Announcements - 2004/03 - Across the Vast Divide

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Teaser

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Across the Vast Divide


"In the course of our travels to other worlds, it has become apparent that we are not the only entities that are aware of the place that exists between these worlds. It can be theorized that we are not the first race to pass through these portal wells, nor will we be the last." - Asheron Realaidain, Master of the Lyceum at Knorr

Wails grew louder and the little figure looked backward, tripped on a root, and tumbled into the thick muck of the Blackmire Swamp. Though the nights were warmer than they had been only weeks before, the night air was still wintry. The creature's muscles stiffened and his blood became as viscous as the winter swamp about him. Another wail sounded and the mosswart clapped his yellow-green hands over his ears and met the sound with a scream of his own. His breath came in short gasps and his saucer eyes looked about wildly.

"Dead all!" the little thing howled into the night. Crying and whimpering, he grasped the roots of the nearby banyan tree and struggled to his feet. The wail echoed through the swamp again, the sound of hundreds of claws drawing across slate in perfect unison. Chills ran down the mosswart's spine and he pushed away from the tree and launched into a full sprint. His wide feet sent the filth of the Blackmire into the air as he ran southeast from his home.

For hours Grearrk ran. Squealing, scampering, tumbling, running, covered in filth and blood, driven by the panic and fear that had crept into his heart as he slept and the horror that had nearly drained his soul when he woke. He ran through the swamp,southeast toward the humans. They would help. The Banderlings were as much an enemy to them as they were to the Mosswarts. When the torches of Sawato became visible the panic in Grearrk's heart began to subside. He was filled with hope and pressed his little form even harder.

Ite Kenzen had stepped out of his tavern to enjoy the first of what he hoped would be several warm nights in Wintersebb, when he saw the yellow-brown form charging toward him with large wild eyes. He yelped and tried to roll to his right as the mosswart sprung upon him and toppled him to the ground.

"Help won't you, Grearrk! Help won't you!" The mosswart screamed again and again. Its little voice sounded hoarse. The creature lifted Ite to a sitting position and then slid behind him, cowering and using his body as a shield. Ite felt a wave of panic wash over him -- the mosswart was fleeing from something and he was being used as a shield. As the creature's voice fell to a whimper, Ite began to scan the outskirts of the town for signs of what happened. A patron came from the tavern and drew a sword. The mosswart screeched and scurried beneath the steps of the establishment, bawling and begging in broken Roulean.

Ite, free of the creature's grasp, stood and held a hand up toward the adventurer. He shook his head and then spoke to the mosswart in a gentle tone.

"What happened?"

"Wanga, without warning comes Wanga. Machine of screams is hidden in home. Banderlings bring Wanga in screams. Very bad is new magic! Dead all, dead all! Grearrk escape only. Help won't you Grearrk?" The little creature crouched on all fours and shifted left and right, wary that the sword-wielding human would lash out him.

Ite looked at the frightened creature and turned to adventurer. "Fetch a guard for me."

"Hurt no, Grearrk. No weapons he brings. Hurt no, Grearrk," the creature sobbed.

"I am going to help you, Grearrk."

*****

Ulgrim staggered along the roadside and smiled as he saw the broken lifestone in the distance. Taking another pull from his ale he made his way up the short incline and stared at the shards of blue. He dropped his stein to ground. It landed with a thud and miraculously did not spill a drop. From within the folds of his robe he produced a wand and started an incantation. In the middle of the casting a belch escaped his lips and a scent of burning hair was all that remained of the mage. Fortunately, he had grabbed his brew.

*****

"I am sorry, Aulakhe, I have not heard from Lord Asheron in several weeks." Elysa sat beside the crouching Tumerok and spoke softly, trying to console him. "If the place where the atua ngamaru are keeping Aun Tanua has become unstable, I am sure that many will come to investigate." The tumerok bowed his head and shook it in agreement once.

"Thank you, Ispar Elysatah. I will do my best to strengthen the will of those in my akiekie." He rose and turned to leave but stopped short as he heard footsteps coming to the door.

Antius pushed the door open and gave a half-bow and salute to Aun Aulakhe, then turned his attention to Elysa.

"It is true. The mosswart's name is Grearrk. He's resting now just outside of Sawato. We looked over the structures he directed us to between Sawato and the ruins of Yanshi." He smiled lightly. "We found that there were several mosswarts who were not attacked, but he spoke true. His hovel looked like a massacre had taken place." He passed Aulakhe and sat beside Elysa. The Tumerok lightly beat the drum at his waist. "We searched the area briefly; aside from the stench we could see nothing out of the ordinary."

"We shall see what the morning light brings," Elysa said calmly and nodded her head as she placed her hand atop Antius'.

"Ispar Elysatah, Ispar Antiusnua, the spirits are agitated. Their words warn of a terrible kah that comes to us all. They know fear," Aun Aulakeh said in a quiet tone.

"Whatever that is, Aulakhe, we shall stand against it and set the spirits to ease once again. Our Xuta's will be strong, together." Elysa smiled to reassure the young Tumerok leader.

*****
As the sun began to rise over the Blackmire, a thin vine reached through the surface of the swamp and promptly perished.

Teaser 2

03/25/04 - Antius Blackmoor's Investigation

Story Arc: 
Introduced: Across the Vast Divide Previous Event - All Live Events - Next Event

Rage Lao of Morningthaw is approached by Antius Blackmoor!

See Maggie the Jackcat's Across the Vast Divide page for more information including a link to an interview with Rage Lao.

Original Link (now dead) - http://ac.turbinegames.com/index.php?page_id=219

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Across the Vast Divide: The Investigation Begins


posted on 25-Mar-2004

Antius made his way along the road leading into Hebian-to. No one in Cragstone knew of Rage Lao's whereabouts. He hoped beyond hope that his search would be more fruitful in the Sho capital. The sun was high in the sky and the city was active, hope filled him when he saw that the archmage's shop door was open and two patrons stood within. One ran off before he had the time to speak but the second remained behind.

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"Excuse me, miss?" He spoke softly as to not startle her.

"Yes?" She asked as she turned to him.

"Do you happen to know a man who goes by the name, Rage Lao?" Antius asked.

"Yes," she replied smiling brightly, "used to be in the same monarchy as him."

There was more than simply hope now, it was nearly assured that Antius would find the man and garner the information that the council needed to continue its investigations. Ever since the wave of magic first coursed over Dereth there were questions. What caused the surge? What had the surge of magic hit? What happened and what caused this? He felt closer to those answers. The process to find Rage Lao had been exhaustive, but town criers, merchants and others were forthcoming with the information once they understood the severity of the situation.

"Excellent, might you know where I can find him?" he asked, "It is a matter of some importance to the High Queen."

"Only place would be at the mansion not far outside of Arwic." The woman paused, "If he's even awake."

Antius frowned. Not as fruitful as he would have liked, still enough information to work with. In his excitement he realized that he had forgotten his manners and quickly tried to recover.

"How foolish of me, I am Seneschal Antius Blackmoor." He paused, "Outside of Arwic you say&" again he frowned, "Perhaps you know some of the people he entered the temple in the Blackmire Swamp with?"

"Tiffney, and I am sorry, I have no idea," the woman replied pleasantly.

"Very well, thank you for your time."

"No problem, sorry that I wasn't more of a help to you." She smiled and left the shop.

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Another patron had overheard the discussion and now bowed before Antius. He was taken aback. Now I know how Elysa feels when I do this, Antius thought..

"I couldn't help but overhear, sir. I believe that Lao is slumbering, but if you give me a moment I could see about waking him," the patron said, offering a kind gesture. "I can contact my allegiance mates and see if they can find someone who might know him."

"If you cannot find him, then perhaps anyone that he traveled with into the depths of the temple within the Blackmire Swamp. I must speak with those that first entered that temple," Antius replied. He also noticed the armor that the man wore it was unusual.

"You have nice armor," the man said.

"I was thinking the same of the breastplate you wear. Not crafted by the hands of any Isparian, that is clear. The design is also too rigid and coarse to have been crafted during the Yalain epochs. It must be older..." Antius continued to inspect the armor.

