GemStone IV

GemStone IV

"GemStone IV" is a text-based role-playing game (often known as a MUD) produced by Simutronics. Players control characters in a High Fantasy game world named "Elanthia." The first playable version of the game was known as "GemStone II" and was launched in April 1988 on GEnie. It was one of the first MMORPGs and is one of the longest running online games still active. [ [ Interview: Elonka Dunin ] ] Access is subscription-based with a monthly fee.

Technical Information

"GemStone IV" is a text-based game built on Simutronics' proprietary engine, the IFE (Interactive Fiction Engine). This engine is capable of changing nearly any aspect of the game on the fly which allows updates without the necessity for downtime, a problem of many graphical RPGs. Due to the use of the IFE, "GemStone" is rarely taken offline, giving a 24-hour uptime cycle aside from the occasional game crash.

There are several official interfaces to the game, as well as several unofficial ones. The oldest interface for Windows is called the "Wizard Front End" and offers several useful features such as status readouts, macros, and limited scripting abilities. The Wizard has since been superseded with the "StormFront" Front End introduced in 2003. StormFront offers several additional extensions to the game, including a "point and click" interface that allows one to click on text within the game and bring up action menus applicable to that portion of text. The Java FE and a browser-based version named "eScape" are less popular alternatives. A Wizard (similar to the Windows version) also exists for Macintosh Classic, while a Front End named "Avalon" is available for Mac OS X. No official Linux client exists.

However, the "GemStone" interface is simply a text stream, and the game can be played with a Telnet interface after authentication. Several players have written custom front ends for their own purposes, while others have written novelty clients on handheld devices.

Current Status

"GemStone IV" is currently available through its [ website] for a monthly access fee. A standard account currently costs $14.95 a month, with two additional subscriptions types available. The Premium service is available for $39.95 a month and has additional features over the basic account, including more character slots and increased in-game storage capacity, as well as Premium-only special events. An additional subscription level known as "Platinum" allows access to a different instance of the game with more staff interaction, and costs $49.95 a month.

A typical evening at "prime time" may see 500 players online at once, with more signing on during special events. There are usually at least 200 players online at any given time of day, although some may be away from their keyboard and not actively playing. There is typically at least one staff member online at any time of day, and several at a time during the afternoon and evening.


"GemStone" was first demonstrated to GEnie in 1987 before Simutronics was officially incorporated. It was only used as a demonstration model and was never available to the general subscribers. "GemStone II" was released in April 1988 to GEnie customers. However, "GemStone II" was very short-lived, and "GemStone III" went into open beta testing in December 1989, officially launching on February 1, 1990. [ [ Online Gaming Firm Attracts Fans ] ] The transition from "II" to "III" maintained significant portions of the environment, but not all, and character records were not maintained over the transition, requiring all players to begin anew. "GemStone III" evolved into "GemStone IV" in November 2003, but the game world and character records were maintained over the transition. "Gemstone III" was promoted on GEnie by promising players the opportunity to receive real-life versions of gems found in-game, something that persisted for many years.

"GemStone" originally operated with a license to use the Rolemaster game mechanics and Shadow World environment from Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE). In 1995, Simutronics and ICE agreed to let the business relationship expire, necessitating the removal of all ICE intellectual property from "GemStone." Many of the game changes were simply renaming ICE names, such as changing the world name from Kulthea to Elanthia, and renaming the deities while keeping their previous characteristics.

Game mechanics were greatly changed with the de-ICEing (as the period is colloquially named), which required every game character to undergo significant changes. Character racial and class choices were also changed, making any direct translation between the two systems difficult. The end result was that every character was required to "re-roll" their character with the option to change race and skills, but maintaining their old experience level, class, and equipment.

"GemStone" became available on AOL in September, 1995, just after the de-ICEing process. Shortly thereafter, it became available on CompuServe and Prodigy as well. When AOL switched to flat-rate pricing, "GemStone" did over 1.4 million customer-hours in a single month, while the number of simultaneous users could rise above 3000 during prime time. [ [ NPNEWS archives - 1997/02/06 ] ] Simutronics launched a web portal in 1997, and started phasing customers off of the online services and onto the web interface, although it would take several years before the last of the online service portals were closed.

The number of subscribers has slowly been declining since the move to the web. However, "GemStone" still maintains a healthy playerbase, with a large group of players remaining active for years. There is at least one remaining player from "GemStone II" and many others who have been playing for more than ten years.



"GemStone" is made up of a set of discrete locations, colloquially called "rooms." Each of these locations represents an area from the size of a closet to a gigantic open space (some "rooms" are described as being the size of an entire town). These locations may be marked as indoor or outdoor and are typically divided into either "town rooms" or "wilderness rooms." Towns are typically made up of several hundred rooms each and are generally safe from hostile action in normal play. Wilderness locations can be of arbitrary size and are where most of the game's monsters are located. There are over 66,000 rooms in Gemstone, of which approximately 40,000 are accessible by players in normal gameplay or for special events. These rooms span a large portion of an in-game continent, in addition to an offshore island.

