War had finally come to Freebooter Isle. The tropical fortress resounded with the shrieks of combatants, the cries of the wounded, and the ever-present hum of magical energy. Even as the keep's foundation stones shook with the magical energy unleashed by both besieging and defending forces, two men sat in the deepest subterranean fortress levels and enjoyed a quiet drink in the last few undisturbed moments they had.
The two men were old friends, comrades in a long-ago war on another world, and had not seen each other in years. Still, they seemed to be uninterested in making conversation or trading stories about their adventures, as was the usual conduct of two Aluvian veterans meeting over mugs of beer. Instead, they both seemed to be more curious about listening to, and analyzing, the sounds of battle that filtered down to them through the many passageways that led to the surface from this room.
There was one particularly deep, resounding boom from above, followed by a moment of silence. Then, rising above the piteous cries of the wounded and dying, there came the staccato beat of many boots, running down stone corridors.
The taller of the two men stood up and adjusted his weapon belt. He tipped his cap to his companion. “That'll be it, then,” he said. “The gate's gone, the flags will be up shortly I'm sure, and you'll soon have some new temporary business partners.”
The other man, still seated, nodded his head. “Aye, I'm sure they'll be down here soon enough, demanding to confiscate me stocks and expectin' the laird o' the castle treatment, just for clearin' the front yard of all that scaly trash.”
His companion shrugged melodramatically. “You could give it up, MacTavish. Just accept my offer. In the days to come, with so many people to play off against each other, there will be riches beyond even your greediest dreams. High risk, high reward, never boring. And you're guaranteed an equity position in the group, of course…”
“'Tis a tempting offer, old friend,” MacTavish said. “But I'm too old to get back into the game. Either that or I've gotten too soft here, working for the Shrouds. I'm content to leave the risk to the young bucks now and just take a percentage off what they bring in.” He stretched elaborately, popping and cracking a few joints as he did so, as if to punctuate his point about his advancing age.
“What a pity,” the other man said as he stepped away from the table. “I could have taught you the secrets to life and death, a secret known only to a handful of people on this odd, troubled world. Knowledge I haven't yet shared with any of my eager acolytes.”
MacTavish shook his head. “Even more reason to turn ye down. I've only just gotten used to the lifestones… I know me limits. I know I'm just a smuggler and a brigand, I know I've not got the courage or the craziness to take on such power. In truth, I wonder what that power will do to yer own head,” he said, chuckling lightly to try and take some of the sting or challenge out of his words. When he looked around, though, his friend was gone. Even with a smuggler's keen senses, he'd not heard the man depart.
All for the best, he reflected. He finished his beer. “Say hello to me cousins, when ye see them again,” he muttered to the darkness as he stood.There was a sound from the far end of the complex, the extended shriek of a great door moving on rusted hinges. That was followed shortly by the tromp of several boot heels as a small party entered the tunnels, presumably a delegation from the victorious conquerors of Freebooter Isle, coming to claim the entire island as their own.
Out of the dark corridors stepped a man and a woman, at the head of a column of soldiers in red and gold armor. The man was, by his form and bearing, an old warrior and a commander of soldiers. He was Gharu'ndim, and his age and scars marked him as a veteran of the Gharu'ndim resistance against the Viamontian invasions back on their home world of Ispar. He was dressed in elaborate plate armor, the color and ornamentation of which reflected his rank as a senior officer of his Society. The giant mace in his right hand still steamed from the blood and ichor of the Moarsmen he'd slain on his way to clearing the path into the fortress.
The woman was older, well into her elder years, and wearing a simple grey robe that carried not a hint of decoration or even a badge of rank. Even so, MacTavish recognized her as Nuhmudira, blood sorceress, former member of Queen Elysa's royal council. She was the warlord in charge of this group.She carried herself with the same kind of arrogant self-assurance and cold-eyed stare as that of his friend who'd just left walked… And no wonder, MacTavish thought, as they both had mastered the same secrets to life and death…
The old woman's gaze swept the room until it settled upon him. “You are the smuggler captain MacTavish?” she asked in an imperious voice that echoed the underground chamber.
“That's me, milady,” MacTavish nodded pleasantly. “I'll guess ye're the witch Nuhmudira that I've heard so much of.”
Nuhmudira gazed blankly at him, not even bothering to acknowledge his question, and pressed on with her own agenda. “Where is he?”
