This is part 1 in a 4 part series of FAQs.
Disclaimer: This document may be seen to be biased towards TinyMUDs. This is because the original author of this document mainly plays those types of servers, not because she thinks they are inherently better or worse than other types of servers. However, this document is meant to be generalized and useful for all MUDdom, and so corrections and contributions are always welcome. The new maintainers will be gradually modifying the FAQ to be geared towards all of the various server types.
A MUD (Multiple User Dimension, Multiple User Dungeon, or Multiple User Dialogue) is a computer program which users can log into and explore. Each user takes control of a computerized persona/avatar/incarnation/character. You can walk around, chat with other characters, explore dangerous monster-infested areas, solve puzzles, and even create your very own rooms, descriptions and items. You can also get lost or confused if you jump right in, so be sure to read this document before starting.
For a nice anecdote about the origin of the name, I quote Richard Bartle, co-author of the first MUD:
[…] I am WELL aware what “MUD” stands for, and maybe once every 2 months have to tell someone. The “D” does stand for “Dungeon”, but not because the original MUD (which I co-wrote) had a dungeon in it; rather it was because there was a hacked-up version of Zork doing the rounds at the time, which bore the name “Dungeon”. We thought that this program would act as the archetype for single-player adventure games, so we called our game “Multi-User Dungeon” in an effort to convey some feeling of what the program did. As it happened, the genre was promptly called “Adventure games” after the Colossal Caves game “Adventure”, so we were wrong in that respect. By then, though, we had our acronym.
Going by this definition, multi-user Quake certainly qualified as a full-fleged MUD, as you can wander around and affect your environment, and can communicate with other players. In the interests of sanity, however, this FAQ will only cover the more traditional primarily text-based MUDs.
You’ll notice the disclaimer on this FAQ mentions TinyMUD. That’s one common type of MUD, but there are many different types of MUDs out there. The Tiny- and Teeny- family of MUDs are usually more social in orientation; the players on those MUDs tend to gather, chat, meet friends, make jokes, and discuss all kinds of things.
The LP- family of MUDs, including Diku and AberMUD, are usually based on roleplaying adventure games; the players on those MUDs tend to run around in groups or alone killing monsters, solving puzzles, and gaining experience in the quest to become a wizard.
There are still other types of MUDs, such as MOOs, UnterMUDs, and so forth. Each type has its own unique style, and players are rarely forced to stick to one type of playing – there’s no rule that says an LPMUD _must_ be a combat-oriented MUD, or that a TinyMUSH _must not_ be a combat-oriented MUD. We suggest that you experiment around with several different types of MUDs to see what you find is the most interesting. If there’s one thing MUDdom has, it’s variety.
You may wish to check out the LPMud FAQ, posted to the rec.games.mud.lp newsgroup periodically by George Reese.
There are many services available which provide up-to-date lists of currently-running muds. A list of some of these sites is available at http://www.mudconnect.com/resources/Mud_Resources:Mud_Lists.html.
- http://www.mudconnect.com/ – provides a frequently updated list of text-based muds (1400+ at the moment) as well as site and mud player/staff reviews, several search engines including a categorical search (to search on ‘Pern-based’ muds, for example), active discussions boards, mud resources, and a players’ directory.
- http://mudlist.eorbit.net/ – large (3000+ muds at the moment) list of text based muds, updated automatically every week. The site includes lists of web pages which refer to each mud, and extensive text based search capabilities.
MUDs are run on many fine computers across the world. To play, all you have to do is telnet to the MUD’s Internet Protocol Port, and you’re in business. Some MUDs have a policy called registration to cut down on abuse of privileges; you might have to send mail to the administrator of the MUD in order to obtain a character. It’s important to note that MUDs are not a right, and your access is granted out of trust. People usually have to pay to use processing time on the large, expensive computers which MUDs often run on, and you’re being given a special deal. Which brings us to another point: MUDs can’t really be run on anything less than a largish workstation (currently), so they’re usually on academic or corporate workhorse machines.
