Proposals For Diversity and Originality in Player Races (First Draft)

Introduction:

Split Infinity has a large selection of player races. However, there are two main criticisms of the current system. Firstly, many races are very similar to others in background, playing style, or both. Secondly, all but a few have been taken directly from other works of fiction.

In this article I outline the reasons for these objections and propose a series of changes to improve the situation.

The Problem:

Many races have very similar descriptions and stats, meaning that they are rather similar to play. This is clearly undesirable - there is little point in having a choice of races if it makes no difference to the gameplay.

Furthermore, most of the player races have been taken from other fictional sources. This is objectionable in many ways, including the following:

Solutions:

Unless otherwise noted, the solutions in this section do not involve deleting existing players or changing their stats and skills.

Races that are too similar to each other could be merged into one. The advantage of this is that we can keep the most original or most popular of the races that are being merged, or even create a new race that is similar to all of its predecessors.

Completely removing a race is a quick, clean, simple way to eliminate large amounts of plagiarism. However, it is only really suitable for races with no players (or very few). If there are any players using that race, it would be possible to move them to another race while keeping their current stats and skills. We could allow them to choose their new race or just move them to the one most similar.

If a race has too many players to remove entirely, it could just be removed as a character creation option. The advantage of this approach is that existing players are completely unaffected.

The background material for the races can be rewritten to harmonise them with each other and with the MUD-wide theme. This could include their origins, their homeworld and colonies, their appearance, their knowledge of magic and psionics, their technology and their social organisation. Some creators have already done this for some races in their area themes.

The name of a race is frequently the most obvious tie to its original source. For races that are clearly stolen from elsewhere, but which are too popular or otherwise difficult to change, renaming them could therefore be an option.

Proposals for Individual Races:

The statistics used in the proposals below were taken in November. The numbers have probably changed slightly, though not significantly, since then. They were calculated by finding all players who had logged in during the previous year, then discounting all those who had no kills (this was so that those players who make a character, log in, then disappear forever two minutes later didn't distort that stats). The total was 321 players, but at least eight of those no longer exist since Vash banned two players and deleted all Klingons.

A copy of the player stats can be found on the MUD in /realms/qualin/races_kills or /realms/malachi/races/races_kills. A bar chart of the data is on the web at http://2-10.org/~rayner/SI/active_kills.gif

Halflings, Kender, Hobbits:

Halflings: 2 players
Hobbits: 5 players
Kender: 2 players

These three are very similar in nearly all respects and should probably be merged. A discussion on the noble channel showed that "Halfling" was the most favoured name for the resulting race (since "Hobbit" was too obviously Tolkienian, while "Kender" was too obviously taken from AD&D). The log is available at http://2-10.org/~rayner/SI/noble-18-11-2002.txt

Daewar Dwarf, Duergar Dwarf, Gully Dwarf, Hylar Dwarf, Klar Dwarf:

Daewar Dwarf: 1 player
Duergar Dwarf: 0 players
Gully Dwarf: 0 players
Hylar Dwarf: 0 players
Klar Dwarf: 0 players

Since we only have one dwarf player, it seems reasonable to merge all the dwarf races together. This removes the problem of the race names being stolen from AD&D, and will not cause any disruption to existing players.

Avianni:

Avianni: 6 players

Unless the name is a reference to a book by Ana Jorges, it seems that this race is an original creation. It's certainly one of our more unusual ones. No changes proposed.

Altani, Ataa, Bjora, Korli:

Altani: 18 players
Ataa: 1 player
Bjora: 0 players
Korli: 1 player

These four races are from the Other Suns RPG.

It is probably safe to remove Ataa, Bjora and Korli (either entirely or from the character creation options) because of their lack of players. This would be the cleanest way to remove the plagiarised material. However, we could also rename them and rewrite their description enough to make them look original, if there are reasons for them to stay. Altani are probably too popular to remove, and could simply be renamed. To make their origins less obvious, it might also be a good idea to change their innate telepathic powers to some other skill or ability.

High Elves, Dark Elves, Wood Elves, Sea Elves:

High Elves: 20 players
Dark Elves: 17 players
Wood Elves: 9 players
Sea Elves: 2 players

These elf races seem to be AD&D-inspired. However, they are so popular that anything other than renaming seems unfeasible. It may be possible to simply keep them unchanged but give them a background consistent with the MUD theme (which I would be happy to do). Opinions on this are particularly welcome.

