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Crocker! The Greatest Game Ever Told

By Dan Crocker Sep 25, 2014 - 3:55 PM print

When I was a kid, I spent many nights in the basement of my friend Matt’s house playing Dungeons and Dragons, Marvel Super Heroes, and some Sci-Fi tabletop roleplaying game that I can’t remember the name of. Me and my group of friends were geeks, and this was our social life. We’d order a pizza, stock up on soda, and while away the hours rolling ten-sided dice, killing monsters and talking in horrible accents (except Matt who was pretty good at them). It was a lot of fun, but as we got older we drifted away from it. What seems cool at 13, after all, doesn’t always have the same appeal at 18.

Still, in my heart I was gamer. Sure, I beat Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, and played the hell out of Mario Kart 64, but no matter what new fantasy game I played, nothing ever kept  my attention like a good old tabletop RPG. Partly it was the social element I missed. It was also the depth. I wanted to create a character that I felt was truly mine. I wanted to see him rise in power as he defeated hordes of monsters and the occasional Beholder or evil wizard. Console games, as fun as they could be, just didn’t hold my attention for very long. Current games like Skyrim come close but also lack the social interaction, and ability to truly create, that I longed for.

Then, at the suggestion of a student, I tried my first MUD. I was in my mid-twenties, living in a new place, and had not yet made many friends. I was immediately hooked. A MUD is Multi-User Dungeon. It’s basically a tabletop RPG that you play on your computer with hundreds or even thousands of other players. MUDs were at their most popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s.   I came to them just a little late. However, even now, there are still plenty of good ones around.

Depending on the MUD, they can be very complex or quite simple. Either way, if you haven’t played one before there’s going to be a learning curve. At first, you may just see a screen of text floating by that you have no idea what to do with. Don’t panic. Much of that is just the description of the room you happen to be in.   If you’re in a good MUD, it will be beautifully written and you may want to take the time to read the descriptions whenever you discover a new area. Otherwise, you’ll just want to pay attention to the MOBS (non-player characters), the ADVENTURERS (player characters) and the exits.

A good MUD will also have a good tutorial—a starting area for noobs (or, if you prefer, newbs). It will acquaint you with basic commands, attacks, etc. You might feel a little bored at first. Things might be moving too slow for you. Give it time. Once you get out of the tutorial and into the world, MUDS really begin to shine. The depth, detail, and complexity of a good MUD is something that just can’t, yet, be captured in a game with graphics.

My MUD of choice is Achaea. It’s set in Sapience, a world run by Gods both petty and vengeful and beloved and majestic. Each massive city is player-run and has an ethos of its own, whether it’s the city of Evil, Light or somewhere in between. There are thousands upon thousands of rooms and areas to explore. Thousands upon thousands of MOBS to slay as you level up your character (all the way to Dragon if you wish).  So far, so good, right?   But, it sounds like World of Warcraft without the cool graphics.

It’s in player interaction that MUDS really shine. In Achaea you can involve yourself in politics and rise to the position of ruler for your respective city. You might involve yourself in religion and work to promote the agenda of your chosen Divine. You might say screw it all and become a traveling merchant or bard. You might even just sit around idle while you chitchat with your friends on an OOC (out of character) channel. You might also involve yourself in Player vs. Player combat (PVP).   Achaea’s PVP is the most complex and in depth I’ve ever seen. It’s fairly easy to get started, but it takes a long time to master. It’s fast paced and complicated in a way that graphical games can’t compete with. You’ll have a ton of attacks and spells to choose from and learn to defend against. After a few battles, however, you’ll start to get the hang of it.

The popularity of MUDS have been on the decline for a long while, and I think it’s a shame. In part, it’s because a lot of younger folks haven’t even heard of them. I’m sure the no graphics thing doesn’t help either. If you are a gamer though, and you like RPGS, I suggest doing a little research and giving a MUD that looks good a try. Give it a few days to get your bearings and then see if you’re not hooked.

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