Dr. Quickfix, or How I Learnt to Stop Listening to Players



  • First of all note I am a CoA fanboy. I've played this server under two different account names since 2005 and I have no intention of seeing it shrivel up and die. That said, I'm going to see if I can piece together a reason for CoA's decline and compare the current status of CoA with other Role-play NWN servers plying their trade at the moment and see where CoA could improve in relation to them. The servers I'll be referring to for comparison are the usual heavyweights of Escape from Undeath and Ravenloft, both have many current and former CoA players in their playerbase, Thay which is seeing a resurgence following a recent move to a newer server, aswell as the second CoA off-shoot to come from disgruntled players, Netheril Rising.

    IMHO, there are four key points to every server; Features, Presentation, Attitude, and Quality. We're going to use these points as a guidelines. But first, let's take a look at player numbers, I've been watching them for the past two weeks over both weekdays and weekends this month, and sometime ago last year, and I've come up with some averages. My timezone is traditionally +10 GMT, a supposed lull for most servers but I had enough free time this month to not give a shit about sleep and check things out in peak periods as well. Remember these are averages, they aren't exact but they should give you an indication on popularity.
    CoA - 16/55 at time of writing, anywhere from 23-36 in US/UK peak, 1-8 in Oz peak.
    EfU - 34/50 at time of writing, anywhere from 28-47 in US/UK peak, 10-18 in Oz peak.
    Netheril Rising - 2/50 at time of writing, anywhere from 1-3 US/UK peak, 1-8 in Oz peak.
    Ravenloft - 36/90 at time of writing, anywhere from 30-53 US/UK peak, 20-31 in Oz peak.
    Thay - 10/30 at time of writing, anywhere from 18-28 US/UK peak, 4-12 in Oz peak.

    Ravenloft and EfU are clear standouts with CoA trailing. Thay seems a solid place, tightly held and community driven whilst NR is clearly still in its infancy. So, let's face it, the glory days of 55/55 are finished. The game is old, players are moving on to bigger, better things or just finding themselves too busy with rl. However, there is a big difference to CoA compared to both EfU and Ravenloft, certain differences that I think the server should be targeting to mend in time for V5. Let's look at features.

    CoA is not entirely devoid of features. The list might seem small but that is because we're all familiar with what this server offers. I won't go into them all but I'll list a few notable ones.

    It's important to remember the DM team always look to expand. More summoner themes, Monk stances, more domains ect. And that at the moment, the server remains hakless. The two servers that do sport haks are Netheril Rising and Ravenloft. Ravenloft has some interesting features that remain true to its core setting, particularly focusing on a heavy dose of atmosphere and environment for an engrossing experience.

    • General NPC behavior

    We feature a great amount of systems to make NPCs come to life - to highlight a few:

    • Many NPCs have their own daily routines, like going to the market at day and staying indoors at night.

    • NPCs do a lot of ambient animations and interact with each other.

    • Commoners become frightened by the unnatural and flee, and guards call upon reinforcements to chase down criminals.

    • Some wild animals will flee upon sight while others will attack only if provoked.

    • AI tactics have been tweaked to seem more sensible and alive. Creatures will call out for aid, flee or making tactical retreats if feeling overwhelmed.

    Creature Spawning and Populations

    To much better reflect the PCs' impact on the world, most creatures are generated by an advanced creature population system. Killing creatures in a population will weaken it, while time left on it's own on the other hand will allow it to grow in power, all affecting the number and strength of creatures spawned. An example could be the amount of rats in the Vallaki sewers, where hunting them all down would result in the sewers being nearly empty for a period, while not hunting them for long will cause them to grow greatly in numbers (and size), to the point that they start to swarm the streets of Vallaki.

    In some locations, different kinds of populations may even occupy the same area over time, so that clearing an area will leave it empty for a while, until something else decides to move in there. A cave that at one point is infested with vile undead may later be the nest of a hive of spiders. The systems will even adjust the placeables and general appearance of the area to reflect this change.

    Some populations are also set to be enemies, so that the peril of one will allow for easier growth of the other, and vice versa. Some populations are dependant on others for their growth, like the wolves being dependant on a strong population of deer to be prospering.

    Finally, some populations vary in strength by time of month or year, leading to the next point:

    Season and Weather System

    We feature a sophisticated weather system, that will generate dynamic weather based on seasonal changes, day and night temperature, as well as local conditions. Beside affecting the general appearance of areas, NPCs, wildlife and fauna also change to reflect this, making the game experience dynamically change through the passing of the year. For example, at winter, many commoners decide to stay indoors more or less all the time.

    As you can see, Ravenloft puts a great focus on its setting. It is similar to EfU, I find, in that it develops its rich and inviting world with its own identity. I can look at an area built in the toolset and immediately recognise it as an area built for Ravenloft. Also, along with EfU, it makes use of Background Feats and Origins giving the player a general selection of origins or background for the player to select and be given a small amount of skillpoints to reflect this. Ravenloft has also gone a step further and changed the progression of feats for all classes "To allow more focus on shaping a character by story elements rather than pure power considerations, and not make people have to choose between the to."

    EfU has countless features based around immersion of ones character. They have a custom quest system which does not make use of biowares default party system, all players begin at level 2. There are additional Class Perks & Backgrounds, which are basically like kits with an advantage and disadvantage. Crafting such as Gardening, Cooking, Alchemy, Herbalism and Consecration. Their day and night are set to a reasonble level and are tied to an IG counter.

    "Hours are twenty seven real-life minutes long, instead of two. Turns remain unmodified at one minute. Everything that used to be hour-duration is now 5minutes, unless otherwise modified."

    They also have implemented a custom skill system called EFUSS.

