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Starting a Clan

by Shade of Nessalin

A clan, for the purpose of this article, is a virtual group of people found in an online game and bound together by relation or purpose. Players of these online games can find themselves as members of various clans which might be anything from a family of mushroom farmers to a large imperial army.
Ardveck Castle in Scotland

A place for clans to gather.

1. History/Origins

Defining the origins and history of the clan serves many purposes in an role playing environment. Most importantly it gives members of the clan a sense of belonging within the game world. It also lets the players feel that they're a part of an ongoing effort and have a shared past with the other people in the clan.

The history and origin of the clan can also provide a source for quest material. If there are unresolved problems or mysteries in the clan's past they can be drawn upon to be explored and resolved by the players.

2. Conflict with Environment

Conflict is generally the source of interaction on multiplayer games. The conflict doesn't have to be violent; it could be economic or competitive, such as a trade war or a race. Violent conflict does seem to be the most entertaining, however. By deciding early what the conflict is, there will always be a ready source of material for quests.

Conflict does not have to be with other people, either. It could be against the weather, a disease, or even a shortage of resources. On Armageddon there is always a shortage of water since it is a desert planet.

3. Relationship to Others (clans, races, houses, etc..)

Knowing the clan's relationship to others helps both clan administrators and members. It lets the clan members know how to act when meeting others. For example, "Does the clan get along well with elves?" If so, then they will know not to attack immediately if a bloodied elf shows up at their door with a sword - they would instead assume that he is there for help.

The benefit to the overall game is closely tied to this, which is that things are more consistent. People new to the clan will not blow this consistency out of ignorance. To an outsider this shows that the clan does share a set of common beliefs, customs, and temperament when they demonstrate like behaviors.

4. Define & Describe NPCs

Do this outside of the game in some form of documentation that only clan members have access to. There will not be time to animate every NPC that a clan member will meet in the course of their game play, but realistically they should get a feel for who the NPCs are and what they're like.

At the least, provide members with information about what the clan leaders and their inner circle look like and what their personalities are rumored to be. If nothing else they will at least recognize who they're dealing with when the time does come to role play with them.

Let the members know who the important people within their clan are ahead of time, not just as they meet them. If there's a wine- seller in their village/town/river basin that has been there for 40 years and sings loudly (and poorly) as part of every sale, then let the players know about it. This gives them inside information as part of being a clan member and makes them feel like a part of the team.

This is also great for generating quests - both by the clan administrators and members alike. Clan members may come up with an idea of their own that involves an NPC if they know who the NPCs are, and their likes/dis-likes.

5. Clan Goals

Setting the clan up with goals, both short and long term, provides a backdrop for everything else that takes place. Without goals the players will wander off and do things on their own, which is fine, but doesn't give any sense of unity to the clan.

When the clan has goals it also provides the individual players with easy answers about what their goals are. There is nothing more deadly to consistent role play than a character with no clear goals; they're likely to play against their character concept just for something to do.

What does the clan want in the short term? Food and water are common. Maybe transportation to a nearby city as part of a religious pilgrimage. Or even just to acquire 150 horses to raise their prestige among their rival clans.

What does the clan want in the long term? To take over a rival clan's grazing lands? To summon a powerful demon? Perhaps free their kin that have been enslaved by raiders, but at this point they don't even know who the raiders are.

Knowing such things gives the players a direction when deciding what to do and where to go. It also helps them define what their own goals are. Perhaps they decide that a relative of their was taken captive by the raiders. Or that they want to acquire the most horses so that as the clan's prestige increase, theirs will increase with it.

It is OK to have unachievable goals; a lot of entertaining fiction has them. Gilligan NEVER got off the damn island. Voyager will NEVER get home. Bruce Banner NEVER found a cure for his hulkinson's disease.

Once these five things are done you're ready to start recruiting people into the clan, or if you've already done that, to start letting them play. You will have everything that they need to make characters and everything you need to focus on actually running the clan instead of answering questions that the players should have known at creation time.

The Shade of Nessalin is an Overlord of Armageddon MUD, the oldest role play intensive MUD on the Net.