The Balance Problem
(NB: All of the examples given here are based on the 0.10.x series of mystcraft. 0.11 completely changes the instability balance, and some of these examples, such as the diamond tendrils, are no longer accurate. While the general ideas of this page are still valid, the details are not up to date for 0.11.)
Balance, in Mystcraft, is a tricky thing. While Mystcraft is relatively balanced, and certainly fair for single player, servers may wish to consider several aspects of the mod more carefully.
Mystcraft's main goal is to permit players to find Symbols that are fragments of a world description, and combine them into a description of a world; any missing details are filled in by the game engine. And this works; for this purpose, the mod is balanced.
Symbols that are valuable -- such as symbols for ores -- are hard to find. Adding these symbols into a world description causes Instability, which generally results in harmful potion debufs when exposed to the air, or Mining Fatigue or Blindness when underground.
Sufficiently valuable worlds will fall apart. Literally, in the case of Black Decay, which will eat away at the world and leave a growing sinkhole that eventually eats through to the void. Effectively, in the case of colored decay that spreads through the land, turning it from whatever material it was (stone, water, ores) into spreading decay. And in the worst case, White Decay will spread very, very fast (faster than the block tick rate), damage any entity that moves while on top of it, and generally show itself within 5 minutes (usually less) of arrival if it exists.
Black decay does not spread through air, so a platform built in a world of black decay will survive, turning the age into a [| SkyBlock] style map. Colored decay will spread through air, although very slowly. White decay is only slowed a little by air.
But even that does not compare to Meteors, that will eat up a world from space, bombarding it until nothing is left but void. While air gaps protect against black, and make it possible to defend against the colored and white decays, nothing can protect against meteors.
But that is mystcraft's main goal. It is an attempt to re-create the Art of the D'nI in Minecraft, letting you write descriptive books that define new worlds, as well as linking books to travel freely between them. And just as those worlds could become hazardous, so can these.
- There are major balance factors that have to be considered for servers; single player worlds where the players do not trust themselves will also need to consider these.**
Mystcraft, by letting you write something like \\ mushroom island biome, single biome, stone block, water, flat terrain, diamond ore block, tendrils \\
lets you create a world that has no hostile mobs, is flat (and easy to walk on), has tendrils made of diamond ore (these are not just in the ground, but also in the air, and in particular there will be some just above the ground near you), and can easily be harvested.
Now, that world will not be safe; it will probably be harmful. There may be explosions that can hit you at any time; there will probably be some decay as well. But that's not enough of a deterrent -- you can go to that world, mine a dozen or so diamonds in about two minutes, and leave.
And then another world can be created, duplicating that, for the cost of about 5 or 6 ink sacs, some paper, and some leather, to write both a new world describing the same thing, and another "return home" book.
Mystcraft also lets you teleport to anyplace you have been. Teleportation in mystcraft is probably the cheapest teleportation in any mod. A linking book can be made to correspond to any place that you are at; from any place in any other dimension, you can get there. This means that you can teleport from anyplace to a "safe hub" in a stable age, and then from that "safe hub" to any place you want to go.
Keep in mind: Both of these -- cheap teleportation, and mining ages that are mined while unstable -- are consistent with the source material that inspired the mod. So both of these abilities are consistent with the goal of the mod.
There are two main ways to tweak Mystcraft to restore balance. Fundamentally, both say, "You are not a trained D'nI writer. You cannot write the way that they could".
The first, with no other mods needed: Eliminate the writing desk. If you disable the writing desk in the config, then there is no way to make copies of symbols that you find.
With no way to duplicate symbols, then suddenly, getting even two dozen diamond blocks from symbols that took you many hours to find? Not only is that not even a blip on the imbalance scale, you will probably want to write a lot more carefully. The amount of instability generated depends on the amount of materials generated by what you write. Instead of common, easy to find tendrils that are everywhere, you might search for symbols that will generate fewer, harder to find deposits, so that you get fewer harmful effects. You might decide that you want specific forms of hazards -- as an example, Charged will generate lightning as an instability. Deliberately choosing an instability only gives you half the benefit -- so trying to use lighting to balance diamonds won't work unless the diamond structure is small and far between.
This simple change -- removing the writing desk -- solves all balance issues of the materials being found in ages.
The next thing to fix is the cheap, free teleportation. For that, you need Veovis' [| Linking Tweaks].
Linking Tweaks lets you change several aspects of what happens when you use linking books. There are two key features to use:
1. "Force Spawn". Linking books always take you to the spawn point of a world. No more "teleport anywhere". You can always use the books to get to an age, or to the overworld, but instead of freely going anywhere as a minecart replacement, now you only get to go to the worlds' spawn. From there, you will need to use minecarts or other travel arrangement to go long distances.
2. "Link Sickness". Rapidly using linking books will give you effects from hunger, to nausea (think nether portal view disturbance) to "vomiting" (poison), to blindness. The effect can be reduced by using Maintain Momentum, a normally available, but normally useless or outright harmful modifier on your linkbooks. This means that rapidly teleporting -- such as using a linking hub to get from point A to point B -- now has a forced "cooldown" time, and trying to abuse it makes you sick. "Maintain Momentum" means that if you are traveling when you go through a link, you are not forceably brought to "stillness"; this is what lets you use these links with less sickness. Note that a "Maintain Momenum" book will not safely return you home if you fall into the void.