Online MUDs: The First Steps of Text Combat

text game 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.

Gather Supplies
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.

Gather Information
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.



Firstly a great article, and one I hope will get a few more people interested in combat in the various games.

I have played all the Iron Realms games at some point or another, and I have found combat to be different in each, though fundamentally the same things are needed from a player in each.

You need to learn your enemies, find out from your city, your guild and your order, who is likely to attack you. Knowing your enemies is the first step to succeeding. Also you must not be afraid to try. You will die to other players and you will die to denizens. Use these as opportunities to learn, keep logs of your epic or not so epic fights. You can then go through them and see what attacks have been used against you, what the attacks have done and whether they are avoidable.

Many players use a system to do basic defending or healing, it is by looking through these combat logs that you can begin to gather your own defensive or healing system, so you can focus on your offensive.

Practice. It is only by using your skills, defenses, potions and bandages that you can start to formulate your strategys. Find friends with different skillsets or play styles and have sparring sessions to get the feel for each others skills, so that when your caught up in the heat of combat you already have some understanding of what to do.

If still in doubt, ask your guild. Many have scrolls that will help you get started with combat and also have experienced fighters willing to show you the ropes. The important thing is to have fun, and never let the deaths get to you whilst learning, as frustrating as it may get.

The best advice an experienced player gave me was that you never stop learning, there are always new ways to be discovered.

What I can recommend doing first off is identifying which skills form the core of your combat abilities and get those bound to ctrl+numpad, leaving numpad without modifiers for moving about. Typing a short two or three letter alias might seem fast but having it bound to a single key without needing to move your hands is always faster. If you find it hard at first to remember grab a sheet of paper (or virtual equivalent) and draw out your setup.

Start by learning the known methods. Guilds tend to have one or several methods in which to approach combat, sometimes dubbed the "cookiecutter" methods. An experienced player might know these and how to counter them, but they form a solid foundation to start working from.

Join group combat opportunities and learn how you best perform in a group. Start out simple, doing just one or two things, and learn to do those well. Then start doing more. Always listen to the group leader, being a solo hero gets you killed. As you grow more experienced you can take some calculated risks, but never go against orders, even if they seem less than optimal.

Have fun with it. If you don't have this, then why even bother? But don't hang your head when you do not immediately get the desired results. Keep on practicing. Failure is the best learning opportunity.

Currently I have my regular number pad keys connected to strikes against different body parts... maybe I should put them control as you suggest? I was gonna save that for parrying or something.

Either way, a lot of good advice here. Thanks. 

Ooh! Good idea! I've never actually considered binding them to a number key since I was always worried I'd accidentally hit them or they'd interrupt my normal activities

That's why I always use the numbers at the top of the keyboard!

First thing you have to do before getting into combat is making sure you have the necessary equipment and at least a few base skills: main attack skill, curing skills, defensive skills, etc. After all that, which will end up costing quite a lot of gold and credits, then you have to get to know your skills. Not knowing how your skills work will get you killed, and possibly your allies. After familiarizing yourself with your skills FIND YOURSELF A COMBAT MENTOR. This could be your guild champ, if your game has one, or the best fighter in your guild/class. Shadow them, watch how they work, ask as many questions as possible. Do not mimic their combat style, because you won't be versatile in combat, and will end up floundering when your strategy goes awry. Learn how they work and from their develop your own strategies.

I can not agree more. In my early days of aetolia I was lucky enough to have a few kind people who were willing enough to give me the basic items and some standard affliction lines.

In fact, that was I was planning to do soon: find a combat mentor. I have good combat/defensive/healing skills but I don't know how to use them at their 100% and many many times I get killed just because I don't recover equilibrium soon.


My life sucks ;-)

Scripts? You know? Those things you can just buy nowadays?

I would never spend money on a script, but I managed to pirate myself a very effective bit of healing long ago and I've been building on it ever since. But yes, it definitely isn't enough to make a person a great fighter just by having some auto-curing in place! It's taken forever to get as good as I am, and I'm still crap. I think I killed a newbie once. Seriously. But the most important thing is not to give up! Take your time to record every fight you're in and build up your defenses accordingly, and learn to plan strategies! Does your Magi opponent like using retardation vibrations to spam transfix? What can you do to counter an Infernal who stacks recklessness with sensitivity? Should you replace your web tattoo with an hourglass, now that you've realized your opponent as a buckawn's amulet? These are things that no script will be able to help you with.

But damn do those scripts help.

