Catalog's Updated and De-Crappified AA Quickstart Guide (revised for Summer 2013) ==> plus How to Be a Newb Without Being a n00b

Original Source: anguishplayers.org

Updated by: Catalog


In the 1990s, when Ancient Anguish was primarily populated by college students who largely depended on their schools for web access, the season for new players was September, when school started up, and established players introduced their friends and roommates to AA. Nowadays, when our best web connections are at home (or on our phones), early summer seems to be when I see the most new players on the mud (though I'm not sociologist enough to puzzle out exactly why that is). Hence, early each summer, I update this guide in hopes of making the merely curious more likely to stick around and become regular players.

This guide isn't meant to be a full-blown stat-by-stat, class-by-class guide to leveling up a character on AA. That work has been done in great depth elsewhere any number of times. (For one good example, see Rhynst's Newbie Guide in the Existing Resources section at the end of this document.)

All I want to do here is give brand new players what they need to start playing productively immediately without making too many typical newbie blunders. Everything you need to know to get started is in the brief first section below. If you want to stop there, fine. But if you continue, there's a helpful list of basic n00b mistakes that you might want to avoid, plus brief sections on the social norms of AA, and on avoiding trouble with Law. The last section is a collection of existing online resources for the new player.

Start Playing -- Most Direct Path

  • Make a New Alt -- The most straightforward learning character would be an orc fighter. (For more on choice of race for fighters, see Rhynst's guide.) It's versatile, has a gentle learning curve, and 90% of what you learn playing it will be transferable to other classes. The Fighter Class Hall is 2n, w from the crossroads. After you enter the game, go there and type 'join.' Read the following help topics: evaluate, will, fury, disarm, whirl, and outflank (plus, of course, any others that pique your interest). Other commands you'll find useful include powerup, look (l), examine (exa), score, inventory (i), skills, abilities, take, keep/unkeep, time, search, nextlevel, and alias.
  • Join a guild -- Your first choice for asking questions or getting advice should usually be the guild line. On a good day, fellow guild members will also help you by supplying equipment or showing you around unfamiliar areas. Plus, you can learn a lot just by keeping an eye on what's said on the guild line. Your best bet for a helpful first guild (you can always change later) these days would be either Snowfolk (use the dimension door at 3s, w, n -- it's in the small deteriorated hut next to Myrtae's armor shop) or Bears (30n, 9w, 2n, 2w, 2s). Both guilds currently have an active, helpful set of members, and common storage areas where you might find equipment and heals. Some of the other guilds -- Monks, Chaos, Eldar, etc. -- have few active players, or are entirely moribund. Scythe, while active, isn't a great choice for a starting player for a variety of reasons.
Auction Hall: 3s 4w s
Bank in Tantallon: 3w s e
Brawling arena: n e n
Canticle offices: 8w <enter hut>
Clerics' Common Church: 3w n e n e
Coachline offices: 5w 2s w
Eastroad Inn: 10n e <enter>
Fredd's Equipment Shop: 5w 4s
Hanza's Map Shop: 3s 6w
Ironman and Willim's Smithy: 6w s
Library in Tantallon: 3w n w
Magic Shop: 5w 2s e
Paper boy: 3w
Pub in Tantallon: 3w 2n
Shop in Tantallon: w n
Training academy: n e
Tower of the Magi: 3w s w u
Note: these directions are all from crossroads, not from the CX.
Go to the Commodities Exchange (2e s w from the crossroads). Type 'read rules,' and read them. When Lou offers a delivery to one of the above locations, type 'accept.' Lou will initially refuse to give you deliveries, but keep accepting, and he'll give in pretty soon. (Ignore deliveries to other locations until you've learned where they are.) Go to the delivery location and type 'deliver.' You'll receive coins and experience. Return to the CX, and do it again. You can make approximately 3000 coins each game day (4 real-life hours) running CX. When you get close to 3000, Lou cuts you off until the next day.
  • If it's between 9PM and 6AM game time, you'll find the CX is closed. You can spend the period until it reopens (you can type 'time' to see the current game time) exploring the Newbie Park, becoming familiar with Tantallon and Neville, and scavenging equipment and coins you find around the forest. In the beginning, you'll find the forest north of Tantallon considerably safer than the area outside the southern gate of town.
  • Advance -- Once you've accumulated some experience points from running CX, go to the class hall, and type 'cost.' If you've gained enough experience, you'll be offered a list of attributes you can advance by spending experience points. For a fighter, your priorities are (in order) dexterity, strength, constitution, wisdom, intelligence. (People will inevitably quibble with this order, but it doesn't matter much -- your stats will all reach maximum before too long.) Once you've advanced all the stats you can (that is, when you type 'cost,' every stat has "You must advance your level" written next to it), then and only then type 'advance' to be awarded the next level.
  • Kill Stuff -- Once you reach level 3, you can start killing small things: wasps in Ravel, centipedes and dragonflies on SE Isle, and so on. Buy some equipment -- a starter club like a flask of oil from Fredd's shop, or a medium fishing pole from Salty John (2e n from crossroads). Buy some armor light enough for you to wear (that won't be much at first). Buy a map from Hanza. Use Zhou (26n e) to advance your weapon skills. Use AAWiki or AAForDummies to guide your weapon choices. Wear/wield your equipment by typing 'powerup.' Type 'keep all' to make sure you don't accidentally sell off all your gear. Set aim to 'head,' and attack to 'crush.' Defend dodge if you're slightly encumbered, defend none otherwise. Check 'help nextlevel' occasionally to see how close you are to advancement. Go kill stuff.
  • Keep Going -- Try new areas as you get stronger. 'Help newbie4' will suggest some places. Start exploring.

