M*U*S*H - Sunday, April 13, 2008, 10:17 AM
Nyssa will have to work on this code.
Nyssa says, "That should fix it."
Vïïlå says, "So, you're solid now?"
Nyssa says, "For security reasons, I'll say no. ;)"
Vïïlå says, "Awww"
You say, "Hi, everyone, and welcome. This is the first in an
irregularly-scheduled series of peresentations which I'm giving as part of my
obligation under the M*U*S*H Architect-in-Residence Program. The purpose for
me being here today is to explain what I'm doing with my game, which I'm
calling 'The Empire MUSH.' This is a working title, and may change before the
game goes IC. The game is a combination of several hobbies and interests of
mine, not least of which, of course, is MUSHing. Many of you here also know
that I've studied history; I'm fascinated by it, quite frankly, and German
history in particular. The game is set in medieval Germany, in the region of
Thuringia (or Thüringen, in German). Much of historical Thuringia is now
contained within the boundaries of the Free State of Thuringia, one of the 16
States of the Federal Republic of Germany. The game will focus on a few areas
within Thuringia of historical and contemporaneous political significance,
namely the area surrounding Weimar, Erfurt, and Arnstadt, as well as a few
outlying locations. I'll begin by discussing, briefly, how the game will work.
I'll then progress to explain in more detail why I chose this setting, in
which I'll detail a bit about the history of the region leading up to the game
setting. After that, I'll talk a little about some of the challenges I've
encountered, and how I've dealt with them, and I'll conclude by giving an
overview of what I'm doing in the near future to bring the game toward a state
in which it would be appropriate to open for RP (even if not fully 'IC')."
Vïïlå says, "May I recommend less text per speech, that was quite a wall :P"
You say, "So noted. I'll try to make my paragraphs shorter."
Nyssa cheers Tyr on. ;)
You say, "Obviously, in order to make sense of the game, I'll have to
intersperse some historical commentary. I expect I'll mention a few events,
people, places, or concepts that are unfamiliar to some of you here; I'll go
into greater detail in the historical overview, and after we're done, I'll
hold a Q&A session so if you still have questions, I'll be happy to go into
yet more detail then. The initial grid set-up, as I mentioned, is going to
include an area in roughly central Thuringia. The game is set in the 11th
Century, during the time of the Salian Dynasty of German Kings/Emperors. In
this period, Thuringia as a region is under the control of various magnates
who report directly to the King/Emperor, and the areas identified in my
introductory paragraphs are what I consider to be the most significant
jurisdictions in the area. As a means of saving space, each region will
consist of a small number (no more than three or four) of rooms. In this way,
I hope to keep RP concentrated. In particular, the areas being built are:
Arnstadt, Erfurt, Alteburg, the Wandersleben Gleichen (a castle on a hill near
Erfurt), Weimar, Hersfeld Abbey, and the ruins of the Harzburg (a castle built
by Henry IV, which was destroyed in 1073 by a Saxon rebellion)."
You say, "As the game grows and player density increases, areas will be filled
in as appropriate. But, of course, this method could present certain
difficulties; any given room could consist of several square miles of
territory, and so it would obviously be inappropriate for all players in a
given room to interact. In order to alleviate this, places will substitute for
rooms until the player density increases to a level considered appropriate by
the staff (which presently consists of myself and Moe) to allow for infill.
Included in this will be mutter code, to allow 'noise' to escape from certain
places; the mutter code will include a 'volume control,' and players will be
able to lock places, so those wishing to engage in entirely private RP will be
allowed to prevent other players from knowing what's going on. I also intend
to study the feasibility of including a distance algorithm to determine
whether certain places would be able to 'hear' each other at all; so, for
example, players on one side of town would not be aware of the RP of players
on the other side of town, regardless of the 'volume.'"
Vïïlå says, "Question, why go through all that trouble instead of just using
rooms if the players are effectively isolated anyway?"
