Saturday, October 13, 2012


So this blog is dedicated to tabletop gaming, but I did want to discuss two related experiences.

Related Experience #1: MUDding

So earlier this year, I started playing an old school text MUD. It was kind of cool...I had to make maps and use my imagination. I died a lot, but it was fun regardless. The world had some pretty cool stuff in it. Then the guy who administrated the thing had to get serious about finishing his PhD and shut the thing down very suddenly. I was pissed. (Also, is it like, hand-cranked internet or something? Why not just leave it running?)

A few weeks ago, I found a replacement MUD. This MUD has quite a few differences from the one I played previously. The two experiences sort of remind me of different editions of the Game, or old school vs. new school. Some thoughts: ( I shall refer to the deceased MUD as MUD A and the current MUD as MUD B)

Races- MUD A had only six races (the AD&D set minus half-orcs), and race only provided bonuses to certain saving throws and a *slight* nudge toward combat or magic; so slight that you still saw plenty of Elf Warriors and Dwarf Necromancers.  MUD B has something like a dozen races, including weird shit like "gaunt ones" (zombie dudes?) and Japanese cat-people.Race affects all of your stats and your potential to be stealthy, and the game actually tells you which races are best for which classes and will not work for others. (You can do a Dwarf Mage in MUD A, but in MUD B this character is going to be pretty ineffective and unable to roll in level appropriate zones.)

Classes- MUD A had five classes. (The standard F/M/C/T quartet, plus Necromancers) The non-magic classes had some pretty interesting skills; thieves could trip in combat and fighters could interpose themselves between monsters and weaker party members. (Or take the heat off another fighter who was wearing down on hp.) The spellcasters had cool non-combat spells: invisibility, infravision, various detection spells... necromancers could send a ghostly herald to deliver a message elsewhere in the game, etc. The skills and spells lead to some pretty interesting tactical decisions in combat, which was pretty cool considering that combat would otherwise be a scrolling wall of multi-colored text.

MUD B has something like fourteen classes. You have your standard AD&D roll call, including a version of the monk. Beyond that, the game has a number of "combo" classes like the warlock (fighter/mage), the missionary (thief/cleric), the gypsy (thief/mage) etc. The game also has classes that are essentially specialized versions of "standard classes": the witch-hunter is a fighter will greatly increased combat ability and magic resistance, but who is unable to use magic weapons and whose resistance blunts allied/friendly magic. The ninja is a version of the thief with much better stealth and backstabbing abilities, plus cooler weapons, but decreased lock/trap abilities.

There are a lot of witch-hunters and ninjas, and very very few warriors or thieves. Just sayin'.

PvP- MUD A has lots of PvP, though the game's system of informal alliances made PvP a somewhat dangerous prospect; you never knew who was friends with who. I killed a character who was annoying me, only to find out he had a high level mage buddy...of course, I was rescued by my own high level pals when said mage charmed me and lead me out into a dangerous area to leave me there naked and temporarily blind.

In MUD B, PvP is forbidden, as is stealing from other characters. You aren't even allowed to loot the corpse of a player that you may find in some forgotten dungeon. This isn't enforced in the game's code, but you will be banned. I was given a warning for grabbing the rare and powerful weapon of a friend of mind when he died on a quest with me. (I wanted to get it back to him quickly) My email explaining that it was for my friend (and that I couldn't even use the weapon in question) was ignored.

Helping- In MUD A, life is tough. High level players will give you advice, but the game does not allow players with more than three levels of disparity to exchange money, items or assist each other. That means that if you're level 5, you can't roll with level 1 characters or level 9 characters. Players might give you directions to get to a place, but nobody shares maps.

In MUD B, high level characters will often run a low level character through a dungeon to level him fast. They give you loot. They give you powerful weapons. The maps are posted online.

Cheating- In MUD A, you cannot play more than one character at the same time. You cannot play the character with a scripting program.

In MUD B, most people script most of the time. This perplexes me. Is the game so boring that you'll actually use a program to play it for you? If the first twenty levels are not worth playing manually.. maybe your game sucks.
I think lots of players run parties of characters at the same time, often all scripting together.

Death- In MUD A, death is not permanent, but you lose *tons* of xp for dying. Dying sucks. A lot. You can get your gear back by making a deal with a sinister NPC, but he often takes a magic item or two for his troubles, and your stats are drained for a day of game time. You can permanently lose items as well if you wait too long.

In MUD B, you can actually permanently die, but only if you die nine times in the same experience level. Dying means loss of property, but your high level buddies will run you to your body or just give you more money. Death is a minor hassle.

Game World- In MUD A, dungeons and zones had widely variable monsters in them. You might b have been whopping ass on level 2, but when you got down to 3, it was a different story. Some dungeons kept you occupied for many levels as you dug down deep into the depths. Dungeons were often a long ways away from towns, often through wilderness that held monsters of varied level. (At the bottom of a dungeon full of orcs was a temple full of demons, including a boss that nearly killed me in one shot.) In MUD A, running into a monster you'd never met before was always potentially cause for alarm.

In MUD B, dungeons are usually pretty near town. (Not always) If they aren't, you can use a GOTO command to pretty much zap yourself there. Monsters are usually around the same level, with the occasional boss that is a bit tougher. In this MUD, running into a monster means that monster is probably roughly as tough as the monsters in this dungeon have been thus far.

I'm not sure if MUDding is for me, especially with MUD A being gone. It feels strange to play a game where the actual playing of the game is widely seen as a chore best handled via computer program.

1 comment:

  1. MUD A sounded like a dream come true.

    I've got a little bit of MUD experience, and it seems like most of them are a bit like MUD B, with lots of high fantasy, and lots of automation and very little cohesion or tension.

    Well, you could always ask him for the source code and host it yourself. I haven't the foggiest what that entails, but it might be an option, assuming that he really is interested in his PhD and didn't shut it down out of some sort of temperamental feud.