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MUD Wrestling: The Travails of a Text-Based Existence.

An attempt to chronicle my experience as a player of text-based games from Iron Realms Entertainment, most specifically as Amunet on Achaea, Dreams of Divine Lands.

Author: Chaos_Amunet

A Few General Tips for Newbs in Achaea

Posted by Chaos_Amunet Tuesday September 18 2012 at 5:56PM
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Starting out in a new game always kind of sucks. No matter how long you've been gaming, no two games are exactly alike in syntax, rules, or expectations. These differences ensure that you are bound to screw up at some point in your newbiehood, and unfortunately, that's enough to keep more timid players from giving a game a fair chance. 

The syntaxes in Iron Realms game are fairly intuitive. The newbie introduction is quite thorough,  there is a HELP file (called "scrolls" when referenced in the game) for nearly every subject, and there is a newbie channel, manned by Guides who are trained to assist newcomers. There are some things, however, that these resources aren't going to cover. Some aspects of a game's culture, atmosphere, and roleplay can only be gleaned from experience. 

I've been playing Achaea for about ten years. I caught on to the technical aspects of the game very quickly. Unfortunately, it took me a couple of years to really understand how best to get involved in the game's roleplay and community. I made a lot of mistakes early on by focusing on the wrong things, and adopting an attitude that wasn't particularly constructive. Fate was kind, though, and I eventually fell in with a group of players whose dedication to their roles inspired me to try to make something out of my character.

I want to take some of the sting out of the start-up experience, so if you're planning to give Achaea a shot, here are some things I wish I'd known ten years ago!

-Don't be a dick. This sounds simple enough, but you'd be surprised at how many newbs come into the game with the impression that they are the hardest mother-violator that Sapience has ever seen. Be polite and behave civilly, and other players will be willing to help you. Act like a jerk, and you'll probably get griefed out of the game - if the administration doesn't ban you, first.

-Understand the sort of environment in which you are playing. Achaea is a high fantasy MUD - it isn't anime, or steampunk, or science fiction, though remote elements of the game may vaguely resemble those genres. Be willing to alter your roleplay if someone tips you off to the fact that what you're doing is considered inappropriate or cliche. Most of the time they are trying to help you, rather than insult you.
-Pay attention to your grammar and conventions, capitalise proper nouns, and SPELL OUT YOUR WORDS. In a MUD, the way you type is perceived as the way you speak. 1f u tAlk li3k d1s, no one is going to take you seriously. Your English doesn't have to be perfect, but it should be comprehensible.
-Discussions involving syntax, commands, aliases, triggers, clients, PK rules, and the like are all considered out-of-character, and should be kept off of public channels (city, House, Order, newbie, market, etc.). If you have a question about something like this, address one of the Guides, or a senior member of your House or city privately by using a TELL. Some people don't like going out-of-character even privately, so precede your question with something like, "Is it okay if I ask you a question that might be considered insane?" If they answer affirmatively, then ask away. 

-Achaea is roleplay-enforced, but that doesn't mean that the Gods have time to sit around punishing people for every minor OOC reference. There will always be players who refuse to remain completely in-character, but that doesn't mean that you need to lower yourself to their standard of behaviour. Remain in-character at all times, and ignore other people's OOC statements when you can. If it gets to the point where someone's insanity is really beginning to bother you, don't be afraid to ask them, through a TELL, to knock it off. Most people will stop once they realise they are bothering you. If they are rude, or if they continue, don't hesitate to report their "insanity" to a senior member of your House or city.

-Choose a name appropriate to a high-fantasy roleplaying environment. /\/00bk1ll3r696969 is not going to cut it. Achaea's naming standards are enforced, for the most part, and you will be asked to change your name if it is considered inappropriate.

