There were corpses all around the great fountain in Waterdeep.
Not that there aren’t usually a corpse or three sitting around there, preserved and waiting for a resurrection. There was one there even as I started to write this.
But this different. This was a lot of corpses. And they were all from the same player who, I recalled, was a high level barbarian warrior.
Even as I stood there pondering the corpses the warrior, whose name I cannot recall all these years later, entered the room and attacked the elite guard. He was killed almost immediately and another corpse joined the pile.
This went on for a while, the corpse count growing, while several of us pondered what he was up to. Was this an attempt at an epic rage quit? Was he working on some sort of corpse based art project? Was this some sort of science project?
After a while, with many corpses on the ground, he gave up and went away. Somebody was casting preserve on the corpses so that they would not rot and disappear as quickly, but otherwise we had a bunch of empty player corpses and some speculation about what had just happened.
As it turned out, of our possible answer, the last one turned out to be correct. It was MUD science in action.
The player in question had apparently discovered that, in the character database, the key unique value for any character was the character’s name, as opposed to some unique never-seen number. And why not? Names were supposed to be unique in the world. So what linked anything in the world to your character… equipment, corpses, money… was your character’s name.
The player had also discovered that when you die, part of the information saved with the corpse was how much experience it should restore to you if you received a resurrection. When you died, you lost 25% of the experience of your current level. If you got a successful ress, about 80% of that lost experience was returned to you.
And, finally, the player had noticed that when you deleted a character, any corpses that character left behind remained in the game. The corpses were not tied to the character but were just objects in the world related to the character only because they were flagged with the character name.
Do you see where I am going with this?
So the player had taken his level 50 barbarian warrior, a somewhat common sort of character in the game and one of the easier classes to get up to level 50, and turned it into a pile of experience laden corpses strewn about the streets of Waterdeep.
The player then deleted what remained of that character, leaving the corpses behind.
The player then rolled up a new character, an enchanter, one of the most in-demand and difficult to level classes in the game. He gave this character the same name as the warrior he had just deleted. This character and name was approved by the admins… the naming rules were rigorously enforced by the people who ran TorilMUD… sort of… and this fresh level 1 enchanter entered the world.
This newly minted magic user made his way to Waterdeep, where a friendly cleric began resurrecting the corpses left behind by the old character. And it worked. The enchanter leveled up rapidly with each resurrection. The enchanter did not make it to level 50, or even level 40 if I recall right, but he got far enough into the level curve to get past the awkward “got no spells” and “got no useful spells” points in his career and straight into the “I have key spells that make me useful to a group” zone, wherein he could expect to find experience groups easily and be able to make his way to the level cap with some diligence.
Except, of course, for the whole part where he got caught almost immediately by the game admins.
The admins get a little message every time somebody levels up if they have the right feed turned on. So while I understand that the player in question waited until no admins were visible online, there were a couple on that were hidden. And they swooped down on him right away.
Now, this did not happen in the bad old days, when he likely would have been banned for life from ever playing TorilMUD. There was a time when the admins would ban whole blocks of IP addresses just to rid themselves of one person, occasionally screwing over somebody else in the process. But he had still be caught red-handed using an exploit to his own advantage. He lost his new enchanter, all his experience, and probably some equipment along the way. He was no doubt put on probation and might have even been given a temporary ban. But if I recall right, they did not actively seek to ban him for life or burn down his house or anything that might have happened if he had tried this in the early to mid 90s.
And, shortly thereafter, a fix went in that wiped out any corpses remaining in the world when you deleted a character.
Or so I recall.
That is the rub here. This happened nearly a decade ago. I was not directly involved. Everything I heard at the time was second or third hand and might have included a fair amount of speculation being passed off as fact. And, of course, my own memory might have enhanced the tale as well. The details might be totally out of alignment with what actually happened, and if you know something, feel free to correct me in the comments.
The essence of the tale is true though. Somebody got their character killed repeatedly, saved the corpses, deleted the character, created a new character with the same name, and received repeated resurrections that rapidly leveled up the new character. And I was around for bits of the whole thing. Well, at least the killing and corpses bit.
And the whole event certainly does say something about players. I am sure that this is covered somewhere in Raph Koster’s list of Laws of Online World Design.
I had actually forgotten about this event in TorilMUD history. I was only reminded of it when I read Psychodhild’s post about the reincarnation game mechanic in Dungeons & Dragons Online. That trigger the memory of somebody really attempting to recycle a character in order to bring it back as something new.
Which brings up the question if players ought to be allowed to do something with level cap characters that they do not play any more. Could you use that as a re-roll mechanism that bestowed some benefit or which acted as a gate to new content for another run to level cap?