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The sights of Imperial City are a wonder to behold. Braying beasts, sinister mages and shifty-eyed traders compete with each other for your attention. You wonder how you are going to survive in this strange and wondrous land. A more disheartening sight is the rows of nobles lined up in the city gutters, weaving baskets and making clay pots just to survive...

You get the feeling that you're being watched. Suddenly you feel a tap on your shoulder, and you turn to face a hooded figure. He thrusts a parchment into your hand and mutters something about you needing this more than him. He melts back into the crowded marketplace and is soon lost from sight. You unroll the parchment and peer at its contents.

Olympian Survival Kit

An essential guide to survival in Olympia

Greetings traveller, and welcome to Imperial City. Ancient treasures, incredible adventures, and world-wide fame await those both brave and lucky enough to survive in this harsh land. What follows is a guide to help you get on your feet - and out of Imperial City.

Imperial City is located in Provinia, which is by far the most crowded landmass in Olympia. It is also the only safe haven. That means no one can attack you, magic doesn't work, and construction is impossible. The only safe route out of Imperial City (IC) is by sea; the provinces surrounding IC - and, in fact, the whole of Provinia - are controlled by the Ancient Order of Olympians (AOO). This is an alliance of factions that have been operating in Olympia since the beginning, and are now incredibly powerful. To provoke them is to risk immediate destruction. Possible provocations include harvesting resources (land, stone, peasants, etc.) and crossing their territory with a lot of men and/or nobles. The AOO also controls vast tracts of land in other parts of Olympia, but that shouldn't be your immediate concern.

Most players won't attack without provocation, but there are always one or two factions who take delight in "newbie bashing" - killing or capturing the defenseless nobles of new factions. They do this because noble points (NPs) are the only finite resource.

You start with 5,000 gold, 50 wood, and a solitary noble. 5,000 gold may sound like a lot of cash, but it vanishes quickly - so be careful with your money and don't spend it unnecessarily. The first thing that you should generally do is to 'form' another two or three nobles. You might also 'oath' them so that they are harder to bribe and do not cost money each turn to maintain. Leave the other noble points for use when you have a specific task in mind. There are, of course, other strategies that players have used successfully, so don't be afraid to try something different. Bear in mind, however, that putting all your money and NP's into one noble leaves you with one very knowledgeable but very vulnerable character. Forming many nobles, on the other hand, is going to place extreme demands on your cash reserves unless you 'oath' them all, and it is always useful to have a noble point or two available for when you need it.

You'll also get 25 peasants to do with as you will. You are going to need at least eight sailors, five workers and 10 soldiers; leave the remaining two as peasants. There is no need to recruit more peasants at the moment .

Your nobles start out knowing virtually nothing - but luckily, IC is a treasure trove of information. Skills are studied in cities, but subskills can be studied anywhere; so don't waste your money learning subskills that can't be used just yet. Learn them as you need them. Having said that, here are a few essential skills that you should study before leaving IC:

Combat (121): Fight to the death (9505) is probably the most useful subskill to learn here, though Weaponsmithing (9581) and Swordplay (9580) are good if you want to raise a human army. My advice, however, is to not expand too much. With three nobles and a handful of soldiers, you should be safe from most marauding beasts. Save the building of armies until you have a reliable income.

Shipcraft (120): You are going to need at least one noble with this skill. He will also need Sailing (9502) in order to train sailors and actually sail the ship, and Shipbuilding (9503) if you want to build your own. A roundship is generally better than a galley; it costs a bit more, but it only requires eight sailors (as compared to fourteen for the galley) and carries five times as much men and equipment. You can build your own, or you can get one of the professional shipbuilders in IC to build it for you.

Before sailing, be sure to buy a unit of pitch. This is used to repair the damage caused by coastal reefs, which emerge from the sea at random. Also, remember that your other nobles can study skills en route, while your captain sails.

Persuasion (124): This skill is not really of use to you at the moment.

Forestry (128): A very useful skill. Train at least one noble in Harvest lumber (9568). This is the only way to obtain wood, short of buying it at inflated IC prices. The other subskills can be learned later on.

Construction (125): Have a noble learn this skill, though you won't need to learn the subskill Stone quarrying (9566) until you're ready to start building something.

Magic (160): If you like, you can train a noble in the ancient art of magic. It costs an NP, but does bring certain advantages. One very useful subskill is Perform common tasks for gold (9103). This cannot be used in IC (remember, magic doesn't work here), but can be used in all land provinces, and yields 100 gold per use - very handy if your nobles are starving and your followers deserting due to a lack of funds.

Gatecraft (163): Of no real use to the beginning player. Save the gold and the NP for something more useful.

Beastmastery (123): Beastmastery is not taught in IC, but is available in Aethalarn (ap1t) in by20, two provinces west of IC. This is the one case where you can travel through Provinia in relative safety. Just go straight to Aethalarn, study Beastmastery, and get back to IC as quickly as possible. Beastmastery one of the most important skills you can learn, and is often the key to prosperity in Olympia. You might want to have all your nobles study it, along with Capture beasts in battle (9506), and Use beasts in battle (9507). Beasts cost nothing to maintain, and are generally more powerful than human troops.

Once again, only study the skills that you directly need, plus those recommended here.

The next step is to get out of IC and on to the high seas, which is where the game really begins. A large proportion of Olympia has already been colonised, but contrary to popular belief there are still some places where a faction can land and establish a home. Send messages to every noble you see out there; most are reasonably friendly. Do not be afraid to ask questions; remember, everybody was new once.

It is a good idea to read the Olympia Times and try to determine what alliances, if any, are recruiting new players. Being part of an alliance can be extremely useful, providing you with information, some degree of protection, and perhaps even land and resources! The way to get in touch with these alliances, and in fact with any unit or faction in the game, is through direct or diplomatic e-mail. Every unit in the game has a code, e.g. Boris (x3c). To contact the owner of Boris, send email to x3c@g1.pbm.com and it will be forwarded to him.

Good luck, and have fun in Olympia!

This message was brought to you by the Reservoir Gods (qb4), C/RGS. (Also known as Jaxon Rice, jaxon@pixie.co.za)

With thanks to Akmall Benhalla of the Pilgrims Aid Society (and author of the original Guide), and all those factions who took the trouble to answer a newbie's questions and whose answers eventually made their way into this guide.