Nyssa says, "I think it makes it more realistic in terms of open areas."
You say, "I'd appreciate it if you could save your questions for the end; I'll
make a note to answer you first, Viila. If anyone has any questions, please
make a note of them, and I promise I'll try to answer at the end when they're
Vïïlå says, "Alright."
You say, "Thanks."
Nyssa says, "I'll save the comments for then as well."
You say, "I had mentioned in my application that I was going to include weak AI
'mobs,' and I'm still considering this idea, but it's taken a lower priority
as my concept of the game has evolved. I'm still planning an economy system,
one that would allow players to engage in commodity production and exchange,
and require a certain amount of maintenance. Although the focus of the game
will be the struggle for supremacy during the conflict surrounding the
Investiture Con(flict|test|troversy), there can be a fairly substantial
non-noble population that, although affected by the strife, may not
participate directly in it. Further, commerce and exploration are common
themes running through nearly every game. If players wish to engage in events
that are 'off-screen,' so to speak, there will be dynamic rooms available
which can be re-desced at will, and certain stock 'sets' will also be made
available for use as well (by this I mean stock room sets and descriptions). I
also have a somewhat novel solution to dealing with the problem of travel."
Noltar has arrived.
You say, "As you may know, the quality of roads in most of medieval Europe,
particularly the area outside the former Roman Empire, was not very good.
Travel took a long time, especially in areas where population was sparse.
Although by the 11th century, there had been a number of improvements made
(mostly clearing of forest for roads and a certain amount of improvement of
existing roads), travel till took a long time. So as not to unduly isolate the
playerbase in the several non-contiguous grid areas, players will play every
other day. Although one RL day will equal one IC day in terms of the amount of
time that passes over the course of the entire day, on any given day, players
can decide what time of day they want it to be for the purposes of their RP.
If the IC week started today, for example, tomorrow (Monday) would end up
being Tuesday ICly. This way, if you're going from, say, Erfurt to Alteburg or
Weimar, you won't be stuck off the grid for several days on end."
You say, "Player stats will be done with FUDGE. I thought about doing a
homebrew, but decided that it was too much time and effort. The other game
systems out there aren't really well-suited for the game that I'm working on,
especially not d20. I don't want the players to spend a lot of time worrying
about their stats, but I do think that having some kind of stat system helps
give people a reasonably clear idea of their character's capabilities,
especially vis-à-vis other characters."
You say, "Of course, in any game that involves factional conflict, you need a
means of keeping track of who is loyal to whom. Code that permits players to
show their allegiances, especially in the case of the Ministeralies (unfree
knights) who are bound to a lord's retinue, is essential. However, the
shifting nature of alliances and the lack of a centralized pay system means
that this system will not resemble classic faction codes, and there will be no
'paycheck' from the faction. The nature of wealth in the Middle Ages was
largely a consequence of agrarian economy. In spite of the fact that there is
some manufacturing capacity, trade in this period is still relatively
undeveloped and primarily an exchange of necesseties - there is some trade in
luxuries, but the nobility is the only social class that can afford them, and
so the demand is relatively low. Of course, precious metals are highly valued,
and there are silver mines in the mountains to the northeast, so this is also
a source of wealth. In modern economic terms, the medieval economy was largely
based on excractive industries, and the economy system will reflect this."
You say, "Extractive industries, that is."
Trinsec has disconnected.
You say, "Nobles and other wealthy and influential people will be able to keep
track of the revenues they derive from their lands, both in Thuringia and out."
You say, "I'm going to do this by assigning 'cards' that represent particular
lands and industries (such as mines), which can be bought, sold, and traded
among the owners as they see fit. Each source of wealth will have a particular
value, which will fluctuate over time; depending on how long the game is
around, the value of a particular concession (such as a mine) may drop over
time as the resource is exhausted."
