The Social Aspects of MUDs

General Etiquette
It would do well for everyone to remember that there is a real person, an actual psychological entity behind the collection of glowing phosphor bits on the screen. As a general rule, treat people you encounter on the MUD as you would if you met them in "real life". This may not go down so well with hardcore role players, so I should rephrase this and say that even if one were acting out a role, one need not be nasty or hurtful to others. If you choose to be a real twat as a player, then don't be surprised if others refuse to help you. You might find players ganging up against you or even trying to kill you, if you're on a MUD where player killing is allowed. So, be polite and responsible. Don't loot corpses, don't steal NPCs other players have been working on. Abide by the playing rules (it is important for a player to be always aware of the laws of the MUD they are playing). Last but not least, be generous and kind to newbies. No matter how big and powerful you get, remember that you too, were once a clueless newbie.

This seems to be a prevalent attitude in some MUDs. People are strongly encouraged to take on a certain persona (which may be completely different from their actual personalities) and play these characters accordingly. For example, some players might opt to play a completely mute character, and so will refuse to "say" anything to anyone. These role-players will almost never discuss anything about their actual lives with you, so never take them for what/whom they appear to be. Some people enjoy role-playing their alter egos whereas many other people prefer playing just as themselves. It is entirely up to you how much you wish to reveal about yourself.

Partying is a great way to get to know the geography of the MUD when you're new to the game. To "party up" with someone means to join a group that the player has formed. In most MUDs, there is some form of the "party" command which allows you to form a party and add members to it, who must agree to joining your group before they are included. Party leaders are usually the most experienced players in their individual groups and they will "drag" the party members around the MUD with them. There is an automatic-following system implemented in parties that allow members just to sit tight and watch as their leader takes them on a long walk.
If there is a particularly difficult NPC you cannot subdue alone, it is a good idea to attempt killing it in a party of two or three people. "Strength in numbers" is usually true in MUD gameplay, although you must remember that the exp points allocated for the kill will also be distributed among the party members. The larger your party, the fewer exp points you will get for each kill. This is the main reason why more powerful players don't often party up - they want all the exp points they can get. Booty from kills is also distributed among the members, although how this is done is usually up to the members themselves.
The distribution of exp points is also uneven, depending on your player level. If the party comprises players of equal levels, then exp points will be divided equally. However, if you're a newbie at level 1 and you're partying with a level 5, you will only get at most, 20% of exp points for the kill. The distribution ratios for partying varies from MUD to MUD, but in general, it is never advantageous for a newbie to party with a strong player, for he/she will only end up with a meagre percentage of the total exp points. However, the pros of this system is that the newbie gets to see more MUD areas that he/she would never have ventured to alone.

You do not have to form a party or join another party to play with other people. Quite often, a gang of players would attempt a particularly big NPC and the one who deals the dying blow will end up with all the exp points. Since this system is so dependent on chance, its usually a much better idea to "party up" so exp points can be doled out more fairly.

There are many MUDs which allow player-killing, whereas other MUDs ban them because of the administrative problems that too often arise from players killing one another for all sorts of reasons. Some people kill out of sheer spite and malice, others kill to steal equipment from their victims. There are a few individuals who MUD solely for this purpose - to kill weaker players and steal their gold and equipment. They are usually very strong players who know the ins and outs of the MUD and enough tricks not to be caught. Most MUDs disallow the player killing of newbies, and some others strongly discourage it by automatically throwing player-killers into "prison" or the "holding room" for long periods of time to cool their heels.
Unless it is explicitly stated in the rules of the MUD, player-killing is usually frowned upon by wizards and the administrative gods, and the crime rarely goes unpunished.

Crime and Punishment
While generally being an utter oik isn't a crime in most wizards' eyes, certain offences are punishable by a spell in the holding room, demotion, character-removal and in extreme case, a site-ban. Player-killing is usually punished by a long spell in prison cells where a player has to "serve" a certain number of hours and is isolated from the rest of the players in a special room. But if player-killing has not been disabled from a MUD, it is usually not illegal to kill other players - only discouraged.
Sexual harassment of other players is deemed a more serious offence, and depending on the laws and the gods implementing them, your character might be demoted or removed from the game altogether if found guilty.
Other serious offences include cheating. Bug exploitation is especially serious. If you discover a bug in the game and make no effort to report it, and instead, exploit it to your own ends, especially if it helps you gain exp points or gold - this is usually a very serious offence punishable by character removal or banishment.
Swearing in shouts or public chat lines is also not kosher, and depending on the severity, you may be gagged or "sore-throated" i.e temporarily rendered unable to speak on the chat lines or shout. This gagging action is usually carried out by a wizard.
It is always important to read the rules the first time you log into a MUD, after looking through the general FAQs. What is acceptable in one MUD may not be acceptable in another.

