Announcements - 2006/08 - Shattering the Dark

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Shattering the Dark

It was the darkest time of night in Ayan Baqur, with dawn still over an hour away. A woman in scholar's robes sat at a table in the Smoking Axe tavern, reading through a thick pile of papers by candlelight. She seemed to be the only person in the building. Old Berkholt, the barkeep, had gone for the night, and even Ulgrim was asleep, softly snoring by the side of the building.

A man appeared at the entryway to the tavern. His black leather armor blended against the darkness outside, and it took a moment for the seated scholar to make him out through the light of the candles inside. He stepped into the tavern, eyes darting alertly around the room, and sneered when his eyes met the scholar's.

There was an audible click from the second story of the tavern, and another figure in dark leather armor moved into sight. In the dim recesses of the second level, she'd blended perfectly against the shadowed bulk of a couch. Now she moved enough into the light that both the seated scholar and the newcomer could see, perfectly well, the crossbow in her hand, pointed at the man in the doorway.

"No further, assassin," she hissed from her vantage point. "You are not the Whispering Blade we expected."

The man in the doorway had his hand on his dagger and it looked like he was ready to fight. A second figure appeared behind him – another woman dressed in robes. She put her hand on the fighter's shoulder and turned to address the woman at the table.

"I am the one you expected, Lamorda. My associate is merely taking the same precautions with my security that your own Rossu Morta dog seems to have done," she said.

Lamorda smiled from her seat at the table. "Let us both accept that we are sensible and cautious people, Soju, and be done with this posturing. I'll order my friend to stand down if you will do likewise."

"So be it," Soju said, patting her armed associate again on the shoulder. He relaxed his stance and released his dagger. Lamorda made a hand gesture to the assassin in the second level, who pointed her crossbow back up at the ceiling.

"Of course, there are limits to accommodation," Soju said, as she motioned her companion to an alcove on the second level opposite the Rossu Morta assassin's perch. He took station by an end table, with a crossbow of his own at the ready.

Lamorda rolled her eyes. "If you must." Soju came forward, producing her own pile of papers. She sat at the table across from Lamorda, shuffling her papers and attempting to sort them into some kind of order. After a few wordless moments, she smirked at her counterpart across the table.

"It seemed only wise to bring my own security, since you Rossu Morta butchers seem to take the call of the shadows far too seriously. Tell me, how fares your former Grand Master? Still devouring souls as he trots in the heels of the demon? That is, if he is indeed your former Grand Master."

Lamorda bristled at Soju's needling. "Dardante is attainted and no longer one of us."

Soju lifted her hands in a placating gesture. "Yes, of course, we have all heard about how the Rossu Morta declared him anathema, once they discovered just what a bad man they had issuing directives to their spies, assassins, and torturers... About how your mad king finally got wise to the shadowy viper in his house and cast him out, just a few months too late to --"

"No more about Dardante or the King," the Rossu Morta assassin interrupted. She leveled her crossbow at Soju, which prompted the Whispering Blade assassin to point his own crossbow at Lamorda.

Lamorda sighed heavily. "Stand down, both of you," she barked.

The Whispering Blade assassin laughed in response and kept his crossbow poised. "I don't take orders from Dardante's twisted dogs. You may claim he is not one of you, but it seems to me that this truce you're peddling is just a prelude to further treachery."

"Enough!" This time it was Soju yelling a command. She looked over her shoulder at her own companion. "Put up your weapon," she said wearily. "And no more comments from you unless there is a legitimate threat." She turned to Lamorda. "I apologize unreservedly for my remarks about your former Grand Master."

Slowly, and with many suspicious glances at Lamorda and her companion, the Whispering Blade assassin pointed his crossbow back at the ceiling. After a heartbeat's hesitation and a dirty look from Lamorda, his Rossu Morta counterpart did the same.

"Wonderful," Lamorda said brightly. "Now no one has any crossbows pointed at them. Did you bring your papers on the geomantic studies your people have done? I need to examine them to see if they will work with our own research..."

"I did not bring those papers," Soju said. "I am prepared to answer specific questions, but I cannot share it all with you."

"That is foolish, Soju," said Lamorda. "Withholding that information is a sign of bad faith."

"It is a sign of no faith, Lamorda," Soju responded. "We'll work with you, but we cannot trust you. Tell me, did you bring the full treatise on the principles of ritualized sympathetic magic?"

