MUD Wiki
A screenshot of the login screen for AVATAR MUD.

One of AVATAR's login screens
Developer(s) Volunteer staff and community
Engine Heavily modified Merc 2.2
Platform(s) Platform independent
Release date(s)
  • WW 1991 (1991)
Genre(s) hack and slash, role-playing, interactive fiction, social gaming
Mode(s) Single-player or multiplayer

A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD is a free, online, massively multiplayer, fantasy, text-based role-playing game[1] (or MUD), set in a real time virtual environment. It combines elements of role-playing games, hack and slash style computer games, adventure games and social gaming.[2]

It began as an LPMUD called Farside MUD[3] at Newcastle University, in the summer of 1991, before ultimately relocating to the United States of America.[4] It suffered catastrophic loss of data in August, 1994,[5] which led to a switch to the Merc code base. On the 8th of August, 1995, it changed its name to A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD.[6]

Over two decades the game's environment has grown into a fictional world spanning 327 areas[7] across 20 planes, comprising 20,000 unique rooms with gameplay and features that significantly deviate from the original Merc codebase.


Early days[]

The MUD was started in the summer of 1991 as an LPMUD called Farside MUD.[3] It was initially hosted on the servers of Newcastle University by three Ph.D. computer science candidates. It later moved to Swansea University[3] until they announced a ban on mudding,[8][9] before crossing the Atlantic to take up residence on a couple of machines in the United States of America.[4]

The switch from LPMUD to Merc 2.2[]

Catastrophic loss of data in August, 1994,[5] presented the implementors with an opportunity to switch to the Merc code base.

Farside MUD was created during the summer of 1991 with the established LPMUD codebase, released two years prior. The original DikuMUD code base was released just a few months before Farside's creation on the 1st of March, 1991, and had yet to become popular at that time.

DikuMUD was quickly followed by the creation of CopperMUD in June, 1991. In December 1991, CopperMUD released its source code, leading to the creation of MercMUD on December 18th, 1992. The final Merc codebase (version 2.2) was released on the 24th of November, 1993, and this newer codebase was chosen by Farside MUD the following year due to the gameplay similarities with LPMUD.[10]

Avatar's position within the MUD trees[]
Main article: MUD trees

The MUD trees below depict the hierarchy of derivation of the A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD codebase. Solid lines between boxes indicate code relationships, while dotted lines indicate conceptual relationships. Dotted boxes indicate that the codebase is outside the family depicted. To see the full trees, please visit the main article.

1992 ~ 1994 1994 ~ Present
AberMUD [12]
Diku II
Copper1 [14]

Change of Name[]

On the 8th of August, 1995, after disagreements between the implementors, Farside MUD became A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD. The MUD's newsletter, published two days later, states:

All of the players pfiles have remained intact, as have all of the areas.
All of your favorite Immortals and Heroes are still there.
Only the Implementor has changed, and the name.[6][15]

Although the implementors of A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD[16] retained the right to use the "Farside MUD" name, the new name reflected the change in leadership and avoided the possibility of being sued[17] by the The Far Side comic strip's creator. The new name is an acronym which stands for "Advanced Virtual Adventures Through Artificial Realities"[18] and was inspired by the computing term Avatar.


Over the 22 years (as of 2014) that the MUD has been running, the Merc 2.2 code base has been extensively updated and modified, and includes later Merc improvements, such as the efficiency and bug fixes from versions 2.3 and 2.4. Rather than the traditional level progression, A.V.A.T.A.R. possesses three tiers (Hero, Lord, and Legend), which follow the initial 50 levels (now called "Mortal"). A scripting language has been added for governing how objects, rooms, mobiles, and areas interact with players, permitting complex quests and incidental interaction to be added to the MUD by regular staff members and players who lack access to the codebase.

Game Tiers[]

A.V.A.T.A.R.'s tiered level system is an original design feature.[19][20] The original 35 game levels of the Merc codebase have been extended to 50 levels and now form the lowest playable tier of the game, referred to as "Mortal." A hero tier was added in 1994, followed by two other higher tiers; Lord and Legend June 1996).[21] Lord level play is a large group, high-speed style of play, pitting players against very dangerous areas that are difficult or impossible to visit alone and thematically revolves around planar travel. Legend is the tier of team, round-based, player-versus-player combat, with players battling to seize and maintain control over points in the world in order to win. Plans for level 500 tier called "Titan" were shelved late in development, but not before it had been partially implemented and tested. At a conference in 2013, it was announced that the Legend tier areas would be open for players to build.

