The Internet as a Community
There is a lot of discussion about how the Internet
will affect our society, more and more people becoming connected to the
web, its information and other people. For the first time people are
able to share ideas and thoughts with others who may live halfway
around the world. People are able to come together with others who
believe like them or who have similar interests. A Chat room is a great
forum for this, as are newsgroups with email lists. There are also many
online games, some of which are the typical male-oriented stalk and
kill games. But there are many others that require creativity and
imagination. Some of these games create a sense of community among the
players. These places fulfill the requirements that we would use to
define a community. For example, they have a physical space, or world,
the players interact very regularly, some log on everyday, many of the
players share similar interests and beliefs, the place has a definite
size and history, the members of the community are concerned with the
welfare and improvement of the community, and it functions much like a
normal community with fights, lovers, and gossip. For almost two years
I have participated in such a community. I’ve made friends and laughed
and cried. I can’t say that anything I felt was any less “real” than
what I’ve experienced in real life. This online society has government,
history, defined world, laws, money, and even Gods and Goddesses. The
following is my experience of an online society.
When I came to St. Olaf I had never heard of a Multi User Dungeon
(MUD). I had a very vague concept of what a role-playing game was. I
didn’t know they existed online, except for some games such as
EverQuest, which include graphics and sounds. I personally thought it
was absurd to pay $10 a month to just play a computer game. My roommate
was paying an unusual amount of attention to black screen with colored
text that seemed to scroll by at a fairly regular pace. She seemed
utterly absorbed in it for long periods of time. Finally, my curiosity
got the better of me and I asked her to teach me how to play. The black
screen was actually a game. A text-based role-playing game set in the
fantasy world of Melmoth. My imagination went wild, a world made up of
words; it was just like being a fantasy novel except I could actually
interact with others. The best part was that I was able to
actually create the character I used to play this game, her history,
personality, and everything else about her came from my mind. My
roommate helped me download and install the MUD client, a program that
allows a person to connect with any MUD. It has color and all kinds of
features that make playing the game easier. Melmoth player-wise is a
typical MUD, from the survey I administered (See Appendix A); it is
mostly white, American, high school boys who play. Of course there are
exceptions, but the age and maturity of the players definitely changes
the tone of the community. Especially since it is so homogenous, the
quality of the community will be affected because of the seeming lack
of diversity in backgrounds and age of the players.
In order to enter Melmoth, first I had to create a
character I would use to interact with others in the game. I had to
pick a race and a class (classes can be divided into magic-using and
fighting, with a few exceptions). There are many options for making a
character. Players may have as many characters as they want to create;
there is no limit. Melmoth is a MUD that supports but does not enforce
role-playing. Role-playing is creating a persona, or character and
acting out that persona. For example, the first character I created was
a shy healer (cleric). I decided that she had come to Melmoth by
accident after her family was killed by a plague. I decided to create a
background and personality for my character but it is not absolutely
necessary in order to play the game. Many people don’t role-play at
all. After a long and confusing creation process, which left me
wondering how people do this with no help or knowledge of the game, I
was finally transported into the game. Being unfamiliar with the basic
commands and having no idea what I was reading was disconcerting. The
text seemed to fly by before I could sort out what I should be reading.
I understood how someone who didn’t speak the language would feel
transported to the United States. Everything around them would be
unfamiliar and confusing. The very language was different; people used
expressions and acronyms that didn’t make sense. It took a lot of time
to learn the words and actions to be understood by others.
First I had to learn simple directions, which are organized into the
four compass directions as well as up and down. In my everyday life, I
am used to “right” and “left,” thinking in terms of “east” and “west”
was very confusing. The game is organized into a series of rooms. Each
room has it’s own description. It would be like the rooms of a house,
except outside spaces are also described. You stand in one and the text
description tells you what is in that room in terms of space, physical
objects, and occasionally sensory descriptions (i.e.: running water, or
temperature). There could also be other people in the room with you,
whether they are computer-controlled dummies (called mobiles or mobs
for short) or other players. The description will also tell you the
ways out of the room; those are given in the compass directions.
Entering one of those directions will take you to the next room. It is
a lot like reading a book; it is dependent on your own imagination to
picture what the rooms could look like if they actually existed.
When I first started playing, Melmoth consisted entirely of
descriptions, every place from cities to mountains to underground
dungeons were all written out. Recently, something new was added to
break up the terrain into areas, i.e.: cities, castles, etc. and the
“wilderness” areas with mountains, rivers, oceans and forests. Stepping
out of the main floating city, Eprellis, brings up a graphical
representation of the terrain at the bottom of the city. Graphical in
the sense that it has colors, but the picture is not made of images,
but rather symbols representing various features. For example “o” is
Ocean, “x” is Forest, and “^” means Mountains. All these are color
coded so they are easy to understand. You also see yourself and
sometimes others moving along in the wilderness, you are always a pink
“@” symbol. This gives a more real representation of travel, since when
you leave an area you can see where you’re going but entering a new
area changes the images back to text again. Travel over the wilderness
takes time but it is made quicker by purchasing a mount and riding it
across the distances. Melmoth has more than one continent and various
islands to explore. It’s a big place and easy to get lost.