MUD Marriage
As in real life, one can choose to get married on a MUD. Getting MUD-married has none of its real life implications, one can just as easily divorce the other player by typing a few lines in a special room or appealing to a wizard. MUD marriage is just a sign of commitment or friendship - between two characters. In the event of a divorce, there won't be any hassles concerning the division of property or child custody issues. If you meet another player whom you take a certain liking to, the both of you might decide to MUD-marry to seal your special on-line relationship. This, by no means, indicates that this sort of mutual affection will invariably spill over into real life! This is where many MUD players get their hearts broken - they project their fantasies about their ideal partner onto the other player and expect that person to live up to all their expectations if they eventually meet up in real life. The main thing to remember is to have no expectations of anyone, except reasonable expectations that they are fairly decent and nice people, and not psychotic chain-saw killers eager to set up a real life meeting just so they can have something new to add to their severed head collection. That is a reasonable expectation. To expect Ms or Mr Right when you meet up with your MUD hubby or wife for the first time almost guarantees bitter disappointment.
In MUDs, you can get married by going to a special wedding chapel designed for that purpose with your partner and exchanging vows. Some MUDs require a third player to officiate the ceremony, usually a monk or priest/priestess. Other playes can be invited to attend your wedding, and if the both of you are popular, it can be quite a grand and sociable event - the MUD equivalent of a real life party. You will each be given wedding rings to keep in your inventories - this will never be dropped unless you divorce - and in some cases, after the vows, you will be whisked off to a honeymoon suite.... which, sequaciously, brings us to the somewhat controversial topic of.....

Before I begin, I must emphasise that not everyone who is married on the MUD has engaged in this sort of thing. Two players don't have to be married to have an on-line romp. I personally find mud sex a puerile and distasteful affair, mainly reserved for sad adolescents with raging hormones that they can't channel into any useful and wholesome outlet - such as origami or flower arrangement. But quite a few people readily engage in this sort of thing, away from prying eyes, usually in a special honeymoon suite designed for that purpose. The use of emotes and echos further enhances this sort of activity, which couldn't really get very far if one were restricted to the generic MUD emote commands of 'grope' and 'kiss'. As a result, one is only limited by one's imagination. Since smut is such a major preoccupation of our modern generation, this is a more common activity than you might suppose. I'm not using this space to judge those who do it - it is entirely up to you, but if you're an easily offended sort of person, or playing from a crowded cybercafe, the risks of indulging far outweigh its benefits, if any.

If there's anything I learned from my years of MUDding experience that has any sociological, real life impact, it's that a good 80-90% of players are male, both in real life and on the MUD. Male characters as newbies tend to get ignored whereas female newbies get a lot of attention (often unsolicited). As a result, a small number of men might choose to play female characters to get an easier ride. In general, many more men would play as female characters than the reverse. Female characters might only choose to play as male characters to avoid the harassment and come-ons that female characters often encounter. There are also some MUDs that allow people to choose neuter characters.
I have found that it is always very easy to 'spot' a man playing as a female character, although some are much better disguised than most. And learn this valuable lesson: no one is necessarily what he or she claims to be on the MUD. A game is a game, never take anything too seriously, especially MUD relationships.

A Glossary

monster stealing
Some players work on certain NPCs for long periods of time. If they can't kill the NPC in one run, they usually leave the NPC and go away to get nourishment to heal. It is extremely rude to walk into a room with a battered (but not dead) NPC, finish it off and consequently, receive all the exp points, when you did not do most of the work. If you are unsure whether anyone is working on an NPC, always ask on the public lines. And make sure you look at the NPC; if it is in less than perfect shape, it must have been claimed by someone else.

corpse looting
When players get killed in the course of battle, their corpses remain at the scene of death. These corpses contain all their equipment and money - and will gradually rot while their ghosts must return to a temple/church to pray to regain new bodies. Running back to the temple, getting a new body and waiting until some hit points have regenerated usually take time - and all this while, their equipment/money-laden corpses are hopelessly vulnerable to thieves. Some players, known as corpse looters, will be first at the scene of a player's death to loot the corpse so there will be nothing left by the time the player himself/herself returns to his/her corpse.

