Concordia MU: Write your own destiny

ko-fi Written by Andruid
Two rugged landscapes with a dawning sun between them and the text: "Concordia MU: Write your own destiny."

Spes, owner and co-creator of Concordia MU, talks about the many hats she wears and what she sees as her most important role in the game.

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    Today’s post is an interview with Spes, owner and co-creator of Concordia MU, a collaborative writing game that opened last summer.

    One of the reasons I’m excited about this interview is that Concordia is the first MUSH to be covered on this blog. I usually talk about MUDs and RPIs, which have their own approaches and challenges.

    Another reason I’m excited is that Concordia runs on the AresMUSH game engine/platform, and I’ve been wanting to highlight an AresMUSH game for a while now.

    So let’s jump in and get to know Spes and her game!

    Meet Spes, Game Master of Concordia MU

    To start, I asked Spes to introduce herself. I’m always curious about the lives of MU* admins and who they are when they’re not managing their games.

    “Hello! I’m Spes, owner and game master of Concordia,” she said. “I’m from the state of Michigan in the United States, and currently when I’m not working on Concordia, I am baking something. I love to bake so much that I’ve just gotten started setting up a little local bakery business. And then for my normal 9-to-5, I do boring stuff like code reviews and change management.”

    We have so much in common! Spes likes to bake stuff, I like to eat baked stuff…

    Also, we both work for software companies, it seems. But good on her for following her dream – that’s pretty awesome.

    I asked her how she got into MUD*s of all things and why she stayed.

    “Gosh, I must have been twelve or thirteen when I got into MU*s,” said Spes. “It started as forum RP, and then I tried running my own Lord of the Rings forum game (it was bad, let’s not talk about it), then I stumbled onto Iron Realms stuff, which introduced me to someone in the RPI community, which led to meeting a friend that brought me to MUSHes, and here we are.”

    Spes admitted that she’d actually fallen out of roleplaying back in 2014, but when the pandemic hit, she – like many of us – found herself drawn back to the RP scene.

    “That is why I stayed, and why I came back– the connection that comes from collaborating with other writers and telling the kind of stories that are important to us,” she said.

    The responsibilities of a MU* creator

    I asked Spes about her role on Concordia and what she sees as her most important “job” there.

    “I am a Spes of many hats,” she said. “I created the game alongside Aequitas who has since retired, and now I sort of drift between administrator, coder, and storyteller, with many fiddly bits in between.

    And while making our world come to life and helping our players become heroes in it are very important to me, I would say that my most important responsibility is keeping the community safe and inclusive.

    I think we have all experienced unfortunate situations in games that we otherwise loved, and I want to nurture the sort of community that allows players to focus on writing and having fun, rather than dealing with behavior that shouldn’t be welcome in any collaborative space.”

    I thought about asking for an example, but knowing that Spes has played RPIs and likely has players who have done the same, I didn’t feel the need to pry.

    Due to their design, RPIs are tough to manage well and are often plagued with issues that you don’t see in other types of games – at least not to the same degree.

    But that’s a topic for another time. For now, let’s take a closer look at Concordia and how it’s different.

    Quote by Spes, pulled from the text.

    Concordia MU: a collaborative writing game

    “Concordia is a collaborative writing game, with some mechanics similar to what you would find in a tabletop game like Dungeons and Dragons,” Spes told me.

    It’s set on a fantasy continent called Ignovis, where strange things happen. Spes calls it a “low-magic” setting because magic isn’t something that characters can harness or utilize… yet.

    “One thing I love about our game is that there is so much room for players to define aspects of the world that are important to them. I know that’s not for everyone, some people like really hard-defined limits and a completely fleshed-out world, but I think we have the important things established, and I always love seeing what our fellow storytellers come up with.”

    Spes also hinted that there are plot reasons that things are the way they are and said, “I can’t wait until our players discover them!”

    Information Directory with sections for Policies, Systems & Guides, and Lore & Story.
    Concordia has a helpful Wiki with established lore, guides, and game policies.
    Aurora. Full Name: High Princess Aurora Skybourne, Royal Chronicler and Lorekeeper, Princess of Polaris. Pictured left: an ash-blonde maiden wearing a blue dress.
    In addition to the main Wiki, there is an automatic character Wiki that helps players come up with compelling and personalized story hooks.

