The Wheel of Time MUD or WoTMUD is an online role playing game based on The Wheel of Time fantasy fiction books by Robert Jordan. Players can hone their skills to be a heroic warrior, wield angreal as an Aes Sedai with the One Power, sharpen their knife as a Trolloc or serve the Seanchan Empress, awaiting the Corenne. The Wheel of Time MUD was created in 1993 by "Flash", and has since been maintained and updated by a large list of contributors. Its high point was in the third quarter of 2003, when 230 players connected simultaneously, making it one of the most popular MUDs of that year. The Wheel of Time MUD has personal permission from Robert Jordan to use the "Wheel of Time" theme, and has been featured on a range of websites throughout the net.
One feature that distinguishes the Wheel of Time MUD from others, aside from its theme, is the unrestricted player-killing, known on the MUD as "PK" (what some other MMORPGs call "PvP"). Beginners are not given any special protection, nor is player-killing restricted to certain areas or level ranges. The Wheel of Time MUD argues that this feature moves the game beyond a pure roleplay game (where you can pretend to be dangerous) to a more realistic form of roleplay (where in order to pretend to be dangerous, you actually have to be competent).
WoTMUD, based on Robert Jordan’s still-unfinished "Wheel of Time" series, was started in 1993 by "Flash" and several other ex-MUME players, Zun, Mournblade, Ingtar, Kilvarnan & Nass. Being an initial branch off Circle, it now operates under its own unique code base. Starting with essentially one playerlist which encompassed both available races (Human and Trolloc), it eventually grew to the point where the races were officially separated, gaining their own separate “who” lists, separate global channels and languages, which helped greatly in adding to the overall experience of fighting for either “Good” or “Evil” by better segregating the players. In late 2001 plans were well underway for the addition of a new race to the mix known as the Seanchan. Characters were selected from the then Light Side (LS) population based on applications made by them to become the first official members of the Seanchan race, whose main job would be that of both testing and easing the new side into the working atmosphere of the MUD. A little less than a year later the Seanchan side (SS) was opened up as an available race for selection during character creation, and the gradual implementation of three clans helped to integrate this new race into both the roleplay and playerkill sections of the MUD. The playerbase size peaked at around this time (early 2003) with as many as 230 players logging on at any one time.
WoTMUD is an unrestricted player-killing (PK) MUD (Definition of a MUD: a Multi-user dungeon/domain/dimension is an online, text-based gaming environment with all aspects of gameplay including player interactions taking place via text and textual commands). While it has a reputation as a “non-handholding” MUD, a great deal is done to cater for newer players to help immerse them into the game environment as smoothly and effectively as possible. Despite being tailored for player-killing, roleplay (RP) is also highly encouraged, with several clans on offer that are almost exclusively dedicated to roleplay and its many facets. Recent additions to the Light Side include side trades such as mining, winemaking and pelt making, and a new guild system that allows characters to become an apprentice weaponsmith or crafter by journeying to one of the guild grand masters dotted about the MUD. With time and effort skilled weaponsmiths have the ability to develop mid-grade weapons of their chosen specialisation, which they can either sell or use themselves.
The player-killing itself is diverse and can come from a multitude of sources. It goes without saying that the three Sides are at continual war with each other, the Light Side fighting a war on two fronts: in the west against the invading Seanchan and the north against the marauding Trolloc Horde. The Light Side also suffers from continual inter-clan wars started for a variety of reasons, not to mention there is the presence of murderers, bandits and darkfriends.
The MUD as a whole tries to keep an atmosphere as much like that created by Robert Jordan in “The Wheel of Time” as possible, though it follows its own timeline with the explicit statement that while it follows the guidelines of “Randland” as Jordan’s world has come to be known, it is essentially a parallel universe where events might not unfold in exactly the same way (some who’ve read the books and check the MUD out might be surprised to see Cadsuane as the Amyrlin Seat for example.). It has gained Robert Jordan’s personal permission to use the “Wheel of Time” theme, for which both players and staff alike were very grateful.
