Basic Information about MUDs and MUDding

Disclaimer The authors and sources of this document are generally biased towards TinyMUDs and their like, since we play them more. An attempt is being made to fairly cover all available muds. (see servers)

Welcome to the world of MUDding!

"What is a MUD?"

A MUD (Multiple User Dimension, Multiple User Dungeon, or Multiple User Dialogue) is a computer program which users can log into and explore. Each user takes control of a computerized persona/avatar/incarnation/ character. You can walk around, chat with other characters, explore dangerous monster-infested areas, solve puzzles, and even create your very own rooms, descriptions and items. You can also get lost or confused if you jump right in, so be sure to read this document before starting.

"Up there you said 'TinyMUD'...what does that mean?"

You're pretty quick! TinyMUD is one kind of MUD program. There are very many kinds of MUD programs out there -- probably as many as there are computers that run them. The Tiny- and Teeny- family of MUDs are usually more 'social' in orientation; the players on those MUDs gather, chat, meet friends, make jokes, and discuss things. The LP- family of MUDs are based on roleplaying adventure games. In these, your character runs around killing monsters, finding money, and making experience in the quest to become a wizard. DikuMUDs and AberMUDs are a bit like LPMUDs, except that LPMUD wizards have access to a very powerful programming language with which they can add more sections to the database. There are still other programs, called MUCKs or MUSHes, that extend the TinyMUD programs by including a usable programming language. MOOs have an object-oriented programming language, and are more 'social' in nature. UnterMUDs can connect to each other directly, and have both a scripting language and a programming language. BSXMUDs are LPMUDs with simple graphics. We suggest that you experiment around to see what you find is the most interesting. If there's one thing MUDdom has, it's variety.

"Great! So where are MUDs located?"

Watch the USENET newsgroup Every Friday a quite complete listing of MUDs is posted. If you can't wait till Friday, you can email and ask for one, or they're available for FTP from in /pub/mud .

MUDs are run on many fine computers across the world. To play, all you have to do is telnet to the MUD's Internet Protocol Port, and you're in business. Some MUDs have a policy called "registration" to cut down on abuse of privileges; you might have to send mail to the God/Wizard of the MUD in order to obtain a character. It's important to note that MUDs are *not* a right, and your access is granted out of trust. People usually have to pay to use processing time on the large, expensive computers which MUDs often run on, and you're being given a special deal. Which brings us to another point: MUDs can't really be run on anything less than a largish workstation (currently), so they're usually on academic or corporate workhorse machines.

"But I paid money for my account! MUDding is a right, isn't it?"

Don't believe that for a second. When you paid money to your school's computer department for an account, you entered into a contract with that department. Most schools have a well written Computer Policy document, that will detail exactly what you have rights to. Most schools classify MUD as a game, and games as non-essentials. Therefore, if your school decides to shut off all games, or disallow you to telnet out to play muds, you're stuck. Don't try to get around it; they'll find you. Instead, try to talk to the Powers That Be, and see why they did what they did. They may have very good reasons for it (such as limited resource that really need to be dedicated to schoolwork).

"What do I do to connect up to a MUD?"

There are several ways to hook yourself up to a MUD's internet port. First, you can use 'telnet' once you find out the MUD's network address and port number. If, for instance, we knew that ChupsMUD was at the network address '' at port 4201, we could type: (on most UNIX systems) telnet 4201 (or, on some VMS systems) telnet and we'd be ready for action. If we get back an error saying something like "host unknown", we'd want to do the same thing, only using the machine's internet number address, like this: telnet 4201. If you're using straight telnet on a VMS system, you might have to make sure that your terminal has "newlines" turned on. If it doesn't, the mud's output will get spewed across the screen in a most ugly fashion. Your second option is to scout out the many fine client programs which exist for the sole purpose of providing a friendly and useful front end to MUDs.

"What's a client program?"

