The Journal

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BattleMaster is like a book you can never put down. A book that's constantly rewriting itself actually, and has only become a much weightier, more satisfying tome with the passage of time. The fifth anniversary of my joining BattleMaster has long since passed and here I'll try to give a review. Or at least, laud the triumphs, rail at the injustices and generally go on about the finest game on the internet. I'm User 6707 Welcome to the Journal.
and how it's so dreamy.

In the wake of the first stand-alone, 3D mini-expansion to BattleMaster, it seemed like a good time to reel off a few reasons why Tom Vogt and The Dream are so wonderful. It's not often any one of us sits back and simply appreciates the bredth of what BattleMaster has to, and has offered over the last decade.

  • BattleMaster's Cool Again - I think nearly all of us have experienced that moment of awkwardness when you tell a friend or a colleague about BattleMaster: a text based medieval strategy game based in a persistent world. Often, you find that most people you know aren't quite as enthusiastic as you and soon, it's a dirty habit to be hidden from other human beings. The Dream changes all that. Now BattleMaster is in glorious 3D. When you tell someone you were questing in the world of Beluaterra, you might as well be talking about an expansion for World of Warcraft.
  • Tom 'BattleMaster' Vogt - Sometimes, I look at all that's happening (or rather, all that's not happening) in Atamara and I see a hundred players as tired out by BattleMaster as me. I mean I love it still, but the passion is just about gone - and I only turned up in late 2004. Tom created this game in what, 2001? The predecessor, SpellMaster, existed even before that. It's amazing to see Tom relentlessly improving and expanding the BattleMaster experience even now. I would never have expected to see a 3D expansion to BattleMaster in a million years, and finally the introduction of Magic Scrolls some time back all makes sense. It's good to see the illustrious creator is still so motivated and dedicated to this game.
  • BattleMaster is Free - I have never had to spend a penny to play this game. Yet BattleMaster has given me several years of good times and fun. It's a game I pretty much play every day of the year and yet BattleMaster is a phenomenally different beast to what it was when I started playing. It's always being developed and improved and now in his spare time, Tom's coded The Dream for us all to explore and enjoy. The man is phenomenal. I don't think there's any game I've paid for which can rival BattleMaster in time played and depth of enjoyment besides maybe, AoE2. But that's a special case.
  • The Invasion - Let us never hear that old refrain of the Invasion being boring ever again, eh? The Dream certainly spiced Beluaterra up a fair bit!

My first go at The Dream was rather spoiled by a lovely bit of hubris: my conviction that my PC was far too good to have need of the Performance Test. I'd just run it on 'Fantastic' graphics settings anyway. Turns out my computer doesn't always run like the dream I'd hope...

Pearl of Wisdom #2

It might seem obvious, but if you're going to launch a rebellion, remember to think about army and marshal settings. It can make all the difference between success or defeat.


I'm sure I've missed a shedload of other things I could have mentioned about why this game is supreme. Any other suggestions, don't hesitate to add on the discussion page.

One Last Thing

I have donated to BattleMaster. Once. Think I got a couple of months worth of goodies. That was about a year in too. Money well spent I'd say.

and why Beluaterra might have the right idea.
Some time ago, you might recall, I touched upon my struggle to find a purpose for Malice, a character I've been playing since December 2004. That its taken this long for me to get back to you with an article amply demonstrates the trouble I've had not just with that, but with BattleMaster as a whole. But now Tom has done something he promised he'd never do. Something he was so determined not to implement in fact, that he even teased us with an April Fool's that had players gasping both in shock and horror. I'm speaking of course of the introduction of mortality to Beluaterra. Which fits in quite nicely.

There appears to have been a mixed reception to mortality and today I saw the first player delete their character outright before they could be killed in battle. The two successive battles that saw the deaths of 10 characters in total seems to have put the shivers into many and now provides yet another facet to the well worn argument of how Game Masters don't play fair during Invasion. Of course, for others, myself included, it provides an interesting test of emotional engagement with one's character. The most exciting thing of course being how many of us will have our characters betray our comrades to join the inhuman factions. How many will disband a unit before a battle or otherwise find excuses for a non-combat role? It really is juicy.

