When Fiction Becomes Reailty
By: Jennifer Mauck
December 12, 1996
for English 373 at Purdue University

[Note: This paper was reconstructed from individual files after 1999.]


A Short History of FoxMUD:
"On November 6, 1993, Moksha and Adiron were at the annual Chicago R/C show. When they sat down to talk on some abandoned shoe-shine chairs, they came to the final conclusion that most MUDs were becoming very boring to play. So they started to make their own that very evening.

After many experiments with several different MUD programs, they decided on using Merc. Merc was the most organized and well documented they could find. They then proceded to inform Throm that he was going to code all of their modifications for the MUD. Needless to say Throm had mixed emotions about whether to slay Moksha and Adiron on the spot or to start the code right then and there. Thank the gods that Throm decided on the latter. So, here is their nice little experiment. Please enjoy it as much as they do, the world would be a better place for us all. [Shortly thereafter, Wedge joined in, to help keep folks in line. ;')]"

Now, after our third anniversary, we are still running strong with major improvements and more on the way. New areas are being created and added all the time. As time passes, we have more new ideas and more new people to share their creativity with us. Congratz to our newest immorts: Aryx, Saria, Taloon, and Zaran.


The future has been depicted many ways, most of which seem unrealistic. Although, if we look closely at our resources, it is not that far away. The internet has opened a whole world of possibility to making fiction a reality. What we read as science fiction may, in time, become a reality, but it is being lived now on the computer. Being a person who plays muds makes you part of that subculture. There is slang that is unique to the role-playing universe, and these games are, without a doubt, addictive. The idea of creating a separate persona with a different physical appearance is not unknown to fiction, but it does seem like a fantasy when you think about real life. Muds allow you to look, act, and even be whoever you wish you were; there are no restrictions except you imagination. Like any place that has many people using it, there are rules in a mud. These rules are created by a few people who are of the maximum level achievable and are usually not seen much. They have the power to keep you from playing and the power to end your characters existence. Even though the gods rule, we are still at the mercy of the main computer. On a few of these muds, it is possible to create something of a limited duration. In essence, a character in a mud is like a character in a book that is being written.

Some people live an entirely different life on the internet playing a game called a mud. A mud is an interactive game that people from all over the world can play. MUD is best defined as a multi-user dimension or dungeon (after Dungeons and Dragons). There are several thousand muds in the world and people from everywhere play. List of muds can be found on the world wide web. A mud simulates real life in several manners. A mortal has to eat and drink on a regular basis. There are gods to worship, you do not have to worship anyone, but there are perks if you do. You can travel the world in the blink of an eye. You can fall in love and get married. Buying and trading clothes and equipment is essential. You can collect things that are special to you. You can make money and put it in a bank. You can achieve great power. One very important skill you must learn or have already as a person is communication. There are a variety of skills you can learn to use, such as how to kick, pick locks, swim, shoot, climb, steal, hide, and the list goes on.

Muds have a basis in fiction, but their similarities have not been so striking until they are compared to A Scanner Darkly, "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream," and Blade Runner. The two muds that I have the most knowledge of (and that are still running) are FoxMUD and The Crystal Shard (which is based off of The Dark Crystal). There is a short summary of the creation of FoxMUD is at the end of this paper. The characters we play in muds are very much like the characters in these stories except that the story is in the process of being written. All characters have personality traits that are specific to them, and it helps to create a social group. On both muds that I play, we have very defined social groups that have been stretched into clans. We work together to solve problems like in A Scanner Darkly when they were trying to figure out the gears on a ten-speed bicycle. As they discuss the combination of two sets of gears, the set of two and the set of five, they work together and offer several different methods of solving the problem (115). This is similar to the quests that are held on some muds. We are given a goal and we have to reach it any way we can. Differing amounts of knowledge from different players will yield a new result every time, not necessarily correct either.

A Scanner Darkly also shows a subculture. In this story, there is a group of friends who share one main thing, drugs in this case. On muds, we also share one main thing, the fact that we love role-playing games. This sets us aside from other people in computer labs everywhere. Articles have been written about muds, but nothing compares to the experience. It has also been said that role-playing games are involved in satan-worship. This is far from true. We are just another subculture that is being accused for the problems of society, just like Bob’s friends were being accused of creating and sustaining the drug problem. Another, less important, similarity between the drug subculture and the mud subculture is that mudding is very addictive. Fortunately, this can be positive as it has no physical side affects. Drugs give you a false sense of confidence and a false self image. Mudding actually builds your confidence because people cannot judge you by what you look like and any amount of confidence will help your self image. Just like in A Scanner Darkly, mudders have a strong bond that exists for no apparent reason.
As a minor point of interest, the scanners installed in Bob’s house are somewhat like a command named "snoop." It allows a god to observe everything you say and do as well as everything that is said or done to and around you.

