Text Games - What are MUDs?

MUDs Orc

By Derek McCullough

Fiction fans love reading about their favorite heroes in the most exciting of circumstances; the mighty warrior defeating the armies of a dark sorcerer bent on enslaving a nation, or a heartless assassin finding the Light in his soul and using his skills for the greater good. Many people wish they could read stories about heroes of their own imagining. How do many role-playing game fans cope with such desires? They play a text based RPG, or Multi-user Dungeon (MUD).

It's very much like many of your current online role-playing games, sans the graphics. Why would anyone choose to play a video game without graphics? Think of the chance to create a hero, personality and talents of your choosing. Maybe he even has a piece of you in him. Within the realms of text adventure games, you can easily take part in adventures and create stories with other players who have created heroes for the same reasons as you. With all of these characters gathered together, you role-play your stories, individually or together. You can affect worlds with even the most minute actions. You, the player, make the story happen. Not an director, actor, or playwright. Just you, and the others who partake in the many adventures within these online text games.

Now, not every text based RPG out there today is a heavy role-playing text game. There are a large variety of text games to fit every type of play style. For instance, there are games based solely on player-killing, or PK, where players fight each other for rewards or experience. There are RPI, or role-play intensive, where it is required to stay in character while on-line. Also, there are some text games that only have the thinnest veneer of 'gaming' that focus on the social aspects called 'Talkers'. With a little bit of searching, it’s easy to find a large variety of online text games to enjoy for days, months, and years.

With each type of text RPG out there, a multitude of genres exist. Those based on movies, books, or perhaps existing role-playing games. There are those text games that are based on a purely unique, fictional world, with rich histories and interesting people. Sometimes, you can find text games based loosely on historical people, or places, and are able to take part in shaping what history ‘could have been’ for the world today. Regardless of your preference, be it Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Dark Gothic, Occult Horror, or Modern Realism, you can find a genre to suit your fancy.

The final question most people ask about text games: Why do you really play them? Many do for the simple fact that you don’t need a computer with three paychecks poured into it to play. Some for the social, chat-like, aspects of the text games themselves. But, there are those who do it for the joy of playing a very enriched, unique game like Achaea, Dreams of a Divine Land, where players create their online personas using a unique mix of races, classes, Houses and divine orders. Players in this online text game run the political arenas, the financial districts, the military forces. They interact with the gods of Achaea on a regular basis. Cities war amongst each other and empires crumble to dust.

So, if you’re really curious, give a text based RPG game a try. Many people around the world log onto an online text game every day, enjoying every moment spent playing. Maybe you could too. Go ahead, give it a try. You might find yourself the next player to change the world.

Put choose-your-own-adventure books to shame with some great online text RPGs.

Derek McCullough is a text game enthusiast and currently plays games from http://www.IronRealms.com.


I like the essay, if someone doesn't read that and become at least a little interested, I don't know what is wrong with them. Good read!

This article is pretty dead on about text gaming.  Greater customization and individuality is one of the primary reasons why text gaming has persisted to thrive as more and more graphic MMOs are rolled out.

I agree wholeheartedly. This is why the text based mud is still alive, and kicking.


The ability to truly honestly be whoever you wish to be within it...look the way you want to look, wear what you want to wear, be the amazing warlord or quiet book worm mage that you always wanted to be from the books you loved as a kid or teen....

Easy: Like WoW, only better and more free-form.

Plus the server is never down so many hours like WoW and you do not get to be with people that  say  bad words and are impolite *cheers* . I love it because reading the text  is like reading a story,  has suspense ! 


I always dislike, when an author lets my favourite character die... And now I can steer one myself, let him love and hate, die and get resurrected!

Just what I wanted.

I also think it's one of the only ways to get your fix for playing a 200+ person tabletop RPG, unless you LARP...

Definitely agree with Samyaza. The sheer numbers is great.

Text-Mmos are more fun than the ones with graphics!



I've tried to get many of my friends interested in trying text-based games, but most of them have the same exact excuse. 'It's too much reading'. Then they ask me 'How the hell can you play this?! It's nothing but reading!' The one answer I give is this: 'I feel the same way about text-based games that you all feel about World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Elder Scrolls, etc. I love it. Since I've started with text-based worlds, graphical games don't appeal as much to me.

I totally agree. I've heard the same excuse from some of my friends as well wondering how I can pay attention with only text on the screen. On the same note I used to be big into all of the latest and greatest graphical games and was always updating my computer to handle them all. Now they just don't have the appeal anymore and I've been a lot more steady with the text medium.

