24.19 The Avalon newsletter for the 20th anniversary.
Welcome to the 2009 Avalon Newsletter. There has been an unprecedented development of the Avalon game-system over the past nine months, mainly as a result of the forthcoming twentieth anniversary in October/November. For longer than many of the players have been alive there have been a few facets of the game that have begged development, in some cases to satisfy early design blueprints that were never implemented, in others to achieve founding concepts for a profession or a playing-approach. The purpose of the past six months has been to complete and bring live these omissions/evolutions and, as we write this, this goal has been achieved. Approaching twenty years old and Avalon is bigger, better, tighter and more challenging than ever before. It has facets to satisfy the full spectrum of playing styles and character approaches. That was always our goal, and though honing and polishing will continue the 'big leap forward' for the game-system is now complete and ready for your enjoyment.
PROLOGUE: THE 20th ANNIVERSARY
Avalon was always an ambitious project, even back in 1988 when its precursor game was somehow crammed into a tiny amount of RAM on a BBC Micro computer. Everything then had to be kept in memory. Hard drives weren't an option. Verbose descriptions were an impossible luxury. There were multi player games in existence predating Avalon, like Essex MUD (the original multiplayer game) and its imitators Shades and Mirrorworld. Nothing had the scope of Avalon's design, however. Nothing had ambitions to be a whole world simulation, with a complex fight system, skills, economics, commodities, cities, guilds, the new ground broken by Avalon in those early years goes on and on. Things taken for granted now were first seen in Avalon; things so basic as equilibrium or balance or non-automated, pre-resolved inter-player combat...
Like any original work it has itself spawned many imitators and, of course, twenty years down the line exists in a gaming world dominated (at least numerically) by the corporate graphical game-worlds that have exploded online gaming into a mainstream, multi-billion dollar industry. We are often asked how Avalon can survive when it is technologically dated, so small-fry compared to these mega-games. Is there room for a game of Avalon's complexity, described solely in text, where the majority of online gamers will dismiss it out-of-hand? A simple analogy covers the only adequate answer to this: consider the blockbuster movies and the multi-billions they earn, the multi-millions they garner in audience... compare this to 'literary fiction' novels. The latter is small, in numbers, but rich in quality and - if you like - satisfies different needs, attracts a more discerning, more imaginative following.
There is room for both and, like a great book, Avalon seems to transcend ephemeral trends. It was never cutting edge technology. It will always be cutting edge intellectually. It will never attract mainstream millions, but it may always find appreciation from enough discerning individuals, plenty enough to keep the land vibrant, challenging and ever-evolving its history. Twenty years is a long while in anyone's estimation and Avalon's very real history, figures from the past great and small; all contribute to a mythology of real people and real events... an alluring opportunity for those who make up the current generation of Avalonians.
October/November 2009 will be a time of celebration in Avalon, for this is time it turns twenty years old. Twenty years; can you imagine? Who would have thunk it? There are likely to be events published on our website (http://www.avalon-rpg.com) or the News BB closer to the date but, for now, here (for the record) are some of the most significant dates in Avalon's history:
Multiuser game pre-Avalon began during November 1988
The AVALON version, using the pre-game as foundation, began 7th October 1989
AVALON first online at the Adventure 89 show, 28th October 1989
AVALON OPENS ITS DOORS TO THE WORLD 11TH NOVEMBER 1989
For those interested in a couple more significant dates:
Avalon Sheffield officially opens on 1st May 1992 'til 7th May 1995
Avalon First Age opens to the public on 26th November 1999
Avalon's first hostplay opened in West London on 15th May 1992
Avalon joins the internet on 14th October 1994
So enough of the general and down to the specifics. This newsletter is primarily a document of the most significant game-world evolutions, a summary for active Avalonians and perhaps a hook for older players keen to re-engage, etc. There have been too many additions this past nine months for this newsletter to contain everything so we've picked the most important in the hope it gives a suitably in-depth impression. At any time, needless to say, you can come into Avalon and explore the details yourself. We are hopeful many will be persuaded to do so, whether in the guise of their old persona or starting afresh with a clean slate and a history yet unwritten.
------------------[ The Avalon Anniversary Tome and Store ]---------------
A new facility has been added into Avalon itself, wherein you may type PROCURE FROM LIBRARY and you'll be taken into a little shop of real-life products for purchase. The centrepiece of this store is the Avalon Anniversary Tome:
[EXTRACT FROM "greatbook" BLURB direct from AVALON]
You are reviewing the "greatbook" item, priced at 50 British Pounds.
