I like hardcore MUDs, with permanent death (there's nothing that adds to the excitement and immersion like the possibility of losing a character forever!) and enforced roleplay. I don't want to play a cardboard cutout in a game, trying to get to the next level or solve the next quest. I want to play a character as 'real' as possible, surrounded by other 'real' characters, all of whom have their own idiosyncratic goals, and abilities, and personalities.
So I've played most roleplay enforced MUDs. I played Harshlands for years. Stopped playing for a time, when real-life caught up with me. Then returned. Here's the good *and* bad about Harshlands.
First the good: A very, *very* complete world. Harshlands is based on the published 'Harn' material-- although altered more than a little, the Harn stuff really grounds everything in Harshlands. This means that the geography, economy, religion, various cultures and crafts and 'monsters' and magic and, well, *everything* is really well-informed and intelligent.
There are no big gaping holes in the world itself. You don't wonder how a huge city survives in the permafrost wastes or why the uber-powerful mages don't just take over or anything. All of that makes sense. And the world comes with intelligible legends, and political scheming, and all sorts of built-in conflict.
The world of Harshlands is 'low magic'. A few priestly spells, mostly modest. Some rare psionics. A bit of other, ever rarer, stuff ... and that's all. You can play a mercenary, a bard, a priestess of any of 8 faiths, a woodcrafter or swordsmith or gemsmith or physician or farmer or armorsmith or lexigrapher or any number of other things (the craft stuff is *very* extensive), a beggar or courtesan or member of the guard or of a criminal gang, a dark assassin or a noble knight. Or a dark knight or noble assassin!
Or just an ordinary person, working her way in a guild buying a house, falling in love ...
The level of roleplay is extremely good--though of course there are always a few people who are still, erm, engaged in their learning curve! Great characters abound, to help and hinder ...
The staff is superb. The head staffer as the moment is just terrific, and all the other staff is very strong. That's actually what motivated me to finally write a review. Everything's just fallen into place with the staff at Harshlands, and that makes all the difference! They're responsive and welcoming (as are the vast majority of players), and always trying to make the game experience, and the game itself, better.
All in all, a terrific game *if* you're looking for a more 'realistic' MUDding experience. The average age of players is (if I remember a poll right) late 20s or early 30s. So this isn't a bunch of kids just hacking at monsters. In fact, if you try that, you won't last long!
Although there *are* a few playable nonhuman races, they're rare. In some ways, this is a more of a 'reenactment' game--well, with heavy doses of drama and swordplay and evil scheming--than a 'high fantasy' game where your 14th Level Wizard shoots fireballs at the Ochre Dragon.
But there's no lack of heart-pounding conflict, either. It's just more personal and realistic and terrifying!
The bad: The magic system is extremely basic. Personally I think this is a *feature*, but if you love magic ... you won't be thrilled.
The combat system is quite basic, too. Other roleplay intensive MUDs give players more control over combat, with a greater variety of commands and options. Harshlands offers a few ... but only a very few.
There's a huge, completely custom-built world ... but sometimes I think it's *too* big, as it can dilute the playerbase. Still, that hasn't been a problem of late, as the number of players is growing steadily.
And finally, on the 'bad' side: there's a learning curve. Inevitably, for such a complex and realistic world. But that can be tough. I almost quit playing during my first character, because everything seemed so baffling. But if you ask on the forum, and email the players' helpers, you'll probably do far better than I did!
If this sounds like your kind of game, I hope to see you there!
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