Saturday, January 1, 2000

So You Want To Be A Hero? - A Look At The Superhero MUX

There was a breakout at Arkham Asylum. Harley Quinn drove the Jokermobile in, guns a-blazing as Poison Ivy ripped apart the walls of Arkham, with the very vines lining the building’s walls. Across town, Batman was occupied, as Captain Boomerang tried to rob a high-society party Bruce Wayne was stuck at. Luckily for the guards at Arkham, Green Arrow (Connor Hawke) had been on call at Titans Tower when Nightwing made a call for backup. Meanwhile at the Hall of Justice, Superman was frantically trying to hold up the collapsing roof as a new Legion of Doom, led by General Zod attacked the home of the Justice League. His burden was relieved when Green Lantern Guy Gardner created a big green Atlas to hold up the roof, leaving Superman and his cousin, Kara Zor-El free to chase after the moving Hall of Doom.

No, this wasn’t in any comic that came out last month. This wasn’t an Elseworld, an old Superfriends cartoon or any comic ,Pre or Post-Crisis. This was not even an idle thought Grant Morrison had after one too many Guiness. This all happened in the magical world of a Superhero MUX.

MUX is an acronym for Multi User eXperience, a form of specially programmed text-based environments used for the purpose of game playing. But playing on a MUX is equal parts playing upon the stage, fan-fiction writing and good old fashioned tabletop roleplaying, minus the dice.

One player, a parent of two, who plays the Kara Zor-El Supergirl, theatrically calls MUXing “diceless roleplaying in a Troupe style”. Another player, a male in his twenties who wished to be kept anonymous, agreed with this assessment saying “Its roleplaying. but it’s also a lot like a stage play. You have a character and you act out the part of that character. But there’s no script. You just completely and totally make up your actions as the game goes on.”

This is one of the major attractions of a superhero MUXes. After all, how many of you readers out there have ever wished you could BE a superhero? Nearly all of us, right? Playing on a MUX gives you that chance to play pretend just like when you were a kid, with the added bonus that you don’t have to worry about looking silly wearing your mom’s favorite quilt tied around your neck. But MUXing also has a lot in common with another comic fans pastime: writing.

"My view of it is that you're working with other people to create a story." says Wonder Woman. Indeed, MUXing is at times like writing a big fan fiction story with a group of friends. Of course it is done real time, but the basic concept on cooperative writing is still there. In fact one player we asked, Kyle Rayner at SuperMUX, said that he views MUXing as being his way to write a comic “the right way”.

“It’s no small secret that a lot of people hate how Kyle was brought into existence through the total destruction of the Green Lantern Corps” Kyle, notes. “And while I’m not too fond of what’s happened to Hal, I don’t hold that against Kyle’s character. I did however think maybe there was a way I can have Kyle and leave the door open for Hal and the rest of the Corps., should anyone want to play them.”

Kyle brings up one of the best things, to my mind, about MUX life. Players are not bound by continuity and they can rewrite their history to ignore “mistakes” that they feel writers of the past have made. For example, in the continuity of this MUX universe, the Green Lantern Corps was all but destroyed in an unnamed disaster involving the planet Oa; something so great that even the Guardians were forced into action to deal with the crisis that arose. Only Ganthet and a few Lanterns survived, with Ganthet having been severely injured. Using the pieces of a shattered ring, he forged a new ring without the yellow weakness. He gave this ring to Kyle Rayner of Earth, who became the new Green Lantern.

Note the key words “unnamed disaster” and “few Lanterns survived”. This allows Kyle to play the character he wants to but still allow someone else to come along and play Hal Jordan. “There is a lot of leeway involved” he says. “So far nobody has asked about playing Hal. But the ground work is there should someone want to. In fact, we do have a Guy Gardner who never lost the green ring. He survived the disaster after having been blown into Qward by a freak explosion.”

But it doesn’t end there. Bringing back Hal as a Green Lantern is just the beginning. In the reality of DC Legends MUX, Barbara Gordon never got shot through the spine by Joker, Kara Zor-El is still alive and kicking as Supergirl and Barry Allen is still the Flash.

"We're Silver-Age toned… but follow no particular DC "canon" outside our own, which is drawn from the last 60 years of DC in all media from broadcast to print, comics to novels, radio, TV, and Movies” says Supergirl, who runs DC Legends. This means that anything can potentially be done from any point in time; a description that sounds a bit like Mark Waid’s ideas for Hypertime. Supergirl continues to say “DC Legends is built on the idea that we can bring back the former glory and sense of wonder of the comics from the Silver Age and the idea that we can tell these stories together as a group of friends having fun together. Which is what comics are supposed to be all about”.

The friendly atmosphere is of utmost importance to a MUX and the friendships forged on-line are just as strong as those that many local tabletop groups have. This is all the more important when you are a member of a superhero team.

“Our JLA is a very tight unit.” says Kyle Rayner. “We play together a lot, whether it’s just being on the Watchtower and me having a talk with Superman about how to keep from loosing your cool in a tough situation… or going out and stopping a bank robbery or an alien invasion.”

Supergirl also emphasized the importance of teams. “Teams are essential, because teams drive (the big events) which are just as important to the health of a game and its storylines as individual, day-to-day play is. Teams provide a framework of interaction and structured allies and rivals for new characters to build on if they wish. Without teams, its all just a collection of random individuals interacting”.

How to Get Involved

Accessing a MUX is quite easy. They can be reached through raw telnet connections, but a prefered method is by using a special MU* client. One of the best of these, MUSHClient, can be downloaded at

You can find more information on MUXing in general, as well as links to other Superhero games besides the ones mentioned here by searching at

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