    With each level, effective now, you will be granted a number of points to spend on custom skills. These skills are primarily, in every sense of the word, RP skills. All of them can be used like regular skills but most will not have scripted uses (some do!). Many will also never have scripted uses, and might not find much use even in DM events either, but they help to define your characters even so. In other words, while some skills will have clear uses, the bottomline is that you should not take skills expecting to use them a lot, or even a little. Kind of like Craft Armor and Craft Weapon until now. Of course, you're all encouraged to think of uses for these skills, potential new skills (although we will likely not be adding many of these), and general improvements to the system.

    Note that whilst EfU has their own optional overrides, they do not use haks. Their success, I believe, is not down to mere features but ensuring that from the beginning, the player is immersed in the world. So what exactly is missing from CoA? Let's have a look at presentation.

    CoA has no intro for new characters. We talk to the equipment dude, get what we want, rest and start in east. For some, its perfect, for others it leaves alot to be desired. The constant changing state of the server is probably a good reason why one would probably never be implemented. The server, unlike others, does not revolve around a single theme. It is a myraid of fluff shot out with a scatter gun and three dozen half-finished plots at any given time. Players do not have a common goal or problem (escape, freedom, plague, slaves/masters, the advent of an empire ect.) We are probably the only server that is so open ended that it hurts itself. It really does. It's my personal opinion that CoA should adopt a singular theme; Thay allows players to join and even become leaders of the military, magical, and political forces of one of the most evil lands of Faerun during the Salamander Wars and two years before the arrival of the Tuigan. Netheril Rising tells the story of Hadrian, a frontier town beset by the political machinations of a young Netherese Empire. EfU has had three stages to their story-telling - The first version was about Sanctuary and the ultimate goal of every character to escape the Underdark, second it was the development of a colony on the isle of Ymph the land the survivors of Sanctuary found themselves in and now, due to IC happenings, it is to escape the curse of a Lich-Queen who had been released - with the curse being an actual mechanic IG, yes, players can and will become zombies if exposed to this curse for too long. Each version has had their own take on the module. That my friends, is immersion.

    This is something I feel CoA is missing. It is difficult to explain into words but I believe CoA should forge itself an identity that takes players out of their comfort zones and into a vibrant City-wide adventure. It is bloated with useless towns and two dozen useless forest maps. It might as well be called City of Inner Cormyr and a Volcano at the rate these things are going. I'm sure this won't be looked at seriously but I think CoA should look at cutting its bloated form and expanding the actual City. Alleyways, hidden streets, the cloak and dagger of a trading city on the brink of its own self-destruction. And yes, Zyla before you so cunningly point it out of course there should be a place for Druids and rangers and all those wild-walkers but surely, -surely- this place needs to build itself up from within and put the focus back on its namesake before more and more towns pop up. Naturally, this wont come to pass but all I can ask is for V5 to be definitive in what it seeks out to do rather than just be yet another copy of V3. This is our fourth time trying to revitalize the server. This itself should speak volumes.

    But lets forget server identity for now, lets look at the more aesthetic lines of presentation. The website, the forums, the places new players go to after logging in and getting the initial feel of the server. I think this can be summed up by comparing this. With this. We getting a feel for our server now? Can you taste the intrigue through dat wiki? Hear the sounds of Cormyrian trumpets in the air, charging down a pack filthy orc-bloods? There are more than a dozen web designers playing our server at the moment, if the EfU DMs can make such an effort making everything so polished and easy to find, hell even writing a manual, why can't ours? Nope. If it ain't in the wiki, you gotta search the forums, if it ain't in the forums, you gotta ask on IRC and if theres no answer on IRC, well, theres no answer at all. I am of course being a sarcastic git and exagerating things a little but surely someone sees my point? Hmm. Let's see here. Simple. Elegant. Gives me the sense of "ho shit, a horror themed server." But who needs a website with so much fluff? Thay doesn't! Hmm. Oh, look, easy to navigate.

    Here's a big one. Attitude. A servers attitude is as defining as its presentation. It is the general vibe that players glean from the server, it gives them the sense of how things work. Thankfully for us, we have one of the best attitudes on the server.. except when it comes to PVP. I can tell you right now that even DMs are divided on this subject. Some were/are EfU/Narfell players who rose through the lowly ranks and proved to be mature and wise in what they do, unlike myself. They are also keenly aware of mechanics and do not fear the death of their character. And then there are the real banana brother, true to the bone, CoA V3 vets. Finding every opportunity to denounce any overtly fatal acts for participating players, sacrificing doses of realism for that sweet, clinical feel of PvM and that prolonged conflict that really does let players run around without a head and live to tell the tale. Noones right, noones wrong. It is a manner of taste. Let's take a gander at various policies..

    @CoA:

    1). Rules on Looting

    a). There is no reason to loot a player who has died on a scripted quest if that player is intending to respawn or get raised. It is in bad form to simply full loot all their gear. If a player has died (and is getting raised-not died and is respawning to their corpse), your evil character might claim an item or two, but be considerate that this player has already just lost thousands of experience points and now you're greedily stealing more from them.

    b). It is not acceptable to run around full-looting corpse bags during major DM run PvP events. Typically, the DMs will try to lock your corpse bags to prevent this kind of behavior, but should we miss a bag or forget–it is important to be considerate to other players who have died during chaotic and dangerous events. If your character is looking to steal and loot a specific item, simply mention it to a DM (presuming one isn't busy).

    c). Full looting is acceptable, but it is generally not polite or sporting. When you're not full-damage killing someone, and simply playing a mugger or thief--merely take their gold or a few items instead of everything they player had. If you had a legitimate conflict that ended in full-damage, full-looting is acceptable but maybe you can find some way to avoid taking everything that character had if they plan on returning to life like blackmailing them "I'll return your mystical Spear of Nubin, but you must swear never to cross me again or next time you shall not return from the Fugue" is a good route to take with this.

    d). Don't simply loot any corpse you come across, even if playing an evil character you should stop and consider the other players, there are times when you must consider the evil actions your character would take and understand that they can be detriment to the server. Stealing every item another player has while they're dead and can not even fight against you is the kind of behavior that will drive newer players from the server, and is disheartening to even older players. This is not to say you can't loot the fallen, but that you should stop and consider very carefully your actions. Taking some gold, or a couple of items is one thing--taking every single thing is often well into the realm of being a complete jerk.

