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“A (Not-So-) Brief History for Travelers”

It’s just a game. Well, it was just a game. When I started playing Asheron’s Call a little over two years ago, that’s all I was after: A nice online RPG I could play with a few friends, to get a good look at this new-fangled (to me) gaming genre. The game’s backstory wasn’t exactly high on my priorities list. Hell, I wasn’t even aware that games’ stories extended beyond “here’s why you’re on this island; off you go”.

All that changed when I started looking into the background of AC. I don’t even remember what prompted it-I was probably looking up some reference or another in a monthly teaser, trying to figure out just what the !@#$ it was talking about. I got caught up on the relevant bits at the time pretty quickly-the Virindi, Martine, a few bits about the Shadow War everybody and his mule was raving about-and I started digging a bit deeper. That’s when I ran across “Fourth Sending of Darkness”, the summary of the Shadows/Bael’Zharon story arc.

Damn.

It was Bael’Zharon himself that jumped out at me the most. Because of the lore I’d already read, I knew a little about him; I knew he was the Shadows’ leader, that he was imprisoned for centuries (until we oh-so-capable Isparians let him out), and that he was just your all around Ultimate Evil. Reading his origin in so much detail, though, really opened my eyes to the character. Learning how Ilservian Palacost was so mistreated, how his people starved and his son died because of the prejudice of the Yalain, made the creature he would become seem less like a villain and more like a tragedy. Monster or not, I started to feel sorry for him. I was feeling pity for the AC equivalent of Satan, for crying out loud. That was the moment I “got” this game. Becoming inclined to feel emotion for a fictional character, I finally saw just how powerful, complex, and damn good a game’s storyline could be.

Since then, I’ve been a dedicated AC zealot. Through sites like Asheron’s Lore, AC Stratics, and some obscure site called (Warcry’s) Crossroads of Dereth, I learned the rest of AC’s lore-events so vivid and detailed they surpassed mere game backstory and come across more like history. Through the game itself (and to an extent, the above sites) I was, and am, able to see the new lore appear, develop, and conclude; however much or little I participate in major game events, I feel like I’m a part of this virtual world’s history. Along the way I was given another great opportunity to participate in that history: As a part of one of the websites chronicling it.

Which more ore less brings us to the present, and specifically to this column. Ophelea has been gracious enough to give me this platform from which to speak, and it’s my hope that through this column, I’ll be able to examine several aspects of AC’s lore, from the fascinating to the obscure. More importantly, though, I’d like to impart to readers (assuming anyone’s been able to endure this long) just how special and exceptional I think the lore as a whole is. This isn’t just a game; it’s a world. Our world.

It’s time to start exploring it.

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