A whole fuck-ton of my gaming experience has been on MUSHes. Exactly two of the people who read this blog have more than passing experience with that platform, so I thought I might elucidate a bit. This is where I'm coming from.

What is a MUSH?

A MUSH is an online platform that allows many different people to connect and chat via text. Apocryphally, MUSH stands for Multi-User Shared Hallucination, but it doesn't actually stand for anything -- the name was chosen for its elastic sound, as opposed to prior code bases like MUD (which actually does stand for Multi-User Dungeon, because the code base supported killing monsters and taking their stuff). In the platforms' heydey, there were very literally hundreds of different games ranging over all manner of crazy themes and worlds. I played on a lot of World of Darkness MUSHes, a line of books which (for reasons I'll get into later) suited the MUSH platform well. The other big genres and themes in the world of MUSH are Anne McCaffrey's Pern, Amber, generic fantasy, and -- shit you not -- Transformers.

This is how the MUSH platform works: you log into a Player-object -- think of it as a little car you drive around -- that has a description (blue hair, blonde eyes, et cetera) and may have game stats (strength, dexterity, basket-weaving). You can then drive your little Player around, through an often elaborate system of Rooms. In the Rooms are other Players as well as Objects. The Rooms are connected by Exits. You can see the historical dungeon influence, but a Room can be a pasture or an asteroid belt just as easily as a kitchen. The whole thing is often referred to as "the grid" since they're often streets laid out in orderly rows and columns. In any case, you can look at Rooms, Exits, Objects, and Players to see their description, and you can interact with them (in a relatively limited way, provided the thing is "coded" to allow it). More importantly, you can speak and pose -- writing out what you "do" in text -- and all the other Players in the Room will see what you do on their screens. This is the roleplaying part, in case you didn't notice. Additionally, there are channels that allow you to talk to other people on the channel no matter what Room you're in, and global information commands that allow you to access text files and bulletin boards no matter where you are on the grid.

However, that's just the mechanical bits. Properly speaking, a MUSH is a social system far more than it's some database on some server somewhere. The most compelling thing about MUSHes is the fact that you can log in any time of day and find people to interact with (providing the game has a large enough pool of players). Sound familiar? That's the oft-touted appeal of MMOs, but with one significant difference. I can open up many different windows, each connecting to different MUSHes, and play in multiple scenes and multiple worlds, all at the same time. Using the global channels and bulletin boards, I can coordinate meet-ups, scenes, and plotlines. If I log in at about the same time every day, I'll find a relatively consistent group of people with whom I can regularly roleplay and get to know (both in-character and out). Often a group of players who play related characters (or the player who has the leader character) will be given the power to create and maintain some of the Rooms that make up the grid; this usually comes with the expectation that they will "create roleplay" for other players, as well. And then there's the "MUSH Staff," the people who run the entire game, who dispense these priveleges and in some cases approve new characters and new Rooms for play. Think of them like LARP organizers.

MUSH Gone Wrong

That's the ideal, which actual implementation generally shreds to pieces.

So -- a persistent, easily accessible virtual space populated with a number of players who can interact and roleplay and are empowered to create the setting that they roleplay in. That's the ideal, which actual implementation generally shreds to pieces. Power politics, usually involving the MUSH Staff and the in-character leaders, tends to orbit around hording the power to change the grid and approve new characters -- in other words, to enforce their view of how the game "should be." All sorts of bullshit descends from there, from excluding people from scenes to undermining their private roleplay to lobbying the Staff to change the rules of the game to introducing entire plotlines to advantage or disadvantage one side over the other, et cetera. Combine such a milleu with the tendancy to clump up and form cliques -- remember that group of like-minded folks I happened to roleplay with and get to know? -- and the result is a factionalized player base endlessly bickering over minutiae.

