Actions against interests

Last autumn, I had my Ultima Online account turned on for old times’ sake. I bought myself a ride to the most populated server and decided to plop down a house. After a few days of looking, I’d found myself a location, but I still had a book of leftover runes to what are known as IDOC houses. In UO, houses decay if their owners don’t pay for the game for a few months. The state of decay right before the collapse is noted with a house sign that reads “This House Is In Danger Of Collapsing,” hence the term “IDOC.”

IDOC campers — that is, players who scout out, monitor, and “camp” houses about to decay — are reviled by most players. They’re effectively looters. When the houses decay, their contents spill out onto the ground, and there’s a free-for-all lootfest as normally pleasant players grab everything they can carry, filling pack animals to the brim. On crowded servers like my new home, the house spot itself is valuable too, especially if it’s large (because of the fact that housing space is very limited). On the Felucca facet (the free-for-all PvP zone), players will literally commit murder to reduce the competition for loot.

Although I’d chosen my home, I had my eye on a particular IDOC house outside of Trinsic. It was on the larger end of housing sizes and filled with goodies. I can always use the loot, and I’ve never seen the harm in grabbing stuff that would otherwise decay on the ground anyway. So with a few hours left to go on the decay timer, I sidled up to the house, pressed my hide key, and tabbed out to write while I waited, poking my head in every 15 or so minutes to keep from being disconnected.

After a few hours, a player named Shade McGregor ported into the area with a row of pack horses in tow. Darn, I thought, I’ll have competition. Still, I wasn’t too concerned. I wouldn’t be able to carry everything anyway. I could share.

But Shade McGregor turned out to be a crazy person. He did a full sweep of the area and ran over me, which alerted him to my still-hidden presence. Thus began 30 minutes of Shade McGregor freaking out. (Keep in mind we’re in Trammel — I couldn’t attack him.) He shouted at me. He demanded I reveal myself at once. He accused me of being a scripter, of using third-party hacks to stay connected. He threatened to call the GMs on me. He summoned Energy Vortices near my location (these do nothing in Trammel). When a third person showed up, Shade insisted that the pair of them find someone with tracking to find out who exactly I was. The third player suggested detect hidden; neither of them had the skill.

I could have stepped out of my hidden mode, but my stubborn streak kicked in. I don’t respond well to threats and intimidation, and I found his behavior, especially in Trammel, fascinating. What did it matter who I was? I was a third person who wanted the house’s loot. That’s all that was relevant to him. I was willing to share; I was not willing to be bullied.

But Shade McGregor continued spasming about the mystery character hidden near “his” IDOC. His next plan of action astonished me: He announced that if I didn’t reveal myself, he was going to open gates to all the big banks and mass-teleport in players by telling them all a house full of loot was about to decay. I was certain he was bluffing. So was the third character, for that matter; he just started laughing. I mean, what kind of buffoon would ruin his own chances to snag loot over some petulant need to know my name?

A buffoon named Shade McGregor, apparently. When I remained hidden, he made good on his insane threats. Within a few minutes, he’d managed to gate in around 30 other players and their pack animals. Perhaps I’d have understood if they were his guildmembers, but they weren’t; they were random, bored people who happened to see him spamming about an IDOC and jumped in his gate. His chance at loot (which he clearly wanted a lot more than I did, based on his many pack animals compared to my none) went from one in three to one in thirty all of his own doing.

But he didn’t even seem to notice the impact of his actions. As more players arrived, he continued to dart around the location where I was hidden, screaming that there was a hidden person and demanding that someone reveal me or track for my name. Most of the other players ignored him. Several told him point-blank that he was an idiot. “Who gates people to an IDOC?” several of them wondered aloud. Indeed. I ended up leaving before the house fell, more mystified than disappointed. When I emerged from my hiding place to recall out, there were so many people present that he didn’t even notice me.

I took it as a lesson: Foolish people with a sense of paranoid entitlement are a danger to themselves and others… mostly to themselves. We’ve all been tempted to take punitive action against others even when it hurts us, but it’s important to keep a semblance of perspective, to make sure that the perceived “crime” you’re avenging so self-destructively is, in fact, a grave social injustice rather than your own bloated pet peeve.

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  1. […] one house across all servers, there aren’t enough larger plots to go around. As I’ve discussed on this blog before, house-hunters (or hopeful-looters) will spend weeks roaming over every corner of the shard, […]

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