Its summary reads: The 20th Anniversary Great Book of Avalon.
Avalon was begun in a version of its present form on October 11th 1989 and thus celebrates its twentieth anniversary during October 2009. The Great Book was written in recognition of this milestone and contains a wealth of information, far beyond anything ever written about the land, its peoples, its history and its myriad ever-evolving themes. The Great Book is divided into six distinct sections and these are summarised below. In form it resembles a great traditional tome, hundreds of pages in length in quality print and hardbound with gold embossed cover. It is intended as a collectors item and no expense has been spared in its production. It has been edited to a high standard and is the product of many thousands of man-hours work; the single most definitive resource available to Avalonians past, present and future.
First Section: "THE HISTORY OF AVALON in the WORLD OF MAN"
Second Section: "THE HISTORY OF AVALON itself"
Third Section: "COLLECTED TALES, NARRATIVES, WRITINGS from players over the
past five Avalon centuries"
Fourth Section: "THE CURRENT AVALON GAME-SYSTEM in MASTERCLASS DETAIL"
Fifth Section: "OPEN FORUM, raw contributions and GREAT EVENT LOGS"
Sixth Section: "THE FUTURE OF AVALON in the WORLD OF MAN"
Appendices: "maps, fragments, detailed info and tables, historical curiosities"
RELEASE DATE: end-OCTOBER 2009. PRE-PURCHASE NOW TO GUARANTEE YOU GET ONE 1ST! The "greatbook" is priced at 50 UK pounds (around $80 by current exchange rates) for all pre-purchasers. This will be a quality, durable tome; no expense spared so we don't envisage profiteering. The purchase price includes postage and packing.
----------------[ The 2009 Newsletter ]--------------
ONE - THE PROFESSIONAL SPECIALISATIONS
Across all professions there has been, to varying degrees, a marked evolution in the skillsets available to guild members - a smattering of abilities at all levels but most significantly at the so-called 'crowning' point. This is where the skill has been pushed to its fullest extent and the guild member becomes able to access the possibilities of specialisation. Each profession has a different route to obtaining the specialist abilities (hundreds exist) and a summary has been included below. The specialist abilities do not require further learning in a traditional sense; they do not cost lessons, they do not require procurement or payment. The intention with specialisations is to complete the original vision for each profession, distinctive gameplay and game-approach, unique to each and - in some cases - offering a 'fork in the road' choice for crowning one's character.
Thieves specialise as either a burglar or an assassin. Access to specialist abilities is not publicly known, though rumours of the existence of a brotherhood are whispered in the dark corners of taverns... and only constancy as a thief and persuasion of the secret brotherhood affords admission.
The Seer professions have three choices to crown their skills: the generic, the oracle or the truemystic. The generic does not specialise but is able to use the spread of seer skills without impediment. But most do not choose to remain generic. The truemystic delves in the world of companions, dopplegangers, netherworldly activity and - it is rumoured - is the only mortal able to create Human Life with all the knowledge and potential that entails. The oracle is more of a mystery, existing in part (or sometimes entirely) in the ethereal world - seeing stone spheres giving powers across entire regions of Avalon, allowing manipulation of the very building blocks of the land in incredible and potentially cataclysmic ways.
No city can exist in safety without an Oracle. Admission to the seer specialisations requires permission from Olympus and then personal invitation from an existing specialist. The seers are notoriously guarded; few gain access to these incredibly powerful abilities unlike anything else in Avalon.
Loremaster professionals are able to gather both of the specialist skillsets concurrently. The Loremasters practice opalescence first: the development of their robes of lore with woven gemstones in pursuit of the opalescent spectrum (the complete set of gemstones) - each gem bringing its own powers, like the phoenix-fire resurrection, the tutoring of arcana or the dialogue with the moon. Then they attain skymastery, their crowning communion with the Air element: freedom to manipulate the heavens, to rain potions, to hailstorm runes - a battleground in the skies. Specialisation access for those with perfect Alchemy, Elixirs and Runes is determined by the Council of Lore, a ten-strong body made up of part elected, part lifelong members representing a spectrum of opinion as diverse as the profession itself.
One of the most intriguing of specialisations is gained by the Ranger profession, twined to an extent with the Animists and Druids for all share an empathy with the natural world and in particular the forests. First the Rangers gain Falconry, bestowed by ceremonial gifts (a robin, an owl, a crow, a carrier pigeon and a falcon) from five fellow professionals. Then comes access to the Sylvan Lore, the fundamental empathy and interaction with the forest - from awakening the trees and battling the very winds, to directing woodland affinities and marshalling ent-legions with all the terrifying consequences a roused, living forest might entail.