“Ye'll have to be more specific than that, milady. Where is who?” He was being more insolent than he strictly needed to be, and that was probably because he was still buoyed up by drinks with his famously arrogant and self-assured friend. He sat back down and leaned back in his chair, kicking his boot heels up on the table.
“You know exactly who I mean,” the woman hissed. “The assassin, Oswald! He was just in here, and he skulked out just before my troops could get down here to capture him. Don't try and lie to protect him, I can smell his stink still in this room.” She looked to the soldier who stood next to her.“General Tamiar, have your men secure the entire facility. I want no one leaving or entering without my warrant.”
The general bowed and turned to issue orders to the troops who'd entered behind them. Nuhmudira stepped forward to confront MacTavish, who was still lounging insolently in his chair. “Aye, me friend was down here. I see ye're already familiar with him. We were just downing a couple o' brews and talking about old times. We were in the wars together, back on Ispar, ye see.”
Nuhmudira sneered. “I know all about your war service with Oswald, knifing Viamontian scouts in the back as they marched throughout your benighted country of drunken ruffians and half-civilized brutes. I'm more interested in why you're treating with him now, placing yourself in a very precarious position with my own occupying forces here.”
MacTavish laughed. “Don't think to threaten me like that, lady,” he cautioned her. “I'm not some apprentice ye can order about and abuse. I've got me own backers who look out for me, and I imagine we've got some wares in our stocks that even yer own soldiers, well supplied as they must be, will find useful. So it wouldn't be in yer best interests to kill me and cut off yer supply of such rare and wonderful items…”
Nuhmudira stared down at the insolent smuggler with unconcealed contempt. “My people have given me a briefing on why it is we should tolerate your presence on this island, and they have even convinced me that you are too useful to kill outright. But I will suffer none of your insolence, and if I find even a hint that you are colluding with Oswald against me, I will bleed you on an altar and bribe your masters to forget the inconvenience.Because even they have a price, smuggler.”
The surety of her words and the dangerous gleam in her eyes made MacTavish sit up and adopt a slightly more polite posture. “Aye, I'll keep it respectful from here on out, milady,” he said. He was about to say more when there was a series of explosions from outside and a rumble that shook the walls of the underground redoubt. Shouted commands rang out from the corridors as Nuhmudira's soldiers ran back to the surface, alerting each other to the presence of another group of invaders on Freebooter Isle. The old woman barked a couple of commands at the soldiers nearest her, preparing to head back up herself.
MacTavish smiled broadly as he addressed Nuhmudira again. “As I was saying, I'll be respectful from here on out, and I look forward to a mutually beneficial arrangement between yer Society and the trade consortium who backs me… Provided ye can hold the island against yer own competition, milady. Looks like there's someone out there taking issue with yer plans for domination. Worry not though, I'll be here, ready to do business… with whoever comes back down the corridor.”
Furious, Nuhmudira trudged back up the tunnels to organize the defense of the keep, even as the smuggler captain's laughter echoed bitterly in her ears.
The sun set red over Ayan Baqur. On the southern hill of the city, overlooking the coast, an old man and his nephew sat, cross-legged, and watched the western sky. Each bore the dust and dirt of a long day on the trail, but only one of them wore the grime in comfort. Aliester the Loquacious, one of the pre-eminent Isparian scholars of Dereth, was busily dusting off his new traveling boots and complaining under his breath about how dirty they'd gotten.
His nephew, Ardry, smiled indulgently as his uncle fretted about the boots. “Those boots were made to trek through mud and dust, Uncle,” he said.
“Maybe the boots are tougher, or at the very least, of a sturdier construction than your dear old uncle,” Aliester sighed mournfully. He removed one boot and shook a small pebble out of it.
Ardry laughed. “I think you're tougher than you think, Uncle.” He opened his pack and produced a glass bottle of an amber-colored liquor. “But here's something to cheer you up.” He turned the bottle in the light so its label was visible to his elderly uncle's eyes.
“Pwyll's moldering undergarments! A bottle of Teakston's Peculiarly Old Hundred-Year Firewater? Where did you turn up such a singular treasure? I haven't seen one of these magnificent specimens of the distillers' craft since before we left Ispar!” Aliester grabbed the bottle from his hands and cradled it like a newborn baby.