"The armor I wear now is from the Blackmire Swamp, we call it the Blackmire Armor." The man responded with a bright smile, obviously proud of his prize. Antius felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "I am Mage Master, the humble follower of Princess Ashake."

"I have heard of Ashake, as has High Queen Elysa... have you had any luck finding any of the first few to enter that Temple?" Antius responded absently, then pressed forward half-thinking aloud moving a hand to scratch at his chin, "Dericostian armor also seems rounder in appearance. This armor is unique. I must apologize for forgetting myself. I am Seneschal Antius Blackmoor," he finished, finally taking his eyes off of the armor.

"No sir, I have not. Perhaps you should try Arwic," the man suggested.

"Thank you," Antius said and turned to head back into the day and find his way to Arwic.

As usual, Arwic was bustling. He made his way into the local tavern and sat waiting, hoping that word would reach Rage Lao and that his search would not be in vain. At last a man cloaked in a Gelidite Robe found in the frozen and forgotten city of Frore made his way into the establishment and came to his table.

"Hello," the man said timidly. Antius stood and saluted the man who returned the salute with a look of confusion.

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"Hail." The two men sat and exchanged smiles. "I've been asked to look into the events that took place in the Blackmire Swamp not long ago. High Queen Elysa Strathelar has asked that I speak with you directly as you are the one person that we could confirm was present when the wave of magic washed across Dereth."

"Okay," Rage Lao, still nervous, responded.

"What happened, exactly? We've been receiving reports that there is something within that temple...some creature that we have not seen before." A pause. "I was hoping you could tell me. The Royal Guard and I surveyed the area but found nothing of interest the night after the Mosswart ran into Sawato."

Rage Lao leaned back in his seat as other patrons made their way into the tavern. "Well, we found a temple, cave or grotto of Empyrean make. Looking around, I discovered a secret wall, behind which was a dead looking vine that I reached for and tried to pick up. But," he shook his head as if remembering the pain of the moment, "it teleported me, but it was unlike anything I have felt before, like my body was being torn apart&"

"Please, continue." Antius said as he leaned forward, listening.

"Inside was a strange temple. On each wall was a button revealing secret doors, challenges and tests that we passed easily. Sclavus were within, working with Falatacot Patriarchs and Matriarchs."

"More Falatacot?" Antius interjected.

"They seemed to be guarding the place with the Sclavus."

"Sclavus and the Falatacot make sense, in my travels I have learned that they enact the Rites once performed by the Falatacot blood cults." Antius said thoughtfully.

"Interesting"

"It does not surprise me that they would be working in unison." There was a long pause as patrons ordered ale and milled about. "Lao, I apologize if I am being rather informal, but I would like to know whether you can contact any of the others who were with you in that temple. Elysa-- The High Queen, and the council believe that...well..."

"I am listening."

"After speaking with Shoyanen and Celdiseth, we believe that you may have triggered new portals."

"You mean those creatures, I had never seen one of them on this island of Dereth before."

"Yes. We don't mean to alarm you, or anyone in the populace...but with Lord Asheron out of contact deep within the halls of his ancestral home...we are at a loss." Antius paused a moment searching the man's face. Realization was setting in. "The magic that washed over Dereth...do you recall of what I am speaking?"

"I remember, when my party entered, there was some spell that bound us together, but"

"I was speaking of the magic that washed across this world and struck some sort of barrier. Do you remember that?"

"Yes&yes&it was alarming to say the least. I did not think much of it then, but now, I am becoming worried a bit," Rage Lao stammered. Antius hated this. It was unfair and was beginning to attract attention. He looked to the other patrons then and asked the question of those gathered.

"Anyone recall the magic I am speaking of?" Numerous nods and muted voices filled the tavern. "That magic as unlike anything that we have ever seen before. Our best guess is that it was some type of spell meant to seal something. If Celdiseth is right then it struck some other spell that was meant as a barrier."

"A barrier from who?" a woman in the crowd asked.

"Fadsahil and Ciandra are currently working with others within the Arcanum to determine that as we speak. As best as we can surmise it may be a protective barrier that had been put in place by Lord Asheron. Something meant to keep the Olthoi out... but that is not clear at this time." Antius spoke knowing full well that it was the best guess anyone could muster at this time. The fact was they didn't know if what they had seen and felt was even real. "It may have all been part of the same illusion... if it was an illusion." More muted discussion began, people wondering if a barrier could really keep the Olthoi out. "But the reason I am here is to find out if there were any objects within that temple that could have been identified as portals."

"You mean the strange devices?" a voice called from the crowd.

"Yes, the devices&" Rage Lao said and Antius felt his heart sink deeper.

"Truly?" It was all he could say. He knew that he would find that they were there, but he had been hoping that it might all be an illusion. It's not, Antius thought, something has found its way here and the Isparians are to blame for this. Our ignorance has brought something to the world that even the Falatacot feared.

"Yes, in fact one of my friends brought one back to their mansion," Rage Lao continued.

"Can you take me to it?" Antius asked.

The run was not long, the mansion sat at a landing carved into a steep hill. Several people milled about, curious as to his arrival. They spoke quietly amongst themselves leaving Antius and the others that had gathered to continue discussing.

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"This is the device?" Antius asked, knowing full well it had to be. Two concentric circles surrounded a solid disk with a red center, like an ever-watchful eye staring across worlds. It was hooked at the corner of the mansion. The circles floated, defying the world to pull them to the ground -- powerful geomantic magic. Shoyanen would be interested in seeing these.

"Yes it is. Could we be vulnerable to attacks now?" Rage Lao asked, his discomfort becoming more apparent.

"It is unclear," Antius stated as he looked the device over, consulted notes that he had been given by Shoyanen and looked at the dimensions and artistic impression of the device. "Were there any others like this?"

"Few that I have seen."

"I meant in the temple, Lao."

"Yes." The woman, who had identified herself after speaking in the bar as Askani, spoke up. "Four of them." Others began confirming her statement.

"Yes, there were four others, five if you count this one." Rage Lao paused and lowered his head.

"The others, did they do anything?"

"They drained my health when I touched them."

"As if siphoning your life?"

"All four of them did." Rage stumbled for more words. "Only at first, I couldn't get them to produce the siphoning again." Antius lowered his head and the crowd could sense the weight of the situation. "When we entered the room, I was the only one brave enough to touch them."

"Or crazy," a voice called from the crowd. Voices began to rise and Antius turned away.

"These creatures...that were in this temple...were they there before or after you used those devices?" Antius asked.

"Now that you mention it, they were there after&" Rage Lao walked to Antius' side and spoke quietly. "I used those devices, and they started entering the room."

"A spell to seal them away..." Antius said to no one in particular.

"So they are using them now freely to enter our world?" a voice in the crowd demanded. Our world? This isn't our world, and the longer we're here the more we make a mess of it, Antius thought. The crowd began to become belligerent and angry toward Rage Lao.

"I hope I did not bring something terrible into this world," Rage Lao said quietly, "but it does look that way."

"It is possible that these creatures are coming from somewhere else." Antius shook his head and placed a hand on Rage Lao's shoulder. "Don't blame yourself. There is no way that you could have known, Lao. We are still fledglings here." How true, this is just another example of this. Asheron's not here to fix this problem. We need to find an answer on our own.

"Thank you, I feel a bit better, but still a little uneasy," Rage replied. You and I both, Lao&you and I both, Antius thought.

"Should a group accompany members of the council to further investigate?" another patron who had made himself known asked from the gathered crowd.

"That may well occur... I am sorry, I did not catch your name."

"Dirk, sire."

Another addressing him as a noble, it made him uncomfortable. He had come here to learn and was leaving with more questions than answers. He was also making matters worse by involving so many. But there was little that could be done about that now.

"Please, I am not nobility. You needn't address me as sire." He walked to the edge of the mansion, careful not to breach the barrier.

"Antius, we could take you there for a look at the creatures yourself, if you wish," another crowd member offered.

"No, no. I must report these findings to the council." He looked to all assembled and removed the gem that would return him to Elysa's stronghold from his pouch. "Thank you for your time." As he crushed the gem, he could help but think that time was going to become short for all of them.

