Who would have thought that we would ever want a history page for a guild on bnet? Who would have thought that we would have become what we are now? It certainly never crossed my mind back on December 8, 1997 when Sauron (now Manwe) recruited me as the 6th or 7th member of the 2nd theme of the Valar Guild [Eru (then Manwe), Manwe (then Sauron), original Melkor, Ungoliant, Osse (then Ar-Pharazon) and Ingwe were already members]. I say 6th or 7th as Makar (then Turgon) and I still “argue” over who came first, we joined within a day or two of each other. As I recount my version of the Valar history and my memories here I will try not to duplicate what Eru has already written. His version (being the founder and here from the start) is a quite accurate over-all history including the section on our bleak period that almost resulted in the end of our guild.
My son and I had mastered the single player version of Diablo and he had gone multiplayer. I remember watching over his shoulder as he played with others on-line. I thought to myself: “This has got to be the silliest thing I have ever seen.” Hack/cheat programs had already been developed and it seemed most players used them. How could this be fun, and how could one enjoy the challenge of developing a character under these circumstances? Shortly after, he joined a legit guild and I saw that there were at least a few who tried to overcome the challenges of the game within the frame-work intended. So I created the character “Earendil”, and began a quest of my own. Frustrated on occasion by the number of cheaters I was tempted to join his guild, but found their channel antics a little silly. At this point I had met a few legit players and contented my self with playing solo or with them. I would often make private games “Lady of Lothlorien/Galadriel”. My few legit friends knew the pass and on occasion a Tolkien fan would figure it out. I had come to the conclusion that many Tolkien fans were legit players.
Then one evening I was in a public channel laughing to myself over the nonsense chat that was going on. I received a whisper, something about liking my choice of character name, from some guy named “Sauron-(Valar)”. He invited me to a game to chat. We discussed a little Tolkien and then he told me about the fledgling guild a friend of his had started and asked me if I would like to join. As I learned this would mean giving up my present character and items, and as I reflected on how silly I thought guilds were I almost said no. But I figured I could keep “Earendil” in case I didn’t like it, so I decided to give it a try. Sauron-(Valar) said I could choose any Tolkien character for a name so I made level 1 “Earendil-(V)”. He helped me out a bit going to hell for items while I started to level my character. As the game progressed we chatted about our mutual interest in Tolkien’s mythology. I hadn’t read LotR (Lord of the Rings), Hobbit or Silmarillion in a few years, my memory for names was quite rusty, but the stories were ever well remembered and I enjoyed the chat immensely.
For the next week or so I would come onto bnet daily, make the private game “Valar” and proceed to play solo with occasional exception when Sauron would join me. I was beginning to think that Valar would be a lonely place to play. I eventually met Eru, Ingwe, Orome, Ungoliant and Turgon and decided to give it a little more time. During the month of December a few more members joined; a writer/mother from Texas as Faramir, an industrial electrician from Michigan as Samwise, the father of Orome (yeah right, a man of 61 plays computer games), a retired college professor from Colorado as Eomer and a college student from Canada as Aragorn. As well as continued Tolkien chat we began to seriously develop our characters. We shared the items found by leaving good unwanted items in town ( a tradition we still use today). And we started to develop a new skill; how to recover items after death by running around naked, often for an hour or more. One of my favorite game memories from this period was an item recovery game with Eomer. Imagine if you will, a 45 year old father and a 61 year old grandfather spending nearly 2 hours trying to recover computer generated “items” for a silly game. I vividly remember laughing till it hurt over our antics while trying to imagine him doing the same in front of his comp 2000 miles away. At this point in Valar history there were few rules and no formal meetings or agenda. One thing did stand out though; people of all ages who did not previously know each other could play a computer game together without cheating or swearing while simultaneously discussing the greatest works of fantasy literature ever written. Manwe/Eru’s idea worked.