-You should turn on the game's overhead map as soon as you exit the Trial of Rebirth. It will really help keep you from getting lost. The syntax is CONFIG MAPSHOW ALL, and then you can set the number of rooms your map shows in any given direction by typing MAP RADIUS, and then a number from one to five. I have my radius set to five, but I've noticed that five is rather large for display within the HTML5 browser client used by most newbies. I'd recommend using a radius of three or four if you're using the HTML5 client, and a radius of five if you decide, later on, to switch to an alternative client.

-JOIN A HOUSEAchaea is incredibly complicated, and it is unlikely that someone new to the game will be able to integrate well on their own. The requirements that Houses incorporate into their novice programmes consist of items that you will need to survive, and reading you will need to understand in order to effectively play  your role. Most Houses also have standards of behaviour that they expect their novices to meet. These restrictions typically mimic the bare minimum of Achaean etiquette, and those that don't are usually specific to your chosen faction - like the reading your House may require, they will help you to learn how to roleplay as part of the organisation you've joined. Houses are not "restricting your freedom", or otherwise hindering your game experience. They are there to help you, and to give you a group of like-minded individuals with whom you can interact and grow. This isn't a single-player game!

-People who randomly capitalise entire words are probably not yelling at you. Since there is no way to make text bold in a way that will universally translate across MUD clients, capitalisation is how people emphasise syntax and HELP scrolls - as you can see, I'm so used to this habit that I've been doing it in this entry before I even explained its significance.

-It's okay to say "no". There are thousands of players in Achaea, and you're bound to meet one or two who want to involve you in situations with which you may not be comfortable. Whether they want you to fight their battles for them, or bombard you with unwanted sexual propositions, there is no shame in politely, but firmly refusing. If someone continues to harass you, tell a House or city elder. If you aren't part of a House or a city, and are still under level 21, tell one of the Guides. 

-Don't go AFK. Ever. There aren't usually administrative consequences for doing so, but you could easily be killed, robbed, or otherwise molested if you stand idle in the wrong place. The ivy-covered archway to Minia, the spot on the Prelatorian Highway called "Nearing Lake Vundamere", the Brass Lantern Inn, Tyrandiel's study in the Lucretian Athenaeum, and the Common Room of the Crystal Leaf Inn are all locations where thieves and libertines look to take advantage of new players. Avoid them if you plan to leave your computer for any length of time.

-Rat collectors, public tutors, and other NPCs are considered people within the context of the game. They should be treated accordingly. Though you will hear other people do it often, you should never refer to an NPC as if they were a landmark. You wouldn't say, "I'm going to Aunt!" if you were going to visit your aunt at her office, or, "Meet me at Christine the waitress!" if you were taking a friend out for lunch, would you?

-Always PROBE something before you kill it, to ensure it isn't loyal to one of the six major city-states, or to another player. Killing a creature that belongs to someone else is the quickest way for a newb to get their ass kicked.

-Always ask before killing something in a location that is occupied by someone else. It is possible that they may be killing it, or that the NPC is conversing with them, or maybe they're trying to do something that would be interrupted by a sudden outburst of violence, such as meeting with their friends. Simply saying something like, "May I kill that rat?" will suffice.

-Don't kill NPCs with proper names. In a given village, you're going to see tons of generic villagers, and one or two who are identified by name. Usually, the named NPCs are the keepers of some lucrative quest. You'd be better off leaving them alone and trying to find out what they want, rather than killing them for experience.

-Do the Achaean Orientation Tasks, and take advantage of the newbie areas. People are often in such a rush to advance that they fail to realise how good these resources really are. You can gain a ton of experience and gold - which only become more difficult to earn later on - by completing the tasks and doing the newbie quests.

-Your motto or warcry should be in-character.


I think that's plenty, for now. I'll write up another one of these later tonight or tomorrow, focusing more on roleplay cliches and pitfalls pertinent to Achaea, and especially to my dear Occultists.

As always, if you decide to create a character, don't hesitate to send me a message in the game if you have any questions or need help. I'm always glad to assist someone new to Iron Realms.