The game is played from a first person perspective, players interacting through a large variety of text-based commands. There is a clearly defined class system in place currently offering a total of five classes, one of which is a specialist remort class not available at the class selection screen. Pre-class selection, players must choose which race they wish to play. Three races are currently available: Human, Trolloc and Seanchan. The Seanchan and Trolloc races both offer three generic fighting classes, those being warriors, hunters and rogues, while the Human race offers a fourth in concordance with the design of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time world: the channeler class. This is a specialist class akin to the generic “mage” class offered by a lot of MUDs, though it has been redesigned to better represent Jordan’s definition of what a channeler is. The human race also offers homeland selection, each homeland having its own specific stat-related bonuses and penalties.
Character statistics (stats) are what define the character’s abilities in combat and other areas of gameplay. For example the strength stat determines the maximum weight of weapon a character can wield, how much offensive bonus and how much damage they do with that weapon, as well as how much parrying bonus the weapon will give should a character choose a defensive setup (explained later), as well as things such as the maximum weight that can be worn and carried, and initial practice percentages at the warrior practice. New players must all go through the preliminary “statting” phase of play, during which time they must kill mobiles (mobs) to gain experience until they reach level 5. At level 5 their stats are rolled and they can view them with the stat command. As an ideal any set of stats is playable, though new players are encouraged to make use of the race-wide communication channel called “chat” to ask other players questions about their stats, and what sort of minimums are best for their chosen class. A more recently added command allows players to “restat” should they find that their currently rolled stats are below what is deemed a playable level. Statistic focuses are generally different for different classes and combat setups, for example the main foci for the channeler class are generally the intelligence, willpower and dexterity statistics.
Tied into statistics is also the type of combat setup a player wishes to adopt with a particular character. There are currently three different classes of practice available, all of which draw from a practice pool that a character automatically adds to each time it gains a level (+5 practices per level up to level 30, and then +2 practices per level up to the maximum level, which is 51). There is a fourth practice for channelers only that is spell-related, but this draws on a separate practice pool available only to the channeler class. Players can allocate practices into particular skills by finding the relevant practice mob in the city or town nearest to them/that they are currently in. The three practice types are:
- Warriors focus on all aspects of combat that relate to weapon usage, such as the different weapon classes available and the variety of combat-related skills that can be used with particular weapons, such as bash and charge.
- Rangers focus on hunter-style skills such as tracking, survival, riding etc
- Thieves on what some term the “shady arts” used by assassins and thieves, including skills such as short blades, sneak and backstab.
The practice cost to gain knowledge in a particular skill for each of these types varies according to the class of character chosen, for example a warrior can practice warrior-related skills at a cost of one practice per gain, but pays two practices for ranger skills and three for thief skills.
The channeler class has the highest practice costs for these practice types, but also has its own separate pool of practices that can be used to gain knowledge of spells, known in WoTMUD as "weaves". Weave practices are gained in the same way as normal practices, ie. through levelling of the character. In order to practice specific weaves, a channeler must first allocate practices to one of five Elements, those being: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. For all weaves a channeler must practice an Element or combination of Elements to a particular level in order to be able to practice them. Less powerful and passive weaves generally have a lower level and combination requirement and vice verse for more powerful ones. Again practicing takes place at a particular channeler practice mob, though these mobs are much more scarce than the regular practice mobs and are different depending on the sex of the channeler. There are also other sex-related differences within the channeler class, though the main generic one is that female channelers must join specific clans in order to gain access to higher level weaves, while male channelers have access to all weaves whether they become clanned or not. This is due to the fact that WoTMUD follows Jordan’s concept that female channelers are generally accepted as part of the world (with the exception of certain factions) while male channelers, once known are usually hunted down because of the risk they pose to the population (see the Wheel of Time and related websites for more details pertaining to male channelers, the taint and why they are hunted).
