Sunday, March 17, 2019

MUD1: Wading In Once More

Thought I was dead, didn't you?

I am in fact very much alive, and ready to resume blogging. Over the last year I've had a hellishly long commute to work, and I haven't had the time or the mental energy for writing.  But due to certain very positive changes in my life that commute is gone, and I'm able to resume blogging.  I can't guarantee that I'll stick to any kind of decent schedule - because when have I ever - but for the moment I'm back, and I'm ready to continue exploring MUD1.

To be honest, though, when it comes to MUD1 I wasn't exactly looking forward to starting up again.  It's not that it's a bad game, but it is a nebulous one that has little in the way of concrete goals.  It's more of an environment to facilitate multiplayer interaction rather than a single player experience, so I'm struggling to find the motivation to play it.  I like a game with an end point.  I suppose I'll have to set my own goals to decide when I'm done with MUD1, but for now I'm not sure what those are.  Maybe I'll just explore it until I run out of interesting things to find.

In an attempt to finish MUD1 as quickly as I could, I went looking for a walkthrough or a guide.  I didn't find one, but I did find the following map on the website of Richard Bartle, MUD1's co-creator:

I've explored pretty much all of the large eastern area, but I haven't managed to get to the shipwreck or the island to the west.  I'd like to check them out before I give up.

Running from north to south, here are some points of interest to be found:

  • There are some ruins at the far north of the map.  The only thing I've found there is a "silvery cord" which is actually the web of a giant spider, which will gruesomely kill you if disturbed.
  • The jetty has no boat, but it does have an empty lobster pot.
  • There's a railway line that cuts across the entire landmass, from the beach to the mine entrance.  About halfway along the track a golden bolt is embedded, but I haven't been able to lever it out.
  • The mine is quite large, and a light source is needed to explore it.  The only light I've found so far is made by setting a branch on fire, but that lasts forever as far as I'm aware so I may not need another one.  Most of the mine is just empty tunnels, but I did find a valve that can be used to flood the whole complex, and a series of narrow tunnels that can only be navigated if you drop your entire inventory (light source included).  The most interesting find I made was an entrance to the Dwarf Realm, but I was killed by a dwarf very shortly after trying to enter.
  • The mausoleum can be easily entered, though not so easily navigated. There are six tombs, and each one has a puzzle that must be solved before you can enter.  Rather than the more abstract, inventory-based puzzles that most adventure games go for, these are based on logic and mathematics, and I have no idea where to even begin.

Your guess is as good as mine.  Probably better, to be honest.

  • The misty graveyard is full of headstones, each with a message of varying levels of relevance.  Once you enter it's impossible to escape unless you type OUT.
  • At the front of the cottage there's a vegetable garden and a flower bed.  In the former there are usually potatoes, and in the latter a hyacinth and some herbs.  Off to the side of the cottage there's a gardener's shed, where I've found an axe and some keys.  As for the cottage itself, it has enough interesting features inside that I'm going to cover it in-depth below.
  • Also not far from the cottage is a large yew tree.  It can be chopped down, exposing a series of tunnels underneath.  At the bottom there's a fancy temple.  I tried meditating and praying there, but all it did was put me to sleep for a while.
  • There's a tunnel that leads from the beach, which can only be accessed by jumping from a cliff known as Lover's Leap.  The tunnel is blocked by a grate that's too heavy for me to move alone.
  • Also at the bottom of Lover's Leap is the base of a waterfall.  Behind the falls there are some tunnels.  I found a lever there that dumped me into an underground complex that was full of goblins.  I managed to fight my way through two of their lairs, and found a chamber that was loaded with treasure.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to find a way out, but the good news is that I was able to quit the game without my character being erased.  So I couldn't get the treasure, but I also don't have to start with a new guy.
  • Off to the east of the river is a swamp.  You can dump treasures into the swamp as a way of scoring points, which so far I've done with a parasol and a winged stallion.  (Yep, I totally Artax'ed a pegasus, and I don't feel bad about it at all.)

I have no regrets.

  • There are a bunch of things in the large forest to the south: a mysterious sundial; a birdbath; a badger's home, complete with badger that tries to claw your face off; a tree with a golden apple.  There's also a shrine, at which I just tried to meditate, only to be told that "there isn't sufficient meditation going on elsewhere to provide the psychic energy to meditate in such a small shrine as this".

The cottage lies at the centre of the map, and has the highest concentration of interesting features.  I couldn't cover them all in a single paragraph, so I'm breaking them up as follows.

  • In the bathroom there's some medicine.  I think I know where to use this, which I'll discuss below.
  • Halfway up the stairs there's a ghostly voice reciting A.A. Milne, which is yet another mystery I haven't solved.
  • In an upstairs bedroom there's a rattle.  Every time you shake it your score increases, but only so long as you're at the lowest rank.  More on this below.
  • I've barely explored the cellar, because it's completely overrun with giant rats.  They're not too difficult to defeat on their own, but as far as I can tell, there's a never-ending supply of the buggers down there.  Once I develop a stronger character with a better weapon I plan to try and wipe them all out.
  • In the study there's a bookcase that leads to a secret tunnel, where a zombie guards a rune-covered door.  The zombie can be killed in battle, although it takes a while.  The runes should be avoided, as reading them causes a fatal explosion.  Knocking on the door, however, whisks you into a sorcerer's laboratory, with all sorts of weird objects: a potion, a black cat, an oracle, a crystal, an amulet, a looking glass and a stethoscope.  I've barely scratched the surface of this stuff, but there's a book in the study that gives clues as to their respective purposes (as well as a warning about the exploding runes, and a hint about knocking on the door).  It seems that the potion and the medicine mixed together will do something, but I haven't been able to try this yet.   The clue regarding the cat tells me to "do as my curiosity directs", which I guess means I have to try to kill it?  The oracle, it seems, can be used to locate items.  The crystal, if sniffed, will change your gender.  The amulet can be used to force other players to take an action.  Finally, the looking glass seemingly has the power to let you spy on other players.  I have no idea about the stethoscope.  I tried just now to do some experimenting with all of these items, but a player named Good the Sorceress had scooped them all up before I got there.

