This is not an original work. See below.
Before I start, it would be helpful to describe some of the background
details of MIST, showing why it was run as it was and showing the
environment the people who ran the game grew from.
MIST was written in MUDDL, the language for creating and running Multi
User Adventure systems (written by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle).
It originally ran alongside MUD, but in 1986, when Richard left Essex
and took MUD along with him (to become MUD2), all that was left was
MIST. In the first few months of it running alone it had no
administration at all and ran as a complete anarchy. There were lots
of bugs and it was easy to cheat to wizard. During the anarchistic
time, a few people rose to prominence through various means; normally
by being old MUD players, being bloody good MIST players or being very
quick with the shotgun. I fit into the last category and eventually
more or less took the game over by force, sheer arrogance and good
In 1987, the account MIST ran from was taken over legally by someone
in Essex (Simon Smith). He and I then took control of the game
properly. We fixed all the bugs, deleted all the files and started
again from scratch.
MIST ran until about August 1990, when the DEC-10 at Essex was turned
off. It will be returning soon, but whether the atmosphere will remain
the same I don't know. During the 4 years I ran it, it had a lot of
changes in the map, the administration style and in the type of people
who played it - I learnt a lot, which is why I find it funny when
people who have been running MUA's for 6 months speak as experts and
say that things like "player killing will never work".
In Richard's article on MUA systems, he mentions an aspect of MIST
that some people these days would find odd. MIST had no real rules
(except ones we were forced to put on for political and diplomatic
reasons). The basic rule was if someone bigger than you told you to do
something, you did it. The quote I like to use to sum it up was: Do what thou wilt
shall be the whole of the law. I am the law! Anyway,
enough background, now you know the scenario I think you should know a
bit about how to abuse it.
The nice thing about running the only system of its kind, is that you
can abuse it to your heart's content and get away with it. People
aren't willing to believe that a big powerful arch-wizard can be such
a complete bastard and so with a bit of sweet talking, you can come
out of most situations looking squeeky clean - In these modern days of
competition it's not quite as easy but think about it, if you annoy 20
players in a night and they never play again, you'll get 20 more the
Being nasty is an art form. If you are continually nasty the players
get set into a learned helplessness mode where they don't have any
survival spirit any more - You must balance nastiness with generosity
to a degree.
The rest of this article looks at various aspects of player abuse, and
how to get the most out of them.
A full purge is the simple task of wiping the persona file, the
wizard list and the player credit list (in MIST's case, the
WHOSWHO notes). In many cases this remains the ultimate way of
killing a couple of thousand players with the least effort on
The main use of the full purge if to keep the wizards on their
toes. I don't like games where everyone and their dog is a
wizard, this is silly since there seems little point in people
playing. If you make it known to your wizards that you only
want the best to make it and you remind them that if there are
too many wizards then you will do a full purge then this has
two effects. First the wizards are forced to be nasty and
secondly you keep them on their toes and stop them getting too
complacent. If you do do a full purge, remember to put some of
your wizards back because if you don't you may end up having to
run the game yourself!
Full purges can be great fun if you are bored. If you have a
player who has been playing for ages and is nearly at wizard. A
neatly timed 'full purge' or accidental persona file deletion
can really ruin their night, week, month.... To save face
amongst the other players it is always a good idea to make a
show of being sorry and giving the good player most of their
points back. Remember to kill them later though with a cheated
character or you'll have ruined the whole point.
One convenient use of a full purge is to get your own back on
someone who is continually whining about the number of wizards
or high level players. All you do here is do a full purge and
advertise the fact that it was requested by this person (if
possible giving their real name and university). It normally
teaches them not to moan.
This is an old trick coined by those clever Roman chappies....
If anything it works a lot better than the full purge because
with a full purge everyone starts off equal again. With
Decimation all you do is wipe a tenth of the persona file,
randomly. This way everyone worries it may be them. You use it
in the same circumstances as a full purge.
