Tag Archives: Leuthilspar Tales

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.

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.

Up All Night in Leuthilspar

Syl wrote about day/night cycles in MMOs a couple of weeks months years back.  Clearing of the drafts fodler here, as you might guess. Of course, one aspect of that is how long such a cycle should be.  At one end of the spectrum is World of Warcraft, where Azeroth turns on a literal 24 hour cycle, and server time is in-game time.

EVE Online also runs on a real-world 24 hour clock, though I am not sure that a day/night cycle makes much sense there.  It is always night in space, right?

Anyway, in Azeroth that means if you are like me… I live in the US Pacific time zone but play on a server in the Easter time zone, 3 hours ahead of me… you might spend most of your time in WoW playing at night.

Not that night is all that big of a deal in WoW.  Every single instance group screen shot has been taken during the night cycle and most of the time you couldn’t tell it was night.

The lair of Lockmaw

This is night. Stars in the sky.

There is, as Syl noted, a nice sunset period if you are on at the right time, and likely a similarly pleasant sunrise, though I’ve never seen that.  I’ve been online when it has happened, I was just deep in Uldaman at the time.

Other games have a much shorter cycle.  In EverQuest you passed through the day/night routine every 72 minutes if I recall right, 3 minutes per in-game hour.  That could leave you running around in the dark a few times in a single long play session.

Scarecrows in West Karana

Night, when the Scarecrows come out in West Karana

And at the extreme end is Minecraft, which has a 20 minute day/night cycle, which means if you play for an hour… and who plays Minecraft for just an hour when you’re into something… you will spend half that time in daylight and the rest in the dusk, night, and dawn portion of the cycle, during which time the night life will be coming for you.

Coming to get me...

Coming to get me…

Of course, the Minecraft example brings up what is probably the key question when it comes to a day/night cycle; should it have impact on game play?

In World of Warcraft there is almost no impact on game play.  As noted, you can barely tell it is night as the moon over Azeroth apparently reflects 80-90% of the sun’s luminosity during the night time hours.  And I am hedging by even using the word “almost” there, because something in the back of my brain believes there was a “night only” spawn at some point.  But that could be me.

At the other end of spectrum is Minecraft, which isn’t an MMO but is MMO enough for this discussion, where the transition from day to night changes game play dramatically.  It actually gets dark out, so lighting matters.  But even more so, as noted above, things come out at night.  Bad things.  Things that seek to kill you or blow you up.  So you either hunker down and wait out the night… or sleep if you’re alone on your server… or get out there and fight the encroaching zombie/skeleton/creeper menace.

Maybe that is an extreme example.

But I do hear calls now and again for not only a day/night cycle in MMORPGs, but that the cycle should impact game play, that night should be different than day, and that NPCs should behave in a way attuned to the cycle of the world and their lives.  They should go to bed at night.

That last bit… that is one of those things that always sounds better in theory that it does in reality.  And I say that as somebody who has lived a bit of that as reality in an online game.

Back we go again, back through the mists of time, back to TorilMUD and the days of text, triggers, and ANSI color characters as a substitute for graphics.

All text, all the time

All text, all the time

I’ve written about TorilMUD many times before, and specifically about the hardship of the elves of Evermeet, stuck until recently in their own little corner of the game until level 20 with few zone choices and not much in the way of gear available.  The sorrow of the eldar is never ending and all that, as my Leuthilspar Tales series has illustrated.

But we did have one advantage there on Evermeet, and especially in the city of Leuthilspar.  For the most part elves don’t seem to need any sleep.  Shops were open all night long and even the city gates, which the guards closed and locked at sunset, could be passed through after hours if you spoke the right word. (It was “peace.”)

The rest of the world however…

It was a sure sign that a player was fresh through the elf gate and in Waterdeep for the first time when, locked outside of town, they would stand there saying things like “peace” and “please” and whatnot trying to get the gates to unlock so they could pass through.

And imagine to confusion in the a poor elf’s eyes when a vendor in town suddenly announced they were shutting up their shop for the night and wouldn’t be serving customers until the morning.

Outside of Leuthilspar, shops had business hours!

The vendors wouldn’t go away… though I think one in Baldur’s Gate used to move into another room… they would just stand there as usual.  However, when you attempted to interact with them, they would announce that they were closed and admonish the player to come back later.

