You may think society is getting rather too violent, but whether the idea appeals to you or not, combat is the prevalent occupation of mud players - their targets are usually big bad NPCs or sometimes each other, on player-killing muds. Whether you intend to be a pacifist in later MUD-life or to continue pounding anything that behaves suspiciously like an NPC into the ground, every newbie usually starts off having to kill little creatures to advance levels.
Battle systems vary dramatically from MUD to MUD, so I shall cover only the 'common ground' here. Your health in a MUD depends on how many hit points you have. The fewer you have, the closer you are to death. As you advance levels, note that your total number of hit points increases. You can regenerate hit points usually just by standing around and resting, but good adventurers prefer to hasten their healing by gorging themselves on food or numbing themselves with good doses of alcohol. When you attack a monster, battle ensues until one of you kicks the bucket or runs away. Remember, he/she who runs away will live to fight another day. Don't be foolhardy. Most MUDs have a 'wimpy' function. Remember to set 'wimpy', which is an automatic run-away system that forces your character to flee whenever his/her hit points get dangerously low. Beware of rooms where 'wimpy' doesn't work and of dangerous areas where 'wimpy' might just bring you into another room with an even more aggressive monster. Too many careless adventurers (even top players) have been killed this way.
After you type "kill <monstername>", combat ensues until
one of you runs away or is killed. You don't have to do anything - you
will hit (or miss) your opponent automatically. How hard you hit (and
how hard your opponent hits) depends on the type of weapon you are wielding
and your strength. In some MUDs, the efficacy of your weapon is also dependent
on your skill in wielding that particular weapon type. Newbies usually
have to make do with daggers and hand axes while more experienced players
can move on to the real weapons. Also, how hard you get hit depends
on the type of armour you are wearing.
When engaged in battle, you just see a series (seemingly interminable when you are a lowly newbie) of hits exchanged between you and your opponent. Whoever deals the dying blow will usually get all the experience points alloted for that certain kill. After battle, always check the corpse of your defeated foe to see if there might be any goodies in its pockets, or any gold fillings you might pry from its teeth. If you die instead, you'll temporarily lose most of your faculties. Go to the church and pray, and you'll be reincarnated with a fresh new body, perhaps with weakened attributes (and certainly far fewer experience points). You can always go back to the scene of your untimely demise and recover your belongings from your corpse.
A sample battle scene on a MUD:
Rush is a grossly overweight gasbag who looks obviously annoyed at your presence. His forehead is gleaming with sweat and his cheap polyester suit looks much too tight for him. He is rapping his fingers on the table irritably, waiting for you to leave the room before he begins speaking into the microphone.
Rush lunges at you and hits you with his microphone!
If you do not MUD solely to socialise (which you can do on IRC anyway), engaging in battle is one of your main occupations. Its the most common way to gain experience points in any MUD.