[WF-General] Group ownership of characters

Tess Snider malkin at Radix.Net
Mon Oct 9 18:20:31 PDT 2000

On Mon, 9 Oct 2000, John Tillman wrote:

> When playing AD&D many moons ago, one of the best campains I ever played in 
> had about 12 characters, among 10 players.  Now as you probably know, it is 
> difficult to always get 10 people together at one time.  This problem was 
> solved by allowing the 6-7 players divide the remaining Characters between 
> them.  This allowed intelligent control of the without-player characters, 
> and allowed the game to be played.  All of the players had to agree to do 
> this, and there had to be a certain minimum number of players or it became 
> to...disjointed/  This leads me to my two questions.

The RPG Ars Magica was actually designed in such a way as to encourage the
use of some "shared" characters.  Basically, you created a mage and a
companion character, as well as a small cast of colourful grogs (henchmen
and servants).  When the covenant needed to send a group on an expedition,
your players could assemble an appropriate team for the expedition,
without having to drag everyone's mage along on every single quest (there
were benefits to staying home, such as time to research and time to learn
new spells).  If you didn't bring your mage along, you usually brought
your companion, and everyone usually brought a grog or three.  The grogs
were interchangable; not only could a different player pick them up, but
they were also great guest-characters, for when your out-of-town buddies
came visiting, and wanted to play in your game.

> 1) Is it possible for more than one person to be allowed to play a 
> character?  One person would be the "owner," but they could allow several 
> people to run the character when they were not.  It is, of course, assumed 
> that the "owner" would trust these players to make reasonable decisions, but 
> that is the "owner's" responsibility.

Now, this gets pretty tricky.  In a face-to-face (FTF) game, it is easy to
keep track of the established history and personality of a given
character.  As a fellow player in the game, you've seen how this character
acts, and you know what has happened to this character in the past.  If
you missed anything, you can always skim campaign logs to see what
happened in past sessions.

In a persistent online world, it becomes much more difficult to assume
another person's character.  This is because the characters develop rich
and complex histories and personality traits, over time, having
considerably more play hours than a FTF character, and hundreds more
other player characters to interact with.  While I certainly don't think
we should *prohibit* this, I think that it would be extremely challenging
to pull it off well, unless the character in question was a minor
character who didn't have much on-screen history.

> 2) Is it possible for one player to direct multiple players at one time?  
> This seems like a combination client and server task.  The server has to 
> allow it, the client has to facilitate it.  For example a client could 
> provide the ability to switch between the two+ characters, and see their 
> current stats, view, etc.  When the player was not "watching" a character it 
> would be controlled by it's scripting/AI.  This is something that a good GM 
> would be able to use to great advantage, both in directed combat vs. his 
> players, and in role-playing his NPC's.

Let's look at it this way (and I've heard this discussed before on IRC):
We certainly can't *prevent* it, even if we don't put in the tools to
promote it.  There's no way to tell whether Joe's friend Jack is playing
on the second computer in his basement, or whether Joe, himself, is
controlling that second instance of the client.  People will do this
whether we give them the tools or not.

Whether or not it's a good idea for a player to do this depends a lot on
what kind of game it is.  For example, it's not unusual for a MUSHer to be
logged into multiple games (or multiple times on the same game) at once,
thought it's rare for them to try to juggle two characters in the same
scene (too easy to screw up).  On the other hand, you generally don't see
hack-and-slasher LP MUDders doing lots of multi-mudding; honestly, AI or
not, it's a good way to get killed.  MUSHers will sometimes get angry with
other MUSHers if they feel that a scene is going too slowly because of
multi-mudding; some feel that it is disrespectful.

That all said, I agree that there is certainly some benefit to being able
to juggle a clutch of puppets for an event, and I have been known to do
such things, myself.  Whether these should be handled like puppets, or
like multiple connected character instances, I'm not sure.  The
control-of-movement issue would recommend character instances, but I'm not
sure I like that.


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