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Re: (TFT) the challenge of computers, and idea

Role-playing was the first thing I had ever seen where people would get up, turn off the TV, turn off the radio, sit around a table, and actually listen to each other tell stories. Seating order became very important. It felt like being a participant in the evolution of culture. It had a real sense of membership. It's strange, but now in days to make money off of RPGs they almost have to be computer games. It's like everyone has found a way to plug Themselves back into the wall. It is fascinating to watch people tell stories, describe events, and relive moments. They participate in the group consciousness. Computers add no value to this experience. At least I used to think this way. I have found one form of computer gaming that has some merit. Multi-player games. Like Diablo or the first person shooters. Some of the real time simulations with multi-player are Warcraft, Starcraft, Dark-Reign, Command & Conquer. Unfortunately the sim style games like Civilization, Masters of Orion, and Alpha Centauri are not viable for internet play. If a game takes more than a half hour not many people are going to log on. The first person shooters give instant action and rapid deaths. They tend to draw the bigger crowds. Most of the older gamers I know like the turn based civilization type games. The younger ones like the real time games. One guy described it as tactics for the young and strategy for the older. It?s a shame the sim type games don?t play quicker. They are the closest ones to what being a GM is like. They take far too long for anything but a solo adventure. Another problem with the sim games is they rely heavily on computer assistance, or AI for the unit behaviors. Computer generated AI eventually becomes predictable. Not like human players. Playing against computer AI is ok for learning the game. Playing against other human players is the real challenge. I would like to see a client server game that could handle 2 to 5,000 users at once. It would be a huge environment. See what kind of herds, mobs, and gangs form. Maybe even tribes. But that is just a huge arena free for all. Its hard to be remembered as an individual in such a feeding frenzy. The best status anyone could achieve would be the highest kills per hour. The thing computer games make me miss the most were the arts and crafts that went with early campaign design. Getting a nice set of colored pencils or markers and making neat looking maps. Learning about maps and cartography. The little map symbols and scales. Drawing floor plans. Sketching out 3-d patterns on paper as if the object were unfolded and laying flat. Drafting the plans for a megahex pillar (to miniature scale) cutting it out, folding it up, and gluing it together. In ITL I think there was a sentence that said to cut megahexes out and piece them together. Designing, typing up, and photocopying the character sheet for one's own campaign. Maybe introducing a new attribute, trying it out. A lot can be said about a campaign by analyzing its character sheet. Its also an easy way to show new players how one?s campaign is different, or at least what will be focused on. Seeing the superstitions players develop about their dice, and their dice rolling. Which customs to allow and which to discourage. All of the fore mentioned are experiences that the players of computer game don't get. Players don't even have to make their own maps to avoid getting lost. Games now provide one automatically filled in as one explores the world.

