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The Sword's Edge

Issue 58: 9th January 2022 - Forged in fire, tempered through wisdom, sharpened by resolve.

When the clock struck midnight and signalled the start of the new calendar year where you live - did you have a feeling of hope, perhaps some anxiety based on our experience of the last two years, maybe a mixture of anticipation of what could be instore for us this year combined with the desire for the pandemic to finally get to its end.  The new year often gives us a chance to feel like we have a new beginning, which is why we often get together as a cabal to discuss the past year and our goals for the new one - these last few weeks were no different, and I am happy to be able to share the goals we discussed together in this issue of our newsletter. 

We have some fantastic articles for this months newsletter from Waspstar and Fractalis, I am immensely grateful for your contributions. As well as beautiful artwork from DigitalWraith, thank you. Durendal has also written us a message for the new year. 

The last few weeks in game with the seasonal events have been a lot of fun together. So many socks and scarves were traded to those who didn't have them yet, many snowballs were thrown and countless Krampus were hunted. It has been great seeing you all in game, smiling at your screenshots as well as enjoying the entries for our 12Days events that we ran over December.  As always it was also great seeing those of you that could come along to our annual New Year's Museum Reception and Parade of Museums. 

In the coming week we will be completing our activity check for 2022, and hopefully also brainstorming some new event ideas for the coming months. As usual, with the goal to make things as active and as much fun as we can! 
See you all in game,

 ~ Katelin
 

New Year Message

By Durendal

 Last year, I wrote about our routine in fixing New York gas leaks. So in really great news, we are by now even tackling the hardest of the gas leaks possible - at least with friends. Friends and community is a really precious thing these days. As it's so much easier to have friends if you've got lots of cake, I do hope that we manage to stock up on the upcoming Valentine's event. These are challenging and dark times, sometimes brightened a bit by snow reflecting the little remaining light ever so brighter. Especially with a bit of cake on the side!

If there is one thing we can be really proud of recently, it's that the cabal is still strong in recruitment. That not only pays off in the amount of people we can enjoy our time online together, but also keeps giving me candidates for leadership positions. That really helps keep the serious, administrative side of our community active. As there already is a recent suggestion for some change, keep your eyes peeled for eventual announcements of those changes in the coming weeks.

With us being Nine Swords, the last year was our big 9th anniversary. So this year will now be a decade both for the game and for the cabal. I'm already curious if we might see some big celebration and hopefully more on the usual anniversary dates. Our own initiatives on providing a bit of entertainment on the side will still go strong. In the sense of our recent hat-wearing social event, hats off to you all!

Wordsearch

By Waspstar

We know how much you enjoyed searching the words for our 12DAYS Wordsearch, so Waspstar is back to keep you puzzlers puzzling

Here's a word search for January! There are 12 words and names to find. This word search is JUST FOR FUN so see if you can find them all!

 
 

By Jess

Look back at the 9S 2021 Xmas Events

By Katelin

It was decided for our Nine Swords Christmas events this year to run a lot of mini events both in game and via our forum to ensure that as many of you as possible could get involved and join in with our festive fun. Though in practice, it is still only a handful of you that use our forums regularly, so despite active advertising of the events ingame, participation was lower than hoped. That said, I know I had a lot of fun - and I really enjoyed spending time with those of you who did participate and get involved in the festive spirit. 

Our mini events were called 12DAYS Events - and were spread over just over 12 different days from the 1st to the 23rd of December 2021. A few of the events had prizes attached and were run as competitions, other events were just about taking part - and for taking part, you were put into a prize draw run by Waspstar when you had attended / taken part in at least 5 of the events with prizes of Talisman & Glyph Fragments. 

There were costume designs, puzzles, PvE events, silly forum games, screenshots and social events. 

Thank you to each and everyone of you that took the time to get involved!  Definitely hope we can revisit some of the event ideas in the future! 

Kaidan and a reminiscence of Tokyo

By Fractalis

That afternoon, SunYoung was resting. Even busy bees need a break from time to time, don't they? Anybody who has swallowed an anima-infused bee would agree.

