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Ishar is an interactive, multi-user, text adventure game -- also known as a MUD -- where players do battle with fearsome foes and sometimes each other so they can win great wealth and wrest rare prizes from the treasure hoards or bloody corpses of their enemies. Victories also give the player experience and advancement in game standing.

I can hear some people groaning out there. 'A TEXT game? *yawn* Where's the graphics? Where's the flash? Must be booooooring.' Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again. I have known players of many different types of games and have played many of them myself. I have never seen a game, or even heard of one, that inspires the emotional highs and lows a MUD does.

This is at least partly due to the fact that it is a long game. You start a character at level 1 with very little money and only the meagerest of possessions. As you play the character, it gets stronger. You accumulate money, hone your skills, and get better equipment. You make friends; good friends you can count on in a pinch. This is important because you will probably also make bitter enemies who will kill you if they get a chance.

Playing Ishar starts by connecting to the game and typing "new" at the login prompt. The game walks you through the few steps of creating a new character, then drops you into the virtual world with a few meager possessions and the lowest standing in the game, level 1:

Central Plaza
You stand in the center of a spacious plaza, its periphery adorned
ith potted plants and carved stone benches.  People stroll about you,
clad in bright silks and chatting amongst themselves.  A bronze seal at
your feet declares you to be in Mareldja, Crown on the Water.  A breeze
tinged with salt and brine blows eastward, and shorebirds wheel and dive
gracefully overhead. Four wide streets lead from the plaza at each of
the compass points.
A noticeboard is mounted here.  (100 unread)
An alert young guard patrols the city streets.
100H 100M 0X Exits:NWES>
You enter the game in the center of Mareldja, the largest city.

In this example, "Central Plaza" is the name of the room or place you are currently located. Following that is a paragraph with a detailed description of Central Plaza. Below that is list of people or objects that you can interact with in the room, in this case a noticeboard use to read or write messages to other players along with a guard, which is one of many game-generated characters called "mobiles" or "mobs". The last line is a "prompt", which is the MUD's way of asking you for a command while giving you a quick overview of your current status.

Commands are how you interact with the virtual world through your character. For example, typing "north" moves you into the room north of your current location, or "look" will describe your surroundings again. Most commands allow you to be more specific, such as "look at young guard". Assuming one is in the room with you, it would offer:

The guard is clad in grey and deep turquoise livery.  He radiates
order and benevolence as he wanders the city streets, protecting the
innocent and keeping the peace.
A city guard is a mighty warrior standing here in very good
condition, looking well-rested.  He appears to be of human origin and is
taller than you.
Legs-> leather pants
Wielding-> a long sword

You do not need to use the full names of most commands. As you are learning new commands, try to learn the short version. Instead of typing "north", you can just hit "n" and the Enter key. "Look" can be shortened to "l", "say" to single quote ('), etc. To find the short form of any command, look for Minimum in the help for that command, available at any time with "help <command>".

Similarly, you can use just the first three letters of the names of mobs and players and leave out unnecessary words. So "look at young guard" could actually be shortened to "l gua".

The first hour you are in the game is the hardest. It takes a little while to get used to the command syntax and get a feel for moving around in the world and interacting with everything in it. Don't be afraid of typing "help help", which offers a list of commands, or "help <command>", which will offer detailed information about any command.

You will quickly run into other players who talk to you; see "help communication" on how to reply.

Once you make it past the first few hours and want to advance your standing in the game, see "help levelling".