Character Creation (was: Re: [CIRCLE] [CODE] [NEWBIE] A few questions on some code)

From: Daniel A. Koepke (
Date: 04/04/01

On Wed, 4 Apr 2001, Edward Felch wrote:

> ...let players set that at creation,...

Ugh.  Don't do this.  I'm going to state this very strongly, since I
believe it very strongly -- it's still my opinion, of course, but I can't
let it go without a bit boiling over.

It is demonstrative of AWFUL game design to require such a steep
investment of time and creativity out of your players to JUST ENTER the
game for the first time.  It should be a cardinal sin to do this.  It
should be defined as Treason and thus punishable by death in the US.  IT

In my experience, only a few things come out of it, none good:

  - You deter people whose mother tongue is not English.  They might have
    a functional grasp of the language, but that does not mean they can
    write it up to your standards, or, more likely, that they have the
    confidence that they can write it up to your standards.  So you're
    confined to just the English speaking population of the world.

  - Of those that pass the previous restriction, you are further trimming
    your potential playerbase by those who are not good writers, typists,
    or creative writers (you can be a good writer, but rather poor at
    creative writing; you can be a good role-player, but rather poor at
    creative writing), or those who do not feel that they can meet the
    supposed standards.  So you're further confined to just the English
    speaking population of the world that has a good deal of confidence
    in their writing ability.

  - Of those that have the confidence or just don't care, you are
    requiring an investment of time to write descriptions.  If they don't
    care about their writing ability, they probably won't spend the time
    to write even borderline descriptions.  Thus, you end up with people
    with very poor descriptions because they didn't care.

  - You require your administrators to police the writing ability of
    players.  You have two sorts of people on the game: the sort that
    didn't care about their writing ability and just wanted to check out
    the game, and the sort that thinks their writing is good.  The first
    sort won't take well to being bothered by administrators who want them
    to write a "good" description, and will thus promptly leave.  The
    second sort won't take well to having their writing critiqued, and
    will put up quite a fit or debate about the description.

  - It's the responsibility of the designers to craft the game; not the
    players.  The designers have infinitely more familiarity with the
    goals and specifics of the game world, even if the game world is based
    off of another's work.  The players will rarely right a description
    that is perfectly fitting, unless you're very lax about it.  At which
    point there's not much purpose in having it to begin with.

UNLESS you can give very good guidelines about what descriptions are good
and *why* they are good (and I mean *VERY GOOD*, not the typical stupid
explanation), then you should absolutely forget about even asking your
players to write their own descriptions within theme.

And even if you can manage that, you probably shouldn't do it.  IT DOES
NOT make your game an RPG to do this.  IT DOES make it more difficult to
communicate with players on a consistent basis.  IT DOES often ruin the
setting and feel of the game.  IT DOES harm your credibility because the
guidelines are often very arbitrary (the same complaint is valid for games
that require "names that sound midevil"[sic] as I sometimes see -- that's
always a good reason to immediately disconnect, curl up into a fetal
position, and begin weeping uncontrollably), uninformed, inconsistent, or
not adhered to by the administrators.

There are things you can do that I think will be more successful:

Permit your players to wait to pick a description until after they've
played the game for a while.  Perhaps have introductory areas, quests,
etc., that provide a solid hook to the game, so that they will have the
incentive to write the description and those that wouldn't like your mud
but just wanted to try it out, will be weeded out before they create a
burden for your administrators.

Roll a random description from a library of descriptions for their
specific race, class, gender, and stats.  The broader base of stats they
have, the more specific and interesting your descriptions can be, the more
variety you'll see in your world.  For instance, a player might roll a set
of attributes that include a set of Advantages and Disadvantages:

    Very strong.
    Good dexterity.
    Good endurance.
    20/20 vision.
    One eye.
    Facial scar detracts from appearance.
    Torso scar is tender area.

The more advantages and disadvantages you have, the better rounded your
characters' descriptions will be.  Of course, each of these attributes
should have definite in-game effects.  If the guy's a big, ugly lug, maybe
the city guards will look after him a bit more, or shopkeepers will be
more nervous around him (which could mean they might be scared of him, and
thus more likely to let him haggle down because they're intimidated; or it
might mean they're less likely to let him haggle down because they don't
like him [on first glance]).

In this way, you ensure that a character's description is not meta-data.
It will have a definite meaning in the game.  If you come by a very tall
dwarf, this would be something quite bizarre.  It would be odd if the game
did not ever react to the fact that there's a 6 foot tall dwarf following
you.  The only reason for it not to react would be because someone just
wrote the description and the game cannot (and should not) be expected to
understand the description.


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