She had come to one of the less travelled branches of the tree of life, away from the running, rustling, droning, buzzing and advertising that is at the heart of everyday life in Agartha. Here she could be by herself for a while. Gazing into the golden air, she was sitting with her legs over the edge of the branch. The bright lines running along the trunk shone like veins pumping nectar into the heart of the tree. How many lives, how many stories, how many memories were flowing there in each drop of pure anima?

She remembered that time, when, as a teenager, she lived with her parents and brother in Tokyo for a few years. This was before they moved away to Singapore... and before the filth bomb. Many things have changed since; there is even this new district called 怪談 (Kaidan, a direct translation of "spooky story", by the way). She had felt a bit nostalgic when returning there... and wasn't quite prepared for what she found. There cannot have been only the influence of the filth at work in the city.

But this is a story for another time. These days, she preferred to focus on what made her remember the city she knew. For example, the tall buildings you see near the underground station, with their smooth surfaces and elegant shapes...

... or the electric cables running about everywhere in the city sky. In the middle of residential areas, there were still these small shrines to bodhisattva (お地蔵さん, o jizou san) looking after people living nearby.

The cemeteries were also close to how she remembered them: small areas mingling with the rest of the houses, with their upright stones, and often cherry trees, so that the souls of the deceased can enjoy a restful place. Maybe they weren't visible from where she stood when she visited this one, but the name of families is usually etched on the stones, and often a thin and long piece of wood with Sanskrit prayers would be near each stone, to allow the dead safe passage to the afterlife. Obviously, there were no prayers near the graves in this cemetery, and likely as a result, the dead were not sleeping peacefully. You'll understand she did not want to spend more time than absolutely necessary in that place.

There were still highways running above the city, and their design hadn't changed: pillars every few tens of meters, high plates on each side to dampen the noise, and everything made of dull concrete. Well, it's a bit of an exaggeration to say that they had not changed; rather, the filth bomb had made them collapse over the city, and you'd have to rebuild a mental image from the parts to get an idea of what they looked like at the top of their glory... or simply at the time they were still in working order.

Oh, and the telephone booths were still there too, with their heavy green telephones, many of which were still only working with small change. Nowadays, I bet that if you were to dial a number on one of them, you'd simply hear a greasy voice greeting you as "Chuck". For many things, the western part and the eastern part of Japan have different rules or norms; and most equipment and devices must be designed to be used in either system. I guess now it's no longer that relevant anyway: are you still going to buy a washing machine, or a rice cooker (炊飯器, suihanki)... or talk to John about how Orochi and the Morning Light tear the city apart in their struggle for power?

What she had always enjoyed were the small residential areas, many of them following the same layout as they had hundreds of years ago: these smaller houses and buildings, each separate, but all huddled together in an order that can only be described as the result of some child throwing a box of playing cubes over the place. There were always small streets, hidden paths and unexpected turns, a labyrinth where lanes that in western countries would have been deemed so narrow as to be one-way received car traffic in both directions... but of course, not much, as crossing another car on these streets requires a good amount of skill. No, in these parts you'd mostly find people walking, kids going in groups to school, salarymen hurrying to catch the next train; or housewives on their bicycles going to the grocer's.

Speaking of residential areas... there were still these vending machines dispensing cigarettes, coffee, tea, fruit juice, tonic drinks, everywhere in the streets, just standing outside between two houses, or near a station, a bus stop... sometimes even next to a temple or a shrine.

A small shrine, like the one she saw facing the sea next to the docks. It wasn't built in a truly authentic fashion: the pagoda felt a bit off, and the grass was too tall. Those who tended to it may have died in the aftermath of the bomb. But there was still a presence to be felt there; she had said a short prayer to the divinity of that place, made a small offering of money, and then had moved on to more mundane business, which at that time was locating a certain set of keys.