Ardry sat back and sighed in satisfaction. “I've been saving it, Uncle. For the entire time we've been on Dereth. I packed it with me when I came through the portal, and it was practically the only thing that survived the journey with me. Today just seemed like the right day to dig it out of the cache behind your cottage where I buried it all those years ago.”
Aliester looked around warily, scanning to see if anyone was nearby. “We don't have to tell cousin Ulgrim about this. Such a noble distillation…” he smacked his lips in anticipatory bliss. “Yes, I am quite sure our stout-swilling cousin would not appreciate this as he should. There are… earthy undertones and smoky notes that would be lost on his beer-addled palate.” Then he gave the younger man a sly look. “Your resourcefulness never ceases to surprise me, Ardry.”
“I know, Uncle,” Ardry said, looking at his uncle with a smug grin of his own. “I know.”
Halfway across the continent, in a crypt somewhere beneath the great inland A'mun Desert, a very different pair convened to engage in a different sort of recollection.
Lady Aerfalle, the mistress of Aerlinthe Island and one of the eminent remaining nobles of the ancient undead kingdom of Dericost, poured clear water into a silver scrying bowl. Her companion, sometime lover and co-conspirator, Lord Rytheran of Menilesh, watched her through bony eye sockets that glowed a baleful red. When Aerfalle was done pouring, she stood over the scrying bowl and took both of Rytheran's bony hands in hers, so their arms formed a circle around the bowl.
Softly, she crooned in a language that had not been spoken by living beings in ten thousand years and the bowl began to glow silvery blue. She waved her hand over the bowl and a ripple moved across the surface of the water, mirroring her movements. The water in the bowl turned opaque and reflective like silvered glass, and an image formed on its surface…
Clearly the image that formed was displeasing to Lady Aerfalle. She hissed in rage when she saw what the picture revealed. “How did they hide those islands from us? We were the lords of this land, ancient in our power, before the Isparians were even building mud huts on their distant, ignorant world.”
Rytheran laughed bitterly. “We have always known that Killiakta is full of wonders, my lady. We should not be surprised that the island has deceived us, once again, or that it allowed the Isparians to steal a march on us. It cannot be a coincidence that the Falatacot-tainted witch was the first to send forces to those islands. For all we know, she could be in collusion with the Blight. Now that we have become aware of these events, we must strive to improve our position and take direct action against our foes. The world still bleeds, and the Living Darkness gorges on its blood. We cannot let the Yalain and the Isparians seize control of those nodes. They will make a mistake, as they always do, and the realm will be left defenseless to the depredations of that vile Falatacot beast.”
Aerfalle waved her hand over the bowl. The vision in the scrying bowl changed to a map of all of Dereth. She reached down and touched various points around the map, which glowed when she touched them. “The Yalain bide their time, and do not reveal the strength of their mortal levies. Isparians under the witch's banner have moved to take control of the nodes on the islands… here… And the witch herself is on this one!” She pointed excitedly at one of the islands on the map.
Rytheran leaned closer to the scryed image. “We will mount the first attack there, then. Send her howling back to her tentacled masters. We must not waste our forces in a strategy of piecemeal attacks. We must bring overwhelming strength to the first assault, and then consolidate our position there. It will be a position of strength from which we can strike at the other sites. Our Isparian proxies can prove themselves and earn great glory with such a conquest. And we will reward them richly for their leal service.”
Aerfalle sneered. “You place too much faith in such fragile creatures, my love. Since they arrived on this island, scurrying out of the Yalaini portals like rats through a hole in the wall, they have been nothing but a nuisance and an irritation.”
Rytheran shook his head. “You underestimate them. We always have. The Hopeslayer underestimated them, as did the Virin'di and the Burun. They are surprisingly effective, for such limited creatures. Now please, my lady, summon Warlord Gorthane to our audience chamber. I will give him his orders, and you can watch as he leads our minions against their mortal kin. I know how you enjoy watching them spill each other's blood.”
“It would keep me entertained for another ten thousand years,” Aerfalle murmured.
In a small cottage high in the southern mountains of Dereth, not far from the settlements where the Sho people of Ispar had first settled years ago, a wizened little woman entertained a pair of distinguished visitors in her one-room cottage. She bustled about with a platter of tea and sweet bean buns as the older of her visitors unrolled a thick, elaborately decorated parchment map on the brushed bamboo floor of the cottage.
