Category Archives: MUDs

Welcome to Waterdeep, City of Splendors!

I might be done with Evermeet and the tribulations of the elves of Leuthilspar, but that just means I can wander farther afield in TorilMUD.  And what better place to start with that the city of Waterdeep.

As in the Forgotten Realms lore, in TorilMUD the city state of Waterdeep is at the center of things, socially and economically.  I’ve written before about how commerce used to work in the city and have mentioned repeatedly how elves, stuck on Evermeet until level 20, so longed to get there.  It has been the forming point for many an adventure, the resting place for many a corpse, and the idling location for many a hapless ranger.

Waterdeep, City of Spendors – Click on the map to make it bigger

The city itself is big enough that it is actually split up into two zones.  Theoretically, the split is between the north and south parts of the city, but there are some oddities in that, with rooms in either end that seem to belong to the other.

The city is surrounded by a high wall which my ZMud client will often send me scurrying along when traveling across the city.  As it turns out, the room count, and thus the distance traveled, can be shorter if you head up the nearest tower on the wall and run to a tower near your destination.

The wall has five gates.  Four of the gates, the north, east, west, and south gates, which are closed and locked during the night.  There are few moments of mild annoyance like arriving in the room before the north gate just as 8pm strikes and seeing it closed and locked before you.

You can always spot the new elf in town in these situations.  They’ve come out of the elf gate from Evermeet, run across the Great Northern Road, all the way down Tern Road, and up to the doorstep of Waterdeep only to find the gate closed and locked.  So they stand there saying the passwords they’ve learned on the island for such situations, only to find that the gate doesn’t work that way here.

When the north gate was closed, you were stuck.  Stuck unless somebody inside will cast “summon” to bring you inside or a friendly druid opens a moonwell into the city, or if a high enough level rogue is on hand to pick the lock on the gate and open it for you.  But for the last, be quick, because the guards will soon shut and lock the gate again.  You can shout for help to get past the gate, since most people in the game who are standing around doing nothing are probably doing that nothing in north Waterdeep.

At the south gate, if you’ve traveled up from Baldur’s Gate through the troll hills and across the plains, only to find night has fallen and the gate is locked, then you might have to wait.  There was often somebody at the south end of the city fighting mercenaries of stalking the cat burglars that hide on the roofs above the south end of the city, but those are low level options and the people involved are busy killing between spawns, so were unlikely to be able to help you and might not even notice that you needed help.

At the west gate… which I often forget is even there, since for ages it was a dead end… well, nobody came through the west gate most days as, by room count, it was closer to the north gate outside the city than going through the city, so you probably just went to the north gate.

And then there was the east gate.  Outside of town, on the southern side of the road leading to the east gate, there was the druid’s guild and, nearby, a tree stump that concealed a tunnel that led under the walls of the city.  You could move past the gate.  It was, as usual, a bunch of rooms out of your way, but the travel time was minimal if you knew the way and had enough movement points.

Yeah, movement points.

The terrain of a MUD is made up of rooms which can range in size from tiny to immense.  But traveling through a room just involved choosing one of the exits.  Done quickly… and programs like ZMud would chain together the commands for exits many rooms deep which the game would buffer and send you through… you could travel what might pass for dozens of miles in a minute.  Barriers removed, I could spam my way to Mithril Hall, well north Neverwinter, to Calimport, beyond the desert south of Baldur’s Gate, in a minute or two easily.  If you have a copy of the Forgotten Realms Atlas handy, you can probably tell me how far that is… but I assure you it is a ways.

So there are barriers along the way.  There are rivers where the only way to cross is to wait for a ferry that slowly moves from bank to bank.  There are movement points, which your character gets, and which must be expended in order to move from room to room.  Terrain, weather, and how encumbered you are dictates how many points are expended.  A strong headwind can burn your movement points pretty quickly.

And then there are things like the gates in Waterdeep, which bring traffic to a standstill during the night… unless you can find some help or are on the east side of the city.

But what is important about Waterdeep is its central location.  People congregate there because from Waterdeep the journey just about anywhere it possible.  It isn’t so much getting in the gates that matters as getting out through the gates and off to where you want to go.

And, of course, locked gates worth in both directions.

If you’re headed out of the east gate, then the tunnel can get you past the wall if it is after hours.

East side of Waterdeep

Eastbound traffic is pretty heavy, for many things lie east of the city.  The first stop is the Turning Point, marked with a sign and an announcement board.  This was a common meeting place for groups back in the day, especially if there were outcasts or others who could not enter the city, or necromancers, whose undead minions attract unwanted attention from the city guards.  Meeting at “TP” was as common as “3W” and “Fountain” for those in the city.

Back in the day eastward would take you to podville, Split Shield, the buffalo fields, the lava tubes, the southern shore of Lake Skeldrach (via which you could get to the north side of the city), and Bloodstone, before it was destroyed.