The Great House of the Occultists

Posted by Chaos_Amunet Tuesday September 18 2012 at 3:39PM
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This post is being written from my phone while I'm waiting around a doctor's office, so I apologise in advance if my formatting is terrible. I'll try to fix any autocorrect disasters or broken links as soon as I get home.

The other day, my friend Lianca penned this post explaining a bit about the Chaotic faction. It made me realise that while I discuss my varying organisations with frequency, I haven't really given much insight into them. Since the Occultists have occupied the majority of my concerns, lately, I suppose I will begin there.

The Occultists are one of the Great Houses of Achaea - organisations that function essentially like a guild in any other MMO, with its members united under a common ethos and working toward a common goal. The Occultists, and by proxy the Occultist class, have one of the richest histories of any House within the game. Their story begins long before Achaea's modern era. Originally practised in small, isolated cabals, in virtually every settlement upon Sapience, the art of Occultism was nearly rendered extinct by a crusade spearheaded by the Holy Church during an era known as the Burning Times. The Occultists were forced underground to avoid persecution, taken in by the Carnivalis family (the precursors of the modern Carnivalis Institute of Jestering), as well as by some of Ashtan's necromantic aristocracy. While the Carnivalis family proved themselves to be true allies, Ashtan's nobility victimised the Occultists even more brutally than the Church, murdering those who refused to give up Occultism to practise the dark arts. For over a millennium, thanks to a failed experiment and necromantic coercion, all knowledge of Chaotic magic was wiped from Achaea.

The Occultists as a collective emerged from this tragedy, founded by the survivors under the leadership of one of their necromantic oppressors circa one thousand years before the fall of the Seleucarian Empire. The horrors of the Burning Times taught the Occultists the value of discretion. Rogue occultists - those who practise the Chaotic arts outside of the House's jurisdiction - are condemned and vilified. Secrecy is the Occultists' number-one tenet. All new members, to this day, swear an Oath ensuring that secrecy, as well as their fidelity to the House. Occultists are commanded to put the interests of the House first and foremost in all of their endeavours. Failure to abide by this commitment results in immediate expulsion, execution, and the complete ruination of the traitor's reputation in Achaea.

Early on, the Occultists were forced to rely upon Necromancy as a substitute for their lost Occultism. Nonetheless, they played a considerable role in the rise of Seleucar and the war against the Black Wave, two major events in the history of Achaea. This success continued through into the modern era, where the successes of individual Occultists became well-publicised, cementing the House's influence and reputation. One Occultist ascended to Divinity, a ritual performed by a small group restored the lost art of Occultism, and, more recently, a group of Occultists working under the leadership of Flair Ze'Dekiah managed to release long-lost Babel, the original God of Chaos, from his centuries-long imprisonment.

The way the Occultists have been roleplayed has changed, somewhat, over time. As Lianca cited in her article, things were much different a decade ago. Before the return of Babel, Discordianism, the religion of the Goddess called Eris, prevailed. It was much like its real-life counterpart, with anarchy and frivolity taking daily precedence, and Chaos itself being touted as a harmless and largely creative force. This perspective began to shift with the founding of the Revolutionaries of Chaos, and the long-awaited return of Babel ushered in a new era. The true nature of Chaos was revealed - that creative energy is tempered by a darker, more insidious side, heralding the eventual end of all things, mortal and Divine, in Achaea.

This "new" perspective of Chaos - really the original perspective, bearing in mind the game's canon - has been described as more "Lovecraftian" in its imagery and attitude. The Occultists have, thus, evolved accordingly. Roleplay is strictly enforced on all House channels and in all public interactions. We have the highest standards of behaviour and decorum of any House based in the city of Ashtan - arguably, out of any House in the whole of Achaea. Many people, especially newcomers, find these standards very difficult to maintain, preferring, instead, to treat Achaea like a text-based World of Warcraft. The Occultists don't suffer that sort of player. When we log into Achaea, we play our role - that of a chic, opportunistic, intriguing intelligentsia whose powerful rituals and clandestine machinations strive toward an eventual apocalypse.

