I have long been a fan of text-based adventuring. At the (obvious) risk of showing my age, I remember when my next door neighbor brought home Infocom’s Infidel for his Atari 800 computer. We died…a lot. Our junior high had just purchased brand new Apple IIe computers, and another friend brought in what has become one of my favorite games of all time: Zork II. Again, I died a lot.
Fast-forward to 2000-ish. The lady I was seeing at the time introduced me to MUDs: Multi-User Dungeons (alternately, Domains). These were an interactive, updated take on the old Infocom games, but as the name shows, they allowed many people to interact through the magic of the Internet and the modified rules of Dungeons & Dragons. I entered in through the door that was eventually named Rauvyon. (Side note: you can still find Rauvyon online, but I don’t think the game is functional anymore. If the message board is any indicator, it’s entirely populated by Russian porn-bots).
Some of Rauvyon’s staff spun off and began their own MUD: Arantha. I left off playing and began to write. I learned a lot of the craft of description and interaction through that project. It was a great time. I had a great supervisor (I still remember you, Shaz!), who encouraged my imagination to run amok. And it did, spawning a cooperative project for one section of their world, and another, entirely of my own creation: White Willow Swamp.
Unfortunately, life got in the way. I parted ways with the lady and my partner in writing. I soon after parted ways with Arantha, and I had already parted ways with Rauvyon.
You would think that this would be the end of my experiences with such an outdated form of gaming, yes?
Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this entry if that were at all the case.
Around 2010, I happened on a new text-based adventure place: Improbable Island. I liked it…until I didn’t. It was confusing, nonsensical. It had a magnificent sense of humor and didn’t take itself seriously at all. But I didn’t understand what and how and for god’s sake why. So I quit playing fairly soon after I began.
Like so many others, COVID-19 has forced me to re-examine things, find new in the old. So it is that I came back to Improbable Island.
And have found a new home. And it’s the people there – those brave, beautiful, open people who populate it – who have made it more than a game. Rather, it’s a gathering place and a stage. These people make it run, make the environment something more than just an online dungeon-slog. They make it truly, irresistibly fun.
I won’t spoil actual game plot points, and I’m not going to name names. I will simply say that, should you reach the point in your writing where you’d like to take a crack at surrealist improv while having a blast, you could do far worse than to create a character running around Improbable Island. Be warned: it’s not a porn game, but it is adult. We curse. We deal with adult topics (get your mind out of the gutter. Like life, death, insanity, inclusion, love. You know: heavy shit).
But take a look at the opening to the game at https://www.improbableisland.com/ and see if something jumps out at you. If you want to read what happens next, you go ahead and click the link at the end of that paragraph. And strap in.
Who knows? If you run into Darth Emwyn, tell them I sent you.