It is also the direction the game has grown the most over the years, which I guess makes sense if you’re starting from a city on the west coast.  The Black Griffon Road, the Swift Steel Company headquarters, the Inner Sea and the Pirate Isles, Zhentil Keep, Cormanthor and Myth Drannor, all of these and more lay east of Waterdeep.

North of the city are some notable locations, though expeditions north tapered off over time.  For that direction we used to meet at the crossroads, where Tern Road out of Waterdeep met the Great Northern Road.

North of Waterdeep

Every elf from Evermeet knows The Great Northern Road, since the elf gate in Leuthilspar drops you at its east end.

There are some local attractions, such as the Tower of High Sorcery, which has been there for as long as I have been playing TorilMUD.  The undead boatkeeper at the back door holds the skiff, the lightest boat in the game (at least back in the day), which was a handy thing to have if you needed to cross water.

Others are more recent, though recent is a relative term when referring to a game that is past the 25 year mark.  I think of Dragonfall Forest and the Swamps of Melich as new, but I was hunting gators in the later (at one point they were dropping platinum coins, and hides for which a nearby NPC would pay a few more platinum coins) in 2003 or so.

Heading further north brings you to the barbarian home town at Griffon’s Nest and the dwarven home town at Mithril Hall.  There is also Ice Crag Castle, which I also think of as “new” because I remember when it was added to the game.  But it was added at least 20 years ago, which shows how our brain distorts time.  But Ice Crag Castle is a place I want to revisit in another post.

For ages the road north was somewhat limited.  You passed through places marked as Neverwinter or Luskan, but there wasn’t anything really there.  Luskan was a stopping point only because there was a ferry there you had to wait for on the run to and from Waterdeep.  Those points have been fleshed out over the years though, so it might be worth my exploring the road north again at some point.

Out of the west gate of Waterdeep there isn’t much to speak of.  For years it was a dead end, a single room outside of the gate, and it could be embarrassing if you stepped out just as the gates got locked and were stuck there over night. (From 9pm to 6am, or nine minutes real time.)

Eventually a road was connected there.

West of Waterdeep

As you can see, it loops back so you can get to the north gate.  It also gets you to the dock where the pirate ship, a floating exp zone that we used to sail on for hours trying to level up, puts ashore.  But the north gate is nominally closer.  North of the pirate ship you end up in Menden on Deep, the Dragonfall Forest, and then the Great Northern Road yet again.  For a “great” road it doesn’t run very far.

Also on the west side of Waterdeep was the harbor.  It tended to be an easy place for small exp groups to go.  Farming the dockmasters was some good late 20s to mid 30s experience.  But it was also a place to catch a ship.  Tickets could be purchased to take you to the Moonshae Islands or down the coast to Baldur’s Gate and Calimport.

And with the mention of those two cities, the south gate must be mentioned.

Imediately south of Waterdeep

The road south used to be a bit of a disappointment to me.  The town crier in Waterdeep shouts out every so often that Lord Perignon wants adventurers to form up and head south to fight the trolls.

And there are indeed trolls south of Waterdeep in the troll hills.  Also two no exit tar pits and a giant skeleton with flaming eyes that would shadow step to you if you aggro’d him and harry you until you left the zone or died.  But there wasn’t a lot else.  There were the home towns for the trolls and the ogres, a few small zones, Jenna’s cottage, and placeholder locations for Baldur’s Gate and Calimport.

But over the years new zones began to appear to the south.  Calimport and Baldur’s gate were built out and are now sizable interesting towns on their own.  Havenport showed up near Jenna’s, and Viper’s Tongue Outpost was raised as a home for outcasts.  I used to live there.

And, finally, below Waterdeep is Undermountain, which I am embarrassed to say I have spent very little time exploring.

All of which has given me a long list of places I ought to write about when it comes to TorilMUD.  There are zones with history, regions to navigate, and whole towns to revisit.  So, as I said at the top, I am not done with writing about the place yet.

25 Years of TorilMUD

About a decade back I wrote a short (by the standards of my current writing style) post celebrating the approximate fifteen year anniversary of TorilMUD.  The trigger event to get me to write that post was the 30th anniversary of MUD1 (which is now 40 I suppose).  MUD1 gets a lot of deserved credit for its position in the history of online games, but I felt that TorilMUD had been a bit overlooked.

So I wrote about how I ended up playing TorilMUD, called Sojourn MUD back in 1993, the little bit of the history and evolution of the game I could recall, its revival nearly fifteen years back, and the influence it had on EverQuest.

The influence on EverQuest is hard to overstate.  It is often said that EverQuest was the graphical translation of the DikuMUD model, but it was specifically a translation, often down to the level of item names and stats, of the mechanics of TorilMUD.  That was because a number of the key EverQuest developers, including Brad McQuaid, were TorilMUD players.

