Things I've Learned Running Horror Mu


  • Pitcrew

    It's going on a year of Horror Mu being open and running, and I've learned a lot even after 24 years in this hobby. I made it based on a few key observations over the years as a way to see if those things could be overcome, or at least minimized. They are:

    • Games with stats usually have some form of XP. There is no proven 'right' way to do XP that's fair - base it on time on game and new players never catch up. Base it on activity or RP and some players will dominate due to RL availability. In either case, XP becomes s thing to be chased, it fosters resentment, and is basically a huge fucking nightmare.
    • Games with stats that DON'T have XP often make players feel like the character is stagnant. XP is equated to 'growth', fair or otherwise.
    • Games without stats are often still using some kind of factions or hierarchy - Weyrs on Pern, etc. Factions become insular, territorial and possessive.
    • Players are generally averse to taking risks, especially if they may lose their big XP PC. Anyone who shakes things up IC or takes risks often gets sideye.
    • Players want continuity in RP, not a new game every 4-6 months.
    • Approvals, XP, story jobs, etc. burn staff/storytellers out. Making creatives do paperwork is especially bad.

    Add to this a few honest things I know about myself as a staff/storyteller:

    • I LOVE running stories and playing NPCs.
    • For a few months, at least. Then I get bored and distracted.
    • The more admin/paperwork I have to do, the more I lose story momentum.

    So with Horror Mu I set out to address every one of those issues. I made an anthology-style game where you play an Archetype (The Loner, etc.) that has a new but similar role in each story, which I usually assign. I try to make each story deal with a new or different facet of the Archetypes when I write roles. To keep an ongoing continuity, between stories you all exist in a place simply called The Facility from which there is no escape and all your needs are provided. In here, you ARE your Archetype and remember your various roles from the stories like new lives you lived. There are no dice or stats in The Facility, and dying only lasts a day when you wake up in your bed again.

    For stats, I settled on a simple system called Slasher Flick with some modifications. That brought me to

    • Games with stats usually have some form of XP. There is no proven 'right' way to do XP that's fair - base it on time on game and new players never catch up. Base it on activity or RP and some
      players will dominate due to RL availability. In either case, XP becomes s thing to be chased, it fosters resentment, and is basically a huge fucking nightmare.

    and

    • Games with stats that DON'T have XP often make players feel like the character is stagnant. XP is equated to 'growth', fair or otherwise.

    I addressed by having stats, but they reset each story. You get to completely redo your stats to suit your role. Further, I added a Perks and Quirks system, like Merits and Flaws, that allows more customization. Every PC has the exact same points, but each is good and bad at different things.

    I addressed

    • Games without stats are often still using some kind of factions or hierarchy - Weyrs on Pern, etc. Factions become insular, territorial and possessive.

    by having the PCs broken into groups or factions each story (with 50 Archetypes, you kinda have to), and scrambling those factions for every story, including who I give leadership roles to. Sometimes, yeah, I get burned by giving an important role to a new or idle player that drops the ball, but often times it surprises everyone when someone new shines and does awesome things. It's been far more 'hit' than 'miss'. It keeps people RPing in new combinations and prevents cliques from dominating.

    I addressed

    • Players are generally averse to taking risks, especially if they may lose their big XP PC. Anyone who shakes things up IC or takes risks often gets sideye.

    and

    • Players want continuity in RP, not a new game every 4-6 months.

    By having stories last 2-4 months. Most people go in expecting to die. Dying is seen as fun. People do all the crazy shit they normally wouldn't because it's not the end of the character - just that story. The Facility gives enough over-arching continuity to allow people to 'stay in character' and not feel like they're just playing a new PC every time.

    And that just leaves me and MY 'Known Issues'.

    • Approvals, XP, story jobs, etc. burn staff/storytellers out. Making creatives do paperwork is especially bad.

    • I LOVE running stories and playing NPCs.

    • For a few months, at least. Then I get bored and distracted.