Classes and Races[]

Volunteers have added many races, with 28 creatable races (of which two are 'evolutionary' - containing 14 sub-races), nine quest races (elemental giants and chromatic dragons, added mid-2013), ten powerful 'remort' (second playthrough) races, and two 'ascension' (pvp legend tier specific) races. All together, players currently have access to 61 races, not counting grandfathered races or races only available to non-player characters and staff members.

The game has seven creatable classes, nine 'prestige' (quest accessible) classes, and five powerful 'remort' classes, for a total of twenty-one classes, not counting grandfathered classes or classes only available to NPCs and staff members.

Due to the addition of new races in 2013, the coding team is currently revamping existing character classes, before moving on to add yet more classes to the game.

Area Building[]

Though the Merc MUD codebases usually come with a set of 52 stock areas, all of A.V.A.T.A.R.'s areas are non-stock. Some areas retain the theme of the stock areas they replaced.[7] In 2012, a new continent was added for the hero tier in order to offer a more old-school style of play. This MUD continues to grow, with 327 areas online as of January, 2014. In addition to these permanent additions, temporary areas and quests are regularly added to the MUD, and older, less-visited areas are either revamped or removed.[22][2]

Development staff[]

The coders of the MUD are members of its Immortal staff, formed from dedicated volunteers who largely forego playing the game in order to devote their time its maintenance and development.[23] "Trackies" form a second tier of staff which is split into seven tracks (Builder, Design, Publicity, Quest, Retro, Tester, Web).[24] Aside from immortals and trackies is a third group called angels, who are players who have volunteered their time to assist new players and those experiencing difficulties - such as finding their corpse after dying. Participation is not limited to those with positions; players can write new areas or running quests under the supervision of staff before applying for a staff position.

Influence on Other MUDs[]

As Farside MUD, it donated FTP space to a 1993 inter-MUD project to produce an area editor called "Make.Zones.Fast".[25] Design features and code from A.V.A.T.A.R. has been borrowed by other MUDs. Examples of code featuring copied or imitative code which credit A.V.A.T.A.R. can be found on repositories like[19][26][27]


Free to Play[]

A.V.A.T.A.R. is a 100% free-to-play game. Unlike freemium games, there is no system to pay for additional benefits.

The license for Diku codebase states:

You may under no circumstances make profit on *ANY* part of DikuMud in any possible way. You may under no circumstances charge money for distributing any part of dikumud - this includes the usual $5 charge for "sending the disk" or "just for the disk" etc.

Thus the game is developed and run entirely by a large staff of volunteers.[28][29]


Three different devices connected to a MUD via different Telnet Clients

A smartphone, laptop and desktop system connected to AVATAR MUD using different clients. A player-created wiki can also be seen on two of the screens.

The game can be played on various devices (such as smart phones and tablet computer) and operating systems. A connection to the game server can be established by:

As all game data is stored on the server, there are no issues with hopping devices during play.

Fantasy Setting[]

A.V.A.T.A.R. is set in a fantasy world, which occasionally incorporates elements from other fictional genres, such as steampunk. Combat is primarily conducted through melee, martial arts, and spells, alongside thrown weapons and archery. Most transportation is achieved by "walking" (following directions to an adjacent room), though there are other options including foot ferries, guides, transportation spells, planar travel and permanent portals. The theme is further reinforced through the use of ASCII art.[38] Players are encouraged to create characters with names that fit the theme of the game, and can receive a modest namethank reward for doing so.

Parental controls[]

Due to the presence of younger players, the MUD has a strict language policy which is enforced through automatic logging of bad language and monitoring by staff members. In addition to this, players may select the option to censor any undesireable words appearing in communications from other players.

The MUD supports young players, and parents are able to discuss their child's participation in the game with staff, should they have any concerns. As the game permits multiple connections from the same IP address (as long as each character is controlled by a separate player), families and groups of friends are able to log on and play together.


As a text-based game, it is used by the blind and visually impaired with the assistance of screen reading software, and also the hearing impaired who are not disadvantaged due to the absence of auditory cues.[39]

Playing with a screen reader can also help those with low literacy or learning disabilities[40] to enjoy the game whilst helping them improve their language skills, computer literacy and social skills.

Some MUD clients include customisable user interfaces, such as definable buttons or rollers, which can largely remove the need to manually type commands, which is very helpful for those whose ability to operate a keyboard is impaired. Computer accessibility issues can then be overcome with assistive technologies, such as a footmouse.