Something has crossed the vast divide to this world, something that an ancient race feared. What have we done?

Elysa was waiting with Shoyanen, Fadsahil and Ciandra.

Teaser 3

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Across the Vast Divide, Part Two


posted on 26-Mar-2004

Rain fell in torrential sheets, splattering the already foul mire toward the weeping heavens. For one hundred and twelve cycles it had rained. Ruuk Soothsayers danced around sheltered luminescent fungi and told tales of The Sleeping One, the time of reckoning and the revelations that will bring the circle of vengeance closed. They had long ago cleansed the tainted Fiazhat race from the surface of Bur, their world, but remnants of Fiazhat Gods hunted them still.

Torgluuk, shaman of the Ruuk and master of this Clutch listened half-heartedly to the prattle of his less learned cousins. His thoughts were decidedly on the swamp and the rising waters. For hundreds of years he and his spawn had made their homes in fetid mires, connected by viscous rivers of swale and though they lived in fear of the Fiazhat and their Gods, they knew peace. But that was before the The Sleeping One first stirred and split the world for the second time. Then their larger cousins, the Guruk and Kukuur, had exhumed themselves from subterranean layers to bring war. At first Torgluuk's elders had argued against their cousins, but the perpetuation of The Sleeping One's legend slowly ate into the hearts of them all and they readied for war against the Fiazhat.

Two hundred years of war followed. Generations of progeny were sometimes forgotten, allowing the Moars to consume the young, or the few that survived became feral beasts that survived off of the swamp and understood little of the gifts of The Sleeping One. The Ruuk also suffered ignominy at the hands of the Kukuur. Through all of that hardship they had endured and thrived. Though the shamans of the Ruuk would never be as potent as the Elder Shamans of the Kukuur, some, like Torgluuk, came close to rivaling the Kukuur Summoners. But for all their gifts with subterfuge and misdirection the Ruuk were still not able to overthrow the Kukuur and lead the Clutches. Now they were subjugated and sent to the far corners of Bur to safeguard the places where once the Gods of their enemies visited from another place.

This too was a tale from The Sleeping One, the tale that the soothsayer now told by the wan light of the koruu koruu fungus.

"The false ones came from across the vast divide, in tunnels of thunder, smoke and light. They came with gifts for the hated enemy. They came with power for the Fiazhat. They came with slaughter on their minds, the slaughter of the Ruuk, Guruk and Kukuur. But we would not fall!

"So The Sleeping One rumbled beneath the world and gave to its children the koruu koruu, jooluu, huntoo and bormoo fungus. In brew, on flesh, as food, those closest to The Sleeping One could touch the mass of his body and take the gift of magic from him" The soothsayers threw blasts of acid from their hands to accentuate the point. The younger adepts and adherents croaked and whooped in approval. As the cheers dulled, Torgluuk spied three forms swimming toward the camp through the mire.

Straining his eyes to see into the darkness Torgluuk spied three sets of smallish eyes, and heads with thick crowns; clutchmates. Likely, it was the group that set out earlier this stormy night to hunt for bomutuk, a succulent larval form of the bomutur. How such a giant worm, as long as Torgluuk's arm and plump as his head, could become a flying stinging beast like the bomotuk was beyond even the Kukuur Elder's understanding. It mattered little to the Ruuk though, both were a tasty dinner and the rains made the bomutur worm slither to the surface of the swamp where it was easier to catch. Morgluuk, Torgluuk's closest clutchmate and strongest warrior, lead the small hunting band. Torgluuk would be eager to see what was caught.

He slipped down along the branches of the mighty Tkoruk tree and lowered himself into the water with the aid of a vine. Above him the soothsayers continued to dance and sing the tales. They truly believed that the time of the revelations was here. One hundred and twelve cycles had passed without the fire in the sky. It was entirely possible they were right, but Torgluuk wanted to stay focused and alert. The Moars were always nearby these days. As the cool muck of the mire spread onto Torgluuk's flesh the bormoo that grew there began glowing gold in the night.

"You return with bomutur?" he asked.

"Have we ever failed to find a nest?" Morgluuk asked. Everything Morgluuk said was a challenge. He knew no other way. He was a savage. Most of his time was spent fighting with other savages in the deep swamps where the Moars were most plentiful. He was always fighting. Fighting had become part of everything that he was. He lifted a bushel of bomutur and ordered the other savages to bring the catch up into the Tkoruk and prepare the meal.

"Are the Moars advancing?" Torgluuk asked as he watched the hunters spring from the water to a large branch and then into the glow of the koruu koruu. There was a cheer as they showed the catch and then the soothsayers began again; Torgluuk shook his head.

"You still do not believe? A shaman without the heart of The Sleeping One, how did the fungus not devour your innards?" Morgluuk brushed at the glowing fungus on his clutchmate's flesh. They shared a small moment of laughter. "They move closer, the others did not see the signs but I see that they close. Fire breathers, talons of ice."

They stared at one another for a moment.

"Damned be the Fiazhat and their 'Gods'!" Morgluuk croaked in defiance. "Without their tampering we would rule this world now."

Torgluuk knew it was true. After the Fiazhat had been eradicated, peace reigned for some time, only to be shattered when the Moars came from the depths and made war again. Since that time they had not known peace. The memories of the ancestors flowed through their veins and so they knew the past, knew that the Fiazhat's 'Gods' had brought this plague upon them.

"They are damned already. The last of their kind fell beneath our blades over 800 years ago. Their 'Gods' are dead longer." Torgluuk drank deeply of the swamp to slake a thirst. "We are the masters of this world. We drive the Moars away whenever they come."

Morgluuk waved a hand dismissively toward Torgluuk and leapt to the vine above them. He began to climb toward the meal and celebration of the tears of The Sleeping One. Torgluuk stared after him a moment and then looked out over the still swamp. Out there were the Moars; they would come for this temple again. The eyes of the false 'Gods' stared out to the Moars, calling them to each temple site across Bur. Morgluuk threw a clump of offal down on his clutchmate.

"Come, shaman! You must lead the dinner pray"His statement was cut short by the sound of thunder. Torgluuk watched as Morgluuk was blasted off the limb of the Tkoruk and unceremoniously deposited into the mire, head first. Other bodies flew through the air, scattering on all sides about Torgluuk, and a muted violet glow throbbed from the mouth of the ancient Fiazhat temple.

Morgluuk pulled himself free of the muck and sprang to the side of the Clutch's leader, sickle and sword drawn. He croaked orders and gave off a scent to warn any that were conscious that they were under attack. He looked at Torgluuk expectantly.

"It is time," Torgluuk stated without thought. This could only be the sign, the moment about which the soothsayers had been singing only moments before. He had not believed that it was possible, had not wanted to believe that the Fiazhat 'Gods' still lived. He looked to his clutchmate and leapt onto the branch of the mighty Tkoruk. Morgluuk followed and ordered the others to stay below.

When they landed and looked at the stone slabs that stood amongst the ruins of the ancient temple they knew immediately that the prophecies were right. The Sleeping One had awakened and their time was now. They looked below at their clutch and croaked in triumph. The echoes of their voices carried deep into the swamp unnerving every manner of beast. Even the Moars would not come this night.

There in the ruins, a tunnel of dark gray mist, swirling lightning and the sound of a thunderhead beckoned. Torgluuk clucked his tongue and looked at Morgluuk.

"I believe." Torgluuk let a smile spread, showing rows of sharp teeth.

"This is our time brother! Damned be the Kukuur. We, the Ruuk, shall claim this victory!" Morgluuk howled in defiance. Another thunderclap sounded in the sky and the rain suddenly began to clear. Torgluuk turned and walked to the edge of the Tkoruk.

"Ruuk of the Clutch of Tkoruk Guruul, The Sleeping One has sent us the sign!"

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Rollout Article

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Across the Vast Divide


posted on 10-Mar-2004

The sound of porous bone drawn across supple flesh presages the appearance of blood-soaked words. There is no quill writing upon the page, nor is there light in this chamber, far removed from the surface of the world. No footfalls in the hallways, no being working over the tome, only a whisper of a woman's voice endlessly speaking, followed by the sound of bone carving the flesh of the book. So it has been since the coming of the dark ones, since the world grew cold and darkness consumed darkness while the light whimpered and watched its children fall.