Don’t believe that for a second. When you paid money to your school’s computer department for an account, you entered into a contract with that department. Most schools have a well written Computer Policy document, that will detail exactly what you have rights to. Most schools classify MUD as a game, and games as non-essentials. Therefore, if your school decides to shut off all games, or disallow you to telnet out to play muds, you’re stuck. Don’t try to get around it; they’ll find you. Instead, try to talk to the Powers That Be, and see why they did what they did. They may have very good reasons for it (such as limited resource that really need to be dedicated to schoolwork).
There are several ways to hook yourself up to a MUD’s Internet port. First, you can use telnet once you find out the MUD’s network address and port number. If, for instance, we knew that ChupsMUD was at the network address
pickle.cs.umsst.edu at port 4201, we could type:
(on most systems, including UNIX) telnet pickle.cs.umsst.edu 4201 (or, on some VMS systems) telnet pickle.cs.ummst.edu/port=4201 and we’d be ready for action. If we get back an error saying something like host unknown, we’d want to do the same thing, only using the machine’s IP address, like this: telnet 127.0.0.1 4201.
Your second option is to scout out the many fine client programs which exist for the sole purpose of providing a friendly and useful front end to MUDs. (See client, below.)
Some things that can go wrong:
If you’re using straight telnet on a VMS system, you might have to make sure that your terminal has newlines turned on. If it doesn’t, the mud’s output will get spewed across the screen in a most ugly fashion.
If you’re using Win95’s telnet, make sure that local echo is turned on in the options menu. Otherwise you won’t be able to see what you type.
If you see just a login: prompt when you connect to the mud, then you’re probably not connecting properly. You have succeeded in connecting to the mud’s machine, but not to mud itself — make sure you specify both the mud’s hostname and port number.
Telnet is a rather ugly way to connect to most muds, since it doesn’t do any fancy text wrapping, and if someone says something while you’re typing out a line, it will make a mess out of your line, making it hard to see what you’re typing and hard to keep track of what’s going on in the mud. A client program is simply another program you use instead of telnet to connect to a mud. Clients also provide useful things such as macros and the ability to gag or highlight certain mud output. Clients are available for anonymous ftp from several sites. See the Frequently Asked Questions posting #2 for more information about clients.
Once you connect, find out what the deal is with respect to you getting a character. Some MUDs allow you to create your own, and others require you to send off for one via email. If you have to send off for one, send one e-mail request and cool your heels. MUDding will be around forever, no need to rush it. But let’s say you’ve now gotten a character, and you’re connected up, and things are starting to get interesting. At this point, you should do what is probably least intuitive: type help, read the instructions and directions, and understand them. Then, type news, read the information, and understand it. Then (yes, we know, we know… it’ll be fun, soon!) practice using the commands given to you until you think you’ve got a good enough grip to be able to start in on exploring, questing, socializing, or whatever else tunes your engine.
Some people are easily annoyed when other people clearly have no idea what they are doing, even if they were recently in that position themselves. It’ll be much easier for you to cope without some fella saying things you don’t understand to you and possibly killing you. However, many MUD players are helpful, and asking them, “excuse me, are you busy? I’m a brand new player, and I have a question,” will often work just fine.
You should pick a password just as you do for any computer account. Use a word, or better yet, a phrase or anagram, that isn’t obvious. Don’t, for instance, use the same name as your character, or your own first name, or your girl/boyfriend’s name. And never never use the same password as the one on your computer account. Most MUDs prevent people from getting the passwords from within the mud, and most encrypt the password when it’s store in the database files. However, there is nothing preventing the MUD’s owner from modifying the code to dump the passwords to a file, along with other information such as the host you connected from. Using this information, an evil MUD admin could probably figure out your login name and get into your account easily. It’s also not a good idea to use the same password on different MUDs, since if your password gets out on one MUD, all your MUD characters have been compromised. This is especially important for MUD Wizards and Gods. Use the auto-login feature of your client, if it has one, and protect the file containing the login information against reading by others.
This story comes from Alec Muffett, author of Crack and maintainer of the alt.security FAQ.
firstname.lastname@example.org: The best story I have is of a student friend of mine (call him Bob) who spent his industrial year at a major computer manufacturing company. In his holidays, Bob would come back to college and play AberMUD on my system.
