I remember way back in the early days of what is now TorilMUD… or perhaps I should say, what persists today against the odds as TorilMUD… back when it was called Sojourn, back past the 20 year mark and into the first half of the 1990s, wanting to make sure I got online on a Saturday evening because that was the best time to buy and sell things.
The place to be was in the northern part of the city of Waterdeep, which is where most people idled when they were not out in the world grinding mobs or running zones.
As for how to sell… well, you would just yell out what you had, some stats for it, and your opening price and wait to see if anybody would send you a tell with an offer. You might want to sell an items straight up, but usually people wanted to auction things in order to get the best price.
In the event of an auction, once you got a tell… or a few tells if you were lucky… you would then yell out your item for sale again and the current bid, and maybe the name of the first bidder if several people came in at the same price, just so they knew who was currently going to get the item. Then people would send tells upping the price, which you would yell out again when it hit a lull. Eventually you would hit a point where you had a high bid and nothing else. Then you would give the three yells, going once, going twice, and finally SOLD with the item, price, and buyer.
For a good item you might go through several iterations of the last three yells, as some people with money would wait to see where the bidding had settled before throwing their hat in the ring.
It was an interesting system that actually worked fairly well. Auctions happened in a very public space, so were essentially conducted in front of a crowd. A yell would only go a across a single zone, so you had to be in north Waterdeep, which wasn’t always as simple as it sounds. There were certain rooms that seemed like they ought to be, but for whatever reason they were actually part of the south part of the city or the tunnels underneath. And some rooms in the zone filter out yells. But most people would figure out where to hang out to hear what was going on.
The public aspect meant that a lot of items had a price associated with them, so for some regularly farmed items… as I mentioned in a past post, most items of any value only spawned once per boot and the game would have to crash again in order to obtain another… you could tell if you were getting a good deal or if somebody was asking too much. That suit of dwarven scale mail armor went for a regular 400p for a long time. Every caster had to have one. (Old stats shown, like everything good it has long since been nerfed.)
Name ‘a suit of dwarven scale mail armor’
Keyword ‘armor suit mail scale dwarven’, Item type: ARMOR
Item can be worn on: BODY
Item will give you the following abilities: NOBITS
Item is: MAGIC NOBITS
Weight: 13, Value: 1
AC-apply is 20
Can affect you as :
Affects : HITPOINTS By 20
But somebody asking way too much would often hear a counter shout about how much the last couple copies of that particular item sold for. It was also a way to figure out who had money. You could see who was getting rich by how they bid on things.
It was also in most people’s best interest to be around during prime selling times. As I mentioned above, Saturday evening was a key time. A lot more would be for sale then and a lot more buyers would be around. You could probably find an auction going on most days, but the weekend was worth waiting for if you had a mind. During the week you would only sell to get rid of an opportunistic find that might be too common come Saturday.
People actually adapted very well to the system for quite a while. People were mostly patient with their auctions, making sure only a couple were going on at once so as to avoid confusion. People were sincere with their bids and handed over their item at the bank when they were given the right amount of platinum.
Basically, for an online where having 200 people online at once was a big deal, it was an adequate system of exchange. It wasn’t all hugely expensive stuff either. It was early enough in the cycle of the game that most people were still poor, so selling something for 5-10p was generally a worthwhile venture.
There was also a way to play on scarcity in a way. My friend Xyd and I started as elves who, until a recent emancipation, were stuck on the isle of Evermeet until level 20. It was life of privation on the isle, something I recounted in the Leuthilspar Tales series of posts, collected under a tag of the same name. Equipment was scarce and we would wear just about anything under the theory that an equipment slot filled with something was better than an empty equipment slot.
But elves who had hit level 20 and made it through the elf gate and on to Waterdeep would return… a hazardous journey for any but a druid or a cleric, as those classes could use “word of recall” to return to their guilds on the isle… with items to sell their poor cousins still stuck on the island. How we longed for a tiny silver ring, which was AC5 +1 hit, to replace that crappy piece of string from the goblin’s junk pile in the Faerie Forest or that strange ring from the Elemental Glades (I need to write a post about that zone still) that turned out to be crap.
Not only were we short of equipment, but identify scrolls were about ten times as expensive in Leuthilspar than in Waterdeep, so we had to do without.
