DragonRealms (commonly abbreviated DR among players) is a text-based MMO created by Simutronics. First launched in 1996 for the GEnie gaming service, then moving to AOL and Compuserve, until finally going independent, it has enjoyed an active player base ever since. While graphical MMOs like World of Warcraft completely dominate it in terms of subscribers, DragonRealms is one of the most popular text-based MMOs even today. And, like many popular graphical MMOs, it has a monthly fee of $15 (and up). Simutronics is still actively developing for DragonRealms, with no plans of stopping any time soon.
DragonRealms is set on the fictional world of Elanthia, the same world shared with their other popular text-based MMO, Gemstone IV, though set in a different time period. This world is separated into five provinces, with each province having several cities and thousands of "rooms." Many areas are separated by large expanses of water, or large chasms that require the use of boats or gondolas or other non-player-controlled modes of transportation. These boat rides may take between several minutes to several hours of real life time. These rides are meant to foster interaction between players, but most people these days simply log off for the duration of the journey.
The gameplay is very similar to other text-based games, with commands being entered via text input. Common input includes movement (n, s, w, go door), combat (slice goblin, chop rat, load crossbow), and interaction (say Hello, yell Is anyone there?, whisper OtherPlayer It's a secret). DragonRealms also has an extensive collection of emote commands (flail, cringe, laugh), with many commands having variants depending on circumstances (race, location, what you're holding). The full list can be found at http://www.play.net/dr/info/commands_all.asp.
Player interaction is a major part of DragonRealms, and is what keeps many players playing for years upon years. There is a strong emphasis on role-playing, with out of character (OOC) speech being prohibited in the game. DragonRealms has an extensive in-game library for players who want to take things extremely seriously, with books about dieties, history, and even things like units of measurement. DragonRealms also has a huge amount of wearable items (commonly called fluff), which players can use to help define their character. Other limited-time events, like festivals or merchant visits offer (expensive) opportunities to alter existing items or buy items not available elsewhere. Some very rare items may have "verbs," or actions that the owner can perform when wearing them. Common verbs include "turn" and "tap," which may display special messages unique to that item.
Skills and Advancement
DragonRealms features a unique skill system, which has been constantly tweaked and improved over the years, but never fundamentally changed. Instead of earning experience that goes into a global pool which denotes your level like almost all other MMORPGs, DragonRealms has over fifty individual experience pools for every skill. These skills included survival skills like Climbing and Swimming, magical skills like Magical Devices, combat skills like Shield Usage, Heavy Edged Weapons, Light Chain Armor, and many others. You gain experience in these skills through the specific use of them, so using a heavy bladed weapon in combat will increase your skill in Heavy Edged Weapons. Each skill has its own rank (level), which increases over time with use. So, a player who focuses on combat may have 100 ranks in Heavy Edged Weapons and 120 ranks in Leather Armor, but only 10 ranks in Swimming, and 0 ranks in Musical Lore.
Since DragonRealms was initially built for internet service providers that charged by the hour, it benefitted the providers (and Simutronics) to create a system that rewarded people who stayed online the most. Although this has changed in recent years in order to give players a more enjoyable experience, the original experience system was extremely slow moving. Instead of immediately rewarding the player with experience, it would go into a holding pool of sorts, which would slowly drain over time. To use a contrived example, imagine that attacking with a scimitar ten times would give the player one rank in Medium Edged Weapons (in reality, especially at higher ranks, it would take many hundreds or thousands of attacks to earn a rank). Instead of immediately rewarding the player with that rank, they would slowly earn it over time as it drained from that holding pool. This overall system of holding pools still exists today, but with many changes that makes it easier for the players, including the ability to drain pools while offline, as well as speeding up the process in general. Even with these changes, advancement is still extremely slow compared to other MMORPGs. The time to advance a character to the maximum Circle (level) is measured in years, not in hours or days, and is really only attainable by the most dedicated of players.
