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Multiple identical disguises
Too big an advantage?

I saw something today which, whilst not against the rules, struck me as cheesing the code system in a way which could be considered an exploit. After raising the concern via xhelp I was encouraged to post in BGBB for further opinions.

Without too many specifics on IC detail, multiple characters attacked another using similar disguises, the same character build and identical shortdescs, the end result of which was multiple combatants named "hooded average geezer" simultaneously attacking a player. This situation would require the player to first recognise they are being attacked by more than one character (which is hard in the chaos of combat spam which I have a hard enough time differentiating from sic when taken by surprise) then, every time they want to target one of them, discern whether it is the 1st, 2nd, 3rd hooded average geezer they want to attack then type 1st, 2nd or 3rd in amongst the usual chaos of combat. Even as an outsider to the combat I only realised there was more than one attacker -after- the fight and would have found this an infuriating position to be in when my attempts to counter were met with the help multiples message.

It's a smart play on the part of the hooded average geezers but is it too great an advantage in the already cluttered field of combat rp to be considered fair? What do you all think?

Accidentally made multiples of this post. please use other thread.
Scratch that. The duplicate is gone.
Yeeeeeeeeah, that's obviously pretty meta and scummy and if you do that you should feel bad that you did it, when it's intentional.

I wonder if there could be a coded function that parses for exactly this (same disguised label + shortdesc + whatever) in a given room at any time and appends an automatic 1st/2nd/3rd to them to make it clear there are multiple, and makes it a bit easier to keep them straight in combat? Would something like that help to a degree?

Also +1 agreement that combat and SIC being the same color is terribly sub-optimal and I'd love to see this and so much else changed, please see additional suggestions along these lines in my post(s) in the Town Hall thread (yeah I'm gonna beat this drum at every opportunity!)

I don't think this is honestly too big of an advantage. First of all if you get attacked you're already going to be fighting back. The only real problem would be if you wanted to attack them instead. If this was to be changed then the same should happen for multiplies everywhere. I know myself I had to delay or run back in to grab my poncho after I tried to take a poncho but there were multiple. Or with weapons and slings. Or when I frisked someone and they had duplicates of the item I wanted to take.

How would it be a major advantage? It's still, at the end, duplicates. If you're going to be attacking them, then look at them and say 'ah, we will attack the one with the red poncho, not white'.

If they both have the same color poncho? Discern with first and second. If they walked out of the bar and now you don't know which is which? I'd say that is pretty realistic chum.

Duplicates of an item are one thing, there's no time pressure to selecting a multiples of an item the vast majority of the time which you have admitted you still sometimes mess up because it is confusing. Now try doing that under the pressure of combat.

My point here is if you do this you are forcing the target player to go through numerous extra command steps to select and target you with grapples/disarms/etc in an already time sensitive combat situation, giving you a major edge in terms of reaction speed that doesn't come from skill but from an abuse in game mechanics. That's your major advantage.

This is an OOC issue imo. ICly if a group spends time in character making their appearance similar to make it harder to identify them during after the fact, that's smart. People do that in real life with masks and such.

The issue here is the system not allowing you the player to have the obvious insight your character would have--that there are multiple people attacking you.

I'm interested to hear thoughts and ideas on how we could present this information in a non immersion breaking way.

That two people use the same disguises, build, and shortdesc is a perfectly valid IC strategy. In a super crowded environment with two shrouded people fighting in the same situation, it makes sense you aren't able to tell who is who. It's just good. However I would like to add we should add optional support for cardinal numbers in attack or kill verbs. Kill first shrouded, etc.
When I need to do something important, I try to always type "1st" with my command, just in case. Even if there's just a single item, the game will still allow "1st."
I mean, the identical disguises thing isn't really a problem and is perfectly IC and also reasonably governed by disguise skill check rolls already to be effective. What's much more grey and feels like gaming the more meta-mechanic here is the OOC layer of short-desc, which is what really causes problems in combat targeting, correct? How is that even coordinated in an IC manner? "Hey chum, before we crease this fool, let's both be grandmas instead of lasses!" It's dumb and I think disingenuous to pretend it's not. Setting yourself as some short-descs is even distinctly out of character for some characters because they denote certain ages or sexual orientations or gendered appearances, it's problematic on a number of levels.

In addition to the above suggestions, I think a long cooldown on changing your short-desc would be a wise idea to help combat people doing this, cuz it's silly.

