What is a Desc?

Literally, it's the text you see when you use the 'look' command on an object, room, or particularly character (the name comes from the TinyMUD command to set it: @describe). However, to a MUD character, a desc is everything that wardrobe, hairstyle, body language, and car model is to a RL person, and more, all summed up in (hopefully) one paragraph of English text. Encompassing as it does every visible aspect of the character besides their deliberate actions, a desc is a very important part of an RPMUD character. On true social MUDs, this is not such a big deal, since everyone is presumed to be more or less like their RL self regardless of what their desc says, but everyone likes to look nice.

In theory, writing a desc is easy: you just write down what your character looks like. In practice, well, it must still be pretty easy since I can do it, but doing it well is more of a trick than it might first appear. The Ten Commandments of Descing list several important things to do, and more importantly, to avoid. (Personally, I think Fire's length limit is too generous: descs should be no more than 8-10 lines, with perhaps a special exemption to 12 if you really thoroughly fail to suck. Since (through the magic of exponential growth) almost all MUDders belong to the recent generation that considers 2-3 page descs a standard, this makes me a reactionary old curMUDgeon. No surprise there.) Once you have the rules of style down, the problem reduces to capturing the essence of your character as well as possible in the limited space. No problem. Just ask any writer.

Since ideas come to me rarely and infrequently, I try to milk them for all they're worth, so that every few weeks I'll give everyone I know a desc based on my latest theme. The most notable themes I've used are presented here in vaguely chronological order, with a few of the least embarrassing examples from each.

Scholarly Notes on Spirits

CHRIS: one of the legendary Hundred Masters of the Imaginary Kingdoms. Commonly depicted as a man with an absurdly long brown braid and the claws of a tiger, and always shown with musicians is attendance. His characteristic element is aether, and his card is the Zero of Rainbows. (There is some evidence that this is the spirit referred to as Kumiko by the former inhabitants of the Sunken Isles, and as IronThoughts by the people of the Animal Empire.)
CHRISBER: a minor spirit of knowledge, revered by the inhabitants of North California. Commonly depicted as a slight man with a beaky nose, black hair, and the wings of an ibis, wearing a suit jacket and a white linen kilt in the Egyptian style. His magical tools are round-lensed spectacles engraved with the Eye of Horus, a clock escapement, and a turkey-quill pen. His particular sphere of influence is small mechanisms, his characteristic element is brass, and his card is the Seven of Books.

Netcom Internet Abuse Squad

These descs were actually worn on the Netcom internal MUD, I believe. Alas, I don't think any customers ever saw them.

Actinic sparks shower from the whip-crack, spattering off curves of black armor, leaving glowing pockmarks in the bystanders. Skate wheels screech as she slides to a stop, tracks glowing red-hot behind her. Amber text flows across the blank faceplate, documenting crimes too heinous to be spoken aloud. One red-gloved hand flips up the visor, revealing brown eyes in a smirking face. "Officer Marith, Abusers Squad. You're under arrest."
The rumbling sound in the distance resolves into the growl of a grotesquely over-powered engine. Dim red headlights cast beams of heat through the writhing smoke, suggesting oncoming doom without illuminating its shape. The engine roar redoubles as the car rounds a corner, rattling the bricks in their mortar. Spiked tires claw sparking gaps in the pavement as the looming beweaponed shape grinds to a halt not an inch too soon. The top hatch slams open and out pops a brown face with glinting brown eyes, and brown hair tucked messily under an officer's cap. "Apprentice Ayse, Abusers Squad!" The inch-wide muzzle of her sidearm swings to bear, gaping beneath the red eye of the laser sight. "You're under arrest!"
With a roar of turbines and screech of spiked tires, the bike swerves around the burning wreckage of a twenty-line .signature and into plain view, sliding to a halt at the end of three red-hot grooves in the magnetic pavement. Red light flickers on curves of black leather and fairing of black ceramic, lighting them to the color of ancient blood and the trailling banner of hair to scarlet flame. The multi-barreled cannon mounted in the side car tracks with the rider's swivelling helmet, showing the name "CANCELBOT" stenciled on the barrel shroud before it swings to bear. One metal-gloved hand flips up the faceplace, revealing hard hazel eyes in a smirking face. "Officer Teleute, Abusers Squad. Log out or die."