If you plan to create a character in Achaea and join the Occultists, please feel free to send me a message. I'm always glad to help a new player.

As soon as I get home, I'll make a second post for those of you who are interested, going into further detail about some of the "do's" and "don'ts" of roleplay, both in the Occultists and in Achaea in general. They're bound to be useful in any of the Iron Realms games, in the case that Achaea itself doesn't really suit your fancy.

That Thing I Forgot to Post About Before.

Posted by Chaos_Amunet Tuesday September 18 2012 at 4:47AM
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First off, the bad news. I can't get a minnow mounted. The taxidermist in Achaea will only mount fish caught through fishing - an unfortunate setback in my attempt to create the perfect gag gift for my text-husband. I had to settle for a yellow perch - the smallest catchable fish - instead. Nonetheless, my excitement over the developments outlined in my post from earlier this evening has yet to diminish, and they reminded me that I meant to post about the event in which I took part during the Year 600 festivities. 

Anyone who has been following this blog knows that the canon history of the game is one of my obsessions. When I first began playing, I was floored by the size of Achaea's backstory, and even more amazed by the wealth of events churned out by their staff and players that had built upon it. Despite all that has been done, there is still plenty of room for discovery and development. It seems like every event run in an Iron Realms game leaves the door open for another to occur down the line.

Most events within Achaea are a surprise to the players, and many more are spawned from spur-of-the-moment roleplay interaction with other players or NPCs. The Gods are almost always observing, even if they aren't visible on any of the WHO lists. I've met many new players who were shocked when they greeted an NPC, and were actually greeted in return. Sometimes, though, a player will have an idea for a large event of their own, or they would like to add something special to their personal roleplay. The staff in Achaea encouragepeople to propose their own ideas, and have even established a system to ensure that ideas are received and facilitated, if possible.

Players whose characters are rogues - that is to say, they aren't a part of any city, House, or Divine Order - or who have an idea for an event that will affect the world at large, will typically communicate their idea to the staff via e-mail addresses listed in one of the game's many HELP files. The event is then (as far as I know) approved or rejected by the staff member who has been appointed the director of roleplay, and carried out at their discretion. Players whose characters are part of a city, House, or Divine Order, by contrast, typically contact the Divine Patron of the organisation that the event will affect most directly. This request can be made using an in-character or out-of-character method, according to the preference of the Divinity. Usually, in-game messages will suffice.

A Divine Patron acts as an organisation's representative to the Garden of the Gods - the in-character way of describing the staff of both employees and volunteers who do all of the behind-the-scenes work in an Iron Realms MUD. Any idea for an organisational event is directed by one of an organisation's leaders to its Patron, who will then procure the approval of a higher power, if necessary, and proceed to do whatever must be done to make the player's idea a reality.

While players are free to propose an idea to their Patron that is as in-depth as they would like, the Garden always has the final say in its approval, as well as when and how it is executed. Any idea proposed can be altered by the staff as they see fit. Furthermore, it isn't always a given that the player who proposes an event will be the central figure of that event, unless the event is a minor one that was proposed to further one's personal roleplay. If you ever propose an event in an Iron Realms game, it is best to be flexible with your expectations - things may not always go exactly how you planned them, but the surprise is half the fun.

My character is one of the leaders of the Ashtan, Bastion of the North - one of the first major city-states on the continent of Sapience, and the one that may boast the most extensive history in the game. Back in January, the city was occupied for several in-game months by enemy forces who laid waste to the city's defenders and stormed the ruins of the Palace of Ashtan, which had been destroyed in the Anarchy Rebellions nearly five hundred years before. The story of the Anarchy Rebellions had been a mark of had been a mark of pride for Ashtan - it was a fabulous tale of revolution, in which the citizens of the Bastion rose up against a tyrannical sovereign, becoming the first city-state to adopt a more democratic form of government. This was the history Ashtan knew until the end of the Occupation of 586, when a voice from the past informed them that some key details of that story had been omitted. The truth left a bit of egg on the city's face.