If you're crap, then how can you say you're any good?

it gets pretty overwhelming.The text comes as fast as we can type,the system can process etc.Meaning those who cant focus i.e. newcomers get overwhelmed by the text cant make sense of whats happening and bang!DEATH

I gag a lot of things (other people sipping/eating/smoking) in my client and text still flies by, though it does help.

Good advice, though I still need to figure out what to gag for myself, I guess.

I think the very first step is getting supplies and right after get a good combat system. You may have lots of skills, but in a fight if you can't cure what your enemy is hitting you with, you'll just die no matter how skilled you are. The thing is, hinder the enemy before he can hinder you.

Reminds me of my first group PVP battle in Lusternia. I hadn't yet bought all of my curatives. :/

Reminds me of my first group PVP battle in Lusternia. I hadn't yet bought all of my curatives. :/

I wouldn't count myself a combatant of any note, but the one suggestion I would make to anyone getting into it is... keep logs, and examine them afterwards. Or even better, get a combat expert to examine them with you. That can really help you figure out what you're doing right or wrong!

Yes, going through combat logs is a great way to find where you make mistakes and try and prevent them happening again.

If you don't check your logs, you might not notice you're doing something incredibly stupid and just repeat the same mistake again and again. I know this from personal experience.

Keeping logs is one of the best things you can do, when you go to get into combat in a new game. Yes it is helpful to have the ability to heal god and everything, or the very best weapons.. or whatever.. However, if you can't see what your doing wrong.. or what attack line ups work the best against this or that class, or if you actually are healing this and that affliction...your not going to improve. Improving in combat is the name of the game really.

But I always forget to start recording before combat begins! :/

The most important thing in this article I think is... never gie up. It might be hard and oerwhelming, but you can be proud of yourself if you master combat.

Complex combat is going to require some perseverence to master, naturally, I suppose, and if I ever do, I imagine it'll be all the more rewarding for that!

Although it sounds strange, text combat is way more complex than any graphics game combat. This makes it all the more enticing but also more difficult. In a way, combat in text, especially in MKO rolls as you would expect real life medieval style combat to go.

And, among the ways it, moreso than any MMO's combat, mimics more 'real' combat of the periods it draws from (questions of the applicability of magic aside) is that, if you've not gotten used to the sheer volume of things going on around you, it is incredibly easy to drown in information long before you realize you're standing about the halls of the dead, in whatever form they take in that game. This was, to me, the single most frustrating thing starting out (even moreso than learning that, in the time it took me to type a single command, Exodus of Aetolia had me completely locked down... he was a fun mentor), and while I tend to avoid combat... I did find that merely having a few handy hilights on 'important' lines goes a long way towards keeping your head above the water (in some cases, literally).


In the end, it can't be said enough... keep logs, read and reread them at a sane pace after the fact, learn from them, and... never give up.

Well... the degree to which it mimics real combat is debate-able. I mean, I dunno about Midkemia, but in Lusternia a lot of realism is sacrificed for combat balance and coolness, which, honestly, I have no problem with. Combat seems really awesome and really complex.

A like that touch about a sane pace. I guess persistence is key; a lot of people probably get overwhelmed and don't push through 'til they truly know how things work. Of course, this is a post from one of those people! :D

A lot of the comments above clarify this, but it really is a constant ongoing battle to get better at combat.  Text combat can be much more complex than your traditional MMO.  Beyond often there being many more types of attacks which have particular effects, the systems are often designed so that you will want to obtain reflexes and automate a lot of the combat.

Though we don't have to worry about moving in three dimensional space, I guess.

Combat across the different games is harder or easier in varying degrees. If you're looking to PvP, I learned that MKO is the easiest to get into with basic skills, and Lusternia is the hardest. It all really depends on how much of a challenge you're looking for!

I think it's only the hardest due to the extremely group-oriented feel of it!

Our physical combatants certainly have a lot more options than in other games. I think we have a lot more afflictions, too, if I'm not mistaken. This is awesome, though it also seems to steepen the learning curve!

Use magnets to acquire said supplies and currency.

How do they work?


remember to have the actual venom when you're trying to jab someone with an envenomed rapier

find a patient teacher/sparring partner


And don't be afraid to do actual combat, you can only really work with learning by doing.

Manual all combat, aside from overdriving and anti theft. Then i am not reall any good at 1v1 but I can spport pretty well.

having friends who's supplies and get them  to help you really helps, else it's just practice a lot and finding out as much info as you can

I've never been into combat, but after five years of playing, the best advice I've received are find people to help you learn and practice. A lot.