Telnet is a rather ugly way to connect to most muds, since it doesn't do any fancy text wrapping, and if someone says something while you're typing out a line, it will make a mess out of your line, making it hard to see what you're typing and hard to keep track of what's going on in the mud. A client program is simply another program you use instead of telnet to connect to a mud. Clients also provide useful things such as macros and the ability to gag or highlight certain mud output. Clients are available for anonymous ftp from several sites.

"I'm connected! Now what do I do?"

Once you connect, find out what the deal is with respect to you getting a character. Some MUDs allow you to create your own, and others require you to send off for one via email. If you have to send off for one, send one e-mail request and cool your heels. MUDding will be around forever, no need to rush it. But let's say you've now gotten a character, and you're connected up, and things are starting to get interesting. At this point, you should do what is probably least intuitive: type 'help', read the instructions and directions, and understand them. Then, type 'news', read the information, and understand it. Then (yes, we know, we know... it'll be fun, soon!) practice using the commands given to you until you think you've got a good enough grip to be able to start in on exploring, questing, socializing, or whatever else tunes your engine.

"Why not just dive in?"

Some people are easily annoyed when other people clearly have no idea what they are doing, even if they were recently in that position themselves. It'll be much easier for you to cope without some fella saying things you don't understand to you and possibly killing you. *However*, many MUD players are helpful, and asking them, "excuse me, are you busy? I'm a brand new player, and I have a question," will often work just fine.

"What should I use as a password for my mud character?"

You should pick a password just as you do for any computer account. Use a word, or better yet, a phrase or anagram, that isn't obvious. Don't, for instance, use the same name as your character, or your own first name, or your girl/boyfriend's name. And never never use the same password as the one on your computer account. Most MUDs prevent people from getting the passwords from within the mud, and most encrypt the password when it's store in the database files. However, there is nothing preventing the MUD's owner from modifying the code to dump the passwords to a file, along with other information such as the host you connected from. Using this information, an evil MUD admin could probably figure out your login name and get into your account easily. It's also not a good idea to use the same password on different MUDs, since if your password gets out on one MUD, all your MUD characters have been compromised. This is ESPECIALLY important for MUD Wizards and Gods. Use the auto-login feature of your client, if it has one, and protect the file containing the login information against reading by others.

This story comes from Alec Muffett, author of Crack and maintainer of the FAQ. The best story I have is of a student friend of mine (call him Bob) who spent his industrial year at a major computer manufacturing company. In his holidays, Bob would come back to college and play AberMUD on my system.

Part of Bob's job at the company involved systems management, and the company was very hot on security, so all the passwords were random strings of letters, with no sensible order. It was imperative that the passwords were secure (this involved writing the random passwords down and locking them in big, heavy duty safes).

One day, on a whim, I fed the MUD persona file passwords into Crack as a dictionary (the passwords were stored plaintext) and then ran Crack on our systems password file. A few student accounts came up, but nothing special. I told the students concerned to change their passwords - that was the end of it.

Being the lazy guy I am, I forgot to remove the passwords from the Crack dictionary, and when I posted the next version to USENET, the words went too. It went to the comp.sources.misc moderator, came back over USENET, and eventually wound up at Bob's company. Round trip: ~10,000 miles.

Being a cool kinda student sysadmin dude, Bob ran the new version of Crack when it arrived. When it immediately churned out the root password on his machine, he damn near fainted...

The moral of this story is: never use the same password in two different places, and especially not on untrusted systems (like MUDs).

"What's the easiest way to annoy a veteran MUD user?"

Demand something. Whine. Follow them around. Page or tell them over and over after they've asked you to stop. In the combat MUDs, steal from corpses of things they just killed.

"What's the easiest way to be a mean veteran MUD user?"

Don't give help to the new players. Kill them, ignore them, shout "get a life!" at them. These are the best ways to kill off MUDding in general, actually.

"What should I NOT DO in terms of player interaction?"

