Roundtable: How Celest’s Factions Got a Little TLC

Following the revamp of New Celest’s guilds earlier this year, the wonderful pantheon of Carakhan, Lantra and Terentia have gathered to bring you a roundtable discussion. They answer questions about why it happened, how it went, and give some glimpses into their behind-the-scenes work.

Why did you choose to revisit the guild overhaul in Celest?

  • Carakhan: As I was preparing to take on the role of Carakhan, I knew that I wanted to take a long, hard look at the guilds and how they were doing. I also started making a list of things that I was noticing had never been entirely finished from the previous overhaul. Initially, I hoped to simply tweak things, add reactions to guild tutors, repurpose the old guildhalls and guild tutors. But I kept getting stuck on three things.

    The first was the way the division of the supernals and Tide Lords amongst the guilds seemed to be resulting in everyone trying to approach their Supernal(s) in the same way. Everyone seemed to want statues and a chapel where they could worship and honour their Planar Patrons. It didn’t seem like the Ecclesiarchy’s approach was meaningfully distinct from that of the Sanctifiers or the Archons.

    The second was the Ecclesiarchy itself. What did it mean to be the church in a city where not everyone in the Church were pledged to the Supernals? What did it mean to be the Church when Celestine priests could be in any guild? What did it mean to be the Church when the Sanctifiers were the guild that lived in the Blue Cathedral?

    The third thing was, if you were choosing a guild, what united the Archons, Sanctifiers and Ecclesiarchy, that made it make sense that it was those three organisations that you were choosing between? When we started thinking of the three guilds as three orders of one church, that is when things started to click.

    It made sense as the cumulation of the narrative of unity of the guilds began in the original overhaul. It made sense in the broader history of Celest as the heir of the Holy Celestine Empire. But to get there, we had to destroy the Ecclesiarchy, physically and metaphorically, so that the new, united church could rise from its ashes.

  • Terentia: I wholeheartedly agree with everything Carakhan said. I came onto the scene somewhere in the middle, when some of the roadblocks started appearing. It was my major project in the Havens, and because I was already aiming to take over Terentia, it was a chance to get my feet wet in terms of the lore and the concepts that the city was about.

    I think I was very surprised by the kind of bottlenecking that happened because of the ways the guilds were shaped; it seemed they felt very confined to not only their particular Planar Patrons, but also identities that weren’t very distinct from each other. So it felt like a perfect chance to really think about them, to give a slight touch-up here and there.

  • Lantra: I was the final piece of this guild overhaul team! A lot of what I got to participate in was looking at the final proposed concepts and help edit in places where the story could be tighter or the guild identity could become clearer.

    It was a wonderful way to get acquainted with everything on a foundational level, which I appreciated as a new member of the pantheon. But it was also a good way of looking at Celest on a global level and seeing where questions about new guild identity still existed and asking how we could answer those questions in meaningful ways.

Why dragons?

  • Carakhan: Because dragons!!! Almost as soon as we decided to destroy the Ecclesiarchy, I had this mental image of a giant dragon slamming into the lighthouse and pulling it to bits. When I realised Magnagora’s event was going to end with them tainting some dragons, I immediately ran to Drocilla and asked if I could please please please have one. As soon as I explained it would get to destroy the Ecclesiarchy Lighthouse, the Magnagoran pantheon was all in.

  • Terentia: I think we gravitated to dragons pretty quickly in the process. At first, I was trying to think of something that could be internal to Celest, so we didn’t have the issue of constantly wrecking the city with some outside forces.

    At the time, I was still not too sure about Celest’s history (and the thing I am really taken by, which is the dynamic between the merian/non-merian communities there), so everything appeared very forced to me. We were already a couple events into our yearly plotline with Isikathi and the Seal of Time, so dragons were already soaring about and messing with things.

    After Celest and Magnagora finished their unique event, we got to thinking, why couldn’t we just continue this? With the plotpoint of the tainted dragon available, and the dragons who were forcefully pushed out of Celest, we thought: revenge would be a pretty strong motivator. Plus, I think dragons could do enough damage to the city that we might be able to really make some sharp cuts from the cloth of the past, as well as give us enough time between the event and reconstruction to do some fun things (as Celest can attest, the dragon in the non-merian quarter is huge!).