Ben Ten pressed a mug of hot tea and a plate of pastries into the hands of both guests before settling down with her own refreshments to watch the movements on the map. “Very nicely done, Harlune” she cooed to the tall Empyrean mage as small pockets of color appeared, shifted, and disappeared on the map, in a manner that roughly corresponded to the movements of enemy soldiers. “And pretty too.”
Harlune shrugged dismissively and grunted. “It does the job. Enchanting the map to track the movements of our rival Societies was easier than anticipated, because of the rich magical fields of those two islands. And the Queen's cartographers do have a pleasing hand.”
Ben Ten sipped her tea and looked over the map. “It looks like the Blood has already claimed an island…” She smiled. “The woman moves decisively, I will give her that. Such is the prerogative of mortal creatures…”
Harlune snorted. “She's not a paragon of caution even among her own kind. She was always the most aggressive member of Elysa's council. Doesn't surprise me that she's the first to try and stake a claim. And we know how much she likes the smell of blood, so she'll think nothing of throwing away her soldiers' lives. Especially now, as we see the undead marshalling their own forces…” He turned to glance at the man who'd accompanied him here, a middle-aged Sho warrior dressed in ornate blue armor. “Well, Master Feng? What do you make of it?”
Master Feng Jinsun frowned as he stared at the map. “The others moved and committed themselves too quickly, precipitously. They have engaged on two fronts without securing their supply lines. I suspect also that they have neglected their foraging operations at the other locations… It is good that we had the foresight to recruit more foragers from the citizenry of the Dereth. I suggest we flood the hunting areas with our own foragers, to bolster our own stores and to deny them vital supplies, and send elite teams of scouts to keep the Blood and the Web bleeding each other. Make sure that neither side achieves real victory at either keep. Once they are sufficiently weakened, we can assess our options and proceed judiciously.”
Harlune met Ben Ten's eye and they nodded to each other. “Good. Let it be done. What will your part be, Master Feng?”
The old man smiled, revealing startlingly healthy teeth and a wolfish grin that made the gentle-souled Ben Ten take an involuntary step back. “I'll be going to Freebooter Isle with one of the scout detachments,” Master Feng announced, watching the dance of the colors on the map. “To… cause trouble.”
Back on the southern slopes of the hill by Ayan Baqur, Ardry and Aliester passed the bottle back and forth. They drank slowly, treating each sip like a treasure, savoring the depth and complexity of the rare and well-aged liquor. As the last rays of the sun dipped below the horizon, they found themselves pleasantly drunk and almost preternaturally happy and self-satisfied.
“Is a good life, Uncle,” Ardry announced, slurring his words slightly. “Been some tough times, maybe more for me than for you, but is a good life.”
“That it is, my boy. ‘M glad you came to Dereth to share in all our adventures. Must be said, must be said.” Aliester put a hand on his nephew's shoulder and squeezed him affectionately.
Their reverie was shattered by a voice barking out behind them, “Hey! Is that peat moss and oak-aged liquor I smell? I do believe that's the distinctive reek of the Old Hundred-Year Firewater!”
Ulgrim the Unpleasant, local sage and town drunk, stepped up to stand between them, glaring down at them both with his hands on his hips. “What's wrong you two? You conjure such a bottle out of nowhere and you don't even think to share it with your beloved cousin Ulgrim. I'll write a letter to your mothers, see if I don't!”
Ardry could only shake his head and smile fondly. “Have a seat, cousin. There's still plenty to share.” He passed Ulgrim the bottle of the hundred-year-old liquor and sat back, relaxed for once in his life on Dereth. “We been through a lot here. What d'you suppose the future brings?” he asked idly.
“Same thing it always brings, my boy,” Ulgrim answered, his voice uncharacteristically solemn. “Same thing the past brought us. Ancient powers, fighting ancient wars with new recruits.”
Greetings and welcome to the 100th content update for Asheron's Call! This is a special time for all of here at Turbine, having reached this most incredible milestone. With this update we wanted to make sure we did something special for the players. For the longest time, the one thing we have been asked for was an Elder Game system. So with this update, we are giving players the beginnings of that system. We are also giving our PvP players something to fight over, with two new PvP controllable towns.