Each of Avalon's forests possess an independent set of affinities, of preferences, of closeness to each individual ranger. By either conflict, competition or consensus the profession determines one another's Sylvan potency. The Ranger most beloved of the Greenwood will possess the most abilities and will evoke them with greatest power, likewise each of the twenty distinct forests/woodlands of Avalon.
Specialisations exist for the Sorcerers, as the elders of the profession gain access to the realm of Thaumaturgy in addition to their practice of Necromancy. The Druids, under circumstances unknown outside their profession, gain Ornithology and Animism. Alone of the professions Avalon's original duo, the Knight and the Mage, do not practice the distinction of regular versus specialist abilities. Instead these more populist guilds benefit from unrestricted access to their new, role-enhancing abilities (like the chessboard ritual or the knightly identity-armour) as befits the 'everyman' professions.
To summarise: the aim of specialisation is twofold: Firstly, to reward those guildsfolk who remain constant to their professional development with a greater range of abilities and powers than those butterfly types, flitting profession to profession without ever mastering their skillset. Secondly, to complete the founding vision of the roles of the various professions by creating a distinctive, noticeably different gameplay for each - thus, in theory, allowing a greater diversity of personality-types and role preferences to be played out. The gameplay of an ethereal being working from a realm divorced from Avalon will be very different to the forest empath garlanding their beloved woodland; likewise the malevolent necromancer-undead at the head of a demonic army quite unlike the skymaster directing rainstorms of holy water from a heavenly battleground of clashing, tactically complex weather-fronts and winds.
TWO - WARFARE (City and Guild) and BATTLEISLE
Warfare in Avalon used to be a relatively simple numbers game - build-up legion numbers for attack, build-up fortifications for defence. Tactics during a contested invasion would boil down to player vs player combat, thereby reducing the number of significant participants greatly; or rewarding the worker-drone mentality building invincible fortifications to protect the home city indefinitely. This has all changed. In line with the concept of each profession providing the individuals with an entirely different game and role experience (particularly through specialisations), warfare has undergone a complete transformation into a whole game in and of itself: tactical, competitive, nuanced, rewarding of intelligent defensive setup and military deployment plans and likewise providing countless permutations for battleground offensives.
Avalon is renowned for its player v player combat system being the progenitor for future standards, intense, fast-paced and adrenalin-filled; but its pace was beyond many (alacrity, complex lightning-quick tactical shifts) and the personalised aggression, though thrilling for some, was not enjoyed by others. Non-individual fighters certainly found plenty to fill their time: trading, politics, diplomacy, city or guild building, questing, the list goes on... but there were many who yearned for competitive conflict at a more cerebral, subtle pace.
Warfare aims to satisfy this need. Its build-up is slow burn, involving city, guild or groups of allies working together to prepare their armies, their offensive and defensive training and battle plans; then the conflagration: battle underway, original thinking and fluid tactical understanding come to the fore without the panic-inducing pressure of inter-player combat. The stakes, however, on the battlefield or over guild/city invasion are higher than anything else in Avalon save divine war. Thus, a distinct and respected new facet of the game-system - violently important, central to the land's sociopolitical landscape yet accessible (and testing) to a different range of player abilities/blend of skills.
There is no space in this newsletter to go into great detail of the fascinating warfare system - help section 21 (HELP WARFARE in Avalon or on the website) is your first port of call for all the details. Here is a taster of some of its aspects: competition over enlistment of new soldiers, legions training in a wide range of skills, tunnelling underground (potentially opening a whole world of tunnels and subterfuge) and levitating towards the skies, archery, catapults and mortar-bombs, minefields and oil-cauldrons, barricades, fortifications, trenches and cavalry, permanent plundering and razing of enemy positions - even their homeland buildings - dispatches with subtle mobilisation plans, carrier pigeons, scouts, flexible military structure, varied terrain and weather effects, legion formations, armour, melee and projectile weapons, battering rams and siege-towers... the list could roll on for pages.
