Taken at Maelstrom's final 2006 event, Matrimony

It’s been nearly six years since I started playing Maelstrom, and it ends this year. Between the sunstroke and the admin problems, I think I was quite lucky in getting my Out of Character “worst event” over with quite so quickly, and in the last six years every single aspect of the character save his player has changed quite dramatically (For starters, I rewrote the background from the one posted here before I sent it to PD, adding a lot more angst and a number of key hooks for character traits, most of which have now triggered).

The character is now a fairly well respected priest of the goddess of free thinking, which is a pretty good thing considering he started with none of this. His list of friends has waxed and waned over the years, but every time I think his story arc has finished, another thing appears. I’ve been plotting various characters on the expectation of his death over the years, but now I doubt I’ll play another character seriously in this campaign.

This event waxed and waned also. The four day easter event is an interesting set of challanges, being the first event of the season as well as the longest and, usually, the coldest. By going up on Thursday for the traditional day-before social gathering, I ended up sleeping in a tent in -4 temperatures. My camping gear isn’t top-level – I camp six weekends a year, almost always during summer, up from four until last year – but it wasn’t pleasant, and by Saturday night I was entirely fed up of life under canvas.

In character wasn’t a lot better. Site layout rendered most of my usual game complicated by long walks and difficult communication lines, and the weather and bleak feel of the game was causing a lot of people to – entirely rationally – give up and go home. By Sunday morning I had a deadline. I had enough cash to get a taxi to the station or I could get lunch, so now I had a Deadline.

I don’t think I like four day events, in general. Three day events tend towards a structure of  Prepare, Build, Execute, Repair of major plotlines, and the extra full day in the middle ends up being a bit vague, lessoning the critical timing. Sunday dialled that directly back up again, with an attack by the current leading army of “bad guys” on the main encampments, a glorious withdrawal and retreat, and a wonderful moment in character where I realised that the gate was being manned by two of my cousins casting spells to check for undead taint and me checking for soul symbols on their foreheads. Between minor revolutions in things he is a part of, and the tense battle of the last night, it had picked up again.

I will say I hate fighting an off-field enemy. One of the great things about Maelstrom is that almost everything there is is driven by players and characters. Even if you are fighting the monster crew in a variety of silly hats, you can be sure that the hats are looted from the city you saw razed in downtime, the monsters are never more numerous than you would have seen if you had spent your downtime looking for them; and for a long time the “bad guys” of the system have been “over there” in another encampment, rather than lumbering on from off-site. The wall and the palisade turned an epic player campaign into a Tower Defence game where the only people who got to play were the ones who ran the gatehouse.

I’m used to having an enormous amount of fun at Maelstrom events, and while I still had a lot of enjoyment, the change of pace of the game is making it harder to play the bits I enjoy. Not enough to not plan to be at the next one, but enough there’s a lives counter in my head, and it’s just had a point taken off.

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