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What is this guide for?
This guide is designed to give hints and tips on running an online adventure for a group of players. It is not a set of hard and fast rules but I will try to give over some tricks and tips to help you survive this arduous yet rewarding past time. An online storyteller has a similar role to that of the Games/Dungeon Master in traditional tabletop games. The process of online adventuring is somewhat similar to a tabletop adventure i.e. having a plot but there are a number of obvious differences such as your group is not sitting around you at the table but can be thousands of miles away.
Who are you writing for?
This is your first question, your target group of players. This could be a single online companion, your guild or even a number of guilds. You have to build your sense of scale according to the target group. I mainly write stories for my guild, Desert Winds, to take part in. Once you have your target group try to tailor your story according to their interests. I will use DW as an example here. Desert Winds are a group of terrorist eco-warrior types and as such our stories and events will generally cater to this interest, for example we once took part in a story about a virus originating on the shores of Newland Lake. However, do not fall into writing the same type of story it can very interesting to throw in some random ideas to spice things up.
Lets make a story
This is quite a general title and one that will have quite a long discussion as an answer.
1. What is Anarchy Online?
Anarchy Online (AO) is the game world your story will occur in. Your story MUST keep faith with the background and present setting of AO. Here Funcom is the ultimate gamesmaster, they dictate the universe and its laws to us the players. A rewarding story will utilize the background information of AO as its basis, it may not present it to the players but it must recognize the overarching conflict present on Rubi-Ka. Lets take some time to briefly look at the main players here.
A gigantic hyper-corporation with unlimited resources, they control their employees with Orwellian zeal. Omni-Tek has the legal leasehold to Rubi-Ka and has opened a local branch, OT-RK, to run the mining operations on the planet. OT-RK is run by Philip Ross and is composed of several sub divisions such as Omni-Pol, Omni Armed Forces (AF) and Omni-Med to name three of the better known. There can be a myriad of more secretive groups in the company though. For example one story I wrote involved a group called MACH. MACH was a secret project and as such would be unknown to all but the highest-ranking Omni-Tek officials. I could therefore introduce this group without disturbing the hierarchy of Omi-Tek. Other groups such as Omni-Med could have performed the same operations as MACH but in my story MACH had to be shut down, this could not happen to say Omni-Med unless Funcom says so.
All Omni-Tek personnel are employees, they work for Omni-Tek either directly or indirectly ie Omni-Tek may have hired them for a task through a third party or they may be supporters of the company for some reason. Player run Omni-Tek departments can generally be viewed as departments within the corporation, they are generally smaller than the NPC departments e.g. Omni-Pol, and will have less impact on Omni-Tek policy (generally) than the NPC groups.
The Clans were born from revolution and the mistreatment the notum miners suffered when working for Omni-Tek. Nowadays they are a powerful political voice on Rubi-Ka, roughly 50% of the planets population is under the rule of the clans. The Council of Truth once controlled the clans but that has recently disbanded leaving the clans to go their separate way to some extent. The most powerful clans e.g. The Sentinels are run by Funcom. The player clans are assumed to be much smaller in power and political clout than the NPC clans. By their very nature The Clans are very diverse in their aims. They range from political activists who work peacefully to groups who want to wage all out war. There is a lot of scope to create a Clan to do pretty much what you want in your story should you need.
The neutrals are neither Omni employees nor are they aligned with The Clans. The Neutrals exist for a number of different purposes from charities out to help civilians caught up in the war through mercenaries and then groups with extreme political views. Neutrals are allegedly under the legal protection of Omni-Tek but are very protective of their independence from the corporation. Recently mercenaries were hired to protect the city of Newland from perceived aggression from the Sentinels. The most diverse group on Rubi-Ka, anything goes in the neutral world with regards to protagonists for your stories.
A group of corporations, including Omni-Tek, that functions similar to the UN of today. Its major role is to ensure galactic prosperity, which includes the free trade of notum to the galaxy. They have a HQ in Andromeda and have stationed peacekeeping forces across Rubi-Ka in an attempt to stabilize the situation on the planet. The ICC has recently deregulated mining on Rubi-Ka so any group has the right to claim a stake and mine for notum.
These are the groups from which your players and story characters can come from. This is a rich heritage on which to draw inspiration.