Of course the benefits of computer gaming are unmatchable. To kill as many monsters with paper, dice, and pencils as can be killed in one hour would probably take a week of real time. The game never breaks down as one player gets in an argument with the GM. It is very hard to loose ones' character sheet. Finding a free Saturday when everyone can get together, isn't even an issue. Usually thousands of people are already on-line, playing 24-7. The problem is one never really gets to meet those people. They tend to look like every other fighter in the game, and use the same animated attacks as every other fighter. Most offer a variance of about eight pre-made characters. What would be cool is if players could make their own equipment, armor, spells, or monsters, and bring them on-line to try them out. It would be much easier to tell the online players apart, and to remember them. This would require some kind of game that is a balanced set of formulas. Formulas that could be used to design equipment, armor, spells, or monsters so they would be balanced with the rest of the game. Something like, if it did more damage then it hits less often. Or if it stopped more damage it moved slower. Or if it burns more area it takes more energy. A game that could do all of that. I have been working on this for some time and have encountered two major problems. Firstly to make a game that is balanced for this day, and the next, there can?t be any experienced gained. The typical experience for a first time MUD player back in the eighties was to spend an hour logging on and making a character only to be killed by some 57th level ranger lord hanging around in town. He is full of the advantages of experience points. Once a piece is designed it has to be finite and static like a chess piece, so it will fit into the power relationships and not unbalance things. Players hate this. Most will not even tolerate discussion of a ?no experience? game. Look at Diablo. Gaining levels is one of the major drawing forces of player satisfaction. Secondly adventure settings suffer from what I call ?junk yard syndrome?. Take ?Car Wars? for example. One could spend hours designing a car. Then in three to twenty seconds the car is riddled with bullets, burnt, blown up, and smashed. It is a wreck that is only good for scrap. Even if one wins, it is still only fit for the junk yard. To play again one has to make a new car. In multi-player Diablo one has to frequently start a new game as the monsters have all be depopulated. Even the first person shooters have to keep spawning weapons and ammo. On-line environments don?t last very long, and frequently have to be reset to the beginning. ?Junk yard syndrome? also affects the sequels to computer games. Almost never, can one bring a character from a previous version into the latest one. 400 hours of character development lost. The old character has to be discarded like so much junk, and a new one started. If I acted like a diablo game and made my players start back at the beginning after they had taken a dungeon, and if I made them make new characters for each adventure, they wouldn?t play. A computer game that substitutes creativity and personality for experience and levels isn?t within reach yet. But computer games are circling in on it. I would say that your first thought about the 128K Apple II, and the fact that
    ?D&D was just way too complex to play on a computer?
May still be true. To make an analogy, Diablo doesn?t really go beyond IQ 7 talents. There is no swimming, no horsemanship, they don?t let you run your own armory, ship building is a no go, and monster followers is not even an option. The only reason I play is to see how people are behaving on the net. But that is another rant.

Cas wrote?
?Now the adventurers are faced with the task of persuading the hobbits that digging the hill up is a good idea?

A quote from the original Mummy comes to mind. I cant remember it exactly, but the Mummy had been awake and reintegrated with Egyptian society for fifteen years. He was trying to get some archaeologist to open some tomb that only he knew the location of. Growing suspicious the Archaeologist asked why he hadn?t excavated the tomb himself. He said something like ?For us Egyptians to dig up our own dead is grave robbing, but for you english, archaeology.?

Let talk about us Mnoren. May I talk about cidri, maybe even venturing on how it could have been made? How big can a gate be. Is there a limit. For the sake of argument let us say there is no limit on the size of a Mnoren gate. Six gates can enclose a hex. The rule could be set so that in the middle of a labrynth a single hex of lush green sunlite pasture could be found, and in the middle of a pasture a single dark hex of labrynth floor. Now expand this to Mnoren gates that are one hundred miles long. One could start linking worlds together. Cidri could have been made in much the same way.

?Certainly no ordinary planet. Cidri is BIG. No complete map of its surface is known. The standard work, compiled two hundred years ago by the Imperial College of Cartographers at Predimuskity, shows 48 continents (defined as land masses of over 5,000,000 square km, ); five of thes are in excess of 60,000,000 square km. Almost half the known surface of Cidri is covered with water; most of its seas are dotted with islands.?
- ITL page 4

It is with the islands that I would make a net game. Each player is a GM who makes their own island. When they log on their island rises up out of the ocean. Their secret base as it were. They can drive the island around like a ship and dock it with another players island. If they send a hero onto someone else?s island then the campaign the character came from sinks back under the water as the GM is out and not available. In this way one could host or adventure. They could only adventure as one of the creatures from their campaign. As our old GMing rule went ?One can play in anyone?s game they wish, except their own. If someone is GMing then they have to rely on the AI for the details, they are playing a strategy game. If someone wants first person perspective they have to leave their home land and play in someone else?s campaign. I believe that something like this would really allow players to start showing off their stuff. I would be happy to log on with just a couple of floating towers. Instead of spending all those resource points on land, animals, humanoids, and monsters, just buy a Mac daddy wizards lab, a lot of wizards, and a lot of apprentices. I always loved making big magic items for TFT. I wonder if I could make a lightning rod big enough to blow a character off of another island. And from how far.

    David Michael Grouchy II

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