Character Development Strategies

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Role Playing 101

Lesson 5: Further Character Development Strategies; by Elawyn of Yew, Edited by Xena Dragon
Some thoughts and observations on more advanced role-playing. 301  

Now that we’re all well on the way to understanding basic role-playing, I’d like to add a few things that can really help you to become masters at this most difficult yet rewarding pastime.

Let’s start with a recap. When first you arrive in the world, you are but a child, a newbie, weak,poor, with nothing but your starting skills and a few paltry possessions, you learn how to interactwith other players, you learn the game mechanics, you learn what actions get you killed, what actions get you not killed. Eventually you get to the point where you feel safe, where you understand how to play. Once you get there, it’s time to really play.

As I go through this, I’m going to refer to my best character, Elawyn of Yew. (I have two others floating around, and I went through at least 20 before I understood enough of how the skills etc all fit together). Develop a background for your character within the confines and precepts of the world (Sorry, you better get a dictionary out at this point!) Be prepared to answer the questions like “Where were you born?” “How old are you?” “Where did you grow up?” and “What did your family do for a living?”. For ‘Elawyn’, some of that was written down at the beginning, the rest has been filled in over the months that I’ve played as her.

This all helps to explain why you, a teenager, are where you are. (Careful study of things medieval shows that most teenagers were at the apprentice level back then, so, as you can start with a 50 skill level, it makes you a teenager when you start.) What does your character know about? Well, whatever skills you chose to start with, plus some miscellaneous stuff. Don’t try to make it too complicated, that doth make mine head hurt.

Now, PLAY as that character. That character does *NOT* know how much strength is needed to wield a War Fork, that character knows only whether he/she is strong enough to wield one, and only when he or she has TRIED to wield a war fork. That character does not know that he/she has 49 points of strength and needs only one more (or whatever, same for ALL other skills, and all other stats). YOU, the player, you know this stuff. You as the character do not.

So, when in conversation, and someone asks you “How much str do I need to use a war fork?”, DO NOT SAY [insert number here], try answering “I myself have never wielded a war fork, and I am quite strong”, or “I find it quite easy m’lord, but I fear I had to train for a while to do that!”.

Or, “Hey, how do I raise my strength?”, have your character explain what worked for them, and NOT “dig ore twice, chop tree twice, hit dummy twice”

If someone goes out of character, pretend you don’t know what they are talking about. Note, sometimes you have to go out of character, if that’s the case, find a place to stand where you don’t spoil the game for everyone else. There’s really no fun in sitting in the tavern trying to converse with that mage you just met who said he might teach thee a little of magic when there’s two people standing nearby comparing notes about their computers or modem speeds.

Why bother with this? It’s the sheer joy of the discovery! YOU, the player, might KNOW that your strength JUST went up a point, and now you can use that kick-ass Viking Sword stashed in your backpack, but YOU, the character, won’t know it until you try. Continue doing whatever you were doing, then, when your CHARACTER might feel him/herself stronger, try it. YOU the player know it’s going to work, you the CHARACTER act suprised, joyful, happy, that you can wield it. Say something like “Ah, ’tis a joyous day! Look everyone, I now have my very own viking sword!”

You the player know many things that you the character may or may not know, if you are a clever player, you KNOW how many hit points that troll has, you the character only know whether it’s alive, dead, or somewhere in between. Don’t yell out “Hey, it’s down to 3 hit points, hit it again”, instead try “I feel this troll is soon destined to perish”. (In actuality, you do neither, you don’t have time in battle, if you agree with your companions to speak ‘battle-talk’ when in a fight, that’s ok)

If your player gets killed and you start over, please don’t run up to your friends and announce “Hey, it’s me, KILLDOOD, I got pk’d, hadda start over”. Instead try “Hail good fellows, hast heard aught of mine cousin KILLDOOD?” and “I fear he has not been seen, hast thee seen aught of him of late?”. Then, when they say “KILLDOOD got eaten by a dragon in Destard last night”, or perhaps “Ah, I fear KILLDOOD was most foully murdered by the Dread Lord Thingy!”, you express sorrow. “Alas, my poor cousin, he was such a brave soul” and start playing your NEW character.

For variety, come back in as a totally different character, with a different set of preferences, remember, cloning hasn’t been invented here. Don’t use the same name over and over and over. Try slight variations, slightly different spellings, you could be the younger brother Bobb , come looking for his older brother Bob, who was last seen in the woods. Especially if you have enemies, very especially if you have enemies, “HO! Look, there is KILLDOOD! He’s back to newbie again, let’s KILL KILLDOOD!” and there was much rejoicing… (woohoo, we killed KILLDOOD AGAIN, that’s five times today! What a wuss!)

