Mob (computer gaming)

Mob (computer gaming)

A mob or MOB is a non-player character (NPC) or monster in a computer game, for example a role-playing video game or MMORPG or Multi-User Dungeon.

Purpose of MOBs in gaming

In many games, killing mobs may be required to gather experience points, money, items, or to complete quests.

Sometimes the combat is player initiated. In other cases, the mob is "aggressive", and may challenge any player's character which comes to its attention.

A player engaged by a mob is said to "have aggro". This marks that player as the primary target of the attacking mob(s). Combat between players and mobs is called player versus monster (PvM) or in a broader sense, player versus environment (PvE), as opposed to player versus player (PvP) battles where the emphasis is on defeating an opposing player.

Monster versus monster (MvM) battles also take place in some games.


Perhaps the most commonly-held belief about the origin of the term is that it derives from "mob"ile or "m"obile "ob"ject.

One possibility is that the term comes from the variable name given by Dr. Richard Bartle in 1980, when he added "mobiles" to the MUD created by Roy Trubshaw in 1978.

In Dr. Bartle's words:

quotation|When I took over programming MUD1, all objects except player characters were static, ie. they didn't move. I wanted some objects that did move, so I could use them for monsters etc.. I needed a name, for programming reasons if nothing else (the variable names, the record structure name). I didn't want to call them "monsters", though, because I could see their being used for non-monsters, eg. helpful humans.

I decided to go with "mobiles" as a familiar form of "mobile objects", and because of the happy coincidence of the name's existing use for a those hang-from-the-ceiling [d] ecorations that consist of a bunch of seemingly independent entities moving within predefined constraints.Thus, mobiles were born. The name was passed down through generations of subsequent virtual worlds, until in the late 90s people started shortening it to "mobs". Thus, mob doesn't stand for Mobile OBject, it's a shortened form of "mobile", which in turn is the quick name I gave to mobile objects in MUD1. "Man Or Beast" is a retro-fit. [Email conversation between Richard Bartle and Erik Anderson April 14th 2008]

The term "mobile" was later replaced by NPC or Non-Player Character for some uses: dialog or quest givers, vendors, and trainers to name a few.

There is also some debate over whether the term is somehow related to "MOB", a synonym of "sprite".

Backronyms such as "monster or beast" and "mere ordinary beast" have been developed.


MUDs (multi-user dungeons)

The term "mobile" was used by Richard Bartle in a paper describing an early MUD which was being constructed as a research project at the University of Essex. Although it originally referred to an object that could move (as opposed to one that couldn't), one reviewer of the paper misunderstood the term to be a reference to the classic children's toy or sculpture that goes by the same name - and referred to it as "an incredibly beautiful analogy to those hanging toys, which appear to move around randomly as if alive, while in fact being composed of mechanical parts and operating in accordance with fixed scientific laws". (Bartle was also suitably impressed by the analogy, and wished he'd thought of it. ["Designing Virtual Worlds" (2003), Richard Bartle, ISBN-10: 0131018167, ISBN-13: 978-0131018167] )

Other MUDs and MUD-like software use a variety of terms to describe these as "objects", "emitters", and "actors".


A "MOB" in an MMORPG usually refers to the generic monstrous NPCs that the player is expected to hunt and kill rather than NPCs that engage in dialog or sell items. "Named" mobs are distinguished by having a proper name rather than being referred to by a general type ("a goblin", "a citizen", etc.).


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