Category Archives: TorilMUD

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.

Disappointment in the Sylvan Glades

In the Leuthilspar Tales series I have written often about the poor state of the elves of Evermeet.  Stuck on the island until they hit level 20 with only three adventuring zones available, one of which wasn’t much help at all, we were paupers in our own land and would stare agog and high level elves who returned from far Waterdeep with all of the gear slots filled.

And so we ran between Kobold Village and the Faerie Forest, scrounging what gear we could and trying to level up so we could get to the bounty of Waterdeep, where one could find so much for sale.

Other areas of the game got additions.  New zones sprang up along the routes north and south of Waterdeep.  Up in the north Ice Crag Castle showed up, a fine zone with many quests.  Down south the city of Baldur’s Gate, long alluded to in room descriptions, was finally opened up.  And, finally, Evermeet got some attention.  A new zone appeared along the path outside of Leuthilspar, a turn north off the forest road just before the Elemental Glades.

We were long off of the isle when the Sylvan Glades showed up, but returned there… or went there with our under 20 alts… to see what the new zone brought to Evermeet.

The Sylvan Glades

And initially there was a lot of disappointment.  On the content starved island of Evermeet, this new area did not seem to do much for the locals.  Those living there wanted more options to help level up so they could get the hell off the island and into the Faerun where the real content lay.

Few willingly stuck around the place past level 20, the point at which you could go through the elf gate and make your way to Waterdeep to finally join your friends who were smart enough to not roll up elves.  And in walking around the Sylvan Glades it was hard to see how this zone helped the plight of the elves one iota.

The mobs in the place were mostly high level, with the lowest amongst them needing a small party of level 20+ characters to take down.  And the experience for the effort, and the loot from those low end mobs, were not worth the time.

There was a neat little town in the trees to the north of the zone, Larallyn, which had a few shops.

In the trees in Larallyn

The potion shop had armor potions for less than in Leuthilspar, though still not as cheap as in Waterdeep:

You can buy:
1) A large crystal sphere for 100 platinum coins.
2) A scroll of identify for 2 platinum coins.
3) A vanishing potion for 12 platinum coins.
4) A potion of armor for 1 platinum, 2 gold, and 5 silver coins.

And the bard shop had instruments otherwise unobtainable on the island.  But that wasn’t going to change the life of a young elf.

But just because a zone doesn’t serve your immediate needs doesn’t mean it lacks a purpose.  The Sylvan Glades was not built to serve the low level players still stuck on Evermeet.  Instead it was put together as a way to make non-elves find a way to get to Evermeet.

The Sylvan Glades was flagged for all levels in the zone listing (a copy of which is here), which meant it was safe for wee elves from Leuthilspar to wander into (mind the warning at the Dead Grove however), but it was really the focus for high level quests.  There were several quest starter items on the zone, which I have marked in yellow on the map, a few quest NPCs as well, who you would have to engage in the time honored MUD quest tradition, and at least one rare spawn dragon with a drop necessary for a major quest line.  And the mobs themselves were interesting to ponder, such as Keren the bard:

Keren is a flashy looking bard, wearing bright colored clothing and playing
his harp with surprising ease and experience. This man sits here in this
musical grove, playing his many songs that he has learned throughout his
lifetime to all those who would come and listen. His voice has a spectacular
ring to it, almost a calm and soothing feeling. A human bard is a rare in
these regions, but this quality of bard is rare anywhere in the realms.
Keren the Bard is a medium-sized level 59 Human.
He is in excellent condition.
He’s encased in a shimmering globe!

<worn on body> a silk shirt of many colors
<worn about waist> a frilly purple sash
<worn on legs> a pair of tight blue suede pants
<worn on feet> a pair of blue suede shoes

Keren tells you ‘Hail and well met adventurer! I am Keren, bard of the realms!’

Keren smiles warmly at you.

Keren tells you ‘If you know any fellow bards, send them to me for I have a
quest which they might be interested in.’

Keren winks at you.

