Yelling and Selling in Waterdeep

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
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 cloak is still there in the Faerie Forest last I checked

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.

The Plane of Knowledge kills all this…

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.

16 thoughts on “Yelling and Selling in Waterdeep

  1. bhagpuss

    “We mostly left TorilMUD to play EverQuest II when it launched” – is that a typo? I thought you went from TorilMUD to EQ to EQ2 to WoW?

    Great post, though. I didn’t get an internet connection at home until 1997 and I didn’t use it for gaming until 1999 so I missed the MUD era completely, although I vaguely knew it existed. Your memories of those times are always interesting to read.

    Curiously, almost the exact same auctioning process you describe still goes on all the time in EQ2. I listen to countless open auctions in chat while I’m playing (the main difference – almost the only one – is that they happen in a global channel). Mostly they’re used for the SLR thing as people sell the right to come loot a No Trade item from the corpse of some Named they’ve killed. Obviously you can’t put those things on the broker so it’s back to the old school yelling method.

    I like those auctions as background. I always feel they add heft to the idea that we’re in a shared world. Some people absolutely hate them though,

    Did people used to run competitions with prizes in TorilMUD using the same technique? That’s another big thing in EQ2. Sometime someone will run a quiz with prizes for an hour or so at a stretch and they get a good response. I find those more distracting but again it gives a good sense of a community going on somewhere in the background.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Life is never as simple as you think. When EverQuest came out a lot, but not all, TorilMUD players ran off to play it. A while later TorilMUD shut down. Or maybe it was Sojourn MUD at that point. It swapped names back and forth at least twice. In 2002 it was revived, by which time a lot of us who had run off were done with EQ, or at least ready for a break. With the revival/return, which included a full pwipe, a lot of the old player base returned and good times were had. But by the time EQII and WoW were on the horizon we had done all we wanted to do and some of us ran off to play EQII.

    So my personal timeline is Sojourn MUD->EQ->TorilMUD->EQII->WoW

    I was actually going to write something about auction channels, as that was one of the things that players were asking for to replace the shouting. However the MUD admins were very much against having any sort of world-wide mass communication.

    My experience with auction channels in games like EQII is that they tend to be outliers rather than the core of the economy, a place for people to sell very high value items, looting rights, services (we’ll take you on a raid for plat), or to play on people’s ignorance of the market to make some quick plat.


  3. .xyd

    First off, you have the memory of a damned elephant. I find myself literally uttering “oh, yeeeeaaaahhh” multiple times during your Sojourn/Toril posts.

    Yes, we poor elves – literally, poor – had a different view of the game for the first 21 levels or so. The economy of Evermeet was… well it was almost like an economy would play out in the real world if a people lived on an island with almost no communication to 95% of the populace.

    I so remember entering the portal for the first time and getting to Waterdeep only to want to return home. Ha, and I REALLY remember doing that for the first time as my Ranger being far less fun than with my cleric!

    OT: about 10 years ago you tried to remember the name of the castle with the wandering mobs we used to camp: Ice Crag. Remember missing the damn boat?


  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Xyd – I was wondering if I was going to have to email you to tell you I had another MUD post.

    No, not Ice Crag, that came later… I think we’ve already been around this merry-go-round… the castle I was thinking of was taken out of the game. It was past Lake Skeldrach and down the salt road… the salt road also went bye-bye, along with the ettins and that village where that had the vendor where I was selling the bronze gear for a profit… and had some named Knight NPCs that used to wander around. Their names were in blue ANSI color text. So long ago.


  5. Gaff

    If you came back to Leuth with a decent group, you could get the Emerald sword from that zone inside the city, couldn’t you? I know I had one and it was a haste item. I did it a few times, with that guy that always RP’d some sort of Old English/Shakespeare accent and was a “God” (wrote zones) on the server. We used to roll the Faerie Forest and Vokko/Anna for hours. I’m sure you remember his name. I skipped EQ1 altogether because, in those simple times, some of us still thought it blasphemy to monetize an online game. Paying for Zmud seemed reasonable as the dude was a fellow player.


  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Gaff – I recall somebody losing one of those emerald sword in a stream at one point. Back when they had haste as an attribute.