You say, "The nature of the society in which the players will find themselves
is one of great stratification in wealth and therefore privelege. Everyone
here is at least tangentially familiar with the social divisions of the Middle
Ages. Although Germany differs from France or England in the degree and extent
of stratification, there nevertheless exists a class of great territorial
magnates, whom we call noblemen, and their families and retinues (their
'households,' as it were). Players wishing to play one of these magnates will
be required to demonstrate a certain amount of maturity and RP ability;
instead of having a large staff devoted to creating RP, the nobles and other
major figures will be responsible for plotting and generating RP. I.e., they
will be the RP staff. Nobility, I should mention, is not strictly limited to
secular figures, as the German Church was itself a great landholder and was
owed the allegiance of large segments of the population."
You say, "This is, IMO, a better way of dealing with the classic problem of the
division between 'IC' and 'OOC' leadership, i.e. the people who are in charge
when it comes to actual roleplay vs. the people who are in charge when it
comes to coordinating the plot and generating RP. This has always struck me as
an entirely artificial, and inefficient, division."
You say, "I'll now move on to an abbreviated overview of German society in this
period, and a brief explanation of why I chose it and how my vision has
evolved since I started this project."
You say, "The game will be set in the late 11th Century, somewhere around 1075.
This date is extremely significant in German history, because it was the year
that Pope Gregory VII issued his decretal 'Dictatus papae,' in which he spoke
against the practice of lay investiture. Lay investiture was the practice
whereby secular authorities would 'invest' prelates (church authorities, i.e.
Bishops) with the symbols and authority of their office. You're all familiar
with the concept of the divine right of Kings; this concept has ancient
origins, going back to the late Roman Empire, and evolved over the course of
the Middle Ages in the claim by the German Emperors to a divine investment in
themselves by virtue of their position as King and Emperor, under the rubric
of 'rex et sacerdos' (King and priest). The notion that the Pope is the
paramount representative of Christ and God on Earth is a relatively recent
You say, "The problem with this declaration is that, by insisting that it was
the Pope's responsibility to invest bishops in their office and not the
King's, the Pope effectively deprived the King of authority over the Church,
which he had heretofore enjoyed. It was at this same time that the various
territorial magnates wished to elect bishops from among their number, so as to
ensure that the prelates would be sympathetic to their interests rather than
those of the Monarchy. The Pope, in order to strengthen his position (which
had been elevated in no small part due to the work of the German Emperors and
their involvement in Italy, the control of which they contested first with the
Eastern Roman Empire (which we call the Byzantine Empire), and later the
Saracens (Arabs) and Normans), issued this decretal which undermind the
authority of the Emperor. There were other political issues involved in the
conflict as well."
Molikai has connected.
You say, "I call this the Investiture Con(flict|test|troversy), as something of
a joke, because those are the most common names for it; perhaps most common is
Investiture Controversy, but I feel that term doesn't completely capture the
extent of the dispute."
You say, "I should say, most common in the English-speaking world."
You say, "Germany at this time, furthermore, was not the united whole that we
think of it being today. Indeed, the country was divided a number of different
ways, perhaps the most significant being the 'Stem' or 'tribal duchies' (stem
deriving from the German 'Stamm,' which has a number of different
translations, all of which derive from the notions of a common origin). At
various times, these duchies had been Saxony, Bavaria, Alemannia, Franconia,
Thuringia, and Swabia."
You say, "At the time the game is set, Saxony had ceased to be a Duchy for
awhile because the Dukes of Saxony became King, but they eventually elevated a
new family to that position. Thuringia was conquered by Otto I 'The Great' in
the 10th Century after the Duke rose against him, and would never rise to the
status of a Duchy again. Thus the King/Emperor (at least theoretically) held
the allegiance of the territorial magnates (the Grafs, or Counts) directly,
and was responsible for appointing them."