Starting a character or play session[]

After choosing a name, and starting character race, class, and gender, the player begins in the "Mudschool" area, where they are quickly taught the basic commands needed to enjoy the game, before entering the starting areas. Any character which reaches level 2 (usually during the introduction to the game) can be saved. There is no character approval process, and players are free to make as many characters as they wish.

General gameplay[]

Roleplay on A.V.A.T.A.R. is encouraged but not enforced, so much of a player's activity involves finding mobs (non-player characters) to perform quests for, slay for experience points, or somehow acquire desireable items from, and exploration in order to enjoy the writing and story of an area or discover easter eggs and other secrets. As a social space, the game comprises only half of the attraction of the MUD[2], with players using various tools such as public and private chat channels[41], an in-game messaging system and forums[42][43] to engage one another.

As player characters gain experience points, they will increase in level, slowly rising through the four tiers of the game: Mortal, Hero, Lord, and Legend. At each tier, the style of gameplay changes dramatically, thus players can choose a play style that suits them the most.

Mortal and Hero tiers[]

Players learn the game as they proceed through the first 50 levels, needing to change gear as they rise. This "Mortal" tier offers the best exploration options. When characters reach level 51, they are assigned a sub-level, and from that point, experience points raise their sub-level, not their primary level.[2] With 999 sub-levels, this creates a very broad plateau, where the focus is less on regularly changing gear, and more on honing their existing set of equipment. Level 51 is known as Hero tier, and is the point where players really begin grouping when adventuring in the world.[44]

Lord and Legend tiers[]

After sub-level 300, hero tier players can use the 'morph' command to attempt to become lords. The probability of this succeeding increases with each sub-level, though players who level past 999 have a very high chance of automatically morphing to the Lord tier with each level (this can be toggled off but additional levels will yield no benefit). Morphing jumps the player to level 125, which also has 999 sub-levels. On reaching the one hundredth sub-level of Lord, a player gets access to 'troika', which enables them to become a Legend. A player may only possess one Legend tier character at a time.

At certain points, players have the option to return to an earlier level of power in order to change their class or race to one that is different, or more powerful, or perform a quest to do so at their current level.

In other media[]

The MUD has been examined in the papers and presentions of anthropologist Dr. Ito, Mizuko,[23][45][46][47] a thesis[48] by tech entrepreneur Kraettli Epperson,[49] and other papers.[50][51] It has featured in MUD history articles,[52][53] Orlando Sentinel's article on TELNET[54] and in a video tutorial[55] and tutorial article[56] about the Command Prompt.

An introductory article to A.V.A.T.A.R. was printed in MENSA's[57] RPSIG publication 'Re:Quests!'[2] and also in the 1st of October, 1994 edition of the "Sunlight Through The Shadows" BBS's electronic magazine,[58] and other publications.[59][60][61] After running for a couple of years, Immortal "Asamaro" created the publication "the Farside Gazette" on December 15, 1994,[62] which continued to be regularly published, latterly as "the AVATAR Gazette", until May, 2009.[63]