Start Playing -- Somewhat Less Direct Path

If a fighter is just too vanilla to hold your interest for long, make either a dwarf cleric (class hall 3w n e n e from crossroads) or a human ranger (Unless it's very early in the boot, Ranger Camp always has a dimension door 1n of the crossroads). A cleric is a magic user designed to take a lot of punishment, with a combination of native ability and an array of healing prayers. A ranger is a sort of outdoorsman, with some special woods-oriented abilities (tracking, making healing bedrolls, foraging for resources, etc.), who usually fights with the assistance of a companion wolf.

If you go one of these routes. take the time to browse Rhynst's notes on the class you've chosen. It's a bit more of a project than a fighter, and it'll be a while before you start making use of the full power of your class. Otherwise, proceed as above.

How Not to Be a n00b

-- There's a newbie line available by going 2s of where you enter the game, and typing 'grab carving.' Lately, it always seems to have someone helpful on it, and the signal-to-noise ratio is good. (It used to serve mostly as a cross-guild chat line, but the admins seem to have taken care of that.)

-- The free weapons and armor provided at the smithy are pretty much junk. They're better than nothing, but only slightly. Buy stuff.

-- Buy a map at Hanza's (3s, 6w). Get a sorcerer's map, rather than one of the smaller ones. Don't be cheap. It'll help you find your way around, and you'll learn the structure of the MUD faster.

-- A lot of new players from other MUDs are surprised to discover that weapons, armor, heals, etc. disappear at the end of the boot. The question asked usually is something like, "Where do I keep my stuff?" The answer is, you don't. You start every boot stark naked.

-- Don't shout questions. Ask experienced players hanging out at the crossroads, or send a tell to someone, or ask on the newbie line, or ask on the guild line. In fact, ask on the guild line first -- they're the people most likely to be helpful. Or, if your question is specific to your class, the command 'who class' will give you a list of online players in your class.

-- Stay away from the Troll Bridge. If you're exploring the terrain around Hobbitat, just don't follow any NE exits. If your fingers lead you astray, don't bother feeding gold to the trolls. If you're *really* low level, the trolls will let you pass. If not, go to the center of the bridge, and jump into the river. You'll get a few alarming emotes, but you won't die, and you'll soon wash up on the south bank of the river.

-- When you get killed (and you will), you go through a three minute death sequence featuring Lars and some Monty Python lyrics, among other things. At the end, you'll see the sentence, "It looks vaguely familiar..." You'll find that you're now a ghost, located just inside the church. Type 'pray,' and you'll be able to function again. Otherwise, you'll just stumble around the mud as a ghost. Which is an option some older players prefer, but that's another story.

-- Players often refer to "the crossroads," or, more commonly, "X." You can get there by going s 6e from where you enter the game. Unless otherwise specified, all directions are conventionally given with X as their starting point.

-- The "shimmering blue doors" (dimension doors) you see all over Tant are created by players every boot. Don't be surprised if some are missing, especially early in the boot.

-- It has become customary for a player to drop a heavy wooden trunk at X. It's a good place to look for items, but don't hog them or just grab all and sell all, since people are sharing that stuff amongst everyone on the mud!

-- Don't beg for money, especially on the guild lines. Yes, you'll usually find someone who'll give you a couple of thousand coins. And you'll also irritate everyone else present, every one of whom is thinking, "Get off your n00b butt and run some CX."

-- Packs can almost always be found in Decker's, Myrtae's, or the Andeli Castle shop (via the ddoor at Decker's). Or, you can buy an Artificer's pack from their class hall (enter the ddoor n of where you enter the game, and then go ne).