In short, while it remains possible to organise strong defensive positions and provide the city or guild military with dispatch missions to react intelligently to invasion - without reliance on a handful of supreme player v player fighters to lead at key moments (else all is lost). Warfare is intertwined with guild skills and specialisations, with globestaves and inter-realm influence. It impacts the divine-realms, can permanently change the Avalon landscape and - should a city conquest be successful - lead to a whole repertoire of options (such as installation of a regency, changes of constitution, treaty imposition, etc). Just as the player personal skills system, including specialisations, simulates a wide spectrum of possibilities and conjures an interplay that's uniquely challenging; so finally does warfare and subsequent sociopolitical (and material) fall-out from these fascinating and engrossing events.
At the end of this newsletter we have included "The Battle of the Lakeside Promenade" - a small-scale invasion by Springdale of the city of Thakria, through a tunnel beneath their Moonstone Lake. It gives a small taster of the sheer possibilities and thrills'n'spills of the battlefield.
It should also be added that there exists a training ground for all those wishing to learn warfare without any consequences in the real world. This is known as the 'battleisle'. On the battleisle a player can access fully trained legions, all types of equipment and terrain on a micro-world with four opposing towns... competitions are often run therein, and it is possible to practice all aspects of warfare - to experiment, to hone tactics, to work through scenarios - with complete freedom from repercussions on the mainland. It is an invaluable aid and has proven the venue for many an exciting competition on its well-pitted battlefields. See HELP BATTLEISLE in Avalon or on the website for detailed info on using the 'battleisle' facilities. It is open to all: fighters, duellists and protected alike.
THREE - THE SONG OF CREATION, DIVINE REALMS AND DEITY CONFLICT
Unlike mortals, whose little lives are spent about the dizzying acquisition of skills, power and influence, the divine being is an immortal essence - a spirit whose existence precedes the very creation of the world. Under direction of the Creator, the immortal divinities did raise their metaphorical voices in a Song more diverse, more wondrous, more beautiful than could be borne by the Void; and from this Song as the immortals wove a vision approaching the infinite in its complexity was Avalon brought into existence. There could be no other outcome.
The Song was too perfect, too intertwined as the divinities coalesced and diverged time and time again. Thus arc'd the sky, thus rose the mountains, thus swirled the mighty oceans and the tenebrous forests... All of the immortals saw something of their creation in the newly-formed world. Underworld, netherworld, depths and bowels of the earth, the surface itself, the eternal flame, the flora and fauna populating the virgin landscape; and above the skies, the winds, the ethereal and astral planes, the heavens and the dome of stars. All self-contained; a wondrous symbiosis in which all Time and Life is held safely, hung suspended in the Void.
Most of these immortal spirits of divine essence remained in the Void, looking in on the embodiment of their Song of Creation but seldom entering within. Some, however, take on physical form and enter Avalon through the Doors of the Night - and these are the Gods of Avalon. The pantheon, centred about their Olympian home, quickly gravitated towards realms consistent with their part in the Song of Creation. Mortals ordained or appointed into the pantheon likewise find their own role in the Order of Things, waxing and waning across these diverse realms as desire, conflict and consensus allows.
It is their influence over these realms, these eternal concepts and elements brought into being by that original Song at the beginning of time, that defines their powers, their roles, their influence on the land of mortals and the world of their fellow divinities; their impact on the unfolding history - as the procession of Time pours moment after moment into the living, multifaceted narrative that is and forever will be Avalon.
A god may be peaceful and live by consensus, happy with a static realm and unchanging sphere of influence; or a deity might grow ambitious, power-hungry - may even begin to spread influence, control and ultimately power over aspects of the Song of Creation. Sometimes this may even bring one divinity into conflict with another; such events are cataclysmic events in the mortal worlds and great chapters in the storybook of the pantheon.
Every location in Avalon, whether a mortal is able to perceive it or not, is constructed of a combination of realm-song - the nigh-permanent embodiment of the Song of Creation whose unique blend is the genesis of the location. Gods tend to be born or biased in favour of certain realms, aspiring to dominate their chosen realm and claim the realm-song about Avalon to further bolster their potency. The greater the proportion of the world's realm-song possessed by an individual deity, the more numerous and more potent his/her realm-powers.
It is possible for divinities to compete for realm-song, either unclaimed portions (minor realms or slumbering deities) or realm-song owned by a fellow god. Both tend to be strongly defended for the acquisition of realm-song is incredibly difficult and laborious and risky for the attacking deity but successful acquisition forever expands a god's sphere of influence, his/her accumulation of realm-power and realm-influence; growing greater with every passing moment in the mortal realm. Though a god is an immortal spirit, indelible and inviolate, their Avalon avatars are more akin to supernatural, trans-human beings and thus such 'stats' as realm-power impacts on their influence across the world.
