A Brief Introduction to MUDs
by Mary H Kelly

Several members of RPGSIG have expressed an interest in learning more about Multi-User Dungeons, or MUDs. I began mudding in July 1996 and quickly became hooked. Herewith is my attempt to describe MUDs -- in particular the one with which I'm most familiar, AVATAR.

Basically, a MUD is an online text-based hack-and-slash game; a majority of MUDs fall into the fantasy genre. On AVATAR, a player creates a character by selecting a name, race (human, elf, drow (dark elf), dwarf, duergar (dark dwarf), halfling, half-elf, gnome, deep gnome, sprite, giant, ogre, troll, orc, half-orc, lizardman, kzinti (felinoid), dragon, centaur, griffon, gargoyle, goblin), class (warrior, mage, cleric, rogue, ranger, psion, monk), and gender (male, female, neuter). Initial stats (strength, intelligence, wisdom, dexterity, constitution) are set according to race and class. Each race has a unique combination of advantages and disadvantages; drow, for example, get a bonus to intelligence, minuses to strength and constitution, infravision, and no-sun (they cannot regenerate hit points or mana when exposed to sunlight). Beginning players (newbies) should first visit "MUDschool" to get better acquainted with rules, commands, and game mechanics.

Experience points are acquired by killing creatures (called 'mobiles' or 'mobs' in MUD-speak). Accumulating a certain number of XP (which varies by race) earns the character a level, along with additional hit points, mana (for spell-casting classes), moves (which determine how far a character can walk without dropping from exhaustion), and practices. Practices can be spent to raise stats and to learn skills and spells. On AVATAR, a character who attains level 51 is considered a Hero; a character who reaches Hero level 500 or higher (there are 999 Hero levels) may attempt to become an even more powerful Lord.

As your character advances in levels, you must defeat tougher mobs in order to gain experience. A variety of areas, each rated according to the level of mobs it contains, await the explorer -- cities and towns, towers and keeps, caverns and labyrinths, wilderness and mountains, airborne, underground, and underwater, even the astral plane. Several areas on AVATAR are based on themes quite familiar to role-players; for example, Cimmeria from the Conan novels, and a Brothers Grimm area featuring Snow White, Rapunzel, and the Brave Little Tailor. A great number of areas are unique to AVATAR MUD, and new ones are added frequently.

Each character begins with very basic equipment -- clothing, a light source, and a weapon. Adventuring gear such as torches, bags of holding, and potions can be purchased from various fine merchants throughout the land. The best armor and weapons are acquired by slaying the mobs that bear them, then looting their corpses. Unwanted equipment may be simply discarded, sacrificed to the gods (which may earn you a few coins, a small boon, or a curse), sold to certain vendors (who will turn around and resell the stuff at a dramatic markup), or it may be donated -- sent to a special room and made available to other players for the taking.

Most of the fun in mudding (for me, anyway) is in interacting with other players. I've gotten to know several of them quite well, and have even met a few IRL (in real life). Whilte I've been fairly successful with building some powerful characters, it's the anticipation of seeing my AVATAR friends that keeps me logging on day after day. AVATAR attracts players from around the globe; I've chatted with people in England, Sweden, Finland, Israel, The Netherlands, Turkey, Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Africa, Australia, Canada, and Brazil. Players' ages, I would guess, fall mainly in the 12-to-25 range, though some are younger and many are, like me, rather older.

In order to connect to most MUDs, you will need a computer with access to telnet (through an Internet Service Provider, for example). Use of a telnet client (terminal program) designed for mudding, such as zMUD, is strongly recommended.

AVATAR is owned and operated by Kevin Jagh, better known as Snikt. AVATAR's webpage, which contains lots of information about mudding in general as well as AVATAR in particular, may be accessed here. To play on AVATAR, telnet to avatar.outland.org:3000.

Other MUD resources:

  • The MUD Connector -- a continually-updated, searchable database of hundreds of active MUDs. This site also features many excellent help files, discussion boards, and a player directory.
  • Zuggsoft, home of zMUD, a telnet client specifically designed for mudding. Versions for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95/98 are available. Shareware, and well worth the registration fee.

    (Originally appeared in Re:Quests!, issue #43, November 1997, pp. 28-29; Mary H Kelly, editor. Updated 11/12/99 by MHK.)

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