Of course he’s a wuss, he’s starting OVER.

As a new character, you might know a little of your older brother KILLDOOD, but you won’t know WHO killed him. So don’t go hunting him until your new character, KILLKILLDOODSKILLER, has learned, as a CHARACTER, who killed KILLDOOD.

(by the way, the name ‘KILLDOOD’ is copylefted…)


Where does all this take you, it allows you to be remembered as someone special, someone unique, and not just another clone. It adds to the rich experience, and it helps to re-inforce to everyone that there’s far more to do in a good ROLE PLAYING GAME than simply ‘see monster, kill monster’.

An easy way to role play is to simply be yourself, especially when you first start out. Imagine you’ve travelled to a far land, where the people are different, where they don’t quite speak the same language as you. (It helps if you’ve actually been outside your home town, and even better if you’ve been to another country where the native language is different than yours).

In this far land, you might be able to find that some people understand your speech, but you will have much greater success if you take the time and trouble to learn a few words of the local language. (prithee, please, s’il vous plait, bitte, por favor) (I thank thee!, thanks, merci, danke, gracias). This is taken as an indication that you respect the local customs and language and that you might be willing to learn.

So, be yourself, but back at the age of 16-17, having travelled to a far and distant and strange land, and learn to get along. That’s easy role playing. The challenge, the fun, comes from allowing your character to develop as their skills increase. One would expect that everyone at adept level in anything other than swordsmanship would have HAD to have learnt to deal politely with others. If you play the noble paladin, take the time to truly understand what a Paladin is. Read some books (Tolkein or Gordon R. Dickson, try some classics too, like Ivanhoe, Robin Hood, and for a real challenge, read the Song of Roland, perhaps the greatest Paladin who ever lived. You might get lucky at your local bookstore and find a copy of “Orlando Furioso”.)

Set up goals for your character, short term, medium and long term. Have your character work towards them. If your goal is simply to have fun, that’s fine too. If you want to be the scourge of the land, hunted by all that is good, PLAY the part, and play it well. Otherwise you’re just another faceless murderer.

Remember, your character does NOT know all that you know, so, for example, my character, Elawyn of Yew, a Noble Lady, does not know that the Great Lord Xavori is in truth, an evil character. Why? Because the character, Elawyn, doesn’t read the chat zone. So, should Elawyn ever encounter Xavori, she will treat him as he appears, because that’s what she would do. She probably won’t survive the encounter if it’s away from the protection of the city. Afterwards, now that she knows that Xavori is really evil in disguise, she might decide to make her medium goal the extinction of Xavori. (Hey, remember I said take on a challenge? Taking on Xavori would be a major challenge! But it would be a lot of fun, because Xavori knows how to PLAY the part!). That’s a purist point of view however, and not everyone feels that it’s the right way. If you interact on a chat zone as you character, decide for yourself if there’s any overlap between that and in game. The web based bulletin boards can be an excellent place to meet and get to know other roleplayers.

Elawyn has never fought orcs, at least not at the time of writing, so Elawyn doesn’t know if they’re tough or not. So, the first time she encounters one she will go for overkill, hurling exploding potions, casting spells, and finally closing in for the kill, when she has learned about them, she will know the quickest, safest and most efficient way to deal with them.. (Elawyn does not know that an orc has xx number of hit points, such and such a resistance, or any of that stuff.)

As a character, Elawyn is not a mighty swordsman, but she is intelligent. She’s also patient and studious. She constantly underestimates her own skills, acts kindly towards all whom she encounters, and studies and studies. She has no way of knowing that she might still need to cast a certain spell to be able to learn spells from the next circle, unless she encounters that information in GAME terms. What she does, as a character, is to stop by the magic shop and peruse the list. What she, as a character will see, is that after she casts one more spell in this circle, she will be able to learn spells from the next circle. This will happen several times, until she has made the connection. Then, one day, she will also learn that intelligence and magery skills also have an effect here. (What I, as the player, know, is exactly where she is, how many points she needs, what skills she needs to practice to gain those points, and why it is that 5th circle spells don’t show up in the stores.)

See the difference? By playing the role of the character, you can share in the wonder, in the joy, in the sadness, and all the other wonderful things that your character has the potential for.

