Monday, November 23, 2009

Life at virtual Hogwarts -- an update

On the grounds of Hogwarts castle.

My friend Headburro Antfarm recently asked for an update on how things are going in my other rp venue, Hogwarts United. And of course, I am always glad to accommodate HB’s requests, just as I heed his suggestions. So here’s a quick summary of how things are going:

* I got through my entire first term of being there without injuring any students or destroying the library.

* At the end of that first term, they made me Head Librarian. (not because I was wonderful or anything, but because Sio Timeless, the previous Head Librarian has some real-life issues to deal with and they had to plug somebody into the gap).

* I found that most people I encountered, especially the students seemed to like the character I had created, and especially enjoyed her occasional correspondence.

* Once I became head librarian I undertook the task of reorganizing the actual note-card-based books that the library has, trying to get them consistently filed alphabetically by author. That made me feel very useful and accomplished.

* I made some nice friends on the staff especially Professors Nyx Carnell (Phoenyx Firehawk) and Avaya Wirefly. They’re fun, delightful people, dedicated teachers, and damn fine rp’ers.

* I have recruited a couple of library assistants who show great promise. I have already discovered that one of them, Quinn Porthos, shares my enthusiasm for blowing shit up.

* I have had a great deal of fun. And I still am, even with the whole “being given responsibility” thing, which was something I was trying desperately to avoid. (oh well).

Working in the restricted collections o the library.

I have enjoyed getting to experience a type of rp that is very different from what I am used to in places like Deadwood. First off, there is a whole lot less random violence, and I can’t cuss like I am used to. I do say “bloody hell” alot, however, especially when something happens like the castle being swarmed by charmed pumpkins hopping through its halls, or cursed books exploding into flames when you try to to get them to reveal what sort of spell has been cast over them.

I have been very impressed by the faculty, who put a great deal of significant effort into preparing the lessons--doing research, writing their syllabi and handouts for the students, and setting up demonstrations of various sorts to make the classes interesting. The one thing that I find to be a drawback to the system is that such a commitment is required of the teachers in developing and presenting their classes, these folks frequently don’t seem to have a lot of time or energy for actually doing much roleplaying. The faculty in general take their responsibilities extremely seriously.

Which was probably why I found myself directing Dio in a direction that is, like her role in Deadwood, sort of a one-woman Greek Chorus commenting upon the action or filling out the big scenes, but which also includes a bit more comic relief than I offer in other rp settings.

You may recall that her backstory revolves around being a former auror who was retired early with PTSD--so Dio has her quirks and will periodically do or say things to surprise or befuddle people who expect librarians to act in a certain way. One odd tendency that sort of evolved on its own without me really planning it, is that I will be extremely formal in speech and manners with people I do not know well, or in most normal professional circumstances. However, with friends, or when I get excited or angry, I become much more casual and rather coarse (at least as much as one can be in a PG sim). When no one in authority is looking, I also am inclined to draw on my background in magical combat and no-holds-barred spell casting to deal with various situations.

For example, there currently is a movement afoot among the students protesting the requirement to wear robes to class, and they have been marking the castle up with graffiti. I found some of this graffiti on one of the library tables, and becoming frustrated after trying to clean it off with the usual “tergeo “ charm, I just used a combat spell to blast the marking off permanently. Miss Porthos was in attendance to put out any resulting fires (which she did, quite nicely) and she agreed with me that the pyrotechnics that ensued were worth the resulting char marks on the table top. We’re going to leave the damage in place for awhile to stand as our own “message” to would-be graffiti artists.

The table with the graffiti "cleaned off." Don't worry...I am sure I can remove the burn marks...eventually.

The real place for me to exercise my proclivity for comic relief, however, has been in making up ridiculous titles for nonexistent books when a student asks for something that isn’t actually in the current limited collection. Another source of some yuks are the letters I have sent by way of my owl “Rasputin” to different people on various occasions. The following was a letter I sent to one of the professors who also works for the Ministry of Magic, and who was supposed to be cracking down on the use of unauthorized portkeys (magical teleportation devices).

A rather seedy looking owl of indeterminate age and type wheels crazily through the twilight, pauses to look around in apparent confusion or possibly the owl equivalent of Alzheimer's disease.