The sun rises each morning. The moons come each night. Words ceaselessly appear on the pages of this book. Auberean has survived by way of these constants. But what happens to creation if the words one day&stop?


The Ongoing Saga
Dangers seem to be everywhere in Dereth these days. Zharalim working for the Queen have gone rogue, and statues of the Hopeslayer have appeared in towns, calling to Isparians to shrug off Asheron's Protection.

In the town of Sawato, near the Blackmire, a terrified mosswart fled some unknown threat. Those who investigated found a massacre, with no hint as to what could have caused such destruction. What new danger lurks just below the surface of the fetid swamp?

Many of this month's changes have already been described in detail in the Letter to the Players and the Follow-Up. There are three more topics that we'd like to mention in detail.


Portalspace and the Invoker
This month, we've updated the Portalspace quest, including the Buadren and the Invoker. The changes are intended to make the quest less confusing and less likely to result in players getting stuck and unable to complete it. The quest and the rewards have also been rebalanced. Here are the most important changes:

  • Players who have become stuck in the past generally through loss of the Ember should now be able to complete the quest successfully.
  • There is no longer a timer on creating a Buadren.
  • All of the Buadren parts have been renamed and moved onto new monsters. Since this is a simple name change, if you currently have any Buadren part in your possession, you can still use it to create a Buadren.
  • None of the items required to create a Buadren are Attuned or Bonded anymore, although the Buadren itself is still Bonded and Attuned.
  • The Portalspace / Invoker part of the quest is now restricted to 70+.
  • You no longer have to attempt Portalspace within a month after having created a Buadren. Aun Aulakhe will always remember that you've created a Buadren.
  • Getting an Invoker is now repeatable.
  • The Invoker has been upgraded. If you have an old Invoker, it will not be automatically changed. However, you can trade it for a new Invoker by giving it to Aun Saritea. If you trade for a new Invoker, you can never get the old Invoker back.
  • The Portalspace dungeon has seen considerable changes.


Yaraq
The other content revision this month is to the town of Yaraq. Yaraq has been revised in the same way that Shoushi was in January, and Holtburg will be in April. Portal drops and Lifestones have been moved, and the surrounding content has been revised.


In Concept / In Development

We're working on a better means of keeping you up-to-date on our development activities. We don't expect to give the full status on each topic in each month's Letter to the Players, we'd prefer to let you know which topics have been changed or updated. We'll most likely be adding permanent In Concept and In Development pages to the official Asheron's Call website.

Release Notes

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Developer's Notes - March


posted on 10-Mar-2004

New Functionality and Content

  • We've revised the Portal Space/Invoker Quest and made some improvements to the city of Yaraq.
  • Phase two of the ongoing Treasure revisions has been introduced.
  • Life Magic transfer spells have been adjusted, with transfer caps and improved efficiency for the lower-level versions of the spells.
  • It is now possible to cast Item Magic spells directly on the chest area of a player if you have that player targeted.
  • Crafting Confirmation is a new option allowing players to find out their chances of success prior to completing of a crafting interaction.
  • There are new Character Options for choosing to display various facts about your character to players who identify you.
  • It's Spring, and the snow has melted!

Miscellaneous Changes and Improvements

  • The formula for Arc spells has been adjusted.
  • Those weapons with Biting Strike or Crushing Blow now display these previously hidden properties.
  • The Character Options panel has been reorganized.
  • Auto-enforcement for speed-altering program violations is now active on all eight worlds.
  • Multi-strike weapons now display as such in a special property when they are identified.
  • As part of our ongoing town revisions, rumors sold in towns will be color-coded to reflect the intended level range of the associated content. Light Blue notes are for 110, Blue are for 1020, Green are for 2040, and Orange are for 6080. For March, the town rumors to receive these updates are those in Yaraq and Shoushi.
  • Allegiance chat is now bright orange.
  • If you use the @allegiance on/off command, you will no longer get an error message advising you to type @help allegiance.
  • The "Tell to Selected" and "Tell to Allegiance" chat options work properly.
  • You can now separate wrapped bundles of barbed arrowheads, greater barbed arrowheads, and deadly barbed arrowheads.
  • The starter town Archmages now sell all 9 starter town portal gems, which have a reduced cost of 500 pyreal.
  • They will also sell a gem to open aportal to Xarabydun.
  • The Empty Soul (Jojii's Adherent) quest now has a correct minimum level of 35, and two of the notes have more accurate directions.
  • You should no longer be able to get stuck in the Arcane Pedestal quest in a situation where you can't get a new imaging crystal from Slithe Traditor.
  • Celcynd will no longer keep Aluvian stamped letters
  • The Creepy Statues no longer appear as portals on radar, and are easier to see from a distance.
  • Cultists and Zharalim no longer use spell words when they cast spells.
  • The armor on the Pyreal Target Drudge has been increased.
  • The sign at East Sawato Settlement is now correct, and East Sawato Cottages have been renamed to West Sawato Cottages as they are, in fact, west of Sawato.
  • The burden panel will scroll when necessary.
  • Also to improve graphical performance, red steam vents are seen less frequently in volcanic areas.
  • The icons for spells which affect entire fellowships no longer appear as though they are Self spells.
  • Weight of Eternity now overrides player-cast Weakness spells
  • The first chest in the Academy now spawns multiple Application Forms
  • New Gharu'ndim characters start with bread instead of cheese; this is to prevent a situation in which a starting Gharu'ndim crossbow character could end up without any bolts due to burden.

Minor Details

  • The Ice Badge and Olthoi Sollerets are now hookable.
  • Bowls now do bludgeoning damage.
  • The look of the Olthoi Mutilator head has been adjusted.
  • Olthoi Heads floor and wall-hook properly.
  • The Weeping Bow now looks correct when it is hooked, as do Bouquets.
  • Margul are slightly louder when they cast spells.
  • The Puppeteer's Skull no longer hovers over your hand.
  • Brother Gonun the Scribe in Shoushi no longer sells rumors; look for these rumors with the two barkeeps in town.
  • The Stamped Society letters no longer have "A" in front of their names.
  • A typo in the name of the Crucible with Quicksilver has been corrected.
  • Some typos in Scroll names have been corrected.
  • A typo in the text of the Aluvian society agents has been corrected.

Letter to the Players

Original Link (now dead) - http://ac.turbinegames.com/index.php?page_id=209

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Letter to the Players


posted on 02-Mar-2004

Welcome to the March 2004 Letter to the Players! This letter was initially intended for Monday, March 1st, but we held it so that we could include additional comments regarding the treasure changes.

In Dereth, we were reminded that not all threats to civilization need come from outside. Near Zaikhal, an entire force of Zharalim fell to corruption and madness, and strange small statues were found in several towns, encouraging the citizens of Dereth to refuse Asheron's protection and battle one another.

Now let's take a look at some of the changes coming in the March event.


Treasure
Last month, we introduced the first part of sweeping changes to our treasure system, and we received a great deal of negative feedback.

One thing that the feedback made clear is that we failed to properly prepare you for both the long-term and short-term impacts of the change. In addition, your feedback has alerted us to a number of issues with the change that we are working to resolve.

What is the long-term goal of these changes? Essentially, it is to resolve a number of limitations in our loot system. The old loot system had a number of issues. There were four generic levels of loot that we could give to creatures intended for characters below level 50, but only two levels of loot for characters above level 50. This made balancing loot for the most uber characters very difficult almost anything that we added for the most difficult monsters would start appearing in monsters intended for all 50+ characters. This was the largest flaw, but there were other issues across the board.

Our goal is that creatures intended for a specific level range should be more likely to drop loot that is useful for that level range. For example, newbie characters should not find 325 wield req weapons that they can't use, and Uber characters should not find weapons with no wield req. Also, there should be no creatures that always drop "useless loot". There will always be a range of loot, but that range should be more reasonable than it has been in the past.