That post, a decade back, got me thinking about TorilMUD and led to a number of follow on posts.  I explored some of the EverQuest influencing things like how vendors worked (including how stuff you sold went back up for sale), how class roles evolved from TorilMUD through to WoW, how game information was treated, and how the inability of a commercial game to depend on crashes led to the epic mob camps of early EverQuest.

That post also led to a series of posts about TorilMUD itself, including how the in-game economy used to work, how questing was in the game, dealing with never raising the level cap, the idea of greater challenges, and my recently completed Leuthilspar Tales series of posts about the life and times of the Elves of Evermeet. (I wanted to get that last zone post done before I wrote this.)

By the time the twenty year anniversary rolled around I had a series of posts to which I could link, along with some tales about how people still play and a run through the zone credits.

So what do I write at the twenty-five year mark?

TorilMUD remains up and running and people are logged in and playing.  Again, that includes many of the same people I met along the way over the years, including at least one from twenty-five years back. (Mori, who rescued me back in the Faerie Forest.)  But development and change continues.  It one of my recent research explorations I ended up in over my head against a pair of very angry bugbears and died.

Back in the day, death was a chore.  The whole thing about having to go find your corpse to retrieve your gear in EverQuest, that was a mechanic lifted directly from TorilMUD.  Experience and possible level loss on death as well.

That was removed from EverQuest years ago as a mechanic too punishing on players.  TorilMUD has caught up, and now death does not have nearly the sting.  Text from the game as I died:

When you die, you are transported to Kelemvor’s realm on the Fugue Plane
with all of your equipment. As you are technically dead, you can’t do much
on the Fugue Plane. From there, you have two choices:

1) Wait for another player to resurrect you.
2) Enter a portal that allows you re-enter the game at your guild master.

However you choose to enter the game, there are two penalties for dying:

* Equipment damage. Your worn equipment will take damage that costs money
to repair. See “HELP REPAIR” for details.

* Death Fatigue. Your stats will be negatively impact for a short time after
death. See “HELP DEATH FATIGUE” for details.

You don’t lose any experience when you die, and your equipment always stays
with you. The manner in which you enter the game will determine how much damage
your equipment takes and how long you will be under the fatigue effects.
Typically, powerful spells such as resurrect will lower the penalties
significantly, while entering the game on your own will incur the highest cost,
but it the most convenient.

As with many modern MMOs, the penalty is now in the form of equipment damage and resurrection sickness.

They have also added in a maps function to the game.  It still isn’t a replacement for the world view of my aging collection of ZMud maps, but it can help you if you’re lost.

And even as I was preparing to write this piece, TorilMUD added yet more content.  The zone count went up again with the addition of Bahamut.

Bahamut, king of dragons

From the update post:

For many years, Tiamat, the Queen of Evil Dragons, has reigned supreme as the pinnacle of epic foes on TorilMUD. Today, a new challenger approaches.

The God of Dragons. The Justice Bringer. The Angel of the Seven Heavens. The Platinum Dragon. These are just some of Bahamut’s many titles.

Bahamut is the king of the good dragons, and the eternal rival of his sister, Tiamat. He can be found on Lunia, the first layer of Celestia, where he guards an enormous treasure trove. A mysterious dragonspawn has also been spotted lurking in the shadows of an old forest, with needs as dark as the most vile desires.

Bahamut is the second epic zone added to Toril and is intended for 20-30 players. It will present a challenge every bit as difficult as Tiamat, with rewards to match.

I went on a Tiamat run at one point years ago.  It took a lot of planning and coordination and whole day’s commitment and we never even got to her.  I spent most of the day dead.  But for the dedicated player, challenges still remain.

I think I am past those days myself.  When I drop in to do research and say hello… when ZMud is being cooperative… I sometimes get carried along for a zone run.  It is an interesting reminder of how things once were.  But my ability to mentally parse… or even read… so much scrolling text on screen has faded.

But while I have grown tired, the game still seems strong, with updates coming regularly, a dedicate development team tending to its needs, and a collection of regulars who still log in every day to hang out and run zones.

Solonor Saves the Elves with the Elder Forest

After all the news yesterday it might be time for a quiet Friday.  So I have finished up one of my TorilMUD drafts to continue on with the tale of the elves.

My Leuthilspar Tales series so far has been mostly about the hardships and disappointments faced by the elves and half-elves of Evermeet in TorilMUD. Isolated on the island, unable to take the elf gate to the mainland until level 20, the elves were left with the three zones I’ve written about before, Kobold Village, the Faerie Forest, and the Elemental Glades. The latter was more of a hazard to young elves than anything, the su-monsters killing many an unwary elf in their day.

Later we got the Sylvan Glades, a zone with much to recommend it… unless you were an ill-equiped elf under level 20. Then it wasn’t of very much use at all.

What a young elf needed was a place to accrue experience, get some gear, and maybe indulge in a bit of questing along the way.