A black greatcoat billows like wings behind a slim figure briefly robed in clinging black, and gloved and stockinged in lace like the shadows of dead twigs on snow. Her oval face is serene and unreadable behind round copper lenses graven with the two faces of a penny, and her short black hair feathers out on the same impalpable wind that swirls her coat. A silver ankh lurks gleaming between her breasts, and in her left hand she wields a pair of scissors reversed like a dagger.
The immaculate white of Paradise still stains her delicate skin and the scraps of raiment wrapped 'round her bosom and loins, but her wings flash the blue-green of living worlds, with a wide-open eye on every feather, and her streaming mane burns gold as a sun. The black of clinkered sin streaks her slender bare legs, and a shattered silver fetter trails from every delicate wrist. Smooth silver-violet metal shields mortal eyes from full sight of her face, revealing only eyes like stars, and a mouth of ruby and ivory.

Shadowfist Cards

These will only make sense if you play ShadowFist, or at least some CCG.

T.Rev: Yeti Mastermind / Fighting: 1 / Costs: [Jam][Tech] 2 / Provides: [Jam][Chi] / Text: Unique. Toughness: 1. Turn T.Rev and pay twice play cost of target card to cancel and smoke any [Asc] State, Event, or Site as it is being played. This effect may not be used on cards already in play. _T.Rev is a tireless opponent of the Conspiracy._ / Art: Against a background of snowy peaks, a huge shaggy blond Yeti sits at a folding card table by the edge of a cliff. The ground just where his opponent would be sitting has crumbled away into chasm, leaving only a few speed lines pointing downward. The Yeti is not smirking.
Chris: Resourceful Sysadmin / Fighting: 1 / Cost: [MUD][Tech] / Provides: [MUD][MUD][Tech] / Text: Chris's controller may play [MUD] and Virtual sites from his smoked pile. If Chris is smoked, he returns to his owner's hand. _If you've got the database, he's got the site._ / Art: A large black leather chair, facing away from the viewer and towards a desk with an imposing pile of computer equipment, surrounded by imposing piles of audio equipment, stacks of CDs, and piles of books. Nothing can be seen of the chair's occupant except for an immensely long brown braid tossed over the back and trailing across the floor.
Running on Hawkwind / Virtual State / Cost: [MUD][MUD] 2 / Text: Play only on a [MUD] or Virtual site. Subject site cannot be burned, and returns to owner's hand if smoked. / Art: An innocuous-looking workstation, sitting on a desk surrounded by high-piled CDs.

XXXenophile Cards

These will only make sense if you play XXXenophile, but may be amusing without making sense.

Nine / Modern * Sysadmin * Enigma / 9 / Art: An exceedingly fit and sleekly handsome young man lies sprawled on a chaise longue, his smooth brown skin bare and his long black hair trailing damply. Although he appears quite exhausted, his expression can only be described as smug. On couches, divans, and cushions around him are an assortment of beautiful young women, strapping young lads, and fuzzy young animals, all equally exhausted. On a stage in the background, the judges are holding up big cards each bearing the numeral 9. / Artist: Phil Foglio / Text: Pop any combination of characters whose values sum to exactly 9.
Desert Radio / Future * Alien * Vegetable / 7 / Art: A strange plant lurks ominously in a heavy stone planter that apparently trundles about on tank-like treads. The plant is tree-high, and has a strong central stalk, but sports viny tendrils with large valentine-shaped leaves on the upper portions; several stalks with curiously human eyes bobbing at the tips; and several large flowers with strong fleshy petals, some closed into pastel orange spikes and some opened out into shocking pink receptacles. Several peculiar devices are strapped to the base of the trunk, some apparently shaped for mammalian anatomy. / Artist: Phil Foglio / Text: Pop one Vegetable

The Implausible Bestiary, 2nd Ed.

Samammish Feathered Serpent: A medium-sized, warm-blooded predator of TooMUSH and the Pacific Northwest, famed for the pastel iridescence of its steel-hard scales and flamboyant plumage, and the deadly venom of its extensible fangs. Adult specimens can reach lengths of nearly two meters, weigh up to fifty kilograms, and can spring three to five times their own length. Commonly found in software labs and other well-connected places, where they prey upon Windows developers and soccer players. Mating habits are obscure, if they exist at all; some authorities hold that the young are hatched from soccer balls. --_Implausible Bestiary_, 2nd Ed.
Crested Meefling Lizard: This rare migratory creature can be found from coast to coast of North America, as well as some parts of Northern Europe. It may be distinguished from other lizards of similar size by its attraction to antiquated books, spiny copper-colored crest, and unique cry of 'meefle!'. The crested meefling lizard normally lairs under rocks in pools of warm water, despite its diet of chihuahuas and mint ice cream. It apparently has no trouble breeding. --_Implausible Bestiary_, 2nd Ed.
Snider's Olive Grass-Bounder: This peaceable intermittent herbivore can be often be found leaping and stotting across the American midwest and southwest, or sitting quietly in small fashionable coffeeshops. Although its fuzzy olive-brown pelt, large innocent eyes, and short blunt black horns make the grass-bounder a tempting target for predators, it can deliver a fierce kick with its shiny hooves, or even run down enemies (if its knees don't give out). The mating habits of the grass-bounder are a popular topic among younger researchers. --_Implausible Bestiary_, 2nd Ed.