The first phase of our changes tied the six levels of loot directly to the six target levels of characters that have existed in the game for some time: Newbie (1-20), Low (20-40), Mid (40-60), High (60-80), Extreme (80+), and Uber (100+). Creatures intended for characters in a specific level range should drop loot appropriate for characters in that level range. This improved loot overall for many creatures many Tuskers are a good example but also decreased the average quality of loot found on other creatures such as many Olthoi. Many types of Olthoi had been given loot well above their target level. This was good for players who just wanted to loot a lot of peas easily, but was annoying for the players who were intended to fight these Olthoi. These low-level players tended to get weapons and items as loot that they wouldn't be able to use for some time.

How do you know where to find creatures for your level? The best place to look is at our Creature Distribution Map, which can be found on our Download page. This map shows how the creatures were laid out during the landscape redistribution last year. The levels given are suggested player levels, so that gives you a place to start hunting and see how it feels.

Now, just to be very clear about this AC is a skill-based game, not a level-based game. The ranges on that map are suggestions based on assumptions we have made about average skill levels and hunting styles. We suggest that you start with the range that that corresponds to your level and see how you like it. If you've pumped more XP into your combat skills, or if you like to live life out on the edge, you may want to go up a range and see how that feels. If you have spread your experience out more, or you're a more conservative sort, you may be happiest trying out the range below your actual level. Our goal with this map was merely to make some useful suggestions about where to start.

I cannot overemphasize the fact that the changes to creatures are not done yet. Due to the size and scope of these changes, it was not possible to make all of them in one month. As we mentioned in last month's Rollout Article, there are still a number of issues. Some of these issues will be resolved in this month; others are pending for April and later.

The following issues will be resolved in the March event:

  • Spell scrolls: The scrolls dropped by creatures haven't been on-target for some time now, but the February changes really exacerbated this issue. For March, we have adjusted the scroll drops on creatures and in treasure you should now find scrolls that are appropriate for your level. Our goal is that you should be able to find most of your scrolls for your next level before you need to buy them.

    Does this mean that there is a chance to find level 7 scrolls on creatures and in loot?

    Yes. Yes it does.
  • Spells on items: As we said in the Rollout Article, spell levels on creatures intended for 80+ characters were out of whack. After receiving your feedback on this issue, we realized that the problem was more widespread. For March, we've adjusted the spells on items upwards for all creatures and chests intended for characters higher than 20.

    Does this mean that there is a chance to find level 7 spells on loot items?

    Sorry, not at this time.
  • Chests: Last month, we concentrated primarily on creatures. This month, we're turning our attention to chests. Chests should now, in general, spawn items useful for characters in the level range for which they are intended.

    In addition, some chests have been adjusted so that they have a chance of providing better loot than other sources within the same target level range. Runed Chests and the Virindi Troves are good examples of this.

    The Singularity Trove deserves its own comment. The Singularity Trove used to be in the class with the best possible loot in the game but the troves and keys could be found by characters at a lower level. The Singularity Trove is now in the 80+ target range of loot.

    At the moment though, the 80+ and the 100+ ranges have a lot of overlap. In addition, many of the issues that were reported with Singularity Troves in February such as scroll levels and weapon modifiers will be resolved this month.
  • Offense and Defense Modifiers: In all cases, we've increased the average offense and defense modifier on melee weapons. We've also increased the maximum mod that can be found at each level except the top level, which was already the maximum possible. This change was made primarily as a result of player feedback.

The following issue should be resolved in the April event:

  • Border Creatures: Right now, if a creature is intended for level 60 characters, it will have loot for level 40-60. This can make it very challenging to "break in" to the next level of creatures you can't fight stronger creatures without getting better equipment, but you can't get better equipment without fighting stronger creatures!

    Starting in April, creatures that are designed for characters within 5 levels of a difficulty break will have the treasure intended for the next highest difficulty. For example, creatures that are intended to be fought by level 36 characters will have loot intended for characters from 40 to 60.

In addition, some creatures that are completely outside the system will be brought in, and other creatures will be adjusted as necessary.

It is important to remember that a creature's level is not a direct correlation to the level of character that should be fighting it. In general, you should be able to take on creatures that are higher level than you are. When we rebalanced creatures last year we tried to line up the display level so that there is an obvious relationship between that and difficulty so that a level 110 monster is harder than a level 100 monster. However, some creatures are easier for one type of character mages, say and harder for another melee, say. So if you're a melee, a level 100 mage-oriented creature may be tougher for you than a level 110 melee-oriented creature.

The following issue will be resolved in a future update:

  • Armor: The type and qualities of armor found in the various levels of loot are out of whack. This is one of the reasons why you're finding AL20 leather at much higher creature levels than you would expect. We're aware of this issue and are working on it, but the changes will not be in March, nor are they likely for April.

    Does balancing armor include introducing new types of armor?

    Probably, yes.

    Another issue that has resulted in a great deal of feedback is the value of items many players have reported difficulty in making enough pyreals through hunting to pay for their components, mana charges, and other consumables. We are watching the situation closely, but at this time we have no plans to directly change the value of loot items. Many of the other changes that we are making both in treasure and elsewhere may change the situation considerably. In particular, the scroll changes may resolve the issues reported with mages not being able to afford scrolls that they needed.

    We understand that a large number of you were very surprised and upset by these changes. We believe that this was caused by two main factors. The first is that the changes are not complete, and you are seeing an incomplete system at work. The second is that I personally did not properly explain the goals and phases of these changes I hope that this letter explains things to your satisfaction.

Armor Buffing, Transfer Spells, and Arcs
What do these topics have in common? The two changes are being made primarily from a PvP point of view, but they also impact NPK players.


Armor Buffing
In the past, there has been no means of buffing or debuffing another player's armor. Negative armor Item Enchantment spells such as Lures or Brittlemail were only useful on a target wielding a shield. PK and PKL players have never had a means of countering, or "breaking through," the positive effects cast upon an opposing player's armor. Starting in March, you will now be able to do so with some limitations.

Beginning in March, Item Enchantment armor buffs or debuffs cast upon a player who is not wielding a shield will redirect to whatever armor is worn on that player's chest. If the player is not wearing armor, the spell will fail. Clothing, such as a shirt or Asheron's Raiment, does not count in this situation but robes do, as they are considered armor. When cast on a player wielding a shield, these spells will redirect to his or shield, as they have for several months now.

This allows for several new options for players. NPK players can assist a friend with armor buffing, so long as their friend is not wielding a shield. However, we expect these changes will be most useful to PKs and PKLs, who can now debuff the armor of their opponents.

It is important to note that the dynamics associated with buffing or debuffing a target's armor will work similarly to that of a target's shield or weapon. If the targeted item is not wielded at the time the spell is cast, the spell will fail. If the targeted item is unenchantable, the spell will also fail.

This change is intended to provide a method to directly counter the ability to debuff another player's weaponry. Without the ability to negate a player's positive armor Item Enchantment spells, it was often very difficult for a melee or missile attacker to inflict meaningful damage on an opponent. A player could always debuff a weapon, tilting the combat advantage in his or her favor yet the player using a physical attack had no equivalent tactic available.


Transfer Spells
For some time, the low-level transfer spells have been unbalanced at high levels, and not as effective as hoped at the low levels for which they were designed. For example, a high level mage can often cast Stamina to Health I and restore almost all if not all of his health. This seems inappropriate for a first-level spell. Why is it so much better than Heal Self I, for example?

Let us define what is meant by Life Magic transfer spells: Health to Mana, Health to Stamina, Mana to Stamina, Mana to Health, Stamina to Health, and Stamina to Mana are all of the spells that we consider to be part of the Life Magic transfer class of spells. These spells traditionally take a portion of one secondary attribute (health, mana, or stamina), and convert some amount of that portion into a different secondary attribute.

Starting in March, the first three levels of transfer spells will have their percentage returned increased, to improve their value for low-level characters. In addition, to reduce the imbalance issue, the first four levels of transfer spells will have their maximum transfer capped.