As January passed, Sauron/Manwe and Manwe/Eru continued recruiting and we all continued playing and chatting. It was during this time that our second problem occurred (the first being the failure of theme #1). Sauron met Cindy, and for some strange reason felt a girlfriend was reason enough to not frequent bnet as often :) And then to top it off Manwe disappeared and even more astounding, didn’t reply to e-mail! This got me to wondering, ”Was Valar really just another silly guild that would last a short while and then go away?”. I was playing alone one evening when Sauron/Manwe dropped by to chat. I informed him of Manwe’s disappearance which surprised him greatly. He asked me what I thought we should do. I hastily came up with the idea of forming some kind of temporary “Council” to keep things going until we figured out where Eru went and what was happening. Sauron/Manwe then shared with me his own vision of the day when Valar would be sufficiently large as to require a Council to assist Eru with the tasks of maintaining and building this “club”. Sauron wasn’t quite sure forming a council without Manwe’s knowledge would be well received by him. Sauron asked who I thought should be on this “council”? I then recommended Samwise, Faramir, Eomer, Aragorn and myself. Reluctantly Sauron agreed to this plan as it appeared necessary. One of the first and few things we did in Eru’s absence was to start a formal meeting on Sunday evenings. With Eru and his web page gone, communication was greatly hindered. At one of these meeting I suggested holding a tournament to spice up our game playing. The thought of playing a limited time game with new level 1 characters to see how far they could go was my first game. I had done such a game previous to joining Valar with my friends on-line and found the experience hilarious. Many thought this would be fun so I started to outline this and a couple other ideas. Other members added to and critiqued my ideas as we prepared for our first tourney. Hmm, maybe Valar could continue to exist.
After several weeks absence Manwe/Eru reappeared (it is now sometime in February). Aha, his comp broke, we never thought of that one. He and Sauron must have talked about what had happened. As the next meeting approached Sauron informed me that Manwe had a surprise in store for us. Little did I know what he had in mind. As it turned out, not only was Manwe/Eru not upset by our temporary council, but his surprise was to promote us to Valar characters and make the council a permanent part of Valar structure. In honor of their continued support all other members were promoted to Maiar honor. This would be the one and only time such “promotions” would occur without a test. Inspite of our great pride in such a prospect there was one melancholy thought that occurred to all of us: we would have to give up our names. How could I, a lover of sailing and the sea ever give up the name Earendil? It was difficult to do, but becoming Ulmo, the Lord of the Seas as well as all forms of water did provide some consolation. To top it all off we had to make brand new level 1 characters. “Oh well, this might be fun” I thought. We all agreed to do so, and that we could not transfer any items until our new characters reached level 30. What fun could it possibly be for a new characters to start off with ob/zods, Najs, and ruthless bows of the heavens? It was at this, our second or third meeting that Samwise became Namo, Faramir became Varda, Eomer became Melkor, Aragorn, already the Maia Gandalf became Aule, I became Ulmo, and Sauron became the Chairman of the Council of Mahanaxar (as Aule suggested we call ourselves) Manwe and Manwe became Eru.
Over the next week or so, after soliciting our suggestions, Eru assigned us each some responsibilities, some of which we still fulfill now. Within a couple weeks we as a Council also made our first recommendation for promotion. We had a high school student from Argentina as our Beren (Osse after we were all promoted). He was the first member to take the study of Tolkien’s Middle-earth languages as a serious enterprise (it is his page on the subject you still see linked in our pages). Our recommendation that Osse be promoted to Valar was well received by Eru and Osse was tested right away. He then took on the name Tulkas.
Over the next several months what was once simply one man’s vision was developing into something even greater (not to imply it wasn’t a great vision to begin with). Several promotions occurred over the next months. A student at the University of Denmark majoring in English moved up to the Maiar honor and upon recommendation of the Council was later tested for Valar honor. He then joined the Council as Irmo. A young professional woman from Quebec made similar contributions and eventually became Yavanna, or to me Pio Varu as I would always call her (this was an inside joke as she called me Smiling Pinniped). Before we even noticed we had grown to a membership in the 30-40s (not a large guild, but then we were rather picky about who could join). We found ourselves approaching a first year anniversary (this however is a long time for a bnet guild). We celebrated our first year with great pride. Unfortunately however we also entered into our bleakest period.