I enjoy the sheer flexability of a mud. Your free to shape things in any way you wish. Your only real restriction is your imagination. 

MUDs sacrifice graphics for gameplay, customisability and openness. In a MUD, anything describable can happen, almost on a whim. As you can imagine, this helps to create the dynamic, free flowing worlds MUDs are known for, and lets the MUD's staff (and players) narrate it in spectacular fashion.

This is exactly why I'm not sure more players don't seem interested in promotions, unless the celani period is a turn-off. Godhood seems like it would be a natural extension and allow more freedom to envision and create than does being a player.

I never really realised what Muds where before reading the artical

I love reading so text based games aren't a turn off at all. The games at Iron Realms are easy to get started in as well.

I like how in MUDs the gameplay possibilities are unlimited. There's only so much you can do when it comes to graphic MMOs because you're restricted to what you see. When you're playing a MUD, you actually feel like you're performing your actions when you're emoting. 

Muds for most of my life.  Every once and awhile I go to WoW or another game, but i keep coming back to muds because of the fact that quests in WoW, repeating over and over, gets really boring.

Then I discovered MUD gaming through Crydee.com. It was a site based on my favourate author R.E.Feist. It was advertising Midkemia Online, this was a year before its release but it got me excited. I played Achaea for a bit to understand the concepts of mud gaming and I haven't looked back. The imagination you can put into a mud, and the individuality with the ever changing stories and sub plots. I am lucky if I play graphical games for more than 2 or 3 hours a month now.

Fantastic article which I am sure will bring more people to IRE.

the lack of graphics forces you to immerse yourself into everyone's RP choices. in Wow you have a small pre determined list of what you are in MUDS the list is much more vast.

And if anyone ever says graphics detract, they can go look at the artisinal competition winners... Graphical representations of Achaea that supplement instead of overwhelm.

MUDs seem to have a level of attention and detail that most other games just don't.

online text games capture my imagination far better than any graphical mmo. I've got 115 hours of play time on Oblivion, which came out a few years ago and was heralded as the best action rpg, ever. Well I've got 120 days and 15 hours of playtime on Achaea, hows that for replayability value. text games rule

I think the best balance in a MUD is achieved when you have a decent mix of PKers and roleplayers. Both bring something to the game, but without one there is no conflict and without the other there is no meaning to the conflict!

I've had lots more fun on MUDs than on graphical games... there's greater option for customizing here.

Many do for the simple fact that you don’t need a computer with three paychecks poured into it to play.



I can't stand WoW and their talk about chuck norris and their l337 speak and all of that. I rather enjoy the forced RP of most MUDs and I like how more and more people are joining in recent years. I hope IRE becomes more famous in my home city though! I know quite a few people who MUD outside of IRE but the IRE experience is just something else. Nice article.

Like a mmorpg, only better

Text MMOS > Graphical MMOS any day. There is no limit to the imagination and the things that can be done.

Its true some people dislike the reading but in mudds, your not necessarily reading every single thing. As you get more proficient, you learn what needs to be read and what can skimmed over, in the same way you see graphics and see what requires your attention and what does not.

multi-user dungeon bro

What I like about playing text-based MUDs, specifically Achaea (as that has been my only foray into this gaming genre), is that I don't have to do your standard gaming activities. Sure, I'll bash and level and maybe complete a quest here and there, but what I do most in the game is write. I write essays on the philosophy of the seasons and change, I write poems on the history of Lady Melantha, I write rituals for the Ancient Circle of Druids, etc. I love that creative writing practice is considered gaming. Without the RP motivations to do these things, I wouldn't be writing nearly as much as I do now.

Not only that, but text-based gaming has significantly increased my typing speed (even if it -has- ruined my ability to spell colour, favourite, and honour the American way).

Because there is so much more that you can do without graphics present... I can't play some MMORPGs because all you have to do is quest to go kill 20 of this creature, then quest to meet this person, who wants you to kill 30 of this creature to retrieve an item. No other games have you looking into and around objects that you don't even realize are there unless you actually pay attention, then using this to solve puzzles, etc. And then there is politics, and designing, and so much more!

The depth of character and environment description is one of the major selling points for me. No movies are ever as good as the books - I think that speaks true of text-games vs graphical games.

I also agree with the above statement of it being so close to table-top RPG. It was the perfection transition. I remember playing my first MUD 15 years ago and thinking how great that I can enjoy my time with more people and don't have to worry about any time restrictions - - Going home meant logging off. Plus, we always had a lack of GMs; everyone wanted to be players. It's not the case with MUDs.