    I think it is Rylandir you’re thinking of, who spoke in the way of our ancestors, as Xyd once put it, and who was also the immortal Solonor who did some of the later zones added to Evermeet, like the Elder Forest, that made our lives more bearable in later times.

    Also, I got an email from Oteb yesterday. I had already written this up by that point. He was talking of a return to TorilMUD.


  7. Gaff

    Oteb? The Polish Power Gamer lives? Heh. Spot on–Rylandir was the dude and I remember that stream–south off the E-W road north of WD I think.


  8. .xyd

    Ohhh, now I remember the castle — it was like 2W off the path or something. Wasn’t it the one that had a couple casters? And there was something about going in or not going in…


  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Xyd – No, Tower of Sorcery was just off the north road out of Waterdeep, where the undead guardian had the skiff that we all had to have at one point in time. I remember I used to be able to solo him with my druid so long as I prayed up as many Sunray spells as I could.


  10. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Xyd – Now you’re just naming random zones you remember. This was taken out so long ago I think we were still killing people on the ship to Evermeet for experience when it happened. Do you remember fighting ettins on the Salt Road? It was way, way back during the first iteration of Sojourn.

    Basically, if it is on the list of zones in this linked post, that wasn’t it.

    (Also, Swift Steel Co. was a most excellent zone for leveling up. I recall the bathroom NPC.)


  11. .xyd

    Yeah, I’m probably just rattling off random zone names at this point. I DO remember killing people on the ship for XP and the ettins on Salt, but only since you mentioned them. I’ll dig up my old logs and see what I can find.

    Since I’m rattling off random zone names…
    Fog Enshrouded Forest – was there ever anything interesting there?
    Elemental Glades – still waiting on a write-up from you on this zone with huge potential.
    Celriya – okay, she wasn’t a zone but that area was a huge Sojourn memory for me.
    The vines that paralyzed you
    Lava Tubes – Remember trying to map these? Here kitty, kitty, kitty.

    The ferry docks here.


  12. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Xyd – If only I could remember the name of that castle, I’d tell you what it was and then you’d remember too!

    I think the Fog Enshrouded Forest went away when Evermeet outside of Leuth was remapped to be more than 10 rooms down a straight path with all zones conveniently to left and right.

    I have to just sit down and write down the long tale of the Elemental Glades as it pertains to us wee elves. From brownies to su-monsters to that earring of fire protection to actually doing the actual quest that the whole zone was essentially built upon… and the crappy bit of loot at the end. Also, aggro koalas in the boboa trees and how tree types were important to the whole story.

    Celriya… I am not so much about her as the locked door in the stones in her part of the Faerie Forest. That never became a thing. We got the unseelie court down the road near the Tinker camp eventually, but nothing there.

    Of those vines. I remember Zouve being the outcast druid and having to run that gauntlet. Fortunately they were only deadly to those under level 30 or so.

    The Lava Tubes… and what was that room with the infinite respawning skeletons that tanks would use to level up defense skills and rescue practice. Again, deadly if you wandered in as a low level, but at high level no big deal. And yes, the displacer beast. I was very happy when I could solo it. It was a world-wide tracker too, wasn’t it?

    Enter Ferry


  13. Gaff

    Was Lava Tubes single file? I seem to recall that being a good place to rescue each other and lvl skills. Chaco Demon hasn’t come up in this convo yet….or whatever he was called. He had the red-gold ring and gauntlets? !escape


  14. .xyd

    Chacodyn was the nasty little dude in the tree in the SE corner of Anna’s Cottage. A cleric with Holy Word could take him out short order.

    c ‘holy’
    c ‘holy’

    Tako Demon was the nastier little dude at the bottom of Kobold Village. Chacodyn held some potion I cannot remember (yet Wilhelm will, par for the course). Tako, I believe, had the gauntlet and was a world tracker as I recall. Good stuff if you managed to escape him with Word of Recall and you went back to Leuthilspar City Center where a door would open and Tako Demon would step out of it, grinning widely.

    Assuming you survived the next couple attacks — OUCH! That really did HURT! — then you might get attacked by a Leuth guard which was certain death. Plus, any newbies in the area were at risk as well.


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