The Rubi-Kan legacy
Your stories will occur on Rubi-Ka so we must consider Rubi-Ka herself. Rubi-Ka is the planet on which AO is set. It was a lifeless planet* that was discovered and colonized by Omni-Tek. About 800 years before present day AO Omni-Tek took the trouble to terraform the planet so it was habitable to humans, currently only a small portion of Rubi-Ka is habitable and the rest of the planet is lethal to humans. Rubi-Ka is fought over by the Clans and Omni-Tek with the neutrals, generally, caught in the middle. Rubi-Ka is the only planet in the universe that has the mysterious element called notum.
*It is obvious with the release of Shadowlands that this notion is in fact incorrect.
Notum is a substance that allows nanotechnology to function far more efficiently on Rubi-Ka than anywhere else in the universe. Somehow the notum enhances the nanobots so they can function outside of the human body for long periods of time. Notum can be mined and shipped off planet allowing nanotechnology elsewhere to function better than it had. Until recently Omni-Tek had a monopoly on the shipping and selling of all notum, this is the reason for Omni-Tek’s power in the galaxy.
So that is a very brief background to AO, Rubi-Ka and her politics. More details can be found by reading the official back-story "Prophet Without Honour".
Taking this background into account when you write an AO story is important, you must pay homage to and stay consistent with it.
2. The Game World
Rubi-Ka is the tapestry on which your stories will come to life. It is a very rich world full of huge cities, small villages, military bases, castles, plains and mountains. Everything you could possibly need is here to be used. Strange beasts walk the plains, armed guards patrol mysterious outposts, transports fill the sky and huge cannons blast notum off world. There are a number of resources you can use as ‘sets’ for your stories. I heartily recommend exploring each zone as each place has something of interest in it.
Cities cover the world and each one has a different ‘feel’ and history. Omni-1 is the headquarters of OT-RK and is a large dark forbidding city full of guards and ‘big brother’ type messages and billboards. Tir the capital of the clans is more run down the Omni-1, it is controlled by the Sentinels and contains the old Council of Truth building. The cities have places of interest such as bars and clubs and various shops.
Towns and villages
Small settlements cover Rubi-Ka as various groups set up base. Like the cities they have a different look , they have many of the facilities as the cities. Not all the villages are run by humans and some have been abandoned.
These are the real gem of Rubi-Ka. Obscure military and scientific outposts can be found everywhere. Each of these can be utilized with a little imagination. Omni-Tek and the Clans have military outposts, there are research centers, bronto farms and so on. Again I recommend exploring to see what you can find and then spend sometime thinking on how to use them.
Yes the common or garden mission has great RP potential, you can create a mission in any zone and use it as you need. There are several types of mission
Brown cave – all the rooms will be cavey and brown with vine doors. Found out of towns
Grey Cave – a very diverse set of rooms, from underground temples to strange corridors and huge caverns, multi level walkways etc etc. They make great mines and secret bases.
Office – the rooms will be of an office feel and generally ‘samey’, typical Broken Shores fodder.
White Office – the RP office equivalent of the grey cave. Lots of diverse rooms from computer banks, hanger bays, science labs etc etc.
Grey caves and White offices are great for using and have a lot of potential.
It is possible to hide player run NPCs in missions for your players to 'find' calm your way in and clean the area around the room they will be in so the mobs don't 'eat' them.
Static missions are similar to missions except they never move and anyone can enter them without a key. There are many all over and can be used for a number of reasons eg the office building in Athen can be used as a meeting place, a cave system can be used as base for criminals or as a disused mine. They are useful tools.
Plenty of these range from crashed ships to rhino villages. Again explore to see what you can find as there are too many to mention.
Dungeons can be a great addition to any story. They are well designed (generally) full of mobs and uniques, the type is dependent on the dungeon They will always have the same floor plan whenever you enter them. The current dungeons are:
Steps of Madness – Omni Forest
SoM is the physical representation of a deranged metaphysicist’s mind.
Foremans/Biomare – Longest Road
An Omni-Tek mine with secrets Omni-Tek would rather keep hidden.
Subway – Borealis, Athen and Omni-1
The abandoned subway system is now home to reclaim technology mutants.
Max level to enter is 25, going to be full of loot hunters.
Temple of the three winds – Greater Tir Country
A mysterious cult has a temple in GTC.
Max level to enter is 60, going to be full of loot hunters.
Camelot – Avalon
Camelot castle is home to a clan of knights, down in the basement is a big lizard they test their martial skills on.
