Let’s RPG Like It’s 1999

Posted by admin on April 23rd, 2016 filed in Games, Science Fiction

When chatting with some game masters about flawed dungeon and dragons characters, I remembered my first MUD character at uni…

For people who don’t know what a MUD is: A Multi-User Dimension is a free MMORPG, text only, with a command line. The map is split up into “rooms” with descriptions of what you see and where exits are, and you walk by typing “north”, “down”, etc. You interact by typing “put 3.key in 2.backpack” or “take all” or “wield dagger”. You fight by typing “consider dragon” and “backstab dragon” and “dodge” and “cast heal self” etc. Apart from that, it’s just like any MMORPG. :-)
Pros: Extremely low bandwidth and system requirements — As long as you have a terminal with telnet, you can play MUD on a potato. It’s multi-player, so you can group and chat with others all over the world.
Cons: Navigating without visuals takes getting used to. The game’s pace is slower than in MMORPGs. Your survival depends on your reading and touch typing speed.

The DikuMud was called Imperial, and my (flawed) character was a Lemyrian Bard. It had great constitution (I was the backstabbing tank for my fellow students’ mages) , I could solo early on, I stole so many coins from “hidden” thief NPCs that I could pay out stipends, and I could explore the under-water parts of the map with ease. On the other hand, the game did not let me train some important skills (e.g. the mana regeneration song) to 100%, and those skills were what high-level groups were looking for in a Bard. The flaws only became apparent in higher levels, and I had fun playing and exploring the map anyway.

Did I tell the story were I naively pick-pocketed a shop owner accidentally on purpose? I didn’t know how low the odds were, but I succeeded in stealing a valuable, overpowered warhammer. The game had a flight mode, so that, if your character’s health was below a certain value, it would immediately flee in a randomly chosen direction. In that random direction could be a solid wall, or a death trap, or one of the room’s exits — so depending on the environment, you either died anyway or got a chance to escape. In the shop-owner scenario, there was only one exit. The merciful Randomizer let me escape after the shop-owner’s wrath reduced me to 1 hp in one round. A shop-owner usually hits a lot harder, but… well, he didn’t have his warhammer… :D Don’t try that at home, kids.

Of course I don’t remember my password, and there’s no reason they would have kept my inactive character… But inspired by that related conversation, I dug up the old MUD links (and handdrawn maps). Imperial was the typical Dungeon&Dragons like “medieval” RPG with warriors, rogues, mages, ivory towers, and dragons. My old MUD server doesn’t exist anymore, but I assume it moved to telnet://imperial.modeemi.fi:6969 now, because the immortals’ names sound familiar.

I know what you are thinking: MUDs are so last millennium! Time to create a new character! No 1000-Euro gaming PCs is complete without a telnet game from the nineties! Wait, that wasn’t what you were thinking? Well, too late. :-P I went to http://www.mudconnect.com, looking for scifi or cyberpunk games.

The first one whose description I liked was http://www.iconoclast.org/. The web page has tabletop RPG rules (can’t vouch how good they are), and shortstories to describe their original dystopian Cyberpunk world (relatively well written, with lots of tragic internal conflicts). The characters are humans, mutants, cyborgs, vampires, werewolves, or a mixture. And did I mention that everyone is very tragic? Iconoclast.org gets a growny point for naming their world’s mutant program something that smoothly abbreviates to G.O.T.H. :D [A growny point is a brownie point, awarded for making a bad pun, I just decided.] Alas, the server no longer accepts members, and the last blog entry is fom 2008. Oh well.

Long search story short: Eventually I chose telnet://CyberAssault.org:11111. This server still runs, there are a few players online, and they are friendly. That’s the best you can ask for in such an old game type. The commands are a variant of the dikuMud commands that I am already familiar with, so it’s easy to learn. The Immortals answer questions, fix typos, and literally add help files for questions while I’m asking them. They still add a bit of new content every day (for example crafting). The play style is simple hack&slash with some quests.

The CyberAssault.org world is an apocalyptic futuristic hightech wasteland with some civilization left in crumbling cities. Characters have many slots to install various cyborg implants. There are flying cars and kevlar and guns and scifi laser weapons and robots… If you meet someone who is, say, level “Remort x4”, it means he’s so advanced that level counting has rolled over and started at 1 again, four times. I myself am still low level, and I kept getting lost, but if you want to try a scifi MUD in 2016, Cyber Assault is a good place to start.

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