Section I: Introduction to MUSH
Many people would ask 'What is a MUSH?' when approached on this topic, so we will start there. MUSH stands for Multi-User Shared Hallucination, and is derived from the MUD family of online games. They are text based programs which allow multiple people to simultaneously interact within an artificial environment. This article will be focused on roleplaying MUSHes using the PennMUSH codebase, though the TinyMUSH and TinyMUX codebases bear enough resemblance for the knowledge contained herein to be loosely applied to them as well. In general these MUSHes focus more on character roleplaying, though building and coding are also important parts of a MUSH. Each of these topics will be discussed in their own section, though roleplaying is the focus of this article and will receive the greater attention.
Often the settings in which MUSHes are set include a vast amount of detail, recreating entire worlds from literature, movies, or the creators' imaginations. Many MUSHes select a literary work to base their theme upon, with Tolkien's Middle Earth, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Dragonlance being a few examples. Several other MUSH Administrators (commonly referred to as Wizards) choose to create their own worlds for their players to roleplay in. Not all MUSHes, however, restrict themselves to a specified theme, and offer character interaction in a free form environment which has its details chosen by the players, allowing them to select the situation and setting that best suits their mood and roleplaying (often referred to as RP).
Section II: Roleplaying
The art of roleplaying is the lifeblood of numerous MUSHes on the Internet. Large numbers of people connect to roleplay on MUSHes of various themes every day. Many MUSHes have a range of 20 to 100 people connected simultaneously, the majority of which are looking for RP. As this is such an important part of the MUSH experience, we will detail what RP is and common definitions of how to 'properly' roleplay a MUSH character.
Roleplaying on a MUSH is similar to what an actor or actress does. The player attempts to assume the mentality of their character, and portray their actions within the situations which arise in the RP session. Skilled RPers are capable of capturing the essence of their alter-egos and their environment to such a degree that logs of the roleplaying read like a well written novel. While playing the role of their chosen character, the player uses only the knowledge they believe their character would possess about a given situation, ignoring Out Of Character (OOC) chatter and information. Any action taken by the RPer's character is considered In Character (IC), and is reacted to as such by the other characters taking part in the roleplaying scenario. It is considered bad form to mix OOC and IC matters while RPing. Many MUSHes provide a means of communicating in an OOC manner even while IC, with any information transmitted by such ways being totally ignored by the player's character. Often the most trying experience for a new MUSHer is learning to distinguish OOC and IC, as well as separating the 'Player' from the 'Character'.
There is much debate about what 'proper' RP truly is, with no definite answer apparent in most cases. However, there are many factors which are agreed upon as being required for quality roleplaying. The first has already been discussed, the separation of IC and OOC. If a player cannot keep OOC matters out of their character's IC actions they are often regarded as poor RPers and may eventually be shunned if they do not learn to distinguish between the two. The second mark of quality RP is detail. If a player's poses, the actions their character takes within the roleplaying session, involve vivid detail that make visualization and understanding of both the setting and the character's actions easily possible, then they are generally considered quality poses. One point of debate is pose length. It is held by some 'authorities' on RP that lengthy, detailed, and well written poses are the pinnacle of excellent roleplaying. However, others argue that writing short, concise poses which convey the same meaning as a more lengthy pose is the best indication of a high quality RPer. It has been the experience of the author, that there are situations where lengthy detail rich poses are the best choice, while in others smaller yet still descriptive poses are wise. The final point that must be made about RP is an important one: Never pose the actions of another character. Do not include a character's reaction to the actions your character performs. Doing so will lead to arguments and on most RP oriented MUSHes disciplinary action.
Section III: Building
One of the more useful skills for a MUSH player to possess, after skill at roleplaying, is Building. Each MUSH requires a large amount of building before it even opens to the public for RP. The rooms and objects which make up the world of the MUSH must all be created by its Administrators before they can welcome players onto it for roleplaying. However, a large number of MUSHes continue to grow even after opening, expanding the world which they offer. Building is accomplished by using a set of commands which enable a player to create rooms, exits, and objects as well as add descriptions and other details to them. On some MUSHes any player may build while on others it is restricted to those with the Building Power, the decision is made by the Wizards which create the MUSH. Another possible limitation on player building are quotas, where each player is allowed to own only a specified number of rooms, objects, and exits. Building can often be beyond the interest or capabilities of many MUSHers, and should generally be approached by new players only after they are familiar with the commands and procedures of the MUSH on which they play. Though not directly tied to MUSHcode it can be used to its fullest by combining the two skills.
Section IV: MUSHCoding
The majority of players on a MUSH have no interest in MUSHcode, and as such it will only be briefly discussed within this article. The MUSH environment makes it possible for players to use commands and functions of the embedded programming 'language' known as MUSHcode or softcode. The complexity allowed by these tools nearly match that of the hardcode, the actual source code written in C or C++ depending on the codebase, when employed by a knowledgeable and skilled MUSHcoder. Many MUSH Wizards choose to use softcode to write the global commands which are unique to their MUSH, or which are not included within the hardcode of the codebase. Normal players may also take advantage of MUSHcode and create personal commands that make various tasks on the MUSH easier for them. Those interested in learning more about MUSHcode may read Amberyl's MUSH Manual which is available on Internet, read the Help files pertaining to commands and functions on a MUSH, or to find a skilled MUSHcoder willing to teach them. The author is planning a future article in which learning to use MUSHcode will be focused upon, with the initial steps of coding will be outlined as well as including various hints and tips for coding successfully.
Section V: Conclusion
MUSHing can be an entertaining and rewarding pastime, allowing players to express their creativity and literary skills while also enjoying the company of other players in recreating a world or setting which they both have an interest. Roleplaying, building, and coding are important parts of a successful MUSH. The most important keys to quality RP are detail and distinction between IC and OOC matters. Building is used to make the world of the MUSH take on a virtual existence, while coding enables players to have access to useful commands which make interaction more enjoyable and easy.
About the Author:
Noltar (Ervin Hearn III), is the Theme and Code Wizard of KorongilMUSH, as well as the creator of the original fantasy world in which it is set. He has been MUSHing for just over one and a half years and been coding/building for most of that. He has held several Administrative positions on MUSHes, MUXes, and MUDs during his short time as a MU* player and enjoys good RP and MUSHcoding. He can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org. He may also be found working on code or RPing as Noltar on his MUSH, Korongil, located at: korongil.pennmush.org Port 6250