Dalamcd discussed the meaning of MUD and Discworld, but not much about the Discworld MUD. Allow me to elaborate.

I was a player on Discworld MUD for about a year, and a creator (programmer) for a further year. It should be understood that a MUD like Discworld is under constant development by individuals that were once players. New areas are being developed at all times, existing areas are being extended, and lots of other new fun things are being implemented.

What is the aim of the game? There's no way to "win" it. Playing the game is a constant process of augmenting your character's skills and abilities, and social interaction. There are almost always a hundred other players online, and you will come to know and love (or hate) the regulars. The chat channels are full of jokes and lively discussion and although the sometimes arrogant attitudes of the older players can be intimidating, you should be able to integrate yourself into the society if you have a sense of humour and intelligence.

The main way to advance your character's skills is to kill things. Monsters abound in the game, and although you can attack and kill other players (actually, being open to attack from players is opt-in: some players choose to be part of this competitive aspect of the game, some don't), you don't get any experience points for doing so. Experience points, or XP, are required to advance your skills.

The game might be somewhat dull if it were not for guilds. Almost all players are a member of a guild, and what the guild essentially dictates is what skills you can advance to a high level. While it is possible for anyone to advance any skill, your "guild primaries" can be advanced to a much higher level more cheaply than any other skills.

There are six guilds -

  • Warriors. The easiest guild to play, and therefore a favourite with newbies. Their primaries are focused on killing and not much else.
  • Thieves. Thieves have primaries which lend them to covert operations - stealing, ambushing and sneaking.
  • Assassins. Dedicated to the art of covert killing, assassins can perform assassinations on high-profile players and NPCs (providing a client is willing to pay).
  • Wizards. Wizards can cast offensive and defensive spells to aid them and others.
  • Witches. This exclusively female guild have the ability to fly around on broomsticks, cast a limited range of spells, and brew healing tea which is much sought-after by all other guilds.
  • Priests. These people worship a particular God - either good or evil, and are accorded certain rituals. These rituals range from resurrecting dead players to summoning whirlwinds to aid them in battle.

Readers of the Discworld books will of course be familiar with the city of Ankh-Morpork, and this is the mainstay of the game. The city is where newbies can find things to kill, where most guilds are based (more on guilds later), and where there are shops of almost all types. A player is relatively safe in the city, and newbies are advised not to leave it until they know what they're doing.

The surroundings of Ankh-Morpork are just as interesting. To the east there is another city, Sto Lat, full of rich and interesting things to discover. Various villages and hamlets stretch across the countryside, each unique in some special way, all worth exploring. Places like the bandit camp, the druid circle and the yeti-infested mountains provide places for players to practice their skills.

Then, we have the foreign territories, the ones beyond the Circle Sea. The city of Khot-Lip-Kin is a dangerous place to the unlearned, as the language spoke there is different to the one spoke in the Circle Sea regions, and players have to learn it. In KLK, cats are sacred, as are priests (duh): attack either of these and you'll be thrown to the sacred crocodiles, which you'll need all your skill and strength to evade.

The most recent area to come into the game, and the one I had a hand in making over a year ago, is the city of Bes Pelargic on the Counterweight Continent. This is a strange, foreign land where gold is as common as lead, weapons are outlawed and thievery is not tolerated. There is a stringent social caste system which players will be advised not to interfere with.

In describing the rich geographical variety of the game I shouldn't overlook the other things that make it special - for example, players can own houses and shops, create and join clubs and families and publish books in-game via a printing press. There are a number of player-run newspapers that publish the community's scandal and happenings. There is so much richness and variety to what one can do in the game that only a visit will justify it: telnet://discworld.imaginary.com:4242

The game just celebrated its 10th anniversary with a meeting of players and creators, and these meetings are held fairly often.

Even though I no longer play the game, its influence on me has been profound and deep. I am now in the process of setting up and running my own MUD based on Discworld's codebase (it is publically released), and attempts to emulate (and improve on!) its strengths and avoid its weaknesses will be a focal point for me and my design team. Discworld sets the standard for MUDs as the richest, most professional and most enjoyable to play for a long time period.

You can play the Discworld MUD for free at http://discworld.imaginary.com:5678 .