Of course, that meant people had to be able to get to Evermeet, a trick in and of itself.  The elf gate back to the island was in the Moonshaes and, true to its name, would only allow those of elven blood through.  But even if you could a non-elf through, there was the problem of Leuthilspar.  The return gate put you deep in the town, where the guards, like the elf gates, really didn’t like anybody without elven blood.

Pretty much everywhere in town was death

And it wasn’t just the local guards that would kill you dead, but outsiders in the town would trigger special response guard units.

So to get people to Evermeet you needed some inside help.  A druid could open a moonwell to the island, essentially a temporary portal through which a party could travel, but a moonwell needs a target.  If your druid was an elf, or a half-elf that started in Leuthilspar, they could recall to their guild in town, then walk out to some place safe and well everybody in.

Lacking a local born weller, it was common to see who was online and either try to open a moonwell to some sub-level 20 elf or, if the well failed, to ask them to move some place that would allow a moonwell.

Interestingly, one of the features of the zone was a portal Hyssk, the home town to the Illithid race, which was a back door way to allow evil aligned races in the game a reliable way to get to Evermeet back when a good/neutral race character could become an outcast for just associating with evil races. (I lived as an outcast half-elf druid through one generation of TorilMUD.)  You still had to get to Hyssk, which was a challenge in and of itself.  Evil race towns were tough places.  But once there they could get into the zone and find your way to the quest related aspects of the zone.

So, as a zone for leveling the little elves of Evermeet, the Sylvan Glades were something of a bust.  But we’d get a good zone for that in the Elder Forest later on.  But as an interesting place for quests and related items, as well as a way to force people to find a way to the island, it was a good addition to the overall world.

The Elemental Glades

I’ve put off doing this post for a while… which probably just means I’ve forgotten more of the details over time… because the Elemental Glades were… intricate.  That is really the only word I can think of to cover the zone.

Way, way back in the day when we poor elves started in TorilMUD, only to find ourselves trapped on Evermeet until we hit level 20, we didn’t have a lot of options as where to adventure.  As covered in past posts under the Leuthilspar Tales tag, we only had three zones to adventure in.

I’ve written about Kobold Village and the Faerie Forest already.  Those were the zones where we spent the lion’s share of our time, taking on the Kobold miners, or running the Taskmasters and Bandor circuit, with the roots in Anna’s cellar along the way if we had a healer.

But the Elemental Glades… we rarely set foot in the place.

Sure, everybody on the island went there at some point.  It was just at the end of the path from Leuthilspar.  Not only wasn’t it hidden or hard to find, it was hard to miss.  You could easily wander in there accidentally.

The zone itself was strange, with a series of rooms, in clusters of four connected by a path that ran through the zone.  Each cluster had its own sort of tree.  And if you went too far down the path you would run into the su-monsters, evil psionic primates of Forgotten Realms lore that would not only assist each other but would come in from adjoining rooms to get you.  Many a young elf died to the su-monsters and getting that corpse… and the accompanying equipment… back safely was a challenge.

But mostly we avoided it because there wasn’t anything in the zone worth our time.  What gear there was lacked redeeming stats or, save for the “ridiculously tiny cap,” comedic value.

A small girl who looks something like a halfling, only smaller. She is
dressed in a short brown tunic.
The brownie is a small-sized level 15 Faerie.
She is in excellent condition.

<worn on head> a ridiculously tiny cap

Katumi tells you ‘a ridiculously tiny cap (Head) AC:0 Armor:-6 Hp:7 * Wt:0 Val:0p * Zone: Elemental Glades * Last ID: 2011-01-22’

Some things seemed neat, or filled slots that might otherwise go empty.

The fairy is a tiny version of a woman, but with wings!
The fairy is a small-sized level 15 Faerie.
She is in excellent condition.

<worn around neck> a pouch of fairy dust on a string

Katumi tells you ‘a pouch of fairy dust on a string (Neck) AC:0 Svpar:-2 * Wt:1 Val:0p * Zone: EM Roads * Last ID: 2007-03-17’

But most of the stuff wasn’t worth the effort and the mobs were tough and gave poor experience.  An elf would only go hang out in there if they were bored or desperate… or had a group strong enough to kill the su-monsters.  And even that wasn’t good experience, just cathartic.