The entire staff here at Turbine is proud to be able to release this update to our players as a small token of our appreciation for everyone who has heard the call over the years. So lets get in to all the new and exciting things coming this month in Asheron's Call!
Societies are Coming!
A new faction system has been introduced with this update. Players wishing to join one of the three new Societies will speak with one of the Society Recruiters located in the capital cities of Dereth. The Celestial Hand will be in Hebian-to, the Eldrytch Web will be in Cragstone, and the Radiant Blood recruiter will be located in Zaikhal. Once players choose which society they wish to join, they will begin their journey with the initiate quests. The recruiters for each society will have all the details a player will need to make their choice as to which side to join. When a player completes the tasks set out by one of these recruiters, they will be well rewarded and then instructed on how to claim their rewards.
As part of this new system, some creatures will now be able to discern which faction you and they are a part of. NPC's who are part of your faction will not attack you, however if you get too close to those belonging to another faction, they will attack. These NPC's can and will also attack each other, if they come in contact.
Deception and Assess Person now have another use for players involved in the Faction system. All players who join a faction will display which faction they belong to in their description panel. Based on a skill check of Assess Person and Deception, some players may be able to “hide” which faction they are a part of. This ability can be particularly useful in conjunction with the new Land Control elements of the game.
PvP Land Control
Two new PK towns have been added to the game. The first of these towns is located just north of the Vesayen Isles, while the other town is located in Northern Osteth, near the top of the Dereth mainland. Each town will start out being held by a rogue faction of Moarsmen who will need to be defeated in order to gain control of the town. Players who want to control one of these towns will need to be player killers, however. Non-player killers will be able to fight the NPCs of the town, but will not be able to claim control of the town.
Each town will have three banners that a PK must gain control of in order to take the towns. Once all three of these banners are “controlled” by the same faction, the town will be owned by that faction thus granting access to the Black Market. This portal will only be useable by the members of the controlling Society.
The Black Markets are the provenance of the Shroud Cabals, unscrupulous humans who have allied with the Virindi to exploit the factional chaos sown by the three new Societies. Players may use the various Vendors and NPC's in the Black Markets to buy unique items. The Archmage and Shopkeep will also have some nice extra items unavailable elsewhere. Some of the items players will be able to purchase only in the Black markets will include XP gems which can be purchased for MMD's and level 8 dispel gems. There are some other items of high value that these vendors will sell as well.
New Loot Tier
A new tier of loot is now available to players. This new tier of loot will have a base wield requirement of level 150 and will have the potential to generate with level 8 spells and or Epic level cantrips. There will also be the chance that this new tier will be part of a greater set of armor. Pieces which are part of a loot generated set will have a base level 180 requirement in order for players to equip them. Spell components for the creation of level 8 spells will also be found in this new higher loot tier. This new level of loot will mainly be found as rewards from questing, but there will also be a chance for players to collect Mana Shards off some landscape creatures, which they can then use to purchase keys to gain access to this new tier of loot. In addition, we will be adding these keys to several of our older quests in the coming months, starting in September. Here is a breakdown of how players will get keys for the new tier of loot.
Get 10 Pristine Mana Shards via hunting.
Bring the 10 Shards to the Shard Collector within one of the three Mana Forges in Cragstone, Hebian-To and Zaikhal, and get a key.
Use key on the chest for the desired loot.
Hunting areas that Pristine Shards will be available:
Graveyard of Despair
Alternate key mechanics:
Society Rank Gateway Quests give Keys the first time they are completed.
Society Trade Tokens can be used to purchase Treasure Writs, which can be turned in for a Key once every 2 weeks
Level 8 Spells
Level 8 spells have been introduced into the game. To accommodate the desire of some players to have a research system in the game while at the same time accommodating others' lack of desire to participate in a research system, we have implemented a new system for learning level 8 spells. Players may obtain quills, inks, and glyphs from our new highest tier treasure profiles which may be used to craft spells. Quills may be combined with the new Mana Scarab item (which is also the casting scarab for level 8 spells) in order to craft infused quills. Infused quills may be crafted with inks to create a combination of the two. This combination may then be crafted with a glyph to create a level 8 scroll.
