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On Chiaroscuro MUSH, you get what you put in multiplied by about a hundred. This means that if you're looking for a MUSH to put zero effort in, you'll get zero fun back. If you're looking for somewhere to invest some character-building and theme-learning sweat, you'll likely get a good return.
I had a head start on Chiaroscuro, because I've been playing games by Wes Platt since before its inception. I jumped in on this, his take on a medieval-fantasy game, more or less at its very beginning, and I've been playing there with a varying set of characters ever since.
Wes Platt has a do-it-yourself philosophy when it comes to MUSHing. He provides an intricate theme, world-shattering plots, and a bunch of help files. You provide your character, your impetus to leap into plots, and the sort of mindset which reads through the theme or asks other players before trying something major. If you wish, you can play a character who lives quietly with the world falling down around her ears, or you can play one of the movers-and-shakers in political, social, combat, or magical facets of the realm.
Chiaroscuro players are a literate, engaging bunch, and they self-organise into amazing political and social groups. They're friendly and helpful on the newbie channel, if somewhat outrageous and off-the-wall on the (optional) OOC chat channel.
Subtlety pervades the theme, which is rife with character opportunity. A self-righteous church wars with soldiers and words against an underground group of often mages. Self-absorbed nobles and self-interested free commoners sometimes get swept into the war, or sometimes it's changing times which disrupt their romances and feuds. Peasants, the non-people of the realm, slave away in a dark and gritty social class of their own-- and all this is only within the great city wall of the Aegis.
An economy is flexing its wings and taking flight. There's high demand for people willing to produce things with the multi-layered craft system. Some people love it, some people hate it-- personally, I love the opportunities for roleplay it creates between the social classes.
Did I mention that the social dynamics never fail to amaze me? The nobility is based around six noble houses, and there's always room within each house for another cousin, brother, sister, mother, wife, or child. Being able to play with a handful or more of your character's relatives is a deeply enriching experience.
The political body is composed of players, players, and more players. Maneuvering at this level of political power, forging alliances and garnering support, is always lively and often surprising. The church, too, is deeply stained in its own politics: pulled between the conservatives and the progressives, it struggles to respond to changing times.
And times are changing. As Wes Platt's multi-month story arcs progress, the only thing you can really take for granted is that you can't take anything for granted. And that, coupled with the friendliness of the players, is what keeps me coming back.
After all, there's no other way to know what happens next.