Yhorm: a stunning new role-play location in Second Life

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on FlickrYhorm, NeoShoda: the City of Vyhorm – click any image for full size

It stands like one might imagine Tolkien’s Minas Ithil might have looked before Gondor’s fading might failed it, and it fell into corruption as Minas Morgul. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, their flanks cold and hard, the old city of Vyhorm rises into the darkening sky, tier upon tier to a final crowning citadel.

Designed by Stark Osterham (of Insilico fame), the city forms a part of a new role-play environment – Yhorm – he is designing and building with his Second Life partner, Cailin Beorn. Although not officially opening until around mid-January 2017, Caitlyn and I had the opportunity to tour the city and the region thanks to our resident Sim Detective, Shakespeare (SkinnyNilla), who passed on news about the region. Our visit also gave me the chance to chat with Cailin and Stark about Yhorm.

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on FlickrYhorm, NeoShoda: the City of Vyhorm

“You are certainly a nerd!” Stark joked when I raised the Minas Ithil comparison. “Yeah, I had some sources that helped with inspiration!”

“It’s definitely Tolkien influenced,” Cailin added. “I’m a huge LOTR [Lord of the Rings] nerd! But this was originally a commission Stark took that fell through, and he’s such and incredible builder, I really went along with his creation.”

“The original design was for a city so large it goes out as far as you can see – but on a single sim,” Stark continued. “I said I’d try, but given the space available, it seemed more natural to go up rather than out, and we went from there.”

The city, and the vast cavern-state of Nurem beneath it, are to be the setting for role-play which brings together an interesting mix of flavours. “It’s a dark medieval fantasy,” Cailin said, “But with steampunk elements – flintlocks, airships, and things – here and there. Roughly, it’s about the curse and corruption which has befallen the old city, the lives of the people living within it, and those who can be found in Nurem. We have a backstory available for those who would like to read more.”

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on FlickrYhorm, NeoShoda: the City of Vyhorm

Vyhorm itself is massive and intricate. It – ans Nurem – are reached via a Welcome Centre landing point, which contains the expected elements for a role-play environment: rules, information on races and factions, etc. There are also two maps indicating the key locations within the city and in Nurem. Clicking on the names of these will teleport you directly to them – providing you accept the NeoShoda experience (which also facilities automatic teleport between Vyhorm and Nurem.

Covering almost the entire area of the region, the city is truly massive. It rises naturally on a series of rocky tiers from the great gates to the citadel of the Dark Chapel, separated from the world by high walls. Caught in a perpetual dusk, lights glitter and gleam from a myriad of windows – towers, houses, places of business – and the streets winding between walls and rock are lit by orbed lamps, their light reflecting off the heavy stone, illuminating doors and stairs, blood-red banners and alleyways.

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Yhorm, NeoShoda: Nurem

From the well of the great gates through to its upper reaches, this is a city designed to be defended whilst allowing plenty of room of occupation by its citizens. It rises through districts and areas each with its own unique character. Many of the buildings are shells at this point in time, but that will be changing.

“Long term plans is to expand into the buildings and make them into rentable homes or role-play locations,” Cailin told me. In the meantime, the public locations within the city’s heights provide plenty of scope for interaction: the arena, the public baths, the academy, the barrows, and topping it all, the Dark Chapel itself, wherein grows the fabled NightRoot.

Vyhorm is a realm enfolded in darkness and shadow, teetering on the brink of a long plunge into darkness as corruption steals through its streets and alleyways. By contrast, the cavern realm of Nurem (located on the ground level of the region) is a world of light and warmth. This is where the Hunters reside. Recruited from the Tuatha (which I believe is an elven race), they were once seen as the saviours of Vyhorm, but now they are feared by the people of the city, and allowed into it under sufferance.

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Yhorm, NeoShoda: Nurem

While it can be reached from the Welcome Centre, Nurem is connected to Vyhorm in two ways. The first is via the Cavern Gates – rocky arches seemingly leading into rough-hewn tunnels, but which are in fact teleport points allowing transit back and forth. The second is harder on the body – and strictly one way. “There is a large section in the heart of the city,” Cailin said. “If you fall into it, it will also drop you down into the cavern, as Nurem sits directly under Vyhorm.”

Like the city, Nurem spans the entire region, presenting a huge vista of rock and stone fingers rising from the watery floor of the cavern. Bridges span the air between these blunt needles of rock, linking the structures built upon them. These building offer an interesting mix of medieval  and industrial looks, while an airship adds a further juxtaposition between steampunk and fantasy.

Yhorm, NeoShoda; Inara Pey, December 2016, on Flickr Yhorm, NeoShoda: Nurem

Not all of the structures are in good repair; several – notably the central ones – lie in ruins, the bridges radiating outward from them also pitted, holed and broken. Might they have once been bombarded by the city high above? But more ruins rise from the flooded base of the cavern, suggesting some natural cataclysm may have befallen Nurem. Beneath the water lies a further realm of fish and creatures, further emphasising how Stark has made full use of the 3 dimensions presented by a region.

Given their involvement in Insilico and love of role-play, Cailin and Stark have brought a wealth of experience to Yhorm, so those wishing to join in with activities are liable to find things engaging and involved. For my part, I cannot get over the region build; “stunning” doesn’t adequately describe it. Yhorm is one of the most involved, intricate and spectacular designs for a role-play environment I’ve seen in a very long time – all the more so when you consider it is neatly packed into a single region. For the last three days I’ve been back and forth, exploring, climbing and looking, and remain utterly bewitched by its form and feel.

If only I were a capable role-player!

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My thanks to Cailin and Stark for their time, and to Shakespeare for the pointer. As noted in the article, Yhorm is on a “soft” opening now, with visitors welcome – but please note some things my be in a state of flux. An official opening is expected in January, please refer to the website for details.

Saturation in Second Life


“I’ve chosen to play on the definition of the word “saturation” to encapsulate two of my favourite recurring themes: colour and water,” Freyja Merryman says of her exhibition, Saturation, now open at the Paris METRO Art Gallery.

“I often find myself using the allegorical and transportive nature of water to reflect emotion. In a similar way, with the use of colour I hope to be able to convey, perhaps, an emotional and physical reaction. A visceral way to experience  the stories I try to tell. I hope you enjoy them.”


Within the gallery, which has been decorated to resemble a watery environment – both above and below the waves, given the colour scheme and overall setting – Freyja offers 14 avatar studies, all of which have been photographed in Second Life, then painted and finished in GIMP. All are striking, with all but two featuring water in some degree, and several incorporating that saturation of colour she mentions in her introduction.

But there is more here as well. Freyja notes that since entering Second Life in 2008, she’s become fascinated trying to recreate the enchanting symbolism of the myths and fairy story illustrations which have been an influence in her life since her childhood. Sometimes this has given rise to dark pieces, other times sensual, romantic or erotic pieces, all of which reflect Freyja’s Second life in some way.


Given this, it is hardly surprising that each of these 14 images carries within it a strong sense of narrative – far more than a single tale, but the feeling that were we to step into any one of them, we would find ourselves within an entire folk tale or legend. There is a sense of wonder with each of them which draws the observer to each in turn, even with Drowned I and Drowned II, which also seem to be experiments in light, colour and angle, whilst Drowned III, completing the trilogy, offers perhaps the most open door into the tale being told within them.

Facing these across the gallery space are three nude studies which I can only describe as utterly bewitching, whilst the magic continues upstairs with eight further pieces – and I challenge anyone not to be captivated by The Reflecting Pool.  A superb exhibition, and one not to be missed.

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