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Mazes, Martians, Mead

Down and out in the city of Ankh-Morpork

Discworld MUD LogoI knew it was a bad idea from the start.

On the second day of Christmas we were bored. No thing to do, no place to go out to (shops ins Poland are closed on national holidays, so are restaurants, and everything else but gas stations), and after a few days of them we also had enough of family. My tolerance for stuff like that is low anyway. So I thought: “Hmm, why not play the Discworld MUD for a while again?”.

And then I thought: “God, that is a bad idea, isn’t it?”

“Why is it a bad idea?” asked my girlfriend.

“Because the last two times I had this thought I lost a week each on playing this game.”

“So where is the problem? You have a week of holidays right now.” she said then.

And so, half-convinced it was a good idea, I started the game, created an Agatean called Lee, and, just as predicted, I only got out of it more or less at New Years’ Eve. But as this time I was not dead at the end of the week I actually played on. I slowly seem to get the necessary survival skills for this game. Slowly.

The last two times I had been permadead within a week in both cases. One can buy additional lives in the game, yes, and it is done by pretty much everyone, but I never really had the money to do it properly. Pishe is a greedy hag. And so when I died I was dead. And of course a little bit frustrated to continue. Especially considering I had just spent a week in that game.

Ah… the Discworld MUD. Based on the books by Terry Pratchett this MUD (Multi User Dungeon) is a colossal multiplayer text-rpg version of it. For some reason I never managed to get as deep into graphical MMORPGs as I am into this game. I didn’t get into other MUDs as deep as I am into it yet either. It’s not the first MUD I played, but it is certainly the one that stayed with me. I guess it’s the fact that things in this game just are, well, somehow familiar, which fascinates me. The surroundings in the game have been lovably crafted according to Terry’s writing, the city of Ankh-Morpork has been designed based on the official map, and it’s not even the only city in the game. There are about a million rooms in the game so far and it still is being developed. There are half a dozen currencies in play, and as many languages, which actually affect what one can understand in the game! My Agatean Mystic still has bad reading skills in Morporkian and so I as his player have to guess what signs mean.

The different locations and locales actually lead each other to drastically different experiences in the game. The city of Bes Pelargic (nearly as big as AM it seems) is basically it’s own Asia-themed MUD with distinctive enemies and political factions. The five houses of the Agatean Empire are locked into a constant war with each other with shifting alliances and enmities. The same goes for the Coffee Nostra in the city of Genua. And in between there are literally hundreds of different minigames that can be played or left alone. Delivering food in Bes Pelargic becomes a death race sometimes, inhuming clients is what assassins do to earn money. Thieves try to steal and fill their quota of course, while Wizards try to find the best spells and have to navigate their libraries for that, or they just try to best themselves playing billards with each other. And then there are the CTF games which seem to happen every weekend in a special arena and lead to a lot of excitement on the talker channels.

Ok, of course there are some negative things about the whole game. The first and most likely most important one is: it’s still only text. When walking around in the virtual world one is treated to lots of wonderfully crafted description and a small Ascii diagram showing how the surroundings look. That is not very inviting for new players.Especially those people that grew up with graphical interfaces everywhere.

Nevertheless the MUD draws comparatively many players. All in all I never have seen less than one hundred players online, except directly after a reboot. I guess the draw of Terry Pratchett is a big factor in this, the quality of the MUD in other parts is also quite important. I still remember the first time I logged on, in what must have been ’99 or so. Back then only a part of AM and some external areas existed. It has come a long way since then.

And there is of course the fact that the world itself is not quite as true to the books as they would wish it to be, with the addition of priests that actually do something being the most glaring one (although one that I can excuse, as the novels never really showed them as being powerless in the first place), and the rather obvious effects of some spells being another one: the Portal spell is common as muck and can be seen in use constantly, and it totally defies everything Pratchett wrote on the topic.

On the other hand: the world is so huge no-one would want to walk from one place to another. Especially as some parts (Bes Pelargic) are only reachable by very obscure means otherwise (getting lost in the library and L-space and using Travelling Shops via the Brown Islands being the only real ways).

The game itself is rather newbie friendly I guess. Before one even is left out into the Discworld one ends up in a newbie area called Pumpkin town where one can train up a few things one might want to use later. Mostly using dummies made of pumpkins. It’s a rather nice introduction to the game which ends with the decision which nationality and birthplace to choose. So far I saw only humans as an option on the lists, much in accordance with the novels, even though I wish they’d at least implement dwarves just for the fun of it. As mentioned before nationality affects what one can do in the game. I chose Agatean from HungHung, which made me end up in the port city of Bes Pelargic. HungHung seems to be partially implemented so far, but only open for playtesters, at least if I can believe the webpage. Bes Pelargic is the only place in the Empire that is really playable so far.

Others are downright dangerous. One of my earlier characters was Uberwaldean and died his first death only a few steps from the starting tavern in Escrow. Uberwald is crazy dangerous, with the whole country overran by werewolves and vampires at night.

Then one tries to get ahead playing here. By now it is actually possible to do a roleplaying focused career, without killing too many enemies. But if one wants to loot and pillage one is able to do that as well. The enemies for the beginning are of course a bit ridiculous. Even the cockroaches in the city of Ankh-Morpork are able to withstand two or more hits by your new character, and rats last even longer. But soon enough one can actually go ahead and explore the possibilities. The quests are a bit ridiculous in many cases, often not really explained as to why exactly I just got Quest XP for climbing down a gully or sending flowers to people, but obviously many of them were implemented before the Achievement system came online. Achievements are another way of getting ahead, from having a player account ten days old to killing a certain kind of enemy a number of times, up to really weird things (eating 1000 cabbages for example).

So, yeah, I keep on playing it even if I know I could do other things. It’s just so damn fascinating.

Links:

Discworld MUD (website with online client)

Discworld MUD Wiki (wiki with info on most important things in the game)

Kefka’s Maps (of course you could try to find your way around without them… but I wouldn’t advise it…)

Winswand’s Grimoire (fanblog considering the various spells in the game)

3 responses to “Down and out in the city of Ankh-Morpork

  1. Pingback: Roleplaying on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld « Stuffed Crocodile

  2. Pingback: [Dungeons & Dragons] Discworld Classes 2 – Covert « Stuffed Crocodile

  3. Pingback: The Fifth Elephant : Of Pachyderms And Uberwald | fusiondroid The Fifth Elephant : Of Pachyderms And Uberwald | radical.fused.dreams

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