Part of Bob’s job at the company involved systems management, and the company was very hot on security, so all the passwords were random strings of letters, with no sensible order. It was imperative that the passwords were secure (this involved writing the random passwords down and locking them in big, heavy duty safes).
One day, on a whim, I fed the MUD persona file passwords into Crack as a dictionary (the passwords were stored plaintext) and then ran Crack on our systems password file. A few student accounts came up, but nothing special. I told the students concerned to change their passwords – that was the end of it.
Being the lazy guy I am, I forgot to remove the passwords from the Crack dictionary, and when I posted the next version to USENET, the words went too. It went to the comp.sources.misc moderator, came back over USENET, and eventually wound up at Bob’s company. Round trip: ~10,000 miles.
Being a cool kinda student sysadmin dude, Bob ran the new version of Crack when it arrived. When it immediately churned out the root password on his machine, he damn near fainted…
The moral of this story is: never use the same password in two different places, and especially on untrusted systems (like MUDs).
Demand something. Whine. Follow them around. Page or tell them over and over after they’ve asked you to stop. In combat MUDs, steal from corpses of things they just killed.
Don’t give help to the new players. Kill them, ignore them, shout “get a description” at them. These are the best ways to kill off MUDding in general, actually.
You shouldn’t do anything that you wouldn’t do in real life, even if the world is a fantasy world. The important thing to remember is that it’s the fantasy world of possibly hundreds of people, and not just yours in particular. There’s a human being on the other side of each and every wire! Always remember that you may meet these other people some day, and they may break your nose. People who treat others badly gradually build up bad reputations and eventually receive the NO FUN Stamp of Disapproval. The jury is still out on whether MUDding is “just a game” or “an extension of real life with gamelike qualities,” but either way, treat it with care.
It’s up to you. Some jaded cynics like to laugh at idealists who think it’s partially for real, but we personally think they’re not playing it right. Certainly the hack-‘n-slash stuff is only a game, but the social aspects may well be less so.
Most MUDS have a core of commands which players use to move around and interact with each other. For instance, there are commands for interacting with other players, like say (or sometimes “), and other commands like look, go, etc. In TinyMUD, there are commands like home (which always places you in your home — remember that), : (pose — try it), etc., which allow you to do stuff inside the database. Commands prefixed by a @ (generally) allow you to change the database! Commands like @describe, @create, @name, @dig and @link allow you to expand the universe, change it, or even, perhaps, @destroy it, under certain conditions. In LPMUDs, none of those apply; in order to edit the universe, you have to attain Wizardhood or be the God of the MUD.
Whatever the case, these building commands are beyond the scope of this little sheet — find the documentation for whatever MUD you’re playing with and consume it avidly. Most MUDs have documentation on-line, although better documentation can be gotten via ftp from other sites. Ask around, or try looking on
Now is the time when you should be most careful. Within reason, don’t be afraid to ask questions of other players.
Wizards (see the glossary section) are usually helpful; if you know a wizard to be a wizard, then you can usually ask them a question or two. Make sure they’re not busy first. Also, players who have been logged on for a long time (which you can check using the WHO command) are often helpful, as they are usually the veterans who’ve seen it all before. In combat MUDs, asking relatively high level characters is usually the way to find things out.
Ask a friend to help you. Don’t post anything in any newsgroup. Just take it slow, one step at a time, smoothing over the things you don’t understand by reading manuals (i.e. man telnet), asking local help, or trying to find people who use MUDs who are at your site.
There are several USENET newsgroups associated with MUDs. The first (and least used) is alt.mud. When it got popular, the newsgroup rec.games.mud was then created, and when it got too noisy and chaotic, a few new groups were split off of the main one (rec.games.mud is no longer a real newsgroup – all of its volume went to rec.games.mud.misc). The current newsgroups are:
rec.games.mud.admin Postings pertaining to the administrative side of MUDs. rec.games.mud.announce moderated group, where announcements of MUDs opening, closing, moving, partying, etc are posted. rec.games.mud.diku Postings pertaining to DikuMUDs. rec.games.mud.lp Postings pertaining to LPMUDs. rec.games.mud.misc Miscellaneous postings. rec.games.mud.tiny Postings pertaining to the Tiny* family of MUDs. If you feel you must post something to USENET, please do it in the group where it best belongs – no posts about TinyMUSH in the Diku group, no questions about an LPMUD in the Tiny group, etc.
