Beginners Guide to Layonara
This is it. You've found it. An online community of role players who play the game old-school, pen-and-paper style. "But wait? I thought this was a video game," you say. Well it is. And it isn't. Or rather, it's ever so much more.
Layonara is a place you come to create and explore stories in a sword-and-sorcery style fantasy world. And truly, that's the game: creating meaningful stories. The kind you'd like to tell and retell over again. The kind of stories that excite you, appall you, make you giddy, and ultimately invoke every other emotion somewhere along the way.
We're in the story-making business, and we've got a job for you. We need you to make the hero, the villain, the innocent bystander, and the reluctant soldier. We need you to give these characters life and make them believable. We need you to make characters that are integral parts of the stories that envelop Layonara. And we need you to role play those characters.
Tools to Create Our Stories
The next big important thing you need to know about Layonara is that this is a text-based game. You will read and write, read and write some more, then a lot more, and by the time you've made stories of your own here, you may discover your vocabulary has doubled in size. You'll probably be able to type a lot faster, too. Most of the writing takes place in game as dialogue between your character and another PC or NPC. And no, you don't need to be some sort of published novelist to have fun here. All you have to do is imagine what your character might say in a given situation, and that's what you write/type.
We use several tools in order to create our stories, to field our words. They include the Layonara Website and Forums, Layonara's Discord server, and of course the multiplayer version of Bioware's Neverwinter Nights video game client. Let's chat a little about each:
The Layonara Website and Forums
If your mind is where the story of your character starts for you, the Forums are where the story of your character starts for everyone else. Specifically, it starts with Character Submission. You can think of the character submission as a prelude or introduction to the first chapter of the character's life. Our Character Approvers will help you fit your character into the fabric of the world that is Layonara. In fact, this is where the game really begins. So take your time and dive into the finding out who your character is at the beginning of his/her life.
Our website will help you learn about the places and people in Layonara. You can give your character a history in the world and that history will help shape the character. This will give you a frame of reference for future role play. While you learn about our world, consider these questions: Who are the parents? Why did your character decide to become an adventurer? Who trained them to swing a sword or tame their spellweaving? These are the sorts of questions you want to consider when developing the first page or two of your character's story.
The forums aren't just for character creation, though. You can create your own journal to chronicle your character's story in the Character Development forums. You'll find that for many ongoing events / stories / campaigns / organizations, a forum exists for IC interaction. Our comunity has found many creative ways to use this resource to both show their originality and to illustrate more about their characters. Tavern scenes, quest discoveries, research and just idle sharing are just a sampling of what takes place IC. In other words, a great deal of role play takes place on the Forums.
Bioware's Neverwinter Nights (NWN) video game client provides a visual interface for the environment and character interactions, allowing for both a deeper sense of immersion in the world, as well as a means to play with people from around the world in real time. You will very quickly learn that the module is HUGE, with literally hundreds of areas to explore. Mostly, though, these areas serve as the backdrop for the ongoing stories in the world, from the Red Light goblin caves to Le'tennodin's Tomb under the Thunder Peaks. Each place in Layonara has a history - some long, some short - and you will have a chance to leave your character's mark in that history.
We've added dozens of systems to enrich the environment and role play. We've also provided a massive source of information regarding the mechanics of Neverwinter Nights right here on the Wiki, from the Feats list to a Glossary of commonly used terms. Any questions you may have regarding game play on the Neverwinter Nights client can be posted in the Ask A Gamemaster forums, and someone from our team will reply within the day, if not a few minutes.
Last but not least are the chat rooms of Discord. You can use Discord to get real-time responses from players and GMs (Gamemasters) alike. This is especially handy when you can't load up the Neverwinter Nights client for whatever reason but you want to role play an interaction between player characters that doesn't require combat or NPCs. You simply emote and dialogue just as if you were in the game client. You can also get support for any other questions or issues you may have through Discord.
Terms and Methods Used
Now that you know what tools you have to work with, let's talk about some of the terms and methods used in Layonara to create stories through role play. Layonara sees all kinds of players, from former/current PnP (pen-and-paper) players, to those that have only played video game RPGs (role-playing games), to those that have not played much or any of either. Maybe you haven't even played through the single player client of Neverwinter Nights. Or maybe you're wondering why you're even bothering to read this with the fifteen years of role playing you already have under your belt. Either way, Layonara is both for experienced players as well as people brand new to role playing, and we strive to utilize the mix of experience to teach the new players about story telling and role play in an interactive and safe environment. And if you haven't read the Role Players Guide to NWN, you should.
If you have any gaming experience at all, you have likely heard of the term GM, or Gamemaster (also called a DM, or Dungeonmaster). A Gamemaster is someone who plays the part of the world with which the player characters interact. Without a Gamemaster, the world would be a static, predictable, and rather boring place. The Gamemaster's job is to offer dynamic responses on behalf of the world, perhaps in the form of an NPC, to the words and deeds of the PCs. Here at Layonara, our GMs are integral parts of a Team that does more than just interact with players in the game, however. Our GMs act as administrators, designers, clerks, developers, and most spend time as players as well. On top of that, the GMs here also provide catalysts for the many stories created in Layonara. We call these GM-initiated stories Quests.
The Player Character, or PC for short, is the character played by you. It's not just your avatar; it's an entity much like the character from a book, with quirks and emotion, ambition and history. In fact, it's not you at all, but rather an entity controlled and given life by you, and while that inherently means at least some of who you are will be infused in your characters, your PC should not be you turned into a pointy-eared archer. When playing your PC, try to imagine what someone with your character's personality and background would do in response to a given situation; don't just have your PC do what you would do.