After the dust of the occupation had settled, Ashtan was left with its newfound knowledge, and once again with the ruins of the palace, which their military tactics had opened for public inspection. While several suggestions were made regarding what could be done with the ruins, including one asinine (and appallingly serious) proposal to turn the buildings into an ice cream parlour and shopping centre, my character's plans to restore the palace to its former glory and utilise the building as a museum was the one that was finally approved by the rest of the city council. There was a fair bit of out-of-character communication between myself and the city's Patron regarding the limitations and specifics of my idea, but the vast majority of what transpired was as much to my surprise and delight as everyone else's. My character worked closely with Ashtan's resident NPC architect, Lukia deGage, and several "mini-events" bearing tangible improvements to the city occurred before the project was complete.

Shortly before the Year 600 festivities began, Lukia came to my character and said it was time to plan for the grand re-opening. Never having been one to do things half-assed, I enlisted the help of my dear friend Lianca, and together, we managed to throw together a soiree fit for royalty. After I made a terrible speech on the fly, I cut the ribbon, and the citizens of Ashtan began pouring in. Everyone had time to explore every crevasse of the palace. While they ogled the artefacts displayed throughout, the ballroom provided dancing (to a string quartet!), an array of unique cocktails, and dignified guests in the form of NPCs that were lauded among Ashtan's greatest scholars. Best of all (and to my complete surprise) conversation with the NPCs provided tantilising bits of insight into parts city history that were not mentioned anywhere else. Apparently, I'm not the only one who puts their all into a project - the amount of effort that our Patron poured into the renovation and its culmination was nothing short of astounding.

The palace remains open, for anyone interested in creating a character and checking it out. Contact my character (Amunet) in the game, and I'll even take the time to give you a guided tour and discuss the city's history in detail.

People ask me why I've been playing Achaea for so long - this is why. Every Iron Realms MUD has a staff equally dedicated to providing a top-notch gaming experience for its players. Who the hell needs graphics when you have depth like this?

Bob the Builder has nothing on me.

Posted by Chaos_Amunet Monday September 17 2012 at 9:48PM
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So, it has been another rough week in Achaea. After I wrote my last post, a couple of good members decided to quit my House, and I lost even more to inactivity thanks to the beginning of the school year. It's very difficult to find new players who are interested in a heavily-aligned, roleplay-enforced faction - it's difficult to play an Occultist, I admit! It isn't a role that is for everyone. Still, watching my House become a ghost town is a bit disheartening, and I was in desperate need of a pick-me-up. Leave it to the Pentad to do that for me.

Iron Realms is pretty great about allowing their players to carve out their own niche within their games. Not only do player leaders like myself often play a considerable role in the planning and execution of roleplay events, but all players can leave a more enduring mark upon the game by helping to build some of the game's areas, whether for the enjoyment of the entire playerbase, or simply for the enjoyment of themselves and their allies. I don't have the time to be a mortal builder - I barely have the time to update this blog with any semblance of regularity! - but I still love to write, and the ability to craft items and build a house has become one of my favourite pasttimes when I need to relax from the tribulations of being the Demiurge.

My character has an enormous text-house. It's really more of a text-mansion. So far, I have twenty-one rooms and counting, all lovingly described, and fully-furnished. Today, Achaea unveiled a series of new upgrades for player housing, and I nearly wet myself with excitement. I've had a fountain in the description of my atrium for ages, and now I can finally have it made physical. I've wanted my own humgii since I was  newb, and now I can have one, all Chaotically-mutated, dressed up in servant's livery, and given a pretentious butler's moniker. I can stable my mounts, I can stick a sign in front of my house warning my neighbours to keep off my lawn (which is, for the record, nothing more than dirt, ant hills, and dead trees), and I can preserve the furniture in the dining room and chapel, which is always such a pain in the ass to replace whenever it decays.