"Well, no, but only parts of that treatise are at all useful to –"

"I rest my case," Soju snapped, clearly annoyed.

"How predictable," said a voice from the tavern's entryway. In a flash, two crossbows were leveled at the intruder. A man stood silhouetted just outside the threshold of the tavern. His scale armor looked black in the darkness. There was a flurry of movement, and a pair of blades flashed from his hands. The crossbows wielded by the assassins on the second floor went flying from their hands, daggers embedded in their stocks.

"You children play nice together and share all your toys. Or none of you gets out of here alive." Oswald stepped into the light, another brace of daggers clutched in his hand. "Do not think to test me on this. I've been uncharacteristically restrained recently, and I am so very eager to work out my frustrations on someone."

Soju and Lamorda looked at each other as their companions cursed softly. Finally, the two scholars nodded to each other, and then to Oswald.

Oswald smiled. "Well done. I knew you two had it in you to work together, at least when threatened with a painful and messy demise. And after you two have put your heads together, you'll come back here to work with one of my own people. And you'll dress more prudently. Armored. No robes. There's no telling what strange and terrible things lurk in the dark around here."

He smiled toothily, sheathed his daggers, and came to the table.

Rollout Article

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Rollout Article

Ranarre stood outside the door to the King's private study, breathing deeply to steady his nerves. He closed his eyes, took one last breath, and knocked on the door. There was a pause of a few heartbeats, and then he heard the King's voice come through the door: "Enter."

He opened the door and stepped through. The only illumination in the room was a guttering candle on the King's desk. King Varicci II, monarch of the domain of New Viamont, sat at the desk, his face lit luridly by the flickering light of the candle. The overall effect to Ranarre's eyes was that his King sat suspended in a tenuous bubble of light in the darkness of the room.

"Come forward, where I can see your face. Your name is Ranarre, yes?"

"Yes, Your Majesty."

Ranarre stepped into the light and looked at his King. Varicci's eyes were bloodshot, his hair was unkempt, his face unshaven, and he smelled like hadn't bathed in a few days. Ranarre then risked a glance at the papers on the desk. He saw a complicated diagram with precisely rendered drawings of a Ruschk, a Mukkir, and a shadowy humanoid form that he'd come to recognize as the "Shadows" that so intrigued his former master, the disgraced Count Dardante. The sides of the pages were covered with scrolling sigils in an arcane language that Ranarre had spent the last several months studying.

Varicci noted this and smiled ever so faintly. "Yes," he said, answering Ranarre's unasked question, "this is the result of the cooperation for which you argued so convincingly. I believe we have solved the mystery of Grael. Your ideas were the seed of our solution."

"That is good news, Your Majesty," Ranarre murmured.

"You should be rewarded for your vision and perseverance. Even when Dardante threatened you, a mere field researcher, for questioning his intentions, you did not back down."

"I am grateful that you think well of my efforts, Your Majesty. It was only my duty."

"Yes... duty. Let us now speak of the future of your organization."

"As you wish, Your Majesty."

Varicci grimaced. "I made a mistake with Dardante." He looked searchingly into Ranarre's eyes. Ranarre tried to keep his expression as neutral as possible. Finally, Varicci continued. "I was so desperate to find a weapon that I could use to crush the Bloodless Queen, I failed to see that Dardante had gone out of my control. I then compounded my mistake by putting him in charge of the Rossu Morta. It accelerated his own fall into madness, and his agenda corrupted the organization. Do you agree with my assessment?"

Ranarre took another deep, steadying breath, then looked directly into his King's cold eyes and nodded. "I do, Your Majesty. Dardante began working for his own ends and was given too much latitude to do so."

Varicci nodded. It was a quick movement, the barest twitch of his head, but Ranarre caught it. "The mistakes I made have caused me to reconsider my actions. There are forces at work in this world, I finally have realized, that are... dangerous to treat with." He sighed heavily and rubbed his temples. Ranarre was mildly shocked. He had never seen the King this tired or uncertain of himself. He finally felt compelled to prompt the King with a question.

"What will you do, Your Majesty?" Varicci stared off into space, and Ranarre began to think the King was just ignoring him. Finally, he looked back at Ranarre and spoke.

