Category Archives: MUDs

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.

TorilMUD offers a Web Client

The crew running TorilMUD just announced that they have a beta HTML 5 web client available for people to try out.  It offers some pretty reasonable features.

  • Scripts in the Cloud: Create aliases and triggers once on the web client and use them from anywhere.
  • Script packages: Organize scripts into “packages” that are shared throughout your account and usable by every character.
  • Aliases: Create aliases with support for variable matching and multi-line commands.
  • Triggers: Design powerful triggers with the use of full-featured regular expressions.
  • History: Recent commands can be easily traversed via the up and down arrow keys.
  • Scroll lock: Auto-scrolling intelligently pauses whenever you begin manually scrolling, and will resume when you scroll all the way down or enter a command.
  • 256 Colors: Goodbye 16 colors – the web client has 256 colors all the time.

Right now the Web Client is only usable if you have created an account and rolled up characters through a traditional telnet client, but I imagine that if things go well, all of that will eventually be included.

The URL for the web client is in the article linked above, and it sends you to an account login page.

Welcome to TorilMUD

Welcome to TorilMUD

Logging in gives you a list of the characters you have associated with your account.  The concept of an account login is still somewhat new as well.  Back in the day, every character had its own login and password.  Once logged in, you get a list of the character on your account.

A few of my choices

A few of my choices

Once you choose a character, hey presto, you are in the game.

And you're in!

And you’re in!

From there, things look very much like a standard MUD client that supports ANSI color.  That used to be one of the big things about TorilMUD, and its predecessor Sojourn, the full on support and usage of color in their text.

My old main character was still there.

100 days of play

He used to be level 50

You can go about your business in game, or camp out and select one of the other characters associated with your account.

The in game list

The in game list

And it all looks good and responds quickly.

Now color is great, but not really required to play the game.  You could open up the Windows command prompt and telnet into TorilMUD and play it if you so desired.  Why people don’t do that instead opting for a purpose built MUD client is for things like triggers and aliases.

Triggers are automated responses to text coming from the game.  I mentioned those the other day.  The simplest ones can be things like drinking from a container when you get the “You are thirsty” message.

Aliases are short cut commands that set off more complex actions.  One of my oldest ones would let my type in “cpff Rarik” which would then output “cast ‘protection from fire’ Rarik” to the game.

These two items are not required to play the game.  I played Sojourn/TorilMUD for the first five years with an ANSI terminal emulator that supported 10 simple macros I could configure on the fly.  Everything else I just typed by hand. (Which made me a very fast typist in time.)

But life is definitely better, especially doing zones… the TorilMUD equivalent of raids… when you have 15 other people in your group and you have set responsibilities and need to both see and respond quickly to situations in the midst of what can be an incredibly spammy flow of text.  Buying zMUD back in the day was an investment I do not regret in any way.  I think at one point I lost my key when a machine died and I just bought a second copy.  It was totally worth it.

And the beta TorilMUD web client supports triggers and aliases.

Script UI

Script UI

You can create groups of simple triggers and aliases to help automate some of the more mundane tasks in the game.

Creating a 'cast armor' alias

Creating a ‘cast armor’ alias

And, anything you create gets saved in my butt the cloud… well, on their server in any case.  People throw around the term “cloud” pretty loosely, despite it having a pretty specific meaning. (Hint: If my data is on a single server or in a single location, it isn’t in any sort of “cloud.”)  Anyway, scripts you create are there for you when log into the game from other locations.

So is this the end for dedicated MUD clients like zMUD or Tintin++?

Probably not.

Leaving aside some bugs in the current implementation, the HTML 5 web client for TorilMUD is like that basic Craftman tool kit you buy for somebody when they first get their own place.  It has a couple of screw drivers, an adjustable wrench, and a few other items that will cover very basic situations.

A MUD client like zMUD, on the other hand, is like the super deluxe Snap-on tools setup that has you covered for just about every obscure need.

So with zMUD I can have conditional triggers, triggers that parse multiple terms in a single statement, triggers that turn off or on other triggers, triggers that highlight text, triggers that parse data and write to a log or a database, triggers to generate statistics, a whole world mapping subsystem, the ability to pipe specific data to other windows, and a myriad of other things that let you create your own custom client and UI.

Plus… and this is a surprisingly important point for me… zMUD maps the 10-key pad on your keyboard to be movement keys.  The almost immediate, fall flat on my face moment for me with the web client was moving.  I had to think about how to do it.  I have to press “n” and then return to move north, rather than just spamming out directions on the 10-key as I have been trained to do for the last 15 years.  Ah well.

No, what this web client represents is a way for new players to see a MUD in the best possible terminal emulation while giving them some of the basic tools of the trade, all within a browser interface.

It is an easy gateway into the world of MUDs.  And for that, it is a fine solution.

See the TorilMUD web site for more details.

Rambling About Motivation and What Makes a Good Story

Anybody can use public transport, darling!

-Edina Monsoon, Absolutely Fabulous

Warning: this post does not actually lead anywhere and may not actually make sense.

Freedom seems to be a theme since the launch of Guild Wars 2.

Freedom from ever having to find a group.

Freedom from ever having to find a mailbox.

Freedom from ever having to stand still while casting a spell.

Freedom from much of the baggage of past MMOs, like subscriptions and the holy trinity and levels that get more difficult as you progress.

Not that this freedom drive is anything new.

At one point World of Warcraft, which now represents the status quo from which we are being freed, was once the harbinger of freedom.

It offered freedom from corpse runs and experience loss, freedom from having to find a group to advance your character at all past level 10 or so, freedom from fighting over who gets to run dungeon or raid content on a busy Saturday night, and freedom from simply grinding mobs for most of your leveling experience.

