This is the best MUD I have found anywhere on the internet. Let me get that clear up front, because I am going to do a lot of complaining about it and the complaints should be understood in the context of me being a miserable old cus who is never happy with anything.
What’s right with it:
First, this sucker is *original*. Ever get the feeling that every darned MUD is the same? Then try CthulhuMud. CthulhuMud is based on the writings of horror author H.P. Lovecraft and the default setting is the USA in the 1930s. You won’t find stock MUD areas here – the setting is lovingly described and beautifully detailed.
All of the skills that should have been there were. Your character can learn to speak Latin, study Ancient History and master Physics. The Debate skill is truly inspired. When you debate someone, you engage in a sort of verbal combat, with the game keeping track of which way the argument is going until someone finally wins. If you win, you get some experience and may improve your skill in the subject you were debating. If you lose, you may lose some xp. I found this a wonderful way to advance skills and much more appropriate to the setting than advancing through physical combat.
The players were all very friendly and extremely helpful. Despite the fact that some of them were playing “evil” races, no one ever tried to ruin my fun and mortals and immortals alike bent over backwards to help me. They were unfailingly polite even when I needed the same thing explained to me several times in quick succession. Special thanks to the guy who (though it is considered a terrible sin on most MUDs) gave the newbie some decent equipment. Speaking as someone who didn’t come to Lovecraft country to loot treasure or work out what had the most pluses, but who just wanted to be able to survive long enough to wander around and read the flavor text, having good equipment just handed to me added a lot to my fun.
I always found interesting places to go and interesting things to do. Just wandering around always led me to some new and intriguing place and eventually would lead me to adventure. I solved some interesting puzzles and soon had more leads to significant quests than I could shake a stick at. Great stuff! Certainly, wandering around often got me killed, but…
This game has a great attitude to death. Up until level 25 (I think…something like that), death just busts back to the experience you needed to make the level in the first place and requires a quick trip to the morgue to get your stuff. That is to say, unless you are on the cusp of making a new level, death really isn’t particularly inconvenient. That’s certainly not true to the genre, but it added a lot to the gaming experience. A world based on the writings of Lovecraft should be filled with horrible danger, and this world was. A Lovecraft hero should have a horrible death awaiting him, and I got lots of them. At the same time, because I wasn’t punished for dying, I wasn’t afraid to explore, despite the fact that I was no combat monster.
What’s wrong with it:
The number one problem with CthulhuMud is that despite the great number of changes made, its still basically running on a fantasy engine, and a D&D version of fantasy at that. If you want your character to be effective, you have to kill lots of things in order to level, and after you kill things, you have to loot them for all of the magic equipment you will need to survive. That’s not how it was in Lovecraft. I spent way too long slaying hordes of zoogs for no in-game reason, just so that I could get my academic skills up and accumulate enough hit points to survive. Much worse yet, at earlier levels I had to run around Miskatonic University slaying the students and teachers like a demented psychokiller. Oh, and when I was low on money, I had to eat their corpses too. Sure, up to a point, I could just debate the staff and that was much more fun and appropriate, but eventually if you want to be able to do things you need to turn to butchery. What I saw of the magic system (and most PCs seem to study magic at Miskatonic) was straight out of D&D too. As for the treasure – I had magic items galore, but nothing very Lovecraftian, and nary a forbidden tome.
Despite the wonderful atmosphere of the rooms, I saw very little roleplaying going on. PCs had silly names and humans and aliens mixed openly. Migo wandered the halls of Miskatonic University like Elves wander the streets in Shadowrun.
Do I recommend it? Yes – very highly. For all its faults, it is the most interesting Mud I have found, and while it does not live up to it’s promise, it’s promise is vast.
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