Indeed, practice is key.

always is




Honestly I don't have much to add to the above as it's all the same stuff I've heard too. One thing I can suggest from my own personal experience. I've always ended up on the more scholarly/leadership side of character growth. This greatly affects any sort of future you have in learning combat. It's really difficult to be the brains for a century and then suddenly decide you want to be the brawns now, heh. If you have any interest in it at all, even just learning the defend yourself effectively so that people generally leave you alone, start early and don't procrastinate. It's difficult and frustrating, but it's also fun. Every game changes over time and the 24/7 combatants are learning new tricks every day, you have to keep the rust off or it'll become miles harder to learn and then keep up.

This is my piece of advice: your client is your best tool. When you're learning how to fight, make full use of whatever features your client has to offer. Have difficulty differentiating between one attack and another? Colour them differently, or sub the text out for something simpler you can read quickly. Have trouble remembering when you need to time that special attack? Script some warnings or alerts to remind you! Don't be afraid to make full use of your client's features, they're your primary tool for making sense of high speed text combat.

I always get so confused trying adventurer combat because things happen so fast I cannot see what's going on. I hadn't even though of throwing in different colors to look for patterns and help myself see things easier.

A wall of white text is very difficult to do anything with. I would just frantically press the same keybindings again and again and hope that I'd be of some use! Been starting to color things and whatnot, though.


I like this.


The best thing you can do in an IRE game, especially Imperian, is to find where they put the free systems. The bar is set so high with message-less bashing afflictions and paralysis disguised ten different ways that you almost need these basic systems to derive any enjoyment out of PVE or PVP. Once you're able to actually interact with npcs and players on a combat level, you can start tinkering around with your own settings and client and slowly build your knowledge to a level you're comfortable with.


After that, the only things that can help are a time or money commitment and friends that can code better than you. Find a cookie cutter offense, roll around with a lot of artifacts and a stellar attitude. Or you can work through a class and slowly learn the ins and outs before moving on to other classes. Both are rewarding in their own ways and allow you to engage in the thrill of PVP.

This seems right to me. Part of me wonders what some of the free systems for Achaea would be if Vadi's hadn't exploded as it has.

The combat systems of these games is what I love the most!

For those Midkemians reading: Defence is your friend. It can and will make or break a 1v1 (and group) encounter. Start gathering telegraphs from the various classes early on. If you ever spar with a person and they use attacks you have never seen before, ask them what the best defense to use is and update your reflexes accordingly.

Of course, the issue comes into timing your defence  properly,  which is another story altogether.

I find Achaea's combat system to be watered-down since the early days. It's no longer about how well you strategize.... its about how well-planned (or how much you paid) for your system. I'm no exception. My coding skills are terrible and I don't have the time to learn an entire programming language. But then you end up paying someone for something that is so widely used and so incomplete, that you die before you get to use any strategies, because your system neglected to heal something.

Back in the day, when Larkin was distributing the first really widely availabel system, ACP (Later Acropolis), it was released with the statement that its team of authors felt that it would allow people to focus on offensive strategies (aka the fun part).


Outside of that, this author is spot on. Prepare and Practice. Don't get discouraged, no one wins all the time, and no one loses all the time either!

Achaea PVP is the one of the most complicated but also the most fun Ive ever played.


Big raids are a bit bad imo... noone can keep track of so much going on.. (Icons)


Though Lusternia's much more complicated. And there's much more emphasis on big raids!

Perhaps one would consider PvP challenging, but that would only come from the standpoint of someone required to strategize in the first place.  Achaea is still cursed with this imbalance of affliction classes (which are fairly easily defeated by a well-coded system) versus damage-dealing classes; which, in all honesty, can give themselves an almost unfair advantage with the more artifacts they equip.  Being able to see through a Serpent's illusions, or thwart an Occultist's tarot cards is a widely spread skillset common in systems from Vadi's to Larkin's, but one can only heal so much per sip, opening the window for people to take advantage of weaker races, weaker classes, and weaker adventurers in general to bully on.


Fighting endless strings of coding is not one of my strong points; back in my younger days I played World of Warcraft, and the goal there was to be attentive, quick on your feet, and to move around the battlefield and have a sound strategy.  Blasphemy for me to mention WoW in relation to Achaea, but the fighting is much less challenging, albeit outwardly it appears to be much more complex due to the variety of afflictions and debuffs.  At the very least, an undergeared player in WoW can overcome an overgeared opponent with thrifty thinking and sound strategy.  There is nothing like this in Achaea.  An over-artificed person playing a damage-dealing class doesn't require much skill in their onslaught, as mashing a few macros for their main attacks usually leads to a successful kill.


