Making Olympia more interesting

Rich Skrenta (
Tue, 25 Jan 94 8:40:57 EST

I don't usually seek design comment with ideas this vague, but I'm stuck.
I know roughly the direction Olympia needs to go, but am at a loss for
elegant mechanics to get it there.

Here is the problem:

Olympia is suffering from a lack of plot. The props are all on the stage,
but the actors have no idea what play they're supposed to be in. There
have been few in-game intrigues, alliances, wars.

There are two major reasons for this:

Resources are nearly limitless

The map is huge, allowing players to pick up and move if there
is any dispute over resources.

There are no artifacts to fight over or quest for.

It's not really possible to control land in Olympia. Castles,
despite their considerable expense, don't effectively stake a
claim to any natural resources. Land control would make
natural resources scarcer.

Acquiring skills is a solitary business. Other players can
neither help nor hinder research or study.

There are no in-game organizations to force conflict

In the absence of limited resources, game rules can force
players into conflict. Legends and Out Time Days have been
offered as examples of games which do this well. Players
may join game alliances which provide goals.

As a practical matter, the map may indeed be too large. However, I do
not think shrinking it would help spur resource conflicts. It would have
to be considerably smaller to force resource conflict, and this would ruin
the exploration enjoyment for many players.

The "wilderness" idea is one way to make the world apparently smaller,
by making it dangerous to travel. Allowing true land control is another
way. Some players would naturally go about staking claim to chunks of
land. Other players would have to overcome them, or pay taxes, etc.

Generally artifacts are never potent enough to force players to fight over.
Artifacts appealing enough to cause wars would be too powerful; they would
be destabilizing. No-one will wage war over the "wand of +20 attack in
battle", but I don't want to make a "wand of instant death to everyone in
any province".

I have some ideas for a quest system which introduces mildly useful
artifacts and some good player interaction. However, I don't expect
questing to be the ultimate goal of the game, only an interesting

Game organizations seem to be the best bet for dragging players into
alliances, giving them in-game goals, and forcing them into wars with
each other.

The design of an organization system, however, is far from obvious.
Simply creating groups for characters to join doesn't help. Olympia I
had those with the guilds, and while players were eager to join despite
a high cost and the lack of any benefits, no conflict was spurred.

The groups must have goals.

There should be an internal ladder or tree of ranks within each
organization, for characters to climb.

Organizations must be somehow scored or graded, perhaps on honor,
land controlled, or gold in the treasury.

Some objections which are occasionally heard:

"Players will form their own groups." Player-formed groups do not,
however, have game sponsored goals. Also, while one about out of 20
players will attempt to create some sort of group, the level of
participation in these informal groups is generally low.

"Newbies will have a hard time getting ahead if there is strong land
ownership." There is no help for this. Players who want to be a
major force in the game should get in as early as possible. Those who
join half-way through a game should realize their disadvantage. Still,
steps can be taken to offset this problem, such as using CLAIM, or
starting each player with ownership of some resource laden land.

Some conclusions:

o There must be a way to own land, which does not require a noble
to be present.

Perhaps nobles can garrison locations with men, and the locations
would then be able to perform a few limited actions.

o There must be GM created game organizations.

Characters may join them.
Groups must have goals.
Group standing must be measured in some way.

What I'm looking for:

Simple proposals for new game rules, or alterations to existing ones.
What sort of goals would these game groups have? How do you become
leader of a group? How, exactly, could this land control thing work?

Rich Skrenta <>

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