This is why Vampire: the Masquerade, where you play one of the damned undead endlessly bickering over minutiae with your faction of like-minded leeches, was such a good match for the platform. The other books in the line, all of which were variations on the theme, followed shortly thereafter. I personally played a lot of Changeling: the Dreaming, and as a data point and example, most games divided up the grid into fiefdoms with freeholds and presiding nobles, who gathered together other players for their courts. Said courts would spend about two percent of their online time questing and fighting dragons and spend the rest of it bickering over which flavor of changeling politics was the best, playing dominance/loyalty games, and getting into and out of in-character relationships. Now, the text as published is already schizoid in its portrayal of five different games as if they were the same thing; you can only imagine what happened when you threw that sort of set up into a social milleu with little to no formal means of deciding between the various options. Mass fucking chaos.

System and Credibility in MUSH

Quickie Def:

System, The - the processes and procedures by which the players agree on the characteristics and development of fictional content. A system is always composed of rules but very rarely are all the rules of a system presented in one text — usually some rules are contributed by the social reality of the players.

I can easily look at the entirety of MUSHdom as a stellar example of games using systems that don't support actual play. World of Darkness and its Storyteller System is a poor match for tabletop to begin with, making promises about machiavellian politics and ideological battles and then giving players combat rules. Slap those rules into a game all about collaborative creation, and the dissonance can shatter windows. Example: on a Changeling MUSH, there's no reason to spend XP on anything besides magic powers, because that's all you ever roll; combat is time-consuming and avoided and all social interaction is "roleplayed out". Therefore just keep pumping your magic powers, because they give you more options to directly affect what is happening in the game. A MUSH plays out in a framework of Players, Objects, Rooms, and Exits, the Scenes that animate them, and the relationships that connect them, but the provided rules address absolutely none of that. The rules are as fictional as the stories that we tell in the game.

The System actually in use on most MUSHes is hugely social, informal, and in many cases obfuscated by those in power. Often the stats on character sheets are reduced to no more than color -- what really determines what happens is the reception of your writing ability by the other players, especially faction leaders and staffers, your loyalty to the same, and a network of personal favors ranging from moral support and encouragement all the way up to gifts sent through the mail (hence the obfuscation). To whit: you are only given a character after you have proven you can write well enough to meet the game's standards; with this character you can basically participate in other people's stories, have in-character relationships, and maybe a little cybersex. If you want more, you need to display more writing ability. If you want to own and maintain a corner of the grid, you must write the descriptions and have them approved (a parallel and secondary requirement might require you to have the in-character resources on your character sheet to afford it; these resources are gained by writing well). If you want to start your own stories and plotlines, you need an in-character position of power, which you get by writing even better and convincing the staff that you are reliably online and not creating problems for them. If you want to take the reins and become a staffer, it's entirely a question of loyalty and sympathy with whoever is "hiring" you into staff. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, on those games which employ XP, it is most often dispensed by means of player votes -- which means, again, the players who write the best and maintain a strong network of friendships will receive the lion's share of the reinforcement reward.

The Climbers, the Abdicators

Make no mistake, you can spend a lot of time and even enjoy a large portion of scaling that social pyramid, and a number of MUSH players have scaled pyramid after pyramid. There was only ever about two hundred regular Changeling players in all of MUSHdom, playing on multiple games simultaneously, and a handful of them became famous (and infamous) for their pyramid-climbing feats. I don't doubt for a moment that they found that sort of thing to be terribly rewarding -- especially considering that they did it so many times over. Other folks, however, finding the pyramid-climbing to be uninteresting, retreated into their own heads, enjoying immersion and abdicating most if not all power to change the progress of the game. You can imagine how much the pyramid-climbers liked having the abdicators around to climb on top of. And then the MMOs came along, and whisked the abdicators away into a realm of graphical goodness that let them have all that in-my-head immersion without ever expecting them to do anything that wasn't pretty clearly telegraphed by the cues on the screen. The pyramid-climbers only had each other to climb on.