This unique skill system lends itself to a unique character advancement system. Each Guild (class) has unique requirements for each Circle. So a Barbarian may require a specific number of ranks in weapons and armor, while a Bard may require ranks in different instruments and other musical skills. In this way, your guild determines how you need to spend your time in order to advance. A Barbarian may have hundreds of ranks in Stringed Instruments and Swimming, but he won't be able to advance anywhere in his Guild without the required weapon and armor skills.
A primary focus of DragonRealms is the interaction between characters, so who your character is and what he does is a very important aspect. Your Guild and Race goes a long way in defining your character, and can often form the basis of your personality.
There are eleven guilds available to join, with some guilds being more difficult to join than others. Your guild determines many things about your character. Not only does it dictate what skills you will need to improve in order to advance, it may also restrict you from learning certain skills. It will also provide unique spells or abilities as you advance, and may even have a code of conduct that you must follow in order to maintain good standing within your guild. Your guild also determines what your "primary" skills are, which are a class of skills that you have a bonus towards learning.
Barbarians focus on combat, and decry all forms of traditional magic. They have an increased magic resistance and are forbidden from learning magical skills. They use Inner Fire to fuel their skills, and have dances that can temporarily improve their skills. They are also the best at forging weapons.
Bards are masters of music and storytelling. They augment their skills with Enchantes, which use their musical and magical abilities. They have some abilities that use their musical skills rather than weapons to damage their enemies.
Clerics use Holy Magic to aid others, as well as improve their skills in combat. Their magic and blessed weapons are particularly effective against undead and other evil creatures. While some Clerics choose to go out in the world and fight, others focus on helping others, and are the only guild with the ability to resurrect fallen characters.
Empaths are the healers of the realms, and are prohibited from using weapons. If they cause harm to anyone, they suffer Empathic Shock and are unable to use their Empath abilities for a period of time. They heal by transfering the wounds from others to themselves, and casting magic that heals themselves. They also are often proficient teachers, since many Empaths spend much of their time in large groups healing others.
Moon Mages are scholars of sorts, with esoteric magic skills. They possess the ability to predict the future, use the power of their minds and the moons and stars to cast spells, and can create portals from one area to another, which can greatly decrease travel time. They have very low combat requirements, and some Moon Mages rarely leave the comforts of libraries and observatories.
The Necromancer guild is the most recently created guild, and is considered an in-game secret. The guild locations and requirements are not published, unlike the other guilds, and it is a challenge of sorts to even join. They have special skills only available to Necromancers, and are the only guild considered inherently evil.
Paladins are the defenders of the realms, and have a code of honor that they must uphold. If a Paladin fails to follow this standard of behavior, they will be barred from their guild until they cleanse their soul. They have a focus on armor and defense.
Rangers thrive in the wilderness of Elanthia, and focus on survival skills. Their skills improve when they are in wilderness areas, and if they spend too much time in cities, their abilities will suffer. They are able to use the Tracking skill to follow a trail, and can gain animal companions.
The Thief guild is a secret of sorts, with many people denying its very existence. The location of the guild is a secret, and has a quest associated with joining. They have a focus on survival skills, especially Hiding, Stalking, and Stealing. They are also able to backstab in combat, as well as aim and fire ranged weapons from hiding. Unlike Necromancers, however, they are not inherently evil.
Traders main purpose in life is to make money. They are experts at appraisal and trading, and often travel with caravans from city to city, trading goods to make a profit. They also have the ability to set up player-owned shops in certain areas.
Warrior Mages use magic and weapons together to excel in combat. They have the ability to summon familiars, which can perform small tasks for them. Most of their spells focus on combat.
There are eleven races available, each with different bonuses and penalties, which often lend themselves to specific guilds. While there are no race/guild restrictions, there are many combinations that are much more challenging to excel with.
Humans are the most balanced class, with no bonuses or penalties to skills.
Dwarves have improved stamina, but poor reflexes. This makes for a good Barbarian, but a poor Thief. They take pride in their beards, and have many different ways to braid and groom them.