The Non-player Character, or NPC for short, is every other entity with some level of intelligence that roams around the world and in some way interacts with the PCs. NPCs are always present and outnumber the PCs a million to one. NPCs are as unique in personality and goals as any PC might be, so don't just assume they will respond favorably or predictably to your PCs actions. NPCs are usually given life by GMs, as they are part of the world that the GM represents, part of the world with which your PC interacts. The king whose castle you defended is an NPC, and so is the yawning cat who won't stop sneaking into your PCs house at night.
Quests are the bread and butter of Layonara. The most intense action, the most heart wrenching tragedies, the absolutely hilarious moments, and the most world-changing actions occur during quests. In many ways, the whole game of Layonara is centered around quests, and those things that are done outside of quests often happen solely to affect something happening or something that will happen on a quest. So what exactly is a quest? A quest is a story centered around a given conflict. A GM provides the conflict as the catalyst for the story, and it is through resolving this conflict that the story unfolds. The unique characters involved, PCs and NPCs alike, determine the course of action that leads to the resolution. Quests are therefore dynamic and fluid, meaning that the end of the story is not determined from the beginning, but rather through the overall set of choices made by the participating group of PCs. The best quests present you and your character with tough choices that challenge who the character believes he/she is and who you believe your character to be.
You can find new and ongoing quest series on the GM Calendar. Note the start time, as we have GMs from around the world, and what may be 10:00 (10AM) for him/her could be 4:00 (4AM) for you. Also, players are granted experience (XP) simply for participating in quests. The experience granted is based on level (a standard amount) and participation (subjective according to the GMs observation of your role play). This means that regular participation in quests guarantees character advancement in worldly recognition, in mechanical ability and level, and in personal goals. Quests typically last anywhere from two to five hours, with the average being somewhere closer to four hours. Most players schedule to be part of one or two quests a week.
A particularly long series of quests is often referred to as a Campaign. Campaigns usually last for at least a year, and tell an over-arching story in an episodic manner via the quests. Playing a campaign quest on a weekly basis can be compared to watching your favorite television series each week, except that you get to make a difference in how the story goes.
Through interactions and experiences in the world, your character will find himself/herself advancing. There are several manners in which your character may advance, and you'll find that the most enjoyment comes from the natural sort of progression that occurs as you take your time in developing the story of your character rather than spending hours killing the same set of monsters over and over again. I mentioned earlier that this is a text-based game, and I have also reiterated that this game is about story creation. As such, it is not a game you can win or lose in the traditional sense. Yes, your character may defeat a monster, survive a grueling adventure, or rescue the damsel in distress, all of which might be labeled as "wins," but the story of Layonara doesn't end there. The world of Layonara is ongoing, and keeps moving and changing regardless of whether or not your character is in it or doing anything. In other words, this is not a game that you can "beat." There is no last level, no final boss that once defeated makes the world perfect. Layonara is a complicated world with thousands of factions and beliefs, not unlike our own. In fact, sometimes "losing" can be as much fun as winning when it comes to making an interesting and meaningful story. That said, let's outline some basic manners of advancement.
Mechanical advancement is likely the manner of advancement with which you are most familiar. It is represented by your character increasing in measured abilities and skills, such as strength or lock-picking. NWN handles this via the 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons (DnD) style of advancement, which includes growing in "levels" based on numerical experience point (XP) ceilings. Each new level your character reaches provides some manner of mechanical benefit, primarily based on the class/type of character he/she is. A fighter will gain more fighting skills, a wizard will gain more magic, and so on. One very important thing to note is that while mechanical advancement often comes as part of advancing your character's personal goals or advancing his/her position in society, gaining mechanical advancement does not also include gaining character or worldly advancement. What this means is that your mechanical level is not necessarily indicative of your character's rank in society or any amount of personal growth. For example, a 10th level character may be the mayor of a city, while a 40th level character might hardly be known in the world. When the Queen shows up in the city, she's going to visit with the 10 level Mayor, even though the 40th level character has mechanical abilities and skills that far outclass the 10th level character. If you want to be the ultimate warrior, you will eventually want to peak out mechanically, but if you want anyone to care that you're the ultimate warrior, you will want to spend more time developing who your character is and interacting with the world.
Also referred to as personal advancement or character development, this is represented by the beliefs, relationships, personality, and decisions of your character throughout his/her story. Choosing to join one kingdom over another, falling in love with the farmer's daughter, or having a mental breakdown after the loss of a dear friend are all examples of character advancement. These are the moments that shape the life of your character. These are the meaningful moments that make role play and this style of game so appealing, the same kind of appeal that draws you to your favorite book or movie.
This kind of advancement has to do with one's position in the world, and often involves one's social status. If character advancement has to do with how your character views himself/herself, then worldly advancement has to do with how the world (and all its various societies) views your character. How much political power your character wields, how well known he/she is, and the kind of respect your character engenders are all aspects of worldly advancement. A few examples of worldly advancement include becoming the captain of a ship, becoming the second-most famous pie-maker in the city, and founding a local merchant guild. You will definitively find some overlap of character and worldly advancement on occasion, as that personal decision to betray the Queen and join the side of the dragon because the Queen did not return your affection (character advancement) may have just landed you on the top of the most wanted criminal's list (worldly advancement).
You may already be able to see this, but the kind of mark your character leaves on the world primarily has to do with the latter two manners of advancement mentioned above, character and worldly advancement. However, sometimes one can't complete his/her personal and political goals without some level of mechanical advancement, whether that be advancing one's swordplay or developing better techniques to search for hidden objects. Quests provide the opportunity to gain advancement on all accounts, and at a balanced speed, so that you don't end up having the 30th level character that only five people in the world, PC or NPC, actually know.
That about sums it up! The Game of Layonara in a nutshell. The rest is a wild ride of danger, intrigue, magic, and mystery. Create your own character and help us write the story of Layonara. We guarantee you the memories made playing here will be unforgettable.