The Eternal City (or TEC as it is usually called by its players) is a role-playing MUD. Released in 1996 by Worlds Apart Productions, TEC is currently available as a part of a Skotos gaming community subscription.
TEC is set in Iridine, a fantasy city loosely based on Republican Rome. The game world includes some of the surrounding republic (named after its capital city) encompassing small villages and another metropolitan area, Monlon, the holy city. In the city itself, there are several neighborhoods, each with its own personality: The Harbor District, a seedy area full of gamblers, thieves, prostitutes, and mercenaries; The Tip, home to the wealthier of the patricians; Bronze Lane, home to weapon and armor smiths; and the newly opened Steps, a poverty stricken ghetto controlled by highly organized gangs.
The cosmopolitan air of the city is enriched by people from surrounding cultures, some of these based on historical societies. Ranging from small nations at war with each other to large highly civilized city states, to historical enemies of Iridine, to small agricultural collectives, these cultures add options for backgrounds for those who love to role-play.
While the official state religion of Iridine and many of its neighbours is the Cult of Ereal, there are many other gods in the unofficial pantheon. Ereal himself is represented by the Sun and is seen as the life giver. Various sects of the Cult worship different aspects of him, from healer to warrior. Anyone who openly questions the Cult or worship some of the various other deities, are subject to arrest, torture, branding, or even execution. Despite the threat of harm, many people remember that once the people worshiped many gods and goddesses; that one time the Sun didn’t eclipse the moons and nature. If you know where to look you can find these people.
Role-playing is mandatory at TEC. While one doesn’t need to be emoting constantly (although some do-much to the chagrin of their fellow players), you cannot break character or speak of things outside the game world. This is a big stumbling block for those new to the game, but for those who love to role-play, or after a new player acclimates themselves to the game, playing games that allow OOC (out of character) references becomes unappealing.
You can only play humans in this realistic fantasy setting. Skills include: swords (and various sword fighting styles), spears, staves, knife, axes, bows, whips, cestus, tridents, clubs, dodging and evading, shields, tailoring, healing, lock-smithing, pick-pocketing (and its support skill “set-ups“), street smarts, outdoors basics, and hunting lore. Future skill sets might include metal smithing, jewelry, leather-working, and herbalism (a skill set that was removed from the game years ago).
Overall this game is rather newbie friendly, but its rather unique mechanics and parser might make it a little bit of a challenge to learn. It is immersive, however, so those new and still learning can still enjoy themselves. The mechanics are ever evolving, often tweaked by the game staff, which has lead to both growth and discontent among the player base.
Player-run organizations (guilds, militias, law-enforcement, Legio, gangs, and crime groups) are popular and add many options for day to day life. Most of the non-combat skills have places to offer your services to both player characters and NPCs. While many people focus on socialization and skill building, there are also opportunities to work as laborers and guards. About once a year, people are given the chance to create patrician characters through role-points (accumulated by playing, you can be rewarded with boosts for exceptional role-playing). Every week there are several events centered where you can participate in major storylines, sometimes effecting the whole game world.
Having played this game since 2000, I can say that the community exists, however volatile it seems on the surface. There have been TEC marriages, meet-ups, pilgrimages to Gencon, outpourings of support during difficult times during players’ lives. However, the sometimes transitive nature of the mechanics (always being tweaked), the tentative nature of the future of text games in a world where the popularity of graphic RPGs blossomed long ago, the need for maintenance and retention of the paying player base (TEC has been pay to play since June, 2001), and community moderators who range from being lenient to being overly strict, have all contributed to an OOC forum community that can be embittered and troll ridden.
There is a lot of player input into mechanical changes and game improvements, however. Customer support has also improved over the past few years.
Though it has flaws, TEC is a good example of a game that has had a very long life span and a community that has tried to adjust to changing technical times. While I no longer play, I would recommend it to someone looking for a well developed game with a role-playing enforced environment.
The Eternal City http://www.skotos.net/games/eternal-city/