corpse stealing
There are some players, known as corpse stealers, who patiently stand by and wait while another player is killing an NPC. As soon as the NPC dies, however, the corpse stealer will get all from corpse and run. This tends to happen in reboot situations when equipment is scarce.

dest / rid
Dest is an abbreviation of 'destruct' and to be "dested" means to be "destructed", i.e removed forcibly from the game, usually by a wizard. This does not only apply to players - objects, NPCs etc. in the game can also be dested. For example, if an NPC code has a bug in it that prevents it from dying despite having negative hit points, a player can call a wizard in to help. This troublesome NPC is usually 'dested' by the wizard.
If players get dested by wizards, it usually means they have done something terribly wrong. The sort of "desting" varies from MUD to MUD. In some MUDs, if you get dested, you can just re-log back in with your same character. In more extreme cases, to be "dested" means to have your character completely erased from the MUD server.

As the MUD runs over time, more and more objects get loaded into memory as players run around exploring new areas and finding new toys to play with. At some point, the server running the MUD will gradually run out of memory (RAM) and if this situation is not checked by a senior wizard, a 'crash' will occur. Since crashes are almost always disastrous occurrences, wizards prevent this by announcing 'reboot' every X hours (usually more than 10-15). In a reboot, the entire MUD server is shut down, arrays are cleared and memory is "freed up". So all objects on the MUD are destroyed during a reboot, which is why players rush to the shop to sell their goods for hard cash when reboot is announced. Reboot is usually announced about 30 minutes before the game is shut down to allow players time to finish up whatever they were doing and sell their stuff. Remember that in most LPMuds, only 'sticky' objects like wedding rings etc. and a player's cash are retained over a reboot.
Reboot times range from a few seconds to almost 15 minutes, depending on the hardware the MUD is running on and the type of MUD driver.
When a player says he or she is "doing reboot", it means he or she is starting from scratch as soon as the MUD restarts, because there are no weapons readily available for sale in the shop or left lying around... he or she would have to fight NPCs with his/her bare fists for equipment. This is also called "fighting naked" because the player is completely unarmoured. Some players enjoy playing reboot because that is when one can accumulate a powerful set of weapons that only appear once per reboot. If you're one of those people, it is helpful to have some sort of reboot strategy.

This is pretty much like what happens when you overload your Windows PC with too many applications. The screen will freeze up, the keyboard will lock up and the mouse pointer may sometimes disappear, rendering your entire PC useless. You will have to turn it off and on again to get it to work (i.e reboot your computer). In a MUD, a crash happens usually when the server runs out of memory. This often happens if a MUD is not regularly reboot. Suddenly, during gameplay, you may find the game shutting down immediately, without warning, and you will lose your connection. When you re-log back in, you will find that all your equipment has vanished and you have to start again from scratch.
The frequency of crashes depends a lot on the administration of the MUD by wizards. Sometimes, a bug in the code can cause infinite looping, which will invariably result in a crash.
This is why it is always important to 'save' your character from time to time. Most MUDs will auto-save your character every 5-10 minutes. Saving is analogous to backing up your data, or saving your file from time to time while working on your word processor. So if the MUD crashes, you will revert to your last-saved character (i.e retain the skill levels, money and exp point levels). There is no way you can retain your equipment in the event of a crash.

Wizards are empowered to 'gag' anyone who habitually harasses other players or uses obscenities on the public lines, either by shouting or using the public chat lines, where everyone logged on can hear them. When a player is gagged, he or she can still talk normally, but will be deprived of the ability to shout or speak on the public chat lines. This is usually only a temporary condition, and wizards will usually un-gag players after a chat with them about their behaviour.

reset / regen
MUDs usually reset every 20-30 minutes. This means that all the original characteristics of a particular room or object are restored. If you open a door in a room and leave it open, it means that at the next reset, the door will automatically be closed. Likewise, if an NPC is killed, it will 'regenerate' or 'regen' at the next reset.
Resetting NPCs etc. is necessary because a MUD has so many players. If reset did not occur, then most of the NPCs would be gone after only a few hours, especially with a few zealous players around. If you want to kill an NPC for its special weapon or armour, and its not there when you get to its lair, you'll only have to wait until the next reset period for the NPC to regen.
There are of course, some NPCs which never regenerate. These are usually NPCs with very special items, perhaps for a difficult quest. Once it has been killed, it will not reappear until the MUD itself is restarted, i.e reboot.
The reset period is fixed and constant no matter which area of the MUD you are in. This reset figure is set by the MUD administrators in the MUD driver configuration file itself, and is not easily changed at whim.