Some thoughts on character behavior. As your character develops, his or her skills increase, and the character begins to take on his or her own life. As Elawyn develops, having gone from neutral to a force for good (Noble Lady) by being kind, generous and thoughtful of others, she has become those things. It’s a feedback loop, she feeds the poor, they reward her with increased polite behavior towards her, she becomes more and more kind and generous. In this way she develops. She has seen evil characters, but as a character, is aware that the truly evil do not always appear so. She does not condone thieving, or snooping, but she does believe that characters can reform. (The player KNOWS that the noteriety system is hosed!) Elawyn has seen characters with a title that act noble, those with a title that act like scum, and some dishonorable and dastardly ones that did reform, so she is happy to help them reform. She knows that the townsfolk do pay her honor because of her deeds, and therefore has learned that good deeds will bring rewards that mere gold cannot buy. She has made friends, and has never, yet, had a friend turn on her. (As a player, I know that pk’s try to work on her, often.). Elawyn ran into an Evil Lord rogue, and a neutral apprentice fighter in the training room one day. The apprentice fighter did try to convince Elawyn that she should slay evil, and that the guards would NOT come to the defense of an Evil Lord. (I as the PLAYER, knew a set-up when I smelled one. Nice con job, probably works real well on newbies, or the stupid. I’m neither). Elawyn didn’t recognise this as a setup, since this was only the first or second time that anyone had deliberately tried to get her killed. She PLAYED the part. “M’lord, evil tho he may be, my weapons are under peace bond in this town. I may not use them save in mine own defence” she replied, followed by “but if thou art so concerned, and have not given thy word in peace-bond, thou may attack yon rogue, and I will call the guards to protect thee should yon rogue perchance be a more stalwart fighter than thee.” Needless to say, the two morons left shortly after that.

Elawyn is a trusting sort, because she has no reason, yet, to be anything other than that. She does know right from wrong, and she does know what actions in town will get her killed by the guards. She doesn’t always agree that certain actions are really worth a persons life, so if someone gets guard-killed for doing something that isn’t truly evil, but simply a mistake or careless action, she might, if possible, try to save their possessions for them. She’s done it once, and did manage to keep the looters away from the corpse long enough for the character to go res at the healer. (New fighter, attacked a tamed, but as yet unnamed, sewer rat, on the docks.). She didn’t think that attacking a sewer rat was a crime bad enough to warrant losing everything. Elawyn has been poor, she’s been penniless. She’s worked hard, scrimped and saved, sewn clothes, caught fish, and tried all that she is capable of to try and make enough gold to pursue her studies. So she is fully and totally aware what the loss of all possessions do to someone newly arrived in town. As a result, she is sympathetic to their needs. She’s NOT stupid, nor is she an easy mark. She is playing the role of the Noble Lady. (I, the player, have some similar personality traits, and because I struggled through at least 20 characters before Elawyn, none of who got very far, and because I’m having such a blast playing UO as it was meant to be played, am also sympathetic up to a point.)

Elawyn the character would NOT give up her carefully hidden gold stash from the bank, but she would be pleased and happy to donate enough from there to any of her friends who fell upon desperate times. She will not hand out to gold to anyone who runs up and exclaims “gimme some gold dood!”. She might turn and suggest some ways that this person might earn a little gold doing honest work. She has been known to give away her fishing pole to people who appear to need it more than she does, after asking them to promise that they will feed the hungry with some of the fish that they catch, and that they will help others in need when they finally get their life in order. So far it’s too soon to see if this actually does any good, but Elawyn as the character thinks that it will. (Actually, she’s taken to carrying one or two extra fishing poles lately.)

Taking on the part of actually playing the character turns the simple mechanical game play from merely clicking the mouse in the right places fast enough, or being able to chant “hi buy”, “hi sell”, and “Got any spare stuff?” into something that is much more of a challenge. After all, becoming a power player is easy. It’s too easy. That’s what killed Diablo. Taking on the part of a ‘real’ character is far more of a challenge, you learn a great deal more, and something else. Do it well, and you will make friends. You will make friends for life. If , a year or two from now, another game should replace UO, the same people you know from here will be found there, and they will remember you, and assist you. And all of those you have helped in the past will remember you, and you will get paid back. I’ve been helped out, many many years ago, and I pay my way now by paying that back. Call it a geas laid upon me by a great and powerful seer if you must <grin>.