All components may also be traded or sold to a vendor, and the scrolls may likewise be traded or sold to a vendor. We anticipate that those who wish to participate in the system will enjoy it, while those who do not will be able to obtain the scrolls they need through trading. It should also be noted that not all spells exist at the level 8 tier – notably, we have elected not to implement Creature Other buffs, Life Other buffs, Life Other imperil and vulns, the self debuffs, and the item spell Defender. In addition, the Item spell Blood Drinker 8 will appear only on treasure and will not be available as a player-castable spell. If crafting something you expected to work fails, very likely the spell simply does not exist for level 8. You will not lose components upon failed crafting, and there is no skill associated with level 8 spell crafting, so feel free to experiment safely with the various components and see what you may accomplish!
A new landmass has appeared near the Vesayen Isles, known as Freebooter Isle. While many of the landscape features will look familiar to the region, many of the creatures that will appear on this new landmass will be changed in some way. Creatures on this island will also have a chance of dropping Mana Shards, which can be used to purchase keys for the new tier of loot. In order to gain access to this new island, players will need to join one of the new Societies.
There is a new Moarsman city that has been discovered. Players will need to discover how to access this new area.
The Graveyard has been expanded to help accommodate the number of players who will be hunting there for Society-related tasks.
So there are just some of the things we have in store for Asheron's Call in August. Please remember that along with everything listed here, there are several new quests and exciting things going into the game for the August event.
Okay, you seem to have a lot of commentary on the two capturable keeps, and a lot of questions. Let's see what I can do to address them. This will be long, so I'll break it into sections.
Keep Timers and Black Market Rewards:
First off, the now evidently infamous timers. The three day timer was put in place so that we could add quests, temp items, etc. to the Black Markets that would give a notable but temporary advantage to the Society that controlled one of the Black Markets. Unfortunately, many of the things we wanted to get in to the Markets for the 100th Update didn't make it in before we ran out of time. Some of them will make it in for September; some will make it in after that. Rest assured, however, that the value of holding a Keep will increase, so, to the Black Markets not yet being vital to own, my apologies. They will be getting better.
If I were to go in and change the mechanic so that a Keep could change hands at will, with the reward mechanics staying in as implemented or planned, the likeliest scenario you would see is the Societies trading the Keeps so that everyone had the items and rewards, thus eliminating the value of holding a keep at all.
At this point, we will discuss the possibility of changing the timers, but do realize, we will also then need to address the rewards going into the Black Markets, to make it worthwhile to hold a keep without creating a situation where the markets are simply traded back and forth with no need for conflict. This is not something we would create a hotfix to change quickly.
To address some of the suggestions where a Society gets dynamic benefits for the time they actually hold the Fort, and which fade as soon as the fort is lost. Such benefits are not supported by AC's existing tech, and will probably require an immense amount of Severlin's time to get working. We've debated such things, and they are still being investigated, but they are not simple to get in, and you sadly won't see them in the near future.
The actual Mechanic of the PK Keeps:
Right now, partly due to the tech limitations I had to design around, the keeps work basically thus:
1) The Keep starts in a neutral state.
2) A PK Member of one of the Societies 'claims' the neutral flags, turning them into flags for their Society.
2a) These 'Contested' banners are killable by PKs only.
3) Once all three Banner Locations have been set to the same Society for at least 5 minutes, that Society gains control of the town for the next 72 hours.
4) At the end of the 72 hours, the Keep reverts to neutral, and the process starts over.
Now, to some of the specifics, there are world broadcasts when a keep is taken, and several, at intervals, when a keep is about to fall to the Creeping Blight (The Moarsmen and Sclavus 'Society'). The Broadcast you saw when Northwatch Castle, which actually referred to both locations by name, was because the second keep, Freebooter Keep, was still held by the Creeping Blight.
A Society may only hold one Keep, so, once you figure out how to get access the second keep's location, 2 Societies can hold a keep, and one is out, at any given point. This was done because if one society could hold both Keeps, then everyone would indeed just join one Society, removing the entire point of adding the towns at all.
Something Dynamic to fight over:
There are actually plans to put in a place where control is held by ownership of a number of control points, and those points can be disrupted at any time. This, sadly, didn't make it in for the 100th update, but we are still planning on getting it in.