The fundamental 'essence' of a god is symbolic (and has practical uses) of his/her eternal presence in Avalon. Further indicators of a deity's prowess include 'reputation', 'word' and the effects of 'piety'. Reputation is acquired by pro-active use of divine powers, priesthood festival, initiation and/or defence of realm-song and imposition of realm-power. It tends to be high for the more aggressive, avaricious gods. Word is gained through divine presence, loyal guilds and cities, order and priesthood ritual, longevity of high profile patronages, expansive followers and busy temple activity. Piety derives primarily from mortal action on behalf of or devoted to their chosen divinity (usually their patron) like offerings, sacrifices, obeisance, public calendar-claimed celebrations initiated by mortals - often in holy temples or significant places about Avalon.
Reputation, word and piety can be applied to augment realm-power accumulations from a deity's location possessions or gradually bled off to engender minor increases in essence. Essence, likewise, can be poured back onto the Divine Plane to augment realm-spirits; a permanent gamble since it empowers the godly avatar's available might at the expense of their indelible persona. A god will have a priesthood led by a High Priest, with ranks within defined by each individual divinity. Their order will contain heroes and beloved followers; worshippers and supplicants; favoured and special mortals charged with holy missions. A robust priesthood is able to aid in their patron's divine conflicts over realm-song/locations or muster spiritual defences able to ward off avaricious opponent gods (often while the patron is absent). This is an entirely new development in the Avalon game-system, yet another facet of gameplay: the religious crusader, the ambitious proselytising priesthood and Avalon-wide supplicants.
To conclude the theory, three practical examples of realm-powers available to a god with sufficient dominance over the sum-total realm-song across the whole of Avalon: the realm of fire can cause massive eruptions in one of the volcanoes, like Mount Sapience, potentially drowning an entire metropolis in an unstoppable flow of lava; the realm of the sea can raise great tsunamis to batter against the coastal cities of the land, flooding the streets, sweeping away buildings and citizens and even armies; the realm of magic is able to magnify, suspend or twist entire swathes of many skillsets (e.g. the Mages, the Bards, the Sorcerers, etc.), the effects completely under the control of the realm-dominant god and potentially influencing the daily lives of a vast array of mortals. It is no minor occurrence when deities conflict over realm-song dominance; priesthoods do well to remain ever-vigilant and ready to react if the outcome of a conflict may bolster the might of an enemy divine.
FOUR - FORAGERS AND THEIR TASKS
Many of the higher level Avalonians have long accumulated lessons that have been of little use; or upon returning from long absences have found themselves short on equipment (ravages of time, etc.). Foragers have been introduced to deal with this, and aid those who need quick specific items of equipment that might otherwise be difficult to obtain. Foragers are young, quick-witted folk found all over the land whom a player take on as a loyal vassal and thence give tasks to forage about the land for items, artefacts, weapons, information, quest insights, etc. Full details can be found in Avalon by typing HELP FORAGERS and HELP TASKS.
It has been used lately by many a returnee to quickly re-equip and enter the fray without the previously laborious task of having to beg, borrow or steal essential inventory from deities and other players. It affords a measure of self-sufficiency to those who chose not to befriend the supplier professions. It has opened up quests that have lain dormant for years and given insight into aspects of the land long slipped into half-believed folklore. Explore for yourself the quest and artefact information gathering abilities of these foragers. It is not an expensive endeavour and the results can be incredibly illuminating!
FIVE - NATURE, LIVESTOCK, BREEDING and LANDSCAPE
It was previously the case that animals were a fairly amorphous commodity, and specific beasts were either found by chance in the wild (and tamed to do one's bidding) or trained-up by city craftsmen, accessible only to members of high government. This is no longer the case. Avalon has evolved a complete nature-system where animals are birthed, grow up, breed with one another - often at the instigation of the keen owner - and eventually die. They have periods in their life where they are fertile, periods where they can be used as a source for valuable commodities (like leather from a cow-hide, or eggs from chickens bred in coops). They can be employed in important tasks, like carrier pigeons distributing crucial dispatches about the land.
In short, all of Avalon's commodities have been shifted from autonomous creation in the villages (though this remains, to an extent, as an addition) to be created/fashioned by the endeavour of those folks whose preference runs to farming, labouring, mining, breeding and nurturing livestock, butchery, falconry, etc. The skills of Farming and Labours are much expanded to take into account this evolution and the landscape of Avalon plays an increasingly important role in arable and pastoral work. Birds, in particular, for their freedom to range about the skies have taken on far greater importance. See, for a taster, HELP LIVESTOCK, HELP SKIES, HELP FORESTS, and of course those who have not looked in a while should review their AB FARMING and AB LABOURS lists.