Now, a word about playing evil characters. There’s nothing wrong with playing evil characters, if it’s done well. If it’s simply build up a power character and kill newbies for you, then this is the wrong game, go back to Diablo where at least the newbies have a chance to get good stuff by cheating. Better still, stick to Nintendo. If, on the other hand, playing an evil character is, for you, where you want to be the Moriarty of UO, (look it up if you have to), or the Raffles of thieves, or the assassin who gets Lord British, then PLAY the part. The most evil characters are not obviously evil. The best thief does not say “The Evil Lord Raffles, GrandMaster Thief” when you look at them. And Hassan, Grandmaster Assassin, most definetely doesn’t use either that name, nor does his/her profession show up. Playing a truly great evil character, instead of just another diablo power player killer is much much harder to do , and extremely hard to do well. After you become a master at playing a regular character, try being a truly evil one if you find that the challenge isn’t there any more. (Xavori, I salute you, you are the only true master at playing real evil that I know of. I look forward to meeting you one day, at a safe distance…) (and the May 1998 update. ‘Elawyn’ did meet ‘Xavori’, three times. Each time was a truly memorable experience, with the characters staying in character as the players were laughing hysterically, for different reasons, behind their keyboards.)

Above all, don’t spoil the game for everyone else, because that way lies madness and chaos. Because that way you will find your self playing in the sand-pit, and it will be full of naught but scorpions and snakes, and none shall heed thy cries for help, nor shall they succor thee in thy need.

“And thou wilt find thyself alone, and scared, and beset by thine enemies, who shall deal thee a most mortal wound, and thou will stagger, bleeding, screaming in pain, across to that group you didst pass earlier, and thou shalt cry out “Help me d00ds, I’m hurt bad!”, and they shall examine thee, and exclaim “He’s nearly dead dude! Whack him and grab his stuff!”, and they will slay thee and take thy hard won possessions, and thy spirit shall wander the land, crying for resurrection, and none shall hear, and thy spirit shall wither, aye wither, almost unto extinction, until, at last, thou shall come upon a healer, and thou shalt cry “Hey asshole, res me already willya!”, and the healer shalt examine thy soul and find it wanting, and shall look thee in thine eye, and in thine own words shall say “fuck you asshole!”. And thy spirit shall fade from the land, never to return, having made naught but a bad impression, and none shall mourn thy departure”. (Elawyn, said in response to some little prick who called her a whoring bitch, after she said “Curse me not, lest I lay a curse upon thee in return for the sake of Justice and Balance” then “So be it, I will curse thee with the certain knowledge of thy future in this world if thee do not mend thy ways!”).


by mine hand writ this day, the 15th, GT 1 (Gamma test month 1), Elawyn of Yew

In real life, the player who runs the character Elawyn of Yew is an expert scholar, Grandmaster programmer, master consultant, apprentice computer technician, neophyte fisherman, apprentice archer, journeyman swordsman, novice wrestler, apprentice bowyer/fletcher and teaches classical japanese swordsmanship.

———-snip here————

And the addendum to that. Since I wrote the above article back in October of 1997, Elawyn of Yew, on Chesapeake, was recreated, and she’s changed a great deal from those early days. She’s still a ranger at heart, but as a result of her experiences in game, she’s become far more paranoid of strangers. Her ‘notoriety’ titles have been as high as ‘Noble Lady’, and as low as ‘Dark Lady’. And, on May 22nd 1998, after almost eight months of play, she finally achieved the rank of Grandmaster Fencer to compliment her Grandmaster warrior skills.

She’s seen friends leave, and she’s made many more friends. Also one or two enemies. Her personality has matured a great deal, and she’s even happily married in-game. Along with her ‘husband’, she shares a small forge, with a small collection of war forks and some bits and pieces of armor and some simple furniture. We use it mostly as a place to exchange items, since Elawyn has become quite good at finding vendors with things that her husband can use (he’s a mace fighter) and he keeps any war forks that he finds and leaves them there for her.

She still harbors a hatred for brigands and pirates, but it’s been buried quite deep. She’s got over her dislike of bards, since she has had the experience of seeing a bard in action, peacemaking and provoking in the depths of Hythloth, and now realizes that bards are not always annoying.

She never did achieve her goal of becoming a Grandmaster Mage, and probably never will, although she did reach adept level in magery. Her Ranger skills are down to apprentice levels, and she tries hard to stop from ‘forgetting’ any more.

For the most part, I’ve only played a single character for the last six months, and she has some ‘support’ skills that allow her to make enough ‘money’ from day to day. She can fish, cook and tailor reasonably well. As a result of that however, it’s unlikely that she’ll ever get the rest of her skills back to where they once were, at one point she had expert ranking in parrying, that’s dropped to novice.

I play two other characters, a retired ships carpenter who makes furniture for people, and a viking swordsman who writes books in his spare time.

The disadvantage with being a purist roleplayer comes when combat ensues. In a fight with skilled PK’s, the roleplayers usually end up losing, simply because they don’t have a ‘tank/mage’ character. This is all going to change starting in June, when the new rep system comes in. Hopefully it will drastically reduce the amount of random attacks and encourage more ‘roleplaying’.