  • Lantra: The dragons allowed us to give Celest an antagonist outside the city that wouldn’t involve other orgs, but still would feel rooted in world events. We got to have the dragons, for example, remember that Aknarin had ‘broomed’ them away just a few months prior! It allowed us to make an event inspired by player choices, and that’s always an ideal place to start. It reminds you that Lusternia is a dynamic place where players can shape their own story.

Was there anyone/anything you wanted to save/preserve during the event?

  • Carakhan: The original overhaul was painful for a lot of people, and I genuinely believe it lost Celest a number of players. I didn’t want to just snatch away things that the people who had persevered through that had strong attachments to, without at least giving them a proper sendoff. But it was also really important to provide real closure, and not just leave old guildhalls standing empty with their tutors still there, acting as if nothing had changed.

    To me, nothing was particularly sacred, but it was important to me that different things happened to different guilds, so we weren’t just targetting the old guildhalls and the old tutors with one sweeping brush.

  • Terentia: I was definitely someone who did not want to preserve anything. I think one of the lasting problems in Celest (and maybe for many of us), is that the investments to the old guilds were so strong and so tight that they sort of haunt us still. I am immediately thinking of the very strong, very powerful Paladin identity that remains in Celest, which is a glue to the past that is hard to work with, I think. The more definitive the end, the easier it would be to help build these new guilds.

    However, I had the privilege of working with Carakhan and Lantra who helped blunt or curb my thirst for destruction. I think they helped create situations where more stories can be told: e.g. Manchal and Eluzmith’s departure for places unknown; the preservation of the Tahtetso guildhall (and whatever future it might have), etc.

  • Lantra: There were some mobs I very much didn’t want to lose (Rhapsody, Jarana), and other mobs I think we knew had to go (Hamos). My biggest contribution to this discussion I think was inviting a third option: not all mobs had to be killed, but some mobs could leave with the promise of having other stories down the road. Manchal and Eluzmith, which Tere mentioned above, wound up taking that direction. We still have those storylines we can play off of down the road, so hopefully we can learn what they’re up to one of these days!

What was your favorite moment during the re-overhaul?

  • Carakhan: I was very pleased with how the whole sequence of events from the Lighthouse getting attacked to Hamos getting sainted went down. Also it was very touching how utterly determined some of the players were to bring every last NPC to the safety of the Aegis Keep. Finally, dropping the saint lore I had been working on was very satisfying.

  • Terentia: So I did the programming for the ballista battle with the dragon, so I think that was my favorite part (even though the closing script repeated a couple of times, much to my horror!). I too really enjoyed the scene where Hamos destroyed one of the dragons and became a Saint in the process; I think it is something really interesting for Celest to have as a marker of this new moment of the City.

  • Lantra: I enjoyed roleplaying Jarana’s anointing ceremony for Aknarin, and including the revelation during it that Hamos had become a Saint. I also loved how Brother Neluane became the new guild tutor of the Magisterium through his actions over the three days; it made his promotion feel very earned.

    But my favorite moment during the Overhaul, truthfully, was playing a dolphin who goofed around with a player in the Inner Sea while she was looking for hints for the missing Tears of Saint Tresalyne. It was cute and silly but definitely a highlight.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

  • Carakhan: Mostly I wish we’d had time for more testing to avoid some of the hiccups that happened. It would also have been nice to have more choice points during the actual attacks that allowed saving/destroying more and different parts of the city.

  • Terentia: I think we could always say more time to do smaller-scale moments. I really enjoyed the brief scene where players found Eluzmith after she was blown off the wall, and then trying to tend to her after.

  • Lantra: Time is always what you wish you had more of! I would have liked to make restoring the Flock of Miracles a little more exciting than just influencing, though I do think after such a long event everyone was pleased to have something relatively quick and simple. (Plus, everyone got to sit back and watch a water elemental wreck a dragon.)

What was the process like?

  • Carakhan: Initially a lot of flailing, and attempting incremental changes and trying to find and catalog all the pieces and plot threads that had been missed or dropped, and brainstorming. Then Terentia came on board and took a lot of that flailing and turned it into coherent proposals that we then went through, and then went through with certain of the players.

  • Terentia: I kept revisiting Eventru’s Peering into the Light series, trying to think about the general ethos of Celest while reviewing the shift to the new guilds. And one of the things that I kept returning to was the history of the city. I was captivated by the idea of the linkage between Church and State; I mean, the very name, “Holy Celestine Empire,” implies that there were a stronger unity between those two institutions, and I thought, why not try that.