    2). Rules on PvP

    a). Do not abuse transitions in PvP by "double transitioning".

    b). PvP requires a legitimate reason if it will end in a PK. The DMs are the only real arbiters of what "legitimate" means. Therefore, it you're planning to kill another character, it is always best practice to contact the DMs to discuss it as far in advance as you can. DMs reserve the right to maintain your reason was not good enough and return gear, experience, and even turn back other affects of the PvP. This is why it is best to clear your plans to PvP with us ahead of time. It also affords benefits to have a DM present, which are discussed in the Guidelines for Keeping PvP Fun section below.

    c). No PvP that will lead to PK can ever occur in front of non-hostile NPCs, even if those NPCs are friendly to you. I.E. Lawful Good lynch mobs killing evil Banites in a good temple does not fly. If NPCs are present, a DM MUST be present for PvP to occur. This does not only cover magical and physical attacks, but bully brow-beating and threats. If it is reasonable for an NPC to intervene or react to a situation, get a DM there to witness it.

    Exception:

    • You can use PP.
    • Your victim and those nearby can beat the crap out of you if you are caught.
    • You are part of a DM Faction with policing powers.

    Beating up a PC in front of NPCs does not equal killing him in front of NPCs, get a DM if you intend to do that.

    d). When you are full damaged killed, make it realistic and don't be inconsiderate to your killer. Consider staying dead for a few days or a week, otherwise the other person is totally in their right to just kill you again and again and again and the DMs won't consider it greifing. You may also consider the fact that you DIED. This has a traumatic effect on intelligent and sentient creatures. You may actually realize, "OH SHIT, this guy can KILL me" maybe I should stop insulting his mother since the last five times he gutted me. It almost seems like reverse "griefing" since you just keep coming after them no matter what they do and by the sixth or seventh death its pretty clear that you're over-matched and should be showing a modicum of fear.

    3). Guidelines for Keeping PvP Fun

    a). PvP should not always end in PK. Many times just beating someone once and leaving a solid threat that next time they die should be enough. If you just wanted to steal something, just subdue them and steal it. If you want to convert someone to your god, it may take more than just "Convert or Die" why not actually try to convert them first with words, by defeating them a few times to show your strength, or through a series of challenges to prove your god/philosophy is better--then if none of that works call out "convert or die". It'll be much more fun for all involved, and who knows who may wind up having their faith shaken during the roleplay that follows. Plus if you're enemies know you're loathe to kill, they will be slow to retaliate with death themselves.

    b). If you do decide to PK, at least try to give the other player a chance to escape and they should be aware you intend to kill them (give suspicious glances, draw weapons and threaten them, don't simply leap out of invisibility to "win" a fight). Its not fair to attack someone on FD when you know they're on SD and that the worst that might happen if your attack fails is that they SD you and leave you there then flee. They should know you planned to PK them at least so they can decide if they desire to return the favor.

    c). If you engage in PvP and leave some Near Death, or kill them but don't full loot. Its polite to make sure that wandering monsters don't finish off the poor Near Death guy. Its alright, even preferred despite the OOCness, make sure any near by monsters are dead and gone.

    d). Remember, PvP is a question of mechanics. If you engage in PvP, understand these mechanics. Realize people can transition faster than you, and may escape that way. Realize subdued characters remain subdued a certain length of time, after which they can get up to fight or drink potions. Realize there is no way to "kidnap" a player currently, or to properly enforce a "disguise", and there is no way for a player to enforce permadeath or even lengthy deaths (Although, the DMs do have a process for adjudicating situations where this comes up between players who can not agree between themselves). If you want to do anything outside the normal mechanics of NWN in PvP, you must get a DM to help with it. That DM should know what you want to have happen well enough in advance to be able to help too. This isn't an excuse to ignore someone has subdued your character and is emoting "put a sword point to Joe's throat" and jump up simply because the mechanical time limit wore out on subdual. I mean, he did subdue you and did put a sword to your throat.

    It needs an update, to say the least. The most recent post regarding PvP was a qoute from a player/ex-DM who achieved 'great things'. There is little to no perma-death. It has no clarifcation for players playing assassins. Half of it seems common practice, If the playerbase was really this immature regarding whats a dick move and what isn't, I really don't think theres hope for a more lenient policy anytime soon. What I am personally grieved about is public excecutions becoming a dying punishment, with the "exile" thing thrown out quite abit by NPCs. Exile would be good if the wilderness was a dangerous place and there weren't fifty towns a player can hang out in. Punishment? I think not.

    That said, at least we're not dealing with this.

    @Netheril:

    Player vs Player rules:

    PvP will be left to player's discretion but there must be in character build up if you are to engage in PvP. Killing a player without any reason or in character buildup is frowned upon. You must use common-sense when engaging in PvP and not to engage in such in front of NPCs and Guards if you are wanting to do this you must have a DM present. If you are wanting to Permadeath another player, you must have in character build up and a DM must be present. High levels going about pvping low levels will be frowned upon unless there is in character reasons for this to occur also a DM should be present for this.

    Respawning After a PvP Death: Since a DM must be present for a Perma Death situation, it is possible to respawn after your character has died from PvP. This return to the game world does not give you the right to charge your assaulter with murder, such actions are a form of metagaming at best. If you die from a PvP event and respawn, you have no memory of the death or who caused it ever IG. As for raises, if your party recovers your body IG and raises you IG then all knowledge is yours. However, if your body respawns in the local morgue upon you reloging into the game and your are THEN raised you still have no memory of who killed you. Please use common sense here and don't push this, it has caused some servers to implement policies where all PvP deaths are perma unless a DM says otherwise. We don't want to go down that path, don't create situations that cause it to be needed.

    Remember PvP should be enjoyable for both parties involved so please keep this in mind when engaging in PvP.