In a way, it sounds quaintly archaic in today’s world.  But TorilMUD, measuring from its predecessor Sojourn MUD, is past the 20 year mark as well.  It was a simpler time and a different audience in an era when game devs sometimes felt the user ought to conform to a much more rigid set of rules.

I couldn’t imagine a MMORPG today putting something like that in place.  But TorilMUD was smaller than even the most niche MMORPGs we’ve seen.  I would guess that maybe 10K people created accounts on the game over its lifetime.  During its peak it could get a couple hundred people online at the same time, which was considered quite the crowd.  In that sort of small, self-selecting environment, you can set different rules.

And the vendors didn’t just have hours, but would also only deal in specific goods at times.

But, at least the day/night cycle was short.  The ration was one real life minute to one in-game hour, so a day went by in just 24 minutes.  Not as fast as Minecraft, but close.

Anyway, such were the was of the past.  How niche would a game today have to be to get away with that sort of thing?

Elves Unchained in TorilMUD

I have not written about TorilMUD in ages.  Honestly, I haven’t even logged in to check up on the place in a long time.

TorilMUD_logo

But the old world of text that I started playing in more than 22 years ago lives on and gets updated from time to time.  The last time I mentioned it was when they announced the end of their harsh death penalty, which was the model that EverQuest used back in the good/bad old days.  That was about a year back.

That have had a couple of other updates posted to their Tumblr news site since then, but last night one showed up that I had to mention.

The main topic of the update was the introduction of a new class of spells called “cantrips,” which my brain immediately parsed as “can trip.”  Hrmmm…

But what caught my eye about the update was this item listed under “other changes”

Elves can now start in Baldurs Gate and Silverymoon. They can also use the Leuthilspar elfgate as early as level 1. Free the elves!

Free the elves indeed.

For those unfamiliar with the game… which is probably everybody reading this… one of the quirks of TorilMUD up until this change was that elves had a single home town in which they could start.  That was Leuthilspar, on the island of Evermeet, a location those familiar with the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms campaign setting might recall.

But elves were not just required to start in Leuthilspar, they were required to stay on the island of Evermeet until they hit level 20… because… well… level 20 was a special level back in the day.  It was the “coming of age” level.   You could petition for a last name.  You were finally allowed to see your stats as numbers rather than possible ranges.

Do I take Heroic strength?

Do I take Heroic strength?

And, if you were an elf… or a half-elf that chose to start in Leuthilspar out of some sense of masochism… you were finally allowed to use the elf gate at the east end of town and leave Evermeet for the big city, Waterdeep.

This was a significant moment in the life of any elven character because, back in the day, Evermeet was a bit of a dump.  There was the town itself, where the guards would slaughter you if they caught you fighting… and remember that whole harsh death penalty thing.  So, for adventures you had to head out to Kobold Village, which was fun but contained its own perils, the Faerie Forest, a place to get lost in, and the Elemental Glades, which had its own issues.

Short of starting in one of the evil race home towns, which were designed to be a challenge for experienced players, Evermeet was the worst of the home towns.  This wasn’t because its local area was bad.  Starting as a gnome, a halfling, a dwarf, or a barbarian meant having absolute crap content to hand.  But they could all head to Waterdeep, around which there was ample content for leveling up, content with plenty of drops that groups could tackle from levels 1 through to about 40.

Leuthilspar Locations

Leuthilspar Locations

Elves had to make do with what they had, and while the zones were not bad, they lacked in equipment drops.  You could always spot a newly arrived elf in Waterdeep because of the paucity of their gear.  They might have a bronze sword, a pearl earring, a bit of string tied around their finger, and the inevitable cloak of forest shadows.  And, of course, these elves would be gawking a the locals, amazed at all the gear they had.  Good gear.  With actual bonus stats and such.

Of course, the newly arrived elf couldn’t afford to buy any of that gear, because they had likely left Evermeet with only a few coins in their pocket and not much of value to sell or trade.  And it was always some work to get into groups because you couldn’t compete with the well geared locals.  But if you persevered, you could close the gear gap and catch up with the rest of the world.

And you were a member of a special club.  You had made it through the privations of the elf homeland.  You would, of course, help any new elf you saw standing at the gates of Waterdeep, trying to unlock them after they had closed for the night saying the word “peace” over and over. (That unlocked the gates of Leuthilspar at night, but for Waterdeep you needed the key that Lord Piergeiron carried on his person or a rogue with a high lockpick skill.)

