ATITD: Can I Have Your Stuff?

Karen Bryan over at Massively has been covering A Tale in the Desert recently for their Choose My Adventure article series. It’s an enjoyable read from a new player’s perspective, and it suddenly reminded me how much I actually love and miss the game.

I jettisoned it five months ago for Guild Wars 2, after playing it all out for a year, and it seemed like a good time to poke my head back in for a visit and putter around.

I’d maintained a sub on my main character, while letting my alt account lie fallow. This preserved my compounds and my resources from the scavenging player vultures – one of the first and only laws that is passed every Telling is an act that allows active players to tear down and salvage resources from players who have quit or let their subs expire.

Known as the Departed Persons Act (or DPA) this time around, most of the wording never changes except for the length of leeway time a previously paid up player has. In all fairness, the act that seems most generally accepted is the longest period, of two months, in this case, despite a few players trying to argue for a shorter timespan.

The stated ‘public good’ idea behind this is one of resource renewal and lebensraum for new players. If old player structures are allowed to sit there for all eternity (or at least until the new Telling), slowly and gradually the best locations will get taken up and newer players forced to move outward to less convenient territory. See Wurm Online for an example of this – one has to walk a very long distance from the starting area to maybe find a good spot to build – and even Wurm has building deterioration for non-subbed players baked in.

Trial players of ATITD especially have a habit of leaving wood planes, brick racks and flax distaffs littering the landscape behind them – since the citizenship tutorial requires them to make said items, and then they promptly either quit because the grind / the running / the graphics got to be too much or they make their home far away from where they started and completely forget where the hell they left their early stuff.

Usually the former.

And since they have no knowledge of the long-term implications (the stuff doesn’t go away by itself), no interest in establishing long-term ties with the community or value the game as a whole, cleaning up after themselves is less important or just not a natural reflex (I mean, who destroys the stuff they themselves built?)

Hence the litter.

And hence the solution to solve it in the form of DPA.

That’s the nice explanation.

The profiteering explanation is that as older veteran players get bored of the game, and they will, a couple may storm off if they had a massive drama implosion somewhere, a lot will get knocked out by the unending grind and monotony after three, six, nine months, a year…

… other players can stand to gain from the resources collected and hoarded by these players. It’s a bit of a crapshoot, if they didn’t advance very far, there may not be anything of real value but you might be able to finally get rid of an annoying eyesore of a building too near you. Or you might find pretty nice stuff, like a wine bottled in the early days of the Telling, which would have developed into something very fine by the time you drink it down now.

It’s easy for some people to leap to a moral judgement about such things.

From one perspective, it is a bit slimy and vulture-like. Especially if someone watches the days of an unpaid player count down like a hawk (one can /info them and see how many days their account is unpaid) and turns up the very second (literally) the time ticks over 60 days to lay claim to their stuff. Some people can get quite competitive about this, since only the first at the scene will get the goods.

Then there was the recent complaint I just overheard over the Egypt public channel on my return – where apparently someone crept into an entire guild’s multiple compounds close together (of which there were still active players within) and located the one warehouse that a quit member neglected to set ownership rights to the guild for, and nabbed it with DPA before any of the active guild members could log on and get to it. They tore it down, apparently, so the guild members couldn’t see who laid claim to it, and the contents, whatever they were, walked off with.

Of such stuff is drama and conflict made.

From another perspective, we have a recollection of Van Hemlock’s venture into ATITD (whose blog post is now unfortunately lost to the mists of time.)

-I- remember, anyway, that Van Hemlock wrote about finding an old player’s compound much further along the technology tree than his compatriots and he, and claimed it with the DPA variant active at that time. They joyously ran back to their own compound with riches, riches beyond their wildest imaginings as newbies, and those resources allowed him to construct an anvil and experiment with blacksmithing – something he was most taken with and wrote about in his blog – which in turn captivated others like me into trying out the game in the first place.

If a newbie gets to an older player’s compound first, it can be an enabler. Something without which, they would not have progressed as far in ATITD.

Then again, what are the chances of a newbie getting there first versus the experienced vultures?

Personally, I would have liked to see something that allowed a player to tear down stuff after the sixty days are up, without gaining any of the resources. That would allow eyesores to be taken down, but remove all personal resource profit from the equation.

That, I suspect, would encourage folks to leave most of the buildings be, as long as they weren’t in anyone’s way.


I like seeing the remains of civilization. Egypt is so empty anyway, it’s nice to see where people have been and stayed. Yet, if someone new really wanted to build in that location, they could take it down and set up there regardless.

But I doubt that law will ever pass.

For most players, those unused resources are ‘a waste’ if never used. After all, if a benevolent veteran gets to it, they may use it to further research in the Egypt-wide technologies at Universities. So sayeth the public good explanation anyway.

In the previous two Tellings I’ve participated in, when I lost interest, I left for good and only came back on free weekends to poke my head around – and sure enough, my stuff was gone.

I hope it made -someone- happy.

(Funny story: I did meet an extra-friendly player once on one of these check-back-in visits, who actually plied me with completely free items to sacrifice to a Vigil in progress. I kept her company, because I was in the mood for chatting and because I loved the adrenaline rush of a good Vigil, growing more and more stunned at the sheer quantity of stuff she was generously throwing at me to let the fire consume for good…

…then it turned out in the course of the friendly conversation that she was the one who had salvaged my compounds of stuff.

Lol, guilty conscience, perhaps? And wanting to even out the scales?

At the time, I had no intentions of restarting the game and assured her so. I was just there for fun, for a good chat and also help the Vigil along by my presence (since having more people participate multiplies your points, over doing one solo as she had been attempting.))

Guilds have an advantage in that as long as there is one player still subbed, no one else can claim it from your collective. Then again, the disadvantage of multiple persons in a guild is that any of them can steal the guild’s stuff if they wanted to. Guild theft is a possibility of pretty much all MMOs, not merely ATITD, if one’s permissions are not set properly to trusted individuals.

Me, I’m a paranoid type of person and need to keep my personal stuff separate from group stuff. I like to think this makes me more reliable when joining group guilds because I don’t -need- the guild stuff, I have my own stuff to draw from.

But it means that to keep my stuff, I’ll have to maintain the sub (with a month or two of leeway.)

As a mostly solo player, such is life in the desert, vultures and all.