Please see the table below bold numbers represent new values:

Level of Transfer Spell Percentage Drained Old Percentage Converted New Percentage Converted Old Maximum Transfer New Maximum Transfer
I 50% 75% 90% None 50
II 50% 90% 100% None 100
III 50% 105% 110% None 150
IV 50% 120% 120% None 200
V 50% 135% 135% None None
VI 50% 150% 150% None None
VII 50% 175% 175% None None

"Maximum Transfer" refers to the maximum value either drained or converted. For example, Stamina to Health I, when cast by a character with 150 Stamina, used to drain 75 points of Stamina and provide 56 points of Health. Now, it will only drain 50 points of Stamina, and provide 45 points of Health. No level I transfer spell will drain or provide more than 50 points of any pool.

This change is intended to increase the value and usage of low-level transfer spells for low-level characters, while decreasing their power when used by high-level characters.


Arc Spell Words
Since their introduction, arc spells have used the same spell words as bolt spells, due to the fact that they use the same components when not using Foci. For example, both Flame Bolt and Flame Arc use the words Zojak Quaguz.

In today's PvP arena, this means that one aspect of player skill knowing what the spell words mean so you can know what your opponent is casting at you cannot be used when trying to distinguish Bolts from Arcs.

Starting in March, Arcs will have a different formula they will use Amaranth instead of Hawthorn. Players who use Foci will not notice a difference they will still use prismatic tapers and scarabs but the spells will now have Kedrack as their first word instead of Zojak. If you aren't using the War Magic Foci, you will need to buy Amaranth before you will be able to cast Arc spells.

So now, if you see your opponent say Zojak Quaguz, you will know that he's casting a bolt and not an arc.


Additional PvP Concerns for the Future
As we stated in the February Letter to the Players, we are taking a closer look at a number of PK and PKL issues. In the near future, you may see changes to:

  • The lack of an Aegis-like ability for archers.
  • The balance of dispels dispel spells, gems, and potions.
  • The Jumpspin issue how can we prevent players from using our physics code to guarantee escape from sticky melee, and yet still provide a means for skilled players to get away from the melee that is targeting them?
  • Melee weapon damage over time in PvP specifically, bringing more diversity to melee beyond "if you're not sword, you're out of luck".
  • "Loot Weapons" vs. "Quest Weapons" Re-examining PK-oriented quest weapon suites to provide viable choices between the different types of weaponry
  • New/Improved pathing choices for missile attacks, similar to the arc/bolt choice for War Magic

I can't provide a specific ETA for any of these changes, but we want to let you know what we are working on. The feedback threads that we've run on our forums have given us a lot of great information about what you do and don't like about PvP combat in Asheron's Call. We'll be using that information to make PvP better for the folks who play it most.


Content Revisions
In March we are continuing our ongoing process of updating out-of-date quests and areas. This month, you'll see Yaraq and its surroundings receive an update similar to Shoushi's update in January. The Invoker, or Portalspace, quest will also be updated.


Fellowships and Quests
One of the new quests this month has as a key part of it a quest dynamic that you've not seen before fellowship quests and "locked" fellowships. A fellowship quest means that your whole fellowship is on the quest, not just an individual. If you drop out of the fellowship, you will not be able to complete the quest. A "locked" fellowship is one in which new members cannot be recruited for the length of the quest. Fellowship members who leave the group have 15 minutes to get back in before they are unable to rejoin.

Please, don't take these changes as an indication that we are removing Asheron's Call's soloability! The ability to advance while playing alone is one of Asheron's Call's strengths, and we have no intention of removing it. However, in certain special circumstances or for specific quests, we may use these new features to ensure that the quest be tackled by a group of players. Our Next Story Arc

As we've hinted at elsewhere, March is the first month of our next exciting story arc: The Shattered Coil. What danger now menaces Dereth? Only time and your adventures and explorations will tell.

Letter to the Players Follow-Up

Original Link (now dead) - http://ac.turbinegames.com/?page_id=211

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Letter to the Players Follow-Up


posted on 05-Mar-2004

In listening to the feedback received since posting the Letter to the Players, we've realized that there are some gaps in our communication process. One of the largest of these is that frequently players are not advised of changes included in an upcoming month until the Letter to the Players for that month is posted. Because of our schedule, this means that by the time we are seeing your reaction to planned changes, we are already in a freeze state in which altering or reverting those changes are very difficult.

I'd like to apologize for not taking further steps to prevent all of you from being blindsided by some of our upcoming changes. More to the point, we're making some big changes to the way we release information about upcoming updates. We'll be releasing information farther ahead of time, which will allow us to listen to your feedback and discuss these concepts and ideas with you long before we begin development on them.

In addition to this article, we plan to provide in-depth articles regarding several large-scale systems and our visions for them. The first of these, regarding PvP combat, should be posted early next week. The second will be regarding the Treasure changes and will follow a week or so later. The third will talk about our plans to improve the buffing process and will probably follow a week after the Treasure article.

Each Letter to the Players will now have three sections. The first section is going to contain information about the upcoming month. The second section, "In Development," will contain information about what we are working on for the next month. The third section, "In Concept," is going to contain information about changes that we are working on for later updates. This will give you more information about future changes and more opportunity to provide feedback on these changes before we even write a single line of code. Only changes to existing game systems will be included in these updates; in general we will not release information about upcoming content.

It is important to stress that nothing in the "In Development" or "In Concept" is final. These are all works in progress. Nothing in either section is guaranteed to go into the game in the form described, or even at all. The purpose of these sections is to find out how you feel about these topics before they are final.

Rather than explain in further detail, you can see exactly what I mean below. We wanted to get this information about April and beyond up as soon as possible, as many of the changes you'll see below directly impact many of the concerns that were raised regarding the March Letter to the Players. Coming in March

(These are items that are coming in the March event. In the past, we would have saved this information for the March Rollout Article. Under the new communication system, they are appropriate for the Letter to the Players.)


"Hidden" Properties No Longer Hidden
There are several quest weapons, such as the Quadruple-Bladed Axe, that have what we've referred to in the past as a "hidden property". Starting in March, these properties will appear when you ID such an item.

An item that is described as having the Biting Strike property has a greater chance of a critical hit in combat. An item that is described as having the Crushing Blow property has a greater than normal critical multiplier it is likely to do more damage in a critical hit.

Unlike imbues, these properties do not scale with your skill; they are set to a specific level.


Character Options
Over the years, we've added several options to the Character Options panel. The grouping of these options was, well, counterintuitive at times. Starting in March, the options will be grouped under the following headers: User Interface Behavior, User Interface Display, Grouping, Other Players, Character Behavior, and Chat.

In addition, we're adding several new options Character Display Options, and Crafting Confirmation.


Character Display Options
These options will be found under Other Players and control what other players can see if they successfully assess you. The different pieces of information that you can toggle on or off are:

  • Your real-time date of birth.
  • Your in-game age.
  • Your chess rank.
  • Your fishing skill.
  • Your number of deaths.

All of these options are toggled off by default.


Crafting Confirmation
This is something that has been requested several times, and we're happy to be able to provide it. Starting in March, there will be a new option in the Character Options panel under User Interface Display: "Crafting Chance of Success Dialog."

This option is unchecked by default. If you leave it unchecked, all crafting interactions, including Tinkering, behave as they have in the past. Most interactions simply either succeed or fail, while some interactions mostly Tinkering have a warning in advance.

If you check this option, any existing warnings will not be shown. Instead, you will make the "clapping" motion and the following will occur:

  • If you have a 100% chance of success in this craft interaction, it will succeed.
  • If you have a 0% chance of success in this craft interaction, it will automatically abort and you will receive the message, "You cannot possibly succeed" in the upper-left.
  • If your odds of success are somewhere between 0% and 100%, you will receive a dialog box stating your odds and asking you if you want to continue. If you choose to continue, the interaction will either succeed or fail as it has in the past. If you choose not to continue, the craft interaction will abort and you will receive the message, "You chicken out" in the upper-left.

Obviously, few crafters will leave the option permanently checked or unchecked. If you're making flour and your odds are, say, 95%, you probably want to leave it unchecked. On the other hand, if you're tinkering your best weapon with Black Garnet, you probably want to check the option so you have an idea what your odds are.


