Good text adventure games have many, many rules to observe. Typically, these will be stored accessably within a help file, and newbies will be strongly encouraged to read them before they start. Do not be put off; the rules in a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon – think multiplayer text game and you will not go wrong) are not there to stifle your freedom, rather to allow you to play within a safe, enjoyable environment.
But what about the other rules? You know … the ones that are not in a help files? Yep, these are the unspoken rules, and they're just as important. This is not a new concept; real life is full of unspoken rules. It is not written, and nobody's ever said it to you, but it's acceptable to visit the beach in a bath suit, but not the bank. You can hail a taxi to ask for a ride but not to ask for directions. You can flirt with your wife's mother but not her sister (maybe that's just me). Think of the difference between the spoken and the unspoken rules as the difference between law and culture.
The unspoken rules of a text adventure game will vary between games, but there are some which will be common wherever you go. Here are some that I've learned the hard way so that you do not have to:
1. Know the Concept
As a 'newbie' you will not be expected to know everything about the game, or indeed very much at all. Nobody expects that you've read all of the lore (if the game you're about to join does not have an extensive lore, ask yourself why you're playing it). What you will be expected to know is what kind of game you're playing. Do not be surprised if nobody bothers to answer when you pipe up on the newbie channel of a high-fantasy game and ask whether you should use shotguns or grenades.
Another facet is where the game sits on Player vs Player (PvP) combat / conflict and Player Killing (PK). You'll make a few friends in a low-PK game if your first action in the virtual world is to start stabbing other players. Equally, do not expect any sympathy if you keep getting attacked by people if the whole point of the game is to stab other players (again, ask yourself why you are playing such a game). Seriously, find out where the game sets, because MUD games can range from no PvP whatever to completely unrestricted PvP. If you can not find out the concept / genre and what's expected in terms of PK within about five minutes, then save yourself a lot of frustration and play something else.
2. Do not Cross The Line
The line between YOU ("OOC" – Out Of Character) and your make believe alter-ego in the game ("IC" – In Character) is important. Now, if you're looking for an RPG text game, then it's probably because consoles have forgotten what that TLA (Three-Letter Abbreviation) stands for. Sadly, not everything you find when you search for 'RPG text game' involves role-playing in any meaningful sense either. If the game you're considering expects you to be IC, screaming about the lag beast or the rising price of oil can really spoil an other enjoyable and immersive experience for other players. That is not cool. If the game's OOC, then be sure that that's what you want, because bouncing in and speaking Olde English will result in you getting laughed at. GOOD games have very clear rules on this – the unspoken rule is that you should know what's expected.
And, folks, if it needs to be said, what happens on one side of the line stays on that side. Do not punch your brother in the mouth over breakfast tomorrow morning because he did not share his loot with you on tonight's dungeon run. Equally, if there are both IC and OOC channels in the game, please use them as such. Do not come into the lobby screaming at somebody because of an IC grief. Nobody wants to hear it. Again, a few minutes of research could save you many hours of grief.
3. Have fun
Please, please remember it's a game. It may be more interesting than your real life, but it's nowhere near as important. If someone's harassing then either use the ignore function, or report it and log out until you've cooled down (do not play any text adventure game that does not have online moderators). If you're fixing to toss your laptop out of the window after the hundredth time you failed that quest (I've been there) then maybe you've played enough for today. It's a game, folks. If it is not fun, then you may need to adjust your attitude, make a new character that better suits your style, or find another game. Life's just too short.
If you have not yet gotten into MUD games then you're just letting the finest things in life pass you by. There are so many games out there that you'll find something to suit your every need and quirk. If you're not sure where to start looking, then your first stop should be http://www.topmudsites.com/ – find out what people areoting for! Know the Concept, Do not Cross the Line and Have Fun, and you'll soon be enjoying the ageless, quiet craze that is text adventure games.