The main gathering place of Melmoth is New Eprellis. This is a floating
city high in the Melmothian skies, held in place by a giant chain
anchored to the ground. In Eprellis, one can eat, drink, sleep, gossip,
trade, shop, and learn new spells and skills. The main cathedral is
pretty much the hang out spot. There is a healer stationed there who
will cure your ills for a price in gold. Communication with any player
currently on Melmoth is possible in a variety of ways. If you are in a
room with other players, the easiest way is to <say> something.
This means that anyone in that room can see what you are writing.
Another method of expression is a <social>: there is a list of
automatic socials, and by typing one word anyone in the room with you
will see what you did. For example, type <smile> and the room
will see, <your character name> smiles happily. A way of
personalizing those expressions is called an <emote>, type
<emote> and then a sentence and the MUD will automatically insert
your name at the beginning. For example <emote> smiles politely,
everyone in the room will see <your char name> smiles politely.
It took a while to get used to referring to myself in the third person.
You can communicate with someone outside of the room can be done by
sending them a <tell>. Simply <tell> <player name>
and your message. Only that person will see it. Some socials can also
been done to someone who is not in the room, and they will only be seen
by that other person. Socials and emotes can also be made public so
every player currently logged in can see them. There is also a myriad
of different “channels” for public use. The list of public channels
looks something like this:
Gossip- Gossip is the In Character (IC) channel, it is used to role-play (RP) publicly.
Auction- Items are bought and sold in public, MUD run auctions.
Music- Anyone who wants to “sing” out their favorite lyrics can use music.
Q/A- Really two channels, Question and Answer, pretty self-explanatory.
Quote- Amusing or teasing quotes of any kind can be broadcast over this channel.
Grats- Used to give a congratulations out to someone.
Shouts- Used for shouting anything to the entire MUD, but causes a lag so it can’t be done over and over.
Tells- Private player to player communications.
Quiet mode- Turning on quiet mode only allows you to see things that are said in the room you are in and socials.
OOC- The Out Of Character channel, for any conversations about the
outside world or in game matters but not in a role-playing way.
Curse- A channel for cuss words or discussions of a sensitive nature.
Wartalk- An In Character channel for chest beating and posturing.
Newbie- A channel for newbies to ask for help and ask questions.
Commune- A way to communicate with the Immortals, using this channel will be seen by every Immortal on at the time.
Clan talk- For communication between clan mates, all clan members see this channel.
The differentiation between these channels is done mainly by color.
Each one is a different color and when someone uses one it is usually
shown. For example: Bob OOC: Hi everyone!, Sally quotes “The only good
dragon is a dead one.”
There are some restrictions to what can be said even on public
channels. There are strict rules against harassment or inappropriate
topics. Most of those topics can be taken to curse, including political
discussions, religion or any sensitive topics. If people don’t want to
watch these conversations they can simply turn the channel off. It’s a
nice feature and would be useful in real life, if we didn’t like what
someone was saying we could just shut them off. It isn’t that easy
sometimes, there have been fights and arguments on public channels
before, the IMMs generally stop them, or ask them to talk about it
somewhere else. Melmoth is supposed to be a place to relax and have
fun; stressful conversations are frowned upon.
There are two main features of Melmoth, most people play for one of
these reasons. One is role-playing (RP) and the other is Player Killing
(PK). Role-playing is one of the most creative and versatile activities
on Melmoth. A player can create any kind of character they want. There
is a wide range of races and classes to choose from and to that
combination the player can add any sort of character history or
personality they desire. Gender is also a chosen characteristic, on
Melmoth one can only choose to be male or female. Often a male player
will choose to create a female character. This creates tension
sometimes because females usually get more attention than males since
there are less female players. In my experience, I have been the target
of numerous sexual advances. The anonymous aspect of the MUD encourages
some males to say things they would never say to a female’s face.
Sexual harassment is never tolerated and the one time it happened to me
was swiftly dealt with. This is not the norm, however, there is usually
a playful atmosphere about sexuality. Generally males are not looked
down upon because of playing a female character; in fact most of the
males I know have played a female at some point. The MUD gives that
flexibility for exploration of different roles and genders.
The game has many tools to aid in the presentation of a
character. A description can be set so when others look at you the
first thing they see is how you have chosen to describe your character.
It can be anything from physical description to how the person behaves
at first glance to what they carry or wear. Everyone is given space
after his or her character name to add a title; it can be anything as
long as it is not blatantly offensive. Also a tone of voice may be
added so that when the character speaks it is shown before their words.
There are also a few more RPtools, which have been added
recently. Role-playing is pretty much the most important
aspect of the fantasy realm; if you want to interact with others in
this way then it adds so much depth to the game. Most people think of
their characters as separate from themselves; we talk about our
characters in the third person. We separate what we know Out of
Character from what that character knows In Character. Not everyone is
able to grasp this concept; they think that whatever you know, your
character should know. I have noticed that the people who are the
really good and well-known role players generally have this separation.