It then crashes onto your windowsill, and lies there looking fairly ill. As you open the window to retrieve the message it is clutching in its badly trimmed claws, it vomits up some partially digested mouse remains, and then blinks its eyes at you in a expression that can only be described as one of mild irritation.

As you go to close your window again, it suddenly ruffles itself, shedding a few mangy looking feathers and one or two of some kind of insectoid parasite. It also seems to have dandruff.

The message reads:

Mr. Wendall Kristan,
Official Ministry type Minister of something or other
Ministry of Magic

Miss Diogenes Penthesileia Kuhr
Auror (retired)
Assistant Librarian, Dangerous Books Collection
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

cc: Headmaster Lysis Nikolaidis

My Dear Mr. Kristan:

I understand that you are seeking information about the misuse of unapproved Port Cheese at the school and let me tell you bucko, tis about HIGH TIME someone did something about this disgraceful situation. The practice of mixing Port wine in with cheese is an absolute travesty, not to mention a dreadful waste of perfectly good Port, though I will admit that on whole wheat crackers at a little get-together with friends, it does taste pretty good. But for a formal occasion such as an official inquisition or Wizardgamot hanging party, it simply WILL NOT DO!

No No No, for those kinds of situations, you should always go with something like a nice Stilton, or if you have people coming whom you really don't like all that much, I suppose you could fob off some kind of cheap gooey Brie on them, and hey, they most likely won't know the difference, will they?



One of my colleagues just informed me that the issue was about the misuse of "Portkeys"....not "Port Cheese."

Never mind.

Oh dear. Well, that's pretty bloody embarrassing, isn't it? Dreadful sorry about that. Portkeys? Hmmmm. haven't used one o' them silly buggers in years. Always worry that if you use one and it goes wonky, you're going to end up with your head stuck up your own tookus, eh? Though I do suppose Ministry people have to use them a lot, don't they? Oh..not that I'm, quit while I'm ahead , eh?

D.P. Kuhr

Silly stuff, I know. But fun. And certainly not inconsistent with the Harry Potter-esque reality that Hogwarts United represents.

Again, I will reiterate that this kind of highly structured immersion environment is not for everyone. Major rp scenarios must be presented in a proposal to a review committee and approved. Some folks find the process slow, and that it perhaps “cramps their style.” But it does serve to keep the roleplay under control and within the set of parameters that the sim leadership has established. As with any rp community, there are a few drama whores and idiots, but their ability to affect everyone else’s experience is severely limited by the sim policies. It is very seldom that you find yourself watching someone go off in some ridiculous self-indulgent direction, while everyone else present is muttering, “Well that was fucking moronic.”

This also suggests that the recruiting/application/orientation process really does work in maintaining a level of quality among the sim population, and reducing or eliminating the peckerhead factor. I have yet to encounter a grieftard in the castle, at all. That has been really nice.

So what’s next? Well, I am going to try to spend more time in Hogwarts if I can, and hopefully encourage more of the sim residents to write up essays or booklets--covering anything from magical techniques to their backstory family histories--that can be added to the library collections. I mean hell, I can’t keep making up silly titles for non-existent books forever.


  1. Oh yes you can! I'm not saying you should, but I am hoping you will :-)

    I love the Omail (is that the right term for Owl mail?) and it made me laugh out loud - something I never expected Harry Potter to do :D

    Cheers for the update and I enjoyed the info on how RP wworks there - it does seem slow, but it seems like the pay-off is worth it. It's a shame the owners/managers don't seem to get much time playing thoguh :(

  2. The Harry Potter universe does seem ripe for some more offbeat humor. The "Port Cheese" riff was very funny indeed.

    And consider the limitations on cursing a challenge rather than a restriction.

  3. Hey HB and Rhia,

    I must confess, the whole "port cheese" shtick was an homage to classic Roseanne Roseannadanna. But I think it is the kind of silliness that helps reinforce the sense that the character is a little "off"in a mostly harmless way. At the same time, one is not completely sure if she really is all that looney or is perhaps playing it out a bit on purpose to keep people at a distance and guessing about what she'll do or how she'll react.

    And Rhia, yes it is a challenge, but a good one. I am afraid have spent too many years working and living in the company of soldiers, firefighters, cops, paramedics and antique dealers, and picked up more than a few bad habits over the years.