Experience was they key of course. In the old school world of DikuMUD and its derivatives, of which TorilMUD was one, gaining experience and leveling up was a primary task, and slaying things was the main way to do this. Quests in TorilMUD were almost exclusively about equipment, and quest givers were rare, unmarked, and sometimes exasperating to deal with. And getting to level 20 was a prime goal. Not only could you get through the elf gate to Waterdeep, with its open air market selling gear you could only dream of back in Leuthilspar, but you also got to see your stats as numbers for the first time (Up until that point your stats were words like “good,” “excellent,” or “poor” that represented a range of values, “perfect” being the only one to map to a single number, and many a character was abandoned upon hitting 20 only to learn that the you were at the low end of the range for some key stat, so were screwed.) and you could petition a GM for a last name. (Something else EverQuest borrowed.)

But getting to level 20, something that probably takes an evening in World or Warcraft these days, could take a a couple of days of play time. I think my first TorilMUD character had five days of play time… that would be 120 hours logged in… before he hit level 20. (And his stats were bad. Also, he was a ranger. A ranger with bad stats is like a double curse.) That was in part because I was learning the game and the lay of the land. But it was also because I had crap equipment and the competition for mobs was pretty fierce. And when I say “fierce” I mean there might be a dozen other people sharing the whole island with me also trying to level up.

Eventually I found people to team up with. People other than Xyd. He was a freaking magic user when what we really needed was a healer. But if somebody was doing the mob rotation for groups… there was set of mobs you could run between in Kobold Village and the Faerie Forest and slay in a single spawn cycle for maximum experience… and wouldn’t let you in, it was hard times. Solo mobs were slow times. If they were worth any decent experience they beat the crap out of you and you had to rest between fights… oh, the Kobold miners… and if you could kill them without resting up they were probably not worth much experience at all. Not that you could tell. Back then you had to go back to your class guild leader to get a vague statement about how far along you were in your level. They key was if the message included a grin. That meant you were within 10% of leveling.

So much complaining, I know. The upside was that shared adversity builds bonds. I played video games with people I met on Evermeet for years after the fact. A few still show up here and leave comments now and then. Our WoW guild was originally founded in 2006 by a group of TorilMUD players after we moved from EverQuest II.

Anyway, the problems of Evermeet could have been born had they not been isolated to our island. But if you started anywhere else in the game, you could walk to Waterdeep and partake of its bounty. Tiny Silver rings were as common as water, a few spawning on every reboot at the south end of town, coming with 5AC and +2 hit stats, a huge item for a low level player. That was the first thing an elf would buy in Waterdeep, to replace that +4hp pearl ring and probably that piece of string that boosted your save versus paralysis… and there was nothing paralyzing on Evermeet. So we felt justified in our resentment against the rest of the Faerun. Why couldn’t we have nice things?

One of the players I met back in the early days was a elf ranger named Rylandir. I think he was a ranger. He might have been a warrior. I just recall his attempt to get a full set of gear all in ANSI green, which makes me think ranger. Anyway, I caught up with Xyd down in the Kobold mines on day and he was grouped up with Rylandir. Xyd introduced him as “speaking in the ways of our ancestors” or something like that, a sign which I immediately picked up. We had ourselves a role player.

Which was fine. I try to be role play compatible, even if I cannot carry it off myself. I fear I am much more a “roll player” at my core, a reformed munchkin who can’t quite let go of the mechanics side of thing.

So I joined the group and we slew kobolds together for quite a stretch and he became part of the league of shared adversity.

What made him different that Xyd or Meclin or myself is that he didn’t just bitch about the problem and then move on once he hit level 20. He actually did something about it. After playing for a while he started looking into what it took to design a zone. He was going to be part of the solution for the elves.

Meanwhile the TorilMUD staff tried to throw us, and the leveling population in general, a bone by planting some special XP Grid zones in the game. These were square zones populated by a semi-random set of mobs of various levels, the idea being that there would always be some mobs to grind if your favorite areas were being camped. The zones were generic, tacked onto various zones around the world, identical, forgettable, and, worst of all, not very good experience.

We got one of those zones on Evermeet. I remember when they made their appearance all over. And after some experimentation they were declared to be not very useful.

XP Grid next to the Elemental Glades on Evermeet

The xp was poor, there was no loot, the coin drops were minimal, and there was nothing compelling or even midly interesting about the locations once you had wandered through. One explanation I heard was that the mobs were all generic, not having been assigned a class, so they could be randomly generated or some such, at that classless mobs did not give much experience. And that might have been true. But in hindsight I suspect that the whole thing was set up that way on purpose so as not to pull people away from the real zones in the game. Because if the XP grids had been a worthwhile alternative, people whole have flocked there, and these grids were not what the game was about. So it was a deliberate “better than nothing” solution that didn’t even rise to that level of quality.

Rylandir’s efforts paid off however. He was now the immortal Solonor, the Forest Hunter. I seem to recall that he did a couple of small zones initially, but his first masterpiece was the Elder Forest on Evermeet.

