Blood of Dragons opened for beta on October 1st, 2006, and opened fully about a year later. By the time the beta started we had had George R. R. Martin’s approval for the game since 1998 and been working on it on and off for several years. Initially, we had had the (foolish!) notion of not opening until everything was completed. It turned out that two people working alone in a vacuum wasn’t a good way of completing a game and once we did open we found ourselves reworking many of our initial ideas. The CharGen was tweaked, the application process was streamlined (it was a beast to start with!), and so on.
Of course, once you open a game, the on-going maintenance may make it hard to continue developing things at a good pace. Especially when you’ve setup the game to be pretty maintenance-heavy and made much of that maintenance too intricate to easily be delegated.
We haven’t accomplished everything we wanted with the game. Its not perfect and there are definitely things that could be better. But we now see it as a perpetual work in progress and are determined to keep developing it. During the last year, we vastly improved the documentation available on the website in order to help the many new players who’ve found the game thanks to the rising prominence of the series. This year, we’ve been reviewing policies and working on code to enhance the social and political roleplay that we see as the primary focus of the game.
In addition to various shortcomings that we want to and hope to be able to address, we’ve always been very upfront about the fact that we know that certain decisions we’ve made for the game aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. If you don’t like consent games, you won’t like our game. If you don’t like a game that follows the canon history of the setting, you won’t like our game.
That said, there are some misconceptions about the game that we would like to address seeing as they were made public with the claim that they, in part, are based on information from current players. This would suggest that there are issues that need clarifying.
Admin and Staff are playing all the main Features on the game.
Feature characters, defined as characters mentioned in the published canon or the notes we have been given by George R.R. Martin, are never played as regular PCs on Blood of Dragons. This includes all the Targaryens—King Baelor, his sisters Princess Daena, Princess Rhaena and Princess Elaena, his uncle and Hand Prince Viserys, his cousins Prince Aegon, Prince Aemon and Princess Naerys—and so on.
They are treated as part of the setting rather than as individual characters, though Admin and Staff will occasionally make use of them via emits or as puppets when they are needed for certain scenes. Sometimes players are asked to help with such emits or with running such puppets. But Features are never regular characters and when Admin and Staff runs them in scenes it is as part of their duties.
The chief reason for this is that when we sought permission from GRRM to create the MUSH, we based our proposal on the permission that Robert Jordan had given to Wheel of Time games, in which he stipulated that his characters could not be used. Since we wanted to stay with the canon history of Westeros, we could not cut the characters out entirely, but we proposed using them as background characters rather than as regular player characters. Given that this was part of our original agreement with GRRM, that is how we have kept it.
Furthermore, since we are sticking to the known canon history—which includes details that, as of yet, only we know thanks to notes we have from GRRM—these characters have a rather more limited scope in terms of what they can do without risking changing history. Taken together with the sort of positions that most of the Features are in—king, Hand of the King, Kingsguard, etc—this makes them very poorly suited for day-to-day roleplay.
Which leads us to the next claim…
Everything is predetermined.
Quite simply, no. Yes, the broad strokes are. House Targaryen will remain in power, the Kings will die when they are supposed to die. But the fate of most individuals is entirely unknown and there is plenty of room for characters to take significant actions without there being a conflict with the known information.
That said, the more important a character is, the more the player of said character does have to be prepared to take some input from the Admin, to make sure things stay on course. However, in nearly six years of running the game, there have been exceedingly few occasions where players have had to receive such notes from us. Most events and plots on the game fall comfortably in the gaps between the known canonical history, and sometimes are even incorporated into the background of the historical events.
Additionally, we might add that one major reason for opening Dorne (or rather, Sunspear) was that we know very little about what happens there in the time period following the war. We have always encouraged players who know the setting but feel that the idea of the canon history—and perhaps also Baelor’s reign—are too stifling to give Dorne a go. There’s currently both a Martell prince and a Martell princess up for grabs for experienced players who are willing to really commit to getting things going in the area.
There’s no proper intriguing going on.
This would be a surprise to our players who spend a great deal of time intriguing against one another or in pursuit of advancement and influence. But we also have a lot of players who perhaps aren’t inclined to do so. And then we undoubtedly have players who feel it doesn’t work right on the game.
We’re not going to disagree with the notion that the court intrigues could be a bigger focus. We have probably not found a really good way of encouraging and supporting such roleplay. It was probably also a mistake to think it could work well without more coded support. Fortunately, we do have the structures built into the CharGen to support a couple of systems that we really think might change things up. Overall, it is definitely one of the main things we want to address about the game and we welcome players who want to work with us on identifying what is needed for the game to do better in this respect.
The application process is much too involved.
This, of course, is a question of your mileage may vary, but since opening the game we have revised and streamlined what first was a very cumbersome process into something fairly lean. If you request an Open character, you just need to answer two questions—Have you MUSHed? Have you read the books?—so that we can gauge what kind of assistance you might need.
Yes, if you request a Restricted or Limited character, you also need to send in a concept as well as logs (though we sometimes waive those in favour a probationary approval). How many games out there are entirely lacking in character concepts/positions that require more effort to be approved for than the most common character type?
Open characters are nobodies.
Open characters are above average (all PCs should be). Open characters can be members of great houses, they can be heirs to any house except the great houses, they can hold just about any position at court save for a Small Council position, they can be famed knights or beauties, they can be wealthy, and so on and so forth. Players have taken characters from almost nothing to holding an important royal office through their own effort and ingenuity.
Only friends of the Admin get to play anything but Open characters.
It is absolutely true that our initial policies stated that you had to be known to the Admin to be approved for certain character types. Those policies were revised years ago when we streamlined the much too cumbersome application process.
We have approved many Restricted characters for players that were brand new to the game as long as they had MUSHing experience and had read enough of the books. We have even approved a few Limited characters for such players, though we will admit that this has generally not gone very well and we now prefer to see applicants for Limited characters to come from within the playerbase. But we still leave open the possibility of a player new to the game starting out with a Limited character. The only original—not from the CDB—characters ever approved were also from players we did not know but who presented good concepts and had good levels of knowledge and experience (one of those characters, now an NPC, recently found his way into the Kingsguard).
The primary reason for our reservations about granting Limited characters to players new to the game is that many of them have the potential to greatly affect both other characters and the game as a whole. Again, because we do follow canon history, such players have to be very willing to work with the Admin and take a certain amount of direction from the Admin.
As we noted in discussing how much is (or rather, isn’t) predetermined on the game, the more important a character is, the less freedom they ultimately have. It is not a matter of these roles being scripted, but we really need to know that the players in those roles are on board with how the game is being run. This is hard to determine from an application.
Some final comments…
If there are any other questions about the game, anyone—not just current players—are more than welcome to contact us, whether on the game itself, on the forum or via email. We have always striven to be approachable and we really do welcome questions and concerns as well as constructive criticism; we just don’t promise to act on it because ultimately many aspects of how the game is run are integral to our vision of the game. But that vision has not gone unchanged since we started and we don’t expect it to stay static from now on either.
We also recommend the FAQ; we’ve recently updated a great many of the topics and made additional entries.