Not to mention freedom from relatively onerous system requirements.

Cutting this wall of text.  You’ll see it all in RSS anyway.

Continue reading

Summer Reruns – TorilMUD

Life has conspired to make this a quiet week for blogging.  I’ll get to why that is later in the week.

In the mean time, rather than just let days go by with nothing, I am going to fall back on the grand television tradition of summer reruns.  I am going to go back to a classic theme, TorilMUD, and call out some of my favorite posts.

Of course, the real problem is that I like all of my TorilMUD posts.  They are filled with nostalgia leavened with just the right amount MMO history.  Still, I think I can narrow it down to ten… links.  One points to five posts.  So sue me.

  • On Greater Challenges – How TorilMUD had a “hard mode.”  Why can’t we have this in modern MMOs?
  • Leuthilspar Tales – A few posts about the starter zones exclusive to grey elves. I should write more in this series.
  • Of Rooms and Rooms and Rooms – 19,584 rooms, each of which I visited and mapped.  And that was only about a third of the total rooms at the time!

Echoes of a Crashing MUD

Last week’s crash bug fixing bonanza has resulted in a near-record uptime of 150 hours and still going.

TorilMUD New Post

They have been working hard on crash related bugs at TorilMUD.

TorilMUD has been around, in one form or another, for nearly 20 years now.  Next year I will get to write my “20 years of TorilMUD” post, a follow up to my 15 year post, as I will have played it off and on for that long.

In all that time, running without a crash for less than seven days is a record.

I guess there is a reason that uptime was displayed only as hours, minutes, and seconds.  There was no need for days to be displayed.

So this is a big success, this huge increase in reliability, right?

If you had asked me that when I was playing the game actively, back when there were 50-100 people on all the time, I would have told you that seven days of uptime was a disaster!

The thing is, crashes were points of opportunity to be valued, not disasters to be avoided.

Yes, sure, if you were doing a zone and had finally gotten through to a big fight and the game crashed, that was bad.  And you didn’t want to the game going down every ten minutes… unless you wanted to farm Bandor’s flagon or some other easily obtained item.  But no crashes for days could mean no loot for days in a very loot oriented game.

The thing is, most monsters in the game that carried anything worth having only carried that item at boot.  Once you slew the monster and took its item, it would respawn, but would come back empty handed.  You might get some coins from it and some experience, but the special item was only there once per boot.

In addition, there were a lot of rare mobs that had a chance to spawn at reboot, often mobs related to key quests in the game.

So a crash and a reboot was a time of renewal in the game.  You would spam your way out to pick off an easy item or two, help friends scour known locations for special spawns, and then start forming groups to tackle the zone content, which was the MUD equivalent of raiding.

We all loved a well timed crash, and there were few things as depressing as logging in at prime time on a weekend and seeing the uptime sitting at 18 hours.  All the easy drops would be gone by then, all the good zones done, and the world mobs likely spotted already.

Players would begin whining about the uptime and how all the good stuff have been done.  And often an administrator would take pity on us… they were all long time players and knew the importance of a timely reboot… and announce a reboot.

So key aspects of the game… loot and raiding… were predicated on the system crashing at fairly regular intervals.  How crazy was that?

And this, of course, had influence that was felt long after so many of us moved to 3D graphical MMORPGs.

TorilMUD was the Diku template on which EverQuest was based.  Brad McQuaid, Aradune, and other EQ devs were long time players of TorilMUD, and if you played them both you could see the many things that were influenced by… or copied wholesale from… TorilMUD.  Races, classes, equipment stats, racial home towns, the layout of Freeport, and much more came from EQ’s text-based predecessor.

But not everything could be copied directly.  What works in text does not always translate well to a 3D virtual world.  You never dropped your weapon in Norrath for example, which was something of a relief.  They actually turned off the fumble mechanism in TorilMUD in the last couple of years, so you need not worry about losing your weapon forever in a shallow stream or a duck pond.

And the concept of aggro management started to take shape, as there was no such thing in TorilMUD.  Monsters switched to attack casters all the time and the tanks job was to use the “rescue” command, which would switch the monster back to focus on the tank.

And one of the things that the EQ team no doubt felt they could not depend on was the crash/reboot mechanism to repopulate drops and spawn rare mobs.  Depending on crashes is fine in a free game, but can you imagine a commercial MMO where a crash or a reboot a couple of times a day would be seen as a good thing?

So they had to come up with another solution to meter out rare mobs to simulate the whole crash/reboot cycle.  The decision was to put such mobs on extremely long respawn timers.

And thus the insane camp was born.

I suspect, though have no confirmation, that the EQ devs never expected players to actually sit on a rare mob spawn point for extremely long stretches of time waiting for it to appear.  I have to imagine that they thought that players would treat that sort of thing the way we did in TorilMUD, which was to run by and check the spot at intervals.  In the TorilMUD, that interval was at every reboot.  But with no such similar timer in EQ, people just sat down in a group and waited.

And waited, and waited, some times for days at a stretch, for a specific mob to appear.

Eventually, other mechanisms were created to replace the long spawn, though not all were necessarily more successful.  How many hours have I spent killing the placeholder mob over and over again in hopes of spawning that one special mob I needed?

In the end, certainly with the advent of WoW, I think most such mobs were stuck in instanced environments and metered based on difficulty rather than the amount of time you and your group could sit in one place and wait.  The age of the long camp was over, though I am sure somebody will tell you they miss it.

But for a while at least, our behavior in MMOs was influenced by the fact that they simply could not be allowed to crash a couple of times a day.