And if you went past the su-monsters you were in danger of getting stuck.  The east exit from their square of rooms was a strange corridor.  If you went east you went into a normal room, but if you move back west you ended up in an elemental area with a castle and a hostile mob to kill.  Well, we found out about the hostile mob later, as they were behind a locked door in each zone.  A young elf getting stuck in these areas was always a chore to rescue.  We just told people to stay away and did so ourselves.

As time went on however, as we leveled up and left the island, a couple of our fellow elves began to return to the zone to try and figure out what was really going on.  As I recall Chandigar, ever the quest hunter, was the one who went in a deciphered what was going on.  I only explored and mapped the place.  And, thanks to digging out ZMud a bit back, I now have an annotated map to share.

Elemental Glades – Main Level

One of the first things discovered, aside from the layout, was that if you went up past the wombat into the ethereal tower and killed the wraith up there, it would drop a cube of ethereal matter.

To get to past the wombats and up into the ethereal tower you first had to get through Boabob trees, a section of the zone where all the exits were hidden by default  I recall somebody getting in there and being in a panic because there did not appear to be any way out.

Southwest Corner of a Grove of Baobab Trees
Exits: None!

You had to search until the exits showed up.

Once past that you had to slay the wombats, which were aggro.  Bad wombats!  Then you had to do in the wraith.  Easy enough as a druid as my sunray spell was extra potent against undead.   Then, once you looted the cube you could then take the cube to the forrestal over in the maples and he would give you the greenstone earring.

< > give cube forrestal
You give a cube of ethereal matter to the forrestal.
The forrestal takes the box and his eyes grow wide with wonder. ‘I was told once, long, long ago about a substance like this. I might be able to use this to heal my grove! Thank you, brave adventurer!’ He casts about as if looking for something. ‘Well hmm. I must, as a matter of honor, repay you for your service. Take this earring! It will serve you well in the different worlds you may wander.’

The forrestal gives you a greenstone earring.

‘I’m going to go tell the dryad the good news,’ he says. ‘She’s been worried since I’ve been upset over the trees.’ Whistling a merry tune, the forrestal vanishes into the woods.

The greenstone earring was crap, but it gave you full fire protection.  However, that turned out to be a vital aspect of the whole venture, as you needed that fire protection to get through the flame bathed elemental castle of fire.

Meanwhile, the location of the keys required for these elemental sub-zones were discovered.  Two of them were hidden in rooms which I have marked on the map.  I have completely forgotten where the other two were hidden, but we used to know and would grab them and run the individual elemental towers.

The towers mobs holding the towers dropped some loot.  Nothing really worthwhile.  I remember a flaming bastard sword or some such coming from the elemental tower of fire, a weapon with a name that far outpaced its stats.

So there wasn’t much in the way of rewards.  We ran them pretty much just to say we had done it a few times or when there was nothing else to do.  After they were done there was an exit in each that dumped you back in the Elemental Glades in the area with the sprites that matched the tower in question.  So for the fire tower you ended up with the fire sprites.

We were that far.  We could run those bits of the zone and ended up with a bit of gear we could vendor.  But we also ended up with a stone from each castle.  That looked like a quest item to somebody.

As it turned out, heading back up to the ethereal tower, there was a locked door that had a niche the shape of the stone looted from the earth elemental guardian.  And after that there was another door with a niche that matched another stone, and then another and another.  Four stones to unlock four doors.

And after that last door was… well… I forget.  There might have been a mob in the room to fight.  There probably was.  But I cannot recall even a glimpse of what the mob might have been.  But once past the fight, if there was a fight, there was a chest, inside of which was the reward for the whole quest line, an obsidian dagger.

