I keep tinkering with game design / programming stuff but get side tracked all the time by too many ideas. I'm going to make a few posts of ideas that I'm not going to pursue but which are taking up room in my only modestly sized brain.
None of these are my ideas exactly, they're ideas I got from elsewhere which I applied to the idea of an MMORPG.
I think I got this one from reading a Warhammer pen&paper RPG book once.
The game world would follow a big river from source to the sea. There'd be farmland all along the river which shades into deep forest and then impassable mountains so it's basically a claustrophobic rectangular box. The claustrophobic feel is part of the atmosphere. All along the river is villages and towns more or less in a continuous chain. The town and village bosses are mostly knight types but some are temples and a few wizard schools or towers. Each village/town and their boss is a faction in the game - controlling three makes you a baron, 6 makes you a count, 9 makes you a Duke. The towns are worth three and initially all the Dukes and their equivalents (e.g Bishop-Prince or Sorceror-Mayor) are from the factions of the towns.
The basic style is high medieval germany split into dozens of separate fiefdoms except it's the Warhammer version, so although things seem normal on the surface underneath it's a different story with the human world under constant stealth attack from chaos. The surrounding dark forests are all full of lurking monsters and the sewers and basements are full of witch covens, ratmen and chaos cults with the constant threat of plagues started by Nurgle cults. The feel is dark and claustrophobic and shadowy.
The church / temple is singular but with lots of seperate orders and branches. Some of them are archetypal goodies but others have been corrupted by chaos in one of two ways: some orders have become so hardcore in the war against chaos that they've turned into inquisition types while others have surrendered to chaos and just pretend to still be part of the church.
The goodie bits of the temple and some elf or dwarf places tucked away in the forests are the only places in the game that feel nice. Everywhere else is dark and scary.
The chaos side is definitely weaker and has to operate in stealth but it's rotting the non-chaos world.
The core levelling game would revolve around two sets of questing / grinding: the monster part, whether in the dark forests or in the sewers under the towns and a second part that revolves around the constant in-fighting between the game factions. These factions would be constantly competing with each other with knights trying to become barons, barons trying to become counts, counts trying to become dukes and the dukes vying to be the one with the most power and influence as that is the one who gets elected to be Emperor.
Initially the game itself would handle all the random diplomacy and conflict - although some quests might influnce its decisions - and the players would be presented every day / week / month / whatever with the factional standings and who is hostile to who. For example the attitude of NPC guards to a player might change if two factions became hostile.
The second part of the game and what would eventually become the endgame is players would have to attach themselves to a game faction and they would be affected by the changes in dipomatic relations of their faction. More importantly though, player guilds would have to attach themselves to a game faction as well, so if you started a guild you might choose to attach it to the town of Aachen. Once attached your guild could do things to raise their guild level and at max level your guild leader would make the diplomatic and war decisions for that faction. Basically every diplo time unit, say a RL week, the game would present the guild leader with a list of possible diplomatic orders and those orders would be collected with all the rest of the factions and the game would display the results of who was at war, who allied etc for the coming week.
The aim would be to get your faction to be a duke and then build your duke's influence up to be top dog so your guild became the emperor guild. The endgame would basically be a high score competition of who could stay emperor the longest, for as soon as someone made it the rest of the factions / guilds would all be conspiring to cut them down.
Influence wouldn't just be conquest e.g a high-skill sculptor NPC or player could make sculptures for your town and that added influence. However most of this diplomatic meta game would involve attempting to take over neighbouring villages / castles. The way it would work is say the Duke of Aachen faction is being controlled by the leader of an attached player guild and he decides to attack a village adjoining one he already controls and a war gets declared between the two factions for that week. There'd be a fixed times each day (based on time zones) where there'd be like a scenario type battle fought between the two sides. The winners over the course of the week would win the war and that village (and any player controlled guild that was attached to the village) would then switch over to the Duke of Aachen's faction.
If two factions were at war then individual fights could take place as well between rival players but the outcome of the war would be settled in the scenario battles with fixed times so both sides could be massed. NPCs would be added to outnumbered faction if appropriate e.g if it was two Duke factions and one had 80 and the other had 40 the outnumbered side would get 40 NPCs but not if a Duke faction was attacking a Knight faction.
There could be non military faction warfare also: temple priests could go on a conversion war to take over a temple village belonging to another faction - the two villages in this case wouldn't have to be adjacent or an agent could be sent to try and make a faction rebel from it's overlord.
Eventually, if all the game factions had an attached player guild then newer guilds would have to attach to those player guilds as an auxiliary. Attached guilds would obviously have their guild base in their attached faction's terriotory.
Another option for a guild would be to designate themselves as a mercenary company. The way this would work is the guild would'nt have a permanent base. Instead every week when the diplo decisions have been made, factions that are at war will advertise for mercenaries and the guild leader of the mercenary guild would pick which faction was going to be feeding his troops that week. The merc guild then becomes part of that faction until the war is over and they no longer need mercs.
Once they're attached to the new faction the players from the merc guild would have to travel to the town or castle that hired them and there'd be a reserved space where they'd build their camp. The advantage of a merc guild would be you could pretty much guarantee your guild would have war scenarios to fight in (as the war scenarios would only be open to the warring factions, allies and mercs). Merc guilds wouldn't be part of the whole emperor thing though.
Crafters / traders might have the option to join neutral factions that weren't part of this so they could do their own thing. There could also be something like a neutral bard class that took all the actual messages and did most of the diplo as paid agents. There could be a seperate little PvP game between bards and assassins who were immune to the regular factional conflict but not to each other.