castle / area
When a wizard speaks of coding a 'castle', it may not necessarily mean an actual castle. This word 'castle' has been traditionally used to mean areas or chunks of code belonging to a particular wizard. Each 'castle' or 'area' has its own unique theme determined by the wizard who coded it. In an object-oriented world like a MUD, rooms, objects, NPCs can be added to the game without disrupting the general flow, i.e the MUD does not have to be shut down and recompiled to accommodate an extra piece of code. A MUD usually consists of a generic area which comes with the original mudlib, with unique areas that are added on by the MUD's wizards. Wizards are often given free rein about the sort of areas they will code. Some areas will naturally become more popular than others, depending on the types of weapons/armour available and the NPCs that lurk in there.
To a new wizard who has just finished coding an area, "opening the castle" is a grand event - the day that the area has been approved by higher ranking wizards for inclusion in the MUD. Jaded players would also welcome the opening of new areas because this means new themes and places to explore.

site ban
This is the most severe punishment meted out to misbehaving players by the MUD administration. Some players might habitually disregard rules and repeat past, serious offenses with no intention of turning over a new leaf. The law wizards might then consider site-banning the player, which means, to ban all log-ins from a particular site. For example, if your ISP is, then the MUD may ban ALL log-ins from, regardless of whether the log-in attempt comes from you or some other innocent party. This is usually a very drastic action and rarely carried out except in extreme circumstances, when nothing else seems to work. If the pernicious offender is from a smaller site, i.e a small high school somewhere in Uzbekistan, chances are rather good that no one else will attempt to log in from that site and site-banning it is probably be a good idea.

sticky objects
Sticky objects are items that stay with you throughout your MUDding career. There are very few items that are 'sticky' - among those are class or guild leader rings and wedding rings. These will remain in your inventory even when you quit, and should remain even after a crash occurs. These objects are also called 'sticky' because they can't be dropped. If you need to get rid of them for a special reason, you will have to talk to a wizard.

Banishment means that your character is "dested" i.e erased completely from the MUD, and all subsequent log-ins using the same name is also banned. To illustrate this, for example, if your name is Prat and you make such a nuisance of yourself that most of the players and wizards want you dead. Your character may be "dested" and erased completely. However, a plain desting does not prevent you or someone else from logging in again as a fresh character called Prat. Banishment means that the name itself is also banned from the MUD, so if you want to play there again, you have to use a new character and a new name.
In some cases, banishment also involves a site-ban.

This does the same thing as the TCP/IP command, i.e you can find out the last time a person logged on simply by using the finger command. The finger command in MUDs also reveals other information about the player, i.e his/her level, race, class, age (occasionally), a plan (occasionally) and so on.

A plan is the bunch of text that appears in a player's finger information. Historically, a 'plan' was meant for people to display their job functions, but these days, people usually stick in personal information, bad poetry, witty quotes or ASCII art.

holding room
A holding room or cell is where a troublesome player is sometimes magically transferred to by a wizard, to prevent him/her from interfering with other players' gameplay.

link death
A player goes link-dead when he/she is disconnected from the game, but not by quitting. Typing 'quit' will properly disconnect a player from the game - he/she will automatically drop anything he/she is carrying and all the other important parameters will be saved. However, if for some reason, a player's telnet link dies or computer crashes during gameplay, connection with the MUD is lost, and the player is link-dead. Other players in the same room will receive a message about the player losing his/her link. The MUD continually polls a player's connection and registers the player as 'link-dead' if the connection is somehow lost. If the player reconnects, i.e re-logs in after going link-dead, he/she will just resume control of the character where he/she left it. No equipment will be dropped, nor will the player be moved back to his/her starting position in the game upon reconnection.
Some players deliberately cut their link to the game in panicked combat situations where there appears to be no way out except almost certain death. For example, a player might lag so badly that he or she can no longer grasp what is happening in battle, so a wise thing to do is to cut one's link, sit tight and reconnect a while later to assess the damage. Going link-dead often saves a player from dying in battle, because NPCs cannot attack link-dead players.
Link-dead players are also not listed on 'who'.
If your player is link-dead for more than 30 minutes, he/she will automatically be forced to quit by the MUD. All equipment remaining in the player's inventory will be converted into cash.

