Skip to main content

Important Note!

The skill adjustment discussed below was successfully performed on 10 July 1999! The adjustment was successful and we have not had issues with excessive skills and do not foresee any futher skill adjustments.


The problem

We have a problem on Discworld right now. For a number of reasons many players have skill levels that vastly exceed the values that were ever expected for players to reach.

This has happened for three primary reasons:

  1. When taskmaster was first implemented some code was far too generous in giving out TMs. This was a coding error.
  2. Creators underestimated the lengths players would go to to obtain large numbers of TMs (TM harvesting).
  3. Some players took advantage of loopholes and bugs to obtain many TMs.

The result of this can be seen in many areas.

Background on skills

There are a number of possible solutions to this problem. However, to fully appreciate them and their implications you need to understand that skills are all relative.

Many players are seriously attached to their skill levels in absolute terms and see any changes as personal attacks as can be seen from this quote:

"Take .... for example. They devalued his bonus in because they said it was too high and they couldn't keep up with it. Surely, that is unfair as he has earned that bonus throughg hard work. it is not his fault that he has such a high bonus. it goes down to coding that the creators didn't think about. So, to fix it, they don't recode it. They just devalue his bonus."

Which leads them on to direct attacks and paranoid delusions:

"If you ask me, they [the creators] are just taking the game and making it the way they want to in order to benefit noone but themselves. The gameplay could go right out the window if they continue and .. keep changing the game to suit them and only them."

Many players think of their skills in absolute terms but really this is meaningless. A skill only has meaning when compared to other values.

The simplest example of this is that a level 50 player on a Diku mud is virtually immortal, yet on Discworld level 50 is a beginner.

If you can do 50 damage on a mud that could be really high or really low. You can't tell until you know how much damage others do and how many hit points typical opponents have.

If you can do 2000 damage before the NPCs are changed and 2000 after but now the NPCs do twice as much your skills have effectively been downgraded even though the numbers shown in 'score' haven't changed.

Thus the absolute number (e.g. 21, 536, 2533, 238485634) has no meaning it only has meaning in comparison with other relevant skills. So if you modify the skill up or the skill test down the result is exactly the same.

Skills are compared in 3 basic ways:

  1. To skill tests (skill required to cast a spell, use a weapon, climb a fence or whatever).
  2. In comparison to other skills (e.g. offensive skill against defensive skill).
  3. In comparison to other players (are you higher level or lower than someone else) – this is really just a special case of the previous comparison.

Thus any change in any of those areas is an effective modification to your skills even though your skills may not have changed.

Understanding this fact is vital when considering the possible solutions.

Possible solutions

Any viable solution must therefore address the following issues:

  1. Correct the imbalance between skills and the current skill tests (commands, actions, spells, rituals).
  2. Correct the imbalance between skills and the current NPCs.
  3. Maintain the balance of skills between players.
  4. Make a level playing field for existing and new players.

There are a number of possible solutions to our current predicament.

  1. Do nothing.
    This is the easiest solution but it doesn't address any of the problems above.

  2. Adjust the mud (skill tests, npcs, commands, spells, rituals).
    This is an effective downgrading of everyones skills by increasing the skills of everything around people (like reducing something height above sea level by raising the level of the sea)
    This has two main problems. Firstly it would involve many months of work mostly by the more skilled coders and so will cause new things to be delayed while we modify everything to match our current player base.
    Secondly it doesn't address item 4 above.

  3. Reduce the value
    New moon did this. Basically you simply reduce the value of the skills without changing the actual numbers.
    This still leaves item 4, plus it has added complexity in that a level 300 NPC would not have the same effective skills as a level 300 player.

  4. Adjust the skills of existing players
    This is a very attractive proposition in that you can re-adjust everyones skills while making sure that values remain consistant between players.
    This resolves the issue of fairness to new players but has one major flaw: Many players see their worth and value in terms of the numbers in their 'score'. For some reason they cannot understand that those numbers are all relative and that if everyones numbers changes they've not lost anything.


I have outlined the possible remedies as I see them. Personally I favour the last one, however I really don't want to have to put up with weeks of personal abuse and constant harassment even though I do want to do what is best for the MUD.

So, what do you all think? Which solution should we take? Are there viable solutions that I haven't considered?