In Tiptree’s "The Girl Who Was Plugged In," Delphi was like a character in a mud. She was given a body of age 15 and the chance to make something out of her life. It took her a time to get used to the newness of the experience. She traveled all around the world. It was said that just looking at Delphi let you know that dreams could come true. In a mud, things like that are reality. Character generation on a mud is much like what P. Burke went through. First, a name is picked, Kyli for example. Then a race is chosen, such as an elf. The next basic part of building a character and identity is choosing the type of player you will be; the choices are warrior, cleric, mage, and thief. By choosing an order of these four, you are choosing the profession of your character. And, finally, when you start playing, your character is age 17. Delphi was used to advertise items that she was told were excellent. On a mud, the equipment (or clothing) you wear says a lot about you. The better your equipment is, the more like Delphi you are. The more popular equipment is "advertised" by any characters use of it, the higher level you are, the better your equipment is assumed to be. The better it is, the more people want it. When you start out (for the very first time), it takes time to learn all the commands you need to know to be able to communicate and move around. There are people around to help you, and there are people who are in charge to make sure you follow the rules that they set down.

The "rulers" of the mud are its creators, just as AM was the ruler of those few he left to punish in "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" by Ellison. The gods of muds put the rules into action. They have the power to prevent you from playing at that specific site. AM could change he "toys" into whatever he liked, for example, he changed the narrator in to a blob of ooze to prevent him from killing himself after he killed his friends. On a mud, however, there is a more effective way to prevent someone from doing whatever they like. There is a command named freeze, and it does just that. The character can see and hear all around them but are unable to do anything to affect it. Another similarity between this story and a mud is that you do not die. When you die, you leave a corpse that contains all of your worldly possessions. Death, though, is not permanent. You are able to come back, barely alive but alive nonetheless, and retrieve your belongings and continue on your merry way with only minor losses. Gods are also able to change who you are. They have the power to put your "soul" in the body of a creature, like a cat, dog, dragon, or even a blob of ooze.

In the movie Blade Runner, we learn that humans created replicants. This is also the case in the movie Screamers. In Screamers, the mobile swords were created to protect their creators. There are spells on muds that let you temporarily create life. Two of these spells are available for use in The Crystal Shard. They are called Dust Devil and Golem (the actual help files on these spells are included at the end). The spell Dust Devil lets you create a dust devil that will follow you and obey your commands for 24 hours, and will not do otherwise unless prevented by death. The other spell, Golem, lets you put together parts and create an empty suit of armor that follows you and can only be stopped by its death. The replicants in Blade Runner were intended to be servants of mankind, and to do our "dirty work" for us. Golems and Dust Devils were intended for the same purpose, only differing in that they actually follow their orders and have no desire to break away from them.

Tiptree, Ellison, and Dick have all shared with us their vision of the world we live in now or will live in. History shows us that even the unbelievable is possible. Perhaps our fiction seems pretty unbelievable, but nothing is impossible. Proof of this is that our fiction has inspired a whole subculture to live and thrive on the computer. Without fiction, there would be no way to explore the future and its consequenses or benefits to our fullest potential. A mud makes many things possible. Although there are rules and rulers, there is still a whole world of opportunity that is otherwise unavailable to us. The idea of creating a separate identify can be very appealing and on muds, this is not only possible, but almost a necessity. If you are one of the lucky few, it is possible to attain the power of AM in "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream." The future of our fiction writers is not very far away, and in some respects, it is here now.

Spells and Skills:

GOLEM (Crystal Shard Spell)
Usage : cast 'golem'
Duration : Permanent, until killed
Level : Level 15 cleric.
Save : None
This spell enables the caster to create a golem out of armor.
In order to do this you need 1 piece of armor for the
following spots laid out in the room: Head, Feet, Body, Legs,
Arms, Hands. The armor class of the golem will be that of all
the pieces added together. The amount of hitpoints that the
golem has is based on the level of the caster, and the quality
of the armor used to construct the golem. The level of the
golem is also dependent on the type of armor used. High level
golems may have more than one attack per round.

"DUST DEVIL" (Crystal Shard Spell)
Usage : cast 'dust devil'
Duration : 24 hours
Level : Level 1 druid, level 3 cleric
Save : None
Upon casting this spell the caster calls into being a
dust devil. The dust devil will faithfully obey the caster
for 24 hours. This spell may only be cast once every 24
hours. It is recommended that you note the time you cast the
spell, so you know when you can cast it again. This spell can
not be cast indoors.

Skills from FoxMUD

Warrior Skills

Thief Skills

Kick Backstab
Protect Peek
Bash Steal
Rescue Hide
Climb Sneak
Swim Pick Lock
Parry Glance
Shoot Tail
Dismember Dodge
Riposte Brew and Scribe