It is important because it makes the character’s lives more realistic,
because they are not gods; they only know what happens to them.
Although, as a player of that character I get to decide what happens to
them, and I usually know more than my character. It is also more fun to
expose them to different situations and try to decide how they would
react. Oddly, sometimes I would find that my characters would seem to
have a life of their own; they would change and grow without my
interference. It was also difficult to keep my emotions separate from
what the character was going through. Just like a good movie or novel,
we can get emotionally attached or involved with the characters and so
what hurts them, hurts us.
Role-playing is not for everyone. In talking to
players I found a variety of opinions on the subject. One male
“Yea, in my opinion RP is the base of Melmoth. Some people go there for
PK, some just because friends there. I think without RP, the game is
nothing. I RP, yea, it's not too hard, like acting but you've got to
switch around emotions a lot, different people talk different, look
On the other hand, another male said,
“RP again is what people make it. Is it important? To those
that play for the RP of the game. Me myself, I could care less
about all of it. I have always felt like a thumb trying to
"pretend" something I am not. I found that a lot of the
characters I have RP'd have been really close to my own
personality. I have seen people leave the game because of RP so,
I guess for that person it was very important. But then again, people
like myself.. I could care less if I saw another RP note.”
RP is important because it gives a player the chance to become someone
they could never be in real life. The player can live out all the
fantasies he or she has kept inside. For some people this means they
live more in the world of Melmoth than in the real world. On the other
hand, since the character can be what you want it to be, it is easy to
make a “perfect” character, someone who has no negative
characteristics. However, this makes the character extremely boring to
play, adding quirks is what makes it interesting to play. For me, RP is
a freeing experience, I get to be who I want to be, try new things and
personalities. Each of my characters is a facet of myself. This is not
so different from the sorts of roles people play in real life; a person
can be a mother, sister, businesswoman, and wife. Each requires
different skills and even language. They all require different
strengths. Many of us do a lot of role swapping in our lives.
Player Killing (PK) is the other favorite pastime of Melmoth. There are
rules for who can kill another. As listed on Melmoth they are:
The rules for PK are very straightforward. But before you
consider PK'ing read Help rules and Help rules2 so that you are
familiar with our harassment rules.
In order to PK on Melmoth, you must turn on the PK flag. To do
this, just type 'PK' by itself, twice. If you type 'PK' followed by
anything else, it will reset the count. Warning: Once on, PK can NOT be
The limits are as follows. You may PK down 10 levels, up any
number of levels (feel lucky, punk?). You may retaliate against
anyone who has initiated a legal (otherwise, contact the immortals) PK
action against you, so long as it is done once, and only once; no
multiple deaths in revenge.
A PK action is defined to be anything that gives another character a
reason to attack you; as such, nonPK characters committing PK actions
repeatedly will be set PK. Actions include player killing and stealing,
as well as common sensical variations:
- Kill stealing (Killing a mob someone is already fighting)
- Healing someone engaged in a PK
- Dispelling someone engaged in PK
- Otherwise helping or hindering either side
- Looting a player's corpse
-Picking up a player's items when the player is otherwise engaged but present
To find out why you were attacked, it is a good idea to gossip or otherwise
roleplay. This is not required, but it does make the game more enjoyable if we speak to each other.
If you have questions, contact an IMM, or Ferric at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of these actions can be done In Character or Out Of Character. As
long as the player is not harassing another, they can kill when they
want and don’t need a specific RP reason to do it. Death on Melmoth
isn’t actually permanent. If a player dies in the game, they will leave
a corpse behind and their spirit will float in limbo for a period of
time, the length depending on their level (the higher the level the
longer in limbo). Eventually they will come back to life except they
will have none of their equipment or possessions. Those stay on the
corpse they leave behind in the spot where they died. The player must
go back to their corpse and recover their lost items. If the player is
not PK then they are the only one who is allowed to remove those items
from their corpse. It is illegal to remove items from a non-PK corpse.
If the player is PK, however, their corpse is up for grabs to whoever
killed them. The killer can take whatever he or she wants or just
sacrifice the corpse and the owner loses everything. Another thing one
PK player can do to another is steal or mug them. Steal is a skill that
scouts and thieves have, it allows people to steal items held, but not
worn by another player. Mug is a thief-only skill and it can be used to
steal a piece of equipment right off the body of someone wearing it.
Whenever these two skills are used the player gets a violence timer
which means they can’t recall anywhere for a short period of time.
There are a variety of reasons for engaging in PK,
some people do it because it is part of their RP but others choose to
kill people just because they want a high kill count added to their
score. PK takes strategy and skills, it also helps to have the right
equipment and to know what other classes are weak against. Knowing the
strengths and weaknesses of your opponents is beneficial, as well as
having quick reflexes if you are caught unawares. Mostly to be a good
PKer takes experimentation and knowledge of the game and how battles
work. Just like everywhere else, there are people who pick on others:
bullies exist on Melmoth and the Immortals do everything they can to
stop it when they find out. There are also sore losers, people who
whine and complain because they got killed and are now naked. But being
PK is a choice, so mostly people who whine don’t get sympathy. There
have been people who have gotten so upset about PK that they left the
game. But for the most part, players understand that they are
responsible for themselves and if they choose to go PK then they can’t
whine when bad things happen to them. There really isn’t a justice
system, unless a player is being harassed or repeatedly killed; then
just about anything goes. Harassment is not ok, ever. It is severely
PK is an interesting pastime, the MUD environment
can be pretty tame, PK adds excitement for those people who don’t like
to explore or RP. There are some people who do nothing but PK because
they have nothing else to do. The hunt and chase are a thrill for them.