It was, and remains, a magnificent zone, just the sort of area that the wee elves of Evermeet needed. The text of the zone was all done very nicely in ANSI colors. There were plenty of mobs in levels that rose the deeper into the zone you went.  There were only a few key aggressive mobs.  There were quests and the zone itself told a story in its room descriptions and through the behavior of its mobs.

It is also a multi-level zone with lots of hidden doors, mobs, and items that you have to search to find.  Without searching you would barely get into the zone.

Entry Level of Elder Forest

The theme is that of a musty, abandoned place, where the dead were laid to rest only to rise again.

First Level of Elder Forest

But it isn’t all undead.  There is an open area at the back and a hill around which a few different types of mobs reside.

The bottom level of the Elder Forest

And the levels interconnect, as you can see by the levels of the map (which go from top to bottom both in the post and in the game) and there is even a path over a hill that connects back to the same area, something that became part of the leveling loop later on.

It is hard to describe what a nice, well put together, tight zone is like in a MUD.  Things just work and flow nicely and you get a good sense of place.  There were also random atmospheric messages that varied with your location.  They might announce a blood curdling scream or a sense of being watched in the underground sections, or the sound of fighting or the ring or swords in the distance up on the hill.

It is also a bit difficult to describe the zone with the same emotion that I have done with others, like Kobold Village.  This is because the Elder Forest came along much later in my time in TorilMUD it doesn’t have quite the same attachment for me that the older zones do.  We ran through it many times during the current iteration of TorilMUD, which went live in early 2003, but I ran dozens of elves and half-elves through Kobold Village and the Faerie Forest during the 90s.

And the rework of the forest road outside of Leuthilspar did not help.  Once it was just eight rooms down the road and turn south.  After the change it was off in the distance.

Leuthilspar and Vicinity

And then, of course, there was the emancipation of the elves back in 2016.  The requirement to stay on Evermeet until level 20 was lifted and the elf gate at the east end of Leuthilspar was open to all elves.  They could leave the island and head to Waterdeep, which is where most of the population of the game tends to congregate.

Now the Elder Forest sits mostly silent.  Most low level zones are pretty quiet these days as the online population sits between 20 and 30 players and most of them are level 50.  But the Elder Forest is especially quiet.  It isn’t on the way to anywhere, unlike some of the mainland low level zones, and it is on Evermeet, where only those born there may freely tread.

The Elder Forest has become what it was designed to look like; a hidden tomb from a time past.  But for a short time it was a happy, active, and interesting zone to play in and explore.

Windows 10, ZMud, and Other Options

Having gotten the new system up and running and most everything transferred over, it was time to start looking into what was working and what was not.

Some things I opted to install over from scratch anyway.  The Zinstall transfer utility copied things to the matching drives on the new system, but since I had a small SSD there, meant really for Windows, the page file, and whatever absolutely HAD to go on the C drive, that meant some software I wanted on the new, 1TB SSD would need a fresh install.  World of Warcraft and EVE Online were the primary candidates for that.

WoW was, of course, easy.  It installed, found my settings, and got on with life.  EVE Online though… well, I got it going, but the profile options it gave me all seemed to be very old.  I was only really worried about my overview settings, and now I have something that is at least a year old, from the point when you could only have six overview tabs.  But at least the settings were basically there, I just have to remember to go in and check the box for ship types that were added since that time when I pull up a pre-set.

Other things could just live where they were placed, so long as they ran.  So, for example, Steam and all my games from that live on the 3TB D drive.  The same with an assortment of other MMOs that I do not play currently.  Most seemed to work, though the copy process seemed to have broken things from Daybreak.  EverQuest and EverQuest II won’t run, erroring out when the launcher comes up.  Such is life.

And then there were the oddball things.  I have dragged a lot of stuff forward from computer to computer over the years.  I’ve dug out stuff from the late 80s when sorting through archived directories.  Most of that is made up of documents.  I think there are a couple in there that I might have copied from my Apple //e to my MacSE way back in the day.

But there are some old apps that I have carried forward or acquired.  There is a copy of Civilization II – Gold Edition that I had to pick up on eBay when I moved to Win7 64-bit and found that support for 16-bit executables, like my original copy of Civ II, wasn’t a thing.

And then there is ZMud, which has been around for a while.

ZMud – Version 7.21 from October 2005

I have been running a copy of ZMud since the late 1990s.  Back when I was working on Macintosh products a friend at Apple got me the Windows compatibility card so I could run Windows in a window and ZMud in that.  It was such a giant leap ahead of the terminal emulator I was running on the Mac.

Later, when Apple looked to be dying and Michael Dell was suggesting that the company ought to liquidate and give the money to the investors and having Mac experience on your resume was just slightly better than McDonald’s, I managed to find a spot in a company that enterprise software on Windows NT based mostly on my experience with telephony, modems, and ISDN.