Many have theorized ways to change the balances, and I give kudos to the Admins and Divine for doing such a good job as is, but we need to be realistic with eachother and admit that there's a problem, and that some classes are more balanced than others.  Acceptance is the first step to recovery.

WoW in your younger days, eh? I guess I'm only just processing how long it's been since that game was released...

Anyhoo, that's unfortunate. But I still think the learning curve's much higher. WoW is so easy to just pick up.

I think the real first step should be setting aside a good two or three years of your life, and possibly a good chunk of your salary. Then you'll be golden!

I'm finding it hard to get quests for a level 41. Everyone in Ashtan keeps telling me to go to Manara and seek out some quests, but the lower I go, the harder the gnolls get so I always die. If I may, I would like some of the players of Ashtan to at least take me bashing. I know I'm a little too experienced for that, but I know no other lands than Manara.

Echoes and tunnelvision, two features of combat I just could not do without. When everything is textual, there's simply not enough time to read every line with the speed at which they come. So colored echoes are important to tell me what's happening. Tunnelvision is a fairly recent addition which narrows down the spam to the output of my particular target, a must-use for group combat.

I could never have been as decent (not good but decent) as I am today without someone else providing a system for me which helps a ton.

Tunnelvision is actually a skill in one of the general skillsets in Midkemia, I believe it's called Combat Focus. Utterly useless to anyone with a good system, but handy for those without.

Constant practice is nothing without the ability to log every fight in order to keep a record to which you can review and learn from it. It's through reflection and refinement during those off-combat times looking over those logs and improving your system to better prepare yourself for the next confrontation that allows you to climb the steep mountain of becoming a better combatant.

I haven't fought much, but I haven't really done this yet. I've looked half-heartedly for other people's Pureblade logs, but I suppose my own might lead to me doing a lot better learning about what I ought to tweak. 

I found combat so much more easier when you highlight important things such as afflictions given like broken legs and defenses up and down that it was so much easier to keep up with. Especially in huge fights where you need to react quickly

I am still learning combat.  However, I find that taking time to learn your skills and advance your skill ranks is a very good place to start. 

Find a person who you can spar with, regardless of level.  Somebody who will let you try out new skills and as a warrior new manuevers and combinations of attacks.

It is also a good idea to learn how to use triggers and scripts to make fighting easier and take some of the typing out.  A computer thinks and reads a lot faster than a human can :)

Log everything. Reviewing those logs later will give you more time to catch anything you may have easily overlooked in the spammy combat, so you can really see what you need to work on.

Some good advice here!

combat here is a lot more dynamic and interesting than other mud I've found.  Way too many ways to kill people!

Achaea is awesome when it comes to PVP. You really have to know your cures. I think knowledge of what cures what and having those cures on hand is extremely important, it makes this mud so very very fun.

I built my own influence system for Lusternia, but even combat vs deinzens/mobs is a lot more complex than influencing, so I haven't been able to do a proper combat one yet. I'm worried that my systems are too reactive and defensive isntead of being proactive - they're always reacting to lines of text and trying to catch up. But I don't want to be sending too many automated commands like diag and so on.

I've generally avoided fighting other players when on one of the IRE MUDS but this article (and the guild I am interested in ICly - should I master my current class) definitely has me wanting to learn more about combat. Thank you for the article and the further advice by commenters!

Even though I personally don't have a system to handle combat, I enjoy participating in group combat as much as I can. I know I won't be able to do much until I sit down and really study my skills as well as create my own triggers and alias.

I understand that some people take the easy way out and just -buy- or -obtain- a system. I'm just one of those that feels the satisfaction by going through the motions of building one. And I know there is quite a few people out there that feel the same way too.

Thing is that coding a system is a serious investment, and a system really helps. Can't blame people for using someone else's, really.

That's fine if you enjoy coding but keeping up with all the changes (good changes!) would drive me insane.

I've never been good at combat, heh, one day I will be.

...but I think it's important to enjoy the journey, as well. No reason you need to be able to take out top combatants to enjoy combat!

then another 1000 => success!

I could've sworn that having a curing system of some sort is required to engage in combat. Maunal combat won't get anyone very far nowadays.

When I first played Achaea, I always wondered how everyone I fought was able to cure and do everything so quickly... I was a lot younger, and didn't even have any triggers or aliases. Achaea was my first MUD. Needless to say, I didn't win many spars.

