The Multi User Domain (MUD)

MUDding gives you a way to take on the persona of a mighty knight, skilled in the use of weapons and armour, or that of a powerful mage, filled with esoteric knowledge and gifted in the use of spells, or perhaps a pious priest, able to heal and invoke the presence of your deity. On some MUDs you can even become a Jedi knight, versed in the use of the Force, or a member of the Psi Corps, using the unaided power of the mind alone to assist you in combat. Youíll spend time exploring hidden caves, fortresses sheltering evil, vast plains and forests, medieval cities, and lost, forgotten temples. Youíll go on quests, interact with other players, form lasting friendships and enmities- in short, youíll be able to live a whole other life.

Most MUDs feature both role-playing and combat, and the gateway to this exciting past-time, which combines exploration and the thrill of new things with simulated combat and interaction with other real people from all over the world, takes place on the Internet. All you need in order to MUD is imagination, a bit of free time, the right internet address, and Portal©.

A Unique Gaming Experience

People in the gaming industry speak of this genre of entertainment as the one that gave rise to the graphical adventure games Ultima Online, Everquest, and the Call of Asheron, which label themselves "persistent online worlds." Unfortunately enough, they simultaneously imply that MUDs are a thing of the past. These people seldom recognize that MUDs and their relations now number well over a thousand sites on the Internet. Some of these games are so active that they have player communities of thousands of active players, which is the size of a small town where Iím from. With MUDs and other telnet games, itís not the graphics or snazzy stuff that drive the game: itís a sense of fun and challenge, but most importantly of player community. These games are often interactive and creative on a level that nothing else in the world can match, and theyíre usually free.

Thereís literally no way to describe the available themes for MUDs, MUSHes and other telnet games. There are simply too many games of too many different types to even begin to make a dent in them. The majority are probably medieval fantasy, though youíll also find Science Fiction MUDs as well as games specializing in some rather esoteric themes: Star Trek, Babylon 5, Robert Jordanís The Wheel of Time books, Roger Zelaznyís Amber series, Frank Herbertís Dune novels, and the White Wolf gaming system, just to name a few. If you can dream it up, itís probably out there somewhere on a MUD or MUSH.

Immerse Yourself in the Adventure

One thing is crystal-clear: role-playing is the raison díÍtre of these games. How the games achieve that role playing, how role playing is enforced, and a thousand other details differ from game type to game type, but fortunately there are some generalizations which we can make as well as some basic commands that differ very little from game to game. Like all role-playing games, you can simply concentrate on your own characterís development without paying much attention to the people around you, or you can spend a lot of time interacting with other people.

You canít come in and simply take on the persona of a powerful magic-user or warrior. Instead, you start out at the bottom and have to work your way up in the ranks, gaining in power by practicing your skills and killing monsters. Role playing, while often important on MUDs, is only half of the equation. The other half is character development, which usually takes place through combat. Some folks find the combat incredibly boring and repetitive, while others love it for its goal-based nature and consistently find ways to challenge themselves against newer, bigger monsters. Long-time MUDders can aspire to become wizards, arches or admin, depending on the individual gameís nomenclature, and ascend from the ranks of ordinary mortals to those who actually help to create and maintain the virtual world.

LP? DIKU? What'd You Say?

MUDs come in two general types: LP MUDs and DIKU MUDs. These two things are code bases for the server programs that run the MUDs. Iíve seen at least one MUD administrator say that as far as players are concerned, thereís no difference. Iíve personally never felt that way, and can usually quickly tell whether a MUD is in the LP or DIKU family. LP MUDs tend to be more complex and less "stock," or identical to the prototype MUD of its sort; in addition, LP MUDs are often long-lived, some lasting for periods in excess of ten years. DIKU MUDs are more often stock, with similar spells, guilds and areas. Many feature "endurance points," which are required in order to move and which must be regenerated or healed when they run out, as well as a requirement that your character eat and drink in order to stay healthy. The LP family includes the classic LP MUD as well as the Discworld driver, while the DIKU family includes the ROM, Merc and Nightmare drivers.

MUDs of any driver type, usually emphasize combat to a greater degree than MUSHes and their ilk. This means that your character development will usually require combat in order to gain experience points, used to raise your level and statistics. Level is a general evaluation of a player characterís power and combat potential, while statistics such as strength, intelligence and constitution can modify this as well as other things such as hit and spell points. Hit points are how much damage a character can take before being killed, while spell points are usually used to power special abilities. Most MUDs feature either guilds or classes, such as warriors, mages or thieves, which govern just what special abilities are available. Other MUDs will have skills instead of guilds or classes, letting you tailor your characterís abilities a bit more to your liking by learning only the skills you want to learn (so, for example, you can mold your character into a spell-casting thief like Fritz Leiberís Grey Mouser of Erewhon). Still others will have skills and guilds, with guild-specific skills costing less if youíre a member of the appropriate guild.

Facets of Interest

MUDs often have two other common features that make them more interesting: quests and clans. The quest systems vary a bit from MUD to MUD, but they are of two general types. In the first, questing is required to advance levels at certain intervals. In the second, questing is optional and either gives rewards such as equipment or experience, or it is simply added to your score and used to determine whether you have the potential to become a wizard/arch/admin. The clan system in MUDs varies dramatically from game to game, but all are centered on the idea of simulated player killing in organized contests. Clan systems might take place in a special sub-section of the gameís virtual reality, or they might work in the regular game environment. There might be special clan guilds, or you might use your characterís normal abilities. All, however, work on the basis of teamwork during wars, and can add a lot of spice to your gaming experience, as well as greatly enhancing the social interaction on the MUD.

Some of the other classic features of the normal MUD are events such as invasions. An invasion is when a group of monsters tears into the central town or start location and starts randomly killing everything and everyone they can. These events can be great fun, though for low-level characters they often spell disaster when the monsters approachÖEvery MUD seems to have invasions, though the degree of regularity is anything but consistent from game to game. Other events vary wildly from MUD to MUD, with anarchies or wars, in which any player can kill any other player, but the deaths donít count, coming in a close second in popularity. After youíve been on a mud a while, youíll usually learn about any particular events that the wizards run.

Playing with Evil

Another fascinating option on many muds is player killing or PK. Player killing is a topic thatís near and dear to the hearts of some, while to others, itís the most horrible thing thatís ever existed in a game. Simply put, itís the process by which one player goes out and kills, not a monster, but another character played by another real person somewhere out in the real world. There are three basic systems by which player killing is regulated: (1) A free-for-all PK system, meaning that player killing is allowed on the MUD whenever and wherever the players deem appropriate (though there are usually a few safe rooms). (2) A restricted PK system, in which player killers must register. Only registered PK players can kill or be killed by other players. (3) The No PK system, in which the MUD doesnít allow any player killing at all. If you are concerned about PK, pick your mud with care, and you may not ever have to deal with it.

Getting Yourself all MUDdy

The commands on MUDs are, to some degree, standardized. These commands will work nearly everywhere:

Any time you log on to a new mud, youíll be prompted to give a name and password before you can begin the character creation process. On some muds, youíll have to register via email before you can create your character. On nearly every mud, you can log on as "guest" and look around to see whatís going on and what the place is like. Finally, many MUDs have home pages on the World Wide Web, as well as player-run pages giving additional hints, tips, maps, and the like.

Your first move upon logging into a new MUD should always be a review of the help files. Thereís usually a "help newbie" command which will give you a list of the ways in which the MUD might differ from "standard" MUDs, as well as instructions on how to get started and what areas are appropriate and not as deadly for the new player.

Copyright© 1999 by Axid of 3Kingdoms - Used with permission