An added bonus of decimation over a full purge is that instead
of doing it randomly you can go through the file wiping the
people you don't like out. This also gives you a happy few
hours whilst you do it.
The singular purge on MIST was a lovely tool. It allowed you to
delete a player regardless of whether they were on the game at
the time or not. If you deleted a player who was logged on then
when they quit or tried to save, it would tell them that they
didn't exist any more, so saving would be silly.
Obviously, any good student will by now be able to see the
hours of pleasure that this one command can bring, but for the
less promising amongst you a few examples may help.
Consider a player is on a game, alone. They have the whole day
in front of them and a nicely reset game with loads of
treasures and mobiles to kill. Due to the nature of MIST's
closing times, this used to happen quite a lot. What you now do
is pop onto the game, and purge the player - They now spend
ages and ages clearing it up and scoring points and finally
they save, or more to the point.... Finally they know they are
already dead. This method has the advantage that you don't have
to hang around to see the finished result, since you know it'll
be funny anyway.
Personally, I used to like going onto a game as a wizard and
threatening someone. They'd normally quit and come on as
someone else, since arguing with wizards is normally fatal. In
this position all you do is purge their real character and
gradually make it clear to them. If you want to make this more
interesting, I would suggest starting playing as the character
you just deleted and being abusive to people.
HEIRARCHIES AND RED TAPE
The British civil service invented this one I think and if you
use it as half as well as they do, you are well on your way to
becoming a master. The point is that you should build
heirarchies and once you have built them you should invent a
use for the various levels and make sure people only channel
requests or complaints properly. Luckily, games like MIST are
naturally designed this way so all you have to do is create a
new heirarchy at the top. At its best, MIST had:
- maintainer-wizard lev 1 (existed in a list as being more important)
- maintainer-wizard lev 2 (who had extra commands)
- Maintainer-wizard (who knew the admin password, note capital "M")
- Arch-wizard (I hate the level name 'God')
We had channels of complaint, so if a mortal wanted to complain about
being mistreated by a wizard (which of course wasn't really
illegal), then they had to complain to the wizards. The wizards
could complain to the levels above them and as a rule anyone a
couple of levels above anyone else would ignore people below
them. To make it seem fair and because forcing people to use
the correct channels isn't easy, the arch-wizards would often
listen to little problems, but most of the time they ignored
Once you have created this heirarchy, the most important thing
to do is to keep changing it. Never keep it stable else people
will get complacent, also make sure you do make some pretence
of enforcing the red-tape system as it stands at the time -
This has the disadvantage that you have to remember what it
currently is yourself.
Wizards are there for two reasons. Mainly they are there for
the people above them to abuse, but as a sideline, they are
there to abuse the people below them. It's a bad idea to push
all the wizards too far; as an arch-wizard you need someone to
run the game for you so that you don't have to do it yourself.
If it comes to it, it's a good idea to weigh up the fun you'd
get in deleting all the wizards to the hassle you'd get from
the lower players with no-one to look after their petty moans.
Basically treat your wizards badly, but not too badly. One nice
way of really annoying them is to promote a subset of them to a
new level. This helps because if you have to delete all the
lower wizards the upper ones still side with you and can
continue running the game.
My philosophy on game management has the arch-wizard as an
honourary position. Arch-wizards are all powerful people who I
pick because they are a varied set of people with differing
ideals and they are not all socially inadequete MUA players
with warped views on the world. It is important for you to
build up a fairly close group of arch-wizards who you trust and
who are not scared to tell you what they think. Though it may
pain you after all the trouble you go to be nasty to people, I
think it's a good idea to make arch-wizards immune from
everything, even purges so they are never scared to tell you
things. This all sounds very serious but think of it this way,
you need someone on your side! I find it helps to enlist a few
black belts in various martial arts as arch-wizards too, in
case some mad MUD-spod gang decides to beat you up at a meet.