And, as an elf, you might never go back home.  If you were a cleric or a druid, so your word of recall spell would bring you back to Leuthilspar, you might frequent the place after level 20.  But other classes had to take a ship to the Moonshaes and travel quite a ways in order to find the elf gate that would return them to their original home.  It generally wasn’t worth the effort.

Because I started most of my main characters on Evermeet, getting through those first 20 levels is very much a part of my memories of the game, much more so than any of the early zones in the main world.  I even wrote a series of posts about them under the tag Leuthilspar tales.

Over the years the lot of the elves was improved.  One of the players Xyd and I started playing with way, way back in the day, Rylandir, went on to become one of the game admins for a while and created a number of zones for Evermeet.  The first in, the Eldar Forest, was especially helpful, had some good quests, and dropped some gear.  Level 20 elves eventually stopped showing up in Waterdeep looking like beggars.

And now… well, elves can run straight to Waterdeep… which is probably a good thing.  The population of TorilMUD has dwindled over the years.  No longer can you log in on a Friday night and find more than 100 players online.  But there does seem to be 20 or more around whenever I take a moment to check in.

But there was a time, long ago, when the life of an elf of Evermeet was desperate and poor.  Somehow we survived.

Now that I look at my list of Leuthilspar Tales, I think I need to go back and finish it up by writing something about the Elemental Glades, the third… and strangest… zone of Evermeet from back in the day.

And, if all of this talk about the old days of TorilMUD has you in a nostalgia reverie, here are a few other choice posts about the good old days:

Or you can just look at the whole TorilMUD category.  There are only 56 posts total.

Some of those posts are old enough at this point that I am even feeling a bit of nostalgia for the point of time when I was able to remember that much about the game.  Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

And, of course, if you are interesting in the game… because it is still up and running… you can find out more about it at their web site.

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.

The Age of the Discriminating Vendor

Another one of those posts that starts with “back in the day…” and which recounts how things used to be during the stone age of online gaming.  Writing about it is not necessarily advocating for its return, but it certainly made things different.  Anyway, on to it…

Back in the day, back in TorilMUD, there were things that were very different than we see them now in modern MMORPGs, and there were things that were very much the same.

All text, all the time

It was all text, all the time back then

One thing that was the same was money.

Everybody needed it, the economy needed it, but nobody started out with any and the only real way to get any was to kill NPCs that spawned in the world for their loot.

There were also quests.  But quests were not very common, annoying to find, and could be frustratingly difficult to complete.  I have gone into the way questing used to be back in the day.  There was nobody standing around waiting to tell you to kill ten rats.  And the end result was more often an item than any money.

So that left murdering the residents of the world and looting their still warm corpses as the only real money making enterprise.

Wholesale slaughter would get you some coins.  But for the most part that was a pretty slow way to earn money, at least at lower levels.  Later, in a leveling group in place like the pirate ship, a good group could end up with a nice pile of cash.

But you, new adventurer, won’t be doing that or zones or anything of the sort for a long while.

And that went double for elves and half elves who started on the Island of Evermeet, in the elvish city of Leuthilspar and were stuck there for the first 20 levels of their career.  I will focus on the plight of the elves, since that is what I am most familiar with.

So to supplement the tiny trickle of coins, you would have to also grab whatever else your victims were carrying.  Swords, bits and pieces or armor and clothing, random items of junk, whatever you could pry from their cold, dead fingers.  You would collect all of this to sell to one of the many vendors in Abeir-Toril.

As a young citizen of Leuthilspar, you would head out to Kobold Village or the Faerie Forest in search of adventure, experience, and loot.  At least, once you figured out how to get there.  Eventually, if you were successful… by which I generally mean that you did not die and have to go find your corpse in the dark… you would have a pile of coins and some items to vendor.

In Kobold Village there was a couple of vendors, but as your became more seasoned you began to notice that those vendors paid very little for your items.   That was the way of the world.  The buy and sell prices from vendors were influence by your race, your class, your charisma stat, and the general level of wickedness of the person who created the zone.

The young elvish adventurer could make much more money, multiples of what the stingy vendors out in the world were offering, if said adventurer just dragged all of that loot back to a vendor in Leuthilspar.

The key was, which vendor.

Leuthilspar Locations

Leuthilspar Locations (click to embiggen)

The good part was that all the vendors were pretty close to the square at city center and near to the bank.

The down side was that the vendors were all pretty picky about what they would buy.  Your options were:

1 – Talidnal’s Goods and Supply Shop – Sold random supplies like rations and small bags, would buy miscellaneous items of the same sort.  You had to sell the red feather from the traveling faerie here.

