Earlier this month I paid a visit to the Mountains of the Moon, a Game of Thrones role-play region in Second Life. The region is linked with that of Maui West and Maui Central, wherein can be found Highgarden, the seat of House Tyrell. Given my love of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire – or Game of Thrones as it is perhaps now more widely known, thanks to the HBO series of the same name – I could hardly visit the one without also visiting the other. So today I made a journey to the rose-enfolded walls of Highgarden.
The arrival point is a small gazebo standing just outside the walls of the great fortress (although you can also reach Highgarden via the Game of Thrones Role-play Welcome Centre). Here you will be able to obtain background information on the setting for role-play within the sim, an “observer” tag (which you should wear if you are a casual visitor and wish to make it clear you are not actively engaged in role-play), and a wealth of additional information, including establishing a suitable character, historical information on House Tyrell, and information on how to address others when in character (a useful primer – even as an observer, it is polite to address others in-kind). Simply click the large image of Highgarden to receive the information pack.
Role-play here is set in the same period as Mountains of the Moon – before the seven kingdoms of Westros were “united” under the rule of Aegon Targaryen; this allows characters to move freely between the two regions, allowing full continuity of role-play.
As with the Mountains of the Moon, the visualisation here (created by Bandor Tyrell, otherwise known as Bandor Beningborough) is impressive. As depicted in the books, Highgarden sits on the Roseroad linking Oldtown on the coast with Kings Landing, as the road follows the broad river Mander. Like the Mountains of the Moon, sim extenders have been used to great effect here, particularly in reference to the creation of the Mander itself.
Details on the design and layout of Highgarden itself is not as well-defined within the books as somewhere like The Eyrie, and this tends to leave matters open to interpretation in terms of look and feel. Bandor Tyrell has opted for a look that has echoes of a romanticised Arthurian period (think BBC’s Merlin series, or Le Morte d’Arthur), with the castle having something of a French / German fortified château / schloss look combined with the more traditional curtain walls and round-towered gatehouses more often associated with medieval times. In this, the look of the castle reflects the high chivalric and romantic ideals personified by the Tyrells herein as well as presenting an environment entirely in keeping with G.R.R. Martin’s vision of Westeros as a whole.
Within the curtain walls sits a small town, complete with sept, bathhouse and housing for some of the members of the Game of Thrones Roleplay group. During the personal tour he kindly volunteered to give me, Bandor explained that the housing, when available, is offered free to group members. The town also continues beyond the walls, where the “small folk” – peasants and farmers to you and me – live and work and where the local brothel resides.
The brothel underlines the fact that role-play here mirrors the lifestyles found within the books; while outright nudity or public lewdness for the sake of it is not welcomed, role-play that remains true to the overall themes and ideals of Martin’s world is allowed (and sometimes encouraged!) and this can involve a degree of bawdy goings-on in some public spaces; hence the regions – as with Mountains of the Moon – are rated Adult.
This open nature of role-play here allows many other elements found within Martin’s novels to be played-out as well. Political intrigue, treachery, false alliances – all have their place and serve to make matters all the more – interesting – for those immersing themselves in the role-play.
The diverse richness of role-play is also reflected in the fact that combat – for honour or for sport (in the form of competitive melees or jousts) – is very much part of the events that take place at Highgarden – all of them handled in character. The castle also hosts dances, which are open to all, either in character or OOC, and which offer the curious the opportunity to sample Highgarden life in a more relaxed atmosphere than full-on role-play might allow, while at the same time offering an experience more immersive than might be obtained when visiting as a casual observer.
As with the Mountains of the Moon, there is much to explore and see here. You can witness the seven new gods of Westros in the sept, or sit under the spreading branches of the weirwood in the godswood and contemplate the old ways. If you prefer, you can explore the buildings of the town and wander the halls of the castle. If you are so minded, you can venture further afield and follow the Roseroad out into the wilderness – but be warned! There are both wolves and brigands wandering the woods and hills, neither of whom may take kindly to your explorations.
Highgarden has been put together with a lot of forethought in order to encourage the broadest possible GoT role-play, with the layout on both Maui Central and Maui West having been recently overhauled to enhance this. Together with The Mountains of the Moon, they are generating a significant amount of interest among GoT role-players. Both have certainly piqued my interest, and it is entirely possible I’ll be returning to both not only as a visitor – but also with a character backstory!