MUD Roleplay Tips from MUSHes

mud mush goblin

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

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Too many times are rp-ers brushed off with an almost OOC response to things done, if a response at all!

It's unavoidable. The best reply I got was "Dude, you freaked me out, you actually RP!". Deal with it and move on. Find other people who enjoy RP-ing, surely there are some hiding in a dark corner.

there are always some around somewhere

Too many times do people lump "RP" into one designation and try to divide people into two categories, those who do and those who don't. I think it's far more common to have people who are interested in some forms of RP than others. The character who does ritual RP may have no interest in family RP, the character who does family RP may have no interest in political RP, and the character who does political RP may have no interest in ritual RP. Don't be too quick to write off characters just because they didn't bite on one or two opportunities.

I personally think that everybody should take care with there roleplay when playing a mud. It shouldn't just be "Oh I play a character in an evil city, I can just kill, maim and steal at will coz I am from an evil city. A little bit of RP goes a long way. Even if it is just a few words from an enemy before they shred you.

One thing I have found that greatly enhances my ability to roleplay is the way you can target players and items into your emotes to give them greater depth. It is one thing to bow to or salute a friend using the generic emotionlist it is quite another to use the EMOTE function. I am not sure how this works in other games, but in MKO you can target a player with an emote using ^ and include a weapon or worn item with # and even incorporating words into the emote with %% your SAY's here%% it changes a simple "Nivek bows respectfully towards you. followed by Nivek raises his hands in greetings and says hi" into - Nivek crouches down, back straight and slides a ruby set black poniard into the side of his black leather boots before standing straight and bowing to Vasilisa. his robes flaring out as he does so and says "Hello my lady, how are you".

The great thing about this is that using #poniard and #boots will automatically insert the full name of the items worn and by using the ^ to select a target person, the person targetted will see "you" while others in the room would see the character name. This makes it ideal to put some of your most used emotes into buttons or targetable aliases in order that your character can maintain his or her quirks, helping maintain your characters personality.

I deffinately think that if more people took the time to roleplay even basic actions and character traits in game it would make for better immersion for all and help everyone to develop their characters and increase their enjoyment of the game.  

I don't think we can do it in Lusternia, at least.

First off, I always assumed both MUSH and MUD were the same thing. I consider myself hereby educated. 


As someone who is still learning, I have found start simple and build upon that a great strategy. If you want to give your character some trademark emotes, aliasing them works like a charm. And keep an emote cheat sheet nearby! 

I didn't know the difference as well, but now I do. And I can see the fun in both, and each one active and engaging in their own terms. It's rather helpfull if you ask me, and I'm sure to take those tips into the world and give my character some new life (now to give some clearcut history.)

I must say, I was thrilled to see this post!  I have played MUSHes for a good time now and recently, at the recommendation of a friend, decided to try out Achaea.  I have enjoyed Achaea, but what I have missed the most, and what has taken me the most time to get used to, is the roleplay. 


In the MUSHes I have played, there are actually some combat systems.  However, they are semirestricted and to they are always supplimented with heavy roleplay of any combat that may take place (which tends to be very little).


I still beat myself up when I send short emotes or simply use SAY to speak when playing the MUD.  For the most part in MUSHes you are expected speak through very long poses... maybe some more of that may be an interesting addition to a MUD. 

roleplaying is important, but I think myself and many others wouldn't be able to cope with the head-crushing depth of a MUSH. No excuse for not having some RPing though.

Achaea is the first mud where i actually RP.

It's also the first IRE mud!

Paragraph long emotes are ridiculous and I'll have none of it. I could do with some meaningul ropeplay, though my character isn't established.

In some cases, roleplay between people is taken in the form of telling a story (with multiple authors). In this case, it is sometimes preferrable to have longer emotes. I personally don't like them either, but they do have their benefits in the right setting.


Of course, one must remember that in regular writing, a paragraph is usually on the order of only a few sentences. No need to write an entire book in a single emote.

I don't think you need an established char to have roleplay. You might be even able to establish a character with that roleplay!

You don't really need an established character to rp, sometimes you can often build and establish your character while your rping as your getting a feel and vibe for it.

Another tip: do not worry if you find yourself to be "slow". That is normal in the beginning. After a while of practice it picks up. The key to all mastery is practice.

>paragraph emotes in MUDs might not be the right pace for the game



It's the combination of RP elements and actual game mechanics that makes MUDs what they are, and also what makes them so fun. The RP adds atmosphere to the gaming end of it, and the gaming end adds credence to the RP.