Elves has improved reflexes and agility, but poor strength and stamina, almost the exact opposite of Dwarves. They make good Ranges and Thieves, but poor Paladins and Barbarians.
Elotheans are a pale, lithe race, with improved mental abilities, but very poor strength and stamina. They are often Moon Mages and Empaths, since they require very little combat.
Gnomes are the weakest of races, but have excel in both agility and mental abilities. They make proficient thieves, but are found among all guilds.
Gor'Togs are by far the strongest race, but suffer in mental prowess. They are overwhelmingly Barbarians, since Barbarians are unable to use magic. They are tall, bulky, hairless, and have a green complexion.
Halflings have impressive reflexes, but lack discipline and strength. Most halflings tend to be thieves, both because of abilities, and because of their child-like, mischevious demeanor.
Kaldar are physically very similar to humans, but they are not as balanced in terms of skills. They are charismatic and have improved strength, but below-average mental abilities. They are commonly Paladins and Barbarians.
Prydaen are a feline-like race who are very proud and solitary. They have improved reflexes and charisma, but poor discipline. Like gnomes, they are found among almost all guilds.
While normally Human-like in appearence, the Rakash transform into a wolf-human hybrid on a full moon. They have improved stamina and discipline, but lack agility and wisdom. They are often thieves, rangers, and other guilds focused on Survival skills.
The S'Kra Mur are a lizard-like race with improved strength but poor mental abilities. They are often Warrior Mages, Barbarians, and Thieves. They possess the ability to hiss instead of speak, which gives their speech a snake-like feel.
DragonRealms has a strong focus on Roleplaying. Discussing game mechanics on a meta level is heavily discouraged, but there are still many ways to discuss the game while staying somewhat in character. For example, the EXP RP command will list your skills in in-game terms (Leather Armor: Somewhat Proficient instead of Leather Armor: 40), so you can talk about your abilities while staying within the game. Speaking out-of-character is prohibited, and all real world discussions should use whispers (or the OOC command, which works similarly to whispers).
There are also policies governing character names. Names should be appropriate to the setting (Gunhaver Jones is no good), be in-character (Baseballfan Smith is no good), and should not be taken from existing fiction (Gimli McLegolas is no good). The BADNAME command exists for characters to report poor naming choices, and characters with offending names will be asked to rename their characters.
The Simutronics-created front end for DragonRealms supports rudimentary scripting capabilities. Other 3rd party front ends support more advanced scripting languages, which let players write extremely advanced scripts. The most common use of scripts is traveling, because cities may be very far away, and it can be tedious to manually walk hundreds of rooms from one place to another. Another common use is writing scripts to train your character. This can be a simple script to repeatedly perform one or two actions (swim east, pause, swim west, pause), or very advanced scripts that may train many different skills, or even handle all facets of combat.
Away from keyboard (AFK) scripting is prohibited, since it can give players large advantages without much effort, and it can also disrupt the roleplaying environment. Running scripts while staying at the keyboard and being aware of your surroundings is completely within policy, as long as it isn't disruptive to other players. The DragonRealms staff will perform "script checks" on players that are acting suspiciously, to determine if they are AFK scripting. These commonly take the form of in-game queues that require an in-game response. They are usually performed several times with increased visibility. If the player fails to respond, they will suffer harsh penalties, such as the loss of skills. At very high levels, something like a 10% decrease in all skills can represent hundreds of hours lost, so this is usually a very strong deterrent.
PvP in DragonRealms is fairly structured, but there are also many ways to abuse the system. Players can set their stance on PvP (Open, which means they're always up for it; Closed, which means they don't want any PvP interaction; Guarded, which means they're up for PvP if it's appropriate for Roleplaying reasons). Players can change their stance once every 48 hours, and it may be automatically changed when you take certain actions like attacking another player, or stealing from someone. However, if someone feels they were unjustly attacked and killed, they can REPORT the issue, and Simutronics staff may step in and attempt to resolve the issue. If someone is out of line with regards to PvP, the staff may take action and suspend them from the game.