  4. Lemon Stilton is quite nice. And while apricot Stilton takes some getting used to, it is quite acceptable with club crackers and perhaps a bit of grape or thin-sliced tomato on the side.


    I think it would be a larger challenge to make sure that content stays PG. In which case, having strict sim guidelines is very appropriate. And it might slow things down, but having been involved in freeform RP before (with everyone stepping on major storylines, powers thrown about seemingly at random, and dialogue that could only have originated in a pulp novel--or worse, Cinemax After Dark), I think I'd be highly in favor of strict controls.

    I'm generally with you, I'm comic relief in most of my RP scenarios, but I do have the merest tendency to get over-involved (*coughs*), which is why I have my own RP guidelines now. Which are:

    1. No.
    2. Tell me what it's about.
    3. No.
    4. Investigate the sim first.
    5. No.
    6. Are there demons involved?
    7. NO.

    Or maybe that's the question and answer process, between m'self and the loves. :)

  5. Hey Emilly,

    "Over-involved?" That sounds like it has some interesting stories to go with it.

    I love your set of rp guidelines. I think that a key factor for successful, engaging rp is if the players have a well established idea of what they are willing to be a part of, and what they will just walk away from. I am not shy about steering clear of certain situations and certain kinds of players. And it is not just about what you as the typist are willing to put up with--it's also very much an issue of knowing your character and what is plausible and appropriate for them to get invovled in.

    There is no law that says just because some yutz wanders into the sim and decides to initiate some lewd and ludicrous scenario, that anyone is required to accommodate, coddle, or even acknowledge his or her existence.

    I'm here to be a part of good storytelling, to enjoy improv acting with mature, creative people to be an enabler or even passive audience to the self-indulgent, bodice-ripping, pot-boiling sophomoric fantasy of some basement-dwelling lack-wit.

    The irony in all this is how the perpetrators of the most egregious crap tend to think they are absolutely the most wonderful roleplayers,evah, and they can't understand why anyone would rather go make coffee and talk to the cattle than hang around and watch them chew the scenery.

    Now mind, I know I am coming across as somewhat judgmental here...and I am, in fact, being pretty damned judgmental...but I also freely acknowledge that he grid is a big place and there is a place somewhere for everyone to do what they want. If someone enjoys self-indulgent bodice-ripping, pot-boiling drama, complete with demons and Cinemax after dark dialogue, there are places that welcome (or at least tolerate) that sort of thing. If that's for you, then go find those places and knock yourself out--if it makes you happy, then embrace what you are and cheerfully wallow in it. BUT don't try to impose your way of rp on other places and other people who are not so inclined.

    If you go someplace and they have rules and guidelines that strive to create a more mature rp environment(and by mature, I mean stable, thoughtful, and enjoyable for people who behave like intelligent grown-ups), and you find the people there doing a different kind of rp from what you enjoy, then you simply need to move on. If you try to convert them to your point of view, trying to show them what a great rp'er you are and how they are missing out on something utterly delightful by not going along with your fantastic Evil Demon Overlord/lusty criminal mastermind/I'm-too-sexy-for-my-blingy-leather-pants shtick, you are just going to end up frustrated and probably banned.

    I really like the idea of rp communities making it clear up-front what they are looking for and how they do things., Some people dislike rules and guidelines, and hey if that is the case, then they need to look for sims where there are no rules or guidelines. It's as simple as that.

    But if a sim's leadership has taken the time to provide rules and guidelines, that needs to be respected. And I have noticed that a lot more places are doing this kind of thing--not just having well-defined sets of rules that are handed out up front and are strictly enforced, but also application forms, backstory requirements, orientation sessions, and rp classes. I think it is an indication of the maturation of this art form/hobby.

    And yes, Emilly, I agree as well that a big challenge is keeping content PG--just like in a place such as Deadwood, it has to stay "mature" but not slide into the adult realm. Again, rules that are made clear up front and that are consistently enforced make a difference in this.

    But that doesn't mean that people can't do some really intense interaction, develop and resolve conflicts, and build an engaging narrative that deals with realistic themes and issues, if they so choose.

    That's part of what makes it fun.

  6. Hello, i really like your blog, but, may i ask what game are you playing?, can you please pass me the link, thank you very very much :D!!