Ulgrim
We want to warn you in advance that Ulgrim won't be found in his house immediately after the March event. Don't worry, he's not gone for good! He's just run into a bit of trouble see the teaser. You'll be seeing more of Ulgrim later in the month, and you'll be able to complete the quest in his house again before the month is over.


In Development
(These are the game changes that we are working on for the April event. None of these items are guaranteed to be added for April, as scheduling and priorities can change. Once the process has matured over the next two months or so, In Development will contain items from the In Concept section that we've discussed with you and decided to put in the development pipeline. There is no set schedule for In Development items to go into an episode; this section only notes that they are being worked on.

As this is the first month for this section, it contains the work for April and your feedback on these topics would be particularly valuable.)


Settlement Portals
For some time, the Settlement Portal Hubs have been found outside almost all of the towns and cities of Dereth. These Hubs provided fast transportation all across Dereth, but many players have complained that... well, they just look ugly.

In April, we are planning to introduce the first phase of a two-phase process to remove the Settlement Portals. The first phase is the creation of portal summoning gems for all of the Settlements that are currently linked to the Hubs. Each Settlement will have a vendor who will sell that Settlement's gem.

The second phase, currently planned for May, is the removal of the Settlement Portal Hubs entirely.

The goal of these changes is to remove the ugliness of the Hubs, as well as encourage exploration and travel through Dereth's wilderness. If there are several Settlements that you visit regularly, you have the opportunity to purchase gems for these Settlements in the month of April, before the Hubs are removed. If you wish to visit your friend's home, you can ask you friend to purchase that Settlement's gem for you. We would not be surprised to see gems for particularly popular Settlement destinations being traded in the Marketplace!


Content Revisions
We plan to revise two towns and two quests in April. Holtburg will be revised in the same way that Shoushi was in January and Yaraq will be in March. The portal drops and Lifestone locations will be made more convenient, and the surrounding content will be adjusted for balance.

The second town that we are planning to revise is the Lugian fortress of Linvak Tukal. It will be getting a Lifestone and direct portal access, without the need to fight through the entryway.

Along with Linvak Tukal, we plan to revise the Arm, Heart, Mind quest. Confusing aspects of the quest timing will be fixed, and the quest rewards will be adjusted.

The second quest to be revised is the Little Green Seeds quest. Terese's interactions and the Swamp Garden will be revised, and new types of seeds for higher-level creatures will be introduced. This doesn't mean new colors of dye, however.


Vendor Buy-Sell Rates
Ever since the creature spawn changes, there have been some disparities between the difficult of hunting around certain towns and the buy-sell rates of the vendors inside those towns. In April, we plan to adjust the vendor buy-sell rates in several towns to better reflect the surrounding area.

In addition, to give each town some unique flavor, each town will have one or two vendors who have better buy/sell rates than the rest of the town.


Dispel Revisions

For some time, the dispel gems have been considerably better than any of the dispel spells or dispel potions. Dispel gems could remove all of your debuffs in one shot, they only removed negative spells, and they could remove level VII spells.

To improve the situation and create more versatility and usefulness for dispels, we are planning to add level VIIs to spells and potions, and decrease the power of gems:

  • Dispel spells: There will be level VII versions of Item, Creature, and Life dispels, both Self and Other. These spells will remove a random number of negative spells from the target when successfully cast, and will not remove positive spells.
  • Dispel potions: There will be level VI and VII player-craftable dispel potions, which will be created in a process similar to the existing dispel potions. One option we are considering is the removal of the two lowest levels of dispel potions and shifting the entire crafting process "down" two steps. For example, the process that currently results in a level V dispel potion would now create a level VII dispel potion.

    These potions will remove a random number of negative spells from the user, and will not remove positive spells.
  • Dispel gems: These gems will have their power reduced. They will no longer remove all negative spells from the user, they will instead remove a random number. We are also looking at the possibility of making them stackable.

In general, when I write, "a random number" above, the final random range has not yet been finalized. We're looking at a range of or near 1-6 spells for each dispel. Buffing Improvements

The Buffing Changes article that will be following will provide information on all of our planned buffing improvements and how they fit together. The first of these, faster self-buffs, is planned for April.

In April, we plan to make all Creature and Life Self buffs cast at the same speed as a level I spell, no matter what their level. This should cut down on the amount of time spent preparing for battle for players who cast their own buffs.

Why the Self spells and not Others? We believe that training a skill yourself should always have some advantage over relying on others who have trained the skill.

What about Banes? As there are no "Self" or "Other" versions of these spells, we need to be a bit more careful about our changes to them. You'll see some information regarding our plans for Banes in the In Concept section below, as well as in the coming Buffing Changes article.


House Purchase Timer
An issue that has resulted in a great deal of feedback is that of players camping houses solely for the purpose of resale and a profit.

After receiving all of your feedback, we've come at this issue from a different angle. If we can prevent these players from being able to quickly unload these houses and purchase new ones, it will impede their ability to tie up the entire housing market.

To that end, we would like to introduce a one month timer on purchasing cottages, villas, and mansions. Residential Quarters will be exempt from this timer. This timer is per account, not per character. The timer would not extend across worlds.

What does this mean? All players, whether they own a house or not, would have a field in their housing panel stating the last time that they purchased a house (for these purposes a "house" is a cottage, villa, or mansion) and when they can purchase another one. You cannot purchase a house until 30 days after the last time that you purchased a house.

It is important to note that this has nothing to do with when you lose a house, either through @house abandon or failure to pay maintenance. If you have owned a house for several months and abandon it, you will be able to purchase another house immediately. What you cannot do is purchase a house, abandon it less than 30 days later, and then purchase another house immediately.

Purchasing an apartment in the Residential Quarters does not change this at all. You could buy a house, immediately abandon it, and then immediately purchase an apartment. However you would still have to wait the 30 days before you could purchase another house. Treasure Changes, Phase 3

We've already mentioned several of the ongoing Treasure changes coming in April in the March Letter to the Players, such as adjustments to border creatures. In addition, we plan to make the following changes:

  • Attack and Defense modifiers will appear more frequently on weapons. In March, we're adjusting the minimum, maximum, and average modifiers that are found in April, you will find these modifiers more frequently in general.
  • Mana Conversion modifiers will also appear more frequently on casters. At high levels of loot, you will no longer be able to find casters that don't have a Mana Conversion modifier. In addition, the average Mana Conversion modifier will adjusted upwards.
  • New Defense Modifiers. In April, you will be able to find Melee Defense modifiers on casting items, and Missile Defense and Magic Defense modifiers on all weapons and casting items. Casters will now be able to have Defender cast on them, as well as be tinkered with Brass. At some point in the future we may create equivalent spells and tinkers for Missile Defense and Magic Defense modifiers on weapons and casters.
  • Casting items will have the ability to generate with Defender due to the above change, and will also have the ability to generate with the Hermetic Link spell or cantrips for any of the spells that can be found on them.


"Second-class" Weapons Get Upgrades
In the past, some weapons within a weapon class were just plain undesirable. For example, if you were a Mace user and you wanted maximum damage, there was no reason to look at anything other than a Morningstar. You turned up your nose at a Kasrullah.

In April, we'll be making changes to bring the low-end damage weapons closer to par with the maximum damage weapons in each class. This is similar to the changes we made to bows and crossbows last year; however we are not necessarily giving all weapons within a class the same maximum damage. In many weapon classes there will still be weapons that have a lower maximum than others, but the difference will be much smaller.

No weapon class is having its maximum damage increased, and some classes are being changed more than others. For example, all three types of Unarmed Combat weapons had the same maximum damage, so they will not be touched. Weapons that are considered to be a "secondary damage type" Rapiers, Spiked Clubs, Naginatas, and Warhammers are not being changed, and we are taking into account the differences between hiltable and non-hiltable Swords and Daggers. Fellowship Spells

As we have hinted in the past, we are introducing spells that can be cast on all members of a fellowship simultaneously. The first of these spells are planned for April. We are taking it slow with these they are only attribute buffs, and no more powerful than existing spells. Envoy Policy Changes

Katahdin is working with the Dev Team to help the Envoy team better assist you, our players. Here are two of the ideas that we are currently considering:

  • Inscriptions. While their primary responsibility would always to be handle calls that are in the Help or Abuse queues, Envoys could make themselves available to uninscribe items upon request. There would also be scheduled times and places on each world where you could find an Envoy to uninscribe your item. We're still working on many of the details and are interested in your thoughts on this topic.
  • The Marketplace. On some worlds, trade bots are not placed in the outlying rooms and instead cluster in the primary portal drop room. This can create graphical lag and issues for players who are portaling in to the Marketplace.

