Blog

Discovering the MUD (and time constraints and RSC LORE)

Time constraints and RSC LORE

Working on RSC seven days a week, I do not have the time to continue writing the RSC LORE series. When I am finished with RSC, I will reorganise my worldbuilding and return to the series.

Discovering the MUD

It is important to understand that I consider all text-based fiction, printed or digital, that allows the reader/player to interact with the story by making choices to be “interactive fiction” (“IF”).

When I started working on RSC near two years ago, I knew little of IF. Honestly, those old “Give Yourself Goosebumps” gamebooks were my only exposure to it.

Now I consider IF a distinct discipline of art, as there are a plethora of forms it can take. RSC, for instance, is a work of choice-based IF, but a more popular form of IF is parser IF, with which you type commands instead of selecting choice text.

I intend to explore the many forms of IF in my article “The making of RSC,” but my intent with this post is to introduce a specific text-based game and discuss its relevance to IF and general writing.

Where to begin?

Researching IF,  I happened upon the acronym “MUD” on more occasions than one, though I hadn’t dared investigate until two weeks ago. To summarise the MUD Wikipedia article, a MUD is a “Multi-User Dungeon,” a text-based multiplayer video game.

Intrigued by the possibility of a text-based MMORPG, I found the r/MUD subreddit, where I made a post titled “Where to begin?” It was responded to with haste and detail, and from all the MUDs there recommended to me, the first seemed to best match my preferences.

Sindome

The MUD first recommended to me was “Sindome,” which is technically a “MOO.”

Sindome has strict rules of conduct which exist to preserve the beautiful and grotesque world created by its game moderators and players. Roleplay (RP) in Sindome is required, and metagaming is prohibited and policed with tenacity.

I do not wish to break rules of conduct by writing about my in character (IC) experiences, though I believe it is acceptable to discuss the general premise of the game.

The premise

As stated on the website, Sindome is “a cyberpunk roleplaying game set 85 years in the future.”

If you are unfamiliar with cyberpunk, do yourself a justice and “Blade Runner” and “Blade Runner 2049.” If you are seeking a comprehensive list of cyberpunk artworks, many are listed on the “Inspiration” tab of the Sindome website.

Withmore City, the prime setting of the game, is a futuristic, dome-enclosed city of four layers. The lowest layer is settled by the dregs, while the highest is the domain of the distinguished.

Expect neon signs, holograms, clones, gangs, bars, suicide booths, soup kitchens, corpses, sex shops, video walls, nightclubs, pickles, prisons, factories, dodgy alleys, drug vending machines, pimps, fallout shops, ad-blimps, abandoned buildings, brothels, burnt out cars, street judges, GRID terminals, hobos, tube stations, pickpockets, food stands, scummy hotels, and steaming manholes, and expect all listed above and a million things more to be rendered in text.

If you enter an intersection, for instance, you will be provided with an evocative textual description of the intersection, within which might be sections of differently coloured text indicating something you can interact with. You will also be provided with movement options, primarily in the form of cardinal directions. But what bursts my brain is that if another player/playable character (PC) enters the intersection, a description of them will appear, and you may be able to interact with them, in an IC manner.

IF and general writing

Interactivity

You may be wondering how you make your character interact with their environment.

Sindome uses commands similar to works of parser IF. You can type whatever you wish into the client, though it will only recognise and act upon words and phrases it recognises.

You could type “north” to walk north, “look at graffiti” to inspect at a piece or a collection of graffiti, or “say Where can a guy find some pickles around here?” to track down the true desire of all sane humanoids.

Reading

Reading improves writing, but it is best to read good writing.

Sindome’s prose immerses you with very few lines. It is sharp and brutal, and you will quickly feel the recycled air pushing down on you.

If you want to advance your prose and learn how to generate a cyberpunk tone, heed Sindome’s descriptions. Look at and question everything. Stop and smell the corpses.

Creating and roleplaying a character

Good stories have great characters, and Sindome forces you to create a believable character. In fact, to get certain jobs, your character’s “history” must be submitted to and accepted by the game moderators.

For it to be accepted, you must detail:

– Your character’s date and place of birth.
– Their family (their parents at minimum).
– Their personality traits (strengths and weaknesses/flaws).
– Their education and employment history.
– Interesting past experiences.
– Their achievements.
– Why they have the stats and skills that they do.
– Why they came to Withmore City (honestly, you’d have to be mad).
– Their goals and motivations.

You can also customise your character’s voice, appearance, and how they might look standing in the street or sleeping in the alley adjacent to it.

Though creating your character is a small step towards participating in RP.

Sindome exists in “real-time,” meaning that an hour in Withmore City is equal to an hour in real life. If you exit the game while your character is prancing down the street, they will collapse against a bin and sleep.

By interacting with the environment, NPCs, PCs, and game moderators in real time — by participating in real-time RP —  you experience every peak and trough of your character’s story arc first hand. Every friend and enemy gained. Every triumph and failure.

Some characters have existed since Sindome came online in 1997, to put it in perspective.

Shared storytelling

While other MUDs might focus on game mechanics, Sindome focuses on RP and shared storytelling, and in this way, it is similar to Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), for which I might write a similar post.

