Even before writing the first description in your area, it is generally wise to have a plan of some sort. For some this involves taking a paper and pencil and hand-drawing the map of the area before starting work on the computer. We will do the same, although our paper and pencil will be a text editor. Notepad, WordPad, even Microsoft Word will do on Windows; Emacs, VI, and Pico will do just fine on UNIX. The Macintosh has its own version of Notepad, but if you want to be fancy you can use BBEdit. UltraEdit for Windows is the editor of choice for this handbook.
What do we want to create? Well, for this guide we will create a simple inn, an area no more than twelve rooms large. A name for the inn doesn't come to mind right off the bat, but we do happen to know what we want in the inn. We want at least one bar, perhaps a room or two with tables away from the bar, an entranceway into the bar, a cellar in which the innkeeper stores his wines and liquors, an perhaps a guestroom or two in an area above the bar. Let's create a map:
006 008 - 006 / | / | 004 - 005 009 007 004 / | | / 001 - 002 - 003 010 |
Mm, so far so good. Nothing is labelled yet, but we have a fairly good notion where we want to place things. 001 is our entrance to the bar. 002 and 003 is the bar room where tavern patrons enjoy their food and drink. 004 is where the innkeeper/bartender keeps bar. 005 also has tables, and a staircase leading upwards to some rooms. 006 and 008 are each part of a hallway; 007 and 009 are the rooms connected to those hallways. 010 is the cellar, wherein the liquors and foodstuffs are kept.
Still, we could add at least one more room, a pathway leading up to the bar. And then we need to think up names for each of the rooms, so (a) we remember what they are supposed to be, and (b) we know what the players will see when they enter the rooms. So let's continue:
006 008 - 006 / | / | 004 - 005 009 007 004 / | | / 001 - 002 - 003 010 | 000 000 :: The Walk to xxxx 001 :: The Entrance to xxxx 002 :: A Room Filled with Tables 003 :: A Room Filled with Tables 004 :: The Bar 005 :: A Room Filled with Tables 006 :: The Hallway on the Second Floor 007 :: A Room above the Barroom 008 :: The Hallway 009 :: A Room above the Barroom 010 :: The Cellar
Ahh, better. The area as it stands will be eleven rooms. Although we could expand the bar a bit, for purposes of this handbook it is unnecessary.
Any other details...? Yes, a name for the inn. One needn't beat one's head trying to come up with a name for one's areas/objects/mobiles on the first try. Many books and movies in real life, for example, have their titles changed several times before the authors and producers of such works are satisfied with the title. So, what to do if you're stuck? Just think of the area you are building, and associate it with a mobile or object found in your area. It doesn't have to be an earth-shattering, remember-at-all-costs name. Hmmm. We'll name our bar the "Red Beer Inn".
So, now, to apply the name to our map:
The Red Beer Inn 006 008 - 006 / | / | 004 - 005 009 007 004 / | | / 001 - 002 - 003 010 | 000 000 :: The Walk to the Red Beer Inn 001 :: The Entrance to the Red Beer Inn 002 :: A Room Filled with Tables 003 :: A Room Filled with Tables 004 :: The Bar 005 :: A Room Filled with Tables 006 :: The Hallway on the Second Floor 007 :: A Room above the Barroom 008 :: The Hallway 009 :: A Room above the Barroom 010 :: The Cellar
For the most part the plan is done. As a helpful hint, too much detail in the beginning can hinder progress in the future. Detail is great, sure, and you can see from above we have a good deal of it. But should you want to expand or contract the area later, and you work out a lot of detail now, you will need to change those details as well. The more details, the more you may need to change. And you'll have increased your work, to boot.
Now, you'll notice we started out our plan in a specific way. In just about every mud that exists, there are three things that every area must have: mobiles, objects, and rooms. Mobiles (mobs) are the creatures players interact with, whether by fighting them, gaining quests from them, or by socializing with them. Objects are the items, the things, which players carry on their persons, or which players use to perform certain actions, or which add to the atmosphere of a room. Rooms are the places where the interaction between players, mobiles, and objects happen. The way we began was by describing the rooms of the area.
Why? No particular reason. Some builders find mobs the easiest to build, so begin there. Others find objects the easiest to make. Rooms aren't necessarily the easiest to make, but they are the places where our mobiles and objects, and players, exist. And just as in real life plants and animals did not precede rocks and water, so mobs and objects often do not precede rooms. Thus many times you'll find you are first building rooms for the mobiles and objects of your area, and thereafter the mobiles and objects themselves.
This is not always the case. Depending on the kind of area you are intending on building, mobiles or objects may be the first things you create. Consider building an area based on a story line: you wish to have Sir GoodHeart out to rescue the Princess from the evil knight Scoundrel. You think the area will be medieval in flavor, perhaps with a castle, some woods, and a few tents to hold the rescuers. But how many rescuers? What will they be like? So we have Sir GoodHeart, and he needs a squire, Luc Luster, and perhaps several servants, men and maids. Scoundrel, on the other hand, has several lackeys under his command -- the villainous Pockmark, the evil LightBender, the dark mage FoulTooth, and so on -- and a dragon to boot. Here we have the juices flowing and mobs being created left and right. Don't stop! Flowing juices are a builder's, indeed, any writer's best friend. If you happen to begin with mobiles, go with it. Objects are the same way; you may require a quest for the Bridge-Star, the points and center of which the archmage Ludris shattered into six pieces and took to the far corners of the globe. If objects get you going, go with it.
However, more times than not, especially when working with small areas that have no story line in themselves, you'll begin by creating rooms. We want to have a forested area with wolves and antelope and pixies, so we're likely to need the forest area described. We have to create a camp of orcs on the outskirts of Gerund; tents, campfires, cages for hostages, lookout posts, and so forth all need working out. In our case, the Red Beer Inn, we need an inn with a barkeep, perhaps some customers, and maybe a surprise mob. But, as these are not part of any story, we start with the rooms.
Now that we have a map ready, let's move on to the next step, creating the area file.