Muddled Times
Discussion:Forum post

Berserkers in MUD?

Some of the things I added to MUD1 I later took out. Primary among these was the berserker character option.

There was a command you could use to make your character a berserker. As a berserker, you got a special prompt (a > instead of a *) and double points for killing other player characters. However, you couldn't flee fights and you could never become a wiz (that is, a witch or a wizard - the game's administrators).

Berserkers were a failed experiment. They were out-and-out PKs, and they exerted influence way beyond their number. The problem wasn't so much with the mortals who ran berserkers (they kept to the "no bullying" rules) but with the wizzes who were supposed to come down hard on mortal excesses. See, then as now, wizzes had secondary characters (alts, we'd call them today) and some wizzes made a berserker. When these berserkers misbehaved, wizzes were reluctant to interfere: they knew that the player running them would log back immediately on their wiz and argue about it.

I didn't really expect berserkers to be a success when I implemented them. It's not that I deliberately programmed them to fail or anything; rather, I was fairly certain that they would be abused. It turned out I was right. In that case, why did I add them in the first place?

Well, I added them for two reasons: to undermine any notion that D&D-style character classes should be introduced into MUD1; to make clear to wizzes what constituted responsible behaviour on their part. I never really needed the former argument, but I often used the second one. Eventually, we wrote a document - the Good Wiz Guide - that formalised how wizzes should use their powers; it's still in use today.

Interestingly, Sceptre of Goth had a berserker-like "barbarian" class that was eventually restricted for similar reasons: it was over-powered, and when groups of barbarians came together they could (and therefore did) defeat anything that stood against them.

In that respect, they were rather like real barbarians.



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