Pen and Paper RPG on the 'Net

Feanor
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Post: #1
OK, this is just for the sake of discussion, but then again maybe I will consider putting something together in the future.

There are lots and lots of pen and paper RPGs and lots of people apparently still play them. There are things about classic RPGs that make them very different from so-called computer RPGs, for example they require the players to perform real role playing, and they require a real Game Master to manage the scenario. Further, they usually are more flexible and interactive, because the GM can invent stuff on the fly.

There are lots of support programs for dumb little things like random map, name, and character generation, and die rolling programs, and the like. I would like to consider the issues involved in building a Cocoa application to enable 'Net play of an RPG. Could be specifically AD&D or something else, or maybe it could be very configurable, either using some kind of data-driven table-based layout, or plug-ins.

The major choice comes in where you draw the line for features that are built in to the software.

At the very least, you need chat capability. You can already do that with a dozen clients or even irc, so that would not be worth the effort. So you would probably want some kind of support for some essentials.

Handling turn-based play. Players would enter their action decisions, which would enter some kind of queue visible to everyone, unless it was, say, a thief who wanted to inform only the GM what s/he was up to. Meanwhile GM would need a means to enter NPC actions into the queue as well.

Managing character information. At the least you would want a table of stats and their values, visible to the player controlling that character and the GM, and synchronize them. Also, some fields would be player editable, and others GM editable.

Mostly, the idea would be to give the GM client a lot of features that would make it easy for him or her to push game updates at the players. The GM would use some kind of pop-up menu to cycle between the characters actively in the current campaign.

Other GM interface possibilities:
Browser to move through the nodes of the game world. Ideally would distinguish between various types of information: general description to push to players, detailed description for behind the scenes, and GM notes. Heck, even editable HTML would suffice.

Of course, integrated die rolling. This is the one thing which would maybe cause problems unless players were confident that it was "fair".

Random encounter generation. Labour-intensive, because it would require a database of NPC/monsters to work from. If the GM enters the information on the monsters, so much the better.

Attack management. Instead of just queueing turns to attack, adding a weapon tracking feature would mean that players and GM could just click "attack" and proper attack and damage rolls would be handled automatically and results pushed to the chat channel.

Anyway, there are lots of other improvements one could make to the interface. Essentially what this would be is a tool for managing a campaign being run over the internet, so you would have all the screens familiar from Baldur's Gate except no game play screen. You would have player inventory, progress/chat window, and maybe a map window, but probably not like in a commercial game.

The mapping feature might provide a scanned image of the real map for the GM, with links to each area's description/treasure/notes/encounter info, and a manual map drawing region for the players. It would be nice to have a simple grid-based mapping tool. One player at a time is designated mapper (or the GM could be the mapper), and all participants would see the map updates. (Maybe this would go in version 2. Smile )

Comments welcome.
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Founder
Posts: 1,138
Joined: 2002.04
Post: #2
I recall a CLASSIC app that allowed for Pen and Paper RPG game playing over the net for the Mac years ago. Was it called NetHack??? Can't remember.

I REALLY miss the days when I played D&D with friends. We had a great DM, and a diverse range of players. It would be fun to play some games with some members here with the "idea" you presented.

Carlos A. Camacho,
Founder
iDevGames
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Feanor
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Post: #3
NetHack is still around, and even has an OS X Version (scroll down a bit). That is a dungeon exploration game, rendered with ASCII characters. It is not for use with p&p RPGs.

I never have played it, so now I'm gonna check it out...
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Apprentice
Posts: 19
Joined: 2002.12
Post: #4
Quote:Originally posted by Feanor
NetHack is still around, and even has an OS X Version (scroll down a bit). That is a dungeon exploration game, rendered with ASCII characters. It is not for use with p&p RPGs.

I never have played it, so now I'm gonna check it out...


There is also a Isometric Graphical front end for nethack. Looks pretty interesting. Too bad there is no Mac port. They do have full source up though.

The Linux version uses SDL so it shouldn't be too bad to convert it to the Mac.

http://www.hut.fi/~jtpelto2/nethack.html

belboz@cinci.rr.com
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griffin239
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Post: #5
for an experience in online role playing please visit:
http://www.palladiumbooks.com
and check out the chat rooms and online game schedules.

I spent a dreary November Sunday online role playing and having
a great laugh. It was just like real role playing: people argue rules,
people create "greater than god" characters, and their
mommy's call them away to dinner and such. Just like the old days!

Palladium is the maker of such fine games as Beyond The Supernatural,
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I still have first ed.), Heroes Unlimited,
and the totaly needs to be a 3D game series RIFTS.

Their chat client is in Java.

Your idea is a good one and if well implemented would be interesting.
What you need I believe is.
1. Chat interface with private and public messages
2. Die roller that speaks to server and clients (avoid cheats)
3. Database for storing text based room locales (wouldn't want to hand type it all the time)
4. Database of players and NPC that allows for configuring attributes to any roleplaying game
5. Configurable math functions to see what attributes affect common actions like who moves first and how many actions they can make per turn, etc. So arguing and out of turn comments can be properly placed in the message que.

Perhaps more.
Problem with real people role playing is time constraints, people don't
have the infinite time of a computer game. In the middle of the best scenario
people have to go to bed or work or something.

Here's a suggestion if you would like to pursue it further.
Look at carracho server/client. It has a clean chat interface and
file management system that I think could be adapted someday to RPG over net.
Try meeting up in the iChat/aol room RPG, I run into an random game in there,
sometimes in another language.

Has anyone been to a MUD lately? I haven't been able to track an active one
since the mid 90's. It's always a dead link or empty server.

Here's to good ideas. Cheers
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Feanor
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Post: #6
Thank you for your input, griffin. I will have a look at Carracho. That is one of those Hotline-style systems, right?