I find this “bleak period” very hard to write about. I am not particularly proud of how any of us conducted ourselves, and in myself for being as guilty as anyone. I do however feel it is important for us to remember what almost destroyed us so that we may prevent a similar occurrence in the future. To try and pinpoint any one occurrence as the root cause for our misunderstanding would be impossible and inaccurate. It is probable, (in my opinion anyway), that the major contributing factor occurred over Aule. In no way do I place blame on the person, but on what one of his responsibilities caused. Part of Aule’s job at the time of his appointment to Council was as “Head of Security”. While the rest of us enjoyed meeting, gaming and chatting with new members Aule had to put his enjoyment on hold. It was his job to remain the skeptic. Legit play of Diablo was important to all of us and Aule was the one who had to keep an eye open for cheaters. Namo and I sometimes assisted him, but we only contributed when we felt like it or blatant cheaters presented themselves to us. Aule had to screen new members, assure himself they were playing by our rules and then hopefully he could befriend them. To appreciate what this does you need to imagine how you might feel about someone looking over your shoulder after joining. Imagine how it would feel to be doubted by a leader of this guild you just joined. Now try to imagine how likely you would be to befriend this person. After all this imagining try to imagine how Aule must feel. I have since then been in this position, though not with sole responsibility nor for as long at a stretch, and I still can’t imagine what it was like. As time went on this responsibility began to wear on Aule. This would eventually lead to some resentments, which in turn led to others, which then snowballed. Eru had called for Aule’s removal from the guild, and the Council voted to accept this recommendation as being necessary (though most of us with great resentment). By the time Eru quit, most of us had to some degree or another said and done things we regret to this day (most if not all of which we now forgive each other for now). These sad occurrences left us in shambles.
We are now at a meeting, Eru has just quit, and we are all dumfounded. During this meeting several very positive things did how ever occur. The membership present nominated both Varda and myself to become the leader of Valar. After whispering that the other “deserved” the honor we agreed to be Co-Chairs. The members present unanimously voted that this should be so. At the time this wasn’t thought to be necessarily permanent, but we had to do something to regroup. At this meeting several people volunteered for jobs in getting us back on track. Not the least of which, Gwaihir volunteered part of his personal web page and his efforts to keep us on-line. This effort developed into what you now see as our membership page. From this point in time on, the Valar Guild had Maiar and sometimes Members helping with duties, this sharing of work has allowed us to develop more and faster than ever before. The biggest thing to come out of this decision is our web page network. Under Varda’s direction a team now contributed to the web work. We ended that evening still confused, but at least we had started a plan.
With a now smaller Council (Manwe still compless in California, Irmo, Yavanna and Tulkas leaving with Eru, Aule removed from the guild, Namo having quit during the squabbles) we needed more help. We as a Council immediately sought to get Aule and Namo back, fortunately we succeeded. It was then that we developed the procedure we now use for obtaining members for Valar honor/responsibility. Valar are recommended by Council (application like for Maiar is not allowed). The first recommendation was to Eonwe (formerly Turgon), a high school student from Canada, and the test on the Silmarillion was to be given by at least 3 Valar, though in his case we were all there :) Upon passing Eonwe chose the name of Makar from BolT (Book of Lost Tales) for 2 reasons. First being that he would not feel comfortable assuming a character name previously held for so long and no other Silmarillion Valar names were unused. The second being that we all hoped that someday those leaving would return.
It became quite apparent to the Council that our Maia Gwaihir was doing as much work as any of us were. He was recommended for Valar, passed the test and also chose a BolT name. We know him now as Amillo or Omar. Shortly after, Bilbo, a Coast Guard officer from Canada, volunteered to help with formalizing our recruitment practices by making a list of questions to use and with Varda started outlining the methods and guidelines we now use. Because of his efforts he was promoted (via test) to the Maia Gandalf. Within a couple months his continued efforts led the Council to recommend him for Valar and has to date probably been given the toughest Valar test ever. Prior to Gandalf’s test Irmo had been convinced to return and his efforts had a lot to do with the difficulty of this test :) We all know Gandalf now as Tulkas. This is the first time any Council (Valar) name has been given to a second person. We had in time convinced our first Tulkas to return to the guild but as his priorities in life had changed he asked to step down from the Council and return to using Beren as his name. We were glad to have him back in any form and you now see him listed with a common name but Valar honor as a show of respect for his early contributions to the guild. The last to return was Eru. The wounds with him I am sure were deeper than the rest. Eventually though, with time for our differences do mend and his need to spend an occasional evening in Tolkien chat he did return. He is no longer as active as before and his role now is as a Tolkien mythology expert. When it comes to dates and events I don’t think any of us can rival his depth of study or memory. The name Eru was never taken during his absence, it never seemed proper, we now knew why. Of all of the Council members either appointed at the start, or recommended by Council and tested, only one has not returned. In Yavanna’s case I think real life was the reason, I hope so, but miss her anyway.
Over the past year Valar just gets bigger and better. We have an incredible
web pages matrix complete with encyclopedia and discussion board, our own
customized Tolkien mod for Diablo, meetings with Tolkien chats and we can
still just log on to escape the world and engage in chat with little interruption
from the vulgarity that invades the rest of bnet.
[Note: Osse in the title is a literary reference, not to our friends, either of the Osse-(Valar)'s.
page maintained by Varda