Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Everyone Hates Channelers!

Ok, so not everyone hates channelers. Everyone does, however, get tired of new players making channelers all the time. It’s not so much the fact that making a channeling character is bad. It’s really that so many people make them, and they don’t exactly always roleplay them very well.

The reality of creating a channeler is that it is really one of the hardest roles to play on the MUD. In the Wheel of Time setting, channelers are a very touchy subject ICly for people. For example, in the first book pretty much everyone in Rand’s village had a very strong and culturally driven view on Aes Sedai and channeling in general. Thus, it is natural to assume that our characters on the Sea of Storms would also have opinions formed by the fact channeling caused the end of the greatest age of the world. This means that not only do the players not like channelers, but that the NPCs of the world are also not overly fond of them… Everyone hates channelers!

So, what’s all this nonsense about people not roleplaying channelers very well? It's pretty simple really, there are a lot of common roleplay mistakes that lead to players approaching the character in a different way than is really logical. The first issue arises from the simple fact that in most cases the character wouldn’t want to be a channeler, but the player does. This gives rise to the cases of male channelers that are excited to be destined for insanity and death, as well as female channelers that don’t want to go to the Tower, because channeling is just too cool for school. While these character types are completely possible, albeit rare, the truth is almost every new player who makes a channeler falls into one of these two categories.

The second issue that comes up is absurdly knowledgeable characters. The kind of knowledge that an average character in the setting wouldn’t really have, but a player would. For example, most players will understand at least a little bit about subjects like (sa')angreal and ter'angreal from reading the books. However, almost every single person in the setting would have absolutely no clue what these were and would never have heard of them or even suspected that they existed. So we have the difference between player knowledge and character knowledge. This causes things like channeler level 0 people talking about angreals, knowing that a tingle means a female is channeling, and chatting to each other about what flows they’re skilled in as if they were trained in the Tower. This particular issue is annoying to me personally, mostly because it borders on a policy violation for using OOC information in an IC manner. I don’t really enjoy busting people, especially new players, for not understanding the role of a channeler very well. It’s not really their fault after all, the channeler is a harder character to understand and roleplay.

The third issue isn’t really the players fault, it's just something that becomes more and more noticeable over time. At certain points during the month, depending on the new player count and some other factors, we can expect the nonchanneler to channeler ratio to be like 1:2 or even 1:3. So with 10 people online, we can expect at least 6 of them to be channelers. The reason why this isn't a problem is the simple fact that people like to play this particular type of character, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that! Unfortunately, it means that the population imbalance becomes pretty noticeable. Channelers were a relatively small percentage of the population in the books after all. We've kicked around ideas like making the only options in creation random and non-channeler. That would certainly make things more realistic, but would also be a pretty big detractor from the 'fun' aspect of things (this is a game after all, right?). It's just food for thought to those of you who love to create channelers.

Despite these roleplay difficulties channelers provide a lot of benefits. They are good for players who like a little bit more solo play. They also have quite a bit of good roleplay potential. The channeling system on the Sea of Storms is pretty deep once you start delving into it. A channeler can easily spend a couple months reaching the second level of power, then several more months making themselves a force to be reckoned with. Some of our best roleplayers have been channelers. The concept allows for very in-depth roleplaying, along with some interesting interpersonal relationships with the non-channeler population.

Some of you may be asking yourselves, when is a good time to make a channeling character on the Sea of Storms? The answer is any time, as long as you understand the pitfalls of the character. If you’re not in the White Tower, then your female channeler won’t be to well liked by the NPCs of the world. If you’re a male channeler, then everyone and their mum will want you dead. A player should have an open mind about how they play their channeler and be willing to re-evaluate the approach they’re taking if someone offers advice. If a player can understand and accept these simple truths about playing a channeler, then they are well on their way to playing a great one.

On a side note, I’ve finally decided to write a how-to guide to roleplaying a channeler on the wiki. I hope that this will help new players and regulars alike enjoy their characters more. I also hope that this will prevent older players from seeing a bunch of misplayed channelers and deciding to off them!

- Jeshin

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