Mythos Cards

Yet more CCG-based descs. For reasons too complicated to go into here, they've been put on a separate page.

Other People's AmberMUSH Characters

These are only partially my work; I wrote some clothing descriptions to go with already-existing characters desced by someone else. If you can't tell where the dividing line is, presume the good parts come from the characters' players.

I wrote approximately a zillion descs for Raoul, who was something of a clotheshorse. These are the ones Chris still remembered after a couple of years.

Raoul (played by Chris)
His form is sheathed in dark green marble, shot through with veins of rust-red that jut above the surface in jagged crystals, statue-smooth, intricately-jointed, and sculpted closely to his lean frame. Over the face, the green is etched away, leaving a web of rust crystals for protection and shadows, and a plume of green feathers edged in ragged rust stands out behind the smooth curve of the helmet.
Faceless and nameless in armor grey and charcoal as a dragon-borne storm, the plates and scales outlined in lightning. The surcoat and cloak are darker, distant sheet lightning behind glowering thunderheads in patterns that might be a crest and might be chance. Brightest of all is the plume of St Elmo's fire trailing down behind the helm, dripping sparks like burning water.
Andrea (played by Ayse)
Taller than average, lithe and proud, with long legs and fragile grace that shows even through the glittering ice that sheaths her from crown to toe. Golden sun and dusky sky sparkle in the depths of the crystal plates and gleam wickedly from the points and edges. Blue eyes gleam coldly behind the golden gargoyle mask of her helmet, and a line of shining blue spikes forms the crest.
Una (played by Chrisber)
A young woman with short brown, curly hair. Her mouth smiles easily, but with a touch of cruelty, and there is a matching glint in her brown eyes. She carries herself like a dancer, gracefully and well-balanced. Her knee-length red robe is printed with white roses, and tightly belted with a white sash 'round her narrow waist. The weight of the fine metal rings between the layers of heavy silk drapes the robe to her slender, muscled body, and the glossy black leggings beneath cling to the carved lines of her calves. Thrust through the sash is a narrow black-lacquered scabbard bearing a basket-hilted sword.
Janier (played by Ayse)
She stands delicate and graceful as a bird with plumage of moonlight, dainty head cocked and green eyes brighter than stars. Her face and hands are birdlike too, bones prominent under smooth translucent skin, marred only by a bone-white scar across her right palm. Wings of lunar silk billow fluttering behind her, hue identical to the streaming banner of her hair. Two joined silver hoops hang from her left ear.

My Own AmberMUSH Characters

I played Sabriamillian for part of one plotline, played Tané off and on as my main character, and finally gave up on Amber before actually playing Clepsydra.

She's tall, her height exaggerated by the space between feet and ground, and slender as a swordblade without missing a single curve. Violet hair streams out behind her in a banner as iridescent as martin feathers, and no more conscious of gravity, and violet eyes glow from her white-rose face. Her clothes are moonlight glossy as silk: close-fitting jacket frogged and trimmed with braided gold, skin-tight breeches, and long epauleted overcoat. The coat and jacket leave her arms bare, pink against the pure silver-white, but lacy moonlight trails from fingertips almost to elbows.
Poets have ever compared the beauty of women to that of flowers, but never has it been more true. Her smooth skin is tinted with the hue of living leaves, and her pale hair is not just strewn with flowers but made of them, hundreds of vermillion-spotted white blossoms spilling down her back. Even what seem to be a brief vest and skirt of silk dyed to match her hair are enormous petals sprouting from behind her shoulders and waist and curling around her comely form. Those details aside, she looks remarkably human, although no taller than a child and with enormous eyes of the same vermillion that spots her petals.
Her face is pale and calm, narrow-chinned and delicate-featured, capped by short platinum hair so fine it feathers out on any draft, striking iridescent sparks from the violet patch before her left ear. Her eyes are likewise iridescent and violet, shimmering between faintly narrowed lids. She is of no more than middling height, slim-shouldered and slim-hipped, but feminine nevertheless. Her jacket of snowy satin is oversized and puff-sleeved, slashed to show violet silk within and decorated with white silk lacings and ribbons. Her equally white hose are sleekly unadorned except for a violet ribbon down the outside of her right leg. A violet sash slung across her hips supports a basket-hilted rapier in a plain white scabbard.