    Inspiration and motivation for the project

    Although the pandemic may have been what brought Spes back to the RP scene, I wondered what inspired her to create her own game – and what keeps her motivated.

    To my surprise, she admitted starting the project as a joke!

    “I think a lot of people in the MU* community have had moments with their friends where they think, we should make a game about X, and it was no different for us,” she explained.

    “Aequitas and I took that moment and started batting around this loose idea, and then one day he sent me a link and a password for an Ares game with the name we decided on, and what was previously hypothetical was suddenly real.”

    That was back in April or May of 2023. Work began in earnest by mid-June, and before they knew it, Spes and Aequitas were ready to launch Concordia.

    Spes admitted, “We opened in July expecting a handful of people to check it out. We were immediately bowled over by nearly one hundred players!”

    Which I think just goes to show that there’s a healthy appetite out there for new roleplaying games to try, even post-pandemic.

    Of course, not every game is going to be the right fit for every player. But some will.

    “And those players, the ones who have found something they liked and stuck around, are what keep me motivated,” said Spes. “They are such a clever, creative, and wonderful bunch of writers, who happen to be incredibly warm and welcoming as well.”

    Active Scenes. This list shows scenes that are currently in progress. Private scenes require an invitation, but open scenes are open to anyone. Example: "Scene 1222 - Royal Family Wing/Skybourne Family Dining Room - (Async) - Princess Easy Bake Oven"
    Players can easily review their Active Scenes, both public and private, which helps them keep up with ongoing narratives.
    1577-10-22 - The Fringes of Glittermire. The town of Maya's Abode is attacked by strange amphibian beings. Its defenders buy enough time for the residents to retreat in the face of overwhelming odds.
    Example of a published scene log (public).

    Speaking of names, I asked Spes how she and Aequitas decided on “Concordia.”

    “Names are such a big part of fantasy stories, I think, and this is one of the things we spent perhaps an inordinate amount of time on,” she said.

    “We had our story in mind and were trying to come up with what the characters in our setting would name a kingdom of disparate factions forced by circumstance to unite. We came up with Concordia because it evokes this sense of harmony and unity which, as our players are finding out, is not always the reality of it. I love the contrast it offers.”

    Accessibility features

    Spes assured me that she and her team take accessibility very seriously and that they’re always keeping up-to-date with the latest AresMUSH improvements.

    “The creator of AresMUSH, Faraday, has put a lot of thought and effort into building out native functionality for screen readers and is always improving it,” she said.

    (For example, there’s accessibility help built into the AresMUSH engine, which provides players with two immediate ways to change the game’s output.)

    “When someone raises a concern, it goes to the top of our list for improvements and, if it can be, it is fixed right away.

    We have done things like change font to a more dyslexia-friendly option, go through to add alt text to as many images as we could find, and implement HTML stripping so that our screen reader users could enjoy the same accessibility on the client that they enjoy the web portal.

    Learning and evolving to meet the diverse needs of our community is an ongoing project that we are more than happy to undertake,” said Spes.

    Roster. The roster contains ready-made characters. Some have been played before, as indicated by a "Previously Played" tag. For most characters, you can claim them and begin playing immediately.
    Concordia provides a roster of pre-made characters, making it easy to choose a concept and jump right in.

    Lessons learned from running a MU*

    While Concordia isn’t the first MU that Spes has staffed on, it is the first one that she has run herself, and she admitted that she’s learned a lot from the experience.

    “I think the primary lesson has been that a clear vision is a GM’s best friend, and that you can’t implement every little bit of feedback you get or you’re going to end up with a M&M and chicken pizza.”

    "When you incorporate all the feedback from  every critique." Pictured underneath: A literal pizza with a whole roasted chicken on one side. On the other is a layer of chocolate sprinkles and colorful M&M candies.

    A good point, and something new game creators sometimes struggle with: knowing how and when to say “No” to an idea or suggestion.

    “I have also learned and relearned the importance of pacing one’s self, setting boundaries, and taking time away to avoid burnout. We are lucky to have a great community that really understands these things,” said Spes.

    She also shared some advice that was similar to something Jumpscare suggested in my last interview: that you can’t do everything yourself.

    “Many hands make light work. Opening things up to allow players to take portions of the plot to move forward with staff guidance but not participation has made it so that we can focus more on the bigger picture without bogging down the pace too much.