-- Heals: If there are no pipes in Decker's or Andeli, you can run to Puffy's in Neville (13n 3e 2n w). You can also get smokables there, or from Uena (ddoor at Paperboy), or from Gwot (ddoor at Dermott), or from a lot of other places. Medicinals are available from Uena and at Fredd's. Various healing foods and drinks are available at stores throughout the MUD. Many areas (Newbie Manor, SE Isle, etc.) have healing areas for lower level characters. Also, there's often a communal bedroll in the Snowfolk guild hall. Less often, you'll see one in Ranger Camp (ddoor 1n of X) or in the trunk at X.

-- Make sure what you're attacking isn't a player or pet. Specifically, shapeshifters can turn up as anything from a possum to a tree, so you have to be a little careful. The easy way to tell is, when you look at a player, there's always an alignment tag -- (nasty), (demonic), etc. So it's OK to kill Mel the Possum, but don't go after Julius the Possum (neutral). Pets are trickier. Never attack a forged *anything* -- those are artificer constructs. Any wolf or dog with the word 'trained' in his description belongs to a ranger. Horses often belong to paladins. Best not to attack them unless they have the word 'wild' in their description. Rarely, you may encounter a mage's familiar -- an animal bonded to them. The only way to be safe in this case is, if you're about to attack something unfamiliar, examine it first.

-- For their own amusement, some "special" players will hand a newb something nasty to eat, drink, or smoke. These people think of themselves as "funny." Other people think of them as assholes. If someone you don't know hands you something to consume, examine it. Don't drink unlabeled potions, or ones with cryptic labels. Don't eat a peyote button unless you know what you're getting into. Examining food will usually tell you whether it's safe to eat. If you smoke a filled pipe someone has given you, and you start getting messages like "Your heart is racing," you've been handed some white brimstone. Drop the pipe. Ignoring the above advice can result in you turning into a frog, being poisoned, fighting a Manitou, dropping all your equipment without being to pick it up, or just plain dying.

AA, and How It Got That Way

Ancient Anguish has been continuously active for 20 years. On the web, anything that's been around for 20 years is old. There have been a lot of changes over the years. At its height, AA was on a much smaller map with fewer areas, but had 120 or more players during peak periods. Today, the MUD has greatly expanded in size and complexity, but with about 35-40 players at peak times.

Most of the current players have been around for quite a while. Many, perhaps most, have played 10 or 15 years, and a number go all the way back to the beginning. Those of us who started playing in college now have mortgages and children and careers. We've spent a lot of time together in a highly immersive environment, and AA has spawned a lot of close friendships, many RL relationships, and even a number of marriages. Over the years, players have died, gone to prison, run for political office, had children, started successful companies, been in wars, become MDs, joined the State Department, and had sex changes. In addition to the expected geeks and academics, our players include lawyers, medical doctors, plumbers, engineers, oil workers, psychologists, professional musicians, librarians, and a couple of exotic dancers.

The lesson for the new player is that you're walking into a fully formed social environment with a long history. You'll be among a group with longstanding friendships and grudges, where you're likely to be puzzled by inside jokes and obscure references, and in which you can easily commit a faux pas without realizing.

My father once explained to me the difference between big city and small town attitudes this way: if you see an attractive girl on the subway in a big city, you know you're never going to see her again, so you have to approach her immediately and try to make an impression; but if a small town boy sees a girl, he can wave, smile, and take his time. He knows he'll see her over and over again.

AA is more small town than big city these days. You'll get better results if you take it a little easy.

Ancient Anguish Law

Enforcing rules on MUDs is a problem for the same reasons that enforcing laws in real life is a problem -- the rulebreakers are frequently intoxicated, childish, or dim, the rules themselves are often vague, and the enforcers can sometimes be capricious, uninterested, or dishonest. And, like the legal administrators on every MUD on the planet, the Law Team on AA has been accused of everything from incest to cannibalism.

My own direct experience has been that they're generally pretty good, enforcing rules reasonably consistently, and not banning problem players capriciously. They aren't perfect, but they do a decent job.

You can read the full text of AA law in 'help rules.' Below, however, I'll give you most of what you need to know to stay out of trouble.

-- Don't Steal: The rule in essence is that the first person in a room owns everything in it (except any NPCs). So, if you enter a room, and there's 200 coins on the ground, plus a player, they're his coins, not yours. If he then leaves the room and comes back (or goes linkdead or idle), they're yours. If you take something that isn't yours, or do something to the corpse of someone else's kill, the owner of the stuff or the corpse can file against you with Law.