Wonderful advice at the end of the article for all who wish to aspire in the field of combat in game.

In Achaea combat is extremely hardcore. I find very challenging as it is incredibly tough to succeed. I have no coding experience, and I find buying a system sorto of cheating. So it will take ne more than a while to be decent in fights. Amazing game, nevertheless.

the more you study and become familiar with the basics the easier more things will be. I'm not good but colours and highlights will help tremendously

Its depressing when you see how much work you have to put in just to start!


You forgot 'trans all the important stuff' :/

This article was really well written. I personally have no interest in combat, but this almost makes me want to give it a try...  Almost ;)

Best of the IRE games!

Get lots of supplies. It sucks to run out of something you need in the middle of a long drawn out fight.

definitely a good article. More like this are needed.

Practice is TOTALLY true. Getting good at combat relies heavily on not only practicing, but also on reviewing logs and finding how you went wrong.

I need to be less afraid of defeat. As written in the article, it's the only way I'll ever learn to fight.

I'll be putting it to use at some point in the future, definitely.

Now, to find someone to practice with...


But, someday, maybe. Good article.

It's just not all that interesting! It's all team fighting, no amount of practice makes fighting two or more people fair.

sadly it's been forced there by the players though. Runing around alone is not really an option nowadays.

It's not nitpicking, unless for some reason you think tree isn't a curing skill, or that no classes have an ability that can cure for them if they're not paralysed.




So harsh!

I'm so lame at combat...

You guys can't talk about combat...

Don't get discouraged when you lose. I learn alot more from losing than I do from winning.

'gather supplies' is the point that always keeps me back

After years and years, I've given up on IRE combat. Rolling over and dying has been a much better avenue for me.


It's pretty rough, especially if you don't know how to script.

Midkemia is a bit easier. Plus there's a good free system available that you can find on the forums. Try it!

Steep learning curves suck, but have their uses.

getting the stuff you need is usually pretty easy. A decent curing system can be bought for pretty much any of the IRE games. The biggest impediment is having the time and energy to get in the arena and duke it out.  Over and over and over.

Losing is so discouraging, thouuuuuugggghhhh. :D

Combat is easy when you know how.

Don't be afraid to die

Or start with sparring in the arena.


get a programmer to make you a kickass system.

I suggest newcomers to buy a system. Why? Because it means you defense is sorted already, and it gives you code examples to look at. Build your own offense. Then see if you can write additions or improvements to the system you own. Or maybe there is a better but more expensive system you now feel confident dropping credits on.


I couldn't get anywhere with practice until I bought a system. My reflexes and combining that with what I still needed to know about curing made my life miserable. A system is a BIG help. Now at least I can see what I am curing and learn what does what.

Walk up to the biggest badass in the yard and make him your bitch.

prison style..

I should get a system. Or have someone to pimp up the "system" (some way it should be called) I programed myself.


And what happens with fire potions in Lusternia? They are missing in shops for quite a while

Do the robot

My first step was to look through logs and start figuring out what kind of triggers and alises I should go for, and also what kind of offense I should start developing.

I need to start getting to it more!

Sounds time consuming.

I had to ask someone and then go from there, learn by my mistakes

Helpful article and many comments.

Also, don't forget that it's okay to die and lose xp! Sometimes I think that keeps people from learning what a rush pk is. 

That's the cool thing about MKO, as I understand it - defenders don't lose xp, and they actually gain it for killing raiders! I think it's a nice way to prevent collective griefing - you're not really being bullied, if you don't lose anything by defending, right? Whereas raiding's a choice.

Looking through logs by through the forums and sites like nogfx, can be usefull, if you are prepared to trawl through alot of rubbish

I haven't been able to find any Pureblade logs. Maybe I should try harder, though.

of old days good logs!

I know, now mostly mudsex logs.

Not into the whole mudsex scene. Would really prefer to be able to find logs that could help me in combat!

I know that Knight combat is likely a bit of a pain, but I haven't quite gotten to that yet


I found Occultist combat to be somewhat easy to get into, but difficult to master, but I'm also not a big combatant at all

Although I don't think I'll ever be a combatant I do want to at least know the basics so thanks for all the advice in both the article and the comments.

being a combatant in Lusternia is a lot more complicated, but it all seems so cool!



Smash your head against your desk, repeatedly. If you can survive this, you can survive text combat!

I guess that seems like an appropriate introduction.

Achaea and especially Lusternia can be very overwhelming to learn!