When MUSHing is good, it's very very good -- compelling, engaging plots and character development stretching over weeks and months, with easy access to elaborate and add to the continuing story on a daily basis. It is basically immersive collaborative writing, and can produce "logs" which are still entertaining to read years after. When MUSHing is bad, it's very very (very) bad -- bitter, mean-spirited, cynical power plays using the characters as a mask for years-long player grudges. When I quit MUSHing, the MUSH community was hemmoraging players, losing new players to World of Warcraft and other alternatives that offered the good parts -- log in anytime, meet friends, do stuff -- while removing or reducing large parts of the bad -- power plays, arguing over minutiae, et cetera. The players who were leaving weren't the good players or the bad players, they were the masses of people in the middle, which left the dedicated, cooperative, helpful people opposite the spiteful, manipulative, assholish people. We held on for a while, but one by one, the tide of mean-spiritedness overwhelmed our capacity for being constructive, and the good players started leaving, too. There are still some good, honest, well-meaning folks left playing, but many have retreated to private "Online Tabletop" formats where they can't be bothered by the raving loonies.

Revival or just Revulsion?

If collaborative creation is what we're after, we need to reinforce that behavior.

MUSHes are closing all the hell over the place, which isn't anything new. What's new is that there are fewer and fewer new MUSHes to take their places. The playerbase is shrinking. Common wisdom says that MUSH is "in decline" and, for most of the reasons I outlined above, most days I'm not too upset about that. The thing of it is, I do miss a lot of what MUSHing used to give me. I miss being able to log in at all hours to interact with dozens of like-minded people and create neat stuff together. I miss the collaborative creative nature of the MUSH medium that MMOs simply cannot supply. And inexorably, I consider what a MUSH might look like if it had a system that actually facilitated the real meat of play, rather than obscured the real power relationships that were going on behind the scenes.

If collaborative creation is what we're after, we need to reinforce that behavior. We give everybody a budget of resources that they use to build and create -- Rooms and Objects as well as Scenes (summoning an autologger). We then make the appreciation and use of others' work reward the creators with more resources -- roleplaying in a Room nets the builder resources, and reading the logs of Scenes nets the participants resources. Maybe supplement that with a basic allowance so people who run out without netting an audience aren't completely unable to participate. Stuff in the database that isn't used gets phased out over time (or if it gets bashed, does it disappear faster?). Lastly, transform Staff -- they maintain the operation of this resource economy and nothing else, and do not do not do not make things happen in-game (they can participate, not lead, with alts -- another player-object). Throw in some unremarkable resolution system for player-versus-player disagreements (hell, flip a coin), and let 'er rip.

What would a game look like if you started with a small medieval hamlet (to go bog-standard fantasy) and let the players set the course from there? They can build a spooky forest and some monsters to fight, then start a scene where they fight them. The spooky forest stays there and the scene gets logged. If people read the log (and give it a rating?), the participants get more resources to do more scenes. Other groups of players can tumble into the forest and do up their own scenes doing different stuff, and get resources when their scenes get read and rated. If somebody tries to monkeywrench things, making a spaceship filled with Smurfs, and nobody reads or rates the scene highly and nobody ever roleplays in the spaceship, that quietly fades out of the game.

Would such a system give rise to players well-known as "directors" and others who were sought-after "actors?" Would they organize themselves into "troupes?" Would they serialize their adventures to increase their "sales" and the resources they get back? If the disbursement of resources gained by read logs could be tinkered with, would they have disputes over their cut? Would they make that forest, and then make the cave beyond the forest, and then the ancient ruined city deep in the cave, and then the tunnels leading back up to some other land beyond that? Interestingly, would the center of population shift from the starting hamlet off into the more interesting stuff that people made afterwards? Would they create elaborate histories of the origin of humanity, complete with pantheons of gods? Would another troupe create a different history? Could their pantheons of gods then throw down?

Most importantly, though, would people log in regularly and collaborate to create cool stuff? Cause I'd totally be there.

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Cool post. So, basically,

Cool post.

So, basically, some kind of filtering mechanism would need to be in place to rise the cream to the top, right? I understand that some techie-oriented news sites (slashdot?) do this kind of thing, where you get to rate stories and posters, and some combination of those ratings means that what people generally consider the "best" things get to be the most prominent.