Katumi tells you ‘a jagged obsidian dagger (Wield) Dam:1 Hit:2 * (Weapon) Dice:1D8 * Float Hidden Magic !Mage !Priest * Wt:4 Val:0p * Zone: Elemental Glades * Last ID: 2006-02-26’

The dagger was crap.  By the time we were doing that any rogue or assassin that was even trying a bit had the then all powerful Glowing Crimson Dagger from a quest in Havenport that was both interesting and easy enough to do with a small group that it got done nearly every boot that allowed enough time for people to get there.  Even the current, post eventual nerf stats are much better.  It even has a proc.

Katumi tells you ‘a glowing crimson dagger (Wield) Dam:2 Hit:3 * (Weapon) Dice:3D5 Crit:6% Multi:2x (Class: Simple, Type: Dagger) * Procs: Crimson Strike – Stat Drain * Magic * Wt:1 Val:35p * Zone: HP (UQ) * Last ID: 2010-12-04’

That was the answer to the questions about the zone.  It was essentially built in service of a single quest.  It was also clearly from another era.  Rumor had it that the zone was something somebody built for another MUD and brought it along with them when Sojourn became a thing.  It was further said that it got tacked onto the Evermeet zones because it sort of fit in and all we had was Kobold Village and the Faerie Forest.  And it gave us some place dangerous to get lost… because to Kobold Temple of the Unholy wasn’t enough I guess.

And, as a final note about the item stats quoted, they come from Katumi, and in-game bot that you can send tells to for such information.  Something I would have never dreamed of back in the old days.  If you log in be sure to send Katumi and tell with just a “?” to get the info about how it works.

Reviving ZMud 7.21

Posting something from my long, ongoing series of memories about TorilMUD always brings out a few of the usual suspects, and my tale of the economy of Waterdeep was no exception.

Xyd, who got me into TorilMUD back in 1993 asked when I was going to post about the zone known as the Elemental Glades.  A strange but essential part of the Leuthilspar Tales series, I have meant to get to that for some time.

The request set me on a path again, but I did not have enough information.  Memory is fleeting and it has been more than a decade since I probably did anything in that zone.  I could sketch a basic outline of the zone, the role it played for us as young elves on Evermeet, early attempts to crack into what the zone really was, and the eventual successful discovery of what the place was really about.

But, for me, a story like that needs details.  It is often the little things that trigger more memories and add depth to a tale.  And to get those details I would have to return to TorilMUD and visit the zone, walk through the rooms, and rediscover the clues left for us.

Actually logging in wasn’t a big deal.  I use Cygwin every day from my Windows box at work to log into our linux servers to run installs, grab logs, and what not.  The command line interface isn’t dead, it isn’t even resting yet.  So getting to the TorilMUD is as easy as typing in:

telnet torilmud.com 9999

The TorilMUD site tells you about it.  I even remember my login credentials.  Piece of cake.

The problem is, again, one of memory.  The mechanics of simply getting into the game are easy.  Finding things in the world… more difficult.  Much more difficult.

Individual rooms in the game can be quite memorable.  Even a few routes, like the one from Finn to Anna’s cottage, are etched into my memory.   But general navigation of the world can be a chore.  People who make MUDs aren’t always very creative with room names.  As I pointed out in a post about eight years ago, there can be a lot of repetition in room names.  Examples from the ZMud map database in that post:

  • 94 rooms named “Inside a Large Grove of Shadows”
  • 79 rooms named “A Bend in a Passage”
  • 58 rooms named “An Abandoned Mine Tunnel”
  • 57 rooms named “A Wide Dirt Road”
  • 53 rooms named “A Passageway”
  • 36 rooms named “A Rocky Trail”
  • 29 rooms named “A Trail Through a Forest”
  • 22 rooms named “Dense Forest”

So a lot of the time you’re just sitting there with a room name, some info about the size of the room, and the exits.

The Pathway of Peace
Room size: Large (L:30 ft W:75 ft H:500 ft)
Exits: -N -E -S

That wasn’t a ton of help on its own when I was playing the game every day.  A decade after I last did anything serious there and it might as well just say, “Yet Another Room!”

I could piece together how to get to the Elemental Glades, but I would be wandering essentially at random in a zone where there was some danger for even a high level character.