This was quite informative. I didn't even know what a MUSH was till now. I started out with MUDs...IRE muds

Even the simplest of interactions can be roleplayed in depth and make an interesting scene. You just have to find fellow players who are interested in putting in the same amount of effort, and encourage others to grow in their roleplaying ability!

I have some emotes that I've created that operate in chains if I want them to, from slicing my arms in a show of masochism, to small prayers.



when playing Achaea and Imperian, I found it difficult to find people to RP with, maybe I wasn't looking hard enough and the games themselves are HUGE. I am not in the slightest saying it was not there, just that I couldn't find it. MKO or Midkemia online however I found that most of the people there roleplay and roleplay well. It is the custome emotes that make the roleplay, especially the emotes that utilize actual in game items and target the people in the room.

to often you hear people say Achaea is the non RP mud of the IRE  games

supposed to be a bunch of celani ascending to text game gods soon or something so maybe we'll see some cool events in the near future. online text games.

Paragraph long emotes may not be the right pace for a MUD in a normal setting, but they do help create a lot of depth and that feeling of awe in certain situations. Rituals and ceremonies, for example. For more casual scenes, however, just adding in a few short custom emote to express the feelings of your character can go a long way. People catch on and jump in, and something mundane suddenly becomes very important as far as fleshing out relationships and defining your character. Just as the article said, RP is about interacting and reacting to things
that happen around you, so give your fellow players something to springboard off of even if it's not a grand, paragraph long emote.


Very rarely do I see RP these days. It saddens me to no end.

RP in Achaea can be hit or miss. A lot of people are pretty light on the RP, but others go really in-depth with it. On the whole, I have heard that Mhaldor generally has stricter RP then some of the other cities.

Good article, although I had a strong deja vu feeling with it.

Wasn't it published before?

I have heard of MUSHES before but was always wary of them because of the heavy RP. I like to RP but not when the commitment of time is so excessive that it takes all of the limited time I have to play. That is why I usualy went with RP MUDS. They have a combat systems that you can play with in the short time constraints, and when you have more time you can RP as well.

would drive me mad, if just waiting for them. I'd assume the player I was talking to wasn't doing anything at all.

However, RP can be found in MUDs, and specifically Achaea aren't lacking in RP. You just have to keep trying. And oftentimes, RP done well inspires other players to utilize it more.

I like what the article said about reacting... it's an easy way to get started, and how your character reacts to something tells you and everyone else a little bit about him or her.

Completely agree with all of this.

I think one thing that really helps to RP a character is knowing the game history in detail. Knowing where your character stands within that history and extending it as time goes by. That is what made my initial attempt to play a character at fist so difficult.

Knowing the emotes or having a list near by really does help in defining yourself for other people. But it's even better when you can make some of your own that distinguishes yourself from everyone.

Personally, I see nothing wrong with someone assisting you through OOC tell during a RP encounter especially if it's in a large room of people.

The most difficult part in trying to participate in roleplay. Best beginner's advice is reading up on the helpfiles available on a mud/mush and seeking additional tips on how to emote from the admin/players. It helps a ton knowing the mechanics and playing around with them to learn how to interact with others in the environment.

I sorta go around wishing there'd be put more emphasis on RP and giving more options for people on what items they use for their skills so they can further their personal RP. Flavour goes a long way for that.


Emotes really should be having their own balance instead of using the normal balance and misuse of the emote system should be dealt with harshly (throw an issue me with a time in gmt so the admins can go check it up there and there you go)

Finally!  I never knew the difference between a MUSH and a MUD.  Thanks!

I think the Achaea houses and player-run government systems allow for a decent amount of RP opportunity if one wishes to pursue that avenue. There actually ARE a lot of other things to do than hunt/pvp while still giving you the satisfaction and challenge of character advancement. Many houses value creative expression, social interaction and historical knowledge and will reward you for the effort you put into it. With so many things being player run, there should be a niche for serious RPers. It's just a matter of finding them in such a big world.

I've yet to try anything quite that RP intensive. I'm not so sure I could handle typing out emotes that long, but I may try playing a MUSH some time to see what it's really like.

Interesting! I've never tried a MUSH before. might have to look into it. 

The time required to write out a long involved emote really kills the immersion for me. I stick to the preset emotes when I can, and I feel the conversation flows much more smoothly. There's nothing worse than waiting for 2 minutes, wondering if they're actually going to reply or if they expect you to say more.

