Clans in a Roleplaying World

by Cat Rambo (Sanvean of Armageddon and Krrx
This article originally appeared in the March 2000 issue of Imaginary Realities.

Lately, I have been contemplating how clans fit into role playing muds–particularly in getting players acclimated to the mud and helping them survive in that environment. The following conversation takes place between myself and a staff member of Armageddon mud who revamped a defunct clan, the T’zai Byn, and transformed it into an active and well-loved clan. The Byn is perhaps one of the best clans for new players, as well as an experience praised by the vast majority of its participants. (This is the first of three musings on the nature of clans, and what being in/running one means to a player/immortal, with the second discussing a cultural clan, where players begin the game having been born into the clan, and the third outlining some conclusions and problems with clans on role playing muds.)

Sanvean: First off, why were you interested in reviving the Byn, and what sort of clan did you want it to be?

Krrx: Probably the key thing is that I have a passion for the concept. It started when I played in the T’zai Byn a few years ago. I enjoyed playing in a fighting unit where you and your comrades faced death regularly, and had to work together to survive. While I have had very enjoyable times in other clans, I would still rate the Byn as the highlight.

Sanvean: What was the first step in getting them restarted?

Krrx: I outlined what the clan would be–what role and ‘flavor’ it would have. Of course, this was all documented. As the concept developed, the documentation changed. The documents today are quite different from how they were at first. I had ideas about what I wanted the clan to be like, but they didn’t ‘fit in’ as well as they could have with the game world. Nessalin had a big influence on how the clan turned out. The Byn are a lot more low class than I first planned, and the documents reflect that.

Sanvean: How did Nessalin change your intentions?

Krrx: My original vision was of an elite mercenary unit, with a lot of ‘high class’ things. Nessalin encouraged me towards a low class, gritty, down-and-dirty vision of the clan, which fit in better with Armageddon’s overall flavor.

Sanvean: As I recall, you were worried at first that they would not take off.

Krrx: Yes. When restarting the clan, it struck me that to achieve its goals effectively, the clan would have to have strict rules, and that people might not be able to handle it. One example is the regulation where members are not allowed into the ‘rinth, and are not allowed to leave Allanak unless certain criteria are met. The ‘rinth and the wilderness are two areas where a lot of new player characters die, because they insist on wandering in dangerous places alone. It thus makes sense, both in character and out of character, to have rules that limit going to those places.

Sanvean: Speaking of rules, one of the things you have done very well is making the Byn self-regulating. Did you plan on that?

Krrx: To an extent, yes. There are two points here. The first is that I have recruited clan leaders very, very carefully. The second is that because they are trustworthy players, they will help enforce the rules anyway.

Sanvean: When you are looking for players who will make good player character leaders, what do you look for, then?

Krrx: The key things I look for are: (1) out of character trustworthiness, (2) a very high standard of role playing, and (3) regular playing. Of course, it must be appropriate in character that the player character move into leadership. I can elaborate on those points if you like.

Sanvean: Please do!

Krrx: First, out of character trustworthiness. I have put a lot of work into this clan, and I will not put in leadership anyone who does not respect the work I put in, and is not willing to do likewise themselves. Another reason for this criterion is because I am not on-line 24 hours a day. If something happens, I need an honest, trustworthy viewpoint to rely on.

Sanvean: How do you know you can trust them?

Krrx: Trust is not something that can be guaranteed, but I do my best to screen players. I look at past player characters that the player has played. I chat to other staff members about them, particularly if the player played a player character in their clan. If someone is trustworthy, they tend to show it in the way they play the game.

Onto the second point–a very high standard of role playing. Armageddon is a role play intensive mud, with a very high overall standard of role playing. While many players entering the clan do not have this standard, it is a requirement for leadership. If people see leaders role playing well, they will tend to do likewise.

Sanvean: Good role playing seems to mean different things to different people. What is your definition?

Krrx: Good role playing? Thinking and acting in character. Immersing yourself in the role of your player character, and not just playing it like a robot in some shoot-em-up.

Onto the third point–regular playing. This does not mean leaders have to play Armageddon for 6 hours every day. I do, however, expect them to appear in the game fairly regularly. You can not lead if you are not around to lead. Common sense, really.

To sum up, one theme is that I have set limitations on the clan, with the idea that playing within those limitations actually gives players more freedom. It is why we have the law in real life. The law prevents idiots from ruining life for the rest of us. At face value, the law seems restrictive–you are not allowed to drive if you have drunk too much alcohol, for instance. But it is restrictive because: (1) it is logical and sensible, and (2) it protects the greater good–people generally do not like to get killed by drunk drivers.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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