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Multiple-User Dimensions or Dungeons (MUDs) take IRC into the DUM realm of fantasy. MUDs are live, role-playing games in which you enter assume a new identity and enter an alternate reality through your keyboard. As you explore this other world, through a series of simple commands (such as "look," "go" and "take"), you'll run across other users, who may engage you in a friendly discussion, enlist your aid in some quest or try to kill you for no apparent reason.

Each MUD has its own personality and creator (or God) who was willing to put in the long hours required to establish the particular MUD's rules, laws of nature and information databases. Some MUDs stress the social aspects of online communications -- users frequently gather online to chat and join together to build new structures or even entire realms. Others are closer to "Dungeons and Dragons" and are filled with sorcerers, dragons and evil people out to keep you from completing your quest -- through murder if necessary.

Many MUDs (there are also related games known as MUCKs and MUSEs) require you to apply in advance, through e-mail, for a character name and password. One that lets you look around first, though, is HoloMuck at McGill University in Montreal. The premise of this game is that you arrive in the middle of Tanstaafl, a city on the planet Holo. You have to find a place to live (else you get thrown into the homeless shelter) and then you can begin exploring. Magic is allowed on this world, but only outside the city limits. Get bored with the city and you can roam the rest of the world or even take a trip into orbit (of course, all this takes money; you can either wait for your weekly salary or take a trip to the city casino). Once you become familiar with the city and get your own character, you can even begin erecting your own building (or subway line, or almost anything else).

To connect, telnet to hobbes.cs.mcgill.ca 5757

When you connect, type

connect guest guest

and hit enter. This connects you to the "guest" account, which has a password of "guest." You'll see this:

The Homeless Shelter(#22Rna)
You wake up in the town's Homeless Shelter, where vagrants are put for
protective holding.
Please don't sleep in public places-- there are plenty of
open apartments available.  Type 'apartments' to see how to get to an          
apartment building with open vacancies.                                      
There is a small sign on the wall here, with helpful information.
Type 'look sign' to read it.
The door is standing open for your return to respectable society.
Simply walk 'out' to the center.

Of course, you want to join respectable society, but first you want to see what that sign says. So you type

look sign

and hit enter, which brings up a list of some basic commands. Then you type


followed by enter, which brings up this:

You slip out the door, and head southeast...
Tanstaafl Center
This is the center of the beautiful town of Tanstaafl.
High Street runs north and south into residential areas, while
Main Street runs east and west into business districts.
SW: is Tanstaafl Towers.
Please claim an apartment... no sleeping in public!
SE: the Public Library offers both information and entertainment.
NW: is the Homeless Shelter, formerly the Town Jail.
NE: is Town Hall, site of several important services, including: Public
Message Board, Bureau of Land Management (with maps and regulations), and
other governmental/ bureaucratic help.
Down: Below a sign marked with both red and blue large letter 'U's, a
staircase leads into an underground subway passage.
(Feel free to 'look' in any direction for more information.)
[Obvious exits: launch, d, nw, se, w, e, n, s, ne, sw]
Instructions for newcomers
Directional signpost
Founders' statue

To see "Instructions for newcomers", type

look Instructions for newcomers

and hit enter. You could do the same for "Directional signpost" and "Founders' statue." Then type


and enter to get to Tanstaafl Towers, the city housing complex, where you have to claim an apartment (you may have to look around; many will already be occupied). And now it's off to explore Holo! One command you'll want to keep in mind is "take." Periodically, you'll come across items that, when you take them will confer certain abilities or powers on you. If you type


and enter, you'll get a list of files you can read to learn more about the MUD's commands.

The "say" command lets you talk to other players publicly. For example,

say Hey, I'm here!

would be broadcast to everybody else in the room with you. If you want to talk to just one particular person, use "whisper" instead of "say."

whisper agora=Hey, I'm here!

would be heard only by agora. Another way to communicate with somebody regardless of where on the world they are is through your pager. If you suddenly see yours go off while visiting, chances are it's a wizard checking to see if you need any help. To read his message, type


To send him a message, type

page name=message

where name is the wizard's name (it'll be in the original message).

Other MUDs and MUCKs may have different commands, but generally use the same basic idea of letting you navigate through relatively simple English commands.

When you connect to a MUD, choose your password as carefully as you would one for your host system; alas, there are MUD crackers who enjoy trying to break into other people's MUD accounts. And never, never use the same password as the one you use on your host system!

MUDs can prove highly addicting. "The jury is still out on whether MUDding is 'just a game' or 'an extension of real life with gamelike qualities'," says Jennifer Smith, an active MUD player who wrote an FAQ on the subject.

She adds one caution: "You shouldn't do anything that you wouldn't do in real life, even if the world is a fantasy world. The important thing to remember is that it's the fantasy world of possibly hundreds of people, and not just yours in particular. There's a human being on the other side of each and every wire! Always remember that you may meet these other people some day, and they may break your nose. People who treat others badly gradually build up bad reputations and eventually receive the NO FUN Stamp of Disapproval."

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