2 – The Weapon Shop of Leuthilspar – Bought and sold weapons and only weapons.  Notable for being one of the vendors with special responses.  Would point out in all caps that this was weapon shop if you tried to sell something else and would claim that they could buy items flagged “no value” because they just bought a Doombringer earlier.

3 – The Scribe Shop of Leuthilspar – Sold scroll, including the scroll of identify.  These cost 2 platinum coins, which was more than any new player could afford, but which was the only way to see the full stats and information on any given item.  Except, of course, if the item was flagged as “no identify,” in which case you just wasted 2 plat.

4 – Silyonlanster’s Fine Gems and Jewels – Sold some gems that had no purpose I ever found, and would buy any gems you happened to have.

5 – Norlan’s Pet Shop – Bought nothing as far as I could tell, but would sell you a very expensive pet that would fight for you and which would be gone forever if it died… or if you logged off.  A lot of us bought one of these exactly once.

6 – The Armorer of Leuthilspar – Sold some very heavy bronze armor and would buy anything flagged as armor, which did not include leather armor from Kobold Village or the Cloak of Forest Shadows.

7 – The Leviathan Shipwright – Sold rafts and canoes for crossing water.  You just had to have one in your inventory (but not in a container) for them to work.  Would buy them back at a deep discount.

8 – The Green Griffon Pub – Sold alcoholic beverages.  Never bought anything I had to sell.

9 – Tilanthra’s Shop of Alchemy – Bought and sold potions.

10 – The Magic Shop of Leuthilspar – Sold a number of scrolls and wands, despite there already being a scroll shop.  Would only buy wands and the like.  This is where you would sell that Wand of Thunderous Rage that was in the garbage heap and which never worked for me over the last 15 years.

11 – Morlanthrtilan’s Fine Clothier – Had nothing for sale as I recall, but would buy that leather armor from Kobold Village that the armor shop turned its nose up at.

12 – The Blue Dragon Inn and Restaurant – Sold oddly specific and very expensive food at various times and would buy, for reasons I could never determine, arrows and quarrels.

13 – Qulazoral’s Barrels and More – Sold you a skin or a barrel of water after your first issued water skin evaporated after you emptied it (I think they finally fixed that) but before you finally got a flagon from Bandor.  Would buy liquid containers, if you ever found one.

There were some other vendors in town.  Each guild had a vendor that might give you a few more coins for specific items.  But in general, it was vendor row on main street that handled your needs.  You just needed to run around a lot until you figured out who bought what.  It helped that what vendors purchased ended up in their inventory for sale again, a feature I miss, and which was last seen in EverQuest as I recall.

And even then you would end up with a few items that no vendor would purchase, but which were not flagged “no value.”  There were a few items I would have to travel to Mithril Hall, way up in the north beyond Neverwinter, in order to vendor.  I think the dead rat was on that list.

Still, in some ways, the elves did not have it so bad.  The vendors gave decent prices and were all centrally located.  This was not necessarily the case in Waterdeep or Baldurs gate, and good luck selling things way down in Calimport.

And vendors in Leuthilspar never closed.  Elves don’t need sleep.  In other towns vendors would often close for some or all of the night cycle of a given day.  The time translation was one real world minute for one game hour, so you might end up sitting in a shop for 6 or 8 or 12 minutes waiting for the vendor to open up again.

And with all of that, you still ran the risk of selling something of value to other players… something you could sell or trade… to a vendor without knowing.  As I mentioned above, you needed a scroll of identify to see what an item did.  There were no stats on demand and equipment was not color coded by the now standard formula (gray, white, green, blue, purple) to indicate relative worth.  Of course, once you sold the item to a vendor, it cost you a lot more to buy it back.  It seemed that vendors were in the business of making money… or at least acting like they were there to make money as opposed to just being a place to dump your crap.

Today though, we can see it all.  Stats show up when we hover the cursor over and item, and it will even show what we have equipped in the relevant slot so we can instantly compare.  Items names are color coded, as noted above.  And not only will vendors buy just about anything you have (and sell it back to you at the same price if sold something by mistake) but we are at the point in games like Rift where there is a button that will automatically sell all of your “trash” grade loot to the vendor with a single press.

As I said at the top, I am not exactly hankering to go back to the way vendors used to be.  But it is interesting to see how much has changed, and one wonders if it was all for the better.