So I felt I had to get ZMud back up and running and with it all of the maps I so carefully made over the years.

In a timely coincidence (I had already written the Waterdeep post but, it not being time sensitive, I actually queued it up to post more than a week later) an old member of the Shades of Twilight guild, Oteb for those who might remember, dropped me a note asking if I still had the stash of information that once outraged the MUD, it being posted openly on the internet, as mentioned in yet another old post of mine.

That got me digging through some external drives in search of some pretty old files.

I did not find the files Oteb asked about, but I did dig out a backup copy of ZMud I had archived away.

Liked being able to connect to TorilMUD, having a copy of ZMud isn’t exactly a challenge.  Good old Zugg still has his site up and you can still download/buy a copy of ZMud or the newer CMud.  Not bad for a little company that has been selling a MUD client since 1995 or so.

The configuration files and, most importantly, the map database file were a big deal.  And it was ZMud 7.21, the final version of the client, so it seemed likely to be somewhat up to date.

I dragged that over to my main drive to see if I could get that going.

The first thing it wanted was a registration code, the 30 day free trial period having ended a long, long time ago.  I am not even sure that ZMud includes that trial any more, given how much Zugg is trying to push people onto CMud.  If you buy a copy of ZMud today you get a copy of CMud in the bargain.  It is a pity that my attempts to migrate to CMud have all failed on the maps part.  And without maps there is no point in moving.

I couldn’t find the license key, but Zugg has a way to recover it on his site.  I also couldn’t remember my password, but you can recover that too.  Fortunately I still have the email address I was using back in 2002 when I bought my current copy.  (I had to rebuy it in a similar situation back then because I did not have the previous email address.)

I was able to run through that and register my copy of ZMud again, but when I went to actually run it, it errored out on a memory addressing issue.  And, of course, Zugg has been very clear on support for ZMud on Windows 7 and beyond:

Because of the new release of Windows 7, we are getting more and more questions about this. So I wanted to make a sticky topic to make this perfectly clear:

zMUD is not supported on Vista, or Windows 7, or any other future version of Windows. Use CMUD instead.

zMUD was originally written for Windows 3.1, then Windows 95. zMUD was kludged to run on Windows XP. Some people might be able to force zMUD to run on Vista and Windows 7, but it is not supported. Beyond just installation and running problems, there are other severe memory limits and other problems with zMUD on newer versions of Windows.

The newer CMUD client was written from scratch specifically for Windows XP, Vista, and newer versions of Windows. CMUD is the only client that is fully supported by Zugg Software at this time.

But I was not deterred.  I have made it run on Win7 before.  I set it up for WinXP compatibility and, when that did not do the trick, set it to run as Administrator, the usual “make it work” solution for older software.

Just work, would you?

That was enough to get it going and I was able to launch, log in, and get the mapper running so I could find my way around.

ZMud lives!

Man, that UI is straight out of 1997, but it works!

And with that I was set.  I could run out to the Elemental Glades and begin work on that post.

So there it is, probably a new low in writing, a post about the work I did so I could write another post.

But I am happy to have ZMud up and running again and there is always the temptation to start playing TorilMUD some more.  We shall see.  First I need an xp group because I deliberately died a bunch of times at one point and dropped from level 50 to level 47.  Those last levels were easy to lose back in the day (you no longer lose levels now) but hard to get back, and you need a group to do it.

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
Item is: MAGIC NOBITS
Weight: 13, Value: 1
AC-apply is 20
Can affect you as :
Affects : HITPOINTS By 20

But somebody asking way too much would often hear a counter shout about how much the last couple copies of that particular item sold for.  It was also a way to figure out who had money.  You  could see who was getting rich by how they bid on things.

It was also in most people’s best interest to be around during prime selling times.  As I mentioned above, Saturday evening was a key time.  A lot more would be for sale then and a lot more buyers would be around.  You could probably find an auction going on most days, but the weekend was worth waiting for if you had a mind.  During the week you would only sell to get rid of an opportunistic find that might be too common come Saturday.