-- Don't Attack Players: This one's pretty simple. Except under very particular circumstances (encounters with bountied criminals, SK fights, etc.), there are no player-vs-player fights. Also, certain stupid or malicious actions are counted by Law as attacks: healing a monster while someone is actively fighting it; closing an exit, causing someone in an active fight to die; setting off a trapped treasure chest in a high-traffic area; etc.

-- Don't Killsteal: If someone is actively fighting an NPC, don't interfere, even if you think you're helping.

-- Don't Multiplay: Only one character may be logged into the MUD at a time. (That includes linkdead characters.)

-- Don't Pass Coins or Equipment: Don't use one of your characters to help another. E.g. if you used your ranger to find nightshades, dropped them in a room, logged out, and then logged on your mage to pick the nightshades up, that'd be illegal.

-- Don't Run Scripts, Triggers, Stacked Commands, Bots, Etc.: Your mudclient will have loads of special abilities. Almost all of them are illegal to use on AA. There seems to be an informal exception for speedwalking. Me, I still think it's cheating.

-- Don't Be a Dick: Ruining the game for others is a punishable offense on AA. Yes, whether you're ruining the game for others is a highly subjective judgment. No, you won't win an argument with Law over it. Normally, you'll get a warning before any penalty is applied.

-- Don't Mess with Dimension Doors: Most permed dimension doors are "public," which means anyone (including alts of the casting mages) can use them, and only the mage who cast it is allowed to dispel it. So, if you find a door to the middle of the forest where there's usually a door to ranger camp, leave it. Don't try to fix it. Trust me on this one.

-- Don't Pick a Bad Name: Don't pick a name that's an obscure Guatemalan slang term for male genitalia thinking no one will spot it. Someone will. Very likely, someone who spent two weeks backpacking in Guatemala will rat you out. I also suspect that Malire, when bored, googles unfamiliar character names to see what comes up. Either way, you lose the character, and the name will be banned.

Existing Resources

-- The official AA website at http://www.anguish.org has various useful bits, including background information on the game, and a few clunky but usable ways to connect (java, telnet, and flash). You might want to become familiar with the Tools menu, which, among other things, allows you to read boards, finger players, and compare your stats to those of other players.

-- AA's newbie help suggests that you read all the game's help files before you actually play. There are a *lot* of help files. Anyone who claims to have read them all before beginning to play is a lying big fat lying liar. But it would be smart to read through the newbie help files, and the combat commands help files. Browse through the rest during idle moments, or as you need them. 'Help newbie3' will give you a brief guide to the resources available in Tantallon, the town where you enter the game; 'help newbie4' gives directions to and brief descriptions of good areas to kill in for lower level characters.

-- There's a surprisingly active Ancient Anguish group on Facebook, with roughly 250 members as of summer 2013.

-- The Ancient Anguish wiki at http://www.aawiki.net seems to be the current focal point for accumulating AA information.

-- The Ancient Anguish forum on Proboards is moderately useful, though it suffers from the same low signal-to-noise ratio that afflicts every other public comment forum on the web. It's a good place to post information you want to share and to gather general information, but specific questions about the game (which is what new players mostly ask) tend to be met with some variant of, "Well *we* know, and we'll provide an extremely oblique hint, but we're not going to tell you anything useful." (Digression: the attitude of many of these proboard users is that people should play and figure out the puzzles themselves. I'm in complete agreement. But I don't then offer my expertise on a board, without any intent of actually helping. That's just being an asshole.) This may explain why the Newbie section hasn't had a posting since the Fall of 2009.

-- Rhynst's Newbie Guide is hosted on AAwiki.net, as well as on the Proboards. This is a thorough, well-written, well-organized guide to creating and leveling most classes of characters up to 19 or so. The only drawback is that it hasn't been updated for more than 6 years, and hence doesn't address many important elements of the current game. Still, if you're playing anything but an Artificer (which is the newest class in the game), or a Shifter (a class which has had some huge improvements in recent years), there's a lot of value here.

-- My all-time favorite AA website has to be AA for Dummies (http://rhcp.webworld.ie/). The creator took a good crack at making it a complete AA encyclopedia, with information on weapons, NPCs, armour, directions to areas, and a really nice guide to playing a smithing Artificer. There are inevitably a lot of omissions, and a few things that just seem wrong to me, but, on the whole, best AA site ever. Sadly, the original owner has become a wizard, and is forbidden from updating the site. Recently, a group of concerned players has taken ownership, and secured a stable host.

-- Last but not least, Anguishplayers.org (http://www.anguishplayers.org) was created by Anthem (nee Yayo, Popeye, and a thousand others) as a place for longtime players to post guides or research that might be useful to others. Poke around. There's some good stuff there.

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