SIX - DIVINE GLOBES, IDEALS, REPUTATION and GLOBESTAVES
The cities of Mercinae, Parrius, Springdale and Thakria have gained - generally in the altar-room of the city patron temple - a most singular divine gift known as 'the divine globe'. These enormous immovable crystals record impressions of deeds, triumphs and failures of the citizenry in addition to the goings-on within the city's walls and its sphere of influence. The balance of triumph versus failure determines an annual potency for the divine globe - and from this potency a whole raft of powers can be called upon by the cityfolk. See HELP GLOBES for details.
Guilds now have the facility to declare their ideals from a blend of traits and agenda, each guild member contributing to the guild's reputation by dint of their aspirations towards these guildmaster-declared paradigms. Guild reputation has various effects, including determining the guild's popularity among the CCC townsfolk of the land (and therefore its enlistment, the growth of its legions) and its contributions to the divine globe of its home city. High reputation guilds become extremely important to their home city (or, if independent, rely on this growing reputation to perpetuate this separation from reliance on city walls for their defence). See HELP IDEALS and HELP REPUTATION for comprehensive info.
The art of the globestave has been recently discovered by the scholars of the land, artefacts portable and held by individual players (young and old alike) whose power is derived from the annual resources of one's homeland divine globe. Globestaves possess a range of extremely important, wide-ranging abilities and can be used by all Avalonians. Their powers are documented, in part, under HELP GLOBESTAVES and HELP GLOBEACTS; their influence is not limited solely to conflicts between individuals but also between larger forces, with legions, with various realms of existence. In short, a whole world of exploration like a new skillset but available to everyone providing they can acquire a globestave and gain access to empower it from their divine globe (or, rumour has it, from suitably well-prepared members of the Loremaster profession).
SEVEN - BADGES, MEDALS, XPQUESTS, QUESTMASTER
The interaction between the higher ranked guild members and citizens, and the young to mid-level folk of Avalon, has been much expanded. Badges have been introduced as a measure of an apprentice's progress, numbering fifteen in total and testing disparate skills and understanding. Cities, guilds, orders and individuals are able to create and give out medals commemorating praiseworthy deeds, recording historical achievements, etc. There is total flexibility in the creation and bestowing of these medals. Cities and guilds are now able to write their own quests for members (and non-members alike) with the illustrious post of Quest Master heading up their creation in each of the large cities.
The XPQuests range from simple yardsticks to gauge the progress of neophyte Avalonians to complex, important business that might further the goals of said city/guild/etc. It is a vehicle for the creativity of individuals, a fluid system enabling, for example, a city to formally declare its 'most wanted' by quickly setting up an XPQuest to reward those brave enough to bring these miscreants to justice. The possibilities are as limitless as the imagination of a quest's creator.
EIGHT - SAPIENCE DRAGON, ALESSANDRIA and other MAJOR QUESTS
There have been numerous major additions to the Avalon landscape, many of which affect the people, guilds and cities of the continent - and most of which can be directly affected by what people do. The ancient forest library of Alessandria has been completed with all its rituals, from the opening to the Golden Age. It is one of the main sources of the basic arcana (abilities from the dawn of time, steeped in mystery but with potential for great powers in the modern Avalon world). It is possible to tempt the dragon of Mount Sapience from his luxuriant apathy, to take to the skies and offer protection to one or other of the great cities; to direct his wrath against enemy crops; to swoop down and steal from the stockrooms and commodity sheds of those declared targets by the city feeding treasure to this greedy beast.
Gem quests have resumed, events dictated by dates on the Avalon calendar have sprung up about the land... all manner of avenues worth exploring whether one is a staunch role-player keen to delve into the world's secrets with eyes of wonderment or a utilitarian power-player bent on the acquisition of greater influence. More will not be revealed here so as not to intrude on the hard work of those currently involved in the uncovering of what amount to a few dozen Alessandria-esque aspects of the ever-evolving continent.