    • The more admin/paperwork I have to do, the more I lose story momentum.

    I have a couple staffers who help do all the paperwork/approvals/etc., freeing me up to run stories and do story-related +jobs. I don't approve PCs, or give out Archetypes to new players, or handle wiki foo.

    I tell stories.

    And with each being limited in nature, I'm always wrapping it up when my usual boredom/loss of energy would hit. People RP in the Facility a couple weeks while I create and post all the info on the NEXT story (I nerd out on world building and writing newsfiles), which I'm totally psyched about at that point, and we take another spin on the wheel.

    Rinse and repeat.

    It's been a fun experiment, and there have been bumps in the road, but I just talk things out with the players and take their input into consideration when fixing a problem. People have a voice and use it.

    I've learned a lot, some of it unexpected, some of it confirming previous theories. Players tend to prefer I write their role and outline their character, and in stories where I leave it open to them we end up with a fair number of 'cannot find a hook into things' issues. Assigning roles means I give you a hook, a reason to be in the story, and things to do. They've come to feel that works better.

    It's also created the most co-operative MU environment I've had the pleasure to be in. People encourage and support and help each other. People let each other shine. It's lead to some of my very best experiences in the hobby, and some of the best RP I've seen or been involved in.

    Lastly, it's NOT for everyone. Some people don't do well at all there, and it's not because they're bad players, but just different. Everyone likes different things, and that's a good thing. If it doesn't work, it's okay. I'm fine with the game being small-ish but active and enthusiastic.

    And thus concludes a year of what I learned running this game and trying something new.


  • Pitcrew

    As a player who has been singing the praises of Horror Mu and has been with the experiment since story one, it's really cool to read your insights and learnings. I've been having a great time while we try one new thing or another. I've been experimenting myself with different angles of my archetype (The Confidant) in combination with different flaws and personality quirks.

    The short nature of the stories and the lives of the characters in the stories make it a good place to try out ideas and concepts as a player. I'm still death-adverse but I think at this point, that's just my own personality issue. I know death isn't The End but I am squishy and get attached. That said, it won't stop me from taking risks or throwing myself into The Danger. Because despite my feels, a good story is a good story. Even a tragic one.

    I'm so glad you've been running this game and I hope you keep going as long as the creative train keeps moving. And I'll ride as long as you'll have me.


  • Pitcrew

    I really enjoyed my admittedly brief time on HorrorMU. I was there at the beginning for the first story as The Idealist, and damn. That was a really satisfying experience. The character had an opportunity to perfectly execute his skillset, get his perfect moment, and then die like.... moments later, and I loved it. Life got busy as hell immediately thereafter, but I think it's fair to say that one quick story gave me one of my favorite memories in gaming.

    Kudos to @Botulism, max kudos. I hope this sort of experimental and solution-based approach to MU catches on, big time. Bravo to you for finding a way to build something that plays to your strengths as well. We all have our limitations, and many of us share the same ones. I find the idea of short stories with frequent resets to be more than intriguing in the modern world with its no-holds-barred war for our time and attention. I miss the days when I was able to give all of every day to the hobby. Now I'm a busy, stress-out adult, and something I can engage for a while and then get back to pursuing that bigger paycheck, is super attractive. I'd love to see this or a similar model applied across other genres.

    I keep kicking around an idea about a long fantasy epic story, told through short arcs with frequent resets a la Horror. Time jumps, character changes... it could be really cool.

    Anyway, keep on keeping it real and doing great things. I'm a fan.



  • Stuff I have noticed as a player, and from behind the scenes:

    • The lack of XP/newbie vs. dino dynamics is not to be underestimated.

    • Yes, I have totally made it a point to try to make people sniffle in death poses, and I am not the only one. (Sometimes, it's a pact!) This can be more fun than most folks probably think. (Also, proooooobably only @gryphter will understand why I am legit terrified at the amazing teamup hacking roll that literally just happened while I was typing this.)