The Crypt of St Leviathan

These descs have also been moved to another page in the interests of organization.


In no particular order, chronological or otherwise. T.Rev is responsible for the pun in the third entry, but all other atrocities are mine.

An octet of sapphire-blue cybernetic limbs spread out in a four-meter starburst, framing her upper body like an ivory statue. The line between flesh and ceramic falls sharp at her hips: above, she could almost be human, though more perfect of face and form than chance would provide; below, all sleek spidery legs and smooth mechanical joints. The long amber eyes, above her smiling features, might be Asian, though a Western artist must have dreamed those pale, opulent curves. Hand-sized golden spiders continually braid and rebraid the trailing raven banner of her hair, keeping it floating free of tangles or snags.
It's Cera Cerium, heroine of the Pleiades Rangers! She looks just like she does in the newsreels: tall and lithe, smooth olive skin bronzed and close-cropped copper hair gilded by alien suns, oval faced banded with a pale raccoon-mask of goggle marks around her viridescent eyes. Under a battered leather bombadier's jacket, a midnight-blue one-piece uniform outlines her curves, the seven stars of the Pleiades blazoned across the swell of her bosom, and she has a rocket pack slung over one shoulder in a tangle of straps, counterbalanced by a satchel of spare 'platter' clips for the atomic rifle dangling casually from her hand.
She's alien, but not *too* alien, and quite definitely old enough despite being only chin-high to a tall Martian. Stylishly short milk-chocolate hair and long segmented antennae crown her cheerful round face, one lock curling down into her wide moss-green eyes. Plates of strawberry-pink chitin armor her shoulders and spine, and much of her long limbs, but the padding of her spectacular curves is soft peaches-and-cream skin. Her costume is what Earth girls wish they could wear: a scoop-necked Spandex halter and disintegrating thigh-length cut-offs. A bright green button pinned to her halter announces, 'SEX CHITIN'.
She stands graceful and poised as a classical statue, expression composed and great dark eyes warmer than summer nights. Her face and hands are delicate, pale as ivory, and unmarred by any touch of Helios. Black silk and diamonds cling to her form and stream out on the wind, glittering like the night sky in troubled water, and her blowing hair shines like clouds before the moon. A quarter moon of pure and tarnished silver rides on her bosom.
A Harmony in four parts: a contralto, dark in brown leather and crimson denim, black crew-cut bent over the lipstick-red bass in her lap; a alto, long brown braids coiling down her bright summery dress of sunrise yellow and orange, fingers deft on her golden guitar; a mezzo soprano, tall and elegant in close-fitting jacket and trousers of turquoise and sea green, auburn hair falling forward as she leans over her drums; and a soprano in flowing violet robes and flowing platinum hair, fiddle of white birchwood wailing under her chin.
Brown hair spikes out in all directions around a pretty brown face with mad brown eyes, pupils dilated in fascination at what they're seeing (which doesn't seem to be what you're seeing). She's wearing a straitjacket with shredded sleeves as a minidress, leaving her slim brown legs bare except for a collection of hospital ID bracelets around one ankle. On the back of the straitjacket is a large hand-made patch with a North American Pinstriped Loon circled by the words 'DILUTE! DILUTE! OK!', and a well-used fireaxe drags from one hand.
This is the rare and curious Liralen, a nonesuch if there ever was one. Certainly no other creature has hair so sleek and black, or feathers so white and plumey, or a heart so bright and brave. Her material form is like a lady of the Middle Kingdom, tall and graceful and brilliant-eyed, clad in silk the color of a twilit sky, with white feathers pouring down her back like a cloak; her spiritual form is a bird of shining white, larger and fiercer than a tiger, with a black and white sphere clutched in one talon.
At first impression, his billowing black Cambridge gown, square steel-rimmed glasses, and gold-clasped tail of Chinaman-black hair are the very picture of academic eccentricity. The blue eyes behind the lenses are sharp as cameras, though, in a cheerful face weathered brown by strange suns, and the body beneath the clean but worn khaki bush clothes is lean and hard. His many pockets are filled with implements of science, and his hands bear the scars of over-enthusiastic fieldwork.
Blazing crimson and carnelian feathers spill in elaborate disarry around her porcelain face and down her back, like a mane of fire against her somber clothes. Robes of coffee-on-black brocade loosely wrap her maidenly form, white-rose flesh gleaming at throat and breast, but below what should be knee-length skirts, her body trails away into six yards of ash-white serpent, each scale fringed with crimson. Her face is perfect as a Chinese doll's, only the barest hint of madness at the edges of her dark-rimmed dark eyes and in the rapid flicker of tonguetips between incarnadine lips.
She has remarkably long hair for such a short person, and of a remarkably unnatural shade of red that glows brightly against her plain white coat. The sleeves of the straitjacket are rolled up to her elbows and serve as storage for any number of pins, needles, spools of thread, and pairs of scissors, and fabric of various colors, shapes, and states of assembly is clutched in her hands. Her form is lost in the vastly oversized fit of her coat, and heavy black stomping boots conceal her calves below the hem, but her face is pretty in a maniacal sort of way.


