Before digging into what buildcraft is, let's first understand what all's involved in building.
Like all other roleplaying games, MUDs consist of at least two basic components: the rules, ie. how the MUD works, and the dressing, ie. how the MUD looks. Think of your basic goblin: there's his mechanics (how he moves, acts, talks), there's his behaviors (charging into battle, screaming to frighten his victim, fleeing when the going gets tough), there's his attributes (hit points, strength, level). All this is defined by how the MUD works.
Then there's how the goblin looks: he's a puny little fighter, he's a battle-scarred veteran, he's missing an eye. There's the place we find him in: he's defending the goblin treasury, he's out in the dark forest foraging for food, he's exploring the pool found in the sewer. There's also those ties that bind him to other goblins: he's a worshipper of Drrst the Dreadful, he bears runic tattoos on his arms like others of his tribe, he hails from the swampy depths of the Forbidden Vale. All of which falls under the MUD's dressing.
Those who create this dressing are typically called builders, and their act of creation (via writing) is called building. There are other names that builders sometimes go by, eg. storytellers, and their MUD may call on them to perform other duties, eg. running quests, but what ties them all together is their writing the descriptions that generate the mythologies of their many worlds.
This section—buildcraft—refers to the meta-topic of how to build, that is, the practices a builder follows (and sometimes ignores) to bring out the best dressing possible for their MUD. I say MUD rather than areas or rooms because builders oftentimes are called on to write up and/or edit online helps, skill descriptions, religious tracts, clues to quests, and much more. Building can be an enjoyable activity, but it's got its downsides, too. Which probably explains why MUD creators have a difficult time recruiting dedicated builders.
Builder's guides, colloquially known as builder docs, are usually a part of the help documentation internal to the MUD they're used for. Some MUDs have opted to make their builder docs available online, letting us see how to build for a particular MUD without necessarily logging into it. Here's a non-exhaustive list of builder docs you can find on the web today—Herne's SMAUG Building Guides - A very old guide for using the OLC (OnLine Creator) in SMAUG, a DikuMUD derivative.
Ten Commandments of Descriptions - A style guide for creating areas in Discworld MUD, an LP MUD. They also provide a basic building how-to here.
Barren Realms' Builder's Guide - Both style guide and how-to, this document details building for a Merc MUD.
Dreams MUD Builder's Guide - Similar in structure to the guide for Barren Realms, this document shows how to write for Envy MUDs, an offshoot of Merc.
Manual for Using OLC on Rom 2.4 - A purely text document that explains its purpose and its codebase (ROM) right in the title.
Building for 4Dimensions MUD - A wiki for building on a multi-genre CircleMUD.
From the Guardian's Library - An archived style guide made for another CircleMUD, the venerable Wheel of Time MUD.
Strom's Lost Lands Builder's Manual - Another archived CircleMUD builder's guide. Who'd have guessed Johns Hopkins to be involved in MUD development?
As the links above suggest, most builder's guides focus on how to write areas for specific MUDs that use specific codebases (ROM, CircleMUD, etc.). There are style guides, to be sure, but these, too, are tailored to specific codebases with specific limitations. The Ten Commandments, for example, strictly abjures the use of 'you' in room descriptions—"This is especially true of descriptions that begin with 'You are standing in...' or similar."
To offer a counterexample—Kavir, the creator of God Wars II, mentioned the use of dynamic descriptions in his game, which would render moot the limitations of 'you' and other situations that make room descriptions in other MUDs awkward. Here's a link to one such thread he commented in.
Below are a couple websites that focus on meta-building, that is, the ideas and principles that underlie building itself. Further down are some meta-builder docs I wrote to help would-be builders better understand the task of building.
The Art of Building - An old site that went defunct in the early 2000s, The Art of Building was an attempt to create a generic set of how-tos and style guides for building on any MUD anywhere. Only an archive of the site exists these days, but the links are still usable, for those who are curious.
Building Stories, Telling Games - This older series of columns (written between 2001-2003) is still available on Skotos' website as part of an even greater number of articles focusing on most aspects of online RPGs (found here). The columnist spent a lot of time discussing gaming facets that affect building, looking, for example, at the usefulness of the threefold model in overall RPG design.
How to Write Excellent Room Descriptions - Published in June, 2022, this blog post offers general advice on how to write rooms for a MUD, including the use of all five senses when developing a room description. At the end there's a bonus section on how the author wrote their own seventy-five room zone in under a month.
How to Create a Style Guide for Your MUD - Written by the same person behind the room description How to... above, this essay offers advice on how to create an area style guide for your MUD, for example, choosing your game's content based on your audience and deciding where your style guide should live. This essay also includes suggestions on how to build for the visually impaired.
Character Descriptors - While not technically meta-building, the maintainer of this now-defunct website wrote these character descriptors for Armageddon MUD, providing numerous options for describing characters. Shoulders, blemishes, noses—pick what you want to describe a thing (not necessarily a mob) in your area.
If the archive is down, you can download a text-only copy of the document here at Grim Wheel.
Let's Build a Bridge - This local guide demonstrates the craft of building a simple five-room section of an area. Just the rooms. Take heart—only those crazy enough to want to know what it takes to build a good area need read this.
The Real and the Unreal - Another local guide, this handbook argues for the use of photography when crafting an area. Like Bridge above, it focuses only on rooms, but the lessons can be applied to mobiles, objects and elsewhere.
Ninety-Nine Encounters at the Edge of the Forest - Following in the footsteps of Raymond Queneau, this handbook rewrites—ninety-nine times—the first room a player encounters when traveling to the Haon Dor from Midgaard.
On Writing Areas (Second Edition) - This is an updated edition on the guide On Writing Areas I wrote for my MUD back in the early 00's. It's posted here in hopes someone may get use out of it.
Grim Wheel is a site dedicated to old school text gaming.
Click the links below to go from section to section of this site.
Buildcraft - Articles which discuss the craft of building on Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs).
MUD Forums - Links to offsite forums that concern themselves with all things related to Multi-User Dungeons.
MUD-Dev - Where you can find archives of the former mailing list known as "MUD-Dev", as well as a link to the newest mailing list.
Imaginary Realities - Archives of articles from the now-defunct online magazine Imaginary Realities.
MUD Listings - Websites which list the many text games still in existence.
MUD Clients - Clients which you can use to connect to an active MUD.
Netbooks - A repository of supplements for tabletop roleplaying games.
Miscellaneous - Links that do not fall easily into any other category.
Codebases - The various public codebases in existence today.
Area Archives - Areas for public codebases such as Circle, ROM and Smaug.