You say, "In this period, the distinction between High, Low, and Middle German
dialects was more than just linguistic. Due to natural barriers such as
forests and mountains, Southern Germany, Central Germany, and Northern Germany
were somewhat isolated from one another, and thus the various peoples that now
make up the German people were still linguistically and culturally distinct
enough to maintain a sense of separate identity. The Emperors at this time had
their origins as Dukes of Franconia, and are thus known as the Salian, or
Frankish, dynasty. Prior to this, as I mentioned, the Emperors had their
origins as Dukes of Saxony. The various 'tribes' and duchies had a history of
jealousy regarding their independence. The Emperors themselves were also not
always the most stellar personalities. In addition, due to a number of
problems stemming from Henry IV's minority, and Henry's own ambitions, he came
into conflict with the Saxons and the Thuringians, which he ended up using the
Swabians to fight."
Impster has connected.
You say, "In addition to the free nobles, there had arisen an extensive class
of unfree knights, the Ministeriales, whom I mentioned earlier. They served a
number of functions, not least of which was defending and administering Church
properties, since the Church was theoretically supposed to stay out of secular
politics (or so the reformers maintained). They also served the King/Emperor,
and the Grafs and Dukes. They were bound personally to a lord, granted fiefs
and allods (the former being a grant with obligations of service attached, the
latter being a grant of land without any such obligations and not subject to
taxation) to maintain themselves. Due to the strife of the preceding
centuries, a great number of free men had pleged service to the Church and to
various nobles in exchange for protection."
Judge Dredd has connected.
You say, "Thus, the game will center around the competition of various factions
for supremacy in this region, surrounding the breakdown of authority due to
the papal decree. Henry IV is excommunicated 1076 and declared anathema, i.e.
Christians have a duty to not aid him in any way. Henry himself had tried to
depose Gregory. Various nobles will line up on either side, with a few
remaining ostensibly neutral and waiting to see who ends up on top."
You say, "I originally started with the idea of making a fantasy game set in a
historical period, but the fantasy elements have slowly fallen by the wayside
as the game has evolved."
You say, "I initially wanted to do the 10th century, but owing to the
almost-total lack of documentation on this period, I moved forward a bit. I've
encountered this problem a great deal in attempting to research the period;
the sources are difficult to access if they exist, and they tend to be in
German or Latin, neither of which I read with anything resembling the degree
of proficiency I'd require to make sense of them."
You say, "I decided to Germany, however, precisely because it was off the
beaten path. Most people's understanding of the middle ages is derived from
work on medieval France and England. Germany, however, presents a fairly
radical difference in the way it develops. While France is largely in chaos in
this period, Germany is still relatively cohesive. There still exists a
substantial free population. It is also, to a large extent, the center of
power in Medieval Europe. The Emperor is in theory the successor to the Roman
Emperor, and the Kings are theoretically his subordinates."
You say, "I'm also something of a Germanophile."
Nyssa says, "Not to rush things, but I will need to go soon. Can we ask
You say, "I've had a great deal of difficulty figuring out how to work the
fantastic elements into the game, and at this point, I've almost decided to
throw them out altogether. The most fantastic element I have at this point is
allowing players 'gifts,' which are commonly believed to be granted by God (or
the Devil), which allow them to do some things with a superhuman level of
Impster has disconnected.
Vïïlå says, "Out of curiosity, have you played the old computer game Darklands?
(RPG set in realistic 15th century Germany)"
You say, "No."
You say, "The question of religion has also been a problematic one. The Middle
Ages were dominated by the Christian Church, which was not noted for its
tolerance of differences. Heterodoxy of any kind was routinely persecuted. I
considered incorporating the structure of Medieval Christian metaphysics into
the game, but I couldn't come up with a way to do this and not deal with the
problem of how to have a God that was at once beneficent and all-powerful but
vindictive and intolerant of heterodoxy. I decided that, while discourses may
be framed in terms of God, with biblical references, the actual existence of
the deity is an open question. This ambiguity will allow me to develop this
aspect of the theme further as the game progresses."
You say, "This allows all parties' claims to divine sanction to be dealt with
on an equal basis."
