The Agelessness of NPCs
I recently saw a chart on Disney's princesses aged according to how long ago their films were released. Snow White, the eldest, is depicted at age 75, while Tiana (from "The Princess and the Frog" if you haven't been keeping up with Disney's princess pantheon), is shown as a toddler.
The agelessness of movie characters doesn't much trouble us, because their environs are likewise fixed in time, but the situation in Iron Realms MUDs are more complicated: as living worlds, the big things may change, but the small things tend to stay the same. Locations that are in a state of ruin or disrepair stay in just that state for in-game centuries; an abandoned farmhouse in Pash Valley has gone ages without finally falling down. And for the entire 11 years that I've played Achaea, the NPC named "Lotash" has stood on a dusty junction of the Southern Road, asking passers-by to help rescue his daughter Kasha from the clutches of the Beast Cultists. Cities and guilds (later Houses) have risen, the Church has been destroyed, and still Lotash acts out his drama for each player that comes along.
Everyone overlooks the repetitiveness of non-player characters: why draw attention to the limits of an artificial environment? Gods mitigate the issue by animating NPCs now and then. And the deathlessness and agelessness of NPCs is explained in the same way as the deathlessness and agelessness of player characters: with each death we go to Maya's Halls and plead for a return to life. Maya grants the request, until Thoth, the God of Death, claims us permanently and transports us to the Soul Realm.
I can think of a few player characters and a few NPCs that have been subject to this permanent death--Ekary Lucoster, the Sinistar, is one player example; his mausoleum is adjacent to North of Thera. In Shallam, a baker and the guild tutor of the Paladins have both permanently fallen prey to the enemies of Light. Even gods--Aurora, Khalas, Caspian--may be subject to permanent death.
I think Iron Realms games do an uncommonly good job of accommodating these issues of change and changelessness: demand too much change and the mechanisms that make the games work cannot be maintained--you end up with something chaotic, like Second Life. Too little, and we feel ourselves to be playing in a tableau rather than a living world. Though I enjoy playing games like Mario that are basically static in their environments, I always look forward to my return to Achaea, where things seem, satisfyingly, a bit more mutable.
Do you think IRE games attempt to be too changeable? Not changeable enough? Share in the comments.