I wonder if having seperate roles that you can be, as a player, being maybe condusive to this. Like, you can make an "Architect" account, and all you can do is build stuff - to play out scenes, you need to have an "Actor" account, as well. Then people get and spend resources for those focused goals, and being a good writer isn't the only requirement to get resources.

I mean, I dunno. Idle thoughts.

Filtering: Not so much

Filtering: Not so much filtering people as filtering contributions. After the first few months, I think any such game would develop a strong sense of identity, and go into full-blown Constructive Denial mode.

Writing: In a text-based medium, it all comes down to writing. It's kind of unavoidable. Much like FPS games come down to twitch-reflex. Most of the not-hot writers in MUSHdom survived using the passive-aggressive relationship networking bit that I talked about, though, so I may be biased.

my my my. That sounds

my my my. That sounds particularly enjoyable, yet people could still vote for their cliques. It's a fairly robust idea, but any system can be broken. The idea is to minimize the desire to break the rules (by having in places checks like not being able to vote for anything you're involved in, or if you can, it be a fractional vote...or even just being able to critique your log and not vote), and maximize the desire to play within the rules (by making them as simple, but not dumb, and easy and FUN!)

The other big problem is that your group of monkeys, me having been one, were particularly strong with code, and not everyone is. It'd have to be a very simple coding interface. Very simple. Very, very, very simple.

other ideas forming.

okay another idea. So what

okay another idea.

So what if it comes down to writing.

Writing is what it is about isn't? I learned a lot of things about writing when I mushed. One, I learned speed. I type incredibly fast, two I learned function over form, in other words, I don't care how it looks, it needs to get my point across. Form helps that sometimes for more succinct arguments, form comes into play when subtleties are important...which is what is important inroom designs and descriptions, but in emotes and poses it's normally function.

So I say long live the Fight...err Writers!

Have classes or resources on learning to write better. :) that would help stop the passive-agressive-ness.

See Ben, the ideas of cliques

See Ben, the ideas of cliques aren't bad. Guilds in MMO's, gaming troupes, they're just groups of players who play well together and are on the level. If a game caters to a clique (or many cliques), then it's just finding it's niche.

One thing I'd expect from such a game is for areas to have certain themes. Much like the MUDs I used to play on, where the zones were player created... chances are (running with your fantasy example) you'll have a handful of players that expand the enchanted forest idea and have a magical glade or palace with unicorns and singing faeires or some whatever, and then you'll have the players who build the dark and brooding citadel with the gritty town and the muddy streets... so people would start to develop polarities, and you could really have a Gene Wolfe meets Anne McCaffrey meets Robert Jordan all on the same game... causing the game to perhaps divide in it's playerbase depending on the playstyle. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I'm just expecting that sort of segregation to come from a game where players urge other players in their general direction of playstyle.

For the record, I would totally play on a consentually expansive RP game like that. I tried writing a few talker RP games for the web that had the same general concept of letting the players grow their own world cooperatively, but nothing as complex as the voting and building grid system you've devised. I think it'd be kinda slick, actually.

Actually, I have a feeling

Actually, I have a feeling this would encourage healthy cliques, with people separating along lines of interest, yet still maintaining a network of mutual interests. I imagine this would be played out on the grid, too, with the dark-n-brooding crowd heading west while the happy-shiney folks go east. I'd expect the themes to grow pretty organically, actually, with no need to stipulate things (which is not to say you were suggesting any such thing). If I do up some plot in a greasy city, some other guys come in and use that same basic set and build a little offshoot from it, and other guys come and build another offshoot, and so on.
In fact, you could encourage spread by limiting the number of exits in any room -- Bay City West is full, build yourself Bay City East and go from there.

And an individual player could pretty easily tailor their participation and votes to their particular interests. If you like Dark Fantasy as well as Gritty Steampunk, you'd participate in those areas and read those logs. The fact that there were Happy Shiney people over there, enjoying themselves, wouldn't matter much.