Since I prefer to have the same setup at home as the office, I too moved over to Windows, and have been there ever since.  And so I could run ZMud natively.  Since I was playing TorilMUD as my main game, I invested a lot of time in customizing ZMud with triggers and shortcuts and aliases and such.

But most of the value in the client was in the maps.  When I do posts about zones and such in TorilMUD you can see screen shots of the maps.

Kobold Village – Surface Map

In a MUD you cannot “see” the terrain, you can only see what is in the room with you and the exits.  It can be hard to keep your orientation, especially when a wily zone designer doesn’t stick to an absolute perfect grid.  And while long experience with some zones means I have some paths memorized, a lot of my ability to get around in the world of TorilMUD depends on those maps.

So you can imagine the sick feeling I had when ZMud wouldn’t run on the new system.

Okay, I knew it wouldn’t run straight out of the box.  It is from a different era of computing.  But I had fixed it up and gotten it running before, the last time being less than a year back.  All I had to do was set it to run as Administrator and set the compatibility profile for Windows XP SP2 and I ought to have been set.

But then it still wouldn’t run.  It was throwing MDAC, or Microsoft Data Access Components, errors.  That was a different problem altogether.

ZMud keeps its maps and its character database in what we used to call the Microsoft Jet Database format.  That, too, is some pretty ancient technology and has long since been superseded in the Microsoft lineup, but the backward compatibility used to always be there.

Database problems are not my area of expertise.  I am the person they make the GUI admin tool for.  But I figured somebody else must have had this problem before, so started the Google trek to find a solution.  A few hours and several utilities later however, things did not look good.  I went to bed thinking all that data was lost.

However, something I did seemed to have done the trick and the one final shut down and boot made it take effect, because when I resumed the next day the client launched and I was able to log in.

Still, I feel I am on borrowed time with ZMud.  While I managed to get the MDAC error solved by whatever means, it still doesn’t launch correctly every time.  I suspect there is some conflict that comes with another app loads a particular DLL, though I have to narrow that down.  It does seem to run if I do a reboot and launch it first.

Zugg came out with a replacement for ZMud called CMud, which itself is now more than a decade old.  I have tried to move over to it, as you’re supposed to be able to transition your data from ZMud, however I have not been successful with that on a few attempts over the years.

One client out there I want to take a look into is Mudlet.  It looks a little more modern, but more importantly it looks like there is a path that allows you to move your ZMud maps and such into it.

And, if nothing else, TorilMUD has actually added some level of in-game maps.

The new map in the Hive of the Manscorpions

For now though I am setup again with ZMud so I can finish off a few more posts about zones I want to remember.

Fox Tails, Goblins, and Bandor’s Flagon

The MUD just crashed!

Hurry, you need to reconnect!

Come on young elf!  This is your opportunity to get a piece or two of badly needed equipment!

Run run run!

Forget Kobold Village.  There probably isn’t anything there you need.

You must run to the Faerie Forest with all haste!

That was the rhythm of life on MUDs in general and TorilMUD in particular.

Most of the NPCs in the game load up with equipment only after a crash or a reboot.  Once slain and looted their most valuable reason for existence, contributing to your wardrobe, is gone.  You can get experience from them sure, but you can do that when the MUD has been up for some horribly long time.  The entire economy of the game rested on a level of instability that would allow a crash at least once or twice a day.

That was the pattern into which I was indoctrinated all back when I rolled up my half-elf ranger in Leuthilspar more than 20 years ago now.  You had to get out of the inn and to the right mob as fast as possible, and the Faerie Forest had the most opportunities.

First you had to get to the dark path that lead to the zone, which meant searching for the hidden entrance.

< > A Large Clearing in the Forest Room size: Large (L:40 ft W:40 ft H:25 ft)
Exits: -W

< > You don’t find anything.

< > You find a secret exit south!

And then there were the wood rats.

< > A Dark, Hidden Path Room size: Mid-sized (L:75 ft W:5 ft H:500 ft)
Exits: -N -E

A scruffy wood rat is here slinking around in the gloom.
A scruffy wood rat is here slinking around in the gloom.
A scruffy wood rat is here slinking around in the gloom.

You had to get past the wood rats.  The tunnel rooms were flagged as narrow, so players could only go through one abreast and you couldn’t just spam past any mob as you would bump into them.  If you were quick and lucky, you could lay day (recline) and pass under the wood rats.  That was how you had to get past other players or reorder groups in rooms so flagged.  It does make you wonder how big those wood rats were, given that a full grown male half elf with a sword and motley collection of armor could pass beneath them.

And if you were not lucky, well, you had to take the time to kill the wood rats.  They were not tough.  I think they were level 1 creatures.  But you had to stop and take a few swings to slay them.  On the bright side, the next young elf trying to make it to the treasures of the Faerie Forest would be stuck behind you.  You couldn’t pass somebody, even when reclined, if they were in combat.  So you would be killing wood rats while they were bumping into you.

