Posted by: Sean | September 1, 2008

Long distance communication; or “Yeah, that’s a new feature on those Hearthstones.”

One of the classic features of any role-play guild is an in-character chat channel, usually the main guild channel. It’s a great idea, it allows all of the guild to role-play with each other while not interfering with normal play. Aside from the random get together and such, how else really can you have a level 70 role-playing with a level 10? It fosters character relationships and also gives a chance for promising newbies to shine. Someone who’s just joined the game may not be great when it comes to laying down threat on multiple targets with his warrior, but he may just be a fantastic role-player; the IC chat channel is an arena where he’s on even footing with everyone else and his talents can come to the fore.

All of this is fine, but I have to ask – Why does it always come down to two basic scenarios? It’s always either the “tavern” option wherein your characters exist in quantum superimposition both out in the real world killing monsters and in an unspecified tavern as some kind of Schrodinger’s Feral Druid; or the “Hearthstone walkie-talkie” option wherein somehow your hearthstone can be used to communicate across long distances.

The tavern option is the less common of the two, and with good reason. When, where, and how the hell does it work? If you slay some massive beast, can you then discuss how you did so “once upon a time” in the chat channel? Or are you not allowed to discuss that as it “hasn’t happened yet”? If you’re with someone else from the guild at the same time, it just gets more confusing. In short, the option lacks consistency, which is why it sucks.

That said, at least it has plausibility, which the hearthstone option really doesn’t. I know that the hearthstone doesn’t exactly have much in the way of lore behind it, but I’m roughly sure it wasn’t imagined by Blizzard that tavern owners would be in the business of selling food, drink, helpful teleportation doohickeys and ham radios. (Just the first three. And while we’re here, what the hell was wrong with Scrolls of Town Teleportation, Blizzard? Those actually did have a lore backing!) It’s not that this option is bad, it’s just a bit of a stretch of the imagination.

Look, there’s a very obvious reason these two options get used the most often: They’re the most generic. They’re easily adaptable to any scenario and thus they get used in one guild, from whom someone leaves and forms their own guild, where they use the device. My plea isn’t really to use a better one, but to imagine specific ones for your guild.

Here are two examples, one that I have used and one I wish, perhaps, we might have.

One of my characters, an engineer of some repute (and madness) constructed a demonic walkie-talkie and gave one to all of his guild-mates. While strictly speaking, this has no more lore justification than the hearthstone does, however, we gave it a lore to compensate, something unique and original that made sense within our own private story – The device tunneled through the wall to Outland, aiming at a particular point there wherein every single walkie-talkie was broadcasting and listening. (That’s how we could all hear each other.) It also gains somewhat in plausibility as engineering in World of Warcraft really does seem to be able to do anything. But the real advantage was in the fun value: Since it was demonic in nature, we were freed to do things like have static choke the line (just by having individual players “fuzz out” their own words,) or having some demon begin bellowing horrible blasphemies across the channel, inevitably followed by someone tiredly exhorting everybody to, “Move the brass knob one to the right,” which allegedly fixed the problems. See? It’s not much different from a hearthstone, but it gains so much by being unique and specific.

My other character is in a guild that I will not name, but the concept is that the founder of the guild has been lost somehow, slumbering in an eternal dream-state, whom the rest of the guild is trying to locate again. This guild uses the basic hearthstone concept. But imagine instead if, by joining the guild, they were somehow connected to the founder, trapped partly in her dream-state? They can talk subconsciously through this, every thought they have somehow entering her unconscious mind, heard by all. Plus, when they finally find the founder, she’s going to be slightly traumatised by having had unfiltered access to all of our minds, which creates more fun role-play. This could be plenty of fun; with lucid, standard talk mixed in with bizarre surreal imagery posting. Now, my guild is a fantastic guild, and they’re some of the best role-players I’ve met.

But part of me wonders what they could have done with a more unique, original take on the hearthstone walkie talkie.



  1. […] of Blogatelle however brings to light the most amusing concept of the RP hearthstone walkie-talkie (this cracked me up) – and its nice to know that despite 2-3 years of hanging on RP servers […]

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