Roleplaying alone is hard, and finding a group of roleplayers can be hard. I strongly recommend reading the web based sites to find out where, on each shard, the rolplayers gather. For Chesapeake, it’s Moonglow, Yew, The Oasis Tavern, Paxlair, Trinsic and, for those that like to play as ‘orks’, the orc fort near Yew. (There’s probably other places as well, but those are the ones I’m familiar with)

Character Classes/types and play styles. 302

As a roleplayer I tend to think of characters in two distinctly different classes, combat and non-combat oriented. Despite Elawyn’s double GM ranking, she’s mostly a non-combat character, who spends most of her time healing and aiding others. Which makes her a kind of ‘druid’ I guess.

Other useful non combat professions that roleplayers can have a great deal of fun with include miner/smiths, merchants, alchemists and even tailors. Of course, the huge number of vendors around makes it harder to find customers, but once you have a reputation, and a regular set of customers, it’s easy enough.

Elawyn is also quite popular as a weapons trainer, since she’s currently ‘dishonorable’.

Combat characters usually go for high strength, wear the best possible armor, and learn how to use a couple of different weapon forms, usually swords and archery. Add in a high level of magic resist and magery, and you end up with the ‘tank/mage/archer’. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that to get there, most folks end up having to use ‘mule’ characters to make money. Or they turn to preying on other players.

Some folks have been quite successful with pure warrior or warrior/mage characters that have no ‘craft’ skills beyond enough smithing to effect repairs.

Other folks adopt playstyles that are very different, either trying to the the ‘best’ fighter, or to collect the most ‘stuff’. If that’s what makes them happy, then that’s fine. For me, and for a lot of other roleplayers, ‘stuff’ is mostly irrelevant, since once you have an established character, getting more stuff is easy enough. There’s a few special items that Elawyn attaches sentimental value to, (in her Lake Superior incarnation there’s a necklace that ‘Xavori’ gave her, and a sash that ‘Calandryll’ gave her. In her main incarnation on Chesapeake, there’s a wedding ring, a pair of earrings that ‘Galdrog’ gave her, and a single outfit, a light pastel pink dress and matching feathered hat which she has worn to three character ‘weddings’. She tailored the dress herself, from wool that ‘Zubacharei’ collected for her many many months ago.)

So, roleplayers tend to get more from the interaction with other characters, than from anything else. As ‘Elawyn’ I’ve had a great deal of fun as the ‘healer’ in an adventuring party, although I haven’t done much of that lately, since there are too many killers out there for my tastes. That too, will change with the new system.

In, oh, eight months of play, ‘Elawyn’ has been murdered twice. She’s committed suicide twice, and she’s died to monsters about a dozen times. She’s been attacked a number of times, and she’s attacked and killed those known to be killers maybe a dozen times. She’s never tried smithing, arms lore, alchemy (well not the Chesapeake version of her), Taste ID, bowyery/fletching, carpentry, archery, snooping, stealing, animal herding, begging or poisoning. She’s been mining once. She’s been to every town and every dungeon, but not every island. There’s still a lot of things to do, places to see and people to meet.

I’ve also had a great deal of fun from helping those new to the land, or ‘newbies’, I personally get a kick out of seeing their reaction to something new, or seeing them rejoice when they finally defeat a monster that they thought would be too tough for them. Whenever I help someone, and they ask me how they can repay me, I almost always say “simply remember this day, and when thou art asked for help, give it freely and ask them to do the same when they can”. Surprisingly enough, I’ve run into those people months later, and seen them helping others. I ran into someone in Skara Brae a month ago who was in desperate need of a few mandrake root, so I gave him a half dozen, and when asked the price, I quoted my usual line. He responded, after a short pause, ‘Hey, that’s what I usually say when I help folks too!’.

Not everyone enjoys that particular play style, but it works for me.

As a roleplayer, I don’t worry too much about stats/skills, except to keep an eye on them, and make sure I don’t get too caught up in roleplaying that the character loses those skills that are useful. I can and have, roleplayed with a brand new character. However, I’ve learned a great deal about how the game operates, how to train up certain skills while still having fun, where to find certain ‘things’ (like colored armor) or what times of the day are best to find reagents. I tend to spend a few hours at weekends doing nothing but making money, either from tailoring hides or from running ‘escort’ missions, followed by an hour of ‘shopping’ to gather enough reagents for a weeks worth of play time. I normally stock about a hundred of each reagent in the bank and if I’m involved with helping train folks, I’ll freely cast heal and greater heal, or donate reagents to those that are healing me.