For those familiar with it, the mechanic will work in a similar fashion to LotRO's Delving of F'ror (Frore?), where the group owning the majority of the points will have access to a central area where you will find quest, rewards, and general advantages over everyone else. For those unfamiliar with LotRO, the basic mechanic is thus: There are a number of points, in their case, Keeps, filled with guards. Killing the boss of the Keep places the Keep under your side’s control. No timers, etc. Just kill the boss, claim the Keep. Whichever side holds the most Keeps gets access to the dungeon. The big differences being that there will be three sides fighting for the place, not two, and the control points and the central area you control may or may not have anything in common with LotRO's design. We're using the concept, not the place.
This will likely take a while to get working fully, now that we know most of the tech we need to get it up and running, so no definite timeline on when this is going in, but I'll tell Frelorn, so he can tell all of you, once we have a better idea.
All of the above being said, we will look into the timers and possibly changing them, but we will weigh that against the rewards planned for the Black Markets, so they will not likely drop into the really short-term range, like many have proposed.
I'll see if I can make it so that a single person can't claim all three Banners, so at least 3 people in the same Society need to get organized to claim a Keep.
Do you all think I should lengthen the time a banner needs to be claimed before a Keep is claimed? I set it to 5 minutes for all three Banners, figuring it would take about 30 minutes to successfully hold a town against people just gunning down your Banners before they gun down the competition, assuming even sides arriving for the fight. I can lengthen that timer to 10-15 minutes with all three held, but would that create a situation where the town sat in conflict for hours, until one side or more got bored and left?
Assuming we can't get in any rewards that are dynamic to the actual time the keep is held, and no benefits that effect the Society in an overarching way (Both of those would need a large amount of new tech to get in, so we won't be able to pull anything like that off for September/October), what rewards/things would you like to see in the Black Markets? What would make them more valuable to you? We have stuff planned for them, but more stuff never hurts.
To the suggestion of putting in an Allegiance-based version of Land Control, AC's tech doesn't support that, and it would take a great deal of additional tech to even get it to a basic state, so not any time soon, sorry.
The design of the Keeps and the fights therein is "fewer battles that are more epic." If the timer were short then the Black Market would change hands every hour or few hours as people got what they needed. The basic issue is the it is difficult to constantly defend something in an MMO simply because no one can be on all the time. Organizing when you strike will always have the advantage for that reason. So we want players to be able to predict when the Black Markets will become available and we want them to actually be infrequent enough that a whole bunch of players log in for that battle. Think of it as a auto-live event. If it happens more often it's not as epic.
With the Keeps the idea is that you *know* when you have to be on next so you can plan to defend and retake the Keep. We can't make it random unless all players can easily check the next battle time. (Players in other time zones having problems participating is a good point. Perhaps we could change the timer to an odd number so the battle rotates through various time zones?) If the timer was shorter I would worry that the Keep would become available too often for people to really be able to plan for it or care.
If you want constant battles for control on red worlds then fighting at the Foundaries is probably closer to your thing. Not only do you deny your opponent use of the chests but the mana shards and key are droppable and relatively high value so you can loot valuable shards/keys off your opponent. This was designed to give an actual reward for ganking people at the Foundaries and make that area very dangerous on red worlds. We envisioned fighting in the major cities to be more the constant skirmishes you are looking for. The PvPers know where people will be coming to, and they know they will be likely to be carrying valuable and droppable loot keys.
As for rewards, the Black Market will (as Kintani said) be upgraded with rewards on a three day timer. Each time your faction holds a Black Market you can access the cycle of rewards. We thought of a design where the Black Market would have some kind of dynamic buff that turned on and off as it switched hands but those types of buffs don't tend to be as valuable and it can be frustrating.
Picture this; you want to do Aerbax and want your society to gain the Keep buffs for that. In a situation where the Keeps have a high turn over I believe it would be frustrating to fight to grab the Keeps for this dynamic buff and have the Keep turn to another faction just as you are finished organizing and ready to fight him. In a short timer scenario like that we risk it soon becoming too annoying to bother taking the Black Market. If the Black Market has a short timer we also risk players not really having anything to lose by losing it. "Meh, let them take it, we'll grab it in two hours." We want each fight to feel more epic and have more to win or lose. We want it worth organizing over.
If by losing the Black Market you now lose an entire cycle of XP and treasure pull quests which themselves are on a 3 day timer then its worth fighting for and you can enjoy it for a little bit before you start organizing the next attack. Sev~