There is not a whole lot to worry about on Melmoth, most of the basic
needs are taken care of, this leads to a lot of free time, and so
someone invented PK. Melmothians don’t need to work or worry about
money, there is little else to do but kill mobs or go on quests.
However, knowing that the person chasing you is another human is
different, it changes the game into a quest for survival of the
fittest. Either you have to be smart and quick and know all the tricks,
or you have to have a half dozen good friends to back you up. This
creates the need for alliances between players. Some will join a clan
but others will just strike out on their own. Most PKers I know have at
least a few friends to help them out should they get in a bind.
The Implementer (IMP), Ferric, and a group of people
known as Immortals (IMMs) govern Melmoth. The Immortals’ primary duty
is to enforce the rules. They are granted privileges that set them
above the rest of the players. All the IMMs were once players
themselves and were chosen by Ferric for the extra responsibility of
making sure the game runs smoothly. They are also able to use their
extra privileges to enhance the game for the players, in creating
quests and new role-play. The Immortals are really a twofold position.
On one hand they are the rule enforcers, any player caught breaking a
rule is subject to punishment with the severity depending on the
situation. This occurs like any normal punishment system: the player
breaks a rule, possibly gets a warning if it’s the first time, but if
they continue they face varying degrees of severity of punishment. This
is an Internet setting; since it is largely anonymous (although once a
player logs in, Ferric is given enough information to track them down
anywhere) one would ask how the IMMs could possibly punish anyone. The
players would not be playing if they didn’t care at least a little
about their characters. The IMMs are equipped with commands that allow
them to do anything from send a player to a “jail” cell to making it
impossible for them to communicate with any other person logged into
the game, to blocking them from logging in or deleting their character
entirely. The players are expected to respect the rights of the IMMs to
dictate punishments. A player is allowed to email Ferric with any
complaints about an IMM but Ferric has the final say. The opinions of
the Immortals range generally from positive to neutral: there weren’t
many extremely negative viewpoints even within the IMMs themselves. One
male staff member said,
“Personally I think the staff needs to get off it's ass and be more
interactive with the morts [players]. The discipline is fine, however,
too many imms sit high above the morts and almost refuse to come down
to their level.”
Or, from another inside point of view,
“Whatever we might think on a personal basis, we try to provide a
uniform front to the players…either way, the IMM's for the most part
become a tight knit group/family within the larger family/community of
The general consensus from the players was generally an acknowledgment
that Melmoth couldn’t run without the help and work of the Immortals.
The other side of the job of an Immortal is that
each one gets to pick a “sphere” to represent, and to act out. In an In
Character sense the Immortals are literally the Gods and Goddesses of
the fantasy world of Melmoth. Each one picks their sphere and is able
to create human or nonhuman manifestations of their divine self in the
form of avatars. These avatars can have different personalities or can
be separate parts of the whole sphere. For example, we have Delirium,
the God of Thought. He has four separate avatars, one for Imagination,
Dreams, Nightmares, and Thought. He role-plays each of them as separate
beings yet part of the whole that is Delirium. It is possible to follow
a God/Goddess on Melmoth as part of a character’s role-play or just for
fun. Some IMMs role-play more than others.
Recently, one player asked permission to become a temporary IMM in
order to role-play an evil God coming to try and take over Melmoth. The
purpose was to involve the entire MUD in one role-play and it succeeded
very well. The player worked very hard to involve everyone who wanted
to participate. The other players were forced to take sides, most of
the clans did too, and everyone had to decide according to his or her
RP whether they would be for or against the evil God. The number of
active players went up a great deal, RP notes were written by the
dozens and the global RP channel was always going. The awareness of the
world had been raised; things were taking place in areas where some
players had never been. There was a strong sense of unity towards a
purpose felt on Melmoth. There was a rallying cry to drive the evil out
of the world. It is interesting that people were brought together and
alliances made, possibly by people who never would have spoken
otherwise. The world was changed by those events and the lingering
effects will stay with the players for a long time. So many players and
Immortals participated and it resulted in that player being raised to
full Immortal status. He is now Drakoth, God of Pain and Suffering.
There is a range of spheres from “good” to “neutral” to “evil.” The
list of Gods/Goddesses and their spheres are as follows:
Slate Winter and Loss
Nocturne Night and Passion
Aurora Day and Wisdom
Shaitan Honor and the Hunt
Drakoth Pain and Suffering
Each has their own role-play and group of followers. Following a
God/Goddess is basically an individual thing and how each player wants
to express their religious ideas is up to them.
