How to Start a MUD

Recently, I have received a lot of email asking how to start a MUD. I really don't know the answer to this, as I have never started a MUD. I've written a few zones, and I have installed some MUDs, but that is about it. However, there aren't any web pages about how to do this, at least none that I could find, so I am going to take a stab at it.

This information is geared toward DIKU MUDs, specifically Merc and Envy.

If you are reading this page, you probably already have a bunch of ideas on what you want your MUD to have, and are already preparing to be a fair, benevolent IMP. So I will skip over this whole section.

Next, it is likely that you want to build your own world, or at least seriously extend one of the prebuilt-ones. If you want to use a stock MUD, that is OK too, if you have a good reason like you and your friends are at some company or in some part of the world that can't access MUDs easily. But there are some decent builder's resources out there. I usually start people off at my MUD Area Building Software and Links page. There are some other good pages on this, like AnonyMUD Area Building. Building areas isn't hard, if you have played enough areas and looked around. It does take patience, though. It is a lot better if you learn area building as an immortal on some MUD, instead of trying it on your own. I learned how to do this on The Final Challenge MUD and I am very grateful for the help they gave me.

If you have any questions about building, there are some good places to ask. First, there are some newsgroups:, alt.mud.programming, and also some mailing lists, which you can find out about on AnonyMUD Resources.

Now comes the hard part. You need a computer connected to the Internet. This doesn't mean you dialing in on a 28.8 or 33.6 or whatever connection for your flat-rate fee, this means a real network connection. In other words, you need fractional T-1. This costs a lot of money, at least $500 a month each in the US to the phone company and to the Internet provider, so you wouldn't want to do this just to run a MUD. Better choices are to set one up at your company, if your company already has such a link. Or you could try to convince an ISP that your MUD is some kind of "advertising" for their service. Maybe you happen to be going to school somewhere and have your own Sun workstation or something. If none of these apply to you, then you need to go to and look for "Call for Builder" ads. If you can make zones, or do the C code to tweak a MUD, then they will make you an IMP. This is a much better deal, because you have other people to help you learn how to do the various installing of the MUD server. I have recently discovered a service which will host your MUD for about $50/month, called MudServices.Com, but I don't know anyone who has used their services.

OK, so you have a computer. It is probably a Unix-type computer. You can get the MUD server code for free some web pages, such as Mud Server Information and DIKU family tree. It is also pretty well known that I ported Merc 2.2 to Windows. I'm afraid I must admit it isn't a very good port. I did it so that I could test area files and server tweaks at home and although I have had four people connected to it at once, it is more designed for catching area file errors than being a bullet-proof server. Sure, with Windows NT and a few minor bug fixes you could run a MUD on Windows, but all of the Merc admin stuff is designed for a machine which you can telnet into and do things with. I'm sure someone will make the necessary tweaks to run Merc on Windows properly, with automated install and administration through the control panel and stuff, but no one has done that yet.

Once you get your Unix source code, which you want even if you are trying to run the server on Windows, you will find a directory called 'doc'. It explains how to set up Merc or Envy. You want to read all of the text files there. If you are going to run Circle, there is a lot of that sort of documentation already in HTML, which you can read on The CircleMUD home page.

Since this is Unix code, it is going to have a .tar.Z or .gz file extension. If you are coming from the DOS world, you would rather have a .zip. Sorry. You are going to need to know the basics of unpacking the source and compiling before you can continue. I will try to put a link to some kind of Unix beginner's FAQ here soon.

At this point you have a running MUD, either a real Internet MUD running on Unix, or a Windows/Mac test server. You have to create a character. Depending on your server, there may already be a test immortal, or you may need to follow some instructions. When I build Merc 2.2, I needed to first start a new character, get the character to 2nd level, save, and then go in with Windows NOTEPAD to edit the player file (it turns out to be a text file. In Unix you can use VI or something.)

If you have been an immortal before, you know all of the immortal commands. If not, you can use IMMHELP or its equivelent and learn your new commands. Setting up gods can be kind of tricky the first time. In Merc, there is a field called "Trust" which you can use to give a character of any level god and IMP powers. So you can take any player file, set the trust to the highest level, then use immortal commands like ADVANCE to set the other fields, RESTORE, set all of the skills to 100% etc. In Envy, immortal powers are skills just like backstabbing and KICK, and you need to manually set these skills to 100% for them to have any chance of working. This is all explained in the documentation.

A lot of things in Merc/Envy are coded right into the C code of the server itself. The Merc documenation states that you need to know C, and I thought so myself until I guy named Mort proved me otherwise. If you have an extreme amount of patience you can tweak server stuff without much knowledge of C. It won't be any fun, though. Here are some links to get you started with C:

I will also try to put up some information on popular server tweaks. There are links to some code snippets on my area building pages, perhaps that will get you started.


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Please, do not mail me questions about how to start a MUD. If the answer isn't above, I don't know it. There are links above to people who can help you.
Mud area building software and links
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Last updated January 25, 1997