There are nine full towns in Gemstone IV, each having an assortment of shops and services with vital needs such as banking and storage facilities. There are also a variety of other settlements offering a much smaller range of services. Each town typically has a center which becomes the hub of player activity, with certain other locations having smaller groups of players. The oldest town (Wehnimer's Landing) is far more developed than any other, even though it is simply a backwater according to game lore.

Wilderness areas include the cone of a volcano to the surface of a glacier and all ranges in between. Some areas are actually outside the known world, existing in alternate planes of existence. A variety of monsters inhabit these areas, including typical fantasy creatures like orcs and goblins, but also many lifeforms unique to the game.


Players in "GemStone" have the choice of thirteen different races and nine different classes for their character. These two choices affect the ten statistics and skill costs that determine what a character can do. Some of the racial choices are the traditional elves and dwarves, while others (such as the half-krolvin) are unique to "GemStone." The nine professions are an assortment of weapons and magic users.

Characters start at level 0 and can advance to the hard level cap of 100. Advancement is done through earning experience points through several different methods. The number of experience points to advance in level is greater with each additional level; therefore the "halfway point" of the game isn't at level 50 like one would expect, and is partway through level 63. Additional experience may be earned after reaching the level cap, but it cannot be used to advance skills beyond their maximum ability.

There are 46 or 47 different skills available to train in (depending on character class), and any individual character can only become a master at a small number of them. Additional experience points earned after the level cap can be applied to these other skills to give a character additional abilities. For example, a character can typically only afford to train in 1-3 weapon styles, but a post-cap character might use additional experience to become a master of all eight weapon types.

Advancement in Gemstone is slow compared to many other RPGs, and many players will take ten years (or more) to advance to the cap. The official Simutronics [ estimate] is that it will take 7572.5 experience-hours to reach level 100, or nearly three years of eight-hour days. This can be done more quickly by a dedicated player, but players actually reaching the level cap are a distinct minority.


Currently, there are nine professions in "GemStone," colloquially grouped into three categories based on the degree of ease which each profession learns magic: "Squares," "Semis," and "Pures." The Rogues and Warriors - the Square category - are the least magically talented professions in the game. The Semis - Bards, Rangers, and Paladins - augment their physical power with magic. The Pures are the spellcasters: Wizards, Sorcerers, Clerics, and Empaths. The cost to purchase skills varies between professions, with magical abilities being cheaper for Pures and combat abilities being cheaper for Squares, but some players successfully play martial "Pures" or non-combat "Semis."


* [ Rogues] Rogues in "GemStone" are very like Rogues/Thieves in other MMO's. They learn how to pick locks and disarm traps more easily than any other profession, and many other professions come to the Rogues to have their creature-dropped boxes picked. In combat, many rogues ambush their prey from the shadows, giving themselves a higher chance of a critical hit.

* [ Warriors] Warriors are the profession that is most easily able to wield all types of weaponry and wear the heaviest sets of armor. Being as such, they rely on their strength and weaponry to kill creatures, rather than magic.


* [ Bards] The Bards in "GemStone" combine magical affinity with a fairly decent skill of weaponry. They use magic a bit differently than all the other professions, as they can keep their spells running through song. They are often called upon by other adventurers to Loresing to an item, revealing what magical properties the item contains. In cases of rare and unique items, a long story might reveal itself when the item is sung to.

* [ Rangers] In contrast to the Bards, the Rangers tend to supplement their physical ability with magic. Many Ranger spells only function outdoors, but Rangers are by no means useless without them. They also easily learn the ability to use and create magical items.

* [ Paladins] The most recent profession added to "GemStone", the Paladins are essentially spell-casting warriors. They are easily able to wear the heaviest armor and wield weapons with ease, as well as cast enhancive and protective spells. At higher levels, they are able to revive fallen adventurers.


* [ Wizards] Wizards have many powerful spells at their disposal, most of them dealing with the elements. At higher levels, they gain the ability to enchant weapons and armor, adding an offensive and defensive bonus, respectively. It is a very long process, and many wizards charge a significant sum of money to perform this enchantment.

* [ Sorcerers] Sorcerers use a combination of elemental and spiritual magic. Eventually they are able to learn some of the most powerful area of effect spells in the game. Their magic focuses mainly on destruction, and as such, they don't have very many utility or defensive spells. At higher levels, they are able to revive fallen creatures as pets, and summon demons.

* [ Clerics] Clerics focus solely on spiritual spells. They are especially capable of fighting the undead, and many of their abilities are specifically suited to do so. They can bless the weapons of adventurers, allowing them to hit the undead with weapons, as well as meditate, increasing the rate of which they recover mana and spirit. One of the most common services Clerics provide to other players is reviving them when they die, by which they can gain experience.