If a person starts up several simultaneous telnet connections to the MUD and controls two or more different characters at the same time (made possible by having windows-based operating systems) then he or she is 'multiplaying'. This is almost always illegal in all MUDs and regarded as cheating. Wizards who have access to player's IP addresses can quickly identify these offenders and deal with them.

robot / bot
If you have a MUD client, it is possible to write scripts to 'automate' your character on a MUD so you can leave your keyboard and rest assured that your player is still running around killing NPCs and periodically healing itself. A typical 'bot's routine might be to make runs between a food joint such as a pub and a bunch of relatively easy NPCs which don't need a player's constant attention to slaughter. Every MUD's policy about robot players will differ - some MUDs have made robot players illegal as they often interfere with other player's gameplay (i.e they may 'hog' certain NPCs or auto-attack it even when someone else is working on it). Make sure you are absolutely clear about your MUD's policy before running scripts on your player character.

PK / player killing
Player killing is what some players do to other players, i.e kill them, or attempt to. In most MUDs, any attempt to attack another player is seen as 'PK behaviour'. This is usually frowned upon and player-killers rarely go unpunished. Player-killing is rather more common in hardcore DikuMUDs or role-playing MUDs.

social/chat lines
Most MUDs have social or chat lines which allow greater social interaction with other players no matter where they may be. Thus, you do not necessarily have to be in the same room as someone to carry out a conversation, but bear in mind that anything said on a public chat channel is broadcast to everyone else logged on at the moment. Few people have personal conversations on chat channels. There may also be several special-interest channels, such as class-specific channels where only members of that certain class can tune in and participate.
If constant chatter on the chat lines bothers you, there is an option to turn the channel off.
Older MUDs do not have chatlines but allow players to shout, which essentially does the same thing as a chat line. However, some sophisticated mudlibs only allow shouts to propagate over a few adjoining rooms. Players "far" away, i.e more than a certain number of rooms away from the person shouting will not be able to hear anything.
Some MUDs completely disable chat lines and shouting for added realism.

idle / afk
A player who has gone "idle" means that the person playing it has not typed or done anything for 1-2 minutes. When a player is idle, it usually means the person is not looking at the screen or that the person might have left the PC. To say that you are "going afk" means that you will be leaving your PC for some time. AFK stands for "away from keyboard". It is usually not a good idea to leave your character in the middle of combat, or standing in a busy thoroughfare in case you fall victim to pickpockets, aggressive NPCs or player-killers.

Emote is a command (its base word is 'emotion') that allows a player to 'perform' a non-generic action in a room. There are generic emotes such as 'smile', 'laugh', 'tickle', which you type and everyone in the same room will see:

Onion smiles happily.

>boogie dax
Onion boogies around the mud with Dax.

For non-standard actions, you can use emote and let your imagination run wild.

>emote brings out her dead.
Onion brings out her dead.

Your character's name will appear in place of 'emote'.

The word 'emote' also generally refers to 'atmospheric' or 'feeling' commands such as "giggle", "smile", "hug" etc.

This command may not be available to players in every MUD because some may use it to fake important broadcast messages such as a reboot announcement, for example, or the death of a player in the same room. Like emote, echo only goes to other players standing in the same room. Echo will echo the exact string typed after the command, for example:

>echo A herd of rhinos rushes past and tramples you to a pulp!
A herd of rhinos rushes past and tramples you to a pulp!

To be 'transed' somewhere is to be magically transported, usually by a wizard, into a different room.

wiz out
When a player has reached a certain level in the MUD, he or she may decide to try seeing things from a different perspective and become a wizard so he/she can create new areas or have a say in the administration of the MUD. A player usually has to complete a set number of quests to be eligible to apply, and this application must be approved by a group of senior wizards before the player can be 'wizzed' or 'wizzed out'. A senior wizard might also have to personally sponsor this aspirant before his/her application can be approved.

When MUDs initially start out, they are usually very short of areas and coders. If you want to code but don't want to go through the hassle of playing a character up to a certain level, you can try and ask the gods if you can be insta-wizzed. If they are particularly short of coders/wizards, they will usually agree. Usually, people who are insta-wizzed must have some previous coding experience and prove themselves to be trustworthy and reliable.

Back to the MUD tutorial.

Copyright 1997 Artemis