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Top Three Twinks - Part 3

Remember the Top Three Twinks on my list?

1. The Mud Advocate
2. The Professional Troublemaker
3. The Manipulator

For an expanded view on the Twink species, see my other articles on the subject. This paper will deal with the third of the three, the player that uses psychology and mind-bending as their main strategy.

3. The Manipulator

This type is usually female, or at least uses what is commonly known as 'The Female approach', so I'm going to refer as all Manipulators as 'she'. (I have never yet met a male form of the species, although they might exist).

The Manipulators are very slightly interested in common hack'n'slash, they seldom pkill and only indulge in killing of mobs when it is absolutely necessary to get along in the mud, and even then seldom on their own. Their favourite weapons are not swords and daggers, but words, psychology and flattery. The Manipulators always find a way of making somebody else do the dirty work for them. Their main characteristic is their unusual social skills. Generally this is a talent you are born with, but some of them may also have some theoretical knowledge of psychology, perhaps from taking a class in it at Uni.

Whereas the Mud Advocates usually and the Troublemakers sometimes end up as the most hated player in the mud, the Manipulators more often than not end up among the most popular. The reason is obvious; you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Actually the basic type of Newbie Twink is nothing but a very unskilled and very unsuccessful wannabe Manipulator. You know the type that sits at Recall, begging other players to give them kewl equipment, take them power-levelling, retrieve their corpse, or whatever. This type of Twink generally gets despised and ridiculed by the entire Mud. The Manipulator is often after the exact same things, but uses much more subtle methods.

The technique is however very simple, you just do the opposite of what the Twinks do. So, here's a short Handbook in how to become a successful Manipulator:

- You are always social, cheery, tolerant, good-humoured and patient.
- You never whine, you never even complain, whatever misfortunes may befall you. At the most you make some funny joke about it, when the same mob just killed you for the umptiforth time, or somebody accidentally sacced your corpse with all your best equipment.
- You never spam the channels with too much idle gossip. If you do make a remark on an open channel, you try to make sure that it is witty and to the point.
- You flirt with everybody, on a light and humorous level. You use the feminine technique of telling all male players how strong and skilled they are and how much you admire them. But you never overdo it - no brown-nosing, and no mud-slut act.
- You hang out around Recall or the Fountain or any other populated meeting area in the mud, looking feminine and helpless, and being very social to whoever addresses you.

BUT:

- You never ASK to be taken power-levelled, you never ASK anyone to give you equipment, you never even ask if you can group with anyone.
- However, if someone brings you equipment on their own initiative, you thank them gracefully, give them a big hug and wear the equipment immediately, even if it sucks. If someone else points out that it is bad equipment, you reply that you like it anyhow, because a very dear friend gave it to you. (Most people will give you pretty good stuff however).
- If someone asks you for a piece of your own equipment, you give it to them immediately, even if it is the best you've got. What the heck - you don't need any top equipment anyhow, since you never go fighting on your own, and never EVER tank.
- If someone asks you to group, you accept cheerfully, telling them how fun it's gonna be to go hunting with such a skilled player. Be sure to start following quickly, so they don't get the idea of having YOU tank. You then tag along as long as they will take you, entertaining the group with funny remarks, while they drag you around getting you exp points, equipment and levels.
- Should they accidentally get you killed, you take it with good humour and laugh it off, even if all your equipment gets lost. Someone will soon provide you with new stuff anyhow.
- You never EVER squeal on your mates. If you're caught red-handed at bug cheating, you readily confess your own sins to the imms, apologise and promise never to repeat the crime - but you steadfastly refuse to tattle on your compatriots. Most likely the imms will respect you for this and let it slide. (Imms generally don't like tattlers much either). Then you carry on, trying to be a bit more careful in the future.

If you are good at this game, you will pretty soon develop into the favourite pet of the entire mud, imms included. The male players will fall over their own feet, trying to impress you with gifts of the coolest equip in the mud. And if the imms are dishonest (which is not uncommon), they will probably start showering you in cheated weapons and equipment too. So let's assume that you are in a bad mud, with cheating imms, and continue the lesson:

- If some imm gives you a cheated weapon, you keep your mouth shut about it, use the weapon discreetly and don't give it away or show it to anybody, or the word will spread too fast. In case someone asks to borrow it, you must resort to the old 'I'd like to give it to you, but I cannot because it was given to me by a dear friend' trick.
- If the Admin discover your heavily cheated weapon, you cheerfully give it up, but absolutely refuse to reveal who gave it to you. In this case it might be best to stick to the story 'I found it in the donation pit', since imps generally are less tolerant with cheating imms than morts. Most likely the original sponsor will present you with a new and better cheated weapon, once the commotion died down a bit.

