Wednesday, 12. March 2008 21:22:00, by Halari
Back in the olden days, before Avatar was called Avatar, my fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students rushed home from school each day to play a text-based game that involved creating characters and slaying
all manner of ordinary and extraordinary beings. They spent all their free time bunched up in the corner plotting and planning the afternoon's campaign. "I'll enchant your scalpel," they whispered.
"I'll trade you a cool sword for a silver bracer and one of those 'rings of holding' and we'll try to find Werith's Wayhouse." They had heated discussions of armor class and alignment, talked of mana, and hp, and passed around walking directions. I once confiscated a note being passed in class that said "4e 5s 16w".
Gradually I became aware that this was an *internet* game that involved interacting with strangers, many of them adult, all over the world and I became concerned. It was just the beginning of easy home access to the internet and I was worried about what they might be getting into, so I began to ask a few questions. They were delighted to talk about it, and soon invited me to join them online, so one fateful day *I* rushed home to log in with one of Tarzan's extra characters; the password was "murder", I should have known!
My first experience was awful: I didn't know what to do, it was a period of frozen screens and then text flying by so fast that even I could not read it. Moreover, I was on telnet and could not see what
I typed except as individual letters affixed to the ends of random lines of other people's type. I thought it was a practical joke, but Tarzan, a fourth grader, and Apeman, his older brother, assured me that it was not. They encouraged me to try again, and soon I made a character (Darii, a name generated by my daughter with D & D dice), and played with them. They were experts and I was a hapless newbie, which they loved. They lured me to the arena and attacked. They grouped me, and got me killed constantly, by randomly attacking anything in our paths, but they did have the grace to help me recover my gear most of the time. I wasn't a great player, but I had more than twenty students playing at that time and I was concerned about
their safety; that made it important that I be there.
One fateful day I arrived home late to find three dozen urgent emails alerting me to a disaster: one of my students had used bad words on channels and our entire isp, the only one in a thirty-mile radius, had been *banned*! They were distraught and ready to backstab their own classmate, who had sent me ten remorseful emails confessing his transgression.
Fortunately I had a daughter, home from college, who helped me telnet through her account to intercede. I was still quite a newbie at this time, with rusty typing skills and no knowledge of channels, so I stood in the old Aelmon, saying, "I think I need to see an immortal." At some point DaWiz saw me, talked to me, and transferred me to Snikt. I hadn't typed since college, almost 30 years ago, and Snikt was so impatient with my slow typing (he wasn't patient in his younger days, either!) that he called me on the phone. He was stunned
to know that a PRINCIPAL was playing on his mud, intrigued by the fact that I had so many proficient players who were so young, and that I had willingly followed them there.
Thus began a wonderful friendship, and my custodial care of younger players on Avatar. Snikt came to our school, accompanied by Mendek, to meet and play Magic with my students. The first Hogathon was run,
and played, from our school, with DaWiz connected to us by long-distance phone.
I've been here ever since, although most of my students are long gone. Two fifth graders got English credit for writing the Hundred Acre Wood area in my language arts class. They submitted it to Crom, who approved it, and DaWiz kindly did the coding part of it. Others wrote areas that have since been replaced. Most of them are now in or just going to college, one is at Yale, one at Harvard, some at Brown, Swarthmore, University of Chicago, Northwestern, and Caltech. One teacher who joined us (Tarzan, Apeman, and I) systematically wiping out waiters at Werith's, is now a visiting professor at MIT, and another still teaches with me at the school.
Naively, I had no idea that Snikt had his eye on me as a potential Immortal from the beginning: I was 50, female, and *not* a gamer in any sense of the word. I did understand that he'd performed some magic to allow me to log in after school, even when the game was "full". (It was a time when we had a daytime player limit, and I could never get home as quickly as the hordes of students who rushed home to log on.) One day I mentioned that I was now useless as a guardian to them because I couldn't connect until they'd logged off
to do homework; he typed a few magic letters and, behold!, I was never locked out again.
Ultimately I became a pretty good player. I grouped with more than a hundred different people on my way to hero, including the alts (unknown to me at the time) of Crom, Mega, Ironhand, DaWiz, and other
revered immortals. I constantly started new characters to accompany various new players, forgetting them and having to recreate them to help another. I am, to put it mildly, geographically-challenged, irl as well as here, and often play mages and clerics for their transport spells. I can walk, but I get lost constantly, having absolutely no sense of direction (ask Mendek, he may tell you some horror stories from rl.)
I was determined to do every single level legitimately, and it took me nine months to Hero, which was no wonder, as most of my time was spent talking to other players, untangling disasters, or helping in one way or another. I also continued to play with my students, who delighted in leading me into danger and laughing gleefully as I died repeatedly. I often had negative tnls, and re-equipped constantly. I was spelled up only by myself or groupmates, and often led groups lower than myself, despite my class (mage) and my tendency to get lost. I died a lot in Hell and in Underdark. Often.
At the end I was "helped' through the last two levels. A famous Imm grouped me with her hero, and got me killed twice. DaWiz grouped me with his alt, and got me killed. Snikt once dropped a fido right beside me, telling me to kill it. Forty-five minutes later he "forced" me to kill it, and I leveled. He'd tired of seeing me at 15 tnl for an entire week!
When I became an Immortal, my life actually changed very little. I did the same things I'd been doing for a year, standing in the meadow, just a few steps away from Nom. When I finally got an office, it was in the Tree of Knowledge, and was an exact description of my rl kitchen, including my faithful dog, Max. I have not become a computer whiz, I don't code or write areas, although I did write Mudschool.
My job is to deal with the interpersonal parts of Avatar, watching over young players, trying to keep language and manners civil and appropriate in public places, and protecting those who need protecting. I sometimes function as a mediator, and often have to use patience to deal with sticky situations. In addition, I do some education-related things, work with the Immortal staff, and act as an advisor to Snikt. My current goals are to continue to find excellent Imm candidates and perhaps complete the revisions of Mudschool
(having given up on my desire for the return of hunger and thirst) and write the next phase of mud education, the Tree School.