I read this article about item decay over at Elder Game, and it got me thinking about something that interests me much more: the idea of character decay. Imagine if leaving your character unattended would result in their aging and eventual death? This partially plays into one of Raph Koster’s laws regarding bots — what if your character kept going without you?

While you play the game, you create a character’s patterns of behavior. Their daily quests, the items they craft, the trades they make, the guild members they assist. What if your character kept going after you logged out? First of all, it’d be a boon to keep a character running in the event that a player disconnected. Imagine that your character continues training in their swordplay while you’re at work.

I think that’s kind of like how Eve Online works, but I don’t know for sure, having never played the game. Now, let’s say that like in The Sims 2, your character eventually ages and dies. It’s direct decay of character to offset the constant growth of a character. Creating a bloodline for your character allows you to begin a new character with many of the same abilities at the start. Lamarck would be so proud.

By expanding your influence within a town or region as previously described, you determine what sort of skills are being taught to the kids at your local trade school. You might even designate an heir and will your character’s items to their progeny upon your character’s death. Playing them regularly might prolong their life accordingly, which carries with it the risk of ending their life early, of course.

So long as you have your account, your character will grow in accordance with how you play the game, and pass on their skills to your “next” character at the point they retire, die (or both), or otherwise become unplayable. There might be certain advantages to retiring your character early, like the guaranteed transference of equipment between generations, for example. *snerk*

Perhaps, if skills and equipment are treated more like they are in Guild Wars, where they are interchangeable, and the region determines the starting pool a new character has access to, then it would be in a player’s interest to try and control that pool, and go “skill capping” to enhance their access to preferred skills.

And from there, who knows?