Generally, the motivation for that topic sprang from my desire to "hide the seams" in text gaming - to make the artifacts of simulation less obvious. This is roughly analagous to the trend in graphical games to reduce HUDs (heads-up displays, like health bars and ammo counts). In the case of crafts, for example, the artifacts include:
- Measure of "skill" simplified to an integer value. "How good are you at cooking?" "I'm at level 73."
- Perfectly identical goods from every cook every time. No matter who makes it, the "Lamb Chop" is the same - "EAT to gain 35 health points over 12 seconds".
- A recipe simplifies to a level requirement and a short list of ingredients. "Level 32 required. Place 3x Lamb Meat, 1x Charcoal in cooking pot. Stand in a room with fire and type COOK".
Recently, I've been trying to imagine a way to extend this line of thinking to bring the real-life emotions tied to exploration, experimentation, and research to text-gaming magic/technology and combat. My idea is apply the cooking analogy to these areas - a sufficiently large pool of "ingredients" which may be combined in many ways can create a playground. Instead of picking skills from a menu (which kills the mystery we enjoy in real life), players will experiment and discover new tools, then gather to discuss and share their discoveries. So then the question is what to replace the ingredients with, and how to introduce steps.
Here's one example of such a system dealing with elemental magic. Please share any feedback through comments, and adjust to fit your wider game's design as necessary!
The ingredients are the "standard" elements - earth, fire, water, air. Combined in a sequence and released the right way, they could make a useful spell. For example, the recipe for fireball might be 1 earth, 2 fire, 1 air, then punch. Possibly, adding a couple more units of fire would make it explosive...
To avoid overcomplicating input, let players alias a spell once they've figured it out. So a player discovers this while experimenting outside of combat, then he names it "fireball" and later in combat, just types CAST FIREBALL GOBLIN. It would take just as much time to cast as if the steps were entered separately, but only the one command would be needed.
To keep magic mysterious, consider that the order of ingredients would be different for each player (randomized, anyway). So that while another player could tell you that a fireball involves fire and lesser parts earth and air, some personal practice and experimentation would be needed to get it working for yourself, just like in real life (anyone can tell you how to swing a bat, but you'll miss the ball until you get some practice).
So what good does all this do?
- Well, there's mystery. You (and your friends?) can hang out and try new things. You never know what cool stuff you may stumble across.
- You're not selecting your spells from a list of what's available. And if details are sufficiently hidden by design, nobody talks to you about level requirements and skill points.
- Since spells don't have administrator-provided names, admins can add, remove, and modify spells quietly. Admins don't have to tell players "we removed the FIREBALL spell and replaced it with FLAMETHROWER" because the set of commands has not changed. Players discover that magic has shifted a little (magic is mysterious, after all), and adjust their knowledge. "That air/water/earth mixture doesn't manifest the way it used to - I'll experiment a little to see what's possible now", or "Hmm that's interesting... better head back to the mages' tower to discuss this with others".
Other potential enhancements:
- Let the recipe be a ratio. Players may cast a spell as light, medium, or heavy to pump a portion of their total spellpower into it. A weak magic user might need to use "heavy" at least initially to manage a fireball, while an experienced caster could create one with "light", or use "heavy" to call forth a flaming boulder.
- Allow for channeling (ongoing casting) instead of all-at-once. A channeled fireball might be more like a flamethrower.
- Introduce other elements, like "life" or "spirit". For example, spirit might impact magic directly, to weave a general spell shield, momentarily prevent another magician from casting, or store an elemental charge in an object (like a ring or amulet). STOMPing a portion of life magic into the ground might trip a far-away bad guy with a vine.
- Vary availability of specific elements with location or time - earth is strongest underground, life in the forest, spirit when the moon is full.
- Allow players to specialize. As they practice fire (or spend more points on fire), they find current spells easier and open up new spells.
- Provide plenty of verbs for releasing magic. For example, punch, swing, stomp, release, focus.