The ol’ shrouded average geezer routine.

On the flip side of that, what if you and your group assemble and are already disguised and just happened to pick the same short-desc? “Hold up chum, we both look like grandmas!”

The best fix is to fix the Nths plague. If I carry a poncho and three shrouded geezers attack me, whatever action I think I can pull off will get lost in the heat of the moment and with nths. Typing first shrouded will target myself. If there was a better way to target then this would be a non-issue.

Strategy wise this has always been a response to people being meta and knowing ooc who usually has what short-desc. “Oh, Johnny is a short man who uses douche as his short-desc. Hmm let me find a way to look into him harder”. Don’t act like this doesn’t frequently happen.

I honestly agree with villa. If you can't tell there's two of the same shrouded people attacking you, then I don't think that's really the system's fault - feel free to use that option where it tells you (combat attacked you) etc if you feel like you can't keep up with what's happening through combat messages.

If you get combat shakes and can't type first or second and stress out, how is that the system's fault? The system doesn't restrict you from making those actions. You could have a second sling on you and your macro might not work because of it. You could carry two weapons of the same type so you might not be able to wield it in when combat starts. This also works as defense-- someone might try to take an item from you but can't because you have two of them.

If you want to do something about the shortdesc problem, then all these are similar stuff that should be looked at. I simply believe smartening up and thinking ahead and knowing what you have and what is happening around you is up to you as a player so you can plan ahead and not mess up.

I have been on the receiving end of this (couldn't initiate on someone because there was an exact copy) and even though it was annoying at the time it simply taught me to think ahead and type first, second etc next time.

You might say -- what if theres no time to think ahead and we get jumped? Then your character is delayed in reaction because they're surprised of the sudden attack. Taking a moment to see what's happening and who exactly is attacking you is on you, as a player, and so is typing disarm first gentleman or disarm second gentleman accordingly depending on the situation and what they both have/their stats. So it still would require thought from you as a player -- you simply seem to be stuck on the idea that typing first/second is hard in combat. Again, on you if you get combat shakes and mess up the command. Typing first/second/third isn't hard, it simply requires forethought. You try to get a wallet from someone you KO'd and they have two? Your character throws their hand in only to find TWO wallets so they're surprised and unsure of which one they should take at the moment, feeling both of them.

I understand what the issue is and it does come off as being an exploit.

The 'defender' has to input more key strokes than the attackers ONLY because the text UI has a limited number of combinations of descriptors.

IRL you'd just attack the person in front of you. Or behind you. Or whoever you feel is the threat in that instant. As you wound / slow down attacker One you can quickly shift to attacker Two. It just happens. You do not need to give your brain a couple of different variables before you engage with a different opponent.

The game makes us use syntax and variables because it's a game. It has to. There is no other way to do it.

A potential way around it is to allow targeting people based not only on their /shortdesc/, but also their //prominent clothing item//.

eg average /geezer/ wearing a //dark red hoodie//

And the target command should take a partial string. That way you don't have to type out 'dark red hoodie' but can type 'dar' or 'dark' or the minimum number of characters required to distinguish the 'geezer wearing a dark red hoodie' from the 'geezer wearing a tangerine hoodie'

But you already do automatically attack the person that attacks you. The only problem is disarming/grapple and I don't think the time it takes to type disarm first X or disarm second X is relevant enough to be considered an exploit.
At least the time it takes during combat to type it, that is.
A good number of people seem to have a grasp on the issues this particular scenario presents. Nobody is trying to say this isn't a valid tactic from an IC point of view (It makes identifying who did what later harder for things like witness reports if it comes to that. Smart.) but there are definitely rough edges from an out of character perspective that could use smoothing out and they are only going to become more relevant with recent developments in disguises opening up the potential for folks to disguise themselves as another character for fraudulent shenanigans.

Hek's solution is a good one so long as there are differences in the characters outfits but again it hits a wall if the players are savvy/badass enough to go as far as colour co-ordinating their outfits. At that point it might have to be simplified down to a visible 1st, 2nd and so on for as long as those characters are in the same room, as immersion breaking as that could be. Any other ideas folks?

