd then be roleplaying a reaction, which in turn
should inspire more roleplaying from the other players playing
paladins of that order.

> Or if I were a
> paladin of that order, I would become very frustrated if the
> offending paladin was never online at the same time as mine, since
> they are affecting my roleplaying with others and restricting me from
> roleplaying actions that would be very in character for any
> paladin of that order.

They are in no way restricting your roleplaying -- you can still make
your character act in any way you choose.  They may color the
*reactions* of others around you, but that's not part of *your*
roleplaying -- that's *other people's* roleplaying.

       |\      _,,,---,,_    Travis S. Casey  <efindel at earthlink.net>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'
     '---''(_/--'  `-'\_)   

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