There's a lot more to this game than what I've detailed above, as it's full of small details that serve to make it come alive as a dynamic environment.  There are animals that wander about, such as a seagull that's currently moving in and out of the area my character is idling in as I write this blog.  It rains occasionally.  Other players can be seen wandering around.  And of course, there are monsters: a skeleton, rats, a zombie, a dryad, dwarves, goblins, and more I'm probably forgetting.

As in a number of early text adventures, such as Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork, these monster can be engaged and defeated in combat.  So far I haven't discovered any tactics that can be used: it's just a matter of typing FIGHT or KILL, and watching the results slowly scroll by until one combatant is dead.  The main survival method is to flee, which is easy enough but results in you dropping your entire inventory.  It's better than dying though.

Backhanding a Zombie to death.

Death in this game is odd, in that sometimes it's permanent and sometimes it isn't.  If you're killed by a monster in battle, your character is dead and gone forever.  Other deaths, such as the explosive runes I mentioned above, are a temporary setback, as they don't result in your character being erased, just stripped of items and sent back to the start of the game.  I'm not sure what happens if you're murdered by another player, or if that's even possible.

The game does have a system for leveling up, which is tied to your score.  You begin as a Novice, with a score of zero.  Once your score reaches 400, you become a Warrior, which is the highest rank I've achieved so far.  Usually, I do this by using the rattle: every time you shake it you gain two points.  It only works while you're a novice though, so you can't use it to progress further than one level.  Shaking the rattle 200 times can get tedious, but thankfully your commands stay typed in after you hit enter, so you only have to type it once and then hit enter repeatedly.  Whatever you do, though, don't hold down the enter key to speed things up; you'll hit 400 points quicker, but you'll also have to endure like 20 minutes of messages that scroll by afterwards.  It ain't worth it.  (I was also reminded that you can do the same thing by repeatedly kicking a deaf, dumb and blind beggar.  I guess you can pick which if the two is more fun for you?)

In addition to a level, your character has stats: Strength, Stamina and Dexterity.  These are randomised for each character, but my current guy has scores of 60, 52 and 38 respectively.  Upon becoming a Warrior, all three of these stats increased by 10.  There's also an inventory limit of five items, which increased to six when I leveled up.

The only other thing to talk about is the multiplayer aspect, which I've had a couple of experiences with.  Mostly it results in the odd sighting of other players wandering about, and in items being relocated from place to place.  Fairly often I've gone to pick something up and found that it's not where I thought it would be.  Several times I've seen said item being carried around by someone else.  Once a character even stole an item right out of my inventory.

I've only ever had one extensive interaction, with a player named Saruman.  He explained the rattle to me, and a bunch of other stuff that I'd forgotten until going back over my game logs.  At one point he asked me to follow him, so that I could help him raise a portcullis.  At another, just as I was exploring beneath the yew tree, he used a spell to summon me to his location.  It was somewhere in the Dwarf Realm (I think) and it had a magic button that could be used to reset the world back to its default state.  The whole time we were playing simultaneously I could hear things he was doing: a dragon dying, a cannon being fired, various other screams and shrieks.  He was very helpful, actually, and it was nice to actually experience this part of the game.

So that's my current status on MUD1: still finding new things, and thus not yet giving up and moving on.  With my current schedule, my goal is to update once a week, so hopefully I'll be back with more of MUD1 next Saturday.  Given my blogging history it's unlikely, but miracles can happen.


  1. Rather than do any math, is the answer to the North tomb just 1? After all, it takes at least two rats to make more...

    1. That is a surprisingly simple solution that I should have seen on my own. I'll try it out and report back.

    2. That's a terrific example of a trick question. Nicely spotted!

  2. I can't resist a cryptogram, so the south tomb cryptogram solution is below - encoded in rot13 to avoid inadvertent unwanted spoilers. I haven't figured out the east tomb yet (though I'd guess its "Find Milne" instruction relates to the ghostly voice in the cottage quoting Milne at you).

    South tomb: "N zbahzrag unf n eryvrs cnvagvat jvgu guerr furcureqf cbvagvat ng n gbzo. Orarngu vg ner rvtug yrggref. Jung ner gurl?"

    1. Also, throwing the phrase "52607th duke" into Google pulled up a Reddit thread with what appears to be the answer (and an explanation) under spoiler tags.

    2. I felt compelled to solve the cryptogram too, though I didn't know the answer to its question (and wouldn't without Googling).

      "Tent all all etc." has me baffled. No clue there.

      I assume the SE tomb's riddle has something to do with the cricket chirps to temperature calculation?

    3. Oh, wait, I've got the "tent all all etc." riddle! I wouldn't know the year it's asking for without Googling, but the gimmick of the clue suddenly revealed itself to me a few seconds after I wrote the above (ain't that always the way?).