    What I began to imagine was that, if the State and Church are one, then really, the guilds are not institutions unique to themselves, but rather auxiliaries that support the Church-State. We began to imagine sort of OOC analogues to these guilds, to figure out what that might be like, which led down the path of holy orders and the like. That helped flesh out the initial proposals, thinking about RL historical dynamics between religious institutions, and then, we were able to align those ideas with IG stories.

  • Lantra: I remember there was a lot of initial back and forth. Cara did an excellent job documenting everything in New Celest to date and performing a ‘diagnostic’ on what needed updating. Terentia provided a lot of potential areas for inspiration we could build from to create distinct guild identities, with explanations for each possible influence.

    A lot of what I contributed, I think, was looking at those things Tere and Cara had built and offering my thoughts as a newcomer to the discussion. What made sense from an outsider’s perspective? What felt confusing? Which mobs seemed like good fits to accomplish XYZ? What options had we not considered that might be good to include?

    For example, when we were discussing the fate of Hamos amidst the destruction of the Ecclesiarchy, I floated the idea of sainting Hamos – as a joke initially – but it wound up giving an extra layer of gravitas to the event that I’m really pleased with. He’s the first modern saint of New Celest! And he’s the first kephera saint! We are telling a lot of stories about the non-merian side of Celest lately, and this helps open that door wider.

What were some of your goals?

  • Carakhan: I wanted to make sure that each guild had concrete practices that were different from the others. I also wanted to give each guild a historical organisation or person that they were a continuation of. For the Sanctifiers the Crusaders of Flame and Saint Loathys were pretty obvious, and the Magisterium continues to play up the roots of the Church by focusing on the evangelism of Javile, but the Archons went through a couple ideas before we settled on the Sons of Dionamus.

    Once we did, I was delighted, as it allowed us to pull at threads that predate the Holy Celestine Empire. One of the interesting and sometimes frustrating things about Celest is how in the shadow of the Imperial Legacy it can be. By drawing on some truly ancient roots, and shifting the focus to the unity of Church and City, we hoped to give Celest a way to build something truly new, and greater, than they have been before.

  • Terentia: With the exception of the Magisterium, I think my intention was more to tighten or touch up the guilds rather than creating brand new identities. And like Carakhan said, I really wanted to think about very concrete things that they did. I think that is something I felt like the first iteration of the overhauled guilds lacked.

    There wasn’t anything unique to their beliefs (e.g. I think the Sanctifiers more or less adopted the Tahtetso’s “lumosis” without any regard of how it may or may not fit with the current guild) or they were very broad (e.g. somehow each guild needed to manage integrating a Supernal, a Tidal Lord, and a Saint, and then the Ecclesiarchy did all of them like the Celestines?).

    We wanted them to feel different and be different because they are supposed to be different. And I think we accomplished that. My hope is that we can continue to work with the reformed guilds to build on that infrastructure (so submit those patron requests!).

  • Lantra: Zeasha desperately needed a makeover. More seriously, I wanted Celest to enjoy the event and not be demoralized by it. I wanted players to be excited by the updates in the guilds, rather than frustrated. I intended for everyone to have access to every Supernal and every Saint, and to have easy access to what foundational principles belonged to their guild.

    Terentia came up with the blueprint of the new NPC tutor responses, which the three of us helped flesh out for the guilds. Those dialogue trees, in my opinion, help establish guild expectations and identity for future guild members. It is difficult to come up with an event built around unifying an org, but we wanted to, and it felt like we did that.

    A secret personal goal I had as well was coming up with a reason for Rhapsody to ‘vanish’ knowing I could bring her back later with a proper summoning quest, like the kind Serenwilde has for Trialante. So being able to engineer that was a small victory!

What is something you are looking forward to?

  • Carakhan: It’s fun to see how excited players are about Dragon’s Grave. There’s a few other bits of rebuilding and repurposing I’m looking forward to as well. And I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of those pirates…

  • Terentia: Yes, Dragon’s Grave. The plans to rebuild the non-merian quarter were always going to happen, but a couple of players energised us to jump-start that plan (which I appreciate!). I think our current pantheon team (Team “Chasing Waterfalls” aka TLC) is really excited for ways to expand what is currently there. I personally am interested in figuring out how to make more concretely the Church/State unification, and what the religion of “the Light” really means.

  • Lantra: Dragon’s Grave! Pirates! Local bar rivalries! Krokani lore! Saint lore! There is so much I’m excited to play with, and I couldn’t ask for a better team to work with.