People actually adapted very well to the system for quite a while.  People were mostly patient with their auctions, making sure only a couple were going on at once so as to avoid confusion.  People were sincere with their bids and handed over their item at the bank when they were given the right amount of platinum.

Basically, for an online where having 200 people online at once was a big deal, it was an adequate system of exchange.  It wasn’t all hugely expensive stuff either.  It was early enough in the cycle of the game that most people were still poor, so selling something for 5-10p was generally a worthwhile venture.

There was also a way to play on scarcity in a way.  My friend Xyd and I started as elves who, until a recent emancipation, were stuck on the isle of Evermeet until level 20.  It was life of privation on the isle, something I recounted in the Leuthilspar Tales series of posts, collected under a tag of the same name.  Equipment was scarce and we would wear just about anything under the theory that an equipment slot filled with something was better than an empty equipment slot.

But elves who had hit level 20 and made it through the elf gate and on to Waterdeep would return… a hazardous journey for any but a druid or a cleric, as those classes could use “word of recall” to return to their guilds on the isle… with items to sell their poor cousins still stuck on the island.  How we longed for a tiny silver ring, which was AC5 +1 hit, to replace that crappy piece of string from the goblin’s junk pile in the Faerie Forest or that strange ring from the Elemental Glades (I need to write a post about that zone still) that turned out to be crap.

Not only were we short of equipment, but identify scrolls were about ten times as expensive in Leuthilspar than in Waterdeep, so we had to do without.

We would later learn that pretty much everybody had a tiny silver ring in Waterdeep, it being one of the few useful items that spawned on a several mobs each boot.   And they spawned near the inn at the south end of the city, so they were farmed after every boot.  We didn’t know that, we were just anxious to hand over whatever we could scrape together to buy one… or two… oh, to have a pair of tiny silver rings.

The only problem with that return trade in Leuthilspar is that we, as elves of Evermeet, were dirt poor.  We didn’t live in the wild because we loved nature, we lived there because that was what we could afford.  Even the rent in Kobold Village was too much.  (Just kidding, there was no cost to rent at the Inn in Leuthilspar, but the innkeeper used to say something that staying was free for now, as though there might be a charge some day, a threat that used to keep me up at night in the early days.)

But we did have some items on the isle that could be sold in Waterdeep.  As Xyd and I learned once we had been through the elf gate and into Waterdeep.  After hunting buffalo, skirting lake Skeldrach, and walking the salt road… and finding ourselves still dirt poor… we found that we could enrich ourselves by carrying over some common items from the isle.

Bandor’s flagon was a favorite.  In a game where you had to carry around food and drink, having a large, lightweight drinking flagon in your bag was just the ticket.  For quite a while it was the drinking vessel that everybody rich or poor sought.  We could easily sell one for 20-50p every boot, and sometimes 100p or more if the market was hot, which seemed like a hell of a lot of money to us back in the day.

There were some other items that would sell reliably on a Saturday when enough people were around.  The Cloak of Forest Shadows from the Faerie Forest would go for a few plat, though I think more because it sounded cool than because of its somewhat modest stats. (Also, you couldn’t vendor it, so anything we got was good.)

The 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.

The Age of the Full Zone Respawn

More memories from the depths of TorilMUD lore.

Being one of the proto-MMO MUDs, and the MUD in particular that influenced the creation of EverQuest, TorilMUD included early/crude/simplified versions of many of the MMO mechanics we have come to love/loathe.

One of these is, of course, the respawn.

Oh, the respawn, one of those quirks required of a shared world.  You can’t just kill a thing and expect it to remain dead in a game where a hundred or a thousand other people might need to kill the same thing… or ten of the same thing… as well.

And so we have grown used to respawns, spawn tables, rare spawns, and all of that in our MMORPGs.  The sight of slain mobs reappearing on the field is nothing strange.  I remember when the two hour respawn timer for mobs in WoW dungeons used to be an issue, back when WoW dungeons took longer than 20 minutes to run.