    If you think CoA was vague about whats right and whats wrong, take a gander at that. I suppose with its small community the NR policy can safetly rely on the discretion of its players, most if not all of them are ex-CoA, so they know whats generally accepted and whats not. But I believe you can give more freedom to players by being much more clear with your rules, if one can dispense with the vagueness and set out, in easy to follow guidelines that aren't like to be updated anytime soon coupled with a hardline stance on the consquences of not following them, I believe you could probably cut down your apparent 'griefing' problems. Let's look at (yes, I know, I'm such a efu faggot blah blah) EfU's policy.
    @EfU:

    If you initiate PvP, or even if you strongly suspect it's about to occur, send a DM message letting us know so we can watch.

    If you wish to engage in PvP in the direct presence of NPCs, you must request a DM and confirm that a DM is present. If we can respond, we will respond with either: "I'm here," or maybe by possessing the NPC and having them emote something.If you can not find a DM, try IRC. If you still can't find a DM, the PvP must not occur.

    PvP may occur out of sight of NPCs with no DM confirmation, but you must still send a message indicating it is happening. You may always respond to PvP that already is occuring in a way that your character sees fit, the responsibility for DM supervision is always on the player who initiates.

    Always set a target or opponent to hostile, or even their whole party or the whole server if you expect mass-PvP. Voice commands make this very easy and quick ("/c hostile all," "/c hostile ").

    If someone attacks you who is not hostile, you should still respond IC'ly although you should let us know afterwards or during so we can chastise, being attacked non-hostile is rarely sufficient grounds for a pause or retcon.

    Sparring and non-FD duels may occur in "arena" type areas even if NPCs are around with no DM confirmation, although you should still send a message alerting us to the spar, and getting DM possession if you think you'll need it.

    Although it is fine to lay in ambush near a transition, it is not acceptable to attack people directly as they transition in. You should wait until they have clearly loaded and are active.
    It is not acceptable to target level 2-3 characters with muggings, ritual sacrifices, random beatings, or other PvP. If conflict occurs, it is acceptable to engage in PvP if they have done something to earn it. The exception to this is monstrous and app'ed characters. It is legitimate to FD kill a subrace character (such as goblins, kobolds, tieflings, drow, duergar, aasimar, etc.) at any level just for being what they are, if that is in-character for your PC, and you follow the other PvP rules (such as possession, hostile, etc.)

    Traps should be used tastefully - they should not be stacked, and you should generally limit yourself to one direct damage trap and one disabling trap at a time. Exceptions may be possible, if so consult with a DM for situational use.

    Although PvP may occur in quest-areas if something happens to cause it, it is not acceptable to use the appeal of directly doing a specific quest as a lure to attract a character somewhere where they can be attacked - the exception to this rule is if you consult with a DM and have a DM's permission.

    If you're a member of a NPC faction, you may engage in PvP in that faction area even without a DM if absolutely necessary (you should still try to get one). This is mostly to address situations where the other character may even be metagaming the unpossessed NPCs by refusing to leave, etc. The intent is not to allow unsupervised assassinations, but rather standard faction-enforcement.

    If you have been subdued, you should remain on the ground until the PvP is resolved or until you have DM permission to get up. This includes situations where there is mass fighting going on, and you have been healed. If you have been subdued, you are down and should remain so regardless of any other situation. If, however, you've been attacked, and put into negative hitpoints, and then either recovered (or were healed) it is fine to get back up, run away, keep fighting, whatever.

    If you're pursuing a PC during PvP, and they escape to an area with NPCs, the PvP stops unless you have confirmation that a DM is possessing, regardless of who initiated the PvP.
    If you intend on engaging in PvP, you should make sure you can stay logged in for a while - logging out immediately after PvP that you initiated is poor form. Using exploits to avoid or win PvP (such as logging off, double-transitioning, whatever) is forbidden

    Using tells, or other OOC methods to coordinate PvP or get help is unacceptable

    IC cheating is fully acceptable from an OOC point of view, OOC cheating is never acceptable and will be handled OOC'ly Use your best judgement

    The DM team reserves the right to make any ruling we feel justified regarding any and all PvP situations

    Yes, I know what you're thinking, "But they also need a DM to be present!" You're right. It's not so different than ours, other than being more clearly defined, so why is it so effective for them? Because there is always at least one DM online at any given time.

    This brings me to my fourth and final point. Quality. I am of the belief that the quality of CoA has dipped. Sure, people can use the fancy little []'s and capital letters and make cute little emotes with their wuvable little familiars. But the [i]quality, the 'risk' factor of CoA is dying. We have factions left over from DMs who've left, gone inactive, or just don't log in anymore. We have half-baked, half-finished plots lingering around the server, forgotten at an awkward point. CoA lore is a mystery. You see how EfU keeps track of their players deeds, they have wagon-loads of refences to past Mayors, heroes, and villains, and they have a shit-load more of them than we do, maybe because they live and died on the edge. They logged in and stopped becoming Joe Blog and instead stepped into a character thrust into a world fraught with danger, intrigue and hope. You know how Thay looks after their players and lets them nurture their personal stories, fusing them with their events to make every quest as much about the character as it is about the Holy Flame of Whats-his-face that they're after? You know how CoA took that giant leap from "You guys stop relying on us DMs, you make your own stories, we'll help out." ? Well, I don't think its worked as well as you'd like. Our playerbase hasn't quite grasped the concept yet. The DM is still well and truly needed here. I've stalked the IRC channel of these other servers, they never have to beg for DM assistance, its already IG.

