Author Topic: Role playing basics  (Read 1594 times)

Offline doppelgangland

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Role playing basics
« on: May 02, 2007, 04:42:16 AM »
I've written a short text I think might help wannabe mud admins get a basic idea of the role playing behind the MUD interface. I think it's good to stop and think globally about the way something complex is designed and why, before plunging into it. Here it goes, any feedback will be welcome.



Role playing games, at their core, are most of all systems of variables and functions that interact with one another to represent an alternative reality. To illustrate this, we'll outline a basic role playing game.

In the first place, we need to create the basic systems that make up characters. Typically, they are the following: race, class, stats and skills (you might add more systems, such as Background or Guilds, but they are not essential).

Race and Stats

Now we could begin by race, but race is a system of variables that usually affects the stats system, so we better begin with stats. Stats is a group of variables that make up the character. Typically they are things like Intelligence (INT), Reflexes (REF), Strength (STR) and the like. Next, we make die rolls or use a similar system to determine how many points we can invest in any one of those stats.

Now if we have a race like, say, Orcs, we may determine that a character belonging to that race has a head start in the STR variable to reflect his stronger constitution. This means that he begins with a bonus to that stat. We might then say that an Orc has a +3 to his STR stat to begin with, and add that to whatever value he has come up with in STR.

Class and Skills

Something similar happens with class and skills, namely that class somehow masks skills, but we need to talk about skills first. Skills are things that someone can learn to do and get better at them. They can be something like Handgun or Basket weaving or whatever. Usually, belonging to a class means that you begin with a head start in certain skills related to that class. For example, a Fighter may get more points initially in, say, Melee combat (normally you have extra points to assign to your class skills at the beginning).

Now, skills are meaningless if there are no objects in the game that use them. This means that a boost in Melee combat skills is useless without nothing to use it against. This introduces the system of Tasks and Objects.

Tasks and Objects

Tasks and Objects are the places where skills are useful. If you have a +5 in the Lock-picking skill you need objects (locks) to use that skill with. So there need to be objects that make use of skills, which suggests that a master skill list with related tasks might come in handy later in the creation process (tasks are very similar to objects and can be seen as a kind of object).

We could split objects in two: the objects we just mentioned, which we could call 'specific' objects (rooms, doors, npc's, items), whose objective is to interact with characters; and another kind of objects we could call 'general' objects, such as the weather, climate, seasons, etc., that are somehow persistent to the game.

Now if we want our characters to be able to develop, change and improve their skills, we need two more systems: Experience and Levels.

Experience and Levels

One learns by doing, studying or by being taught. And that is true for role playing characters too. The point of having skills and objects to use them with (besides the obvious objective of picking that lock!) is to get better at them and evolve. Thus, we need some way of raising skills, which is what Xp and Levels are there for. We could determine that picking a lock successfully will award Xp points to a player, and that this player will level up when he gets 100 points, for example. There we have another system explained.

Additional systems

At this point it's probably clear that you can add more and more systems to get what you need done: economy, weather, health, background story for characters, guilds, task modifiers, you name it. Every system, however, needs to interact with the rest (affect and be affected by the rest) in a sensible manner if we want to get a plausible alternative reality. The last of our traditional basic systems is Combat.


The combat system allows players to fight each other and improve their skills, among other things. It tends to be a complex system and it deserves a good analysis, but for now, suffice it to say that it's one of the core systems of any role playing game.

Now, with all this you got a basic role playing game schematic to begin munching on. Keep in mind that you will need to balance how every variable and function of every system affects or is affected by the rest in order to create a reasonable environment. This means that you need to spend some time balancing things out every now and then, so that picking a lock does not end up being harder than driving a tank.

We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.