You shouldn't do anything that you wouldn't do in real life, even if the world is a fantasy world. The important thing to remember is that it's the fantasy world of possibly hundreds of people, and not just yours in particular. There's a human being on the other side of each and every wire! Always remember that you may meet these other people some day, and they may break your nose. People who treat others badly gradually build up bad reputations and eventually receive the NO FUN Stamp of Disapproval. The jury is still out on whether MUDding is "just a game" or "an extension of real life with gamelike qualities", but either way, treat it with *care*.

"What is a 'Wizard' or 'God'?"

Gods are the people who own the database. In most MUDs, Wizards are barely distinguishable from Gods - they're just barely one step down from the God of the MUD. An LPMUD Wizard is a player who has 'won' the game, and is now able to create new sections of the game. LPMUD wizards are very powerful, but they don't have the right to do whatever they want to you; they must still follow their own set of rules, or face the wrath of the Gods. Gods can do whatever they want to whomever they want whenever they want. A more appropriate name for wizards would probably be 'Janitor', since they tend to have to put up with responsibilities and difficulties (for free) that nobody else would be expected to handle. Remember, they're human beings on the other side of the wire. Respect them for their generosity.

"Wait, is it a game, or an extension of real life with gamelike qualities?"

It's up to you. Some jaded cynics like to laugh at idealists who think it's partially for real, but we personally think they're not playing it right. Certainly the hack-'n-slash stuff is only a game, but the social aspects may well be less so.

"Hey, I've got an idea, I'll start my own MUD!"

More power to you! Of course, unless you're very good with C, willing to spend a large portion of your life as a Wizard/God, and well versed in the ways and commands of whatever MUD program you are trying to run, you'll fail. You'll also fail if you don't have a machine to run it on. NOTE: If you don't explicitly own the machine you're thinking about right now, you had better get the permission of the machine owner before you bring up a MUD on his computer. MUDs are not extremely processing- consumptive, but they do use up some computing power. You wouldn't want people plugging in their appliances into the outlets of your home without your permission or knowledge, would you?

"OK. What are these commands you're talking about?"

Most MUDS have a core of commands which players use to move around and interact with each other. For instance, there are commands for interacting with other players, like 'say' (or sometimes '"'), and other commands like 'look', 'go', etc. In TinyMUD, there are commands like 'home' (which always places you in your home -- remember that), ':' (pose -- try it), etc., which allow you to do stuff inside the database. Commands prefixed by a @ (generally) allow you to change the database! Commands like @describe, @create, @name, @dig and @link allow you to expand the universe, change it, or even, perhaps, @destroy it, under certain conditions. In LPMUDs, none of those apply; in order to edit the universe, you have to attain Wizardhood or be the God of the MUD. Whatever the case, these building commands are beyond the scope of this little sheet -- find the documentation for whatever MUD you're playing with and consume it avidly. Most MUDs have documentation on-line, although better documentation can be gotten via ftp from other sites. Ask around, or try looking on (

"Alright! I think I know what's going on now."

Now is the time when you should be most careful. Within reason, don't be afraid to ask questions of other players.

"What's a clueless newbie?"

A 'newbie' is someone who has only recently begun to participate in some kind of activity. When we're born, we're all life newbies until we get experience under our belts (or diapers, whatever). You're a clueless newbie until you've got the hang of MUDding, basically.

"Who should I ask?"

Wizards are usually helpful; if you know a wizard to be a wizard, then you can usually ask them a question or two. Make sure they're not busy first. Also, players who have been logged on for a long time (which you can check using the WHO command) are often helpful, as they are usually the veterans who've seen it all before. In combat MUDs, asking relatively high level characters is usually the way to find things out.

"What if I'm completely confused and am casting about for a rope in a vast, churning wilderness of chaos and utter incomprehension?"

Ask a friend to help you. Don't post anything in any newsgroup. Just take it slow, one step at a time, smoothing over the things you don't understand by reading manuals (i.e. 'man telnet'), asking local help, or trying to find people who use MUDs who are at your site.