  1. Epperson, Kraettli L. (1994-12-10). Patterns of Social Behavior In Computer-Mediated Communications. Rice University Sociology Department. "The idea of role-playing is that one can become, temporarily at least, what one is not, and the Farside MUD designers created a world in which anyone could become anything they desired, while logged-in." 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Re:Quests!, issue #43, November 1997, pp. 28-29; Mary H Kelly, editor. Updated 11/12/99 by MHK.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 [[Ito, Mizuko |Ito, Mizuko]]. Cybernetic Fantasies: Extended Selfhood in a Virtual Community. Retrieved on 12 February 2014. "'Farside was established in the summer of 1991 by three Ph.D. students at Newcastle University on their free time. Since then, it has been moved to Swansea University." 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ito, Mizuko (1994-12-03). Cybernetic Fantasies: Extensions of Selfhood In a Multi-User Dungeon. Retrieved on 12 February 2014. "When I first started playing Farside, the primary mud that I have been studying, it resided on a machine at an English university, where it had been set up by some computer science doctoral students in their free time. Since then, it has changed sites to a couple of different machines in the US." 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Ito "In August, the machine that Farside was living in experienced a system failure, and all player files and interface elements were lost." Mizuko Ito, Standford University, 3/December/1994 "Cybernetic Fantasies: Extensions of Selfhood In a Multi-User Dungeon"
  6. 6.0 6.1 10/08/1995 Gazette article confirming the continuity of player characters and areas despite the name change.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Various. "List of areas on Avatar MUD". Retrieved on 12 February 2014.
  8. Ito, Mizuko. Cybernetic Fantasies: Extended Selfhood in a Virtual Community. Retrieved on 12 February 2014. "Soon after, the university that Farside was residing at announced a ban on mudding." 
  9. Mizuko, Ito. Cybernetic Fantasies: Extended Selfhood in a Virtual Community. Retrieved on 12 February 2014. "Muds are anathema to many universities because they take up valuable space on computers, slow down network responsiveness, and tie up terminals in computer labs. They have been banned at various universities across the country, yet they continue to proliferate." 
  10. Ito, Mizuko. Cybernetic Fantasies: Extended Selfhood in a Virtual Community. Retrieved on 12 February 2014. "Diku-MUds, Aber-MUDS and LP-MUDs usually involve armor, weapons, gold coins and the killing of ogres, giants, and sometimes other players. In contrast, MOOs, MUSEs, and Tiny MUDs are primarily social, often have a space-age theme, and have little in terms of the adventure game component." 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Bartle, Richard (2003). Designing Virtual Worlds. New Riders. p. 10. ISBN 0-13-101816-7. "Having played both AberMUD and TinyMUD, he decided he wanted to write his own game with the adventure of the former and the user-extensibility of the latter." 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Bartle, Richard (2003). Designing Virtual Worlds. New Riders. pp. 9. ISBN 0-13-101816-7. "AberMUD spread across university computer science departments like a virus. Identical copies (or incarnations) appeared on thousands of Unix machines. It went through four versions in rapid succession, spawning several imitators. The three most important of these were TinyMUD, LPMUD and DikuMUD." 
  13. Shah, Rawn; Romine, James (1995). Playing MUDs on the Internet. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. p. 22. ISBN 0-471-11633-5. "DikuMud first appeared in mid-March of 1990 when a group of programmers at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark got together and began work on a multiplayer game that is similar to but improved on AberMuds. These coders were Hans Henrik Staerfeld, Katja Nyboe, Tom Madsen, Michael Seifert, and Sebastian Hammer." 
  14. Bartle, Richard (2003). Designing Virtual Worlds. New Riders. pp. 10. ISBN 0-13-101816-7. "...several major codebases (standalone MUD program suites) were created from the basic DikuMUD original, the main ones being Circle, Silly, and Merc. Merc spawned ROM (Rivers of MUD) and Envy, among others, and these in turn had their own spinoffs." 
  15.!topic/ Even the port number (3000) remained unchanged.
  16.!topicsearchin/$3A1995$2F05$2F01$20before$3A1995$2F05$2F31/ Rec.Games.Mud.Misc post from the 19th of May, 1995, identifying Snikt as Daemon of Farside, prior to the name change later that year.
  17. Gary Larson's cease and desist letter.
  18. Kariya. "AVATAR Focus". The AVATAR Gazette. Retrieved on 12 February 2014. "Or, as it is officially known, "Advanced Virtual Adventures Through Artificial Realities.""
  19. 19.0 19.1 Merc / Rom? 2000 Sublevels
  20. Pulse. "Tiers". Retrieved on 6 April 2014.
  21. "Game History". Retrieved on 6 April 2014.
  22. Ito, Mimi. Cybernetic Fantasies: Extended Selfhood in a Virtual Community. Retrieved on 12 February 2014. "Farside is continuosly evolving; new towns and lands suddenly manifest, and outdated spaces disappear without a trace. The world is in a perpetual state of magical flux. In the space of a few weeks absence from the system, I found that a new combat system had been implemented, a new "Gotham City" environment was added, in addition to a "Newbie Forest."" 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Ito, Mizuko, "Cyborg Couplings In a Multi-User Dungeon", 1994 Annual Meetings of the Society for the Social Study of Science, October 13th, 1994