Laws and Rights
The rules on Melmoth are pretty commonsense;
everyone knows the rules and they are quick to point out to those who
are new what they are. The MUD has extensive help files for any curious
newbies or confused older players. The rules for the game are simply
These are our Rules. Please Follow Them. If you observe somebody breaking
them, note to Ferric.
* No Harassment. At all. This includes racial/sexual slurs,
unsolicited sexual advances, or spamming. Harassment may result
in character deletion.
* Cursing should be limited as much as possible to the 'curse' channel.
We will cut you slack, but flagrantly ignoring this rule will get you in hot water.
* No Cheating. This includes asking for favors from gods and
exploiting bugs. If you know of a bug but do not report it and
are later found out, expect repercussions. Not reporting it is as
bad as using it.
* No idling; see Help Idle.
* Read Help Multi for rules on multiplaying. [Multiplaying is basically
logging on two of your characters at a time from the same computer]
* Wartalk channel is for all aggressive chest-beating type talk. Please keep it there.
* Pk is legal (see help PK for specifics), so long as your RP allows for it.
RP reasons include (but are not limited to): Clan War, Clan
hatred, personal RP reasons. Non-RP (therefore unacceptable)
reasons include: So and so is dating your sister, so and so said
something OOC you don't like, etc. etc. You may be asked to
explain the RP of any PK you partake in.
* Pk Continued: You may kill a person *within reason*.
Killing a person to the extent that they may give up the character and
quit is unreasonable. Same goes for 'pk until they renounce'. PK
to this extent is considered harassment, and will be dealt with as such.
* No advertising of other MUDs. This includes notes, tells, and any global channel. This, above all, upsets me.
* The MUD is a game. Use it to escape from reality, not to deal
with any Real-life *issues* you may have with other players. Note
issues to mean 'problems', not necessarily just 'things to talk about'.
* We credit the players with common sense. We therefore also expect you to use it.
* The immortals are not unreasonable. Respect us, and we will
respect you. Disrespect us, and we may decide it easier just not
to deal with you any more. Addendum. Respect the
IMMs. You may not like them, but they are here to run the
game. Showing flagrant disrespect for an IMM will get you in
trouble, no two ways about it. If you have a problem with an IMM,
write Ferric about it in as much detail as you can
* Polling. Sorry, no such thing. Just wanted to make sure you read through all these other rules :).
These rules will evolve (quickly at first, then slower) to address any other issues which may arise.
Those are the basic rules of the game and everyone is expected to know
and follow them. Punishment as stated before is generally on a
situational basis and is determined by the Immortals.
This system of government is actually quite
different than what most Americans are used to. Melmoth is not a
democracy, Ferric is the supreme leader and what he says goes. He makes
all the rules and decisions. The IMMs and players may appeal to him but
the actual decision is up to him. Players do not actually have any
rights other than what is given to them by Ferric. In fact, on the MUD
the rights of the players are explicitly stated:
Here is the Managements Stance on Players Rights:
The only inalienable right of a player is to delete his/her char and not
return. Further privileges are granted through help rules/rules2
[See above], but there is a distinct line drawn between "inalienable
rights" and "privileges".
The reasoning here is simple. So long as you are provided a nice,
clean, fun place to MUD, you won't leave. So, it is in my best
interest to provide you with such. This prevents abuse of power
on my part, and it is what makes me police my IMMS.
If you have complaints about how Melmoth is run, you do have
recourse. You can email or note me (for long missives, email is
best). Email complaints should go to email@example.com. It
is, after all, in my best interest to be reasonable, and in order to do
that I must attempt to please the majority.
It is interesting to note that we aren’t really oppressed, it’s not
like we have no say at all. And Ferric does his best to make everyone
happy, because it is in his best interest to make the majority happy or
everyone would leave. There have been many people who have become
unhappy with Ferric’s rulings and left. Some return, some don’t. In
talking to Ferric about why he runs Melmoth the way he does he said
“I chose to be the only Implementer purely for ego reasons, I
suppose. I enjoy the fact that Melmoth is what it is due to the
work I've put into it. Plus, a common problem is that if a team
of coders argues, one will take the code and start up a competing MUD
with the same codebase. The IMMs all come from the player base, and I
had met none of them prior to placing them in administrative roles.”
Basically, it is simpler for him if he is the only one in charge, but
he does rely on the IMMs to know what’s going on and to tell him what
he needs to know. There is a large amount of communication that goes on
between the IMMs and Ferric. It is a surprisingly peaceful society
despite the fact that the ruler is in fact all seeing and all knowing
if he chooses to be. (The MUD records every command that is entered by
every player and makes a log of it. If Ferric chose he could read
everything the players ever did or said. However it would take a lot of
work to sort through all the logs.) It is not as if Ferric is standing
there, breathing down everyone’s neck. He is on mostly every day but
only for a short time, because he does have a real life to attend to.
