Hippoi Athanatoi

Roster Systems

This little write-up was inspired by a recent discussion on Electric Soup, which is a pretty good place to talk about MU*ing related stuff. Its been pretty slow from time to time, but lately there have been some interesting discussions going on, and I hope it will continue that way. Constructive MU* forums are far and few between, after all.

As you may or may not know, Elio and I have been working for some years on Blood of Dragons MUSH, a game based on George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire. Its taken indecently long to put together, and one of the reasons for this has been that we spent a very long time creating a roster system for the game and populating the character database with over 1700 characters. Why, one might rightfully wonder?

Well, one of my big pet peeves about MU*ing has always been the lack of continuity one encounters on most games. If you play long enough on the same game (that’s what I like to do as a player, and I also want players to do the same on my game), you often encounter the problems created by a lack of continuity. Leaders change far more often than what is thematic, important people simply disappear, and lots of important details about various characters are forgotten. So, when we decided to create our own MUSH, we decided to try and change all that.

On Blood of Dragons, no character will ever ‘come and go’. Once CGed and approved, all the information about a character will be kept in the character database for as long as the game exists. Even if the character disappears or dies ICly. Now, we could have left it at that, and just allowed players to create characters freely. However, we also felt that for a game focusing on noble houses, we needed a social network that was created by a person with a good overview of everything, rather than hap-hazardly trying to fit together the bits and pieces created by various players.

So, Balerion got started creating family trees, following the layout in GRRM’s books. It was not an easy project (just coming up with names was quite a struggle), but he’s tenacious like a pitbull, and stuck with it until we had a large enough selection of family trees created to last a fair while beyond the game’s opening. Eventually, we’ll have to add more, I suppose, but what we have should last for a bit at least. One thing that is important to note about our family trees, however, is that far from all characters are intended as PCs. The trees include deceased characters, missing characters and characters totally unsuitable as PCs. From what we’ve seen on other games, we feel that other games with roster systems often strive to make all members of a family equally appealing as PCs, which often stretches credibility.

Of course, we could afford to ‘create’ these non-playable characters as background material since we don’t actually fully pre-generate our characters. Neither I nor Elio like the idea of not creating our own characters, and we know many others feel the same, so we have tried to create a hybrid solution. All we have defined for our characters is their place in their family, their name, their age and usually some things about their position in life. The rest is up to the first player of each character. Eventually, that should lead to a mix of these relatively open concepts and fully pre-created concepts.

Down the road, we also plan to add in more families, to add to the supply of open concepts, and more experienced players will also be allowed to create their own characters. Everyone and everything will still get stored in the character database, though, and original characters will probably be encouraged to tie themselves to a family, since we feel that the family structure is a good way to keep people in IC contact with each other.

Our hopes is that using a roster system will vastly improve on the MUSH continuity situation as well as make it easier for players to find people to roleplay with thanks to everything being structured around noble houses and thanks to the code for keeping track of relationships between characters. Of course, we also expect that there will be problems. Some of these I think we are able to guess at already from what we’ve seen on other games, but some will no doubt surprise us too. I am hoping to follow up on this write-up after we’ve been open for a year or so, to give some insight into how things actually worked.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.