    "But, BG. We have our own lives as well. Until someone pays me xxxx amount of money per month, I'm afraid things are gonna be the same. Players should realize that they are their own storytellers." They sure do! And yes, everyone has a personal life, though I'm sure I'm not the only one who notices that everytime a new DM appears they get IG for about 2 hours and never seem to appear again, and yes, I understand that if you guys keep grabbing we players off the streets and pumping out new DMs they'd be less and less players to actually play the game! Too true! But, let me just give you an example of something, and I think it will sum up all my points quite well…
    @CoA:

    I log into a server. I am greeted by a static field with a deity chooser, an NPC who explains to me that Arabels a shithole and its free, and some chap who sells me some equipment. I'm told I got off a caravan. Okay. I rest, say I want to continue on and I am placed smack bang in the middle of East District. Hmm.. Now what, adventuring guild.. quests.. I can't seem to find anyone though, damn this server is big! Oh look, some fed ex quests. I guess I'll do them and wander around till I find someone to interact with.. Oop!.. He just ran past me, some kid named Debo. Hey look, a fellow elf.. He greets Celor with a nod. .. Ooh I wonder how he'll reply.. "hi".

    @EfU:

    I log into a server. I am greeted by an NPC who gives me a brief description of rules. There are tomes to either side with information on server history, the story up to that point, whats the current goings on. I continue and find myself with a couple of choices.. do I start as a survivor/ready-made resident or should I go with the mysterious ziggurat start? Hmm.. oh, a place for preludes that DMs can do for characters too, nice! Preludes help me alot in wanting to tell my story! I'll go with the mysterious ziggurat.. Whoa! An intro! Flashy lights! I'm smack bang in some barren wasteland.. theres an NPC who waves at me to come see him, was that a DM possessing him? Nope, its scripted! Hmm.. I'm following somesort of tutorial/story introduction.. oh wait, players! No, its an possessed NPC! He looks like.. a scavenger? Hmm.. I'll talk to him.. "If you survive kid, I'll see you in the village. Maybe we'll find some use for you." .. cool! I could play a scavenger like him! Hmm.. but theres some sort of rift between this group and the other, I must find that out. I'll go through the path he told me.. whoa.. whoa.. I'm getting visions of myself! I'm told all about this curse in a unique and engrossing way! Phew! I gotta make it through this dream and find this village! Then maybe I'll take up that NPCs offer…

    Nitpick, berate me, call me susan. Doesn't matter. I'm 100% behind a revivial for this server, but if I'm confronted with all these choices, what am I going to choose? Please, honest to God, let V5 really be something different.



  • Please note I am also a CoA fanboy, I have tried other servers and have always, always come back here.

    I think the worst thing CoA did was start talking about V5, honestly, like it's some golden sun rising in the distance that will burn away all the troubles and problems CoA has or reputedly has.

    I honestly don't think V5 will happen for a year, maybe even more than that, and after the gloss has washed off the same complaints will arise.

    I still think CoA needs more active DMs in game, running plots, using the myriad of NPCs in the game world and making things happen for players rather than just running DM quests where the same folk plod through it and then get handed out loot regardless of how well they have done.



  • I have tried and tried and tried…and cannot find anything I disagree with in the original post.

    Please please please spare some love for the poor aussie timezone?



  • I'd DM the quiet zones, if I was wanted.

    I think we need some sort of a mechanic to draw players toward each other. I like having a lot of places to visit on the server. I dislike being unable to find another player to interact with for hours on end. I'll make a suggestion thread, not to derail this one.



  • I see a lot of valid points here, a lot of things we as a team are addressing. I also see some that I really don't agree with and that I would certainly try to stay away from so that this server maintained an indentity.

    Firstly, the forums buisness. I do not like the style of the forums you exampled. I won't go into detail but as a team we decided we wanted clean, easy to read boards. This is an OOC world of forums, life is found IG.

    Secondly, your player count is all off. CoA has been getting low 30's to high 30's for about a month now. Last night, at the time these results were taken was a lul. It's a friday night! Maybe people are out raging. CoA isn't dying. The playerbase is not dwindling.

    Thirdly, DM's are coming IG more and more and we have a number of active ones who are all doing different things. A few of the active ones (Like myself) Are still very much in the learning phase of everything, and building our skills to properly to justice to the server. We can't quite do the epic server run plots but we are getting there I promise! (Well I am, Con isn't) I have failed to log in recently and not find a fellow DM smiling back at me. This week I have been logged in with 6 DM's at times. We almost out number the players!

    As I said, I think you have some good points here, some true points. But CoA is not at risk here of bottoming out and becoming stale. The discussions over v5 were premature perhaps but we are now driven and focused at getting things set up for players to enjoy and (Hopefully) address some of the problems we have now. V5 will certainly be exciting but it is important to enjoy the world we have now. Your control really is at a point where if you want the server to do something you probably could.

    A lot of these problems are actually created by players themselves (Shock horror!). I log in to say, 25 people. 10 are sitting in their HQ's chatting about elves. 8 are out questing with the same 2 or 3 people as they grind thier way to level 10. 3 are discussing the possibility of grinding to level 10 with thier level 2's. 2 are fed-exing. And then there are just 2 people standing in the sewers plotting evil master plan #1247! Where is everyone? Nowhere, people are getting a bit relaxed I think (Is this the downfall of the DM's?). People like doing what they know, with the people they know. I can't tell you how many times I have seen the same groups go off and quest together or adventure together. No one seems to want to meet new people, to possibly have a chat out in the market and see who else is interested. People have reverted to forum wars and bulletin messages hoping they will get everything done that way. This is literally what I have seen and it makes me a little jaded when I want to create fun for people but they don't seem to want to do any leg work. Half the excitement of CoA comes from meeting new people and discovering new characters but people pidgeon hole themselves with personality traits that don't warm to saying 'Hey, How you doing where you come from?'. I have never seen two people sit down and get to know each other in my entire time as a DM. (Granted that isn't long).

    How to fix this? I have never not enjoyed playing this server. It is about you (I know the OP requested more DM's input) and it is about enjoying interactions with new and exciting characters. It is about doing things you haven't done before and seeking out more difficult quests and journeys. It is about stopping in the street and having a talk, sharing a drink with a stranger. It is about honing characters to include development and depth. It is about taking risks and testing your own boundries of RP. Enjoy the game, enjoy the players and the DM's will ensure you enjoy your time!