We would later learn that pretty much everybody had a tiny silver ring in Waterdeep, it being one of the few useful items that spawned on a several mobs each boot. And they spawned near the inn at the south end of the city, so they were farmed after every boot. We didn’t know that, we were just anxious to hand over whatever we could scrape together to buy one… or two… oh, to have a pair of tiny silver rings.
The only problem with that return trade in Leuthilspar is that we, as elves of Evermeet, were dirt poor. We didn’t live in the wild because we loved nature, we lived there because that was what we could afford. Even the rent in Kobold Village was too much. (Just kidding, there was no cost to rent at the Inn in Leuthilspar, but the innkeeper used to say something that staying was free for now, as though there might be a charge some day, a threat that used to keep me up at night in the early days.)
But we did have some items on the isle that could be sold in Waterdeep. As Xyd and I learned once we had been through the elf gate and into Waterdeep. After hunting buffalo, skirting lake Skeldrach, and walking the salt road… and finding ourselves still dirt poor… we found that we could enrich ourselves by carrying over some common items from the isle.
Bandor’s flagon was a favorite. In a game where you had to carry around food and drink, having a large, lightweight drinking flagon in your bag was just the ticket. For quite a while it was the drinking vessel that everybody rich or poor sought. We could easily sell one for 20-50p every boot, and sometimes 100p or more if the market was hot, which seemed like a hell of a lot of money to us back in the day.
There were some other items that would sell reliably on a Saturday when enough people were around. The Cloak of Forest Shadows from the Faerie Forest would go for a few plat, though I think more because it sounded cool than because of its somewhat modest stats. (Also, you couldn’t vendor it, so anything we got was good.)
The Elven Skin Gloves from Vokko at Anna’s house was good for a few plat as well. Again, not a great item, but for an elf hater the material made them a must have item. The mods later changed them to Kobold Skin Gloves on the general idea that we ought not to have to tolerate that sort of thing on Evermeet.
The cloak off of the Kobold Shaman in Kobold Village was sometimes worth something. I forget the stats, but casters could wear it and I seem to recall it being +HP. And the Boots of Water Walking from the Kobold Fisherman could go to somebody who hadn’t picked up the Skiff from the Tower of Sorcery just north of Waterdeep.
So we would collect these items and head through the elf gate to town to join in on the sales, all the better to gear ourselves and our myriad of alts up. Even when I hit level 50 and had my fair share of decent equipment and was able to go on runs to Jot or The City of Brass fairly regularly I would still recall back to Evermeet on an occasional reboot to snag Bandor’s Flagon to sell.
Of course, things changed over time. Somebody tired of us shouting in Waterdeep all the time. At first they coded a limit as to how often we could shout. Later shouting auctions were banned and relegated to an auction house… literally an auction house… before somebody finally coded what now passes for an auction house in MMORPGs, a board where you could deposit items then list them for sale to the highest bidder, with a minimum bid and such. All very modern, and it showed up well before WoW was a thing.
And then there was the economy which, as with every primarily PvE MMORPG with many faucets and few sinks, went to hell. It is called “MUDflation” for a reason. As noted above, everything was beautiful when we were all mostly poor. But once people started to accumulate platinum, things went the usual haywire. Aside from identify scrolls, a few quests, and the rare vendor item, there wasn’t much to spend money on in TorilMUD save for equipment. And just hanging around you would eventually accumulate a pile of cash, so the price for items going for auction climbed well out of range of any new player, to the point that platinum lost its value for any rare item and people would hold out for trades rather than just piling up more useless platinum in the bank.
It didn’t help that there were some holes in the system. I made some early seed capital hauling things from one vendor to another because the pricing was messed up. They fixed that. Later, after the last pwipe, I found some alligators that dropped an item that could be turned in for a 30p bounty, plus they tended to have 5-10p in their pockets… odd gators… so I harvested them whenever I could because, due to somebody not setting a flag right, they respawned with the item rather than having it only on the first spawn. I grew pretty well off on that before they fixed it.
But that was all from another time. We mostly left TorilMUD to play EverQuest II when it launched, then moved on to World of Warcraft.
However, you can see the seeds of the future of MMORPGs in what happened there in the 90s. The tunnel as trading ground in the Commonlands tunnel… I remember going there at specific times when it would be active in order to upgrade my gear… was clearly foreseen by our yelling out auctions in Waterdeep.
Meanwhile the auction house that replaced our loud economy was also a precursor to what we now find in World of Warcraft.
Anyway, another tale from the “good old days” of TorilMUD.