There's a reason that DragonRealms is one of the oldest, continually active MUDs on the Web. The depth of the game is unparalleled while still being accessible to new players.
ROLEPLAYING: If you enjoy roleplaying, the continuity is strictly enforced. Everyone takes care not to be OOC outside of whispers. Skills have IC descriptions like 'experienced practitioner' to cope with the awkward situation of explaining how many ranks you have in a particular skill. (Throwing out a bunch of numbers disrupts the continuity, as people tend not to think of their ability in terms of numbers.) Even wounds are more realistically described. Instead of losing 5 HP, your character might have some minor abrasions to the chest.
CHARACTER DEVELOPENT: The races are all nicely developed, with penalties and bonuses fairly balanced. (No race is worse than any other race overall, even though some races are better suited to some professions than others.) Character development is flexible and in-depth. While every profession has special abilities that can't be used by anyone else, there is a large pool of skills that can be learned by anyone. (Each profession learns different types of skills at different rates; Barbarians learn weapons quickly but lore slowly, for example.) This system allows you to customize your character to a degree not found in most games while maintaining some semblance of realism.
LEVELING UP: One advantage or downfall -- depending on how you view it -- is that the skill system tries to mimic real-life learning. When you gain experience, it does not immediately translate into increased ability. Rather, your mind slowly absorbs the new information. Furthermore, if you gain too much experience for too long, your mind will become murky, which means you need to take a break from training.
Nor do you gain generic experience that increases your overall ability. If you want to get better at a specific skill, you have to practice it. Unfortunately, this means that there are no shortcuts to creating a really powerful character. If you think you can power-level your way into a god within a few weeks of automated activity, think again. If you make the mistake of focusing on your guild's minimum requirements, you will find yourself outclassed by 'lower-ranked' players and unsuited to many of the game's challenges.
In the regular version of DragonRealms, you're not allowed to gain experience or other in-game advantages while AFK. This policy is double-edged sword. On the one hand, it keeps the game from turning into a RuneScape or World of Warcraft affair where most of the players are unresponsive to the game world. On the other hand, some of the required skills are very tedious and boring to learn. This policy is rigidly enforced, and violating it multiple times could result in the suspension of your account.
COMBAT: Combat is deceptively simple at first, but as you become more experienced with the game, you become aware of the complexity of the system. Effectiveness in combat is primarily determined by offensive skills, defensive skills, and balance/position, but strategy plays a key role.
Combat experience does not take the form of experience points gained for defeating monsters. (This helps to create a viable role in hunting parties for support characters who don't kill many monsters.) Rather, you gain experience in whatever skills you're using in the fight. Each monster has a maximum level beyond which it will not teach. This forces you to move on and find another challenge. (You can't become powerful by spending weeks killing low-level monsters.)
Most combat takes the form of hunting computer generated monsters, but PvP can occur if both players consent to it. This keeps the powerful characters from preying on the young. If you're primarily interested PvP combat, or if you want to script while AFK, you should consider playing the unmoderated version of the game.
DEATH: Yes, there's death in this game, and if you don't make sure that you have favors from the gods, that death might be permanent. Fortunately, an unwanted permanent death is rare, and novices don't have to worry about permanent death at all. Higher-level Clerics can resurrect the dead, and if there is no Cleric around, you can depart on your own.
NEW-PLAYER FRIENDLY: Despite its complexity, DragonRealms is fairly friendly to new players. Most of the main verbs have help syntax, and there is an advice system that will guide you through your first steps. Mentors are also available to answer questions, and most players are willing to help if you ask. Lately, the GMs have been revising several of the game's systems to make them more newbie-friendly.
PRICE: The first 30 days are free, but at $14.95 for a basic subscription (1 character), DragonRealms is fairly expensive for a MUD. Hundreds of players have found it to be a good value, but you're just going to have to determine that for yourself.
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