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Role-Play vs. Multi-play

by Brad Smith

As I sit down, trying to quench my addiction to D&D by mudding, an interesting question comes to mind. While multi-playing is prominent on many online games, does it reduce a player's ability to role-play? I feel, that in all actuality, it does.

I'm as big a fan of multi-playing as the next guy (or gal). Who doesn't enjoy the ability to run not one, but two (or even more, although two is usually the limit) characters? This, from only a player's standpoint is usually very fun. However, there is also the admin side of the coin.
Elien Doohan

Clan McRae's ancestral home.

The administrators of most muds do not allow multi-playing. There are a few administrative advantages to not allowing multi-play. First, there is the challenge of having more than one character to control. While some people will create interesting personalities for each character, most of the time, these "multis" are nothing but mindless drones being pulled around for experience and levels. While this is not necessarily bad on some muds (e.g. talkers), those striving for role-playing should really wonder why 30% of their realm is introverted.

The second point, and one that affects a large majority of mud players is conflict of interest. Sure, you could have five, six, twenty characters all in different positions in the realm. (This goes double for muds that have an active clan and player-killing system). Even the best role-player who keeps his characters completely separate from each other will get accused of not role-playing, and using his characters in a manner that is based upon personal gain and benefit. There are some people who will actively try to use every one of their characters for personal gain. These are the people who will put a character in every clan, and when you kill one of their characters, drag half of the mud into a massive battle. While the odds of 50 to 1 may seem good in gambling, they're not that great in player-killing.

Now, there are various solutions to the problem. The first is removing things like clans and player-killing. This, of course, won't work. Why? Because pulling these aspects out is more detrimental to role-playing than the worst abuser of multi-play. Also, trying to "fix" these skills to avoid conflicts of interest is near impossible and takes time away from beneficial work that could be put into the mud.

The other obvious solution is to remove multi-playing. In an ideal mud world, having no multi-play would lead to many beneficial aspects.

First, people would actually (heaven forbid) have to meet people! This takes your introverts and makes them massive extroverts. With detailed alignment code, you would have your paladins fighting side by side with holy clerics, and evil vile demon worshippers playing with dark priests and antipaladins. This "variety" in groups makes for better role-playing (so people won't use their cleric in the holy light of goodness to heal someone deeply tainted in shadow.)

Second, it gives people time to delicately refine their character's personality. If you want a warrior who is kindly and benevolent to anyone who is kind enough to smile and give him the time of day, you can work and refine this kindly warrior into someone with needs, wants, and desires. (Perhaps he lost his wife and he's only smiling to keep from crying?) This even works for the characters with evil alignment. Perhaps you want a young mage or thief hungry for power. The lack of multi-play gives a good chance for that mage to make a name for herself without being beaten senseless by everyone and their multi.

Third, it encourages good role-playing. The excuse "He's my father" and "He's my brother" might work well with multi-playing, but without serious work, this excuse can lead to a pitiful attempt to create individual characters. These characters, once brother/father/uncle to your other character, might instead become a member of a rival house that is against your family. Or maybe just someone totally different from all your other characters. The lack of multi-play helps add anonymity to your characters. Without a blunder on your part, or some higher being divulging your secret, you can be as bad as you want to be.

Lastly, it stops what I lovingly call "kit sharing". This sharing is taking all of your equipment off your warrior, and giving it to, for example, your paladin. I really see no logical role-playing excuse for giving all of your belongings to someone, only to take them back after a day has passed, and giving it back in three more.

Sadly, most muds are not ideal, and need multi-playing to attract players. These muds, while boasting excellent code and in-depth areas, need the extra boost of "You can have a cleric and a warrior!" to bring new mudders, thirsty for power, to their realm. This is much easier than giving them all remorts within a week. Plus, it's easier to adjust NPC's by giving them more hitdice, damagedice, or even more spells and skills.

So, in conclusion, should mudding be solely resticted to one character online per person? Perhaps. If you strive for role-playing, it's definitely an experiment worth trying. But, if your main interest is running a mud where players can create ten characters on two sets of equipment, or even a mud where role-playing isn't important, then perhaps multi-playing is right for you.

Brad Smith, or Majick Salavari in the online realm, has been mudding in both the mortal and immortal spheres for three years. Currently, he works at ?able Sanity ( where he strives to make the realm better for the common mudder.