With the explosive growth of the WWW there are now many resources available to mudders, a few places to start are listed below.
Lydia Leong’s MUD Resource Collection (http://www.godlike.com/muds/)
An excellent all-purpose mudding resource
Aragorn server (http://aragorn.uio.no/)
Another good mud resource site geared towards LPmuds
Imaginary Realities (http://imaginaryrealities.imaginary.com/)
The magazine of your mind. – Imaginary Realities is a magazine dedicated to muds and all things muddy. It clears the water with articles about all aspects of muds, from the players point of view and from the creators point of view.
If you know of any that you’d like to see included here, let me know.
First, you need to pick a server. You’ll have to figure out how to compile it, get it running, and you’ll need to know how to keep it running, which usually involves some programming skills, generally in C, and a good deal of time. Of course, you also need to be well versed in the ways and commands of that particular MUD server, and you’ll probably need help running the place from a few of your friends.
Don’t forget that you’ll have to have a machine to run it on, and the resources with which to run it. Most MUDs use anywhere from 5 to 90 megs of disk space, and memory usage can be anything from 1 to 35 megs. A good rule of thumb is to first ask around for specifics on that server; average muds need around 25 megs of disk space for everything, and about 10 megs of memory, although the exact numbers vary widely.
NOTE:If you don’t explicitly own the machine you’re thinking about right now, you had better get the permission of the machine owner before you bring up a MUD on his computer. MUDs are not extremely processing- consumptive, but they do use up some computing power. You wouldn’t want people plugging in their appliances into the outlets of your home without your permission or knowledge, would you?
Glossary of MUD Terms
MUD1, written by Richard Bartle and Roy Trubshaw, back in 1979-80, is generally accepted as the first MUD. Sceptre was developed independently about the same time as MUD1, and so has influenced some mud servers since then.
TinyMUD Original, the first of the Tiny- family of muds, was written in August 1989.
A good starting place for a chronology of MUDs is Lauren Burka’s MUDDex (http://www.apocalypse.org/pub/u/lpb/muddex/).
Raph Koster also has a detailed ‘History of Online Worlds’ available at http://www.raphkoster.com/gaming/mudtimeline.shtml.
A bot is a computer program which logs into a MUD and pretends to be a human being. Some of them, like Julia, are pretty clever — legend has it that Julia’s fooled people into believing that she’s human. Others have less functionality. The most common bot program is the Maas-Neotek model.
A newbie is someone who has only recently begun to participate in some kind of activity. When we’re born, we’re all life newbies until we get experience under our belts (or diapers, whatever). You’re a clueless newbie until you’ve got the hang of MUDding, basically.
A cyborg is defined as ‘part man, part machine.’ In the MUD world, this means that your client is doing some of the work for you. For instance, you can set up many clients to automatically greet anyone entering the room. You can also set up clients to respond to certain phrases (or triggers). Of course, this can have disastrous consequences. If Player_A sets his client up to say hi every time Player_B says hi, and Player_B does likewise, their clients will frantically scream hi at each other over and over until they manage to escape. Needless to say, runaway automation is very heavily frowned upon by anyone who sees it. If you program your client to do anything special, first make sure that it cannot go berserk and overload the MUD.
A dino is someone that has been around for a very long time (cf. dinosaur). These people tend to reminisce nostalgically about dead or nonexistent MUDs which were especially fun or interesting.
Flaming is when someone shouts at another person in a vain attempt to convince them that whatever that other person said or believes in is unconditionally wrong or stupid. Avoid getting into flame wars, and if flamed, laugh it off or ask someone else what you did wrong.
A furry is an anthropomorphic intelligent animal. If you’ve ever seen Zoo-bilee Zoo on The Learning Channel, you know what I mean. Furries are not unique to MUDdom – they originated in comics, and can usually be found at comic or animation conventions and the like. Generally, any MUD character which has fur and is cute is deemed a furry. Most furries hang out on FurryMUCK, naturally.
