You win or you die 2: Highgarden

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.

Bandor Tyrell: Lord 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.

Highgarden

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 lists

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!

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You win or you die 1: Mountains of the Moon

Update December 1st, 2012: The Mountains of the Moon appears to have now closed

I am a huge fan of George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Ice and Fire, which is now perhaps more widely known as Game of Thrones due to the world-wide success of the HBO series, now commencing production of its third season. Over the last year or so, a number of role-play regions have been established within Second Life that are based on the world Martin has created in his novels, so I thought I’d start paying them a visit.

The Mountains of the Moon is one such region. Here you will find the city-port of Gulltown and the mountain-top fortress of House Arryn, The Eyrie. Whether you are into Game of Thrones related role-play or simply a fan of the books and series, it is a feast for the eyes.

Using the main landmark will bring you to the arrival point, 1500 above the region – and if you are making your first visit, I strongly recommend that you do start here; while visitors are always welcome, this is first and foremost a role-play sim, and it is best to familiarise yourself as to what is going on. On arrival, you’ll be given a short introductory notecard, and you can also take a copy of the map of Gulltown (texture), as well as collecting a suitable free outfit which will allow you to blend-in with things at ground level, if you haven’t anything suitably medieval-looking to wear in your inventory.

When you are ready, you can proceed through the doorways at the far end of the ruin in which you’re standing, where a large basket – which should be familiar to those who have read Martin’s descriptions of the Eyrie – is waiting to “lower” you to ground level. Also here is a further series of notecard givers which provide additional information – such as the setting for tales within the sim (several hundred years before the events of A Song of Ice and Fire, and prior to the unification of the seven kingdoms of Westeros under the  rule of Aegon Targaryen, with information drawn from the Westeros.org wiki), combat information, notes on central conflicts, and so on.

“After the cold, grey hostile waters of the Shivering Sea, it was with joy that we arrived at the port of Gulltown, where I looked upon the mighty walls of the fortress they call The Eyrie for the first time.”

Teleport to the ground via the waiting basket, and you find yourself on a ship, apparently newly arrived at the port of Gulltown, largest city in the Vale of Arryn, the stern walls of The Eyrie, fortress of House Arryn, dominating the landscape high atop the Giant’s Lance.

This is quite an amazing visualisation of both Gulltown and The Eyrie which has been put together by Alysanne Lejovy – or Alysanne Arryn, the Lady of House Arryn. The attention to detail is wonderful – right down to being able to ride a basket up the face of the Giant’s Lance to reach The Eyrie itself, the ride commencing, as in the books, from a point part-way up the mountain.

Sim extenders are used to create an authentic backdrop of the Mountains of the Moon…

The attention to detail is also much in evidence in the use of sim extenders which are used to convincingly create a stunning backdrop of the Mountains of the Moon, and to also create the Bay of Crabs leading out to the Narrow Sea beyond.

…and also of the waters of the Bay of Crabs and the Narrow Sea beyond

This is a place worth exploring carefully as there is a lot to see and take in, both on the ground and up inside the high walls of The Eyrie. If you are exploring, though, please (again) be aware of any role-play that may be going on; you’re not obliged to join in, but you may find yourself being treated as a participant; should this happen and you do not feel comfortable joining in, simply have a quick word with the person concerned via IM.

During my visit, I had a chat with Elduran Stormcrow – also known as Thane, a mountain clan leader (and one of the principals behind The Mountains of the Moon) – and he informed me that the sim has been open a month and the associated RP group now has over 150 members.

With direct teleport links to the house Tyrell at Highgarden and to the Game of Thrones Role-play Welcome Centre, Mountains of the Moon offers a fabulous means of exploring a part of George R.R. Martin’s mythical world and of joining in the adventures of the people who populate it.

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