WoTMUD has a levelless and classless equipment system, meaning a character of any level and class can wear any grade and type of equipment. Equipment is generally categories into two main setups, those being "dodge" and "Abs".
- This consists of items of clothing and jewellery that contribute positively to a character’s dodging and parrying bonuses (viewable by typing ‘stat’). Weapons also contribute to this, most weapons adding to a character’s parrying bonus in a small way while also allowing the use of a shield, some being two-handed and offering a significant bonus to parry. The higher a character’s defence (combination of dodging and parrying bonuses), the less likely they are to be touched during combat by regular melee hits, and also by specific skills such as bash (for which dodging bonus is the deciding factor), however when hit a dodger will generally suffer a large amount of damage.
- This consists of items of clothing that contribute to a character’s absorption percentage, the maximum generically available being 82% (also viewable by typing ‘stat’). Abs characters favour heavier, higher damage weapons with complementary skills such as bash. Generally they have very little defence, thus meaning they are usually hit every round of combat by their opponent, the benefit being that their clothing absorbs most of the damage done.
There is also a third setup available known as "combo". This setup (as one might infer) is one that combines the benefits of both the dodge and abs setups, but in doing so sacrifices some degree of speciality in either, ie. someone in a combo clothing setup will not have as much defence as a dodger or as much absorption damage reduction % as an abser. Almost any combination of equipment can be used for this setup depending on the personal preferences of the player.
As mentioned earlier there are four generic classes available at character creation, those being warrior, hunter, rogue and finally channeler. Each class offers its own strengths and weaknesses, one of those being that the specific class-related skills (mentioned earlier in the practice and combat sections) have the lowest practice cost for the respective class, for example warriors only have to pay 1 practice to practice warrior skills. To balance this, practice costs for skills related to other classes are higher, for example a warrior must pay 2 practices for hunter skills and 3 for thief skills. A brief overview of each of the classes is given below.
The warrior class is considered to be the "tank" class of the WoTMUD world due to the cheap practice cost for weapons, allowing the warrior a degree of versatility in weapons usage. Warriors are capable of utilising the dodge or combo setup options, though the fact that thief skills (the dodge skill in particular) cost 3 practices per session generally makes these less desirable alternatives. When considering the case where a character has only one weapon practiced (nearly always the case for experienced players), then warriors are similar to hunters, except without autotrack (see below). Recently they have been given the Berserk attack ability, when they are in the Berserk mood they have a chance to hit multiple times in a round.
Hunters are considered the most versatile class of the mud because of the balanced cost of practicing skills. The hunter class works well with any of the different types of combat setup. Hunters also benefit from the bonus of "autotrack", a skill that allows them to automatically read tracks on foot and on horseback. Autotrack is an auxiliary skill to the (manual) track skill, and the more practices spent on the track skill, the greater the number of tracks that can be read automatically.
The rogue class is supposed to be the stealth specialisation class. Rogue skills are based around the short blades and backstab skill, with alternative weapons not a feasible option. Rogues benefit from the bonus of "autoscan" which allows a rogue to automatically scan the surrounding rooms - however all classes can do this for free by typing 'scan'. Rogues also get the bonus of automatic inventory peek when looking at other characters and mobiles, which can be handy when used in conjunction with the steal skill. Stealing is not a means of making a living though, as experienced players keep valuable inventory items in worn containers so they cannot be stolen. One bonus is that the rogue class gets free sneak, which means when using the sneak skill it does not cost them extra movement points as it does for other classes.
Despite rogues being mostly constrained to using backstab, hunters are just as able to backstab, and may be more suited for backstabbing. Level 7 survival (a hunter skill) drastically decreases move costs on foot, autotrack allows the hunter to track a wounded opponent, and as backstab damage is generally non-lethal without additional bonuses, this is very useful.