If there are a few emotes that you find yourself wanting to use more often, that AREN'T programmed in to the game, try setting up an alias in your client (or even using the alias setup in Midkemia on the server side). A few little ones here and there can add flavor specific to your character, but still respond to a one or two word input.


On a side note, between the targetting for emotes, and being able to put in speak as well, there's a LOT you can do with preprogrammed ones. I've set up an accent for my character, in a preprogrammed emote. Get creative, and if you need any help with the setup side, drop me a message and I'll do what I can for you.

in Lusternia could certainly use the help in paragraph four! Genuine roleplay is so hard to find, and that makes those who look for it too discouraged to bother.

a paragraph seems like overkill...

Yeah, the whole default emote thing is great for quick conversation, but no one really makes their own anymore :(
I really miss that. Hopefully more people will start. 


Most people just aren't good enough writers for me to be interested in making totally free-form stories with them. MUSHes aren't totally free form of course, but I like that the structure of Achaea limits how ridiculous things can get.

I have never played a MUSH, it sounds difficult, very difficult but seems like it could be very open ended on everything.

i am a fairly new player to RP and I tend to unintentionaly use OOC speak.  Usually I use OOC when its hard for me to distinguish when I should be in character and when I shouldnt. 

I guess thats the hard part and where experience comes into play...

Very often, I'll have people tell me "Oh, it's part of a quest."  Right in public.  At the Nexus, even!  Here I was, all ready to feel deeply perturbed over the fact that a loboshigaru pilgrim had attacked me, unprovoked, in the mountains, and "oh, ho-hum, it's part of a quest, don'tcha know?"

Of course, my problem is, the moment that the opportunity to RP finally does present itself, I tend to seize up, go blank, and/or become indecisive:

"Okay, how do I phrase this emote?  Should I emote this at all?  Is there a preset emote that I might be expected to use instead?  Wait, what's the word for glaring in a fidgety manner?  It isn't implacable, is it?  Oh, I know, it's  ... crap, did I even spell that right?  <backspace-backspace-backspace>   Pay attention to the subject at hand, too!  I mean this is a conversation.  Screw it, I've sat here saying nothing for far too long.  <insert preset emote for doffing hat, go find some mobs to bash, yet another RP opportunity dies>"

I think you're a lot better at it than you claim, Cass.

1- Learn grammar. Spelling while RPing is a pain to see.

2- Forget your super-hyper-mega-ultra powerleveling hours.If you want to take RP seriously, you'll spend quite a bit of time talking to people or emoting at a public place.

3- Alias some emotes that makes your character unique.


Just for the record, I've been RPing for the past few months as a quiet faeling that actually doesn't talk much.


...what, it's just the personaility, I'm RPing anyway :P


Probably one of the most difficult parts of RP is you're trying to RP with someone but they carry things out of character immediately, or use OOC terms. It kind of kills the mood. Even going vis versa with this where you're being pretty blatantly not in-character (but you are using your indicators '//' or '(( ))', etc), and someone decides that this is suddenly the time to roleplay with you... and then nothing really gets done.


As someone who likes to roleplay, I don't take the opportunity to do it much. I played a mush called Inquisition where it was so in-depth that roleplay was what you did to pass the time. Unfortunately it was also very slow as the population wasn't large, so you spent a good portion of the time roleplaying with yourself (they even had a THINK command), until someone else showed up and walked into your pub. You couldn't go out and kill monsters, because you were just a regular person. And they'd eat you alive. Over time if your roleplay was satisfactory, if your character died you were given an opportunity to make another character on a higher rank. You basically start at peasant and work your way up to royalty, with merchants, nobility, knights, etc in between.


That being said, when you play an IRE game, the things that are 'exciting' are getting level cap, getting arties, collecting mass amounts of gold, being a leader, etc. For all this stuff that IRE throws at you, it sort of leaves in-depth roleplay in the dust. It also creates the God complex. I don't really mean an actual god complex, more like, 'unless there's a God there, it's not worth doing' sort of mentality. Everyone wants good attention from the Admins, because it makes them feel special. Player-run events that don't have a God touch don't usually get much, if any, recognition.