Eventually though you would win you way through and into the Faerie Forest.  Having spent time lost there, I made a map and soon knew my way around to all of the key locations.

No exit on this map

The Faerie Forest

What you needed dictated where you would head first.  Very early during my career, which came just after a pwipe, having a light source was of vital importance.  If you did not have one, you might want to go find the Silver Fox.

The Silver Fox’s tail, which you could loot from its corpse, was flagged as being lit, so you just had to have it in your inventory and any room you entered would also be lit.

A silver fox is here hunting in the forest, looking for a meal for her young.
Your blood freezes as you hear the rattling death cry of a silver fox.
You get a silver fox tail from corpse of a silver fox.
a silver fox tail (illuminating)

This was a huge advantage over torches, which had to be held in one hand (so you couldn’t then have a shield, a second weapon, or a two handed weapon) and which would burn out quite quickly. (Unlike those who started in Waterdeep, elves didn’t get magical torches that never burned out.)  I suppose this was a missed opportunity for role play, having to fumble with torches.  But since every priest class got the spell Continual Light at some point, torches were never going to be in great demand in any case.

CONTINUAL LIGHT
Spell
Area of effect: <object> | Room
Aggressive: No
Cumulative: No
Duration: Permanent unless dispelled
Class/Circle: Cleric/Druid/Shaman 6th, Paladin 8th
Type of spell: Enchantment

“Continual light” allows the spellcaster to enchant an item by giving it a light flag, making it a permanent light source. Not specifying an object causes the whole room to be permanently lit by a magical light. It is one way for spellcasters to create light in the darkness if they have no other lamps, etc. This spell can be countered (in rooms) with a “darkness” spell.

See also: DARKNESS

Once Continual Light became common, people stopped running to find the Silver Fox.  But for a short time it was a key item.  You could sell it to somebody who was desperate and who couldn’t get to the Silver Fox or the fire at the tinker camp that, when search, would yield another illuminating item.

a glowing stick of faerie wood (illuminating)

There actually used to be two sticks of faerie wood, one in each of the fires.  The second one, which was an orange ANSI color if I recall right, had stats, so if you held it you got some benefit along with light.  It was something like a few hit points, but it was better than nothing, especially if you didn’t have something to hold in your off hand anyway.

Meanwhile, while you were down by the Silver Fox, the next big thing was the scrawny goblin who held the bag of snatching along with a few other goodies.

You get a bag of snatching from corpse of a scrawny goblin.

The bag was useful because… well… it was a bag.  And it was bigger than the bag you were handed as part of your new player kit.  And it was also displayed in a cool, dark ANSI color which I cannot quiet replicate here.  It was cool enough that even after we all had bags and had hit level 20 and moved out into the world, we could still sell the bag to people in Waterdeep simply because it looked cool.  In the end, I think it was heavy and only as good as a backpack you could buy from a vendor in town, but style sells.

The goblin was also the gate keeper to the room with the pile of trash.  Searching through it would yield a series of dubious treasures.

You find an ancient stone tablet!
You find a bit of string!
You find a wand of thunderous rage!
You find a moldy loaf of bread!
You find a steel shortsword!
You find a very dead rat!
You find a bronze dirk!
You search exhaustively and conclude there is nothing to be found!

Each had its use, if you include “able to be sold to a vendor” as a use.  The wand of thunderous rage was a particular heartbreak.  I knew people who held on to several of them until they hit a difficult battle, only to find that they didn’t actually do anything.  Wands were always strange birds in TorilMUD, though there was a wand of magic missile that was amusing to use from time to time.

But they key item in the Faerie Forest was Bandor’s Flagon.

a huge, drinking flagon

This flask looks like it could hold more liquid than possible. It must be that Tinker magic; making the most of space not even existing.
When you look inside, you see: It’s more than half full of a golden liquid.

When eventually everything else in the zone became just so much vendor trash, Bandor’s Flagon remained something you could sell in Waterdeep.  It was, for a long time, the largest drink container in the game.  And even when it was eclipsed, the flagons that replaced it were not so easy to obtain and did look quite so cool.  You just had to remember to pour out the alcohol in the flagon, lest you get drunk on Bandor’s brew.

And while there was certainly more to find in the Faerie Forest, from Habetrot’s stonewood cudgel to Vokko’s iron armor, the race to get those was never quite as intense as it was for Bandor’s Flagon.  It remained the one easy to get item that actually held value in the game.

20 Years of TorilMUD

Lord Piergeiron is looking for brave adventurers to fight off the trolls!
If you can help, form a group and head south.

-Town Crier, Waterdeep

I was shuffling through old posts, as I do every month to pull together the one and five years ago bits for the monthly review post, when I discovered that I wrote that post about playing TorilMUD for 15 years about five years ago… which means that I’ve hit the… wait… eighteen, nineteen… the twenty year mark since I first I first blundered into Leuthilspar and got hung up at the fence leading to Kobold Village.