It is compelling because it is social storytelling — a shared hallucination. But it is also valuable for any writer who intends to collaborate at some point in their career.

Cheap possibilities

I think Sindome interests me because it illustrates the versatility of text.

Text is cheap.

You can write with a piece of paper and a pencil… and you can create an entire universe with a book of paper and a box of pencils.

You can jump from a whispered conversation to an epic space battle in a single page… and you can witness fifty worlds through fifty pairs of eyes in a single book.

Text is possibility.

I can create a work of choice-based IF like RSC… but I could also evolve into a text-based MMORPG.

Now that is an idea.

RSC LORE – Mythos entry 1 – Kiah

Need I apologise?

Forgive me for another short entry. The one I intended to release today, “RSC LORE – Excerpt 2 – The Pale Torturer,” has become a project in itself, and I do not want to rush it.


RSC LORE – Mythos entry 1 – Kiah

Where is Kiah, and what relevance has she to Anwar and the events of RSC? This I might never answer.

The following entry was adapted from my giant offline wiki (which I currently refer to as my “mythos wiki,” if you were questioning the significance of the title). It is a glance at my writing process, a description of one of my planets that I never intended to show.


Kiah was a frenzied world of a thousand islands and few veritable continents. Her greatest landmasses persisted near her poles, while densely vegetated islands mottled her from her knees and shoulders to her waist. Volcanoes spilt from these islands’ centres, forming fresh peninsulas and merging them into an igneous lattice.

Two small moons orbited Kiah and each other, creating irregular and hostile tides, and through her thick atmosphere sometimes pierced the rays of distant and dead stars.

Wild and mighty storms slashed at her, bloating her twisted jungles and sprawling fens. And such tempests grew and fizzled like the rage of the Ancients that once pressed rock and root into her clay.

But more feral than Kiah’s tides and weather were her occupants.

Each of her islands hosted a unique food chain, often ruled by an apex predator incapable of satiation, whose gluttony razed its home and self and ushered in new chains and new predators. Her oceans too were rich with life, and its species were no less glabrous than those of the land. Those of Kiah’s creatures that were furred or feathered supplemented for her great monsoons with oils and arboreal hidings… or expired and added to her their proteins.

“Spiralling towers of cloud whip up the skin of a blue sphere, and for as many clouds as I can see, there are equally as many shards and piles of green. Each is a jungle on shores steep, battered by wind and wave.

To the poles recede caps of ice and snow, vast and deep enough to be worlds of their own. And beyond them is the dark of space, the terrain in which we slept for a million years.

Yes, Kiah is angry this day. But breaks in the deluge let in shapes of light, and I grow impatient for the feel of real sun upon my skin.”

— Alexander Breaker (printed on a piece of glass found by a caster dark and old)

RSC LORE – Excerpt 1 – Anwar’s Oddity

For more information on RSC, visit the RSC page.

An introduction to the RSC LORE series

Most of the work I have done for RSC will never be seen. My current compendium to the work takes the form of a giant offline wiki. While the wiki is brimming with information, much of it I’ve compressed into bullets points.

The RSC LORE series is my attempt to translate parts of the wiki into interesting excerpts, short stories, and more (there are almost no limits to what this “more” can mean). Once I have posted three or four entries, I’ll create a section in the RSC page that acts a node for all the RSC LORE series.

This first entry is very short. Expect the subsequent to be longer.


RSC LORE – Excerpt 1 – Anwar’s Oddity

The following is an excerpt from the introduction of Draena Hil Kaen’s “Anwar’s Oddity,” 0305DT.


I do not ween phasmid nor lumvine curious.

The beggar against the cascade in Midstwood, the Red Flower macerating skulls neath her Red Hall, the Cliffer braving the Traders’ Sea — these are inhabitants queer.

We obtrude from good soil.

We are Anwar’s oddity.

Draena of Bulwark

Comprehend that I am no objective being, no cosmic watcher. Comprehend that this tome is merely the narrative of my mortal travels, ‘tween all her curves and corners.

I was born in an inkstool shack but a shout south of the magnificent Storm Wall. As was the method of my forebearers, I tended each day to the culture, my hands black and dreams sodden, my yearning a subdued and secret thing.

Came to Bulwark one stygian morn a sportive minstrel. Through the pinewood streets of the lower district, he warbled, painting into my itching mind the tale of his adventure.

I’d never have learnt to read and write if I hadn’t — while the minstrel kept the dressmake’s attention — pilfered that sack of palisc fifths. I’d never have danced and broken clay with the savages of Khag, freed slaves from the quarries of Pit, gutted rustspine on the rocks of the Eye, nor found tenderness in the silence of these greenwoods…

I fled alone, with but the helt and fur on my back. I fled alone, an exile of fourteen.

I’ve helped when I could bear to help and taken help fervently.

I’ve fought and I’ve flown.

I’ve learnt more than most exiles ever will. And I sit here with a scrap of paper and the ink I once bottled to share it with you.

Feature image font credit — MORIA CITADEL by Russ Herschler © 2002 – DragonFang