TEN - QUICK SUMMARY OF THE FOUR CITIES AND BATTLE WRITE-UP
Mercinae under Princess Estania the Mystic. It was recently forced into abject surrender by an overwhelming invasion by the forces of Parrius, led ably by Field Marshall Dunccan under Princess Orielle. The Mercinaens, quickly broken, submitted to a Parrian-controlled regency and their former Princess - India of the Mages - was banished in disgrace. The former City of Light has emerged from the regency period, regained a measure of independence and is treading the early steps on the road to - one would hope - full recovery and self-sufficient security. This recovery was dealt a heavy blow recently by a massive, well-planned burglary by Lightfingers, expert burglar and noble of Thakria. Faking defection from Thakria his honey-tongue worked quickly into the confidence of the Mercinaen government, gathering aideships and access to important areas of the city (like their military stockrooms and commodity housings).
The robbery was executed with great speed and aplomb but perhaps this final ignominy will be the catalyst for a paradigm shift in Mercinaen thinking. For centuries a virus has afflicted the city, passed on generation to generation, warping minds and driving off the ambitious, the competent and those resilient to its adverse effects. Is the Time approaching, at last, for the virus to be finally destroyed? The city's future lies in its own hands at least.
Thakria led by Prince Mohrion of the Sorcerers. In the after-years of Narissa's despotic but effective rule of Thakria, leaving the city rudderless and in decline, it eventually fell to the reluctant returning guildmaster of the Sorcerers - Mohrion - to arrest the decline. Although no longer the dominant force it was previously, the city is growing in power once again with some promising fledgling barons and ambitious power-hungry goals. Coffers and economy buoyed by the fruits of Lightfingers' huge robbery of the Mercinaen commodity reserves, the City of Miracles is in a relatively strong position.
Thakria recently repelled a tentative invasion force from Springdale (see Battle of the Lakeside Promenade below) but the two cities remain at loggerheads and it is only a weakened Mercinae that gives Thakria a sense of safety. Both cities are engaged in a tit-for-tat war of attrition against one another's defensive fortifications but neither side has, as yet, risked all-out war. The repercussions even for a victorious army if the defending city mounts a serious challenge would leave them vulnerable to the other cities.
Springdale ruled by Prince Orinoko of the Craftmasters Guild. For many decades it has been the most stable and competently managed of the land's cities, Orinoko's many centuries of experience brought to bear on a careful balancing of the city's factions. Its economy is strong, its resources relatively plentiful and its military are well trained. In Elminster the city has one of the land's most respected Field Marshalls and since the fragmenting of the Thakrian Seers and the Parrian Astrologers, the realm of the ethereal has been dominated by the Prophets - giving Springdale an edge across the entire continent.
Springdale's geographically central location, however, raises the spectre of war on three fronts as an ever-present threat and thus the Springdalians tend to err on the side of caution in military spheres, preferring to build up their defences and train the soldiery in readiness for offensive mobilisation - but shy away from setting anything in motion. Parrius, having tied the conquered Mercinae into a treaty of non-aggression, is a constant threat to the east and Thakria, largely recovered from a weak point a few decades ago, continues to nip away at their western fortifications. It is an uncertain future for the City of Dreams but no invader will find an easy conquest should they step too close to Springdalian city-walls.
Parrius under Orielle, Loremistress First Mariner. The city is in a strong commercial and military state, primarily as a result of Dunccan and his companion soldiers. Parrius recently invaded and forced surrender of the city of Mercinae, installing a regency government for a time and binding the defeated citizens to a treaty, seizing much of their eastern lands and installing a barracks on what was once Mercinaen soil. Of late the god of war and his order have made their presence felt in the Parrian government, guiding public opinion and challenging the precepts of Proteus, sea-god, and the city's long-time patron. Field Marshall Dunccan's expected return to a triumphant welcome was not as he had hoped - Parrius' independence of spirit and unpredictable, contrary citizens rebuffed the returning hero and drove him into premature retirement. What the future holds for Parrius none can say, but with many deities converging an interest in the Eastern City it promises to be an eventful next chapter.
Oakwood's End is owned by Fatalus the Wealthy and Knightswood was bought and expanded by Tukar, rumoured to be one of the prime movers in one of Avalon's secret societies.
It is now possible to construct buildings (from palaces to commodity stores, paddocks to banks) about a city, using appropriate commodities and labour. City artisans are available to make complex items, legions can construct equipment of military import but a new, flexible system called 'Crafting' is available to mortals. It allows them to fashion their own personal creations, ensuring a constant flow of additional accessories and a la mode couture to Avalon's already vast repertoire of clothing, equipment and artefacts.