  • I vritually agree with all of the post right above (CoA is still great that is). I am well aware of that I am a medium good RPer at best and I much admire the Amelias Kennans, Michas, Gios, Aschcrofts, Alysias and many more out there that fills the air around them with atmosphere. I do however have a few observations.

    One way of curing the quest grinding is for a DM to drop the Spawn bomb on the grinding pary and thereby counter the xp harvest from the quests, but my experience is that it only works towards a we vs. them attitude. Granted that this sometimes are a feelinng that is expressed even when DMs clearly just make a scripted quest more interesting by tweaking it somewhat and adding some needed power to the monsters as the party doing the quest is opitmized.

    I have three main points of making everything more fun, two for palyers and one for DMs:

    DM: Grant massive bonus to those building intrigue and story in game by communicating with various characters (i.e. not getting xp at all from any kill doing it). At the moment there is rather small grant of xp normally when you do what DMs like (in y experience). It works well as a pat on the shoulder and shows that you are on the right track (much appreciated).

    With massive bonus I mean a level or two (at one grant) to those DMs find and push their plot forward (whether they notice from rumors or from first hand witnessing). Someone spending a week of RL gaming bringing atmosphere to the server thourgh intrigue without actual questing (e.g. deceiving two factions to a war in the manner of "A few dollars more") could in my view easily get a level or two for it not even unsheathing the sword. I have never heard of this, so if this is indeed already in place (for reason of evny not broadcasted by DMs and players), good thing.

    Players: Your character is not you and you must not be hardest, coolest and best. I have only twice since my returing to the server seen weakness RP:ed. Someone actually RPing: trembles and speaks with a weak voice We are too weak, we must flee before it sees us!, or looks nervously around and whispers I do not dare do speak out against the Legion as I fear they will soon be the masters of us all. They have spies everywhere. (as opposed to sender contests in insults)

    To a large extent people tends to say: "I will crush you under my boot you weak elf!", or "My schedule is too tight so I must decline your request for aid" (OOC tell: You are mad, that quest is insane!!!). The latter situation could be appropriately described with fear or actually tagging along and mid quest understand that we must RUN!!!!

    3 (connected to 2)

    Players: Be OOC courteus and offer IC ways to overcome you and to beat your plans. Instead of going into a room, get true seeing then locking the door to discuss important planse, standina corner of an Inn where a good rogue may spy on you.

    When you carry plot items, take a frequent stroll ourside protected areas and speak of the item to toehrs so you may be overheard. Exemple in recent time was Gio walking into the enemy camp exposing himself for a trap.

    Spread the plot love!



  • I believe CoA would benefit from more DM's.

    I'd also like to see some kind of time limit on none server wide 'plots' and stories. after that time, wrap the thing up.



  • At the risk of offending anyone, the major problem with CoA at the moment is the server is devoid of what I’d call “movers/shakers”. Players/characters that make things happen, that push their own plots and agendas, get people involved whether in support or in opposition, and really gun for an outlandish or tantalising goal.

    Yes, active DMs weaving plots is vital but more than that you need a dozen or so players that encompass the above to bounce off each other and cause waves. CoA doesn’t have this at the moment and it makes for a very static and dull atmosphere.

    I love CoA, it’s been a horrible drug I can’t rid myself of for seven years. But more and more I feel less inclined to log in because I just don’t see the attraction of having a vibrant and challenging community anymore.



  • Firstly, the forums buisness. I do not like the style of the forums you exampled. I won't go into detail but as a team we decided we wanted clean, easy to read boards. This is an OOC world of forums, life is found IG.

    A fair enough point but my main argument was that a singular, well maintained site might be alot better to something than our current 'wiki system' in which anyone can edit, change, and thrown anything in really. There's alot one can learn from one example. The forums are irrevelevant, keep those clean for sure.

    Secondly, your player count is all off. CoA has been getting low 30's to high 30's for about a month now. Last night, at the time these results were taken was a lul. It's a friday night! Maybe people are out raging. CoA isn't dying. The playerbase is not dwindling.

    This is probably a question of where you live. At time of writing it was a Saturday, just after lunch. I might just have the unfortunate luck of bring active at the wrong times but I do stand by my averages. CoA might be getting low 30's to high 30's but EfU and Ravenloft are getting those high 40's and sometimes in R:POTM's case, high 50's and beyond. Also consider that almost a quarter of their respective playerbases are disgruntled former CoA players, some from years ago and some not so long ago. Whether one agrees with my averages or not, surely that says something?

    Thirdly, DM's are coming IG more and more and we have a number of active ones who are all doing different things. A few of the active ones (Like myself) Are still very much in the learning phase of everything, and building our skills to properly to justice to the server. We can't quite do the epic server run plots but we are getting there I promise! (Well I am, Con isn't) I have failed to log in recently and not find a fellow DM smiling back at me. This week I have been logged in with 6 DM's at times. We almost out number the players!

    If this is true, then I am very happy. It's a tangible effort and I applaud the DM base. However, there are complaints of desparity between the timezone of the bulk of DMs currently active and the players with the unfortunate case of only being able to log on during every other zone but that one. I'm also, surprisingly, noticing some American-based players not being able to find themselves a DM IG. West coast or east coast or mid-whatever I have no idea which side it is, but one is getting about as much attention as the Oz zoners. Theres also the case of DMs not wanting to touch other DMs factions/plots/NPCs even when the DM whom created these are quite clearly inactive, there is the argument that players should need a DM less and less but its not working and I'll go over that abit later.