On many role-playing MUDs, you may see these terms quite often. The stand for Out-Of-Character and In-Character, respectively. They’re used by players to note when they’re really roleplaying, or not.
Certain client programs allow logs to be kept of the screen. A time- worn and somewhat unfriendly trick is to entice someone into having TinySex with you, log the proceedings, and post them to rec.games.mud.* and have a good laugh at the other person’s expense. Logs are useful for recording interesting or useful information or conversations, as well.
Mav is an old TinyMUDder who sometimes accidentally left a colon on the front of a whisper, thus directing private messages to the whole room. The meaning of the verb has changed to include making any say/whisper/page/pose typing confusion.
The Internet (the network which connects your computer to mine) is made up of thousands of interconnected networks. Between your computer and the computer which houses the MUD, there may be up to 30 gateways and links connecting them over serial lines, high-speed modems, leased lines, satellite uplinks, etc. If one of these gateways or lines crashes, is suddenly overloaded, or gets routing confused, you may notice a long time of lag time between your imput and the MUD’s reception of that input. Computers which are nearer to the computer running the MUD are less susceptible to netlag. Another source of lag is if the computer which hosts the MUD is overloaded. When netlag happens, it is best to just patiently wait for it to pass.
The answer to this question varies widely. On most combat-oriented MUDs, such as LPMUD and Diku, player killing is taken quite seriously. On others, it’s encouraged. On most TinyMUDs, as there is little to no combat system, player killing is sometimes employed as a means of showing irritation at another player, or merely to show emphasis of something said (usually, it means “and I really mean it!”). It’s best to find out the rules of the MUD you’re on, and play by them.
Obviously, this really means character killing, not player killing – there haven’t been any cases of homicidal maniacs killing MUDDers for using up all the terminals, yet.
Spamming, derived from a famous Monty Python sketch, is the flooding of appropriate media with information (such as repeated very long say commands). Unintentional spamming, such as what happens when you walk away from your computer screen for a few minutes, then return to find several screenfuls of text waiting to scroll by, is just a source of irritation. Intentional spamming, such as when you repeat very long say commands many times, or quote /usr/dict/words at someone, is usually frowned on, and can get you in trouble with the MUD administration.
TinySex is the act of performing MUD actions to imitate having sex with another character, usually consentually, sometimes with one hand on the keyboard, sometimes with two. Basically, it’s speed-writing interactive erotica. Realize that the other party is not obligated to be anything like he/she says, and in fact may be playing a joke on you (see log, above).
Gods are the administrators who own the database. In most MUDs, Wizards are barely distinguishable from Gods – they’re just barely one step down from the God of the MUD. An LPMUD Wizard is a player who has won the game, and is now able to create new sections of the game. Wizards are very powerful, but they don’t have the right to do whatever they want to you; they must still follow their own set of rules, or face the wrath of the Gods. Gods can do whatever they want to whomever they want whenever they want – it’s their MUD. If you don’t like how a God acts or lets his Wizards act toward the players, your best recourse is to simply stop playing that MUD, and play another.
There are frequently different “levels” of Wizards or adminstrative types; each MUD is different, so be sure to check to see how the local hierarchy operates.
A more appropriate name for wizards would probably be Janitor, since they tend to have to put up with responsibilities and difficulties (for free) that nobody else would be expected to handle. Remember, they’re human beings on the other side of the wire. Respect them for their generosity.
This posting has been generated as a public service, but is still copyrighted 1996-1999 by Jennifer Smith. Modifications made after August, 1999 are copyrighted 1999 by Andrew Cowan. If you have any suggestions, questions, additions, comments or criticisms concerning this posting, contact Andrew Cowan (email@example.com). Other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) postings contain information dealing with clients, servers, RWHO, and FTP sites. While these items aren’t necessary, they are quite useful. I’d also like to thank cthonics (
firstname.lastname@example.org) for his help in writing these FAQs, ashne and Satoria for their help, and everyone else for helpful comments and suggestions. Thanks again to Alec Muffett (
email@example.com) of alt.security.
The most recent versions of these FAQs are archived at http://www.mudconnect.com/mudfaq/ and on rtfm.mit.edu in the news.answers archives.