  24. "The Staff Teams of Avatar". Retrieved on 26 February 2014.
  25. Farside MUD for providing space on their FTP server for MZF and MZF source. 11/11/1993
  26. Merc / Rom? Spell Surging (Mage)
  27. Monk Class Base Code
  28. List of volunteers
  29. List of volunteers
  32. Official instructions for using TELNET in Microsoft Windows 7
  33. Instructions for connecting to MUDs with Microsoft TELNET
  34. Instructions for using TELNET in OSX - method 2 is simple and direct
  35. Connecting to MUDs through LINUX
  36. List of MUD clients on
  37. Patterns of Social Behavior In Computer-Mediated Communications, Kraettli L. Epperson, Sociology Honors Thesis for Rice University Sociology Department To ease and organize a user's interactions with a MUD, there are many "client" programs to receive the information from the MUD. Rather than simply displaying this continuous flood of information sequentially on your screen, the client organizes your screen into areas with different sorts of information on different portions of your screen, so that the user can find information more quickly.
  38. 2010 Log in screen gallery showing one of A.V.A.T.A.R.'s entry banners
  39. Hindman, Beau (May 1, 2013). "Free for All: Introduction to MUD May". on 12 February 2014. "MUDs are also friendly to disabled players, something that has concerned me for a long time. There are even blind players in many MUDs, players who use tools that read text out loud and respond to voice commands. Imagine if you could listen to your favorite audiobook and give it commands. That's the beauty of MUDs. These games are also good for people with colorblind issues, mobility issues or for people who cannot afford gaming PCs."
  40. Samaranayaka, Chamali. "Public endorsement". Retrieved on 12 February 2014. "Here at the British Council, we have provided Browsealoud, a speech tool that reads aloud the contents of each page. This service helps users with low literacy and reading skills, where English is not the first language, dyslexic and with users who are mild visually impaired. Our audience (mainly from overseas, with English as the second language) will benefit hugely from this service."
  41. [|Epperson, Kraettli L.] (1994-12-10). Patterns of Social Behavior In Computer-Mediated Communications. Rice University Sociology Department. Retrieved on 12 February 2014. "A MUD usually includes "channels" for discussion that allow one to talk to other players, either individually or as a group. Thus all the time that one is playing the game, messages from other players are flashing across the screen. MUDs are filled with social rituals." 
  42. A.V.A.T.A.R.S.'s web-based forums.
  43. A.V.A.T.A.R.'s mailman webserver based email forums.
  44. Epperson, Kraettli L. (1994-12-10). Patterns of Social Behavior In Computer-Mediated Communications. Rice University Sociology Department. "In the MUD, an individual wants to face challenges in a "group" established electronically, so that ones movements are tied to other players who can lend strength at critical times in virtual combat. A leader is established for a group, and all members electronically set their character in the game to automatically follow the movements and actions of the leader, but may leave at any time. Obviously, a leader does not want followers who will leave in the middle of a difficult fight. Battles are initiated with the expectation that the group will be fully present, and with the hope that the collective strength of the group will overcome the creature being attacked." 
  45. Paper by Ito, Mizuko, Stanford University, 3rd of December, 1993
  46. Ito, Mizuko, “Network Locality”, the Society for the Social Studies of Science meetings, San Diego, Ito, Mizuko 1999.
  47. 1997 Virtually Embodied: The Reality of Fantasy in a Multi-User Dungeon. In Internet Culture. D. Porter, ed. Pp. 87-110. New York & London: Routledge. Ito, Mizuko, et al.
  48. "Patterns of Social Behavior In Computer-Mediated Communications", Kraettli L. Epperson, Sociology Honors Thesis for Rice University Sociology Department
  49. Mr. Epperson is best known for having co-founded the world's largest digital library, Questia Online Library, in 1998.)
  50. - Dissertation "Linguistic Presence on the Internet" which uses A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD as one of its case studies.
  51. - Mentioned in the acknowledgement, page ii
  52. The Game Archaeologist plays with MUDs: Your journeys, part 1, Justin Olivetti for online magazine Massively
  53. Cyren recalls the past at A.V.A.T.A.R. MUD
  54. - Orlando sentinel uses Farside mud as its example on TELNET.
  55. - online CMD training course (Command Line Utilities - Part 1 of 2 - CompTIA A+ 220-701, James "Professor" Messer) using A.V.A.T.A.R. as its example.
  56. - online doc teaching CMD/telnet using A.V.A.T.A.R.
  57. MENSA RPSIG listing with " we also welcome Live Action Role-Play (LARP), Computer RPGs, and MUDs."
  58. Sunlight Through The Shadows Magazine Volume 2 Issue 10 (october 1, 1994)
  59. Virtual Lives: A Reference Handbook (Contemporary World Issues), James D. Ivory Ph.D., page 164, ISBN 978-1598845853 Lists A.V.A.T.A.R. in the top 20 most active
  60. Mecklermedia's Official Internet World: World Wide Web Yellow Pages 1996, Marshall Breeding, ISBN 978-1568843445
  61. Very old telephone directory entry for Farside.Org
  62. The Farside Gazette, December 15th, 1994
  63. The AVATAR Gazette, May, 2009

External links[]