He does not always make himself visible to the players, possibly
because when he does he is bombarded with complaints and
requests. As a player, I had very little contact with Ferric;
this was probably because I was quiet and played by the rules. I didn’t
have any reason to talk with him directly. I was actually afraid of
him, since he was “The Creator,” but one day I got up the courage to
send him an IM and found that he was indeed very polite and friendly.
Economics and Basic Needs
Melmoth does not compare with a real society in
terms of economics. It is not necessary for players to have a job or
earn a living. Since it is a fantasy world, this doesn’t make sense.
Some players may invent professions for their characters but they don’t
actually seek to earn money. Money is obtained by killing the
computer-generated mobiles in the game. Once you kill a mob, you get
whatever equipment and money it was carrying. Once you sacrifice the
corpse, you get a little money for that as well. Money is very easy to
get and anyone can get it quickly. There are stores throughout the game
that sell just about anything imaginable, from potions to food to pets
to equipment. Most of those prices aren’t unreasonable. Money is also
used to buy things off the MUD-wide auctions that take place whenever a
player doesn’t want something. Bidding is done in gold, and a player
must be carrying it on their person. There is a bank in Eprellis where
players can deposit and withdraw money. Since money does have weight
once the limit of pounds the character can carry is reached the player
must get rid of some of the items or money he or she is carrying. That,
at least, is realistic.
Basic needs like food and water are met easily and at no cost. Most
classes have a spell called “create food” which does exactly that. When
a character gets hungry they simply create the food and eat it. The
classes who don’t have that spell have a skill called “butcher” which
allows them to create up to four steaks out of any corpse, which are
edible. The same goes for water; most classes have a “create spring” or
“create water” spell. “Create water” is cast on a container and it
fills it with water. Drinking containers are easy to obtain and there
is a permanent spring in Eprellis for an easy fill up. So with
basic needs taken care of, there really isn’t a strong need for money.
Some players expressed that they would like to see that changed; they
want the money system changed to be more realistic but that would mean
wiping all the bank accounts, which is rather drastic. Most things are
done by trading or by simply asking someone for something. Making
friends is a good way to get the things you need. I will generally help
whoever asks me by getting what they need, if I can. I don’t usually
expect anything in return and my helpfulness has paid off because
people generally remember that. The fact that Melmoth is not a
money-based society is a good thing, it helps shift the focus onto
other things and there is still greed and hoarding of rare equipment
and such but it would be much worse if money were harder to get. There
is less tension because of the current system and most players don’t
care if it stays the same.
History and Creation
Melmoth in fact does have a long and varied history.
Since it has been operational for 6 years it has undergone many changes
both physically and in terms of players. I have actually heard people
talk about the “good old days” when this or that used to be. There are
players who played on Melmoth when it was in its infancy that are still
around today. There are legacies, stories told about events that
happened and people who walked in the same places as players today.
Much of the history of Melmoth is oral, and it is still possible to
visit the places that are mentioned in the stories. The creation of
Melmoth is written, for anyone to read (See Appendix B) This, I am
told, is not the original creation story, this one has been changed and
the old one may not be obtainable. Things on Melmoth do change, players
change and rules change, it gives rise to new things.
The actual physical creation of Melmoth, as told by Ferric is quite different. He said,
“I never actually 'decided' to start a MUD. I was home over the
summer, and had a shell account with a local ISP. I'd been playing MUDs
for a little while, and decided to see how stable the new Rom2.4
codebase was. I started a copy running, and logged in 3 days
later to find a few people had found it and were playing. I decided to
keep it going on a whim. If those 3 (Vapor, Viper, and Bloodshed)
hadn't been logging in, I probably wouldn't have kept it going.”
He also related where he got the name “Melmoth”. He said,
“well, I took the name Melmoth from a book I liked, of the same
title. The name Melmoth itself comes from a mid 18th century book
called "Melmoth the Wanderer", in which a man named Melmoth sells his
soul for 150 years of power, and spends 149 years looking for somebody
to trade places with him.”
Of course, this has nothing to do with the actual game; its fantasy
components are separated from its real life ones. But, it is
interesting to see where the physical origins were as well as the
fantasy story, which came along later.
It may be hard to imagine how a virtual space could have a history.
Since it’s not actually “real” and none of the events or people were
“real”. But it is the people who make it real and the people who left
their mark on the world. Many, many players have designed and built
areas. Melmoth has a builder port where anyone who is interested can
log on and create new areas. When they are finished it is checked over
and approved by Ferric and connected into the actual game so people can
visit it. Building is a lot of painstaking work; it takes time to
layout an area and design room descriptions and mobs. But all players
can build if they choose and so they and their imaginations shape the
world. Every area has a story behind it, some have mysteries to solve
or hidden treasures and rooms. Being a builder means a contribution to
Melmoth, which in turn does convey some status. Building on Melmoth is
an active role in Ferric’s eyes, it also brings a player to his
attention since he has to approve of all the changes made to the MUD.
Any contributions to the MUD in terms of ideas or new areas is
important, being an active player for long enough means you might be
chosen to be an Immortal. Granted, there is a lot more that goes into
the choice than simply if the player built areas or not, but it is one
way to be recognized and noticed.
