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View from the Vault - The Persistent World of Avlis


We've enjoyed Neverwinter Nights for eight years. I still remember the game when I first fired it up. Then I started reading the manual, looking under the hood, kicking the tires of the game. I decided to try the online option the game offered, and I still remember some of the names, some of the places. The City of Arabel was the first server I logged into. My poor old PC could barely manage to run the game properly, but it was severely tested by Arabel and the scores of people constantly logged on. I had to settle for a server with a population and ping that accommodated my situation, but I'll always remember one of the worlds I bypassed while looking for a smaller "neighborthood". Avlis.

I've played the game for years, managed and built a gameworld, and been part of the Vault now for years as well. All that time, Avlis has been one of the servers that was on my radar, and I was lucky enough to set up a visit with the staff to see what I had missed.

Avlis is a roleplaying gameworld set in a unique campaign setting that originated on a tabletop by the creator of the world Orleron. I think this itself is awesome. How many of us are experts in established lore for settings like the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance?That knowledge is typically based in a love of the setting and a prolonged exposure to it, but it also can create a jaded playing experience steeped in metagaming. With a new campaign setting you get to have the layers peeled back as you experience them, it's new and it's different. This experience has great merit! The campaign setting was rich and detailed enough that sourcebooks for the P&P version have been published.

Lead DM Spool32 showed me around and talked to me at length about the dedication the Avlis team has to maintain the gameworld for the community. Some of it was interesting, some of it was impressive, some of it was staggering, but all of it appears to be extremely well managed. This is not a group trying to build mountains before mole hills.

Avlis currently consists of 9 modules, linked together by portals. In the past, these modules were supported by different computers, but as technology has advanced Avlis is able to manage all of the modules on one machine. Think about that, 9 modules hosted for one world! How many areas would you think that would hold? Hundreds and hundreds? Think in the range of THREE THOUSAND areas. They have, depending on time of year and real life distractions, 6 or so builders that tend to the server. Nearly a score of DMs effort in different servers and time zones, brought into the ranks on a scaled system that limits their role as DM based on their experience in the role. Recently, the staff managed a server event that ran for 24 straight hours. Not 3 shifts of 8 hours with breaks, but a full day of an event. Tied into this event was a 6 month build by 7 developers to alter the landscape based on player actions. Some servers are built in 6 months, Avlis spent that long altering the server for one storyline. Sensing a common theme yet?

In game, the team has inserted many additions to the core system. They have utilized the PRC and have tweaked it to suit their needs, as well as over 200 new spells for casters. Factions, often an under utilized aspect of the toolset and in gameworlds, are used heavily. Players gain faction alignment based actions, and cause reactions from denizens of the realm. The 24 hour event mentioned previously involved an invasion of lizardmen which took over a town that was a large part of the server. They now populate the ravaged town, with players in alignment and in opposition to the takeover. Avlis welcomes players of evil alignment and offer a sprawling underdark realm for evil players to start in, with two of the modules tailored to help those inclined to despicable habits.

I regret having a catastrophic hard drive failure shortly after my visit, causing me to lose many notes and all my screenshots. I have no regrets about my visit. It opened my eyes, confirmed the worlds status in the scope of the game, it was great. This article is composed from memory and a few handwritten notes, which can testify to how memorable my visit to Avlis really was.

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