    • Bot is amazingly flexible, and runs with ideas. The specific setup of the game, structurally, allows for this very well. The willingness to do it is something to not ever underestimate as a fantastic part of the game.


  • Pitcrew


  • Pitcrew

    I always say, if I don't shed a tear, the story didn't hit me right. Though that didn't start until the weepfest that was Prosperity. Every night with these people. All the tissues. And I have sniffled ever since, at least twice.



  • @gryphter ...I dunno, I had to go sleep. (Not even kidding! I mean... )



  • Horror MU definite has been one of the games I've had the most fun in. Sadly RL kidnapped me before the previous story started and has yet to ransom me away. The issues that @Botulism laid out is something I have seen in my lengthy years of RPing and a lot of it seems to have been addressed in a positive manner with how she created and manages her game. Very unique and refreshing style for sure.


  • Pitcrew

    I played a bit. I liked what I saw. Unfortunately for me - and this feels very much like a me problem - I couldn't get involved in anything of consequence. I had no death scenes. I barely had any scenes of importance to the story.

    The problem is, simply, time zone. With events happening with Est or Pst in mind, it never worked for me, who is in CST, to participate fully.

    I wish I could have. I was super envious of people who had a cool scene. It just never happened to me.

    Don't let my experience dissuade you. Not as a potential player, nor anyone who runs it. It's really a great concept. Just wish I worked for me and my admittedly limited availability.


  • Banned

    This post is deleted!


  • @Arkandel & @Ganymede :

    Can we get this thread pinned? Thanks.


  • Admin

    @Thenomain I don't see why not.



  • I'd been planning on posting something here for a bit yet any time I started I'd get distracted. Ahem!

    Even though I eventually stopped playing, this game is really something special. In a hobby that basically lives in its comfort zones, retreading familiar systems (albeit with some great new code) and well-tested ideas, it's perhaps the only place I've seen any sort of real innovation in terms of modes of play and what a MU can actually be. So it deserves attention not just in the sense of people checking it out, but also as an example for future game builders. MUing has its problems, but HorrorMU proves that banging your head against them applying the same old 'solutions' and throwing your hands up when the inevitable problems arise isn't the only option. We can think outside those boxes.


  • Pitcrew

    @bored Aw! Thank you! Sad you faded away, but I appreciate this.

    I freely admit I love WoD games/themes and started playing it TT long before MU. I also fully believe that it's a flaming dumpster fire as a MU. The fact that the exact same things are being done over and over to this day is frustrating. Also, insanity is doing the same thing again and again but expecting THIS TIME it will be Different (TM).

    I really wish others would try new things like this. I'd play the shit out of a game with revolving stories and themes, where stats regularly reset so everyone is equal, where everyone gets a chance at being in leadership instead of calcified groups running factions or areas. It's why I made one.

    It's been fun running it, and I have lots more stories in mind.


  • Admin

    @Botulism said in Things I've Learned Running Horror Mu:

    I really wish others would try new things like this. I'd play the shit out of a game with revolving stories and themes, where stats regularly reset so everyone is equal, where everyone gets a chance at being in leadership instead of calcified groups running factions or areas. It's why I made one.

    And it was successful, and lots of people have had a lot of fun.

    But I think what you may be missing is that what's fun for you isn't a universal goal across the board. For instance many players like the idea of a persistant character they can sink time into for long periods of time, or MU* where that can support power imbalances, or where the theme is set to something specific they can learn and sink their teeth in rather than have it periodically revolve.

    Variety is a great thing - if I wished for anything in this regard it's just more types of games promoting different styles of play rather than copy the template (and in some cases, the exact code and general setup) of the last several MU* as a way to 'go live' as soon and with as little effort as possible.

    If there is one thing we're missing from the hobby sometimes it's passion projects. Yours is one, and you should be applauded for it.



  • @Arkandel I think a number of the things you're discussing actually are handled pretty well, even if it is in a less obvious way.