Hierarchy and Social Stratification
Part of the history is the clan system. There are quite a number of
active clans on Melmoth. For example, there is a clan completely
devoted to peace; its members take an oath to never harm another living
being. There is one devoted to the perfection of skills, especially
fighting skills. A third is concerned with defending nature and
guarding against those who would defile the world. Each has their own
purpose, with a leader and 5 ranks. Every clan builds a clan hall,
which usually reflects something of what their clan represents. There
are many reasons for joining a clan. Most of my characters joined clans
because it somehow fit their role-play and personality. Clans are a
good way to find people to role-play with. Others join because they can
then go out and PK people in groups made up of their clan members. Or,
they have clan mates to call on if they get in trouble. Clan mates
stick up for each other and help one another out. One player pretty
much summed up his view of the clan system like this,
“Well, usually they are pretty cliquish. And most of them really
don't do MUCH RP, and if they do.. it is mostly among a select
few. Or they are a band of PKers that want to go out and pick on
the less skilled. On the flip, they usually are a good place to find
some great ideas about everything and anything. People learn a
lot there. People join them because at first it is something that is
interesting, and then once you do.. you learn so much by just watching
people. Then you are stuck with the friends you have made, so basically
you are in a clan Out of Character as well as In Character.”
Clans are accused of being “cliques,” which does make Melmoth
similar to any society. There will always be like-minded people who
feel the need to stick together. So it is not surprising that groups
would form in an online setting. In the past there have been problems
with two or more groups fighting; Ferric did his best to diffuse the
tensions but it is hard. Not everyone will always get along, but
hopefully people will try to be mature and accept each others’
differences. However, Melmoth has the same problems as any other place.
Besides the most obvious distinction between
Immortal and regular player, there is a version of a class system on
Melmoth. Older players have a definite advantage over newer ones. They
have been around longer and therefore know the game better; they know
all the subtleties and secrets. They have more different kinds of
characters, and have experimented with the system to find out the best
combinations of race, class and spells. The older players sometimes
have one of each class and generally multiples of their favorite class.
Another advantage of being an older player is that over time the types
of armor and weapons that can be found on the game has changed. Some
pieces of armor were changed because they were deemed “too powerful,”
so they were changed. Some people still have the items before they were
changed. An old PK player may have some of the most powerful equipment
in the game simply because they don’t make it anymore and equipment
since then has been watered down. Older players generally know where
all the best equipment is for the different classes. They also have
participated in old clans and quests where one of a kind equipment was
given out. Newer players will come in and try to compete with the
better equipment and knowledge but it will be hard. In generally,
newbies are not seen as a lower class, in fact there is an unspoken
rule that everyone should always help new players as much as possible.
That is only logical since every society needs new blood. It would only
make sense to persuade the new people to stay around. The class
structure here is fairly flexible, a new player can move up simply by
enduring and working hard to learn where things are. The more active
role a player has (building, RP, exploration, etc.) the faster they
will move up so to speak.
The clan system can also be applied to here, there are older clans and
new clans. The older more established clans have higher respect and
permanence, while some of the newer and less well thought out clans.
Leaders have a place of power, because they can dictate who joins and
who doesn’t. They decide the premise of the clan and whom the members
are allowed to kill or associate with. Clans can declare war on one
another, but the PK rules still hold. Clans have 5 ranks; there are
different ways one can move up the ranks depending on the clan.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of brown-nosing the leader in order to
gain rank. Other clans demand service or deeds done to deserve being
raised in rank. Clans are an example of some players having power over
others. Generally clan rule is passed from one leader to another, the
clan members don’t usually get any say in who the new leader is, but a
coup is allowed if enough members don’t like the new leader. Clan
leaders don’t actually have any real power outside their clans; they
get the reputation they have built up but in comparison to an Immortal,
they don’t have any actual power. Basically, that is the class
structure of Melmoth, players generally fail or succeed based on their
Overall, Ferric and the Immortals work hard to make this a welcoming
and fun place for people to play. It has many of the problems and
pitfalls that happen in real societies, but everyone works to try and
fix the problems. Sometimes people are asked to leave because of
unsolvable problems. But people seem to always come back, one female
“I've left over the years, because of a lack of people to RP
with, I've left because I simply can't take anymore of the dorks
posturing......I've left for personal home reasons......I've left due
to bouts of boredom.....and I come home, because people, things,
circumstances, and situations change, and because in the end, Melmoth
She said what so many others seem to also express in their thoughts
about Melmoth. My experience also, Melmoth does feel like home. When I
come back after being away I feel a sense of connection. In my mind
Melmoth is a real place, it may mostly exist in my mind, but that
doesn’t make it any less real. The experience of playing there has
changed me and I have grown because of it. I am not the only one who
feels that way, and this leads me to believe there is something about a
place where people can go where they are not judged for what they look
like but for who they are. Granted, a person can easily lie about who
they are, but most people seek to connect with others honestly and I
have found few people on Melmoth who I believe lie about who they
really are. I have met many people from the MUD and it has taught me a
lot about myself and how I see the world. Basically, my time on Melmoth
has changed me for the better.