There's a lot of things that don't help with roleplay in IRE. One of them being that time moves at an excelerated rate. Your character's not going to try some crazy ritual to their god to ask for rain, because draughts don't happen in IRE. You could always try to do this with a desert area of an IRE game, but not sure if that would fly. And, like most IRE games, unless you're a badass PvPer you don't usually get the recognition you deserve.


But besides all that, if you're willing to really put in the effort to roleplay then you've got every opportunity to do so, and IRE will never pull the plug. You could be minding your own business, teaching a newbie about the history of the Basin, and still be doing decent roleplay.

First off, good article.

Secondly, I find that the time it takes the write appropriate emotes tends to break the flow of things for me. I am not sure if this is something I need to get conditioned to or not.


I'll admit it, I don't always rp much within MUDs as most people I have come across seem to be of the opinion that your speech and the already there emotes are rp... which, of course, they are but it is actually nice to have some custom rp that isn't just the same thing over and over. Though I'll also admit I don't always write paragraph long emotes as I'm not sure how well received a long emote or rp is. I've also never, to my knowledge, played a MUSH but knowing the difference I may just have to find one to try.

I actually had no idea.


Nor did I actually.

I tend to get the feeling that the hardcore combatants look down on the RPers, and because I don't rush out to kill attackers, they think my character is a lesser person.

And, sadly, I'm terrible at spelling. I always have been, even though I read tons and tons of books, and I do actually try to learn the more commonly misspelt words. The part of my brain that remembers spellings just doesn't seem to exist.

I actually began my text gaming career when I was about 13, playing Star Trek based MUSHes. It was a much, much more free-form. There was actually two separate "worlds." you go go IC or leave the IC world by typing OOC. All roleplayed was observed by judges, but none of the judges were impartial, and no one but the federation ever had any fun. I think I like MUDs more because given a situation between two people as there is no predestined outcome that you can't change.



I do it fast. Lots of practice, hooray MUD/MUSHes

See, things like this. I get timeout warnings when I try to do custom emotes. And While Lusty has certainly improved my key speed, it hasn't been by that much. The worst problem is actually thinking up a decent response to some of the crazy stuff a good emoter can do. Well, at the very least I have inadvertantly surrounded myself with RPers who make me feel bad for not doing it better, so I do get practice.


I actually didn't know there was much to RP beyond just talking and liberal use of stock emotes, which is still pretty much what I do with Tomir. But then I found some migrant Aetolians who incessantly did crazy emote stuff and complained to me OOCly of how limited Lusty's emote system is. Since then, I've been trying a lot more. I'm not that good at it yet, though, and the time factor is intimidating. I've seen some people pop out detailed paragraph emotes in a snap, and it takes me that long to bang out a middling length reaction, and I just know they're getting irritated. But hey, at least I'm doing things their way, and it's a lot of fun.

I'm not the best roleplayer and actually struggle to stay in my character particularly because I'm a bit unsure about my character's personality.  My character is a subset of my own personality rather than a different personality all together.  I tend to see the game more of a game than a roleplaying game, but that's something for me to get past.

I also was very interested in the idea of reacting.  Reacting to the way a person acts is an interesting concept to build and maintain a roleplaying personality.  This is an article I'd have to read a few times for everything to sink in.  Thanks for a great read!

Ok, I've always wondered what the difference was. Thanks for clearing that up.

thank you for posting this article.

Thank you for posting this, it was very interesting. This will help me work on improving my RP

Fun thing is that you can always do that!

If they roleplay and do it well, what's it matter?

Try and act like the character you envisioned. I would rather have bad RP than straight OOCness

Though some people think they have the right to tell others how to RP. Rules does exist to limit "extreme" RP.


I myself don't normally like long paragraph long emotes normally.

i thought this article was about the client... show how much i know about MUSH-type of games.



With Vorbis

Looks interesting.

I 100% understand people who don't get completely into the RP side, but nothing really rubs me worse then the fact that people will join cities like Mhaldor that have a really deep ideal of what it is to be Mhaldorian and then act like they should be coddled and pet nicely and treated like a china doll.

If you want to -play evil- you need to -play evil- not just swing your sword at something.

If you don't want to do at least minimal RP be a rogue and just kill things or join more neutral organizations. (I would say Mhaldor or Shallam in this post but I have screw all idea how Shallam runs itself these days).

good article.  I sometimes find the pace folks expect in a MUD exceeds my creativity/typing abilities.  Especially if you're talking 3-line poses.

see, when I saw "MUSH" I thought of the client, I've never heard of any other. it reminds me of those forum based rpgs