THE BATTLE OF THE LAKESIDE PROMENADE - in the MONTH of PAGLOST 1236
During the month of Paglost 1236 the Springdalians launched an audacious military action against their long-time enemies, the city of Thakria. Since the lifting of the divine peace many years prior the wise had spoken of an impending invasion by the Springdalians - to avenge the humiliations of past conquests at the hands of the Thakrians, to demonstrate the turnaround in their fortunes and establish in everyone's mind the new order in Avalon: with Springdale firmly on top of all potential threats. Prince Orinoko and Field Marshall Elminster were the masterminds behind the Paglost action, both with long memories, both with points to prove, both a desire to serve up an effective first strike against the Thakrians.
The expected 'grand invasion' of the early 13th century did not happen and Springdale, mindful of threats from other cities, chose to bide their time and watch the unfolding border conflicts between her neighbours rather than launch any significant warfare of their own. It was not until Paglost in the year 1236 that Springdale chose to make their first significant move, escalating the 'phoney war' into a genuine and bloody conflict. Mustering some five thousand troops - four army corps of legionnaires - the Springdalians marched under cover of night through the villages and fields of the northern plains 'til they reached the secret tunnel under the Moonstone Lake.
Splitting up their corps into smaller brigades to pass through the tunnel, the well-equipped Springdalians entered the tunnel and made their way towards the relatively modest Thakrian fortifications protecting the 'underlake' entry point. The fortifications were not raised but posed an obstacle nonetheless. Here, for the first time in Avalon's modern history, the ethereal winds of the Prophets Guild under the command of Kaprika the Oracle were brought into play. Weeks of preparations had gathered a potent ethereal force under Kaprika's command and finally she unleashed against the enemy. The fortifications and fixed defences were blasted aside by the unleashed tempest and the Springdalian attack force - unscathed - continued through the tunnel and emerged presently within the walls of Thakria itself.
The City of Miracles was mostly slumbering, few citizens were on the streets. Springdale arranged their formations, distributed their equipment (mortar bombs, catapults, battering rams, archers, etc) and under the direct command of Orinoko and Elminister launched a two-pronged offensive aiming to cause the maximum damage to the Thakrian military and resources as possible. Largely unprepared and in a mediocre defensive layout, the exposed Thakrian legions were few and quickly dispatched. The Springdalians kept away from any major concentration of Thakrian fortification and instead targeted vulnerable commodity sheds, barracks and ill-defended points around the Lakeside quarter of the city. A mood of euphoria was prevalent in the Springdalian camp as they romped through the Thakrian streets causing destruction where ever they aimed their deadly raids.
At last, however, the Thakrian nobility were roused and stepped into the fray. Prince Mohrion was first to attempt a fight back, albeit smallscale and serving to escalate the bloodshed; enough to cause the Springdalians to step up the pace of their destruction-tactics. Sonja, guildmistress of the Warlocks, took charge of the broader defence of the realm. Springdale had not committed forces in any great number and despite tactical frailty and the Prince's enforced absence, Sonja and Achelous of the Loremasters were able to throw enough resources against the invading parties to slay them all. Individually Orinoko, Elminster and supporters competed valiantly to prolong the battle but by day's end five thousand Springdalians had perished on the streets of Thakria.
The Springdalian leaders and the Mercinaen Princess returned to their respective cities and - by this time - the Thakrian Prince Mohrion had returned to receive report of Sonja, Achelous and the other Thakrian citizens having successfully defended the homeland. Much, no doubt, had been learned by this - the first strike against a city's homesoil in the era of modern warfare. The Thakrian casualties greatly outnumbered the Springdalians, such was their initial disorganised and their tactically naive counterattack; but none can argue they failed to show great courage and, in the end, material damage inflicted on Thakria was minor.
Who won the conflict, then? Who came out on top? It is difficult to say. The Springdalians were able to afford the modest invasion force, with great opportunity but little risk; and they were certainly able to inflict more casualities and cost the Thakrians more resources than they lost themselves. But there is little doubt the strike was a significant effort and one the Springdalian leadership might have hoped would lead to a greater loss of Thakrian life, or a richer plunder to take back to the Springdalian coffers. As it stands, the Springdale military command learned a little about the techniques of invasion and the Thakrians learned much about the weakpoints in their defensive setup; not to mention benefiting from the morale boost of vanquishing enemy invaders from the streets of their homeland.
In short: an exchange that promised more than actually transpired with both Springdale and Thakria suffering minor losses and gaining valuable battlefield experience. Little more can be said, save the flames of war have been fanned by the first true Springdalian aggression - and whatever future conflagrations may happen between the two cities, it was here in the "Battle of the Lakeside Promenade" during Paglost 1236 that the fuse was lit once again.
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