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Dragonrealms revisited

Eloise Pasteur

Just over two weeks ago I wrote my first impressions of Dragonrealms, a text-based MUD that was recommended to me. Here I am, knowing a bit more about the game, and more importantly still engaged, still having fun, plotting my next steps, and interacting with a range of characters on a regular basis. Following on from the comments to that post I plan to dip into Gemstone soon as well.

Dragonrealms has a lot of subtle design features under the hood, many of which I am still getting to grips with to be honest. However, a few things have emerged quite clearly since my first post: things that make the game quirky, interesting and good in my eyes - your mileage may vary.

I still love the combat system, the whole range of it. If find it much more engaging and interesting than I ever found combat in WoW, Dofus or similar. There are just so many things you can, and will, end up doing, to keep your balance, to keep reasonably fresh, to take your opponent down, and to avoid being killed yourself. I haven't delved into the healing system, although I have been on the receiving end of it quite a bit.

I know many of these elements are there in every other game, but, to me at least, in WoW combat feels like something that you start and just click buttons until it's over whereas in Dragonrealms combat feels like something that is active, fluid and demands the attention that a real combat situation would also require. To be sure there's a bit of a routine for entering a fight, and against simple foes the fight tends to follow the routine, but as monsters start to swarm on you that changes rapidly into a fluid, dynamic situation.

Wounds are also far more interesting. You don't have "hit points" and a little green bar that runs down to 0. Instead you have a description of the wounds inflicted on you as well as the wounds you inflict. As time goes by the wounds get worse, and you may find you acquire bleeding and stunning wounds - you hope you inflict stunning wounds at least, and I have inflicted bleeding wounds. These are locational - so you can find certain things still easy and other things harder as your bruises and scrapes accumulate. Healing isn't a matter of time and waiting for the HP to regenerate - a visit to the empath's guild to find an empath who will stick you back together is more routine. Of course this leads to chatting to the healers, as well as giving them a gift for healing you when you can. If you're lucky, or good, you can patch yourself up a bit, or a friend can patch you up, to prevent you bleeding to death, but real healing seems to need an empath. Once you are dead that converts to needing a cleric who can intercede with the gods for the return of your soul - and who may, incidentally, be able to minimize the memory loss that goes with being dead (loss of skill points).

Away from combat, in part at least, to look at the skills and I still find myself loving it. You learn by practice, or by being taught. Someone who is more highly skilled than you in a particular field can teach you about it. Their reward? Well they get to learn a bit about what they are teaching (which speaking with a different hat on, I find very true to life as a teacher), and they get to improve their teaching skill. You can even be taught combat skills whilst in combat, or whilst sitting safely elsewhere - but you can't teach or learn first aid whilst there are threats around, and this seems to apply to a range of other skills too. This, of course, means you almost certainly will spend time learning (and probably some time teaching) as many of the guilds will require enough lore skills to make teaching attractive. Moon mages and Empaths are required to be teachers too. I am actually at the point where I could sit outside the warrior-mages guild, be taught five ranks of targeted magic and advance 2 circles just from being taught. How many games will let you ever say that?

That brings me on to the last point. The non-combat time leads to more chances to role-play. The pressure is off, so you can chat, joke, flirt and more if you want. I have certainly found, at the Warrior Mages' guild a range of experienced characters who are happy to share their wisdom, both in terms of teaching you skills, and in terms of advising about good spells, good places to hunt and the like. There is a real feeling of community and working together even for a loner like me. It fosters development of being a rounded character, another part of what makes for a better role-playing experience.

MUDs may not be for everyone, and even if you like MUDs Dragonrealms may not be for you, but I've found a game that seems to tick almost all my boxes for a great RPG.

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