So far all of this is rather innocent and benevolent. Some people, who are very fundamentalistic about how a game should be played, might resent the easy way the Manipulators get along, without the work and risks that players normally put into their levelling . But actually, just as there are different combat styles, there also are different game strategies. The manipulators are just using other skills to get along than the mainstream players do. So does this make THEIR skills less valid?

Also the Manipulators rarely disrupt the Game Balance, since they are more interested in social mechanics than armed combat. Even possible cheat weapons don't really matter much, since the Manipulators usually don't care about levels and experience and hardly ever pkill. Usually they are friendly with all players and imms, they keep everybody happy and amused and are very good for the mud.

But there ARE instances when the Manipulators go bad, and that can lead to several grave consequences. This is almost always based on personal, OOC relations. It could be triggered by some personal quarrel or insult, real or imagined. (Misunderstandings are very common on line, so it may not even be an intentional attack). But it could also be an accidental mistell or some gossip from another player that exposes something unknown to them before, something they regard as insulting, slanderous or generally negative. Manipulators are often very touchy and overly sensitive, they get easily offended and can at times become almost paranoid.

But more often than not, when a Manipulators goes bad, it is triggered by some sort of emotional or even sexual involvement, whether it is just mud-sex, or they meet someone in the mud and get involved with them in the Real World. As long as the relation is good, everybody is happy, but once it goes sour... beware! 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned', they say, and this is one of the cases when the saying might be proved true.

Once the Manipulator goes sour, she'll use all her considerable social and psychological skills in a negative way, trying to hurt the other party as much as possible. Suddenly she turns into a Mud Advocate, only some of her methods are a bit subtler. But she uses them all - tear-filled arguments, spiteful accusations, formal complaints, logs sent to imms or published on the board, snide remarks, slander, gossip, half-truths and blatant lies. She's even capable of producing false logs to prove some doubtful point. But mainly she works in a secretive way, spreading her poison through private tells from ear to ear, taking care not to expose herself too much over the open channels. She will do it subtly enough to appear as white as snow to most outsiders. Like always, she'll find ways to make others do the dirty work for her.

This is generally detrimental to the mud. Rumours spread very easily on line, and they usually get slightly distorted on the way. It is very easy to stir up discomfort among the players, and even easier to fan the flames, once they started. She will probably keep up her destructive behaviour, until either she or the other party is removed from the mud. And if the person that she is out to get is one of the staff, maybe even the imp, things can get totally out of hand. The Manipulator will turn all her social skills against the mud itself.

So, how do you act as Administrator in a situation like this? Usually there are two sides to a quarrel. The other party may be at fault too, but SHE is the one dragging the entire mud into her private affairs. Most likely there is only one way to get the mud back to normal, to ban either or both of them. But if you do, either or both might find themselves unjustly wronged, and take their grievances to a public Discussion Board, showering the Mud in negative publicity. In fact, this is what happens in about nine tenths of the cases. And either way the imp ends up looking bad. After all, the Manipulator didn't do anything against the rules, they were totally innocent, unjustly wronged victims - and yet they were banned. This is what can lead to one of those endless threads about some particular mud on the public Discussion Boards. And since there is probably nothing you can do to put it right, maybe ignoring that whole thread might be the only sane policy.

So, how do you generally react, when you discover that you've got a Manipulator on your mud? Do you praise your luck, because you just acquired another good Roleplayer, who is going to revive the Mud? Or hope to God that this one at least will be mature enough to be able to separate between Roleplay and Real Life, between mudsex and real feelings?

Manipulators can end up good or bad, depending on the circumstances and on how you handle them. Most of them are really an asset to any mud, except for the select few that are bitches right from the start. (Yes, those do exist too, and I've met a few of them myself). They sometimes settle for just being Roleplayers, many of them being excellent at it, because of their social skills. If you can persuade a Manipulator to build for you, they usually produce fantastic zones, because of their verbal skills. They often make very good Clan Leaders, and usually also good imms, except that they are a bit nosy and prone to develop into Control Freaks, if given high positions. Generally, if you treat them with some consideration, they are more likely to become an asset to the mud than the opposite.

But a Manipulator that goes wrong can be deadly - worse than any of the other kinds of Top Twinks.

About the author:
Molly O'Hara is the Head Builder and one of the three imps of 4 Dimensions.
But she also has a past as Manipulator, Troublemaker and even at times - *gasp!* - Mud Advocate on a Mud called Age of Chivalry, which has since then closed down.
E-mail: molly.4d@swipnet.se
Address: Homepage: http://www.4d.mud-puddle.net/
Mud: 4d.mud-puddle.net Port 6000