    A lot of these problems are actually created by players themselves (Shock horror!). I log in to say, 25 people. 10 are sitting in their HQ's chatting about elves. 8 are out questing with the same 2 or 3 people as they grind thier way to level 10. 3 are discussing the possibility of grinding to level 10 with thier level 2's. 2 are fed-exing. And then there are just 2 people standing in the sewers plotting evil master plan #1247! Where is everyone? Nowhere, people are getting a bit relaxed I think (Is this the downfall of the DM's?). People like doing what they know, with the people they know. I can't tell you how many times I have seen the same groups go off and quest together or adventure together. No one seems to want to meet new people, to possibly have a chat out in the market and see who else is interested. People have reverted to forum wars and bulletin messages hoping they will get everything done that way. This is literally what I have seen and it makes me a little jaded when I want to create fun for people but they don't seem to want to do any leg work. Half the excitement of CoA comes from meeting new people and discovering new characters but people pidgeon hole themselves with personality traits that don't warm to saying 'Hey, How you doing where you come from?'. I have never seen two people sit down and get to know each other in my entire time as a DM. (Granted that isn't long).

    This is exactly my thoughts on the quality of CoA and its dip in recent years. There is no risk-factor anymore, you'd think with the way the rules are now people would be abit more open to taking risks, adventuring and making every time they log in a different experience than the last. I agree 100% the playerbase is relaxed. And I've noticed this to be the case whenever two or three big factions face off and disagree with eachother, theres tension but its otherwise nullified with the collective hand-holding what they know and ignoring what they don't. You never know people! That crazy loon sprouting his nonsense might be a plot your character can pursue!

    How to fix this? I have never not enjoyed playing this server. It is about you (I know the OP requested more DM's input) and it is about enjoying interactions with new and exciting characters. It is about doing things you haven't done before and seeking out more difficult quests and journeys. It is about stopping in the street and having a talk, sharing a drink with a stranger. It is about honing characters to include development and depth. It is about taking risks and testing your own boundries of RP. Enjoy the game, enjoy the players and the DM's will ensure you enjoy your time!

    Its been said countless times, hasn't it? The message is lost on the majority of the playerbase. The exploration of journeys and characters are replaced with questing cliques, there are players being ignored and some being regarded as 'too casual' to be of any importance. This is all player made. However, you've got PvP being a jumbled mess of conflicting DM opinions and no clear definition who can do what and where and you've got factions left looking for a DM to give them a boost. They're not looking for a DM to take over, they're looking for DMs to give their faction and their NPCs some life. I think in recent times, in an effort to put the players first, the DMs forgot that they have a myriad of interesting NPCs that give factions and plots a new lease on life by simplying being heard. When I ran a player faction, whenever our NPC member posted something, even if it was useless fluff, I felt a morale boost. I wanted to keep going and I wanted to feel like I really did have a say in the grand scheme of things. This is true for all factions/plots, big and small.



  • Sadly I find myself agreeing with lavish, the server feels sadly lacking in creativity and what plots are around seem to be kept very much in house or between factions. I feel the quality of player, character and idea is lower than it has been over recent years.

    I don't think this is going to change, not with V4 or V5. It's just not in the nature of people who play here to take risks any more, and that's a shame

    There seems to be the idea also that long lasting characters make good characters. I feel the server would be much more interesting of more people played shorter length concepts but went really balls to the wall with them, rather than playing a character for 9 months and getting stale.

    Stop with the big wide DM plots and listen more to what players want to do, rather than just have them going through the motions on DM quests and events that will pan out the same way regardless of what happens.



  • @21:

    There seems to be the idea also that long lasting characters make good characters. I feel the server would be much more interesting of more people played shorter length concepts but went really balls to the wall with them, rather than playing a character for 9 months and getting stale.

    Horses for courses. We need both Balls to the Wall characters who'll die in three weeks but burn bright, but we also need characters who develop, build slowly, and have time to gather other characters around them, like Kreswell did. Both are important and useful. They meet different needs for the server and serve the needs of different types of players.

    How on earth can you develop a faction like Kilgrave if you're dead inside three weeks? You cannot. We need these stable, long lived, but intriguing characterslike Q'larg, Kreswell and others.



  • Just thought I'd add this. If CoA is creativity starved, the server might look into giving the players more incentive to go outside their comfort zone and really make an effort with what they do with putting more of the servers history into the game world. For example, the villains Pyrat Pree, Raff Shadows, Kevan Bhaliir appear to be regarded as the servers most notorious villains. They were all played by Howland, EfU's founder. And I think they have overshadowed some really great Heroes/Villains in the past few years. Why don't we have paintings on walls of famous retainers, or statues of the same - convos on NPCs of other villians or heroes, maybe you can base little quests around famous items owned by previous characters? How about allowing multiple starts, preludes? Maybe an ending or two?

    Recognition breeds confidence, confidence sparks creativity, creativity gives life to the server.



  • I bet 95% of people that regard Pree/Raff/Kevan the super villains of CoA never once interacted with them, and probably came to CoA years after they were dead and gone. It’s putting the past on a pedestal, letting whispers become legend and legend become fact.

    Great characters have been played over the past five years, I’m sure great characters are being played now, and great characters have yet to even be conceived. What they need is support, DMs need to recognise these characters and move earth and heaven to facilitate them, players need to acknowledge it and get involved, join them or oppose them, great characters are great because they thrive under conflict and upon the crest of a wave. Doesn't happen if its neglected.



  • I'm proabably going to get flamed for saying this but I think some dms have the preconceived notion that only a certain group of players are able to "shake up the server" and as such they gives them more attention and goodies than the rest. While it's true there is an "elitist group" that accomplishes big things and brings fun to the server, the outsiders feal disanfranchised. Then again I see the logic of aiding the "elitist" as they bring more fun to the server. Perhaps i'm just paranoid and stupid which if it's the case than disregard everything i've said.