Nightlings:

Nightlings: 26 players

The same comments apply as for the elf races above.

Talking Pandas and Lemurs:

Talking Pandas: 15 players
Lemurs: 2 players

These are original, and no changes are proposed. Talking pandas are too popular to change much. If people think lemurs should be changed or removed, it would still be possible to do that without affecting many players.

Centaurs, Minotaurs, Pegataurs:

Centaurs: 1 player (really 0, as this player was banned)
Minotaurs: 3 players
Pegataurs: 2 players

These creatures really belong in mythology rather than science fiction. Genetic engineering could never create them, and the idea of alien races that are half human and half animal is even more implausible. Centaurs can be removed fairly painlessly, but it might be best to just remove pegataurs and minotaurs from the character creation options, to avoid disruption to existing players.

Ananasi, Bastets, Garou, Gurahls, Mokoles, Ratkins:

Ananasi: 7 players
Bastets: 14 players
Garou: 19 players
Gurahls: 3 players
Mokoles: 3 players
Ratkins: 3 players

These races are all from White Wolf RPGs (we have been known to get sarcastic comments about this from new players).

There is more than one reasonable course of action. Either we can get rid of the less popular morpher races, thus removing a lot of the stolen ideas, or we can say that if any morpher races are kept, all of them should be.

Whichever way we choose, it would be a good idea to rename the races and rewrite their backgrounds to fit in with the Split Infinity theme. At the moment, their origins are embarrassingly obvious.

Wemics:

Wemics: 15 players

Not sure of the origins of this race - it may have been AD&D. Qualin has already written a lot of background on them for his area project. He has provisionally suggested "Merran", from the name of their home world, Nurmerra. No other changes are proposed.

Ents:

Ents: 8 players

This race is certainly very different from the others in description and background, so there is little to object to there. However, it would be better to give them a name less obviously taken from Tolkien.

Artrells:

Artrells: 10 players

These are our only insectoids, so there's no reason to say they are too similar to other races. However, the name seems to be common to a lot of Nightmare-derived MUDs, so renaming them is probably a good idea.

Nuckalavees:

Nuckalavees: 1 player

The name comes from Scottish myth, in which it refers to an evil sea spirit. It also seems to have been a monster in AD&D. Not sure what to do with them. They're not particularly popular, and as described they suffer from the same problem as centaurs. The most severe course of action would be to remove them, but it may be possible to simply give their description and background some minor reworking. Suggestions and opinions would be welcomed.

Suanmi:

Suanmi: 19 players

These were designed by Pam and Vash, and as such are original (though dragonlike humanoids have admittedly been done before). They are also one of the most popular races, so changing them seems neither necessary nor advisable.

Avidryls, Faeries, Giants, Ogres, Wraeththus, Yetis:

Avidryls: 7 players
Faeries: 8 players
Giants: 5 players
Ogres: 3 players
Wraeththus: 11 players
Yetis: 2 players

These are grouped together as "other variants on humans". Avidryls come from the Nightmare race list. Wraeththus come from Storm Constantine's novels. The others are from various myths, probably via various RPGs.

One big problem is that the majority of our races (between half and two thirds of them) are some variation on human. This is rather one-sided for a MUD whose political system is supposed to be an interplanetary alliance of races. Replacing a few of the less popular human-like races with various alien races would help to redress the balance somewhat.

To achieve this, we could lump giants, ogres and yetis together. None of those races are particularly popular, so it won't cause any appreciable trouble for players. Any replacement races should probably only be added after we've finished working on our existing ones.

Wraeththus definitely need renaming and possibly some slight rewriting to disguise their rather obvious origins (it's a fairly distinctive name, after all).

Avidryls and faeries suffer from similar problems to centaurs, in that they are rather like human/animal hybrids. However, the greater number of players makes it harder to do anything with them (although it should be noted that Klingons, with 6 players, were deleted unconditionally). Ideas for what to do with these races are welcome.

Humans:

Humans: 44 players

No changes.

Other Ideas:

Since part of the aim of this project is to make races more different, it would be a good idea to give more races their own abilities, skills and powers. A good example is the firebreathing skill possessed only by the suanmi.

One idea I thought of was a "maul" ability that large carnivores could use in melee, to make their fighting style a bit more distinctive and give them a real reason to use melee attack. More ideas for racial skills and abilities are very welcome.