Enlisting arch-wizards for their worldly skills rather than
their game skills has the added advantage that more often than
not they don't know anything about the game and how to play it.
This really winds up the lower levels.
Game features can provide no end of amusement for folks who
have to write them; even the most unimaginative of people can
think up some very irritating features to add that will really
drive people mad. The best way to really annoy people is also a
nice way of making the game harder, so the more guilt ridden
ones of you can feel justified. If you have a vital object in
the game, for example, in MIST the hammer was needed to open up
a large section of the game, then put it fairly near the start
location. This has the effect that the killers and the trouble
makers run for the hammer and then dispose of it, rendering
most of the game unreachable. Now what happens is either all
the players are running round a couple of hundred rooms making
easy targets for the killers or, if you are lucky, they decide
to hassle the wizards to give them objects back. If you play
this right you can have no end of fun, either chastising the
wizards for helping players cheat, flatly refusing to help them
or going to such levels as forcing one of the players to
sacrifice themselves in order that the rest get the hammer. I
preferred the latter myself.
Not many games seem to have much in the way of irritating
features that totally destroy any concepts of fairness, MIST's
pistol was probably fairly unique in this. The theory was that
when you got to legend (one level below wizard) you could get
the pistol and play Russian Roulette. If the pistol went off,
you got half the points needed to get to wizard and if not you
died... dead. The only problem was that it never quite got
round to giving you the points if you won and so basically it
was left to the discretion of wizards or arches. As the wizards
lived in fear of giving players too many points (they tended to
just get wiped without question) they weren't often willing to
comply. As an added bonus, a legend could be forced by a lower
level character to shoot themselves.
Straying off the subject of MIST slightly, the only feature I
have ever seen in a game that comes close is AberMUD's
runesword which attacks players by itself and doesn't give its
carrier any choice in the matter. As an added barb, the person
who picks it up isn't allowed to drop it. Admittedly this is
slightly spoiled in AberMUD's case by having the runesword as a
powerful weapon, if I'd have written it I think I would have
made it a wooden ruler or something.
Finally on the subject of game features, I'd suggest you give
serious consideration to making wizards killable and putting in
the odd weapon that can do this quite easily; this keeps them
slightly more paranoid and makes them behave better. The
natural tendency of a wizard faced with this situation is to
hoarde all the weapons somewhere the mortals can't get them -
If someone does this, just give one of your cheated mortals
some suitable tools and go wizard hunting (with the help of
your arch wizard of course!).
I have mentioned cheating in a few places as something that
naturally happens. Cheating isn't the right word in MIST's case
because one of the basic premises of the game was that
arch-wizards couldn't cheat. The problem with running games is
that most of the time all the players are better at playing
than you, they do, after all, have a lot more practice. I find
it handy to have a few arch-wizard powered characters who are
disguised as mortals who can go and do your dirty work for you
and get rid of people you don't like much. Doing it this way
rather than using a high level character you created can reap
all sorts of extra benefits; especially when all the players
gang up on you. Not only do they all die because you are
immortal but you get a nice warm feeling inside you that for
once all the players are co-operating in a common cause and
that if it hadn't been for you, they would never have been such
Cheating by players is difficult to deal with. If they know a
bug that is hard to fix, then you may have problems. I think
player cheating is a perfectly valid part of the game, so I
don't react that badly. If it gets annoying, I may do something
like ban them from the site but that's very infrequent and it
was hard to enforce on Essex. I often find that giving people
who know too much about the game for your liking a bit of power
takes away their need to abuse the system and so everyone is
happy. Later you can fix the bug and wipe them out when you are
in need of a bit of idle amusement.
Wizard cheating is fairly easy to spot if you log well and have
reasonable informers. The easiest way to deal with this is just
not to tolerate it and wipe them and all of their friends out
in one fell swoop. Make a point of doing it loudly if you want
people to take note of it.