To top it all off, a taxidermist has opened up shop in New Thera. He can mount the fish caught by players who enjoy fishing. My text-husband can finally flaunt his prize-winning minnows upon the walls of his attic man-cave, proving, once and for all, that he is a master angler. I'm sure he'll be thrilled.

I can't wait to get my fountain. I'm wriggling with all of the excitement of a kid on Christmas. Days like these are the reason why I keep playing.

Back in Action

Posted by Chaos_Amunet Monday September 3 2012 at 6:38AM
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When I started this blog, I promised myself that I would try not to post anything negative. MUDs have been a largely positive influence for me, and a major source of entertainment - it is rare that I have anything negative to say about the experience of playing. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case over the past couple of months, and while I am loath to say anything that might shine an unflattering light upon the game I enjoy, I feel as though I owe my handful of readers an explanation for my absence, and the truth about one of the pitfalls that comes with playing a politician in a MUD.

Part of participating in conflict in Achaea is making enemies ... and very rarely, those enemies might take things a bit too seriously. I've been fortunate enough to avoid people with that level of, ah, "intensity" for most of the decade I've been playing Achaea. Back in July, however, my streak of good luck drew to a close. I came home from class and sat down to write a new entry in this blog. About halfway through the post, I realised that I wasn't certain about the validity of something I'd written, so I logged into Achaea to check my sources. I noticed that I'd received a few messages in the fifteen hours or so since I'd logged out, so I decided to take a look at those before I proceeded my research. Immediately, all thoughts of completing my post fled my mind. 

Contained in the messages were two things: most prolific were the frantic posts from my allies (and a few good Samaritans) telling me that there was a vicious rumour circulating - not about my character, entirely, but also involving me, the player behind her. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the drama that unfolded (and the level of administrative involvement it took to get the matter sorted out) it would probably be considered imprudent to provide details here in this blog. Suffice it to say, however, that the charges against me were both unsavoury and untrue. 

We've all had encounters with griefers - people whose sole purpose in a game is to ruin the experience for another player - and typically, we think of griefers in terms of PK. In MUDs, especially those in which roleplay is enforced, and there is an active political element, you sometimes come by a different sort of griefer. Instead of killing someone repeatedly until they quit logging in, this sort of griefer isn't above trying to ruin the credibility of the player behind a character to try to run them out of the game. That is what happened in this instance - one of my character's political rivals took his defeat a little too personally, and lashed out in an attempt to scare me into quitting Achaea. Needless to say, it didn't work.

Thankfully, people possessed of these tendencies are relatively rare - in fact, until I logged in to the disaster, I had no idea that this guy was -that- invested. I'd considered him a friend OOC, insofar as someone can be a friend over the internet. I suppose it just goes to show that you have to be careful with whom you trust.

All in all, it took about two weeks for the dust to settle, though I still, on occasion, will receive a harassing message, or some late-comer - one of my character's new students, or a friend coming back from inactivity - will send me a frantic communique telling me that they just heard something awful that I ought to know. I have refrained from posting here because there was a small, but rather obnoxious minority of players who supported my rival, and displayed that support through aggressive, threatening messages through instant messengers and on my Facebook wall, among other places. I was concerned that they would begin airing their discrepancies on this blog, thus perpetuating the drama in a community that has little, if anything, to do with it. But, one cannot live in fear forever!

I want to stress that this situation was an ANOMALY. This sort of thing doesn't occur with frequency in any Iron Realms MUD, and I assure you that the vast majority of the players in Achaea are mature and considerate. This certainly is not an issue that should reflect poorly upon them, or upon the game's administration. Achaea's gods and administrators, especially the game's producer, were polite, professional, and very, very quick to work with me to find a solution. I can't praise them enough for the deft manner in which they handled things. I can say with confidence that I am certain they will manage any spot of unpleasantness with the same level of finesse.

Tomorrow (or later today, provided my mom's Labour Day barbecue doesn't leave me too drunk to write), I will pick up where I left off  before I disappeared. My most sincere apologies - truly - for my extended absence. It won't happen again!