Perhaps you just stumbled across the Blood of Dragons website or perhaps you just logged in as a Guest with our web-based guest client. Either way, if you have never MUSHed before, you are probably wondering what on earth a MUSH actually is. If so, this article is for you.
One caveat first, however. This article applies to MUSHes and MUXes (but we’ll be calling them MUSHes, just to keep it simple). MUDs are actually something rather different, though some argue that mud (note the lowercase) can be used to mean both MUD and MUSH.
Let us start with the most fundamental and most apparent aspect of MUSHes. They are completely text-based. If you are looking for graphics, you won’t find any. This means that to enjoy a MUSH, you need to enjoy reading and you need to enjoy writing. All your interaction with other players will be done through reading what they write and writing your own responses. Roleplaying on a MUSH is sometimes described as a form of collaborative story-tellingand this is not a bad analogy, though the writing done for a MUSH is quite different from the writing you would do for a story.
For example, on a MUSH you generally only control the actions of your own character. When you pose—that is, you write a description of your character’s actions—you only describe what your character says or does. Furthermore, unlike other forms of text-based roleplaying (such as on forums, for example) MUSH roleplay always takes place in real-time. You get together with one or more other players and you play out a scene between your characters, taking turns to write poses that show actions and reactions according to what is happening in the scene.
This brings us to another key aspect of MUSHing: you cannot do it alone. Roleplay requires at least one more player. On MUDs, you can be on your own, going off on quests to kill automated monsters and so on, but on MUSHes it is all about roleplaying with other players. So to have fun on a MUSH, you cannot keep to yourself. Get to know the other players, chat with them on the OOC (Out of Character) channels and find out when and where roleplay scenes are taking place. Most MUSHes aren’t very large so it can take a bit of planning to find good times for roleplay.
Finally, a few short words about the layout of a MUSH. When you first login to a MUSH, you will probably find yourself in a startup area and you will be communicating with people on what is called “channels”. Channels are just a way of talking to multiple people at once, regardless of where on the MUSH they are. The world of the MUSH probably consists of a number of rooms—often called “the grid”—that you can move through and actual roleplay takes place in these rooms and between character who are in the same location.
Now you have some sense of what a MUSH is like. Next, let us take a look at how characters on MUSHes work. There are lots of differences between MUSHes in how you get a character and how you set it up, but there are some common points.
Whether or not you get to create your character from scratch or you get to pick from pre-created characters, its very important that you get a good sense of what your character is like. Earlier, we compared MUSHing with collaborative story-telling, but one can also compare it to improvisational acting. Think of the character as a role in a play and yourself as an actor, though there is no pre-written script. When you roleplay, you should act and react IC (In Character); that is, the way your character would be acting and reacting. It is important to keep a good separation between the thoughts and feelings of the player and of the character; if another character does something to upset your character, you should not get upset with the player behind that other character.
So, roleplaying could be said to be half collaborative writing and half improvisational acting, but how does it actually work? What’s the next step after you have figured out who your character is?
On most games, there is a mix of spontaneous and pre-planned scenes. Scenes can be simple one-off encounters in a tavern where characters gather to drink and gossip or they can be a part of long-running plots with complex goals. Some scenes involve as little as two characters but there is no upper limit, though scenes with twenty or more characters in the same room can get very hard to follow.
When you are starting out, it can be a good idea to ask other players if you can watch a scene or two, just to see how it is done. It is also a good idea to try out smaller scenes at first, so you don’t find yourself overwhelmed. Once in a scene, remember to carefully read the poses from the other players so that you know what is going on and where in the room everyone is. In many cases, you will also find that players take turns posing, so make sure you don’t toss out a bunch of poses before anyone has a chance to react.