You say, "That is, if you believe it, then it's true for you and anyone you
convince of your position."
Stoko has disconnected.
Nyssa politely bows out.
Nyssa wanders north into the foothills.
Nyssa has left.
You say, "Since I've gone way past the original time window I'd intended to
use, I'm going to wrap up the lecture portion more quickly than I'd initially
intended. As the game goes forward, I'm going to need to get the grid built
and the coded systems in place. I've started a little building, and I know
what code I need, but I need to specify in more detail how the code will work.
I'll also need to attract a playerbase when I'm ready. The grid will be owned
by regional builder characters. The biggest problem I see is giving the
players an adequate overview of the history and sociology of 11th-century
Thuringia, especially in the broader context of Medieval Europe, without going
into excessive detail. Much of what is known about Medieval Europe is actually
irrelevant to the play of the game unless the players wish to incorporate it.
And that leads me to what I think will be the greatest strength of the game:
Players will have the option, and indeed will be encouraged to exercise it, of
adding new things to the game by writing a proposal, backed by some
scholarship (I'm not expecting even an undergraduate-level research paper, but
a brief summary and the sources used; I or other staffers will evaluate the
sources and determine whether they're credible and the concept works). For
example, I know very little about classical German paganism; if a player
wished to incorporate some pagan holdovers, they'd be required to explain how
the religion worked for the purposes of the game and tell me where they got
the information. If they want to make something up in the absence of sources,
I'll consider it, but I prefer historicity. Finally, the game will actively
encourage the players to build and code, and I will eventually hold regular
classes on this, player relations, game administration, and RP. The latter, of
course, is tricky; many people have developed systems, but I want to be more
open, and just encourage people to do what they think is the best way of
describing what they're doing in a way that makes it acccessible to others."
You say, "Okay, now for Q&A. To answer Viila's question, Nyssa's comment is one
factor. I also thought it would be more elegant, and would allow players to
get from place to place more easily, within a given area."
Wilco says, "Tyr, hi, Roger Wilco, Corporate Expanse News. It sounds like your
game is going to be pretty historically rigorous. Are you going to do anything
to accomodate the more 'casual' player with a less thorough interest in
eleventh-century Germany and make it a fun game for them?"
Tyr hehs @ Wilco.
You say, "I was just about to get to that."
You say, "Nyssa told me ElseMU* that you had asked that."
Wilco says, "Thank you, Nyssa elseMU*! :P"
Wilco wasn't expecting you to take as long as you ended up taking.
You say, "Neither was I."
Vïïlå says, "Unless you have some sort of "pass through exit timer" limitation,
I'd suggest that rooms is easier. It's one less abstraction and uses existing
functionality, so it's easier for both players and devs. Besides, I can never
remember what syntax the various places codes I encounter have ;P"
You say, "The 'pass through exit timer' was one mechanism I'd intended to use
in order to enforce the IC travel times."
Vïïlå is about to fall asleep (lateness of clock, not Tyr's voice :P), so I'll
idle quietly in a corner from now on.
Tyr chuckles. "Yeah, I took way longer than I'd intended to, so I understand.
Thanks for coming, Viila."
Vïïlå says, "Np. The game sounds interesting."
Vïïlå says, "I hope you get it launched to great success :>"
Vïïlå stops babbling while he's still at least semicoherent.
You say, "Wilco: That's a really good question, and it's something I've been
worried about. Players will have to read a few pages on history and the
society to get acquainted, but I don't expect any player to be engaged in
graduate-level research on 11th Century Germany. I've had to spend a couple
months digging through sources to figure some of these things out, and I was
lucky enough to know how to engage in the kind of research I've done. A lot of
people don't have the kind of background in archival research that I have by
virtue of my study of History, particularly those in more technical fields.
Unfortunately, I don't see any way of making it directly accessible to the
average player who wants to engage in the metaplot."
