[MUD-Dev] Storytelling in a PSW from a Player's Persepctive

David Kennerly kennerly at sfsu.edu
Mon May 19 01:09:29 CEST 2003

Michael Chui wrote:

> Assign a couple strong-minded GMs to the task of maintaining
> fictional consistency. Give them the power to figure out where the
> best place for a crew of unlikely vagabonds to overcome a fearsome
> dragon. Give them the tools necessary to find out what kind of
> disruptions killing a dragon in the area might entail, etc.,
> etc...  And then give them the responsibility of deciding whether
> or not the player's story will work. If it doesn't, but needs a
> bit of tweaking, let them work with player to design it.

> I know one of the main problems with such an approach is high
> admin visibility, which I hear is a big no-no.

Another danger is deception.

The only part of the design wherein role-playing is encouraged is
the intention.  Whereas, the machine implements:


> Give them the power to ... place ... a fearsome dragon.


> Give them the tools necessary to find ... disruptions ...


> And then ... let them ... design it.

I'm not attempting to misquote or quote you out of context.  I'm
attempting to strip intention from execution.  Please bear with this
butchery for a one more paragraph.

We intended roleplaying, but designed a grief machine.  Only in the
best case will a noble soul follow our intentions.  In the mediocre
case, a mediocre soul will pay lip service.  But cars don't crash in
mediocre cases.  In the worst case, some apparently noble soul will
(1) place fearsome dragons in the land, (2) disrupt the area, and
(3) design a convenient reward for whomever most everyone declares

The developers may do something after fact, but the above principles
permit the above results, so these results are either a worst case
scenario, or better than the worst case.  In either case, the
average case will have to be angels to offset the damage done.

> But I see no better alternative at this juncture.

It's a hard topic.  Here's a few suggestions:

  1. Roleplay, roleplay, roleplay!
  2. Give every object a story.
  3. Weave the stories into legends that players interact with in
  4. Host epic player events.
  5. Host creative contests.

1. Roleplay!  I am sorry to be so short of design insight in the
department, but in my experience, a player either roleplays or
doesn't.  And if she wants to encourage roleplaying, she plays her
role to a "tee."  Memes pass very well by example.

Make sure to do it with a real player character, not with any cheats
enabled (e.g. admin status or GM status).  Playing an admin is
cheating.  And it warps ego out of proportion.  Besides, if the game
has any number of players a developer is flooded with
out-of-character discussion--same for any GM admin (you touched on
this by mentioning "admin visibility")..  Don't be Lord British; eat
what the people eat.

2. Certainly your objects in the world can improve the fictional
consistency.  Something that players often do is use the vocabulary
that the designerse created.  Even when I named all the spells in
pseudo-Gaelic, players used those terms.  In the context, it
literally helped fictional vocabulary.

3. Of course, your quests can too.  I'll just give one example.  At
one time, I designed second-order fictional objects.  There were
certain monsters, such a lich with a staff with a gem on it.  A
generous player, Cole Younger, drew the art for the lich robes,
hood, and a staff.  I called the staff a phylactery (the gem that
holds a lich's soul).  And then wrote a legend that wove the lich
into the story line, history of the world, and the theme of the
wizard class.  The legend was parcelled out at various stages of a
group quest.  Each member of the quest had their own legend, item,
history.  In short, these players had the ingredients for fictional
consistency.  What they do with it is their perogative.

4. I think player events do help; e.g. Asheron's Call.  When doing
so, leave the events in place.  Create some seasonal events.  There
were some old posts here about that, about encouraging an
in-character calendar of events.  5. I also think creative contests
help.  I can't prove that they do.  It's just that I did these in
Dark Ages for two years beginning in 1999, and players continue to
tell me that it made a difference for them personally.

6? The service provider may consider publishing roleplaying
activities, much like a journalist publishes socially laudable
activities.  But I worry that the service provider might be promote
the a lot of insincere activity.  They'd promote the image but
... well... freedom fries anyone?

Keegan Reid asked me, Paul Schwanz :), and apparently several others
to write about encouraging roleplaying a couple of days ago over at
Lejendary Adventure's board.  It's long and is a different
audience's thread, so I won't bore you by pasting the contents.
Instead, here's the link:


  (Scroll down to my post, titled "Social Intelligence" on May 17)

Anyway, at least this LAO thread itself has some popular opinions
that players hold on how a developer may encourage roleplaying.


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