"What are all these newsgroups anyway?"

There are several USENET newsgroups associated with MUDs. The first (and least used) is alt.mud. When it got popular, the newsgroup was then created, and when it got too noisy and chaotic, a few new groups were split off of the main one ( is no longer a "real" newsgroup - all of its volume went to The current newsgroups are:     -  Postings pertaining to the administrative
                                   side of MUDs.  -  moderated group, where announcements of
                                   MUDs opening, closing, moving, partying,
                                   etc are posted.      -  Postings pertaining to DikuMUDs.        -  Postings pertaining to LPMUDs.      -  Miscellaneous postings.      -  Postings pertaining to the Tiny* family
                                   of MUDs.
If you feel you must post something to USENET, please do it in the group where it best belongs - no posts about TinyMUSH in the Diku group, no questions about an LPMUD in the Tiny group, etc.

"What's a dino/Islandia/TinyHELL/original TinyMUD?"

A dino is someone that has been around for a very long time (cf. 'dinosaur'). These people tend to reminisce nostalgically about the other entries in the question above -- dead or nonexistent MUDs which were especially fun or interesting.

"Some people seem to delight in killing. Why?"

This is an unanswerable Frequently Asked Question. Everyone's got their own reasons for acting as they do. If you don't like it, you can always go somewhere else or sometimes kill them back. (See 'haven' below.) Under no circumstances should you take being killed on a TinyMUD seriously. On combat MUDs such as LPMUD, it's a whole 'nother ballgame. Some combat MUDs don't allow player killing; some encourage player-killing as a means of self-policing. Just play by the rules of the mud you're on.

"What is a haven?"

On many TinyMUDs, there are several flags associated with each room. The HAVEN flag is probably the most famous one. In rooms where the HAVEN flag is set, no character may kill another.

"What is SPAM?"

SPAMming, derived from a famous Monty Python sketch, is the flooding of appropriate media with information (such as repeated very long 'say' commands). Since SPAMming is computationally expensive, it's frowned upon. SPAMming with intent to harm computer resources is very bad indeed.

"What is a bot?"

A bot is a computer program which logs into a MUD and pretends to be a human being. Some of them, like Julia, are pretty clever -- legend has it that Julia's fooled people into believing that she's human. Others have less functionality. 'Cyborgs' are computer-assisted humans or human- assisted computers.

"What is a flame?"

Flaming is when someone shouts at another person in a vain attempt to convince them that whatever that other person said or believes in is unconditionally wrong or stupid. Avoid getting into flame wars, and if flamed, laugh it off or ask someone else what you did wrong.

"What is MUDSex?"

MUDSex is the act of performing MUD actions to imitate having sex with another character, usually consentually, sometimes with one hand on the keyboard, sometimes with two. Basically, it's speed-writing interactive erotica. Realize that the other party is not obligated to be anything like he/she says, and in fact may be playing a joke on you (see 'log', below).

"What is a log?"

Certain client programs allow logs to be kept of the screen. A time- worn and somewhat unfriendly trick is to entice someone into having MUDSex with you, log the proceedings, and post them to and have a good laugh at the other person's expense. Logs are useful for recording interesting or useful information or conversations, as well.

"What is net lag?"

The Internet (the network which connects your computer to mine) is made up of thousands of interconnected networks. Between your computer and the computer which houses the MUD, there may be up to 30 gateways and links connecting them over serial lines, high-speed modems, leased lines, satellite uplinks, etc. If one of these gateways or lines crashes, is suddenly overloaded, or gets routing confused, you may notice a long time of lag time between your imput and the MUD's reception of that input. Computers which are nearer to the computer running the MUD are less susceptible to netlag. Another source of lag is if the computer which hosts the MUD is overloaded. When netlag happens, it is best to just patiently wait for it to pass.

See also

  • Clients
  • Servers
  • RWho

    Jennifer Smith,

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