While it might be true of some, in assorted out-of-character chatter with other players in both Aet and MKO... I actually find most have the hardware to play the other more shiney games, and occasionally still do during down time... but the fact will always remain that anything that presents the world to you on its own terms will never be half as deep and immersive as your own imagination can be. Text based games are the only medium I've ever found that go so far to adhere to one of the best phrases ever coined...


Some things are best left to the imagination.


I play for exactly those reasons. I tired of rebuilding my ccomputer for a new game to find out the game is lacking any customizable content and has a linear and simple storyline.

MUDs give me the ability to roleplay without having to coordinate 10 people to show up at a house and roll dice(although its fun). I get the paper and pencil feel, the rich story lines, the social aspect, the best part is...i get to control the outcome of many scenarios or even create new ones.

In a nutshell...graphics stole the purity and innocence from gaming. Long live old traditions. Keep the great content coming IRE!


In addition to the ability to really engage the imagination, I've learned -so- much about grammar, spelling, and creative writing from mudding. I'm a scrabble tour de force, owing significantly to the 10 years I've been playing Achaea.

That's the best thing about MUDs...using Imaginaaaaaation.

It bothers me that there are still people who play text-based RPGs solely for the PK, and actually disdain the people who RP.

+1 imagination! 



Also, whoever started with the +1 stuff in these comments, great contribution.

As you said in the article, you don't need a fancy computer to play MUDs, and it's part of what makes them great. Mobile phones and IPods by now can even support playing. Granted, you won't have a system or anything, but you still have access to the game- something that you definitely couldn't do with WoW, or other more popular games.

to get people interested in Achaea, sometimes, but interesting things don't ever happen when these people can see them.

"Graphics games are too limited in what can be done."

"MUDs let you do and create anything you can imagine with endless possibilites."

Seems I've read a few articles now that basically just bring up the 'text-based vs graphics' topic. I'll admit, I liked this one the best so far and it did touch on some other points as well, such as comparing to a book where you have no control over the character and some of the various genres one could find. I personally would like to see a little less of the graphics vs text debate and a lot more of the 

Text games are to books as video games are to films.

They're cheaper to make, require more imagination to enjoy, and can explore more complex ideas.



It is the same with any hobby. Why do you do it? Because you enjoy it. If reading is your thing, then text-games may be spot on for you, but I think anyone may like them if they feel it is enjoyable for them. 

to bring others into Achaea before, but they didn't stick with it, even when I was accused of being "too serpenty" at a shisha bar IRL. Ah well.....

have never had a computer with the capability of running some of your top-tier rpg with graphics. But after seeing those games, I still find myself a little disappointed.

In these text games, you don't have to scroll through a bunch of faces, hair-styles, noses, mouths, etc. to get the face of a character you still are not happy with. While in battle, your moves do not have to appear stale and repetitive. No new technology has to be invented to make the world look real enough to reach out and touch. 

The only limitation is your imagination.



I have played a lot of Graphical MMOs and a lot of different MUDS.  In general it seems that people who play the text based MMOs seem a whole lot friendlier.  I am not sure if this is due to the fact that the MUD communities might actually want to keep people in the game with them or because maybe the age group of the players.  But it seems that when you play text based games you get better interaction with other players, more help as a newbie, and an overall feeling of being part of the community.

The single best part of text based games is the amazing amount of player input. Not only can players at any time start almost any sort of event for any reason, but through the Liason system players have direct input into the changing mechanics of the game. I think IRE is very good about this and listens more to what players want, even more than community run games. Kudos.

Interesting article. I don't know why I play Lusternia but I can't keep doing it, so some reason must be.


Let me log in to discover it ;-)

Multi-user Dungeons or MUDS in my opinion, share its roleplaying aspect as a text-based game with table-top games like Dungeons and Dragons or World of Darkness. If you feel comfortable playing board/table-top rpg, you'd feel right at home in a text-based game that focuses on roleplaying and number crunching combat.

Yeah, they are just -that- awesome

I get ripped on all the time by my friends for playing a text base game.  They just don't get it.  To me....the amount of customization makes it a blast to play!

i have tried many times to get my friends, many of whom are big gamers themselves, into Achaea, or other MUDs. I always get the same response, that what's the fun in the game if you cant see whats going on? I agree with the other comments above, what I love the most about MUDs is the freedom that it gives. Sure, games like WoW may be fun, but there's only so much that you can do on it before you get completely bored with the repetition. With MUDs, there's almost no limit to what you can do!