Channelers are considered by some to be the most powerful class of the game, but can also be the most difficult to play successfully due to various penalties relating to statistics like strength and constitution, which generally leave the average channeler limited in available weapon options in the case of strength, and with a maximum number of hitpoints usually significantly lower than other classes in the case of constitution. Male and female channelers possess different strengths and weaknesses relating to both statistics and in-game playstyle, though such differences are usually best learnt in-game.
Playing WoTMUD as a male channeler is not recommended for players new to the game because of the staff's wish to stay as true to the Wheel of Time books as possible (without limiting playability too much). For this reason as long as a male channeler stays unknown he is relatively safe, but once a male channeler is known he is hunted by most of the MUD's population. Staying unknown can be a problem because of the taint, which when significant causes a male channeler to perform random actions instead of those intended. Once a channeler becomes known his options become severely limited, with a number opting to become darkfriends. However this is an issue of personal preference.
To add to the PvP interaction (or PK) the player can choose between three sides when starting a new character. The sides available at character selection in WoTMUD are: the Light Side, the Dark Side and the Seanchan Side. The Light Side and Seanchan Side are both of human races, and the Dark Side are trollocs, a tainted hybrid of human and animal.
The Light Side contains the largest percentage of WoTMUD's player population, and is also the side with the greatest amount of territory within the game. It is recommended that players begin their gaming experience on the Light Side, due to the fact that there is both less of a PK focus and also a number of in-game aids such as a larger number of pockets of "newbie" mobs to make early experience gain easier, crier quests that allow new players to gather money relatively quickly thus facilitating the ability to buy better equipment, and also a recently added guild system that allows the creation of mid-grade weapons. Lightside also has the largest number of clans, and of course has the added option of the channeler class during character creation, which is an appealing factor to a number of players. The Light Side offers the greatest scope for roleplay development, whether it be through joining a specific clan or simply engaging in roleplay with other characters in realtime.
One of the more ambiguous facets of the Light Side is the fact that it is quite badly fractured in terms of inter-clan war and the presence of both darkfriends, murderers, assassins and bandits. These factors add a sense of slight anarchy to the side, especially when combined with the fact that certain areas of Light Side "territory" suffer daily raids by members of both the Seanchan and Trolloc races. So while the Light Side is generally accepted as the easiest to learn on, there is still an element of uncertainty of survival which is an intrinsic part of the WoTMUD atmosphere. Most players will no doubt agree that while the fractured nature of the Light Side can lead to disorganised defence when it comes to fighting off Seanchan or Trolloc raids, it also offers the potential for a richness of roleplay not found on either of the other two sides.
The Dark Side is generally recommended for more experienced players of WoTMUD due to the heavily PK orientated focus. There are currently three classes available to players who choose the trolloc race at character creation, those being warrior, hunter and rogue. The number of players usually present on the Dark Side at any one time fluctuates, though generally it's significantly lower than the number populating the Light Side. Trollocs benefit from a number of things, including higher base movement points and increased movement regeneration to make up for the fact that they cannot ride, and an advanced sense of smell that allows them to detect when ridden horses are in the vicinity (exception: Shadow stallions ridden by fades). The Dark Side also has two remort classes, the first being the Myrddraal (referred to earlier) which is considered perhaps one of the most powerful classes in the game, hence quite stringent requirements that must be fulfilled before a character can remort to one. The second is the Dreadlord, which is essentially a Dark Side version of a clanned master channeler on Light Side. Becoming a Dreadlord is usually something achieved via first becoming a Darkfriend on Light Side, and then fulfilling a number of requirements to eventually be eligible to be transferred to the Dark Side and remade into a Dreadlord. More recently however one or two trollocs have opted to become Dreadlords instead of Myrddraal, though it is unclear whether this will be an ongoing occurrence. Even more recently a few Myrddraal have been changed to a Dreadlord, to increase the amount on the darkside. Its not clear whether anymore will be changed, but the option to become a Dreadlord rather than a Myrddraal is open to others.
