[MUD-Dev] Secondary characters as a mechanic

Sasha Hart hart.s at attbi.com
Fri Jun 27 02:52:33 CEST 2003

To clarify, the > text in Thiago's original post (now >> text here)
should be attributed to me, not Paul (and some time ago)... Unless I
have begun mistaking someone else's writing for mine!

<EdNote: I researched the thread and corrected the attributions
as below.  Thanks for the note.>

On Wed, 12 Feb 2003 07:11:51 GMT
Thiago Moraes <darienlkane at netzero.com> wrote:
> On Fri, 7 Feb 2003 01:54:38 -0800
> Sasha Hart <hart.s at attbi.com> wrote:
>> On Thu, 06 Feb 2003 09:51:47 -0500
>> Paul Schwanz <pschwanz at comcast.net> wrote:

>>> I've considered something similar to this idea with the addition
>>> that the extra characters would be family members.  I think that
>>> having the same surname is a nice IC convention for explaining
>>> *why* faction is carried at the account level.

>> The family premise is attractive for the problem of players who
>> get themselves killed in-game, then make a new character to
>> retaliate.  But having an excuse for this is not REALLY
>> necessary. After all,

> I agree, but the point of family linkage scratches on an almost
> mechanical issue. Look at it from this angle: by switching
> characters at will, you dodge most barriers that would prevent a
> player from illicitly spying on a faction. If each of your, say,
> four characters belonged to a powerful guild, you'd instantly gain
> access to intel from four distinct organizations without moving a
> finger to earn it.

You want to bind the characters together by faction. So you keep
them in a family, and the family as a whole is tied to a
faction. Except: What if someone switches over? They carry over
knowledge. How do you prevent that without making the whole thing
unreasonably rigid?  Usuall you want to allow people to change
sometimes. If you ask me there is no 100% solution to this problem
that doesn't involve eviscerating the game.

Also, people can just make a new account/family and use that for
intelligence. I would say that this kind of secret should only have
RP-value, so that people can treat breaches of this kind as breaches
in etiquette, rather than destruction of how the game works. But I'm
sure there are other clever things to try, in addition to the usual,
fragile, brute force strategies (watching IPs, having GMs police
people, etc).

> UO's ghost system presented a similar quandary when players
> started mapping dungeons whilst out-of-body. I guess neither of
> these cases is really 'cheating', but they certainly warrant some
> form of liability instead of being merely dismissed.

I suppose they could have disallowed out of body exploration, but
then people could just do it with another character. This is a
uniform problem with any system where players can learn things. I
think it is worth struggling with because getting a point in
navigation is nowhere near as rewarding as knowing the layout and
getting good use out of your own knowledge. In the end, all the
information hiding you do manifests as a selective disadvantage for

In the same spirit as what I wrote on this before, I would be
tempted just to let people use their knowledge of this kind across
characters. Fiction breaks in many small ways in these games
already.  It is impossible to enforce this as a rule, and as code it
is difficult to do it without making the game very dull (I think it
could be done if taken up as an explicit goal, though who knows
about consequences in other parts of design). Finally, often this
kind of knowledge (at least the maze) could be handled with any sane
policy toward what knowledge player characters are allowed. There is
no reason why two different people might both know how to navigate
through the caves of Sarrn. Maybe one even taught the other. Maybe
they were even in the same family. Maybe it was coincidental and
doesn't matter, since knowing how to navigate through the caves of
Sarrn should not be a game-breaking proposition, or because there's
really not much to do about it. Then the best you can do is design
the game for the worst case, e.g. make it so it works out even if
someone has very good information.

Where it gets really intractable is with plot secrets and the like.
But I am optimistic - (1) these are rare and (2) where I have seen
them, I have also seen players who were generally good enough to
keep it under their hats (or judges who were willing to retcon an
hour or two just to deal with a breach in this specific part of
plot-RP etiquette!)

> The family premise transcends the role of a cute fancy by
> providing ways through which account identity can be researched
> ("I've been told you are Lord Flaotf's cousin.. what exatly is
> your interest in the Knights of the Hour?"). Otherwise, we might
> find ourselves a step short from the disintegration of organized
> grouping.

I don't think there's anything wrong with it in general. In fact I
had tried it informally a year or two ago. It is a neat idea, and
adds some flavor, I imagine particularly where you are fleshing out
interesting cultural stuff like a nobility or a tribal society.
Multiple-character setups open up really cool possibilities, and are
also a sort of design approach to typical multiplaying woes. If the
game is made to be multiplayed, or provides a way to get all the
same goodies you get for multiplaying, then you can rest instead of
pulling your hair out over whether the same person is using proxies
etc. to fool your duplicate-catcher.
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