PvP dungeon, going to be full of loot hunters.
Smuggler’s Den – Borealis
The smuggling ring has its HQ in Borealis but their tunnels seem to have angered a mantis hive.
The above can be successfully used in any story and will provide background or adventuring locations for your story to occur in.
3. The Story itself
We have covered a lot of background, but so far I haven’t discussed story-writing tips.
A. Suspension of disbelief
We are all at home at our PCs and we all know that. But a successful story relies on you and your players suspending disbelief. This takes a conscious effort by everyone involved wanting to have fun and enjoy the story.
B. Maintain Atmosphere
It is your job as a story teller to use the background and environment to maintain atmosphere, keep in mind what Rubi-Ka is and what the major players are up to. How does this impact your story eg you cant have an Omni-Pol base in Tir, you could have a secret underground group of rebels in Omni-1 though.
C. Be consistent
Consistency is everything, be consistent with the game world eg the clans will not make a truce with OT in your story but you may have a diplomat who wants to work towards that.
D. Major Characters
By major characters I mean people like Philip Ross, don’t use these people in your story and don’t create close relationships between your characters and them eg orders from Ross to the leader of an Omni Org is acceptable, being his secret love child is not. Your story concerns your fellow players and the NPCs you have made.
E. Player Characters
Your players characters are their creation, do not force them to do things that are against their nature just to further your story eg don’t make a pacifist assassinate someone as a key event, however the dilemma this creates could be used. Think how your fellow players use their characters and try to include situations in your story that will challenge and entertain them. In the general scheme of things your players are not on the same level as e.g. Philip Ross, keep this in mind.
F. Non players characters
These are your creation, they are a part of the story and you or a helpful volunteer will control them. Your players will interact with them. The planning that goes into them will be dependent on how central to the story they will be eg a street urchin requires little thought while a major protagonist will require a lot of work. What are his/her goals and what will they do to achieve them? Give your NPC props such as clothing and items to hold, this will add to the suspension of disbelief. It is your manipulation of NPCs that will tell the story to your players so plan them well. If you need to then recruit someone to help you out. Explain their parts in detail and don’t be afraid to take suggestions if you think they will work. But remember the story is your baby. Give your NPCs props and the correct clothing for their 'work',a way of behaving that makes them interesting for the players to interact with, try to give each npc a particular style of talking, e.g. an atrox may have "red a buk" while a nanomage may have "perused the article in question". This simple trick fixes in your mind who you are playing and keeps you IC, especially useful if you have many NPCs.
G. Draw up your plot
Plan your story out, it is often far better to have an idea of the general direction of your story. Who are the protagonists, how do they impact on your players world, how can they be stopped or aided. Keep the plot consistent with the world e.g. a super secret Omni-Tek experiment will be known by someone in OT and should it go loose OT would make moves to silence things.
Your plot need be nothing more than a single side of paper but it should contain everything you need to know to keep things going and clear in your head.
Remember no battle plan survives its first meeting with the enemy i.e. your characters will take things down unexpected avenues. Encourage them to do so but gently remind them of the plot so they stick with it.
H. Don’t panic and have fun!
Resources to maintain the story
There are several resources available to maintain the story pace. You should consider using them all to keep your story flowing.
Keep regular updates of your story and story event reports there. This allows new people joining in to get up to speed and also allows everyone to remember exactly what has happened and how it fits together. Also they make good reading
You can hold conversations here when person-to-person contact for the talk is not needed e.g. coms communications or hacking a PC. The AO database remembers the names of all your characters so you can create an NPC and delete them yet still keep them for the chat client.
AORC is a program that allows you to create references for objects you 'invent' for you story. E.g. need a hyperpolarised calibration woogle? well fire up AORC and create one. You will not get a physical ingame item but will have a reference to show in conversations/emotes etc. You can email this files about.
There are items in game that have no useful purpose except for RP. they are often found as pick ups in missions. examples are contained sensitive information, weird looking bombs and so on. Collect a stock of these as they are always useful to have.
Got some HTML skill and web space, then why not create some pages especially for your story e.g. a large map or lengthy documents. You could even hide hints and clues here so the players have to work out from the web page what to do next or where to go online next.
Originally written by Praecautus a.k.a. Dr. Tiny at the Official AO Forums in 2003. Edited for grammar errors by Windguaerd
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