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The Allegiance Primer
Overview: Allegiance vs. Fellowship
An allegiance differs greatly from a fellowship. A fellowship is a group that lasts for a single adventuring session, potentially sharing experience points evenly, or not all, between its members. When you exit the game, you leave the fellowship. For more information on fellowships, see the in-game help, or read the article: "Coordinating a Fellowship."
Swearing allegiance puts you in a more permanent relationship with other characters. When you swear to a character, you become his or her "vassal" and that character becomes your "patron." Your patron may have other vassals and a patron of his or her own; therefore, you become part of an extended allegiance group until you break your allegiance to your patron, if ever.
What are the benefits of an allegiance? When a vassal earns experience points, he or she also generates extra points that are automatically passed up to his or her patron. In such a way, the patron may gain experience even while not playing! This does not mean that a vassal loses a portion of his or her earned experience; the extra experience generated is completely free. Furthermore, the allegiance system establishes a character's noble rank within the game, which determines some of the magic items he or she can use.
Each character in Asheron's Call can swear allegiance to one other character of equal or greater level, and a character can have a number of sworn vassals equal to his or her level, up to a maximum of 12.
Determining Allegiance Rank
Your allegiance rank will be the same as that of your highest-ranked vassal. However, if you have two or more vassals tied for highest rank, then your rank will be one higher than theirs. Let's say you're just starting out. Without any vassals, you have an allegiance rank of 1. You then recruit a vassal who also is allegiance rank 1. Your allegiance rank is still 1, because he's your highest-ranked vassal. If you recruit another vassal of rank 1, you'll have two vassals tied for highest rank, and your rank will then be 2. If those two vassals each recruit two vassals of allegiance rank 1, then they'll each become rank 2, and you'll advance to rank 3, and so on.
The number of vassals needed to gain each rank follows a geometric progression. The fewest number of underlings needed to gain each rank equals 2 to the power of that rank, minus 2: that is, 0 for rank 1, 2 for rank 2, 6 for rank 3, 14 for rank 4, etc. To promote someone to rank 10, which corresponds to the Aluvian title of "High King," would require the participation of no less than 1,022 characters! Note that however low in rank, the leader of an allegiance is called a monarch. If you have only one vassal of rank 1, you are a monarch, but you've got a long, long way to go to become High King!
Click here for a graphic representation of an Aluvian, Gharu'ndim, or Sho allegiance pyramid. Bear in mind that a character can (and probably will) have many more followers for a given rank than shown on the graphics, which represent the tightest-possible pyramids.
Implications of the Allegiance System
The experience points created by the allegiance relationship and the rank it secures a patron are valuable commodities. Someone will definitely want to buy your allegiance, and because being a vassal doesn't require any kind of maintenance on your part, you'll miss out if you don't sell to someone. By the same token, as the goal of the game is to gain power and influence, you'll miss out if you don't recruit your own vassals to gain rank and experience points. Know what you're getting and what you're giving up. If you break your first allegiance, you will have to pay experience points to swear again, so do not enter an allegiance casually.
Whether in the role of patron or vassal, you'll want to make sure that you ally with characters that will remain active in the game; otherwise they generate no extra resources for you. Beyond that, patrons and vassals will have separate agendas in an allegiance, as follows.
As a patron, your vassals will bring in experience points and improve your rank by recruiting vassals of their own; the number of experience points a vassal generates for you is determined by your Leadership score and the vassal's Loyalty score. Ideally you'll want to recruit vassals at or only slightly below your experience level who already have a sizeable train of followers and a high Loyalty, but such characters are rare. To entice players to train their Loyalty, recruit followers, and work harder at reaching a certain level, you may want to offer them such perks as magic items, treasure, and spell formulae.
If you want to be a hands-on patron and adventure with your followers, you'll probably want to recruit vassals with skills that compensate for your weaknesses. A magician may want a few warriors and healers, for instance, not only because they'll help him or her stay alive but also because they can attract other members of their class to the allegiance. However, unless you have incredibly loyal vassals of other classes who are willing to work hard satisfying their recruits, you may find it easier to build an allegiance dedicated to your class alone. If you have to procure information, supplies, and magic items for several characters of other classes, you'll quickly find yourself running errands all the time and without enough room in your pack for the magic items you might use yourself.
Note that a very low-level character may belong to a newbie player who will become dissatisfied with the character's performance and retire it. As such, some patrons require that their prospective vassals attain a certain level before they'll accept their pledge of allegiance.
Beware of choosing a relatively low-level character for a patron, because the person playing that character will be more likely to abandon it in favor of another character, leaving you without help. What's more, one of the most valuable gifts a patron can give you is information -- for example, spell formulae, advice on how to complete a quest, and the map coordinates to interesting wilderness and dungeon sites -- while a low-level character is likely to be both inexperienced and untraveled.
The most powerful patrons rarely enter the towns. The local dungeons no longer present them any challenges, so they roam far afield in search of adventure. You may, however, encounter a number of their vassals enjoying the comforts of civilization. Ask around to find out who the best monarchs are, and try to pledge allegiance as far up a monarch's command chain as possible so that you will advance more quickly in allegiance rank. Contact the monarch and ask what the highest open slots are in his or her allegiance.
Regardless of any other criteria, you'll definitely want a patron who can offer you useful knowledge and gifts. Magicians tend to seek patrons who can improve their magical knowledge and who maintain a large and varied store of spell components. A magician should demand a demonstration of a character's powers before pledging allegiance to him or her. Fighters will want magical weapons, and will be eager to take decent cast-offs from powerful veterans. Rogues and healers will likewise want patrons who carry around extra magical tools of their common trade.
Finally, a player looking for a patron should ask for an allegiance contract. Contact several candidates for your patron and get a piece of parchment from each one outlining the rewards for faithful service. Commit to the patron with the contract that suits you best. Remember that when an allegiance no longer serves your purposes, you can always break from it, taking all your vassals with you. If you've got ambitions to become a high-ranking monarch, you may find that first serving a tour with someone else's allegiance may be the best way of getting established.
Communicating with Your Allegiance
One advantage that allegiances share with fellowships is that they allow members to more easily communicate with each other. You can use the chat menu to set an option directing all your chat messages only to your vassals, your patron, or your monarch (who might, of course, also be your patron). You can also use the command /v, /p, or /m, followed by a comma, to likewise restrict your chat for the current message. For example, the following message would be sent to all your vassals: /v, I've got a flaming silver ken for the first of my subjects to meet me by the tree at grid coordinates 35.2N, 23.1E. Bear in mind that chatting with your vassals doesn't put you in communication with their vassals. If you want a message to reach the entire allegiance, make sure you follow up with distant superiors and underlings, because your message may not get passed on -- or may even become altered. For instance, if you tell your vassals that you are giving them 50,000 pyreals to give to their vassals, they may generously inform their vassals that they've received 5,000 and pocket the rest. Such are the hazards of court intrigue.
In addition, recent features now allow for allegiance monarchs, and their designated speakers, to broadcast allegiance-wide messages, as well as messages of the day displayed at login. Further information on these features can be found in the article: "Details of Allegiance Communication."
Putting together a good allegiance is a work of real creativity. The terms you offer your vassals to secure their service and motivate them can express a magnanimous nature or a diabolically cunning knack for management, either of which may appeal to people. However, you've got to write those terms down. Make a contract for your allegiance, and share it in the game world. For inspiration, you can view some sample contracts in the various allegiance sites listed in the Allegiance Hall. Good luck in your quest for power, fame, and camaraderie!