In way of introduction, I've been playing Buffymud for a rather long time of and on. I've always thought that it was an especially promising game because of the way it's designed and how much freedom is given to players to create their own stories. Because I believe Buffymud's best attribute is it's code, I'll mainly be addressing those features that really make this mud pop and not rather transient aspects such as the playerbase.
The main draw of Buffymud for me in the earlier years was just how much control and code support players were given to design their own characters. Demons in particular have a rather wide array of customization available to them in the form of 'buffs' they can take instead of more typical skills or spells. Things like giving your character a functional tail or wings that you could then describe independently from your main description was and is just so very appealing compared to what you find on a typical mud. This leads to tremendous diversity in the types of creatures you can create either from your own mind or based on existing fiction.
On top of this there's an additional system which is based on killing mobs within aggro areas. Techniques are obtained every other kill or so and can be used to customize you character further, regardless of race. Despite the name, they're used to unlock a number of unique abilities such as the ability to fly without wings, resist or improve your ability to cause various types of damage, and select from a number of demon buffs without requiring you to have demon as a race. This allows for concepts such as a demon who is otherwise human except for having wings or a vampire whose advanced age has granted him clawed hands.
There are a 104 different techniques and it'd be silly to go through them all, but I hope by bringing it up, some idea of just how versatile the system is becomes apparent. From what I can tell from playing, quite a number of builds are feasible so long as some idea of what those stats can do is kept in mind as well. The game has three physical stats, three magic stats, three demon stats, two stats for guns, two endurance stats, and researching which is used to look up player histories, concepts, and retrieve information on player events. Even though there are so many different attributes, players can often mix and match between as many as they like. Classes limit some options and control what skills can be purchased, but are mostly responsible for the cost of training each stat in particular. Demons and half demons are the only ones who are able to invest in the demon stats, but otherwise, any distribution is legitimate as long as it makes sense to the player. Unless you over invest in one direction, I think you'll be hard pressed to make a build which isn't at least competitive in some aspect.
Great, you can bring to life a lot of really crazy concepts with just a little imagination and effort, but what about the world, right? Besides your typical methods of RP and interacting with other players such as coded combat and emotes, there are additional ways to reach out and affect them or the world. This can be done through captures, confrontations, showdowns, a few loose commands that can be done at any time, and events. At any time when your character can be incapacitated, that is to say whenever you're beaten up or voluntarily incapacitate your character due to RP, a number of options become immediately available to whoever is looming above you. Right off the bat, if someone wants to describe some wound you obtained in the fight or inflict something new on you, they can use a command to place a line in your description describing it which lasts around an hour of play. Your captor decides to give you a few bruised ribs then drags you off to the lair of his choice. Pending rescue from a party of your friends, it's time to RP a capture.
Basically in this system, the captor decides among a handful of coded options what will best fit the successful outcome of the RP they're planning. Like a vampire, for example, might choose 'drain' to mimic the affects of feeding on you while you lay there helpless to stop them, but free to react with emotes. Once started, a timer that only the captor can see ticks down to allow a chance for you to be saved. So long as RP continues at a reasonable pace during that time, the effects are immediately applied when the timer reaches zero. This gives conflict between adversaries a more engaging and fun dimension for both parties instead of merely sending them to some other point on the grid after they've been bested in combat.
Confrontations and Showdowns are ways to make more lasting or even permanent changes to other characters. These commands convert experience and time online into the potential to do a number of things such as making those lines in people's descriptions that I spoke of earlier last substantially longer. In this way confrontations are able to approximate more dramatic, but temporary effects like broken limbs, being imprisoned, or forcing someone's alignment to change such as the microchip did for Spike in the show while Showdowns allow for more drastic options such as ensouling, maiming, or even killing someone permanently.
These are only some examples, but actions can have real consequences so long as the player is willing to put in the work to merit it. These attempts aren't without risk however because while the player is saving up enough XP and playtime to do whatever they plan, they're vulnerable to the majority of options themselves should another player catch and beat them up.
Then there are events. Basically, players are able to run their own story arcs complete with scheduled gatherings, a wide variety of global or targeted affects, and the ability to assume a storyteller position. For example, you're RPing a troubled high school student who's dabbling in the occult and think a great way to get revenge on your peers is by raising an army of undead zombies to rampage across the town. In a set of three descriptions, you lay out what should be known without effort, what should be known after research, and what should be known after investigating further. At first, everyone only has access to the first description which serves as a kind of hook to lure people into your RP. Eventually someone's bound to at least be curious and dedicate a chunk of their time to getting access to your second description. Afterward, the only way they can proceed is by RPing. This can be done either submitting logs of the RP or by asking you to oversee the RP in real time through a set of commands that essentially allow you to post text to the room the RP is occurring in without being present yourself. This allows you to describe scenes and let the other participants interact with the world or NPCs in it which are important to your event. When they're done, you need to decide if what occurred merits releasing your final description to them or if they'll need to try again. Should you decide to let them have it, they're faced with the decision of whether to come up with a solution to stop your event and then RP it out. Finally, you then decide how effective that attempt was with a percentage. Whenever the attempts add up to a hundred, your event is considered thwarted. All of this can be a rather quick process or quite lengthy depending on how complex or powerful the event is.
As with everything in the game, there are ways for players to police bad RP themselves as well. All these powerful tools come together to give the playerbase a lot to work with to create exciting and dynamic RP that is backed up by code, but there is more than I'm able to write about in such a small review.
There are player organizations that can battle for territory, player houses, customizable shops where items can be restrung and sold, and RP rooms to mimic locations that aren't accounted for on the grid.
There's also a system by which items can be altered to have adjectives added to the beginning or a line of your choosing appended to the end.
There are vehicles, a large number of different types of weapons, npc missions, custom languages, unique artifacts, and a job system so that you need to work for money instead of picking it off of mobs. There certainly isn't enough space to get into custom attacks which basically allow you to design your own skills or spells.
Even with all this unique code and freedom, I haven't addressed the administration. As many people know, great games can be absolutely ruined if they're run by overbearing or controlling individuals. Compelling as all this is, one of the greatest things about Buffymud is the philosophy that the administration has. Most of the time, you won't even realize the game has admins. They're never visible on the wholist nor do they pop up very often unless something needs fixed or there is some serious need for mediation.
That said, I've broken quite a few things in my time here and the important ones have always been promptly resolved, usually within a day of my reporting it. In the spirit of fairness, the playebase is given tools to oversee itself instead of the administration trying to constantly rule on whose point is more valid. Everyone therefore has a chance to shine or prove their character deserves something more through work and showing how imaginative they can be to their peers.
All this appeals to me so much that Buffymud is my favorite place to play and I can't think of a single game I'd rather have spent all the countless hours that I have here. If anything I've written sounds the slightest bit intriguing, stop by and explore for a bit. The playerbase is rather good about answering questions for newbies. Don't be shy.
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