Those that I regularly interact with are much the same, co-operative, and unselfish. I think there’s close to fifty people in that group now, with new ones arriving almost daily. They range in age from 12 to 70 something, yet some of the younger roleplayers are so good at staying ‘in-character’ that there’s no way to tell unless they go out of character. Age isn’t an indicator, but maturity is.

As a new roleplayer, or a new character, when you approach a ‘group’ always remember that you are a stranger, (unless of course you already know some of the folks from the message boards). I’ve learned that ‘patience’ should also be a virtue, since if folks are involved in a 3-4 way conversation, coming up and joining in can take a while before they can respond. First impressions count for a lot, just as they do in real life. People also have long memories, helped now that journal text can be saved.

There’s no absolute way to roleplay, and even the more experienced roleplayers have different opinions on what’s considered good roleplay. For me, it’s like improvisational theatre, or interactive story writing, where I’m playing the part of a character with a personality that’s similar, but different, to myself. A character that has matured, over eight months, but one that is still maturing, still learning, and still slowly changing. A character that is consistent in her behavior and how she interacts with others, one that her close friends know quite well. They know how she will react, what her likes and dislikes are, where to find her in a hurry, how to make her laugh, how to make her cry, how to make her sad or angry. Thus, she has become, a true character.

For me, that’s the main goal of roleplaying, to forge a distinct identity and character, a unique individual with a rich background, rich experiences, and lots of friends. It takes a great deal of time, patience and thought. Some planning helps, from the perspective of being able to play as that character, the rest comes with time. Time spent playing, time spent interacting, time spent having fun. Some folks think that roleplaying is nothing more than standing around in town chatting, but in fact, that’s only a part of it. Not all roleplayers do that, just some of them. Some roleplayers write stories, myself included, based on the in-game experiences, and that can not only be fun, but it can help with understanding the character.

As an example, think of James Bond, secret agent 007, he’s a character with a distinct identity, a broad background, and his personality can be seen to change as a result of his experiences. Now, imagine yourself as the young James Bond, freshly retired from the Navy, and about to embark on a career in Her Majesty’s Secret Service. You have certain starting skills, a personality, but little in the way of real experiences. Imagine your first mission. If you can picture yourself as that character, talking in a soft scottish brogue, impeccably dressed, with a taste for vodka martini, shaken not stirred, a penchant for gambling, particularly good at baccarat and ‘chemin de fer’, with a dislike for balding villains with pet white cats, a taste for very good looking women, and carrying a 9mm Beratta pistol. If you can not only imagine that, but also act the part, then you are roleplaying.

Of course, there is no James Bond in Sosaria, but there is, or was, a Royal Navy, there are ships, there are villians, there are ‘good’ guys. You can be a ‘hero’, a ‘villain’, or, just a person. Elawyn isn’t really a hero, and she’s certainly no villain, but she has saved many lives, healed many, helped many, trained many. She’s not now, and never will be, the ‘Avatar’ of the early Ultima’s. She will never own her own castle, or even tower, she will never wear full plate armor. (She’s not quite strong enough, and she much prefers chain armor anyway.) She will never kill a dragon single-handedly, but she has stood back and healed her friends as they fought toe-to-toe against dragons and won. She’s fought and died at the side of her ‘husband’, and alongside her friends.

With the coming of the new system, she will once again become a part time adventurer, and I’m looking forward to many more months of fun playing her.

Some more thoughts on character development and contingency planning. 303

In those idle moments when you’re waiting for the servers to come back up, take a few notes, make some plans.

Write down all the things that happened, in the game, to your character last time you adventured. What did you like, what did your character like, what didn’t you like, what didn’t your character like.

Think about how these experiences might effect your character. Whether the bad things are a result of someone else’s actions, or a result of game bugs/features, would they have an effect on your characters personality? On your characters behavior patterns? If so, and only if you are comfortable with that, allow your character’s behavior to change slightly.

If you, playing as your character, encounter something entirely new and unexpected, think about how your character would react. (It’s also permissible, after you’ve fleshed out a personality, to look back on what might have happened to your character earlier in life to explain various aspects of that personality.)

For example, for Elawyn, it took me a couple of weeks of idle thought while waiting to get logged in, to come up with her background story, one that fits the world of Ultima Online, one that fits the Ultima Universe, that doesn’t contradict the past Ultimas, and doesn’t contradict the world of Ultima Online. If you’ve seen the story “Elawyn awakes with a hangover”, that’s where she first tells it within the game. To reason out why she helps the helpless, but teaches them instead of handing out stuff, is because she was once like that. To reason out why she doesn’t go out killing everything she can find, (which is actually really because of the lag problems I’ve been getting), she remembers her childhood, and of finding her parents slain, and of taking revenge. This was before the shards split, when death was permanent. Why she doesn’t keep pets in town, (really because too many pets following around cause even more lag), because she used her pets to slay, and regrets abusing their friendship in that manner.

