Starting a Clan
by Shade of Nessalin
A clan, for the purpose of this article, is a virtual group
of people found in an online game and bound together by relation or
purpose. Players of these online games can find themselves as
members of various clans which might be anything from a family of
mushroom farmers to a large imperial army.
A place for clans to gather.
Defining the origins and history of the clan serves many
purposes in an role playing environment. Most importantly it gives members of the
clan a sense of belonging within the game world. It also lets the
players feel that they're a part of an ongoing effort and have a shared
past with the other people in the clan.
The history and origin of the clan can also provide a source for
quest material. If there are unresolved problems or mysteries in the
clan's past they can be drawn upon to be explored and resolved by the
2. Conflict with Environment
Conflict is generally the source of interaction on multiplayer
games. The conflict doesn't have to be violent; it could be economic or
competitive, such as a trade war or a race. Violent conflict does seem
to be the most entertaining, however. By deciding early what the
conflict is, there will always be a ready source of material for quests.
Conflict does not have to be with other people, either. It
could be against the weather, a disease, or even a shortage of
resources. On Armageddon there is always a shortage of water since it is
a desert planet.
3. Relationship to Others (clans, races, houses, etc..)
Knowing the clan's relationship to others helps both clan
administrators and members. It lets the clan members know how to act
when meeting others. For example, "Does the clan get along well with
elves?" If so, then they will know not to attack immediately if a
bloodied elf shows up at their door with a sword - they would instead
assume that he is there for help.
The benefit to the overall game is closely tied to this, which
is that things are more consistent. People new to the clan will not
blow this consistency out of ignorance. To an outsider this shows that
the clan does share a set of common beliefs, customs, and temperament
when they demonstrate like behaviors.
4. Define & Describe NPCs
Do this outside of the game in some form of documentation that
only clan members have access to. There will not be time to animate
every NPC that a clan member will meet in the course of their game play,
but realistically they should get a feel for who the NPCs are and what
At the least, provide members with information about what the
clan leaders and their inner circle look like and what their
personalities are rumored to be. If nothing else they will at least
recognize who they're dealing with when the time does come to role play
Let the members know who the important people within their clan
are ahead of time, not just as they meet them. If there's a wine-
seller in their village/town/river basin that has been there for 40
years and sings loudly (and poorly) as part of every sale, then let the
players know about it. This gives them inside information as part of
being a clan member and makes them feel like a part of the
This is also great for generating quests - both by the clan
administrators and members alike. Clan members may come up with an idea
of their own that involves an NPC if they know who the NPCs are, and
5. Clan Goals
Setting the clan up with goals, both short and long term,
provides a backdrop for everything else that takes place. Without goals
the players will wander off and do things on their own, which is
fine, but doesn't give any sense of unity to the clan.
When the clan has goals it also provides the individual players
with easy answers about what their goals are. There is nothing more
deadly to consistent role play than a character with no clear goals;
they're likely to play against their character concept just for
something to do.
What does the clan want in the short term? Food and water are
common. Maybe transportation to a nearby city as part of a religious
pilgrimage. Or even just to acquire 150 horses to raise their prestige
among their rival clans.
What does the clan want in the long term? To take over a rival
clan's grazing lands? To summon a powerful demon? Perhaps free their
kin that have been enslaved by raiders, but at this point they don't
even know who the raiders are.
Knowing such things gives the players a direction when deciding
what to do and where to go. It also helps them define what their own
goals are. Perhaps they decide that a relative of their was taken
captive by the raiders. Or that they want to acquire the most horses so
that as the clan's prestige increase, theirs will increase with it.
It is OK to have unachievable goals; a lot of entertaining
fiction has them. Gilligan NEVER got off the damn island. Voyager will
NEVER get home. Bruce Banner NEVER found a cure for his hulkinson's
Once these five things are done you're ready to start recruiting
people into the clan, or if you've already done that, to start letting
them play. You will have everything that they need to make characters
and everything you need to focus on actually running the clan instead
of answering questions that the players should have known at creation
April 2001 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
© Copyright Information