Slightly off the subject of cheating, it's often fun to
accidentally let a wizard or an arch-wizard password be known
generally and see what happens. This also gives you a good
excuse for a full purge. If it's an arch and you are really
lucky, they may dispose of some of the more annoying wizards
for you. Of course, if you don't feel too safe letting a
password be known you could just do it yourself and tell
everyone a little lie.
To keep a game running for a long time, you need good relations
with the people who are above you, like the systems managers of
the machines you run on. This was actually the reason I started
running games in the way I do, because a game running as an
anarchy with no control doesn't do any site's reputation any
good at all. Good diplomacy is vital, as is good communications
and good relations. If you are a spoddy computer person who
thinks politics are something that happens on BBC2 at dinner
time then I suggest you enlist the help of someone good to do
the job for you. This incidentally is the reason I became
powerful on most of the other Muds outside Essex a few years
ago, that and my sincere modesty, of course.
Diplomacy on the game is, of course, less vital. Players will
expect you, as their all powerful arch-wizard to play middle man
in little disputes from time to time. The best thing to do
is to put your most tactless wizard on the job and leave them
to it. If you are forced to do it yourself, try and be serious
and look at both sides of the argument. After a while, toss a
coin, decide who wins and say goodbye.
This may look out of place, but by being nice you can really
irritate people. The odd act of kindness, like say, making a
novice with a cute name a wizard, can really annoy people who
have been playing for months.
One of the nice things I used to do was take fighting out of
the game on St Valentine's day and put lots of roses around the
game. This has an increasingly annoying effect with every day
you forget to change it back.
Turning fighting off can be used to good effect all the time,
but only do it when by far the vast majority of players are
fighting types and always do it for some low level person -
This almost guarantees that the low level character will be
taken revenge on when you next turn fighting on, especially if
you make a big thing of doing it because people were being
nasty to them.
You need to treat rules in two different ways. Every game, no
matter how anarchistic must have a couple of firm rules. For
example if you let folks shout hacking hints, you can get in
trouble yourself. It also helps if you always follow a brief
set of rules yourself. If you are firm in sticking to them it
acts as a buffer to stop you going too far. I have one about
winding people up - Basically you can wind someone up as much
as you want but always make sure you leave a big hole in it so
you can pull yourself out of it if you need to.
On a happier note the other rules are much more fun. These are
the game rules and they govern things like, who can do what,
what they can and can't do to each other and generally govern
"fair play". As should be obvious by now, those rules don't
apply to you, nor anyone else who you let get away with
breaking them. The phrase "Do as I say, not as I do" is very
relevant to an arch-wizard. Making silly petty rules and making
people stick to them can cause no end of amusement. It's also a
good idea to change the rules often, and occasionally have
Players take this sort of thing ever so seriously and they try
as best as they can to govern by peer pressure - For you this
is good and you should encourage it. Having a new set of rules
for wizards is a good idea, it makes them feel they have got
somewhere to be told they can't use their powers to do various
things. It is of course up to your mood at the time whether you
actually do anything about people breaking rules and more to
the point, what you actually end up doing.
OFF GAME CONTACT
I always discourage off game contact. The address I gave on
MIST went to a mailbox I regularly deleted, just picking out
the ones from people I knew. If you are really bored and in an
evil mood it's often fun to reply to a random set of them.
Normally, if they whinge or moan, I'd delete their persona - If
you don't tell them why you deleted them they will soon be
annoyed enough to send another whingey moany message and then
you simply delete them all over again.
If you take the trouble to reply, I often find a reply about
the current state of the Dutch Tulip Industry confuses them
enough to stop them sending you silly mail you didn't want in
the first place. If they think this is amusing and insist on
replying them just delete their persona or victimise them if
you can be bothered to remember their name.