She’s changed as she progresses through the game, she’s older now, and no longer behaves like a teenager all the time. She hasn’t lost her sense of humor, but added refinement to it, she’s learned to be more wary of strangers, and more open with ‘friends’. She’s seen some of those that she’s helped go on to helping others, and thus improved the chances for me to role play her. Right now she’s sleeping, on the LS shard, kind of in limbo until whatever network related problems are causing the serious lag are fixed.

In the meantime, I’m recreating her over in Chesapeake. She won’t be the same, because she won’t have the same experiences, but the basic personality will be there. (I hope you’re all understanding this, I find playing Elawyn a real challenge, as she’s not the usual Paladin/fighter/mage I prefer. They are really like identical twins, who grow up separated, with different experiences, yet many things in common. If you’ve played pen and paper RPG’s, its kind of like taking your favorite character into a different campaign, run by a different dungeon master, who wants you to start back at an earlier level, without the stuff and skills you had built. I’d love to be able to bring Elawyn from LS over to Chesapeake, but that’s not possible.)

The things I did differently were in choosing starting skills for her, some of the things were either too easy, or nigh on impossible to build from scratch, and I plan on spending a day or three to build up before I start trying to pick up more or less where I left off. I also used a slightly different name, on LS, it’s simply “Elawyn”, on Chesapeake, it’s “Elawyn of Yew”. And “Elawyn of Yew” is back to being the flighty country lass, without the bitter experiences, without the good experiences, and without all the encounters that her older and wiser sister has had.

As I’m already well familiar with her personality, I know how she will react to certain situations within the game, this is what I refer to as ‘contingency’ planning. If she’s attacked in town (and yes, it does happen, new players do it all the time….) she will yell “Put away thy weapon fool!”, and back away. If the attack continues, she will yell for help. (Then I, as the player, will mumble a prayer to my Uncle Darwin and grab the loot!)

For a totally new character, it’s worthwhile to write down the likely reactions to the most common in game situations, ‘contingency planning’. It’s also worthwhile to do this for an established character. As the player, if you play smart, you read the other stories and articles (chatzone etc), where other folks post of their experiences. Extrapolate how your character would behave in those circumstances, you don’t HAVE to react that way, depending on the situation, and the level of ‘danger’. What it helps with is to make your character unique and developing, instead of stagnant.

Examples are the common ones:-

Thief grabs something of low value from you and runs. What do you do? Do you yell guards? Do you run after them yelling guards? If the guards smack the thief, and you’re first at the body, do you grab everything? Or just what was stolen from you? If the guards don’t come (remember, you actually HAVE to notice the theft, as opposed to suddenly noticing there’s something missing in your backpack), do you chase the thief and duly harass them? Do you shrug it off, making a mental note of the thief’s name, and later, when you catch them outside of town, beat the crap out of them? Or, with the new rep system in place, simply kill them in town.

Something of high value? Do you do anything different?

Someone gets abusive, what are you going to do?

Crowded store, and you can’t get to the storekeeper, what do you do?

Someone asks for directions, how do you answer (if at all, depending on whether it’s INSIDE town or not)

You get paralyzed, and some PK starts taunting you before finishing you off. (Can you teleport? Can you actually do ANYTHING about it? Can you cast recall yet?). Do you taunt them back, thus ensuring a really quick death? Do you curse them? (kind of pointless, but at this moment in time you might want to vent a little steam). I know what Elawyn would do, assuming she has the time to say it or do it, you decide for yourselves, (I don’t want the world full of little Elawyn’s running around, it would be incredibly boring, not to mention sickening…)

Even though when the situation arises, it’s a surprise to you, if you’ve already thought about how the character would react, then you can stay in role even under adverse circumstances.

I already imagine some severely adverse circumstances for Elawyn, at the hands of my fellow role-players, and I already have a pretty good idea of how she’s going to react, consistently with her personality, in character, when faced with one or more of certain death, abandonment, entrapment, torment, or a broken heart. All in a very general sense of course, since I can’t predict any exact encounter, only the general and likely nature. Neither can I predict when, so her exact reactions (my contingency plans) will change as time passes and she gains skills and capabilities.

