This is the fourth installment of the Tales of an Omnipotent Public Servant (TOPS) series, written by a Dtoider at the behest of his fellow Dtoiders! If you missed out on previous episodes, you can always take a gander at TOPS -- Part 1, TOPS -- Part 2, and TOPS -- Part 3!
"Well, well, well! You must have a great hunger for gaming history if you have returned to me once again to be transported into the annals of Britannian lore, my welcome guest! I am happy to serve as your guide once more -- but even an ex-Game Master's services must always come at a price. Have you brought me a tribute? A token to remind us of that point in time so I can focus the required energies?
I don't believe it! A Koosh ball? You have done well, shrewd traveller. These relics once flooded the great halls of Origin Systems. It should be sufficient to summon the time portal to Ultima Online once again. Step inside the circle and brace yourself for visions from that ancient era -- the initial airing of Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- the deaths of Princess Di and the Notorious BIG -- Deep Blue defeating Gary Kasparov at chess for the first time. I remember this one instance when. . . "
My other car is a TARDIS.
The Fall of the Reservoir Sharks
Social structures often adhere to guidelines similar to the laws of physics. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Griefers used to make a habit of preying on the weak and naive on my servers. However, they weren't the only strong players out there. The group of griefers I referred to as the Reservoir Sharks in TOPS #3
finally discovered that you can only push a community so far before they finally begin to push back.
A group of players decided that enough was enough and that someone had to clean up the shard. They all created alternate characters and trained up their skills in secret. They never visited towns or interacted with anyone as their alternate characters. In a short period of time, a group of 8 players built up their characters into grandmaster mages, and hatched a plot to finally give the griefers a taste of their own medicine.
One evening, I get a page with a cryptic message from a character whose name I didn't recognize -- "Come and watch if you want to see true justice in action."
It being a slow evening and my curiosity aroused, I finished up the other pages in my queue and teleported invisibly over to the location of the paging character. I found myself outside the Britain bank, where a group of 8 players were milling around. They looked like utter newbies; half of them were in loincloths, while the rest were only slightly better equipped.
The players were asking passers-by for help in becoming strong fighters, basically begging for information and equipment. What I didn't know at the time was that they were the ultimate anti-griefers -- both the bait and the trap for the unwitting Reservoir Sharks.
Now witness the power of this fully functioning group of grandmaster mage vigilantes!
If you throw enough chum in the water, eventually the predators will show up. Like clockwork, Mr. Orange eventually sauntered up to the group and immediately pegged them for a bunch of marks. The motley avengers played along as Mr. Orange offered to "help them out" and proceeded to lead them out of town and through the wild to the Sharks' lair. Expecting a herd of lemmings, four Sharks lazily positioned themselves around the group and began to "welcome" their new members.
Knowing that the Sharks always struck shortly after saying "Welcome to the guild.", the motley avengers had the drop on the bad guys. Outnumbering the griefers two to one, the grandmaster mages, wearing nothing but their skivvies, unleashed a legendary barage of magical retribution and dropped the entire team of griefers in one fell swoop. They picked the bodies clean and stripped them of their most valuable possessions.
From that point on, whenever Mr. Orange plied his trade in the town squares, there was always a helpful samaritan or two in diapers willing to tag along or give the newbies a helpful word of advice. The motley avenger was right -- I got to see justice in action.
They didn't think their names through -- the Reservoir Dogs almost all die at the end.
The Iron Crisis of '97
Ultima Online wasn't just a game about adventuring and spellcasting. There were players who devoted their time to making their characters into artisans and smiths. Some of the best equipment in the game was not found, but rather crafted by grandmaster blacksmith players. In order to make these weapons, they required raw materials.
Miners would make the trip to the mountainous areas and bring back the raw metal ores required for the smiths to do their jobs. The smiths would pay handsomely for the convenience of avoiding dangerous travel and saving time to keep their smithing skills at grandmaster level so that they could charge top gold for their wares.
A properous economy developed between miners, smiths, and the adventurers who bought the final products. But human greed, as it is wont to do, eventually ruined the arrangement. The game placed a cap on how many resources could be harvested in a given time frame, and in one particular month the miners overworked all the rich deposits trying to score easy gold.
Panic struck. Miners were forced to charge more for fewer ores, which meant smiths had to charge more for their weapons and armor. Some adventurers who couldn't afford the top tier equipment took to attacking miners in the wild for their ore. Others were hired by miners as protection from these bandits. Eventually the resources reset and things returned to normal. Only this time everyone learned a lesson. You can have too much of a good thing.
You guys made Iron Giant cry, you jerkfaces.
Jester For Hire
One of the most interesting "professions" I ever encountered in UO was a character who rented himself out as a fool for hire. The only skills he had built up were in tailoring/dyeing, so he always had on an appropriately outrageous outfit. He would crack jokes, and keep adventurers company for an exorbitant fee.
I never understood why other players would pay such large sums of gold to have this guy along, so one night I tagged along to see what the big deal was. He did make funny jokes and spouted silly rhymes; well role-played and in an appropriately classic style. But that wasn't his value to his employers.
The fool's main job was to minesweep for adventurers. If a huge monster or player-killing griefer came onto the scene, the fool would spring into action. Like a medieval rodeo clown, he would run towards the danger until they targeted him and then run away, leaving a safe path for his employers to escape. Sometimes, he would run around in circles with some variety of enemy chasing him while the other player attacked the creature from behind. Very entertaining.
I had always heard it said that a fool and his money are soon parted, but Ultima Online proved to me that playing the clown can sometimes be as good as gold.
You try riding a manticore for 8 seconds!