[MUD-Dev] Moving away from the level based system

John Vanderbeck agathorn at cfl.rr.com
Mon Dec 11 17:44:05 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

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A common system of advancement, most likely born from D&D, is the
level based system.  However, for many reasons to numerous to mention
here, we are finding that this doesn't work well anymore.

Other areas have been explored, such as a skill based system, but even
that doesn't seem quite right.  I would like to present to you what I
have in my designs, for your comment.

On a personal note, I abhor level based and class based systems.  They
certainly have thier place, but ideally I think that all characters
should start out exactly the same when they enter the world, and
simply "grow" into whatever the player naturally plays.

Levels are used a sort of stairway to power.  At each progressive
step, your character is "X" amount more powerful.  It is a central
part of the overall design in any level based system and dictates
things such as when you can acquire and use skills, spells, or other
abilities.  It also has an effect, usually indirectly, on stats.

First let me define, in my view, what "level" means.

Level: A single statistic used to measure a characters current power
and overall skill

In a level based system, you have one single statistic that defines
the player's overall power.  What I propose in my design is to
distribute that statistic of power. This is to some degree what a
skill based, or skill tree, system does.  I however propose a more
Attribute Base system.  Think about a bodybuilder.  At the start of
his "career" he is just like the average person.  He however spends
his time working to increase both his physical strength and stamina.
He performs >skills< that have a direct affect on his >attributes<,
wich in turn are a measure of his power.=20

Let me describe for you my current design for a "caster".  In a level
based system, a caster's level would dictate how many spells he could
have/cast, and what spells could be acquired.  Instead, in my design,
this is distributed among several attributes wich for lack of better
names are currently called: IQ, Energy Storage, and Energy Gathering.

IQ is a direct attribute, and is used in the same context as usual.
Energy Storage is an indirect attribute wich defines the characters
ability at storing magical energy within him or herself.  Energy
Gathering is an indirect attribute wich defines the character's
ability to gather magical energies from a distance.  Basically in my
world, magical energies are conentrated among pools and lines of power
(similiar to the world created by Robert Asprin in the Myth Series if
you have read them).  This attribute simply shows how effective the
character is at gathering this power.  The more effective you are, the
faster you can gather it and you can do so from further distances.

Now, these three attributes are then used to classify the character's
"power".  If you look at a spell, you will not see a level requirment,
but instead simply an energy requirment.  Such as:

  Spell: Morph
  Energy to cast: 10
  Energy to sustain: 5/second
  Can be maintained from stored energy? Yes

As a note, nearly all spells (with the special exception of a few)
require that you have the "energy to cast" already stored.  There is
nothing that says "You must be of 10th level to cast this spell".
What is stated, is that in order to cast this spell you will have to
be skilled enough to A) Store at least 10 points of energy, and B) Be
skilled enough to maintain the spell.  Now maintaing the spell , in
this case, could be done two ways. Because the spell states it can be
maintained from stored energy, you could simply accumulate alot of
stored energy and then maintain it from that.  The other way to
maintain the spell would be to be skilled enough to gather energy at a
rate faster than 5 points per second.

I'm not sure if any of this makes sense, i'm trying to show a snippet
of a much larger over magic design (one that focuses heavily on
managing your energy among spells), but let me try to illustrate with
an example.

  Character: Falyn Waylander
  IQ: 21 (rather high)
  Energy Storage: 11 (This would equate to the character being able to
    store roughly 23 points of energy)
  Energy Gathering: 8 (Equates to roughly being able to gather energy
    at a rate of 3 points per second)

As a side note, this character if translated to EverQuest's level
system just to give scale, would be about level 12

By looking at the numbers we see something interesting.  This
character could cast the morph spell.  He is able to store enough
initial energy to get the spell to cast.  He can't store a lot though,
so most likely he would have to first accumulate the energy to cast.
This would take him about 2.5 seconds to do.  Once he casts the spell
however, our character has an interesting situation.  Yes he is
powerful enough to >cast< the spell, but he will have a lot of trouble
maintaining it.  He would not be able to maintain it by using external
energy.  He simply can't gather it fast enough.  What he can do is use
internal energy, but not for long.  Assuming his <g> Batteries were
full when he cast, he would be left with 13 points of energy. Lets run
a log:

  Energy -> Time
  23 -> Cast
  13 -> Initial
  11 -> 1 second
  9 -> 2 seconds
  7 -> 3 seconds
  5 -> 4 seconds
  3 -> 5 seconds
  1 -> 6 seconds

So we see that he could maintain the spell for a maximum of 6 seconds.
Remember that he is still gatheringenergy as he is consuming it.

I think that an approach like this, by not setting hard "levels" by
using the characters attributes as a basis for power, would work well
in the long run.  I have not however, worked it all out for
non-casters. It may not work in that area.


- John Vanderbeck
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