Harshlands offers the richest world in any MUD I've played. The level of detail is amazing, both due to the Harn material (though Harn background is NOT required) and through the imms’ encyclopedic knowledge. I'd be shocked if there is any other MUD that comes close. The religious system, the legal system, the various factions... and even down to tiny surprises out in the distant wilderness and the depths of the cities.
The player base is small but dedicated--and very good. The fact that this is a role- play enforced is also good. Harshlands is in many ways the perfect MUD for someone 'graduating' into role-play-enforced mudding from a more hack-and- slash game.
But there are downsides. As a 'good for *new* hardcore RPers' mud, it tends not to trust players very much. The imms are extremely conservative about letting players change the world in any substantial way. Want to compete with the guilds? Want to challenge the thieves? Want to start your own sect? Want to be a threat to the established order? It’s not gonna happen here.
The last players who made a real, lasting impact on the world are, as far as I know, now the head imms, and nobody else has been allowed to outshine them. (I don't think this is intentional, and they are extremely hardworking and dedicated. But I do wonder if it's not a bit of subconscious resistance to change ...)
Also, there's a heavy preference for--or advantage for--veteran players and veteran PCs. The imms explicitly prefer PCs who adhere rigidly to Harn canon rules (a noble Laranian, a hedonistic Halean, a selfless Peonian), and who spend RL years starting as a nobody and checking off all the boxes until they become a minor somebody. (The mid-level and above somebodies are reserved for NPCs.)
This can be very rewarding. But if you’re a more advanced RPer, who wants to generate a character who is more like a real person, with a plausible background, instead of a blank ‘character sheet,’ you’re out of luck.
And the only way to get skills (other than extremely minor RPP) is by practice. Harshlands rewards power-gaming—even though they only call it that when it’s ‘overdone.’ Unlike some games (the Inquisition games come to mind), which reward RP, Harshlands rewards repetitive skill use. Then they have to police for overuse …
So it’s a perfect place for someone new to RPIs, or if you’re the sort of player who wants to create a young, helpless PC and play her for years. There’s a lot of depth in that approach, and Harshlands is tremendously good with it. There’s nobody better. But if you’re a player who wants to affect the world, or play a PC who has a rich background and multilayered skills out of the gate, you’ll be a little frustrated.
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