That said, one of the stated reasons for the player in question deleting their character, was not wanting to see their character's life cut short in this invasion. The feeling that this particular player could not roleplay their character the way they wanted too with the chance of death at any moment. I have to admit that for a person whose played a character since 2004, first becoming a Hero at some point in 2005, I struggle to understand that point of view. Rather than feeling liberated to play my characters the way I like with the knowledge of immortality, I find it's much easier to fall into inertia. Whilst I enjoy roleplay, I did not start BattleMaster expecting to control a single character, a single personality, for close to six years straight.

It has been a real struggle to motivate myself to continue Malice as a character over the years. There's a fine line between having an interesting character and one that simply lives for the next position. It's a line I feel I've been negotiating less and less well over time. The longer you go on, the harder it is to find valid justification for engaging in a certain way. Neither does it help how the world around one's character tends to change over time. For those who are around a while, you notice that BattleMaster can in many respects be a revolving door.

For most of his life, Malice was in a single realm and played alongside literally hundreds of other characters. Very few are still around today. The same can be said for one's enemies and rivals from other places and realms (whatever happened to Basil Ariston anyway?) Not only is there the struggle to make Malice interesting of himself, but no longer are there many others with which he has shared experiences or connections. It's little wonder so many realms house characters that have been around for 1500, 2000 days and more who are to all intents and purposes, dead and mute to the world.

Immortality does not seem to offer anything liberating to a player when they are either dodging old age or living under the misapprehension their character should live and gain positions for all eternity. Having said that, BattleMaster does seem to force a naturally rocky and narrowing path to those characters who grow older. From the debilitating effects of ageing to the rough shove from a fallen realm to new horizons, having an older character can be intensely felt. It's no easy thing brandishing age and experience to those who have never heard of you and would cast scorn on your achievements. Likewise, there are always enough young pups ready to replace you in the hierarchy wherever you may be.

Either way, I am thankful for the appearance of mortality on Beluaterra. For anyone who has had a Hero, they will know it as a natural, if regrettable part of the game. Certainly I felt the loss of my first Hero keenly. But for those of us who have the older characters. Who know the intense trial of doing anything exciting or interesting with a character that can't or won't die (and one you cannot simply 'retire' for sheer length of emotional attachment), the introduction of such an obvious game mechanic seems a much more natural and far better way to go than eventually hitting a delete button.

Perhaps it is a lone opinion, but I wouldn't mind if I ended up on the wrong end of the mortality mechanic by the end of the invasion. Certainly it already has me thinking about if I really want to lose Malice or whether I just needed a kick up the back side to really get involved with him once more. Regardless, if even a couple of players realise the strength of their attachment to their own characters, or begin greater engagement with the game now that they have something to lose, the introduction of mortality to Beluaterra will have been a raging triumph. Here's hoping it arrives on a continent near you soon.

Normal Service Resumes

Apologies for the interval. I never meant for this paper to become a one hit wonder, but alas, I've been struggling with BattleMaster fatigue. It might be a game that's always changing, but even old hands can struggle with boredom.


If I recall correct, the SlashDot bounce didn't really stick. A good reason for the authority and production functions of estates to be amalgamated to ensure partial coverage no matter how few nobles/players there are. Even something as simple as letting Knights set up their estates remotely would go part of the way to making the whole thing less of a meta headache.

Pearl of Wisdom #1

Don't want your character to be a Hero any more? Founding a religion should free you of those burdensome Heroic duties.


With each passing day, more and more people realise the statistics are still out of action. I never thought the time would come where I would miss Food Supply graphs...


I'm sure the subject has been done to death already on the D-List, which is one of the reasons I'm no D-Lister, but illuminate me. What's the debate like and what are your thoughts on the matter?

