[MUD-Dev] Reusable plots for quests

Travis Casey efindel at polaris.net
Sun Oct 19 15:56:14 CEST 1997

Brian Price <blprice at bedford.net> wrote:
>> From:          "Travis Casey" <efindel at polaris.net>
>> Brian Price <blprice at bedford.net> wrote:

>> - First, a general "plot" is randomly selected.  These plots are
>>   *very* general -- along the lines of "find and retrieve something,"
>>   "help someone achieve a goal," etc.
>Man learns a lesson :)

A side note here.  "Man learns a lesson" is a common element of drama, but
it's rarely used as a plot.  Rather, it's the *outcome* of the plot -- the
fact that the main character has changed in some way is what makes the
story *significant*, but it doesn't affect the storyline/plot itself.

IMHO, trying to choose such outcomes won't work for an automatic plot-
generation system.  The writer of a story can choose to make the main
character learn a lesson, because he/she controls what the main character
is like.  On a mud, we don't have the freedom to determine what the PCs
are like.

To give an example, a common theme in literature is a hero who must learn
humility.  This is a classic plot outcome, but it won't work for an
automatic quest on a standard mud, because it implicitly assumes that the
hero isn't humble already.  What if the player of a humble character
decides to try the quest?  If that happens, there's no need for the
character to learn humility, and the "lesson" becomes irrelevant.

Of course, there are some ways that this can be saved:

 - Aim plots at particular PCs.  Going back to the "princess and the orcs",
  the king could choose a PC or group of PCs to rescue the princess instead
  of throwing it open to all comers.  This, however, requires several

    1.  The players have to be willing to go along with it.  If the chosen
        player(s) won't take the quest, the lesson(s) that have been
        crafted for them will most likely have to be redone for someone
        else.  Also, there's a chance that the player(s) will think that
        the outcome chosen is stupid or doesn't fit with how they want
        their character to be -- a player who's chosen to play an arrogant
        knight might not *want* him/her to learn humility.

    2.  The quest designer has to know enough about the characters to be
        able to design quests around their character traits.  In the case
        of an automated system, this might involve a character trait
        rating system like some paper RPGs (e.g., Pendragon) use.

    3.  The quest designers have to be careful not to allow any favoritism.
        This is much easier for an automatic system, of course.  Human
        designers, however, need to be sure to try to give all PCs equal
        "spotlight time."

- Build stories so that the primary character in the story is not a PC.
  For example, in my earlier post, I mentioned that the "rescue the
  princess" plot could be broad enough to include "rescue the princess
  from herself."  In such a case, the person learning the lesson might be
  the princess rather than one of the PCs.  Since the quest designer can
  control NPCs and can make them to suit, this avoids the first two
  pitfalls above.  The only danger in it is that the players may feel
  themselves to be *too* peripheral if it's used too often.

>In a pnel type multi-plot story, your stories and sub-stories
>developed as above would be mapped into the story's possibility sea
>as potential plots/sub-plots.  The story would not actually be
>built until run-time in an interactive manner with the PC/PC group.

This is a good idea -- waiting until a particular PC or group has
chosen to "try" the plot allows customizing it to the PCs.  This may
or may not be an interactive process... for those more interested in
hiding the "behind-the-scenes" details from the players, it might
make more sense for the software or the human designer to tweak things
on the fly for the player(s).
      |\      _,,,---,,_        Travis S. Casey  <efindel at io.com>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
     |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'        rec.games.design FAQ:
    '---''(_/--'  `-'\_)      http://www.io.com/~efindel/design.html

More information about the mud-dev-archive mailing list