"I will not disband the Rossu Morta. They can still be a potent tool, because we are not done with the Bloodless Queen. I still need their services. But they are worse than useless if I cannot trust them."

"I will help you in any way I can, Your Majesty. But I must warn you, it will not be easy to root out the corrupt elements."

"I know, Ranarre. It seems to me that many of my advisors in recent days have been foolish or corrupt. You are one of the few who has been willing to speak the truth to me. Several high-ranking officers of the Rossu Morta stood in this room, in the very spot where you stand now, and assured me that every bloody-handed assassin and soul-devouring mage in the organization was loyal. Each of those liars has been tossed to the Eaters."

Ranarre swallowed nervously and lowered his eyes. Varicci measured his silence and went on. "I have a mind to put you in charge of the Rossu Morta, Ranarre. You had the courage to confront Dardante and the honesty to speak unpleasant truths to me. You have proven yourself to have a keen analytical mind. Your work in the field has shown you to be adaptable and versatile. You are the one I would trust to reshape the Rossu Morta into a focused, effective, and loyal organization."

Ranarre sank to his knees. "I am not worthy of this honor, Your Majesty. I am just a researcher, not a soul-binder or a fighter."

Varicci chuckled. "And you are so thoroughly unambitious, I would not worry about you usurping the Rossu Morta's loyalties from underneath me. Would you deny my request?"

"I would not, Your Majesty. I am yours to command."

"Good, then. Rise, Count Ranarre, new Grand Master of the Ordina Rossu Morta. May your tenure be longer and less turbulent than your predecessor's."

Knees shaking, Ranarre stood. "I suggest you find some trustworthy lieutenants and bodyguards. Your task will be dangerous. I will give you what aid I can – but I think it is critical that you master the organization without relying on me. You must prove yourself to those you would lead. Move cautiously, but surely. You must find a proper balance between prudence and boldness. And if there is anyone who gives you reason to doubt their loyalties... You must kill them, quickly and mercilessly."

"As you say, Your Grace." Ranarre nodded, though sweat was already beading on his forehead, and his thoughts were taking an increasingly panicked tone.

"Now... I'd like to take advantage of your expertise on another matter," Varicci said. He opened a desk drawer, withdrew a small figure, and set it on the desk. It was like a children's doll, but black, batwinged, and crafted in the shape of the demon, Grael.

"Our agents obtained this from a newcomer in Sanamar who proclaimed himself to be an emissary of Ulgrim, that old drunk in Ayan Baqur. What in the name of Karlun's glowing bones is it for?"

Release Notes

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August Developer's Notes

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The Viamont are in civil war.

New content and Functionality

  • Due to popular demand by players we have increased the stack size of Pyreals from 10,000 to 25,000. Based on feedback we may increase the stack size further in the coming months.
  • Once again this month there will be a series of random live events throughout the land of Dereth. Please be aware of the possibility of this when portaling in to towns.
  • Speaking to an NPC in Cragstone, Zaikhal, Hebian-To, or Sanamar will get players one compensation pack doll per character. Players can either keep the pack doll, or they can turn it in for one free level. This is our way of saying thank you to everyone who was patient while we worked through some authentication issues. Players will only receive one doll per character and will only be able to turn in a doll once for the free level. The pack dolls are otherwise tradable and hookable in homes.

Miscellaneous Changes and Improvements

  • Several changes have been made to the Harbinger quest. We have lowered the difficulty of the mid level version to be more in line with what we had originally wanted. Please be aware when going through this quest that there were several small changes made as well, though the overall experience should remain close the same.
  • Shadow Eddy's have been toned down some in order to stop them from killing anything that moves. They will still be difficult, but players should not be as easily killed by them now.
  • Based on player feedback we have made the final part of the Raising Grael's Island quest repeatable. If you have already done this quest and no longer have access to the dungeon, just speak to the starter NPC again and you will then be able to enter the dungeon again and help others get through their task
  • If you have already gained access to Asheron's Tower, you simply need to speak to the NPC who starts the quest to get teleported back to Asheron's Castle again.
  • The Harbinger Pack doll has been fixed and no longer animates backwards.
  • When unlocking some Black Marrow Reliquaries players were reporting the chests would lock again almost as soon as they had unlocked them. We have looked into this and we believe we have resolved this issue.
  • The Tackle Master NPC who keeps track of your minnows caught for certain titles, was counting the minnows wrong. He is now counting the minnows correctly and should hand out the titles when he is supposed to.