The secondary hangout on TooMUSH, which I seem to have ended up running through no virtue of my own, gets a new desc every couple of months, or whenever inspiration wallops me.

Huy Brazeal
Fantastically twisted red branches and emerald leaves trace a skeletal dome thirty miles around and five overhead, shielding air and life from the blazing sun and glare-white lunar wastes outside apparently by pure fiat. Within, unicorns and their hunting hounds gambol across fields of head-high grass in pursuit of white stags, gryphons flutter as nimbly as hummingbirds among misty castle-crowned peaks, and mantichorae and jabberwocks lurk fire-eyed in dark tangled woods. At the very center, the grandest tree of them all towers, reaching to grasp the gibbous Earth in its citied branches.
Volcanic Pools
Precipices of vine-webbed black volcanic stone loom on every side, gleaming with spray from the cascades of warm water. Mist from the simmering pools rises toward a thumbnail of indigo sky where twisty red branches five miles high bear stars like fruit. Soft beaches of black sand and benches of smooth driftwood ring the pools both above and below water, and flowered vines hang down like tapestries of sapphire, emerald, and diamond.
Secret Headquarters Zeta
Shadows lurk in the corners of this huge deserted warehouse: the shadows that cloud the minds of evildoers! In the middle of the cavernous space, brightly lit by the spotlights of Justice, are the powerful engines and complex machineries that support the Zeta Squad in the their never-ending fight against the Malevolent Syndicate, as well as mementos of their victories against the multifarious evils of mankind. Supercomputers and electric cyborg polishers, global crime monitors and fusion rechargers, all stand like bulwarks around the tower of awesome potential that is The ZETATRON!
On the Brink
Neatly trimmed rosebushes and sculpted trees ring the smooth lawn, setting the garden off from the half-wild forest on three sides. On the fourth side the ground drops away sheer, leaving only empty air out to the desert horizon and the sun's pyre. At the very edge, a bronze kraken spouts water into a marble-edged pool, and the overflow pours out over the cliff like a stream of blood. Opposite, in a topiary frame, a marble satyr rampant stands with his pipes lowered, forever staring out over the empty lands. In the very center of the garden, lit by swarming will-o'-the-wisps, a septagonal wrought bronze table bears a feast served by invisible hands.
Gryphon Beach
The white cliffs are carved into gryphons and nymphs, krakens and merrows, the water pouting down over them shining like crystal in the sunlight. Drifts of pale sand spread out beneath their feet, a smooth carpet lightly ruffled by the wind and spotted with deep clear pools. Water flows from one pool to the next until, reaching the white stone serpent that encircles the beach, it escapes through the arch beneath snout and tail and into unfathomable cerulean gulfs, sparkling like diamonds beneath the southern sun.
A path of turquoise flagstones leads from steps descending the cliffs, past a tumbled pile of boulders, to a violet pavilion pitched on the highest dune, and then back to the other end of the cliff, terminating at a cave beneath the writhing tail of a mermaid.

This may seem like a lot, but it's just the hilites from about three years that I've been recording what I wrote, maybe a quarter of what I have squirreled away.

This file was last modified at 1429 on 24Oct03 by trip@idiom.com.