Is a valid solution one that people strive for anyway, a randomly assigned shortdesc? It would also solve the metagaming issue of "so and so uses the douche shortdesc". It would also shorten macros.
I don't think a random short description is the solution here. That could lead to more confusion imo.
Does the combat change in @access for our fellow players who are vision impaired and using screen readers help provide context for being attacked by two plus characters of the same exact disguised short description?

That's my main concern. If it doesn't, my suggestion would be to put an ability to sum up your combat status either in the current combat scroll or to manually check (since I assume making the game distinguish its combat text with "You are being attacked by a 1st shrouded chum." "You are being attacked by a 2nd shrouded chum." might be too difficult) like:

Combat Status: 2 attackers.

I thought about maybe

Combat Status: a shrouded chum, a shrouded chum, a hooded chum

But that probably is too much spam and also may give away too many details.

tbh my main concern here is just for our vision impaired players having to deal with people stacking same exact disguised short descriptions.

I think people just shouldn't be doing this. It's metagaming to get a tactical advantage in combat.

I was in a situation once where I was fighting 4 giant spiders and 2 dune dragons in a mass combat and it becomes incredibly difficult to know what you're targeting. You want to neck-snap when a target goes down but you can't figure out who's who in short order. It's an inherent problem with the game and not fun to deal with.

@villa, RangerKrauser: It's not really an IC tactical advantage, is it? You're not confusing someone in a crowded space as to who's who. Your character would know how many people were targeting them and which of those people were which. They're not going to mistake the guy shooting at them from behind the trash barrels with the guy shooting at them from the phone booth. Those are two different guys. You as a player have OOC difficulty differentiating, which the people in this situation were probably specifically exploiting and that's metagaming.

To say otherwise would be to say, "Your character is confused, he doesn't know what's going on, so it's legit." That to me reads no differently than saying, "I OOCly want to confuse you as a player to gain an OOC advantage and here's my IC justification. We're using the same shortdesc."

If you’re being attacked by multiple people can you even neck snap someone? Last time I was in that position I couldn’t it just moved me on to my other attackers.
If they're all attacking you, then no. But imagine a scenario where it's four on four, for instance. Only one person is attacking you. They go down, and you want to neck-snap/cap them, but they're all (in this extreme example) average shrouded geezers. Which one is the one you want to hit with the coup de grace? The valuable time you waste trying out Nth combinations could come back to hurt you. Which is exactly why these hypothetical geezers would label themselves identically, to give you the player OOC difficulty in entering commands to effect any of them individually, because you as a player don't know how to target each one.

That's why it's metagaming. I get that in the OP's example it was just two people, and that's obviously not as bad as the unlikely scenario I describe, but I really think people shouldn't be doing this. To me it just sounds like wanting an OOC advantage and trying to justify it.

I maintain that people doing that is a direct result of small worlding disguise. Average geezer with an expensive hand cannon? Yeah we all kno-OH SHIT THERES FOUR OF THEM!

Not saying it’s right or wrong, just saying one thing creates another.

Sounds to me like the easiest option is to simply enumerate similar items and players in their names. Once you start seeing "1st shrouded chum" or "2nd shrouded chum" you already have an idea that there must be more than 1 guy with the same shortdesc around you.

It's not rocket science to add this either. Modify the two handful of functions to show the enumeration, and if you want to be even nicer store recent enumerations in the player object. That way when there were 3 shrouded chums in a room, once the 2nd leaves the third one won't just be called the 2nd one, and simply reset the enumerations once leaving a room. Or make it dependent on a stat check and reset it only when you fail. After all it's easier to track 3 similar looking people, than to reveal their disguises and then track them.

+1 to TheElec's suggestion. That would solve everything.
Without going into details, there are already IC methods to do the enumeration that TheElec suggests.

@Grizz

While I get what you're saying about the multiple shortdescs being a response to small world gaming, that comes off as an excuse. Two wrongs don't make a right and all that.

It’s not an excuse. I don’t do it. It’s an explanation of something that’s not against the rules(yet).
I couldn't find a thread that fit this exactly, but it's close enough.

I noticed last night that when you have a character and an NPC with the same name, and try to look at one of them without enumerations the game will print ' You don't notice anything special about "John". ' instead of 'I don't understand that ("John" refers to multiple items 'help multiples').

Actually, I just tested this with items too and it seems like most verbs will print back the help multiples line except look. I could see this being a point of confusion for new players. Maybe look is too widely used for object counts to be factored in? I don't know if it's a lot different from other verbs.