(Even the term “mob” dates from the MUD era, when it referred to a “mobile object,” which is all our orcs and dragons were back then.)

But back in the MUD era, things were less sophisticated, resources more restricted, and even drive space could be an issue.  Back then there wasn’t any process keeping track of every single trash mob in the world, respawning them one by one on individual timers.

Sure, there might be a bit of code keeping track of a very special boss mob or a rare world spawn, but for the most part respawns were handled at the zone level.

Kobold Village - Surface

Kobold Village Zone – Surface Level

A zone back in TorilMUD… back in DikuMUD… was something of an autonomous process.  I tinkered with zone creation at one point and have forgotten most of what I once knew, but I recall that they were discreet areas that contained all the data… rooms, descriptions, objects, and mobs… that they contained.  There could be a lot of zones in a MUD.  You can see a list of zones from TorilMUD on a previous post I did.

When actually playing TorilMUD, it could sometimes be difficult to tell where one zone ended and another began.  The world was seamless in its way, probably more so that WoW, where you can see the change in geography and color palette as you move from one zone to another.  You had to look at the style of the text in the zone.

Sometimes it was obvious.  An old or connecting zone might have no ANSI color characters in it or the writing style in room descriptions might change dramatically.  And, sometimes, there would be a sign announcing the area, often including a warning about dangers ahead. (See the sign on the fence outside Kobold Village for example.)

Within a zone, all the mobs would respawn at the same time.  The standard timer in TorilMUD was 20 minutes if I recall right.  When off on a experience group, grinding levels some place like Kobold Village, the buffalo fields, the pirate ship, or even on the walls of Waterdeep, where elite guards gave great experience, it was important to establish a flow that worked with the respawn timer so as to limit down time.  We used to come up with regular cycles and move from mob to mob, winding up back where we started just in time for the respawn.

Some zones were different.  There were a couple of zones that were set to not respawn.  Once they were done, they were empty until the game crashed and restarted.

Other zones… the special zones like City of Brass that required a full group of 16, correctly balanced… would not spawn until empty.  That is, nothing would respawn until there were no players left in the zone.  That could lead to difficult times if there was a full party wipe.  With everybody dead and back in their own respawn points… their class guilds in most cases… the zone would respawn and all the mobs between the players and their corpses… corpses which had all of their equipment… leading to difficult times.  It was not uncommon to bring along an extra person just to sit in the first room and “hold the zone” for the group to keep it from respawning in the event of a wipe.

And there were, of course, some oddities with the full zone respawn, like spawn order.

Any unique mobs in a zone were likely just that, unique.  There was only one and they had a specific spawn location.  But more generic mobs, guards or patrols, or other trash if you will, might be a single mob that was set to spawn at a list of points.  At respawn time the zone would then refill any missing mobs from that batch starting at the top of the list of spawn points.

This meant that if you killed a generic mob from the second spot on the list, when respawn time came it would respawn in the first spot.  The process was simple.  It didn’t check what spots were empty or keep track of which mobs had spawned in which spot.  It just checked to see how many of that mob were left and, if the count came up short, it spawned more of them to fill out the desired number.

This could be painful if somebody killed the wrong mob.  Spawn order was serious business.

For example, I mentioned the elite guards on the walls of Waterdeep.  Those were tough mobs, but they would not call for help or trigger a city-wide alarm if you attacked them.  And they were excellent experience and dropped a decent amount of cash.  But they were generic mobs and you had to be careful to kill them in spawn order.  If you didn’t follow spawn order, or missed the respawn and kept killing in order past the first spawn after a respawn, you could end up with two elites in that first room.  And while elite guards wouldn’t call for help or set off the alarm, they would assist each other, so now you faced a double spawn.  And given that you probably setup your group to maximize experience, which meant keeping it as small as possible, a double spawn would be then end of things unless you got some help.

And so it went.  As I recall, the reavers on the Pirate ship were the same way as elite guards.  You needed to kill them in the right order or you ended up with overlapping spawns.

Anyway, that is my MUD memory of the day.