The Envoy team would like to encourage players to move their bots into the outer rooms of the Marketplace. In addition, players need to ensure that the speech that they are having their trade bots use is not offensive. We are considering removing offensive or badly-placed trade bots from the Marketplace. These bots would not be banned or booted, but would be removed to isolated rooms until their owners return.

Tell us what you think of the ideas In Development!


In Concept
(These are the game additions and changes that we are thinking about for May and beyond. We cannot guarantee that any of these additions and changes will be added to the game. The whole purpose of this section is to let you know what we're thinking about doing, give you a chance to comment and to have a dialogue with us about them.

I can't stress strongly enough it is entirely possible that none of the changes listed below will ever make it into the game. We are going to be carefully watching what you post about these concepts.) Content Revisions

In the future, we would like to revisit all towns in the same fashion that Shoushi has been revisited, and Yaraq and Holtburg will be revised in March and April respectively.

We also would like to revise the difficulty and rewards of Marae Lassel, Aerlinthe, and the Vesayens in the same way that we revised the Singularity Caul. In each case the island and associated quests would be revised for new (not necessarily higher) target levels.

We would like to revise the following quests: Palenqual's Living Weapons, Singularity Weapons, the "Three Crystals Quests" (aka the Fenmalain, Caulnalain, and Shendolain Vaults), the Quiddity Weapons, and the Composite Bow and Crossbow. Better Weapons

In discussing the Treasure changes, we've mentioned that one of the reasons that the changes were necessary was to allow us to add cool new loot at the top end. What are we thinking of? We're thinking of higher wield-req melee and missile weapons and wield-req casting items. To prevent these new items from throwing off existing damage-over-time balance, as well as PvP balance, we are looking at possibilities other than simply increased damage. One possibility is new, special imbue effects that cannot be added through tinkering, or for the missile weapons and casters special bonuses to specific types of elemental damage. New Loot Armor

Right now the loot system has some rather obvious flaws when it comes to armor, such as when a high-level creature drops AL20 leather. We have held off on adjusting the armor drop system as we are looking at a complete revamp of it including new types of armor. We're looking at adding a new class of armor for each of the three races. These new types would not be considerably better than existing armor, but would mix up the existing racial armor stereotypes. For example, perhaps the new Aluvian armor has metal protections like Celdon, but is a two-piece set like Amuli? These questions are still being investigated.

If it appears that we will have to delay the introduction of the new armor, we can look at adjusting the armor drop tables without them. We would prefer not to, but we understand that you would prefer to stop finding AL20 armor in non-low-level loot as soon as possible.


Rares
Rares would be an entirely new type of loot drop, separate from existing loot and trophies. Rares would have an extremely small chance of dropping from any creature, at any time you would be just as likely to find a Rare on a Drudge Prowler as you would on a Virindi Profatrix.

Rares would be designed to be useful to almost any character, but not better in way that could be unbalancing. For example, we are considering a Rare form of healing kit that has interesting properties with regards to chances of healing and the amount healed. We would probably not consider a Rare sword that has a base damage triple existing swords.

Rares are intended to be exciting and interesting semi-unique items. When you find a Rare, we want your reaction to immediately be, "Cool!" no matter which Rare it is.

One interesting note to help us determine what the drop rate on Rares might be, we decided to find out exactly how many creatures are killed by our players in a given month. We added code to the game that would count this for us! In the time between the January and February events, here are how many creatures each world killed:

Darktide: 13.5 million Harvestgain: 10.4 million Frostfell: 10.1 million Wintersebb: 9.2 million Leafcull: 8.9 million Solclaim: 8.8 million Thistledown: 8.8 million Morningthaw: 8.4 million

We won't be doing these counts every month, but it's some interesting information to think about!

More information on the above three Treasure topics may be found in the upcoming Treasure article. Further Buffing Improvements

In addition to accelerated self buffs and Fellowship spells, we are looking at introducing spells that buff multiple attributes simultaneously. These spells could be introduced for Life, Creature, and/or Item Magic. The exact details of these spells how do you learn them, what is the cost, how many attributes do they buff simultaneously are still in development.

More information on this topic will be in the upcoming Buffing Improvements article. Missile Attack Improvements

We are investigating two improvements for Bow, Crossbow, and Thrown Weapons characters:

  • Recalibrating the accuracy/speed slider. Currently setting the slider to the far left allows you to fire at maximum speed, but penalizes your skill by 50%. Likewise, setting the slider to the far right gives you a 50% bonus to your skill, but fires at the slowest rate.

    We are investigating the possibility of adjusting this slider to allow for fastest speed with a smaller penalty or no penalty without changing the bonus given at slowest speed.
  • A new pathing type for missile attacks. War Mages have the ability to choose between Bolts and Arcs for the purposes of targeting, whereas missile users have only one option. We are investigating the possibility of giving archers a pathing option. This would likely be either through some sort of option in the attack bar, or through a new form of ammunition.


Town Improvements
We are investigating several ideas to increase the appeal of towns and increase the number of players that can be found in towns at any given time. Some of these ideas include some form of crafting bonus that can only be found in towns, or some form of capture-and-hold dynamic to appeal to PK and PKL players.


Allegiance Improvements
We're investigating a number of improvements to Allegiances in general. Some of these include allegiance officers with titles, more controls on who can and cannot enter an allegiance (such as account bans), better chat functions and controls, and the ability to name your Allegiance. Mansion Improvements

We're well aware that many players feel that Mansions are not worth their maintenance cost, and we are working on several ideas to make Mansions more valuable. Most of these are special hookable objects similar to Jojii's Font.


PvP Changes

A number of the above topics touch on PvP combat, but there are other topics that are specifically focused on PvP:

  • Adjustments to the damage-over-time of the PvP weapon suites: Hollow weapons, Phantom weapons, and Weeping weapons. These adjustments would be intended to improve the viability of non-sword melee classes, as well as improve balance overall.
  • A resolution to the Jumpspin issue. There should be a way for skilled players to, in some way, get away from a melee that is "stuck" to them. However the ability to indefinitely jump and spin, throwing off the melee's client prediction, is not the answer. The final solution on this issue should also resolve the PvP jumping stamina penalty issues.
  • Housing barriers on Darktide. We are investigating possibilities regarding this issue. Some of these include removing all housing barriers, removing only mansion and villa barriers, or applying the PK timer to the house barrier in some way. Other suggestions, such as allowing the barrier to be temporarily destroyed in some way, appear to be too difficult to implement in the foreseeable future.
  • Points, areas, locations, or the like to fight over. The first attempt at this was found in the February event, and we are watching the feedback carefully. This may also be tied to town improvements, as mentioned above.

More information on our vision and goals for PvP will be found in the PvP article early next week.


Web Integration
Once we finish the billing transition, currently scheduled for this summer, we can begin looking at tying the Asheron's Call website more tightly to the game. Some of the features we are considering include a single login to both the game and the forums, the ability to view your character or allegiance statistics on the web, and ranking or ladder systems.

Tell us what you think of the ideas In Concept!


Conclusion
Wow! That's a lot of information to throw at you all at once. Again, it's important to remember that these are all things we are working on (In Development) or thinking about (In Concept). Only the Coming in March items are going to be in the game. But now you have almost as much information as we do about our goals for the game in the coming year and beyond.

In addition, I should note that just because something isn't on the current list of In Development and In Concept items, that doesn't mean we won't do it. There are always bug fixes and changes that can come up late in the development cycle. We'll work hard to let you know of these changes as soon as we know they're coming.
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