* [ Empaths] The Empaths in "GemStone" are the healers. But instead of magically healing others' wounds with magic like many other games, they instead are able to transfer wounds and the loss of "blood" (hit points) to themselves. They are then able to magically heal their own wounds. Empaths gain experience by transferring wounds from others.


"GemStone" does not require special equipment to advance to the level cap, and players can go through the game with only the most basic of weapons, armor, and magical items. However, there are also a large variety of extremely powerful magical items that can cost vast sums of silver, the in-game currency. Most non-ordinary equipment is purchased through special limited-time merchants and in-game auctions. Creatures can sometimes drop unique items as well, although this is very rare.

Player-characters may create or enhance equipment. The [ Artisan Guilds] allow characters to craft unique weapons, arrows, and footwear; future expansions of the artisan guilds may allow for tailoring, mining and smelting, leather-working, and jewelry crafting. Items crafted by a highly skilled artisan are superior to the baseline item. High-leveled wizards may enhance the ability of weapons to hit, or of armor to defend, through the [ Enchant Item] spell, while rangers may "infuse cloth and leather armors with resistances to weeds, spikethorns, and elements" through their [ Resist Nature] spell.

There are a number of unique items in Gemstone created over almost twenty years. These items are not generated by the game, but are instead hand-crafted by staff members. If such an item should be lost, or if the player currently possessing it leaves the game, the item is also lost and usually not re-created (barring special circumstances).

Because of the text-based nature of the game, item customization is extremely easy. Game staff will often run NPC merchant characters offering item alteration services for a small in-game fee. Such merchants have become increasingly common in recent years, making it easier for a player to get their own custom items.


Some players have formed families through in-game marriages and the "adoption" of lower-level players by "older" ones. The game originally assigned a random age in the twenties or early thirties to a newly created character, and the character aged one year per level. This led to odd situations, such two century old humans. Characters may now arbitrarily pick an age for their characters, and those characters age chronologically. Using age as a euphemism for level has nonetheless remained prevalent. Etiquette has developed and is player-enforced, such as tipping a healer, bard, cleric or a locksmith for their services, not performing violence to one another except in a proper duel, and not making public references to the modern world. Laws such as prohibitions of murder, theft, and disorderly conduct are enforced by non-player characters in the major towns.

Players can also choose to join one of three societies to earn additional powers. The Order of Voln is marked by features of medieval monasticism and fights to release the souls of the undead. Before entering the monastery, you must first bathe in a purifying spring of holy water. Members of Voln do battle against undead monsters and can meditate in the monastery for a length of time before having a vision and interpreting its meaning towards their progress in the order. Another is the underground "Council of Light," of which one is not supposed to speak in public. The Guardians of Sunfist are a new society devoted to defeating the Grimswarm invaders by destroying their warcamps.

The in-game staff, known as GameMasters, play an active role in the environment by running live events such as quests, invasions, merchants, and festivals. [ [ RPGDot - the fastest news from other worlds ] ] These events come in a wide variety. Quests and invasions, for example, may amount to an evening searching for a lost relic or several months spent fighting a war. Likewise, merchant encounters may consist of an afternoon with a lone cobbler, a week-long visit from a merchant ship, or the yearly Ebon Gate festival held around Halloween. [ [ >> GemStone IV ] ] This active role, where the staff occasionally controls NPCs or initiates spontaneous events, provides "GemStone" players with a dynamic element not available in many other games.

Another notable difference between "GemStone" and graphic MMORPGs (such as Everquest) is the complexity and difficulty of gameplay. A multitude of factors are involved in the different mathematical formulas that decide the successful outcome of swinging a sword, enchanting armor, or even trying to climb a hill. A player must also learn about the interactions between different metals or substances, for example, to succeed at more advanced alchemy. Numerous fan sites have centralized this knowledge to make things easier for the player.

"GemStone" is text-based and therefore relies on verbal descriptions of the environments and the actions that take place in them, making the game a kind of interactive novel. There are multiple variations in the outcome of an action such as swinging a sword. A mathematical formula factors in the appropriate attributes and skill levels, such as the player's strength and the creature's armor, and the roll of a 100 sided die determines failure or success. The description of the outcome corresponds in intensity to the result of the roll.

The various "professions" (clerics, empaths, rogues, bards, etc.) have been significantly adjusted over time, and the game has suffered from balance issues as its programmers deal with the ongoing challenge of not making one profession or combination of skills too weak or powerful.

Lately, the staff and resources of Simutronics have focused on creating a graphic MMORPG to compete with the World of Warcraft and Everquest games.

Awards and achievements

* 1998 Finalist, Online Game of the Year, Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences []
* December 1996, AOL Members' Choice Award []

External links

* [ "GemStone IV" homepage]
* [ Krakiipedia, the Unofficial Free GemStone IV Encyclopedia]
* [ Simutronics Timeline]


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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • gemstone — noun a gem, usually made of minerals …   Wiktionary

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