There'd be knuckleheads who'd think it funny to connect the dark and gritty city to the magical fairyland, I suppose, but if players don't like it (or especially if they get a 'negative vote' sort of deal) that could disappear pretty quickly. I wonder if there would be 'invasions' of players from one side into the other. Without labels (Camarilla/Sabbat) and without combat mechanics, would it even happen? Would it fizzle as soon as it started?

I've been thinking of

I've been thinking of aesthetic ways of pulling this off, and they're setting my heart atwitter.

Like, the first time you enter a room, you'll see a short list of the titles of stories that have helped establish that room. You can read through them using some simple command, and then proceed to either expand the story on that room, or continue on. This sort of gameplay would even encourage solo (monologue) RP, something the current MUSH environment doesn't really encourage (even though it's been done in rooms that are audible to listeners).

I think it's high time that a log system was incorporated into the game itself anyways, and not just left up to the bloggers.

Very solid Josh. There

Very solid Josh.

There are a handful of things I'd have to add. Well, mostly two things. The two things that drove me away from MUSHing.

First, there is the time commitment. When I used to be in school and had no girlfriend and no job I could easily log 40 hours of MUSH a week. These days, even if I really wanted to, I couldn't do more than 10 or so. Now, I remember that back in the day many of the MUSHes I played on would give you 1 xp a week for each 20 hours you logged (max of 2 or 3). As most "serious" players got those Xp, it seems a pretty clear indication of the amount of time the community expects you to spend online.

In part there are good reasons for this. The more people are on and the more often they are on, the more potential combinations of characters, players, and ideas you have. If'n you have 250 people on you only need to get 1% of the player base to respond to you in order to make a microplot. Then there were the not so good reasons, from obsessive players to social pyramid-climbing.

Any MU that would bring me back would have to let me be a full and active participant in 10 hours a week. Ask for more and you will never get it.

The second things that drove me from MUs is that they are shit, absolute shit, for long-term Nar-style RP. That many people, that many agendas, that little coherence and central social contracting and you get no ability to address premise. Hell, most of the time you couldn't even run a good long-range GM dominated plot, as getting all the right people on at the right time was hellish. Micro plots (one night bangs) could work, and were what I ended up pouring most of my energy into the last few months before I flamed out.

So, perhaps if you combined your resource ideas along with micro-plots and specific ways to let those without 40 hours a week (a full time fucking job, yo) contribute, you could tempt me back. Especially as I too miss some things about MUSHing: the ability to write your poses, to give the literary attention and detail to things, to convey not just "in the style of novles" but in the same text-based medium: all of it gave my RP something that I can't get around a table with my poor acting skills.

A lot of interest here,

A lot of interest here, Joshua, but I'm passing through en route to other things right now. Just wanted to mention that what you describe as a possible structure for a functional "3rd-generation MUSH" sounds an awful lot like Second Life http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Life

Short late-night

Short late-night notes:

Lem: yeah, exactly. Did you ever see the Panaflex Camera from the Trek game Anomoly? It recorded scenes and then made them available in a global command.

Brand: I'm at the point right now where I only think of one-night-or-less "bang" scenes when I think of valid roleplay. If it goes over four hours to do one thing, you're not roleplaying, you're decomposing.

Mark: Will check it out.

Second Life doesn't come

Second Life doesn't come close to compensating for mushes, but that's just the opinion of a There player talking. SL is a code-crazy sandbox MMO with an anarchaic structure and plenty of character abuse (exactly the kind of thing Josh seems to want to avoid).

I dunno. I think these types of writing RP games are still doing just fine in the realm of text-only. A client would save some of the sticky trouble, and could make navigation and play easier (I hate having to remember dozens of custom commands per game, when I know a client could just have buttons or separate windows for them, like the darn 'who' list)

I'm sure the code toys could cater to your concept, Josh... I just don't know if such an idea would come to fruition, let alone take off.

The whole bit about 'writing'

The whole bit about 'writing' is pretty disingenuous, since it simplifies many different kinds of writing (or goals of writing) into one sort of 'thing.' It's like saying that people in real life get everything done just by 'talking' -- that all roleplaying is really just 'talking', for example, which is trivially (and importantly) true but not really very indicative of how the social dynamics work out.