    Sometimes it doesn’t work out due to real life or scheduling conflicts, but sometimes it really does, and I think it has allowed our storytellers to shine and take ownership of the story.”

    As for the most important thing? It all comes back to the community:

    “I said it earlier but it bears repeating: safe and inclusive spaces are so important, for both present and future MU games. We come together to play, and shouldn’t that be a wonderful experience for anyone who wants to be involved?”

    Quote by Spes, pulled from the text.

    As a genre, MUs can’t rely on snazzy new graphics, and many older games have dated websites or are rooted in systems that seem old-fashioned by today’s standards.

    So how do we stay relevant? What can we offer?

    I think Spes has provided a couple of answers. For one, text offers a unique way to engage in immersive storytelling. Through text, we can write richly detailed plots, characters, and quests without being hampered by visual effects.

    But there’s also the community aspect. Many of us have made lifelong friends through text-based games. The memories we’ve shared and the friends we’ve made are one reason we stay – or keep coming back.

    Granted, attending to the community can be a lot of work, but it’s worth it if you consider the community an asset rather than a burden.

    If the topic of community-building interests you, check out Opie’s interview next. He talks about why he puts the playerbase first and how that helped him grow – both personally and professionally.

    Spes’ recommended resources

    Finally, I asked Spes what resources she’d recommend to those thinking of embarking on a similar project.

    “There are some exceptional resources at Writing With Color for how to be respectful in our description and portrayal of people of color, which has been an invaluable asset to us,” she said.

    “I also follow a lot of story-writing resources on social media and am always picking up tidbits!”

    Some of her favorites on Instagram include:

    And if you’re thinking of starting your own MUSH, Spes highly recommends AresMUSH.

    “It’s such a cool platform that facilitates asynchronous roleplay alongside live, which allows people across the world and with busy lives to still participate and enjoy the hobby together in ways they can’t in purely live environments,” she said.

    “But really the best resource I can recommend is a good support network. Friends, community mentors, experienced staff, and game runners – they are all so helpful when you find yourself lost or uncertain about how to proceed.”

    Play. Lifted on the left: Scenes, Private Messages, Channels. On the right: Chat info with various players. Underneath: A chatbox to join the conversation.
    Concordia’s unified Play screen on the web portal, which allows players to access their Scenes, private messages, chat channels, and forums all in one place.

    What’s next for Spes and Concordia

    For those who might be looking for a new game to try, Concordia will soon be progressing to a new chapter. At that time, it will be moving out of Beta and into full Open.

    “There will be a big event on March 31 to mark the transition, and it should be a pretty exciting experience for everyone who can attend,” said Spes.

    She wrapped things up by expressing her gratitude toward the people who helped Concordia get this far:

    “I want to thank Aequitas, my co-creator and one of my best friends, for making this dream a reality, for his vision, and for all of his support even after he stepped back from GMing.

    I also want to thank Nox, Somnus, Orcus, Terminus, Tisiphone, and Veritas for volunteering their time and creative energy, sacrificing play and participation at times for work on the game.

    Primus and Thalion for their (gentle) critiques, help building systems, and guidance from years of experience playing and running their own games.

    The entire community of Concordia, and everyone who has ever walked through our doors, for spending time with us, sharing their stories and feedback alike, and making our little world come alive.

    Faraday and the AresMUSH community for an awesome and ever-improving platform that makes it so easy to do what we came here to do.”

    Speaking of thanks – a big thank you to Spes for sharing her experiences and lessons learned as a game creator! I also appreciated her thoughts on the AresMUSH platform.

    If you’re thinking about trying a MUSH, it sounds like this month may be a prime time to join Concordia and be part of the transition out of beta, maybe even make your character’s mark on Ignovis.

    Best of luck to Spes and the rest of the Concordia team – I hope it’s an awesome event! (And good luck with that bakery business, too!)

    Lastly, a quick thank you to Jumpscare of Silent Heaven for recommending Spes for an interview. In case you missed it, I interviewed Jumpscare last month, and she had some great advice on game design.

    Update (3/26/24): If you enjoyed this post, check out the interview with Clockwork, creator of The Network, next. The Network has been a source of inspiration for Spes while creating Concordia.

    Smiling blonde woman wearing glasses.
    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. “Be excellent to each other.”