It barely seems possible that I was playing TorilMUD so long ago.  And the town crier has been shouting the same thing every few minutes for just about the whole time.  Granted, there was a gap of a couple years in there when the game was down at various stages, but it always managed to return.

TorilMUD_logo

Still, I started playing TorilMUD a long while back.  Twenty years ago was the era when the Intel 486 was king and the new Pentium (not 586 as so many expected) was the new kid on the block.  Apple’s incredibly popular PowerBook laptops were just introducing a model (180c) with an 8-bit  active matrix color screen that was actually usable. (Don’t get me started on the 165c.)  At work I was just starting off on project that would end up with a five month long crunch cycle, during which NBA Jams would be our lifeline to sanity.  I was playing Civilization I am sure and was running a BBS, which in a way was the spiritual successor to this blog.

You grab Piergeiron Paladinstar, Servant of Tyr in a headlock, and give him a furious noogie.

I think I may have beaten the back story of myself and TorilMUD to death at this point.  I have written up posts about the history, the stories, and the influence of the game in the past.  Here are a few of my favorites:

There are more posts under the TorilMUD category, though that includes posts where it is referenced, but where memories of the game perhaps not the main topic of discussion.

More amazing still is that, not only is TorilMUD still there, but that it continues to be a work in progress.  Bug fixes, new zones, a web client, and a conversion to a system more akin to the current Dungeons & Dragons combat model continue on.  The whole thing reflected D&D 2.0 rules back when I started. The help file for THAC0 is still there.

THAC0 is an acronym for “To Hit Armor Class 0.” THAC0 is a number every player and monster has, and it is dependent on level and class. It is ranged between 0 and 20. THAC0 is the method that the MUD code uses to determine whether or not you have successfully “hit” an opponent while in battle. It is calculated for everyone fighting, for each and every combat round. For THAC0’s, the lower the number you have, the better success you will have at hitting.

For Example: let’s say your THAC0 is 10, meaning you have to roll between 10 and 20 on a 20-sided die in order to hit an enemy with an armor class of 0. If you are fighting a monster with an armor class of 1, then you need to roll between 11 and 20 to hit that mob. If the mob’s armor class is 8, you only need to roll between 2 and 20 in order to hit that monster. You can affect your THAC0 by using magical items that give a positive hitroll bonus. This bonus will enhance your THAC0 and therefore your ability to hit a monster.

The help entry for AC (Armor Class) further explains how this hit/miss system works. See also: AC

I don’t think it still applies, but it did at one time.  A bit of history in the help files.

And, most important of all, people still play TorilMUD.

It isn’t the 100+ people we used to have on at once back in the day.  But when I log in now and again to see what has changed, I always see between 15 and 30 people online.  Enough to form up a group generally and go raid a zone now and again.  As with any game based on progression via levels, almost everybody on these days is at or close to the level cap of 50.  Occasionally I see somebody in their 20s or 30s.  And sometimes it isn’t even an alt of a player that already has a few level 50s.

I poke my nose back in every so often.  I still see people I remember.  And time continues its relentless march forward.

Anyway, just to archive something away for a later date, after the cut you will find the credits output for TorilMUD.  The bulk of the credits is a list of zones in the game, their level range, and the creator.  That will give you a little insight into how vast the world is that has been created over more than 20 years.  I started playing 20 years back, but the work started before I ever showed up.

Sure, the “world stat” command will give you the summary:

Total number of zones in world: 348
Total number of rooms in world: 65985
Total number of different mobiles: 19975
Total number of living mobiles: 46001

Total number of different objects: 19000
Total number of existing objects: 98257

Those are some big numbers.  They have added something like 4,000 rooms and 29 zones since I last posted that output back in 2009.  But actually scrolling through the list is more impressive.

More information can be found at TorilMUD.com.

Continue reading

Quote of the Day – On Existence Before MUD1

There wasn’t anything before MUD1…

Richard Bartle on MUDs, from the Birth of MMOs interview

That is the best I could do in trying to extract an inflammatory, out of context quote from the article. (Hey, it inflamed at least one guy.)

That aside, the linked article is an interesting read, though you may already know the tale of how we got to World of Warcraft and beyond from MUD1, plus the whole Bartle Types thing.

And the article ends up with something of a “But what of MUDs?” theme, where it is pointed out that the very limitations of MUDs make them easy to use.  It is all done in text, so it is much easier to whip up a virtual world when you do not have to worry about art assets, something that lead to an explosion of MUDs during the late 90s.

As for an audience for MUDs.

Sure, they’re not going to have the success they once had if people have been conditioned to judge graphics as being the mark of a good game. They will still appeal to connoisseurs, lovers of language and people with vivid imaginations, though.

Somebody will play them.

Left unanswered: How are today’s MMOs impacting MUDs?

I know I have seen changes in TorilMUD over the years that have clearly been because of what has happened in games like WoW, things that would have been anathema a decade or more back.