Personally, I don't think I'd enjoy playing on the MU* you describe -- perhaps more to the point, I don't think it would make me think 'ah, here's what all that good MU*ing I remember was all about.' I never read other people's logs in order to evaluate their contributions to the game -- I roleplayed with them. The reward for producing interesting scenes was that people wanted to play with you, or include them in your play, not that you got to build more rooms. I realise that if you charge people resources to start scenes, this works out somewhat similarly, but I see no reason to have competition for audience outside of the scenes themselves. To be honest, it sounds like it would just encourage a certain kind of writing -- a kind of writing that is not actually conducive to particularly good play, but which reads very well to a third party. It also curbs innovation in obvious ways (both good and bad), for the same reason there are twelve-hundred CSI and Law & Order shows on TV.

In general I'm not really clear on what this resources system is supposed to produce, or encourage, or discourage (beyond 'whatever the players want', I do get that part, but I mean on the level of player interaction.) Assigning a cost to the basic elements of the game is not in of itself going to produce a useful system. I feel like the incoherence that plagues most MU*s would only grow worse, and that paying for the right to have a scene or a room would mostly be seen as an obstacle, in the same way combat and dice are currently considered anathema to "good roleplaying."

--

When I think of all my recent Forge reading and MU*ing, mostly I think about the enormous dearth of techniques and support for players when they set out to try and play an actual scene. Scene framing (and its older cousin, pacing) are basically absent from MU* play, and anybody who displays the ability to frame interesting scenes is either considered a genius or a leper -- this enormous gap in the social repertoire simultaneously produces scenes that run 4 hours past the point where they were interesting, and the ubiquity of 'bar RP,' which is basically the most common scene frame on a typical MU*. I.e. 'we're in a bar, do stuff.' MU* players regularly confuse room @descriptions with setting a scene, and the best room @descs are those which acknowledge and take on this role, suggesting numerous different possible situations. Similarly, a major skill of any MU* player is the ability to extrapolate situation from the combination of two PCs and a room. At the same time, part of the genius of the MU* set-up is precisely that you can at least partially abdicate this responsibility and still produce roleplay.

The lack of ability to create interesting scenes within any context other than 'my PC shows up, he does something' produces several other results. The first is the popularity of outrageous, extravagant and/or violent characters: since the only vector for creating interesting story is the character, it is imperative to play a character who will constantly be making things happen. This is not the same thing as being a proactive player, though a proactive player who constantly runs up against the inability to pace, frame scenes, or make things happen TO his character rather than WITH it will generally end up playing this sort of PC.

That or you'll see the second interesting result: players who excel at producing compelling characterisation without anything actually happening, or their character doing anything extraordinary at all. This is my favourite thing about MUSHing -- the focus on characterisation not through conflict and heroic action, but through attention to detail in a manner that makes internal character states external. When players are denied the ability to produce external plots, they invariably try and figure out how to make their character's internal narrative into the focus of their writing. Some people might consider this a bad thing (certainly, it is a symptom of a bad thing), but frankly it's my favourite thing about the medium. Fuck the heroic adventure and moral dilemmas, show me a character who makes ordering a coffee interesting.

It's the fact that I basically spent the last two years of my active MU*ing career practicing this method that makes a little part of me roll its eyes everytime someone on the Forge starts talking about how character can ONLY be revealed through conflict, and that if you aren't pushing the characters to the brink of everything they stand for then you aren't actually seeing the 'real' character. (This is more of a rhetorical stance than something anyone believes -- or so I hope, since the idea that people are only themselves under stress is flat-out insulting, not to mention absurd from the point of view of psychology.) MUSHing excelled at showing how much character development you could get out of the smallest amount of activity; it was all about writing between the lines and pushing the boundaries of what was and was not allowed in a description of action.

That said, I am still amazed by the culture that produces players who aren't willing to even contemplate taking directorial control over their character's lives -- and in fact consider this the sole provenance and responsibility of staff, if anyone -- despite the fact that they are constantly doing so every time they decide to go out and 'hit the grid.'