Demographic Survey of Melmoth
This is a survey I sent out over the Melmoth mailing list and asked for
players’ participation. I received 17 responses and the percentages
(rounded to the nearest whole percent) for each answer are below.
1. What is your age?
A. 11-14: 0%
B. 15-18: 41%
C. 19-22: 23%
D. 23-26: 6%
E. Over 26: 29%
2. What is your sex?
A. Male: 71%
B. Female: 29%
3. Where do you live?
A. United States
I. Eastern: 6%
II. Southeastern: 12%
III. Southwestern: 6%
IV. Midwest: 53%
V. Western: 12%
VI. Other US: --
B. Canada: 6%
C. Great Britain/Ireland: 6%
D. Other European--
E. Australia --
F. Asia --
G. Africa --
H. South/Central America --
I. Other --
4. What is your race?
A. American Indian/Alaskan Native --
B. Asian: 6%
C. Black/African American --
D. Hispanic/Latino: 6%
E. Pacific Islander --
F. White: 88%
5. What is the highest level of education you have completed or are currently in?
(~ denotes approximate ages AND if you are not an American citizen please choose what best fits your level of education)
A. Elementary school (ages 5 to ~12) --
B. Middle/Jr. High school (ages ~12 to ~15) --
C. High School (ages ~15 to 18): 47%
D. College/University (18 to ~22): 53%
E. Master’s Degree --
F. Professional Degree --
G. Other ___________
6. What is your current living situation?
A. Alone: 12%
B. With roommate(s)/friend(s) (non college): 6%
C. With significant other --
D. With parent(s)/guardian(s): 47%
E. With your/partner’s children under 18: 6%
F. With children over 18: 6%
G. In a college dorm/apartment: 24%
7. What are your hobbies?
Please list:______(Large list)_________
8. How did you find out about Melmoth?
A. A friend.:65%
B. A website or Mudconnector.: 30%
C. Other:_(message board)__6%________________
9. How long have you been playing on Melmoth?
A. Under 6 months--
B. 6 months to a year --
C. 1-2 years: 41%
D. 3-4 years: 24%
E. More than 4 years: 35%
10. Why do you play on Melmoth? (choose as many as apply)
A. To hang out with friends/chat.: 36%
B. To Role Play. : 31%
C. To PK: 6%
D. To meet new people: 17%
11. Roughly how many hours a week do you spend on Melmoth?
A. 0-5: 24%
B. 6-10: 6%
C. 10-20: 18%
D. 20-40: 35%
E. More that 40 (I don’t sleep): 18%
12. How many other MUDs, etc, have you played?
A. 0: 12%
C. 3-5: 12%
D. More than 5: 35%
Melmoth Creation Story
The world of Melmoth existed long before the memories of any mortal
being. It's growth was guided by the Ferric, The Great
Coyote. Loping across the face of the land, The High One would
sweet talk Melmoth into taking the shape of his ultimate design.
Nurturing the infant world into a place of beauty, he saw it's
loneliness for company other than his own. Feeling the need to
share his pride at Melmoth's grandeur he created a way for aware beings
to spontaneously birth themselves into existence. These creatures
flourished, growing and multiplying at a constant rate, spreading
across the face of Melmoth and giving the land it's own children to
shape and mold.
Ages passed and the World of Melmoth and it's inhabitants matured and
became basically self-sufficient, tending to their own needs and
relying less and less on Ferric for provision of their needs. The High
One, pleased with his "children", wandered the land making
changes in the way of things to provide a more stimulating and
challenging environment. The world of Melmoth itself grew and expanded
and as any child does would occasionally experience growth spurts and
growing pains that had a drastic effect on everything within it's
influence. But with the resiliency that Ferric had imbued
his creations with, the inhabitants of Melmoth adjusted and adapted,
causing yet more growth in it's diversity.
As is the natural balance of things, "good" has it's "evil" and so it
was in the world of Melmoth. Nature would tip to the side of
"good" and as the scales tipped, "evil" would emerge to attempt to
overcome it's nemesis and so the eternal battle was waged.
Recent history has been an age dominated by the forces of good until an
new scourge appeared in the land. Vampirism, an affliction that spread
by unknown causes, made even the most pure of heart desire the blood,
and even the life, of their friends and family. Melmoth, having
grown content in it's long period of contentment was thrown into
drastic growing pains, the spasms of such an intense and sudden change
stretched the face of the land into a distorted parody of it's former
image. Cities that had been but a short walk for a mortal
creature now lay on opposite sides of the continents in some
cases and familiar routes through ancient forests now confused
even the most learned scouts and guides.
Ferric gathered around him the other Immortals that helped him in his
efforts to shape the land and together they worked to ease the mortal
inhabitants of Melmoth into the changes. The Gods worked
feverishly to make the mortals more comfortable with the changes and
vision of the wilderness around them was bestowed upon them to better
enable them to find their way across the face of the changed land.
Together, the Immortals and the Mortals both watch and wait to see what
effects these changes will have and what the next step in Melmoths'
evolution will be.
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