The Fourth Invasion

Personally, I'm finding it even more exciting than the Third Invasion. I have absolutely no idea who is doing the right thing, whether anyone will survive or what's going on. But for a guy who always advocated that Sint be pummelled into dust after the last time, it's hard to escape the feeling that in some small way, the obliteration of Heen and Mesh is poetic justice. Maybe things would be different if Firbalt was ruled by decent folk, y'know?

and how they're the root of all evil.
For the very first time recently, I encountered the new system of choosing a realm, the choose by duchy system. An underwhelming experience. Fair enough, the importance of the Duchy is both enhanced and abetted by simply choosing a duchy from a list. No-one disputes the success of that. But alas, you learn nothing about the realm and what you do learn about the region is often flawed. Two thirds of region descriptions in BM seem to be either two years out of date or non-existent.

The only saving grace of the entire Duchy-pick system is that you do see where Knights and their estates are needed, but I would say that this is a flaw of BM itself. At least for the less populated continents. Realms in Beluaterra for example, are perennially short of Knights. Without enough Knights, you cannot wage expansionary war or do a great deal of anything really.

Considering that BM seems to have a static number of active players (always hovering around the 1000 mark) and how Dwilight continues to suck more and more players into its embrace and yet is still no-where even close to being filled herself, one does wonder at the consequences for the entirety of BM.

Perhaps I'm the only one, but in my eyes Estates appear to be our very own BM equivalent of toxic Sub-Prime mortgage debt. Hit the 950 players mark and we may well go into estate recession. 900 and we go straight to estate depression! We are quite literally on the cusp of catastrophe. Though perhaps this is an alarmist view (remember the 1000 mark.)

As realms seek to grow however, particularly the more fluid continents of Beluaterra and Dwilight, a common problem begins to emerge even with a stable player base. Where do the Knights come from that can set-up the estates necessary to hold onto new lands and maintain stability in the realm? As Dwilight continues to fill, the drain can only become more pronounced across the worlds of BM.

We have on our hands a vicious spiral. New players will come and they will want to see action and war. Yet Rulers will be more content to sit on their hands and their tax income. Our meagre 20 nobles don't even stretch across 10 regions they'll say. Don't even dream of going for Keplerville they'll say. It's rich and all, but there's a region between us and that city. We'll need four new nobles at least bef- Oh, nevermind. They left already.

I can see the reasons behind Estates. They're there to help tie nobles to their regions. They reward those who keep a watchful eye on the maintenance of their realm and punish those who do not. They can provide a brake upon the large realms who would devour their smaller neighbours. Yet I must confess to abandoning all pretence of staying in-character at times when young nobles suggest expansion to me. For as a player, I know that there is no-where my realm can go.

Estates helped bring in the new culture of serving regions, but now they've outgrown their use. When a game mechanic interferes with the suspension of disbelief, it is a tragedy for the game. Anything that contributes to the players enjoyment of the game is something to be cherished however. Realms being able to function without fretting at how many Knights and Estates they have would be a good step in the right direction.

The Name

I was tempted to be so much more controversial with the title of this publication. But then, the BattleMaster Gestapo Gazette isn't quite as alliterative as the Giblot Gestapo Gazette, is it? It just didn't fit.


To be fair, perhaps it's entirely the point that realms have to scrabble over the limited resource that is the nobility these days. Maybe this isn't even an issue in most places. What do you think?


The idea for this OOC publication has been rattling around my head for ages. There are all sorts of subjects that I want to discuss. I'm pretty excited about it.

Next Article

The next article will be about the lives of our characters. Malice has been around for near five years himself now. What do you do with an old, well established character whose options you feel you've thoroughly exhausted as a player? Answers on a postcard please.

'Rotting Bodies'

Did anyone else get the image of a Lord being found somewhere with his head slumped into a bowl of porridge? Of course, it might be a little terrifying to stumble across that after two whole months! Surely the servants suspected something?