I have found an interesting web-based system which does a lot of what I am thinking about, except most of the games are not real time, apparently. Rondak's Portal supports many game types, and uses a multi-frame and/or multi-window system running PHP and javascript. As of ten minutes ago there were about thirty people logged on, so it is more active than iDevGames!
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griffin239
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Post: #7
yeah carracho is a peer to peer file sharing /chat server.
Tobi and I use it extensively to develop the T3D engine and Antack.
Its not on the same protocol as Hotline, I never like the hotline
"gimmee something I want" attitude.
I'm just pointing to it as an example of how an RPG server/client
could be set up, because the interface and operations are simple and clean.

http://www.carracho.com


off to check out that site you mentioned
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Feanor
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Post: #8
Someone at Rondak's portal gave me a link to an application that is similar to what I was thinking about. Web RPG is a Java application, so it's cross platform, but they seem to have floundered, to say the least. It is not clear whether they are updating their pages regularly, although the forums seem to be in use. They use a central server, a la Game Ranger, but they charge for the use since "ad revenues are so bad".

The interface is, of course, crap, as most interfaces are. This is the thing I would be most interested in making good, and I think, for this kind of app, is the make or break feature. Also, I would want peer-to-peer without a central server, but maybe an ultra-peer system.
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Member
Posts: 469
Joined: 2002.10
Post: #9
So are you like... trying to reinvent the MUD/MUSH?

my favorite mud is avatar.outland.org:3000
You can use my Cocoa built client hydraMUD

---Kelvin--
15.4" MacBook Pro revA
1.83GHz/2GB/250GB
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Feanor
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Post: #10
How about that it's not for MUDs? What have MUDs got to do with pen and paper RPGs? MUDs are hosted on a server. No? MUDs let people wander around from room to room and log on and off whenever they want to. No? This is not what I am talking about. This is not an open multi-player experience, this is a game-mastered, party-based role playing game, using D&D, RuneQuest, Call of Cthulu or some other rule system.

It sounds like you did not read my full post. Otherwise, perhaps explain how MUDs in your view are the same as pen and paper RPGs played over the internet.

Edit: OK, I checked out AVATAR, and as I thought, this is a totally different thing.
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griffin239
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Post: #11
Indeed while at rondaks I tried a few of the MUD's for nostalgia's sake and "BLEH"
it has lost all of its appeal. Text adventuring with computer is really dull stuff.

The online-Human to Human Role Playing is a Whole other thing.
You have the range of human emotion and imagination to evolve
each exeperience uniquely.

An example: I ran a chat based Call of Cthulhu game in a BBS system
some years...a decade ago. Turned out that one of the players was
blind, so the computer talked to him the text we was typed.
It took him a long time to type back which tested my patience
but he was such a good sport about my cruelty to his character
and those antics scared the daylights out the other players
that it made for a great experience that I'll never reproduce
even with people sitting at a table with me.

All this technology and it would appear that Feanor
and I want to put the human back into it.

I definately suggest experimenting with many chat/server type
apps to see what exactly makes them less than perfect for such use.
Then sitting down and making the best RPG-online system from the
wholes that need filling.
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macboy
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Post: #12
[offtopic]
Quote:Originally posted by Feanor
... so it is more active than iDevGames!
or there are more people Rasp
[/offtopic]
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Feanor
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Post: #13
Quote:Originally posted by macboy
[offtopic]
[b]or
there are more people Rasp
[/offtopic] [/b]
Yeah, I guess I was being lazy. I didn't mean "more active per capita" Smile, just more busy. As in, lots more people play RPGs than write Mac games. I am totally out of the loop there.
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Matt Brown
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Post: #14
I was never in that loop, but the other night I started thinking about this. And as is my curse, I started to write my own rulebook. Maybe turn it into a MMORPG once GC is done, but that's quite unlikely as we all know how much time and money those things take to start. It started out like what little I know of D&D, but so far it's ending up more like half way between Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, and a team-based multiplayer RPG. With tribes and keeps and the different tribes at war and multiple GM's (like moderators for a forum) and other crap like that. I'll post the rulebooks (both the player's and the GM's) when they're finished.

[edit] PS.On second thought, I think the thing I'm working on isn't what you guys are looking for. I'll keep working on it, and I'll still post it, but I think I'll try somthing a bit more simple.

PPS. Grendel's Cave was a fun game, but it was a bit more like a MUD with graphics. It's just a bunch of fancy CGI tricks, completely browser based. Haven't been there in ages though. [/edit]
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Feanor
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Post: #15
<offtopic>I think that MMORPGs are a craze that will top out with Star Wars Galaxies and then decline for a while, until someone comes up with something different, something without all the dumb quirks. I am expecting people to pick up on the idea in NWN to have small groups in an adventure that is possibly managed by a game master, a la D&D but more suited to the computer. I think there is a lot of room to be creative there. Is that how Diablo 2 works?

What you might consider is a rule system that blends individual accomplishment with a ladder system like in team-based combat FPS games. If people hosted small games but the characters could be easily transferred from game to game, they would have to compete less for access to certain dungeons and stuff. It should not be limited to fantasy style worlds, though.

I'm expecting a whole other level to happen where someone figures out how to blend MMORPG with single player, so you can have individual adventures running on your own machine, but when you leave that area, seemlessly join back in with the fully populated world. The individual adventure would, however, be overseen by the service provider, it would just be closed off from being accessed by other players. If you tried to hack it or use console cheats, they would know and you would get no credit.</offtopic>

What I think many RPG and similar adventure-based game designers should consider is running campaigns manually based on the rules that they are using in the game, as an early test of the quality of the design. That would be an interesting way to promote this product I'm suggesting, if I ever build it.
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