DartMUD is a mud unlike anything I have ever played. I began my mudding days playing Mume, Two Towers, and other variants. They all rather felt the same, progress from zone to zone, each more difficult than the next and get gear which was slightly better. Even the players seemed to follow the feel, there was a hollowness to mudding. Once I started playing Dartmud that hollowness went away and a world of complexity was upon me.
I've heard a lot of people say that it is brutal, tough and gritty. It is, but it's not nearly as intimidating as people say. Death is quick, and possibly permanent, but once you learn some of the basics and get some skills that enable you to travel life isn't nearly as dangerous. Common sense and the ability to listen will take you a long ways. Just like in real life if you stick to well populated areas the wolves won't eat you, but venture into the wilderness...
My path has been a fighter and a crafter, though if I wanted I could learn to be a mage as well. Everything in Dartmud is skill based, find a sufficient teacher (or not) and you can start life as a cook, farmer, fighter, mage, or whatever you would like. This flexibility makes it really exciting for long term goals, you really can become anything given enough time.
The crafting is also very deep. From what I can gather the folks who designed it are avid members of the SCA. The level of realism and attention to detail really is fantastic. One example is using a forge, not only do you need the proper ores, ingots and fuel, but you must pump up the forge to a certain level and after some time must retain the heat. Crafting is no longer a mindless spam, but has some required actions.
Combat is body part based, and from my view as a fighter entertaining. You can spar, or by changing your combat settings enter a mode where you are, hopefully, more deadly. Though a good many opponents are more useful alive than dead. When attacking, or attacked, you hit body parts which cause dropped weapons, falling, crawling etc. It feels real. I'm not so sure on the mechanics of magic but it is prevalent, though not frivolous in usage. It still feels 'magic' and not mundane.
A few things I dislike is the state of the economy. It seems the production of food items is the most profitable activity, or at least the easiest for the energy required. Add the requirement for room and board (gear doesn't save on your person) and you can have some frustrating days when all of the shops are sold out. There is a constant need to pay the rent, to keep the gear, so you can earn gold to pay the rent. As long as it isn't sold out... I'd love to see some portion of your gear save on you, the simple items like armor and weapons, keep the wagons, and crafting stuff as it is.
I've also found myself to be very cautious, so much so that I'm missing out on aspects of exploring. If you die, you must hope to get someone to your body before it decays. Unless you have an amulet which holds your soul, most helpful! The downside is the expense of amulets, they are rare and very valuable. If you have one it is precious, so dying becomes an expensive ordeal. (See comment on rent, shops, etc. above for the compounding of this) The other bummer is waiting to get a healer to put you into a new body, so you sit in the amulet waiting until one logs in. Plus the amulet is consumed so that requires some replacing. I'm torn on the issue, more amulets and the world would seem safer, but as it is life is exciting and journeys out and about are serious. You will find yourself paying attention.
The playerbase so far has been very helpful. I've been polite and that has been returned. I've read other reviewers speaking of harsh treatment, which I'm sure happens, but everyone I've dealt with has been more than happy to help. There is some RP, some people are more into it than others, I'm not a huge RP'er but it can be entertaining to interact with those that are.
There are so many things I haven't experienced yet, the nobility and castle systems, sailing, the underdark, crafts like sewing, ceramics, chandlrey, leather working, stone working, alchemy, construction, brewing and of course magic. It's a rich world, deep, storied and filled with history. A most excellent place to hang out.
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