BRIBERY, CORRUPTION, CREEPS AND THREATS
Being in a position of power, you'll get all of these. I have
had the most wonderful threats in the past, including a fair
number of death threats. The most inventive was from someone
who claimed to be in the Italian Air Force and threatened to
bomb my house; He asked for the grid references, but I didn't
take this one too seriously. A MIST wizard a couple of years
ago was a much respected thing - An arch-wizard many fold more.
It was different from modern games in that it was the only one,
it was something of a true indication of status rather than
this modern idea that if a spod can't play someone else's game,
they write their own. Bribes used to flow quite thick and fast
and how serious they were was sometimes quite funny. Whether
you take bribes or not is up to you, I never really did except
for the odd pint of guinness - If you don't take bribes, make
sure people think you do otherwise you'll miss the fun of
people trying to bribe you.
The wizards should be watched. Let them have some leeway, but
don't let them start to get above themselves or corruption will
start to creep in. Corruption is very difficult to get rid of
once you let it start.
Creeps are fun. I am not the sort of person who lets people get
anywhere by creeping but I enjoy watching people try - It's odd
the level to which people will lower themselves at times! If
you get a person who does continue doing it (or doing it to the
wizards and arches), the best way of dealing with them is to
force them to creep more and more by slowly giving in to the
demands. Build up some lovely log files of all this excitement
and then, when you are bored, dump the player back down to the
lowest of the low and stick the logs as text files readable
from the game.
Incidentally, if someone had ever offered me a villa in the
south of France in exchange for an arch-wizard (and I'd known
they were serious), I'd have been pretty quick editing that
ARROGANCE AND EGO
To be successful at being a "big" arch-wizard you need to be
extremely arrogant. Take every opportunity to practice, whether
it's arguing with the muddies or going onto other peoples'
games and telling them how crap they are. The latter gives you
good battle training if someone should ever dare to do it to
Even if you are the most modest person there is, you need to
appear to have a massive ego. If you get upset and take things
personally then you just won't be any good at running MUA
systems. It's useful that the best way of building a big ego is
by squashing other peoples' and as an arch-wizard you should be
in a good position to do this - If it sounds nasty to you, then
you really don't have the right stuff in you for the job.
With a little practice you can turn all this 'training' into a
fairly relaxing pasttime. If you are in a bad mood, for
example, then going onto your system and putting everyone else
in a foul mood should cheer you up no end. Rather like yoga but
without all the stretching.
The arrogance and ego of the wizards should be watched. If one
of the wizards starts to get too arrogant for their own good,
then dispose of them. If you let them carry on the other
wizards will start to resent it and too much in-fighting means
they aren't looking after the game. If you want to be more
subtle, simply promote everyone else above them, thus giving
you the advantage of complicating the heirarchy even more!
Running a popular game is hard work and if you are dedicated to
keeping it going, it'll take a lot out of you. Most of the
players will never begin to realise this, so there is little
point wasting the effort of trying to tell them. Think of it
this way, the players are having fun, otherwise they wouldn't
be there, so why should you feel guilty about messing them
around? The day you stop having fun and become a martyr to the
game is the day you should either give up or have a holiday for
Those were summaries and ideas from my way of running a MUA
system. I imagine my MIST players will be rather surprised to
read some of this because to them it just looked like it ran
fairly smoothly most of the time. In actual fact it does, once
you have built your regime it looks after itself pretty much,
all you need to do is tweak it now and then to stop it becoming
stale. I was pretty brutally honest and I tried to refrain from
making it funny or exaggerating. I expect some of you will
argue with me but it's ok, I don't imagine many of you will be
speaking from any degree of experience. If any of you decide to
take up my ideas then I guess you will at least have fun -
Maybe you should wait till the proper textbook comes out
(Or, to keep the spods happy)
(C) 1991 Michael Lawrie.
This article may be freely re-distributed in full as long as you gain
nothing by doing so. No part of it can be quoted in any other text without
the permission of the author and a suitable acknowledgement.
Note: to honor the license agreement in best possible way, I've punched myself twice after sumbitting.