All of this takes time, a lot of careful thought, but it has the major payoff that if done properly, it allows you to stay in character when something unexpected comes along. You should temper this by understanding that running away is also an option, play carefully, play smartly, don’t get caught in a corner, or trapped in a room, don’t walk into the middle of a battle imagining that because you’re role-playing, the others will leave you alone, they won’t. Don’t imagine for one moment that anyone else cares either, because most don’t. Expect it to be very difficult to do any real role-playing, unless you know where to find the role-players, or how to recognize them. Even if you know their names from elsewhere, don’t assume that they’re going to be role-playing in the dungeons, or out in the wilds when fighting monsters. Role-playing is like the icing on the cake, an added bonus for a little more work, it’s NOT the same as simply keeping your character alive and out of trouble you can’t handle.

By mine hand writ this day, October 29th, Gamma test day 30. Elawyn of Yew.

Modified, May 22, Elawyn of Yew.

Play balance, encounters, the reality. 304

And adding to 303, after eight months of play. My opinion is that the majority of UO players are not roleplayers, instead, they treat it as a giant version of Quake or Diablo, and quite a number of the decent roleplayers that I’ve come to know have left.

The ones that are left are the memorable ones, regardless of which shard they play on, regardless of whether they are ‘heroes’, ‘villains’ or just ‘people’. UO has moved on, showing some good signs of becoming a true ‘society’, but it’s still got a long way to go.

As a new player, especially as a new roleplayer, my advice is this. Treasure those roleplayed moments, because unless you know where to go to meet other roleplayers, most encounters are not going to be pleasant. Develop a healthy sense of paranoia, they are out to get you.

As I’ve previously stated, my personal preference is towards a co-operative play style, although there are always some conflicts, whether because of ‘personality’ differences, or other reasons. Conflict can be healthy, it can present a challenge, and killing your greatest enemy can be a real thrill. However, death is not permanent in UO. That enemy will be back tomorrow, as powerful as ever.

The new system will be out soon and should make a major difference, allowing those that like to fight other players to do so without penalty, while also allowing those that prefer not to fight other players some protection from the mindless killers. Personally, I’m in a guild along with my ‘family’ members, but we will never declare or accept, war. The new system encourages some form of co-operation, whether it’s simply joining a guild so that when you go out adventuring and get killed, your friends can safely pick up your ‘stuff’, or whether it’s joining a guild so you can go to war with another guild, anywhere, at any time.

If you plan on being a long term player, I would strongly recommend keeping yourself up to date with how the ‘rules’ of the game are changing. By reading the OWO.COM updates, and monitoring the web based message boards.

Those are also the best places to find out where to find other roleplayers, and I’d recommend reading them, becoming familiar with who plays on which shard, whether they play good or evil, whether they play co-operative or competitive, and try out a few characters, do some interaction, see which particular style you enjoy.

There are major roleplaying groups on every shard, but some are harder to find than others. Some groups are more open to newcomers, some are more insular. Don’t be afraid to ask. (I do not know all the groups on all the shards, there are far too many and there are far too few hours in the day for any one person to get to know them all.)

There are a large number of player run towns and taverns, scattered around, each place has a distinct ‘flavor’ and distinct ‘rules’. Before visiting, please take the time to familiarise yourself with the rules. For example, at The Oasis Tavern, on Chesapeake, the rules are simply no unwarranted attacks, no stealing, and no looting. Sparring matches and duels can be done in the outside sparring pit, if mutually agreed upon. Outside the pit, unexpected attacks happen, as do raids by groups of killers and noto-killers. That should change with the new system. Snooping is frowned upon. There’s also a guard tower nearby, and sometimes the guards show up at the tavern proper. Visiting ‘Dread Lords’ sometimes get killed by those guards, and the ‘regular’ patrons will gate them to the Chaos Shrine and hold their ‘stuff’ until they return.

With the new system, that should no longer be a problem, but we haven’t yet figured out what will happen if a ‘murderer’ shows up. I suspect that will depend on the individual, and their history and reputation with the ‘regulars’.

Each shard, and each city in each shard, has evolved into a particular flavor, on Ches, Moonglow seems to be the most pleasant city, and Vesper the most unpleasant. Familiarise yourself with each location, and who plays there at what times of which days. That will help enhance your play experience a great deal. On Lake Superior, stop by the Keg and Anchor tavern in Trinsic, there you will find some of the ‘famous’ roleplayers at various times. On Chesapeake, Moonglow, west from the forge by the main entrance, or around the bank. There other locations, but those are the most popular.

Comments and feedback always welcome.

May 22nd, 1998. Elawyn Of Yew


Last modified: April 9, 2011

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