You say, "There will, quite simply, be a barrier to entry. I realize that this
will reduce the amount of interest in the game to some extent, but as I said,
I really don't see any way around it. If you have any suggestions, I'd welcome
You say, "Anyone else?"
You say, "Or do you have any more questions, Wilco?"
Wilco says, "Are you going to provide all the background information needed to
play the game or are you going to expect original research?"
You say, "Oh, I forgot to mention one aspect of the game, which is that I'm
going to have a character matrix, which I need to develop, in order to
determine what roles will be appropriate and how many of a given role will be
available at a given time. That having been said, I'm going to provide a lot
of background, but certain aspects of the game will remain undeveloped until
players express an interest in them, and when they do, they will be
responsible for doing the research. As I said, I'm not expecting rigorous
scholarship, but a certain amount of research will be necessary in certain
You say, "I simply will not have time to do the necessary research and run the
game at the same time."
You say, "Furthermore, I don't know how much longer I'll have access to certain
research tools, such as JSTOR, which I've used to access journal articles I've
seen referenced in other sources. I'm using access that I still have from
Indiana University, but I'm no longer a student there (at least for the time
being), and so I cuold conceivably lose my access at any time."
Wilco nods. "My one concern is that, for Joe Average Player, your game would
end up being more work than fun, due to the historical rigor that you seem to
You say, "I'm not expecting *that* much rigor. :) Really, with what I've got
now, I have just enough to run my game. If I wanted to write a book, there's
way more to be done. But you do express a valid concern, and it's one I've
shared, but I hope that the opportunity to make a significant contribution to
the game will outweigh the amount of work. Furthermore, the players willing to
put in that kind of time and effort will be rewarded (both ICly and OOCly).
Joe Average Player won't be expected to do much research, frankly."
You say, "Or are you referring to the amount they'll have to read?"
Wilco was referring to both reading and researching.
You say, "Okay. I realize that reading manuals is out of fashion, these days,
but the average player shouldn't have to read more than a few pages. Most of
the information will eventually be up on a Wiki to make it more accessible."
You say, "By 'a few pages,' I'm thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of about
ten or twelve pages to get the basic idea, and they can read more as they get
a better feel for the game. I also expect other players to help by giving them
basic pointers. I don't think it's necessary to know as much about
11th-Century Thuringia as I've learned to play the game, you just have to know
what's relevant to your particular role within the game."
You say, "I'm tryig hard to keep the barrier to entry as low as I can, but as I
said, it has to be there because of the nature of the game. I'm willing to
sacrifice a certain amount of player population for the quality of the game."
You say, "In the future, I may do other games; I briefly considered another
timeline shift forward to the 13th Century, during the Hessian-Thuringian War
of Succession, and it would be very interesting to do a game for an expressly
mature audience set in the Crusader States. Part of the purpose for doing this
game is to educate as well as to entertain ('edutainment,' if you will)."
Wilco says, "All right, as long as you know that you're doing it."
You say, "Anyone else?"
You say, "Or do you have any more questions, Wilco? :)"
Wilco is done.
You say, "Okay."
You say, "Well, it looks like everyone else is idle."
Noltar was reading, but unfortunately is multi-tasking too much to come up with
any questions that haven't already been asked.
Tyr nods. "No problem, Nolt."
Noltar says, "It sounds like a very interesting setting, hopefully you can find
the right balance between the level of quality it deserves and the ease of
involvement for the playerbase."
You say, "Me, too."
You say, "Alright, that seems to be it, then."
You say, "Thanks for coming, guys. Hopefully, the next one will be
better-attended. I'll see about getting the log posted soon for those who
missed all or part of the presentation."
You say, "The next presentation will update on what I've accomplished since I
gave this presentation, and should be in the next couple months (no later than
the end of June)."
Noltar nods, "Great."
Noltar says, "Thanks for putting in the extra work to give these presentations
on top of all of the work going into your game. :)"
You say, "My pleasure."