Written by: Breezie Noel & Vanatosis Arentire
Images by: Filipa Thespian
Fantasy role playing – the magical, medieval type – is very popular within Second Life, as it is throughout much of the gaming universe. If you love to wander in these worlds, or you’re simply curious about the genre, read on as I tell you about one of the finest role playing sims on the grid: Mystara.
Mystara is a fantasy role play sim where the magical, pagan world of the Fae and glorious dragons struggles to co-exist with the rising age of humankind. In this realm, many races, from human to dragon, struggle to carve out their living as the mistfolk fight to survive among these turbulent times of change. The realm is beautiful, well laid out, and intuitive, changing as the need arises to accommodate new story lines and staff-approved participant desires.
Although it may feel reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, Mystara’s creator and owner Annie Ibanez sets the record straight. “The visual aspect is inspired by a book called Lord of the Forest by Dawn Thompson. I’ve also drawn inspiration from many other worlds, mostly from books I’ve read, like Wraeththu, The Once and Future King, and Mists of Avalon.”
Not beholden to any one gaming convention, Mystara is instead a free form role playing sim that allows players a good bit of latitude with their characters. Ibanez notes, “We give players the freedom to really create their identity how they see fit. Some players pull from Forgotten Realms, others from WoW, Warhammer, D&D, books, real life lore… to me, defining or restricting this is less important than letting a player fully realize the identity of their dreams.”
Of course, by necessity there are some limitations. Do not expect to see an alien from space or a copyrighted character such as Tolkien’s Legolas; characters must stay within theme and common sense restraints. Annie and the Mystara staff have created a list of all the approved racial classes, which include Elves, Dragons, Wolves (Lycan), Humans, Merfolk, Demons, Drow, Greenskins (orcs, goblins, etc.), Mystfolk (fairies, fauns, and others), as well as an option for anything not covered by these main categories. As Annie says, “Mature, flexible, creative people will find no issues meshing with beasts and beings from all sorts of backgrounds, as long as they can be open minded and stick to the gameplay rules.”
Newcomers to Mystara will appreciate the sim’s welcome area. Sim guidelines, rules, and policies are prominently featured on a billboard at the entrance. The welcome area is easily accessible and offers everything needed to explore and role play in Mystara, from titlers to role play assistants and more. Potential players complete an application in which they describe the character they wish to create as well as how much time they expect to devote to role play. The application submission and approval process is generally easy and fast and is explained on the notecards in the welcome area. One of the realm Mentors created an optional questionnaire which helps less experienced players delve much deeper into the character creation process, if they wish.
Role players are just as serious about developing the look of their characters as they are about their personal stories. Although marketplaces are not allowed within Mystara, there is a “Stuff We Love” board in the entrance area that has a list of some of the retail stores whose products best suit the feel of the sim. Newer players will also appreciate the welcome area list of items necessary for effective role play.
The quality of role play in Mystara is top caliber. Although the owner and staff add elements from time to time, they keep it to a minimum, instead allowing Mystara players to direct the big picture, letting them create events and storylines. Players are encouraged to send staff messages or notecards with suggestions for future storylines. Ibanez explains, “Players’ personal plans are welcomed, certainly, and I try my best to support them in any way I can through notices, planning, props, and motivating player participation.”
Actual role play runs the gamut from single line role players to extensive “para” role players. Combat is a part of many players’ realm lives. In Mystara, players act out or use dice to determine battle outcomes. Metered combat is not allowed, avoiding the potential unfairness of differences in connection speed, compatibility, and other technical factors.
The diverse and intertwined storylines that many of the characters have created is truly amazing. Many of the world storylines have been derived from these interactions.
This delights Annie Ibanez. “The bottom line is that everyone is having fun. I created Mystara to share my sim with the rest of the world and give them a roleplay experience that I wasn’t finding elsewhere. My philosophy regarding high level storylines is to plan as little as possible and let the players take it where they may.”
The quality of Mystara is paramount to Ibanez, who is focused on continually improving the sim with upgrades and additions instead of adding another sim to the present one. Annie notes, “I have an almost superstitious attitude toward expanding into another sim. It’s kind of like a curse that sim owners whisper about. I don’t take the traffic we have here for granted at all. Tacking on another sim could dilute interaction and greatly disturb things.”
Annie also feels that Mystara isn’t ready for a cross-sim role play as of yet. While she will quickly admit that cross-play works in more established “old iron horse systems,” she would prefer that the sim be fully integrated before going this route.
Annie says, “Even our mythology – which is all up in my head – hasn’t been fully disseminated to the players yet. So I wouldn’t feel comfortable opening up inter-sim storylines until I’ve fully documented and disseminated our mythology to the world.”
Would I recommend Mystara’s role playing experience to our readers? The answer is a resounding yes. The sim is extremely well run. The owner, admin staff, and mentors are extremely approachable and will bend over backwards to help players. The entrance area is extremely well laid out with everything you need. The world of Mystara is beautiful. The role-play and story lines are top notch. The storylines seem to develop almost intuitively, meshing with others in a way that is highly enjoyable. Mystara, I believe, embodies what all fantasy sims should strive to be.