Josh, What an odd notion.

Josh,

What an odd notion. Unless you mean "each scene should be short and directed" in which case I agree.

However, what I was talking about isn't that at all. It is that there is no ability to do longterm plots and buildup in anything like a traditional structure. Being able to build coherent story arcs or consistant play to premise isn't possible, as the avalibility of specific characters over any term is not a constant. So anything that needs a specific person (or even specific type of person) to be on to play with will lead to the plot being derailed.

Doing the Mountain Witch in a a MU wouldn't be possible, as you'd never be able to get everyone on at the same time. So either you'd sit there and wait for a year while your one day up the mountain left you unable to play other things, or you'd have to abandon the rest of the group, and with them the whole damn point. Even doing a Dogs town on a MU* wouldn't be easy, as you'd never get the same group of dogs together two nights in a row to finish it.

*Other than in OTT, of course.

ICE: Yes, MUSH-as-is very

ICE: Yes, MUSH-as-is very much uses the "play as its own reward" reinforcement system, which basically boils down to player-consensus evaluation of your writing/contribution in a real-time framework expressed in the desire to play or continue playing with your character. As long as that is all walled off in the informal social sphere, however, you get assholes playing asshole games of friendship-networking, loyalty tests, and the like. Making it explicit and transparent, however -- the specifics of said implementation being almost irrelevant -- should reduce some of that bullshit.

As far as what this specific implementation proposal would seek to encourage -- scene framing is pretty high up there. If the players are focused on creating a thing rather than having an experience, they'll make conscious decisions of how to craft said thing -- specifically scenes. That there is a means of assessment or evaluation of the thing's quality only reinforces the emphasis on techniques which the thing is made with. At least, that's the thinking. In such a game, it is nearly impossible to be that player who doesn't even contemplate taking directorial control -- I suppose you could just trail along after some other player who's willing to frame scenes and throw stimuli at you, but that sort of organic growth of social structure absolutely fascinates me.

All that said, it wouldn't be for everybody.

Brand: I mean every scene should be short, directed, and relevant, yeah. What did you think I meant?

You can't do long-term plots in the "traditional" sense, no. But then, I don't want to be playing stuff that plans out plots in any traditional sense, anyway. "Needing" a specific character or kind of character says to me that the progress of the "plot" is already mapped out, which is bogus. If you set up a compelling situation and then, every time you're on, grab who's available and then play out a scene to address that situation, who the hell cares who's there the next night? Mountain Witch you could never do, no. Dogs you might be able to pull off with short towns and some facile justification for the composition of the Dogs "team" changing from town-to-town. But that's just the thing that I'm getting at: these games are designed for tabletop play. Implementing them on MUSH is asking for issues, just as implementing World of Darkness games is asking for issues. Actually designing for MUSH would require something that not only allowed but was predicated on flexibility of "available cast."

Josh, Now we are hearing

Josh,

Now we are hearing each other. As of the end of your last paragraph I think we're fully on the same page.

[...] When game staff got so

[...] When game staff got so damn tired of us agitators and actually banned me off of Dark Metal (a staffer’s PC happened to own that bar), I migrated to other MUSHes. This is actually a little tidbit of MUSHness that I didn’t go into in my prior article A Short History of MUSHdom — the migratory nature of MUSH players. A typical MUSH has a lifecycle of about three years, with a rise in population and activity, a crest, and then a crash. I cannot even remember the names of all the MUSHes that I played on through the five or six years that I MUSHed. Nearly all of them were World of Darkness games, and I played almost exclusively Mage, and when it became patently obvious that it was impossible to actually “change the world”, I moved onto Changeling. For years I was searching for the perfect game — a combination of which games were allowed (Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Wraith, Changeling, and *shudder* Mummy, Demon, etc), which house rules were in use, what other players were participating, who was on game staff, what the game world was like, what kind of “plots” were in use, and the like. On more than one occasion I joined staff to try and turn an existing game into the perfect game, and on a few occasions I actually built and ran MUSHes from the ground up. Curiously, I never did find the perfect game. [...]

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