Letter to the Players

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August 2006 Letter to the Players

Hello there and welcome to the August edition of the Letter to the Players.

During this past month we have seen Grael wreak havoc on several towns throughout Dereth. The trail of death and destruction was hard to miss as Grael and his minions tore across the land. Is there anyway to stop Grael in time to save Dereth?

Before we get into all of the new and updated things in the August event we would like to announce that we are now offering a special discount on the purchase of Asheron's Call: Throne of Destiny. When you purchase AC: ToD from the Turbine store, simply enter the code ACSTORE10 in to the box marked promo code on the purchase page. This will give you $10 off of the retail price of $19.99. That means for a limited time everyone can purchase Throne of Destiny for $9.99. This is just one of the many steps we are taking to keep new and returning players coming in to Dereth. Please feel free to share this code with your friends and family, so they can take advantage of this great offer and join us in Dereth. This code is a limited time offer and will expire September 30th 2006.

Now let's see what is new and exciting this month in Asheron's Call this month!

New Content and Updated Functionality
Several weeks ago we had some unfortunate issues with our Authentication servers which caused many of our loyal players to be unable to enter the game worlds. We understand this was troubling for many, and we want the opportunity to show our appreciation for everyone remaining patient with us while we worked through the issue. To that end, when players log into the game after the August event goes live they will be able to head to one of Ulgrim's Emissaries located in several of the towns around Dereth and receive a special pack doll. This is no ordinary pack doll though. Players who so choose can turn the pack doll back in to the Emissary for a free level. Everyone who is able to log in to the game during the August event, with the exception of newly created characters, will be eligible for this reward. The pack dolls will be tradable but you may only turn in one for a free level. After that you will be able to take any others you have and hook them in your home, or save them for a special occasion. You will only be able to turn in the pack doll for a free level during the August event. Once the August event is over, Ulgrim's Emissaries will be gone and so with them the ability to get a free level from the Pack Doll. We once again would like to thank all our players for their understanding while we resolved the issues.

In our continuing efforts to help our new players along in Dereth, we have adjusted the amount of Pyreals that new players get upon entering the world. In the past when a new character was created they would start with 500 Pyreals. After the August event goes live. New characters will enter the world with 10,000 Pyreals. This is another of many improvements we want to make to help our newer players enjoy their early days in Dereth.

Due to popular demand by players we have increased the stack size of Pyreals from 10,000 to 25,000. Based on feedback we may increase the stack size further in the coming months.

Several changes have been made to the Harbinger quest. We have lowered the difficulty of the mid level version to be more in line with what we had originally wanted. Please be aware when going through this quest that there were several small changes made as well, though the overall experience should remain close the same.

Shadow Eddy's have been toned down some in order to stop them from killing anything that moves. They will still be difficult, but players should not be as easily killed by them now.

Based on player feedback we have made the final part of the Raising Grael's Island quest repeatable. If you have already done this quest and no longer have access to the dungeon, just speak to the starter NPC again and you will then be able to enter the dungeon again and help others get through their task.

In Concept
These are game changes that we are thinking about for upcoming events. We cannot guarantee when or even if these changes will be added to the game, as scheduling and priorities can change. These changes are in addition to the new quests, dungeons, and items we will be adding to the game. With each monthly event we will be discussing an in concept topic, in order to give you as much information about the item that we can.

Non- Combat Pets
One thing that we have found over the years of working on this game is never say never when it comes to what can and cannot be done with this game. This is just another example of that. Not long ago it was asked in one form or another if Asheron's Call would ever have pets. The answer given at the time was not likely given our current tech. Well times have changed and we are proud to say that we have found a way to make pets work. The first examples of pets will be introduced as Non-Combat pets. They will be critters who will follow you around wherever you go that they can follow. In the coming months if the first versions of pets are a success, we may see other more useful versions of pets. The kind of pets that may be able to do more than just look cute and follow you around.

So there are just some of the things we have in store for Asheron's Call in August and beyond. Please remember that along with everything listed here, there are several new quests and exciting things going into the game for the August event.

Thank you again for your loyalty, and don't forget to invite your family and friends to join us here in Dereth.
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