The buzzing alarm of her wristwatch brought her back from these memories. She looked at it: the message said "19:30 NY". The story of the keys would have to wait: you don't want to miss an event like the raid, especially when it happens at a time when you're not stuck in limbo, flowing among these other drops of anima along the veins of the great tree, waiting for the next time you'd be summoned to your active form. She stood up, brushed her trousers, and jumped off the branch.

Nine Swords Goals for 2022

By Katelin

It is important for us as a cabal that it isn't just one person in the driving seat saying how things should be and what we are aiming towards, but instead that everyone is offered the opportunity to speak up and say what we think is good, what is working and what we are enjoying in the cabal. Similarly, it is important we all have the chance to say what we think we can improve on, what isn't working so well for us as a cabal and perhaps even what we need to stop doing to make things better for us.

This is why, in December we held an event together to discuss our Goals for 2022 and reflected on our Goals we made a year ago for 2021.

One of our goals from 2021 was more members!
As Cassar commented, he thinks this one was fulfilled 300% thanks to the work of the expanded Hook Swords team. So we all agreed to put a massive tick next to that one - but obviously, it has to continue. We want an active cabal, and we know sometimes real life just does have to come first and it stops people from logging in to play. Therefore, we will continue recruiting.

Getting better at asking each other for help and advice, especially in regards to higher E-level dungeon training was also on our list from 2021. As Rifla commented during our chat together, higher E-levels we can always do better at.. just dont be afraid to fail. Keep asking for help when you need to understand how a mechanic works, and work on how you can improve within your team!  We have seen an improvement in the last year, our members have been pretty open to asking things, and we see a lot of questions in our cabal channel and forum.

What our older members are going to try to do, is ask more. We have noticed that sometimes we are only asked questions if we are in a one to one dialog with someone. Doing activities and getting to know people encourages questions. We want you to all feel safe to ask, noone is going to get laughed at or made to feel silly for asking questions.

What is of greatest importance to us however, is that even though we are telling people all the time to ask for help - we don't want to tell people how to play. It's a balance.

Another goal from 2021, which we want to take forward to 2022 is more activities within the different divisions of the cabal. This still seems to be a struggling point within Nine Swords - mainly because we are very PvE focussed as a cabal.

More scheduled events, more variety and more timezones - mainly just needs more people taking on the organisor roll. This can be daunting - but if you can step up and try, we will support you. As the variety of the events is the important part, it does NOT just need well geared tanks! Though of course we can see the benefit of the things that are PvE driven to have a tank that knows which direction to run and what they are doing in those events.

Tanking and healing is easier then people think it is. Especially for lairs.
A couple of runs and you quickly remember the layout of those - and with enough DPS in your team, they don't need much tanking at all. The hardest part of running lairs, is being patient when you get to the end and someone didnt click the item at the start.

If you want to get involved in organising things, whatever the event - get in touch with Katelin. Katelin will either support you directly, or tell you which leader would be the best person to support the idea / event you want to run. Also, if you see someone in the cabal with awesome organising / team leading skills and think they could be arm-twisted to run things, say so! We can approach them and ask them to schedule things too.

We also discussed new event ideas.
- We want to see more Sharpening the Blades.
- Workshops would be appreciated to help people learn new roles / mechanics.
- Kell-Hound had an idea about setting cabal challenges.

New Goal for 2022:
We want to see more of our members using our forums / website
Getting you all using our forums more is hard work. It is an uphill struggle. But it is a wealth of information that we want to keep using - so we are not giving up.  We use the forum as our main tool to bridge timezones - making sure you are all informed about what is happening, what is going on and what is incoming.

In summary...
We want to keep up the recruitment to ensure things stay active in our cabal, and keep up finding new people who can contribute not just by logging in, but by getting involved and running teams and things for us to do.

Our current member base is friendly and involved in what is going on - we have active members. Our only wish is that it would be nice to see more people stepping up.

We want to encourage more activity in our forum, potentially though new scripting more 9S Info Cards and linking to information we have in our knowledge base and Bestiary.

The general feedback from our cabal members is that they are thankful that we have so many nice people in cabal chat. Knowing that we will log in to a positive cabal chat definitely encourages people to log in, even when real life wasn't so nice that day. So please keep being positive and don't let people get you down.


