Lament MUD: A Review

Lament: The Age of Wind and Wolves

Lament has been around since December 25, 2008 and as of today runs on a highly-modified Lima Mudlib with MudOS v22.2a25, which for those unfamiliar makes it an LPMUD. LPs are historically my kind of thing so I was a bit excited to dive into this one.

Starting Out

Right off the bat, or should I say wolf, the splash screen informs us that Lament is, “A Game of Low Fantasy in a Broken World.” The initial drop in is fairly interesting. After a brief ask on account name and email address you’re presented with some concise information on how to get about using channels and use the help system and presented with a choice: go through the tutorial or head north to start creating a character.

I find the un-mechanical method of character creation fascinating. It’s so common to begin a game and just make a bunch of choices. Sometimes you can access help for those choices but many times it’s a vague process. Think of the difference between Fallout New Vegas and Fallout 4. New Vegas has a rather long and involved tutorial of getting immediately into the storyline, meeting doc and answering strange questions to build you out. Fallout 4, while interesting seeing yourself in a mirror, is very mechanical. You just make choices with little context.

Naturally, I headed into the tutorial which is definitely not a style I’ve seen before. A small part of it is like an FMV; instructions scroll by a bit at their own pace. Let’s face it for those not initiated to MUDs it can be a bit overwhelming so the amount of instruction is nice in an easily skipped tutorial.

The tutorial was very… tutorialish. There’s a bit of a puzzle and a way to get some starter equipment. The practice combat is extraordinarily brief, so brief you don’t really get an idea as to how it really goes down. It’s still nice to have it at all. There isn’t a lot of hand holding, even in the tutorial. You absolutely have to read and be observant to get through it and there’s more to it than just the central task that gets you back out. All in all it was a nice experience.

Post, or skipped, tutorial you will get to choose a large number of physical and mental attributes for yourself in addition to a starter set of skill proficiencies through a series of room-like-movements. There are very good help files and instructions to aid this somewhat involved creation process. Following this you can get whatever starter clothes you want from a freebie vending machine. In the end you get some appropriate equipment (I chose healer and received gloves and bandages) and a backpack full of food and light sources.

The Gameplay

The game plays very deliberately. While it’s common for LPs and MOOs to go down the more realistic route than a Diku family MUD this one definitely airs on the side of realism of action. You have no inventory other than your two hands. This means, for anyone who hasn’t played a game like this, a lot of swapping. If you want to pick something up while holding your weapons you have to put your weapons down or at least away in a bag somehow. If you want to carry things you need to be wearing or holding a container of some kind. If you want to put something in a closed container you need a free hand that can open the container first.

While the game is built towards deliberate action it does have “easy” shortcuts. You will try to open things before getting from or putting to them. You’ll open doors before running into them if you try to walk through a closed one. The game is ready to remind you about your state if you try to do something you can’t, however, like putting something in a closed container when you lack a free hand to open it first.

The combat does have some interesting embellishments such as anatomical targeting and fatigue as well as some well written and clear result text. It’s all clearly built in a way to make it feel more realistic. As mentioned before the splash screen does clearly state this is “low fantasy” so there is likely not a whole lot of fireworks shooting out of everyone’s fingers during combat. I chose the healer “quick spec” at creation and was handed gloves and bandages not an incense spreader and a cross.

I did not play long enough to see the later stuff. There is magic, and according to the wiki deities that can be beseeched for favors but the construction of the world is very clearly towards the real not tossing 1d3 magic missiles at the darkness every round. There is also ranged combat but it is not cross-room. Like many LPs every room has a concept of relative placement so you can occupy the “far north” end of a room while someone sits at the far south end so you can play William Tell with them.

Also like most LPs the input parser is far more robust than the Diku family muds and it will likely be useful when trying to move the contents of one container to another without a get/put on every single item one at a time. Speaking of one-at-a-time you don’t have a “feet” slot, you have individual feet. You can run around wearing one boot and one sandal if you so chose to, not that I’m suggesting that.

The Lore

It has only been a handful of generations since the day the world ended. Thousands died when the Long Winter fell, and countless more have fallen to plague or starvation since. Every day sees more survivors flocking to the relative safety of the cities. Some manage to make an honest living for themselves; some fight for scraps among the downtrodden; some prey on the weak or careless. The land crumbles and rots, but its people stubbornly fight to survive among the remains. Who can say how long they will succeed?

From what I was able to glean, the actual lore is pretty standard background information used to drive player interaction. Not a terrible thing, mind you, as it serves many MUDs well to have a world canvas which the players can paint their own stories against. The room descriptions are, however, very well done and informative of what is happening there; possibly another advantage of being LP as objects in a room can become part of the description and vice-versa making for more intuitive and utilitarian room descs.

The Web Presence

The website is definitely on the right side of functional. The styling is a bit sparse but the details and the in-game information as far as races, regions and professions is more than enough to make an informed decision should you happen by before making a new character. The rules of the game are also well defined and easily accessible from the top nav.

There is a wiki linked from the top nav which brings even more depth to the information and, in opposition to most wikis, has functional side navigation. The wiki does not share the same styling as the main site but the mere fact that it exists and isn’t some sort of bottom-nav maze crammed with ads makes it one of the best small wikis on the internet.

Overall

At the times I was on it was fairly sparse in population. One of the staff was on for a bit and was extremely helpful and we had a nice, if not brief, conversation. It’s more than likely I was not on at peak time. There is clearly a lot going on for the “single player experience” however. A robust set of crafting trades in addition to naval features and fishing.

All in all Lament is pretty neat. I happen to like LPs in general for their parsers and robust mechanics. I’m more of a high fantasy person so the world is not exactly my cup of tea but it’s probable I’ll play it out a bit more to see where things go.