Online MUDs: The First Steps of Text Combat
By Chris J. Johnston
As with most games, one of the most alluring facets of the common text MUD is the combat, whether it be PvE (player versus environment) or PvP (player versus player). Each MUD has developed its combat to differing degrees. Where one MUD might have players only be able to deal “health” damage until their target is dead, some MUDs have created complicated and elaborate systems of status effects ranging from broken limbs to unnatural stupidity.
As with any game, there are players that do their best to master the art of killing, no matter the target, and usually their name long proceeds their appearance in character. To this day, I still remember the names that frequently lit up deathsight, striking fear and admiration into my little newbie self.
Having immersed myself in arguably one of the most detailed text combat systems on the internet, I gladly offer the following tips to help the interested newbie in overcoming the (potentially) giant learning curve.
If you've read any of my previous articles, you should notice a theme here. Earn the text currency necessary to buy ample if not superfluous amounts of supplies. Anything that heals your health, your limbs, your mind, your ego (though this is apparently mechanically damageable in some games, you might want to find some other avenue of “winning” to boost your real life ego when you inevitably get thrashed by some combat veteran or ungodly denizen as well) - you must have it, and lots of it.
Ok, you've got the goods. Now what? Well, what do those goods do? Figure that out and write it down if you need to. Now you know how what cures what, but do you know what stops you from curing what? Understanding that being anorexic when you go to drink some health potion is bad news bears could go a ways towards keeping you alive.
This tutorial isn't about just surviving though! You want to kill people too, right? You'll need to study up on that too. If your class is reliant on heavily afflicting the enemy, you'll need to understand how to STOP curing and how to stack afflictions on various “balances” to completely shut down the enemy (or at least enough to let you get the kill).
In Achaea, the text MUD I frequent, the basic lock is comprised of anorexia (no eating/drinking), asthma (no smoking), slickness (no applying salves), and impatience (no focusing away mental illnesses).* To kill someone, you need to learn how to make these afflictions line up at once and “lock” the opponent up tight. Whatever class you are, a big part of combat is learning how to STOP your target from stopping you. Think along these lines: “If I do this, they can...”
*Paralysis is not technically required to lock, nitpickers. Paralysis is icing on the cake, so to speak.
Practice Practice Practice Practice Did I Say Practice?
This is easily the most important part. It's all good and well to know theory, but knowing HOW to kill someone and actually DOING it is very, very different. Players and even the MUD's denizens can react far differently than you would expect. Unless you prove to be a combat prodigy, you're going to find yourself getting knocked down again and again. Each time, make sure you come away with one more piece of knowledge than you went in with. “Ok, I died to x. I should prepare for that and use y to stop it” or “Ok my perfect attack plan failed because they did x. I need to do y to stop them from doing that.”
Don't Give Up
You CAN do it. Be sure to appreciate the complexity or the beautiful simplicity the coders created!
Armed with this new knowledge, go ahead and begin your journey to text game combat mastery in some outstanding text games with some of the most intricate combat systems out there!
Chris J. Johnston is a text game enthusiast and currently plays games from Iron Realms.