First impressions of Nine Swords

By Waspstar

While surfing back copies of The Sword’s Edge (try it — there’s tons of great content), I came across an article titled ‘First Impressions of Nine Swords’. And I decided to write about my own impressions. After all, December was my sixth-month anniversary as a Sword.

Starting Under Sad Circumstances

I applied to join after the sad passing of HolloPoint. I first got to know Hollo back in TSW. He showed me scenarios and exercised incredible patience as I floundered. He was also a gifted artist who put a lot of work into creating unique SWL and Nine Swords content.

I had some doubts about joining. When I checked out the site, everything seemed highly organised and rather elite. These are two virtues I do not possess. But it had been Hollo’s cabal, so I took the plunge. Willow interviewed me, all went well, and before long a bunch of friendly people were welcoming me on cabal chat.

Indifference in Numbers

If you’ve read SWL-related forums elsewhere, you’ll find some posters pronouncing the game dead, completely unplayable, and/or abandoned.

I knew the problems, but found myself having a great time as a new member of Nine Swords. I believed—still believe—that if new and returning players could have the experience I’m having, the like-minded would stick around. And so I asked to join Hooks as a recruiter.

My first interview was a farce. Rather than asking the applicant whether they knew where to find the Directives, as is normal, I thought I had to get them to read Every. Single. Word. Have you seen the Directives section? I stood over the applicant while they spent almost half an hour (no exaggeration) reading the whole thing. Tens of thousands of words.

Anyway, over the past six months, Hooks as a team must have brought in most of the available players in SWL. That’s a testament to those who established Nine Swords and kept it strong for nearly ten years.

The harsh reality is this game doesn’t attract and keep many newcomers and the active player base is small. But right from that first impression, I felt that a smaller team of excellent cabal mates was preferable to a larger number of indifferent ones in another MMO.

New Adventures Ahead

So, first impressions done, where do you go with a niche but unique MMO with no new official content on the immediate horizon? HolloPoint led by example with this. You use the framework and get creative.

I’ve mentioned the standalone Nine Swords game I’m working on for active members. It’s stupidly ambitious and it will only work if you're part of it. Details of how you can participate are coming up in the March newsletter.

Need something sooner? Try ‘The Alternative Adventures of Nine Swords’! A bunch of us plan to create new Alts and, as a group, play through the story mission in weekly, half-hour sessions. So far, Razorgrin, Xzreasel, and Cassar have expressed an interest. So, listen up all you jaded long-time players and all you division leaders. Join us and experience the game in a way you never have before. The missions may be the same but the faces, banter, and experience will be new. I will roleplay and die in ways you never thought possible.

Here's something else brand new: Xzreasel has published his excellent Nine Swords Investigations Episode 1 graphic story. The events explore a real-life mystery and it's a ideal fit for the SWL universe: Nine Swords Investigations

And then, of course, there’s The Sword’s Edge. It’s a perfect outlet for your words of gaming wisdom, your creativity, your art, your funny experiences, and all things SWL and Nine Swords.

To wrap up, then, as we head into a brand-new year, I offer my sincere thanks to you all for a great first impression that’s turned into six months of fun and friendship. SWL is what it is. But you and I can make it more :D

All the best for a happy and healthy 2022.

~ Wasp

New Year's Museum Reception and Parade of Museums

By Katelin

It was a pleasure seeing so many of you yesterday evening at our annual Museum Reception. The annual event, organised by Yuriksha, saw lots of you wearing fantastic hats to ensure you were in with a chance of getting presents from Rifla - many pets and sprints were handed out! Congratulations to all of you! And thank you to Rifla - we were happy to help you gain space in your bank.

 

We met in Yuriksha's museum and following a greeting had a report from each division leader that wanted to say something. After the mandatory screenshot taking, we headed into many of your museums to ensure Open House achievements were gained, and that we could have a look around!

Issue 59 of The Sword's Edge...

Issue 59 of our cabal newsletter will be released on the 9th March 2022 - see you then!