MUD Roleplay Tips from MUSHes
By Ren Zhang
Before we leap into the topic of how a MUD player can learn valuable roleplaying tricks from MUSH gamers, we need to clear up the confusion- what's the difference between a MUD and a MUSH? Well, in a nutshell, a MUSH has no built in combat system, very limited pre-set actions, and relies heavily on long, written custom poses (what many IRE players know as emoting). Players are expected to write out every action, be that fighting a battle against a monster with a group of teammates, or simply trading an item with another player. Each player has their own style and speed of writing, but most poses are a paragraph long, on average.
What can a MUD player learn from a game that has such a vastly different system? For one, depth. Take, for example, a trade between two players of a single item. While in a MUD, some attention might be given to advertising the item, and then perhaps bargaining prices, the transaction itself is fairly simple and involves very little interaction on a personal level between the buyer and seller. However, MUSH players take it a step further by roleplaying out an intricate customer-client relationship. The merchant may try to cozy up to his customer in hopes of getting a regular client, while the customer might take on the role of a doting parent shopping for their children. The possibilities are endless, and when the game isn't focused so heavily on actual wealth accumulation or level gaining, players explore these alternative options more fully.
While it's true that, unless you're performing or in a heavily established roleplay scene, paragraph emotes in MUDs might not be the right pace for the game, players should still keep in mind the overarching concepts of MUSH roleplay. For all the players out there who complain that they don't have a chance to engage in meaningful roleplay, you should all keep in mind that any interaction at all is potentially a great chance to set up a scene which may just result in a new friend, foe, rival, who knows? Instead of silently helping a friend hunt their way to dragon, initiate some in character conversation. I'm not talking about "man, I almost died back there", but something more specific to your own character. Try to really take advantage of the unique settings of each game, the
stories behind the quests you do, and the personality of who you play. Think like a MUSHer and use as much lore and in game knowledge as you can to put together a scene that is at once compelling and also enjoyable.
Many people take the idea of roleplay as just setting a few default emotes to use at completely random times. "NAME fiddles with her dress" every five minutes generally does not equate to quality roleplay. While it's good to have a few consistent actions that defines your character, the content is more important than the frequency. Roleplay is about interaction. Sitting in a crowded room and sending out 3 line blurbs just makes you seem attention seeking. Instead, try striking up conversation and then reacting to what the other people are doing. Reacting is the key word here- it will make your actions much more meaningful and interesting because, face it, it's not too compelling to watch someone talk to, well, themselves (though some may argue it can be amusing...).
On the flip side, if you do see someone emoting at no one in particular, they might be trying to role play, in which case jumping in might be just the trick to get a good conversation started. Just be careful you're not interrupting anything or being too pushy. Subtlety is key, and the lack thereof can ruin a perfectly good exchange. MUSHers know this, and often will use OOC messages to set boundaries or test the waters. Some role players might not like OOC communication during scenes because it ruins the immersion, but others appreciate being able to address time issues, scene ideas, and the like. Speaking of differences in role play attitudes, Each player is different, and a good role player can learn to adapt to different styles.
MUDs may move at a faster pace than MUSHes, but it comes down to player interaction and maintaining a high quality in that area is common across both game styles. Role play is just as available in a hack and slash MUD as in an RP enforced MUSH because it's what the players make of it. If your level 80 character wants to have a detailed conversation with another character over his or her preference of hunting location, add a bit of game history to your discussion. If you feel like giving a newbie a tour of your city complete with proud chest puffing and recommendations of popular local dishes, no one is stopping you (just make sure the other player has a- the time for a tour, and b- actual interest in a tour). It's your choice to role play, and that choice is always available to any MUD player, so take the initiative and stop waiting for role play to come find you!
If you would like to try out some great MUDs, check out these text-based role playing MUDs.
Ren Zhang is a text game enthusiast and currently plays games from http://www.IronRealms.com.
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