Are MUDs, MUSHes, and similar text-based roleplay platforms that implement RPG systems in an mostly or entirely automated way on-topic? MUDs lie somewhere on a spectrum between play-by-chat (which we accept questions about) and RPG-based videogames (which we don't), but whether they are on this side or the far side of the on-topic line is something we've never established.

Case in point: Has Shadowrun 4 been implemented as a MUD or similiar? This question quickly generated close votes and it seems like there's a contentious or potentially murky issue here.

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You get your way by answering with a good answer that gets voted up the most, not by crapping your opinions into comments over and over. I've deleted the entire discussion, please use answers below to continue. –  mxyzplk Dec 11 '12 at 4:07
    
Seems I missed some drama? To be fair there were some useful comments that helped clarify the question, but they'd already served their purpose. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 11 '12 at 5:01
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4 Answers

I can think of arguments against, built on this starting premise:


Premise: We are not an expert site about online games, even if they have roleplaying as part of them. This is pretty much self-evident, but which topics run afoul of it isn't. As a test, we can imagine editing out the details of the specific online game: if the question becomes meaningless, then it would have expected us to have game-specific knowledge that falls outside our scope.


An example of something that passes:

  • How to manage the delay caused by text-based communication when roleplaying online.

Something that fails:

  • How to organise a RP guild on a WoW RP server.

The first we can help with, the second we can't.

Some considerations that I think show why questions that are inherently about MUDs are off-topic:

  1. We will never get rules questions related to MUDs from players, since their rule systems are nearly or fully automated.
  2. The programmers of a new MUD might ask while they're setting it up, but these will either be just about the rules (on-topic) or require us to have knowledge of MUD programming (off-topic). [These are unlikely anyway, since who codes up a MUD in a system they don't understand?]
  3. MUD-related questions about optimising would either be about the rules (on-topic), or about how to succeed on the MUD (off-topic).
  4. Non-rules questions (roleplay, group dynamics, time management, narrative tricks, etc.) either will either only mention the MUD in passing (i.e., not integral to the question; on-topic), or will require us to be experts on MUD social dynamics and be off-topic).

This all suggest to me that question that are only about MUDs in passing, where the MUD-ness could be entirely edited out until it looked like just another play-by-chat question, are on-topic. Such question are about roleplaying and roleplaying games (our topic), that just happen to be getting played on a particular digital communications system. If the MUD-ness can't be edited out of the question without damaging its meaning, it's off-topic.

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I wrote this immediately after posting the question. I held it back partly to make sure that I didn't put my own bias into the question, and partly just to let it simmer in my head while others had a chance to answer. I figure I might as well throw this in now. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 10 '12 at 5:36
    
It's got my vote; I think you've pretty neatly nailed down what does or doesn't make sense here. –  KRyan Dec 10 '12 at 5:45
    
Personally, I find MUDs to be much more like another form of an RPG than another form of a video game. –  GMNoob Dec 10 '12 at 6:02
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Why is it that social dynamics of the game table are on topic but social dynamics of MUDs are not? Both involve a group of people, often strangers, sitting down to play a structured role-play game. –  Yamikuronue Dec 10 '12 at 17:20
    
I might have been unclear. I mean the social dynamics that are particular to MUDs. (e.g., "Everyone is doing private RP in their own rooms—How do I recruit people for my public RP scene?", an example from my own time adminning a semi-popular MUSH.) Our site purpose is not expert MUD advice, so issues that are limited to MUDs are not in our scope. Social dynamics like "my players aren't getting along, what do I do?" are on-topic because the fact it's on a MUD is irrelevant—the question and answers are general to all roleplayers. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 10 '12 at 17:48
    
@Yami Does that clarify what I mean, or does it just confuse it more? –  SevenSidedDie Dec 11 '12 at 5:03
    
To partially answer your Point 2, specifically "Who codes up a MUD in a system they don't understand?": Most people who start a new MUD. Nowadays, very few people actually start with a complete blank state of a MUD, but instead use some already established rule set/library and change it to suit their needs. This of course usually requires them to learn about how the rule set works first, unless they understand it already because they were working (in a coder, admin or "wizard" position) with it on some previous MUD. –  Martin Sojka Dec 11 '12 at 9:08
    
@SevenSidedDie Yes, that makes more sense. –  Yamikuronue Dec 11 '12 at 13:18
    
@Martin Good point—so maybe not quite as rare as I was guessing. Still, those would mostly be on-topic. Only if they mixed in programming problems would it be all or just partly off-topic. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 11 '12 at 15:58
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My vote is that their existence being confirmed or not is on topic, but specific MUD mechanics questions like what @JonathonHobbs mentioned in his comment are not.

A gray area I can see here is whether a particular MUD was faithful or not to the game it emulated, but I've not much experience with MUDing myself. Such a case as that, I don't have much to say for or against.

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It seems to me that Arqade is a far more suitable place for these questions. Since RPG.SE doesn’t accept questions on other roleplaying-related computer/video games (even if they’re related to a tabletop game, or even if people have roleplaying communities through them), I don’t see MUDs as any different just because they lack graphics.

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+1 to that. As someone who programmed them, there is very little difference between MUDs and MMOs as far as the mechanics, game-play or general problems the players are facing goes - just the presentation is usually different (though there are graphical MUDs too!). Questions about the game go to Arqade, questions about designing and programming the rules go to GameDev. –  Martin Sojka Dec 11 '12 at 8:52
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No. MUDs are not on topic for RPG.SE, which is about playing and running tabletop RPGs. Related media - computer RPGs, novels, films, MUDs, breakfast cereals, etc. don't belong here.

MUDs are legitimately on topic for Arquade, if anyone would ever ask a MUD question that's not a game-rec.

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Though I agree, I feel like this is missing something that would make it more useful: how do you define the dividing line between play-by-chat and MUDding? –  SevenSidedDie Dec 11 '12 at 4:59
    
Play by chat is people playing a RPG in chat. A MUD is a computer game. Sure there will be some edge case someday when the first VTT becomes self aware but currently it's obvious. –  mxyzplk Dec 11 '12 at 12:32
    
Since the original question that prompted this was asked at all, got upvotes, close votes, and (importantly) is still open, I have to ignore what my intuition says should be universally obvious, because obviously my intuition is wrong about the universal part. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 11 '12 at 16:01
    
Sometimes even mods get tired of closing questions. –  mxyzplk Dec 11 '12 at 20:06
    
Yeah. Just saying that though I wish it were obvious to all, it appears to not be. If you can offer a rule of thumb for distinguishing RPing platforms from video games, it'd be a useful tool. Being hard to define, I also don't expect one… But that's what my upvote (FWIW) is looking for in these answers. That's all, why I asked. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 11 '12 at 22:43
    
Not interested in defining the obvious for people - that's why we have a community and mods that work off what makes sense, not some legalistic definition. "But you see you don't define the word 'the'!" "Suck it. <deleted>" –  mxyzplk Dec 12 '12 at 2:30
    
So "let the voting system do it". Fair. –  SevenSidedDie Dec 12 '12 at 3:01
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