  • I'm in agreement with BG, and quite a few of the responses… except
    21_tonne and Stooge

    21... I dont think it matters if a character is long or short.
    There shouldnt be a notion that a character needs to be longlived to matter...
    yet, also... just because one is longlived does not mean it neccessarily is stale.
    What matters is what they do. (or, in these days of being able to do anything, try to do)

    Stooge....
    while I'm sure you didnt mean it that way... and indeed, you first phrase is "I see a lot of valid points here"
    overall.. it comes of like a knee-jerk defensive response.
    regarding playercount...
    I play (or used to) 10PM+ US ES, Thats prime time for the rest of US
    I havent seen low 30s in a year, except for when people crowd on to be unaffiliated hangers-on at some pre-announced event.
    It hovers from 8-20. Playercount is indeed dwindling. (I can't speak for the last 2 months)

    also...
    Part of your response was

    I log in to say, 25 people. 10 are sitting in their HQ's chatting about elves.
    8 are out questing with the same 2 or 3 people as they grind thier way to level 10.
    3 are discussing the possibility of grinding to level 10 with thier level 2's.
    2 are fed-exing.
    And then there are just 2 people standing in the sewers plotting evil master plan #1247!
    Where is everyone?"

    Hell. Why aren't you as a DM, first of all, kicking those 10 people out of the factions,
    and then maybe doing something interesting to get the grinders something to do to not be grinding.
    or maybe showing up in the sewers to try and prod the plootters into actual action?

    Well, thats what I disagreed with. All the rest I agree with... and I think COA is Stale and Dying.
    Too often what Stooge describes is whats going on. Its visible as a character also.
    Now... get your flamethrowers ready.. I know i'll be flamed... but it's because I still care that
    I'll be brutally honest from what's seen from my particular point of view:
    The above situation is the very reason COA is DYING.
    Factions dont do anything - or anything that non-faction people give a turd about.
    Theres nothing else to do, except grind or Sims.
    If you try and do anything else, it gets ignored.
    Unlike prior versions of the city, where "Factions" were powerful but did not "run everything", now they do.
    House Bhaliir/DeSchurr/Thond etc were really.... backdrop.
    Non-faction players could try and acomplish things.
    In the current setting, the factions are the be-all/end-all, so unless you are in one, you're ignored.

    People dont want to do leg work, because 99% of the time it goes nowhere, or gets vanished into a faction.

    I know you'll say that players are supposed to do stuff on their own.
    But even when we try and set things up, why bother? nothing will happen.
    Factions only "take" from non-faction characters and never include them.
    DMs utterly ignore non-faction people trying to arrange things. So why bother?
    Eventually you reach a point of not bothering anymore and letting things turn into COA Sims.
    Then you try once more, because you see a opportunity to make a huge difference...
    and due to the months it takes for the simplest thing to be arranged, nothing happens, because
    none of the dozen-odd people or multiple player factions you've gotten arranged into something even exist anymore.

    As far as the cause of this...I blame the extreme focus on factions, and the innate powerfulness of the factions.
    it sucks up player independence and DM attention.



  • Server needs more DMs yes…but its also hard having to take great players away from the server to make them...um..."great" cough DMs.
    Thats what I think is the rough part of CoA. The playerbase pool isn't wide or skilled enough to become DM's everytime off the bat. Nor are they gettin paid to have no life and deal with bitching all day errday. Kinda sucks...but gotta make do with what we have!

    Oh and Bable for DM 2012.



  • I feel some of what games said. Everyone has made some interesting points here. I know I've said this before in other threads but throwing a bone to players that aren't in factions and then playing a plot out in a reasonable amount of time (days or hours, not months or years) would really fire people up. Over the years I've pushed things on occasion. Sometimes I've followed the pushers as support. Universally the most heartburn on CoA that reaches my attention, is over not being able to get something your involved in moving - plugging away at it for weeks or months - then seeing someone else run off and finish it with little perceived effort. Half of the plots I've put effort into I still don't really know what in the heck happened to finish them. Mystery is all fine and dandy, but too much is too much. Someone a few threads back mentioned a lack of "movers and shakers". Moving things takes effort. Effort without reward doesn't last. Circumstances have conditioned some of the best movers and shakers to say "the hell with it" I know I certainly don't want to waist my time persuing something, only to see it dead end or get solved by one of the plot hoarding crowd. That being said, the movers and shakers still exist, they just need help, maybe a nudge once in a while. If there's something wrong with the server, it is the underlying smell of resentment that seems to be clinging to everything.



  • I'd like some more server-wide and engaging plots. Things that really shake up the city and affect everyone. Greencastle? Resolved by two factions and the only thing happening underway was the change of guards in east. Plague? Slums only and PCs were only infected by DMs, solved by one faction in one sweep.
    Clar Banda; server-wide, engaged everyone, impending doom, major changes ensued. That was a great plot which is the sort I'd like to see more of. Lyss: cultists, monsters, own faction, own magic (rad!), darkness, curses. Awesome plot, but shabby outcome. Tymora dies? Nothing really changes… Everything turns into X of Tyche instead.
    Any other large spanning plots were so obscure or lacking impact I don't even remember them. Or they were never resolved and forgotten.

    We need to try and do less things, and make the things we do bigger and better. Now its just 2000 small, obscure or vague plots with 2-3 stronger ones that are only concerning a few people/factions. Even this impending "war" doesnt make anyone care. How can that be?



  • What made people more interested in the civil war with the pheonix legion and cormyr as opposed to the current war?



  • @Gimpatronic:

    What made people more interested in the civil war with the pheonix legion and cormyr as opposed to the current war?

    I haven't been on, or been paying attention to IC forums (letters, bulletin board) so maybe there actually IS a war going on….
    I assume the "war" in question is Legion and Hart ?

    But up until recently, there has only been the expectation of a war... for.... for like forever.. and no one is taking sides, as someone has mentioned before.
    And even if someone did take sides, for example, the Gildeds were apparently very closely allied with the Legion, it didnt matter.
    they'd be welcome to come on along with Legion enemies because, hey they got sweet loot and can tank. (well, maybe they didnt have loot. I dunno. Its the idea)

    With the Phoenix and Cormyr... there were sides to be taken. and there was a actual war. Something happened.

    As far as I know, nothing has happened in Arabe timel in a long time, except some druids occassionaly get tattoed by the Legion, and some sherriffs confiscate stuff.
    No one sticks their neck out.


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