The Seanchan are the descendants of an invading army sent over the Aryth Ocean by the High King Artur Hawkwing many centuries ago. As the newest of the three races, the Seanchan are the underdogs in terms of population, power, and arguably territory controlled, but the side has grown since its creation, and now has a separate supporting continent containing a decent number of zones which are rarely raided by the other two sides. The Seanchan side has three official clans modelled after those found in the Wheel of Time books, all of which have clan bonuses. The race also has player-run clans which currently fill roles of the Ever Victorious Army not represented by the three specialised immortal-run clans. Progression on the Seanchan side is not as clear-cut as on the other two sides, as the novelty value of the three immortal-run clans cause them to have quite erratic and elitist admissions policies, and the whole side lacks a clear-cut end-goal, with their eventual goal in Tarmon Gaidon not as clear as the other two sides; perhaps due to the fact that this is the newest race. However, the side is quite close-knit and friendly, with players engaging in a range of activities much like those on the Light side, such as Smobbing (Super-mobs are mobile groups with a leader mobile that generally loads decent pieces of equipment on a percentage basis), roleplay and of course player-killing. Like the Dark Side the standard three non-channeling classes are available at character creation, new players benefiting from both a crier system on the Seanchan main continent and also a donation chest that usually contains some quite useful items left by other players.
Players are also given the opportunity to join a variety of clans specific to the particular race they have chosen. These clans are both diverse and for the most part indicative of those justice factions and communities found within Jordan’s Wheel of Time world. All clans offer rank advancement via a quest points system, players being able to gain quest points via automatic quests, immortal-run quests, awards for outstanding roleplay and other things deemed worthy of qp reward, and through playerkill by “scalping” the corpse of a defeated opponent and handing it in to the relevant clan-affiliated mob. Each clan has a total of nine ranks, the amount of qp required to gain each rank rising on a curving gradient, the standard peak being rank 7 (1000qp) at which point a character is given the opportunity to do a “master” quest which, if completed successfully means the character advances to rank 7 and becomes a clan master. There is a particular combat-related bonus associated with this rank known as posturing, which gives a master character combat-related bonuses based on the posture adopted (either defensive, balance or offensive).
Clanned characters also benefit from the ability to issue a piece of equipment at ranks 1 and 5 - which is slightly better than the generic version for the particular wear slot it relates to – at a cost of 3qp for the rank 1 item and 5qp for the rank 5 one. Human clans tied to a specific city (justice clans) also have a warranting system that allows clanmembers of a certain rank and above to “warrant” other characters, after which all mobs associated with that city and clan will automatically attack the warranted character if he or she enters their room.
Specific to the trolloc race is the capability to remort after attaining 1500qp. Trolloc players who wish to do so must complete a series of tough quests which, if successful, means they are remade as a myrddraal or dreadlords. This is a specialist character class with inherent bonuses of its own, and currently the most powerful combat-related class attainable.
WoTMUD is currently in version four and for several years has been quite restricted in terms of development due to a lack of available coders, meaning that most of the development has centred around the addition of new zones, mobiles and weapons. However a number of coders were last year inducted by the owner Flash, meaning that coding updates and bugfixes slowly restarted once more, an example of which is the revamp of the character “rent” system in 2006 to a more complex but also more player-friendly one.
Relating to development, the website also offers a set of official forums where players have access to a number of different sections, some of which are for clans only and are therefore restricted from public viewing. Included is a Game Discussions forum where players are encouraged to bring up issues with gameplay and balance, a Known Bugs forum which is self explanatory, a Policy Explanations forum where players can view current rules and regulations and the reasoning behind them, and also an Announcements forum where staffmembers can post updates, as well as a number of other forums relating to roleplay and such.
A number of players have also developed WoTMUD-related webpages, ranging from simple fansites to pages dedicated to particular clans or races. A number of these are linked to the WoTMUD official website, while the information pertaining to others can be gotten in-game by asking players.