My perspective is as both player and MUD staff member. Prior to getting hooked on Avendar in 1998, I played a variety of MUDS for more than four years.
On the PK continuum, the PvP action in Avendar is only slightly restricted, and it is *intense*! The huge variety of abilities and classes (750+ abilities in 24 classes) make for very interesting match-ups and battles. For the most part, the balance with class powers is quite good (though at this time, a few classes--Watcher, or thief-taker, and Spirit Scholar, or positive-energy mage, could use a boost). Conflict at higher levels often centers around the Stones of Power, ten artifacts which are sought after by the great ruling houses many adventurers join: Raiders of Twilight, Guardians of the Law, and Champions of the Light. There are no completely 'safe' areas (though there are 'safer' areas around city guards and taverns with bouncers). PK is restricted by level ranges and character role only.
On the continuum of RP requirement, RP is mandatory. Original names, descriptions, and character backgrounds are required. Avendar uses an account system, and players whose characters are consistently and adeptly adding to the RP environment are rewarded account points which will give players special at-creation options for future characters from their account (including things such as having a manservant, for a char with a gentry background, or designing a unique heirloom!)
On the continuum of RP style, Avendar leans towards epic-style roleplay. Your character is an adventurer, and your role will likely involve epic deeds as well as the mundane. The above-mentioned houses often have many ongoing RP storyline threads (such as a recent Guardian of Law thread wherein two evil law-enforcer characters became void golems, and now stand forever as npc guards in the Hall of Law). One *could* spend hours basket-weaving, fishing, hoeing in a field, or peddling goods (and some do)--such non-epic abilities aren't handled directly in the code but rather through the various RP tools (including 'think', which invites the MUD staff to observe or be involved in the current goings-on for your character).
In terms of MUD development, I could go on and on, but I'll mention only a few things: the coders have developed an impressive suite of building and progging tools. There are NPC factions which players may find themselves allied to or opposed against based on their choices. Beyond hack-and-slash advancement, characters must garner 'exploration points' to advance in level by journeying throughout the world. And that world is large and immersive--the depth of storylines, excellent detail, and the mysteries waiting to be uncovered behind many of Avendar's areas are more than are to be found in the entirity of many MUDS.
As other reviews have mentioned, the learning curve in Avendar can be steep. Steps have been taken to make the game more newbie-friendly, such as adding a mentoring system and newbie help channel, and revamping helpfiles. Getting the hang of Avendar is most definitely worth the challenge--Avendar is the first (and only) MUD for several players in the Avendar community.
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