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Just when I thought I was out...

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Just when I thought I was out...

PostAuthor: The Avlissian » Fri Mar 25, 2016 10:02 am

NOTE: the following is a player-contributed article to Avlis' newsletter, The Avlissian.

Just when I thought I was out...

By Andrew Robinson, aka 'Glocknal'

… they pull me back in! I think the words of Michael Corleone best describe my ongoing love affair with Neverwinter Nights Persistent Worlds, and more specifically, the World of Avlis ( I am a huge roleplaying game enthusiast, having played nearly every major pen-and-paper system since first cracking open the AD&D Player's Handbook in the 5th grade. My love for RPGs doesn't stop there, as I have dutifully played just about every major RPG video game as well, including the likes of Baldur's Gate, Final Fantasy, Skyrim, and of course, Neverwinter Nights. While all those were immersive and excellent fun, I always felt something lacking: a feeling I was playing in someone else's story, and not one of my own making. The lack of spontaneity and unexpectedness I got from PnP just wasn't there in the digital versions - that is, until I heard of NWN Persistent Worlds.

I had my first taste of a persistent world when I logged on to Avlis in 2003 and began my explorations around the City of Mikona. My earliest attempts at creating characters were entirely forgettable, as I tried to play Avlis the way I had played Baldur's Gate or the Neverwinter Nights official campaign. Look for something red and go bash it. Needless to say, those characters were not very successful, and I tended to draw attention from other players as I ran mindlessly through the city with weapons drawn, calling people out by their ‘floaty’ names. I finally began to settle in to the idea that you could roleplay and roleplay well in an online environment and began to truly enjoy what a persistent world like Avlis could offer. Immersing myself in the world's lore, I was drawn to visceral conflict between ideas and factions that Avlis encouraged. I joined the most prominent Lawful Good guild and set about righting all the wrongs possible, winning and losing in equal measure. The idea that the world wasn't going to sit by passively as I marched through, pushing the agenda of my character’s god - that I would have another set of players actively opposing my effort - was intoxicating.

That feeling that comes from healthy competition and shared world building is something I could never get from a digital RPG, or even a PnP RPG campaign, where time constraints force groups to hew to shared goals. Some of my favorite characters I encountered were the very villains my character was sworn to oppose. That unwritten rule that it takes two to tango is one of the bedrock principles of persistent worlds and truly sets them apart from scripted RPGs. Watching a persistent world mature and change is another draw for me as new surprises are always around the corner.

The incredible work of the various modders, builders, scripters, coders, database monkeys and the like has transformed persistent worlds far beyond anyone's wildest expectation. Player Housing, Persistent Storage and Merchants, Custom Prestige Classes, Races, Weapons, etc. have added years of content to the venerable Neverwinter Nights, giving it legs that rival juggernauts like World of Warcraft. These additions have had profound impact on persistent worlds like Avlis. I remember when Avlis first went live with "spell hooking" and changed Bioware’s True Seeing from auto-detecting stealthed characters to simply giving a flat bonus to the Spot skill. This dramatically changed the balance of power in Avlis and helped spur the rise of the Thieves Guild in the City of Mikona. The constant work of the modding community has rescued RP-rich, power-level-poor classes like the Assassin, and helped curtail the worst excesses of feats like Hide in Plain Sight and Devastating Critical.

As fantastic as the technical achievements of the persistent world community are, what truly keeps bringing me back to the World of Avlis is the community. Reconnecting with the friends I've made over the years, meeting people of incredibly divergent backgrounds and experiences, and being able to share something I'm passionate about are the best qualities of a persistent world, in my opinion. Even after a seven-year hiatus I was able to jump back into the shoes of my old characters and share war stories with some of his old friends, reflect on events past, and appreciate how his actions helped shape the world around him. I am not content, however, with crumping about with my elderly characters: I feel the need to stretch my RP legs and try new challenges, meet new friends and adversaries, explore the corners of roleplay that I have not yet experienced. I have set aside my old epic characters and have begun rediscovering Avlis in the shoes of my brand-spanking-new Equalizer of Mikon (a True Neutral Holy Warrior class). It's an engaging challenge, as I usually played the extreme alignment concepts, and this character lives in shades of grey. (Not the sexy time ones though! :P )To those who still play Neverwinter Nights and haven't given persistent worlds a try, I strongly recommend doing so - you won't be disappointed. I encourage those of you who have drifted away from the persistent world community to put your virtual persona back on and hop back into the waters. As I recently discovered, they’re still invitingly warm.
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