Harley Hahn's
Guide to Muds


Chapter 1...

What is a Mud?

A mud is an elaborate computer-mediated, imaginary environment. To use a mud, you connect over the Internet to a special computer program. Once you connect, you log in by typing a user name and password. You then assume the role of a particular character.

As a character, you participate in whatever activities are available on the mud. These may include talking to other people, playing games, solving puzzles, exploring, fighting, having adventures, and so on. From time to time, you may even take part in a group event, such as a wedding.

Each time you return to a particular mud, you will be the same character. Although it is possible to change, many people will develop a character and maintain it for months or even years. If you join more than one mud, you can use similar characters — perhaps with the same name — or you can adopt a completely different persona for each mud.

The interface to a mud is text-based, which means that most everything is done with words. In essence, your experience will be one of typing and reading. You participate in a mud by typing commands and messages. At the same time, you read words typed by another person (greetings, messages, and so on) or generated by the mud program itself (descriptions of places or events).

All muds have a geography: a planned layout that describes an imaginary environment. One mud might have different rooms to explore; another mud might look like a village with roads, houses, stores, and so on. Some muds are modeled after real places. For example, there is a mud that looks like part of London; another mud looks like Harvard University; others are modeled after well-known imaginary places, such as King Arthur's Camelot or the world of Alice in Wonderland.

Although all muds include lots of talking with other people, some are designed primarily for talk while others are designed for action. Most muds are designed around a general theme, for example, fantasy, medieval, sci-fi, cyperpunk, gothic or post-apocalypse. Some muds have a specific theme. For instance, there are muds based on Pern, Star Trek, Star Wars, Snow Crash and other well-known settings.

As a character in a mud, you use commands to travel from one place to another. The mud program interprets your commands and keeps track of your current location. When you move, the program will tell you where you are and describe your surroundings. You can travel through a mud by yourself or with other people. All muds — even those designed primarily for talking — have some type of geography. You are always somewhere, and there is always somewhere to go.

Muds are enduring because people log in regularly. The people in the mud form a large extended family who over a period of time come to know each other well. It is common for people to spend a lot of time on their favorite mud, returning every day, sometimes for years. (For example, a college student who is a regular mud user would probably talk to his mud friends more often than he phones his mother.)

What is the mud culture like? Here is an actual message sent from one mud person to another. Don't worry if you can't understand what they are talking about. By the time you finish reading this guide, it will all make sense.

I tried a diku tonite named Aesir. Have you heard of it?

It's a really friendly mud. PK is optional. They have 11 races. (I've never been on a mud with so many races.)

I haven't figured out the clan thing, but they have 4. (I don't know if that is typical or not.)

But the thing that strikes me the most is 1) diku seems quite complicated compared to an LP, and 2) Aesir is soooooo friendly. Truly amazing.

Embarrassing, but lucky thing: I got killed in their mud school, so I ended up meeting this guy who gave me a ton of gold and all the equipment I could possibly hold. :-) (yay!)

Aside from meeting your friends, there is another reason to return to the same mud repeatedly. You can explore the environment and learn more about that particular mud. On some muds, as you get better and better, you achieve a higher status and are given more privileges.

As I mentioned, your time on a mud is spent as a character, not as yourself. This is true even on a mud devoted to talking. For example, you would never refer to someone by his or her real name, even if you knew the person in real life.

On a mud devoted to action and adventure, your character becomes an avatar: a surrogate whom you control as you travel around, talking with others and interacting with the environment. For example, you may need to fight a giant or avoid a monster who hides in a cave. When you do, you use your skill as best you can, so your character is not killed. On such muds, who and what you are is of prime importance. At all times, the mud program, as well as the other people, will recognize your identity, description, skills, possessions and experience, and will react accordingly. For instance, if you are an evil female elf warrior, your life will be different than if you are a male human magician who uses his powers for good.

It is important to understand that muds are not based on organized role playing in the traditional Dungeons and Dragons sense. There is no one person who rolls the dice, or asks people to make decisions, or invents a story within the bounds of a make-believe universe. Some muds, however, do have people who work actively behind the scenes, expanding the mud and creating new theme areas.

In addition, all muds have one or more administrators. After all, somebody has to set up the computer and the mud itself, and somebody has to see to all the administrative tasks. However, within the mud, everyone is a character. Although some characters may be more experienced and have significantly more privileges, no one leads you on a day-by-day basis. You are free to explore and talk to people in your own way. Muds do have rules and customs that you are expected to follow, but on a well-run mud, there are no insecure authority figures who will tell you what to do whenever they feel like it, as you might find at school, on the job, or in your family.

— hint —

To learn how to mud well, you have to be smart.

However, you do not have to know a lot about computers.