A Tale in the Desert’s (ATITD) legal system is an in-depth, flexible tool that allows players to create laws and affect the game. Laws can be used to ban players, change names, award titles, restrict accesses and for many other purposes. The game’s developers impose only a few restrictions: They allow nothing that will alter the ending of the game or any of the “Tests” required to reach the ending, nothing impossible to code (for obvious reasons), and nothing that makes the game overly easy (dubbed the “IWantaPony veto”).
But for some reason, this feature is rarely used to make laws to deal with griefers.
This is how Mafia was born, a character whose name would be recorded in ATITD history as one of the most notorious griefers of Tale 1. (ATITD is one of the few MMOGs with a start and an end – when the game is finished, it starts over.) In truth, the character was originally created to counter Khepry, a character played by a GM for an in game event – at the time, the players didn’t know that Khepry was any more than a greedy, lucky player. Khepry had “found” the only source of magnesium in Egypt and carefully monopolized the area with mines, charging exorbitant prices for the crucial material.
Many players approached Khepry, asking him to share the magnesium. Many players were turned away. Among them was Knightmare, a long time ATITD player who has always been a critic of the legal system and how it is used. “I’ve known for a long time that the legal system is a flawed design. One of those flaws is that the laws that are band aids [sic] are usually [passed] while the ones with real meat fail.”
After some consideration, Knightmare and two other players banded together and created the character Mafia. “[Khepry] wouldn’t share, we knew that sharing would help all of Egypt; I took it upon myself to make him share using any means necessary.”
Knightmare’s plan was simple, if not honorable: “We were going to build several sculptures that would completely encase his mine, and build them complex enough so that no one could actually mine in the area…. We were planning on using this to create as much lag in that area as possible.” The Mafia players also planned to grief those who interacted and traded with Khepry, creating a sort of embargo, but they had not yet decided how.
“I wasn’t interested in running around and griefing half of Egypt.” Knightmare came up with Mafia for the purpose of aiding Egypt – with or without the other players’ consent. “Mafia was going to be a strong-armed way of getting things done that Egypt needed done.” But things didn’t go as planned. One of the other two Mafia players decided that Egypt needed a challenge to make a law rather than a vehicle to go around it.
While the sculpture plan was in the works, Mafia Player #2 decided that Mafia could be used for other purposes. In an effort to “let people know we’re serious,” Player #2 emptied over 250 kitchens belonging to the Nileside Café, a non-profit player-created organization designed to help players raise their Gastronomy rating above 250. When Knightmare found out, he knew it was over; Mafia was no longer a vigilante, but instead a villain.
Player #2 issues a challenge to Egypt: “Make an actual law to take care of griefers instead of just banning me” – or Band-Aiding the situation, as Knightmare would call it. Alas, the challenge went unanswered, and Mafia was banned via conventional “Band-Aid” methods. By this point, Knightmare had pulled out of the deal: “It wasn’t something I wanted to be involved with at that point.”
Mafia is an unusual case among griefers. Your average griefer plays to hurt, not help, and lasts a week or two at most on average. Mafia, on the other hand, was created with the intent to help the game and the players, and his legacy and his players remained in the game long after the character was gone.
Knightmare was not even ashamed of what he had done. In fact, at Tale 1‘s Amnesty (a confessions event that is held at the end of each Tale) Knightmare revealed the identity of two out of the three Mafia players – the third chose to remain anonymous.
We’ll never know whether Knightmare’s method of fighting griefer with griefer would have worked. But the very fact that Mafia was created “for the good of the game” says something about Mafia’s creators and sponsors’ mindsets. Like a government coup, Knightmare and his team were willing to defy the game’s built-in democracy and set up their own secret police. They were willing to do what they felt needed doing with or without public backing. Their motivations were pure, but in the history books of ATITD, the name of Mafia will always go down as a griefer.
Laura Genender is a Staff Writer for MMORPG.com, and is also an Editor for Prima Strategy Guides.