    There's continuity and a persistent character in the meta-story that's genuinely fascinating, for example.

    There are power imbalances of a sort, and it is marginally keyed to activity: the more you do, the more you tend to know, and that's useful in the game -- it just isn't represented in the form of XP to be spent on stat increases that would often be implausible in a scaled-down system that rarely has a storyline that lasts for more than a handful of IC months.

    Information, role (today's leader is tomorrow's janitor and vice versa), and connections are 'soft power' and both are important to the story, the characters, and what those characters are able to do in a particular scenario. Sometimes this results in positive or negative modifiers if and when relevant.

    Activity also earns a character 'genre points' that can be used in the current story for special actions and effects.

    They key here is that they are also not permanent. This is a great reward for activity, without hamstringing people who can't be around as often for a month -- it gives them a chance to be on an even footing again the next time, when the people who were more active today may have the busy RL month instead. It is the most mind-bogglingly fair approach to the 'active players vs. passive dinos' debate I've seen to date. Just because numbers on a sheet don't swell over time or with bursts of activity, it doesn't mean the idea of power imbalances IC are erased.



  • Hmm...this post is a very nice congealing of many of the design issues I've been wrestling with while building my personal passion project (which isn't very MUSH-like, it is more RPE-MUD-esque). I've never felt the urge to play HorrorMU because I'm much more addicted to High Fantasy/Sci-Fi and am generally turned off by horror/slashers as a genre, but I am definitely interested in how to...bend?... a traditional game into something more like this approach. Some ways that come to mind:

    All of the characters are experiencing a series of mutual dream worlds where "the game" takes place, including some where the world cuts/changes into totally new roles/storylines.

    The characters are souls that skip into new bodies/dimensions every so often (Sliders TV show as game mechanic).

    Some "Great Magic/Aliens" in the world alters the game/characters periodically, some of how everything used to work translates to the new world, but alot doesn't....

    Thanks for the ideas.


  • Pitcrew

    I think there is another factor at play here too, not to be overlooked. Whether it's the luck of the draw or the result of the game's community and policies, the players make this model work by taking their moment in the sun, then getting out of the way for the next person to shine. Kudos to the community of players who embraced experimentation and learned to put each other into the spotlight. That's a very real magic!



  • @Arkandel
    I don't think that was missed. The remark wasn't "I wish all games were like this," it was "I really wish others would try new things like this," and the initial post did say "it's NOT for everyone."

    I wish people would try more new things too, but I'm still also going to keep playing games where I play one form of one character in one world indefinitely, and I also very much acknowledge that getting people on board with the new thing you want to try is not often easy. It can be a much bigger risk than giving people more of what they're used to. Even if they hate parts of it, 'better the devil you know' became a phrase for a reason, and I've definitely looked at things in the past and included 'do I want to deal with something unfamiliar at the moment' among the determining factors. But if people don't try new potential solutions to problems, we don't find more things that work. So yeah. I'd like to see more of that, and wish I'd have the time and energy to help try them all out.

    Personally I think I pretty much do require a certain level of persistent character to really get into a game. I think it's really interesting how HorrorMU has managed to use the meta-story to create one of those while still focusing the stat-relevant, 'action' portions of events on the sub-stories. I've idly wondered how another game might handle it for a similar setup without essentially taking the whole meta-framework (as so far known) as part of things, but @friarzen's ideas there sound interesting!


  • Pitcrew

    @gryphter

    @gryphter said in Things I've Learned Running Horror Mu:

    I think there is another factor at play here too, not to be overlooked. Whether it's the luck of the draw or the result of the game's community and policies, the players make this model work by taking their moment in the sun, then getting out of the way for the next person to shine. Kudos to the community of players who embraced experimentation and learned to put each other into the spotlight. That's a very real magic!

    This.

    It works as WELL as it does because the players are happy taking turns in the spotlight. They support each other and give them room to shine. No one HAS to be the star of every story.

    I can't take credit for that. That's all them.


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