August 20, 1999
As the coleader of a clan which has recently been recruiting a lot of people, I often come in contact with people who have never, or almost never, used a portal. So for these less experienced portalers...
What is a portal?
Portals are a means of transport between all the clantowns (read help clantowns if you're *really* new to Med), Med city and Trellor. By standing at a portal in one clantown, you can enter it, travel through the astral plane, and end up in another clantown. The syntax for this is enter destination. Your destination can be a number (the number of the clantown is the same as the number of the clan controlling it, for instance, enter 42), part of the name of the controlling clan (eg, enter cheese) or the name of one of the cities with portals (eg, enter trellor).
Why use a portal? The obvious alternative (apart from walking from one place to another) to using a portal is to fly by dragonback. Both portals and dragons have their advantages and disadvantages, which I shall discuss with you shortly. Neither of them is *better* than the other, there are times when one is better, and times when the other is.
The most obvious difference between dragons and portals is that portals are free, and dragons cost money. At lower levels, the cost of a dragon is minimal (for instance, the cost of a dragon for a level 15 character is 6750 coins, or 6k). However, at higher levels, calling a dragon everytime you want to change your location gets a little expensive (a level 28 wishing to call a dragon must pay out 43904 coins, or 43k). It is also much easier, at higher levels, to find yourself suddenly standing on the outer edges of the continent with no dragon money. If you've been to a nearby clantown recently, this is not a problem, simply recall back to it. If you haven't, the best course of action is either to link and complete one of the polls off the Road of Questions, or, if you're a consciencious Med player and have already completed them all, to ask one of your clannies to buy a potion off the auction for some ridiculously expensive price (ie, enough to call a dragon). For lower level characters who have never been on a trade run and are finding dragons too expensive, portaling is a wonderful option. Portals can take you to a zone which free to get to, perfectly suited to your level (check showtown), LPK (so your experience gaining session will be uninterrupted) and has all the amenities you could wish for - banks, post offices, lockers, altars, etc. Plus, they have the command guide to tell you exactly where each of these rooms are (type guide in a clantown to find out which of these facilities exist in each clantown).
Another important difference between portals and dragons is the time it takes to reach your destination. If you wish to travel from one clantown (for the purposes of this article, Med and Trellor will be included as clantowns) to another, then portaling is definitely much quick. Also, portaling to a clantown near a zone is almost always quicker than flying, unless you have an unfortunately number of misportals. If the first member of a form to reach the clantown flies to the zone, the rest can be summoned or phase from the clantown. Another delay caused by dragons is the fact that you cannot immediately start your travel, you must wait for a dragon to answer your call. Dragons do have the advantage, though, that you can call them from anywhere. If you are in a zone, and you arrived via the nearest clantown, there is always the advantage that you can, if you are in trouble, recall to the clantown, or recall when you are ready to leave, without spending money on a dragon. Note: if the zone has it's own recall point, such as Lyryanoth, this is not possible.
The third deciding factor in whether to use a dragon or a portal is simply, are portals feasible? Portals only lead to clantowns, and there are some zones which are out of range of phase/summon from a clantown. Dragons will fly you anywhere in med (remember that you can direction the dragon to fly wherever you want by typing fly direction), and also take you to almost all the zones on listzone. Dragons are always accurate, although if you lose link, a dragon will stop flying where you directed it and fly in circles. Portaling continues regardless of whether you are connected to the mud or not.
You may by now be asking yourself, what are these misportals that she keeps referring to? Portals do not always work accurately, and at times they will misfunction completely. Therefore, there are two types is misportals. The first is very nasty, but fortunately happens very rarely (less than 1% chance). When you enter the portal, you are randomly teleported out into the wilderness surrounding the zone (I assume this is similar to teleport, and the distance you are teleported depends on your level). Your recall has been wiped completely (this is the only way possible to have no recall. Normal death does not affect recall at all, and npk death resets it to Med), and you must walk back to the clantown you were in (most clantowns show up on survey, if you cannot find the clantown you were in, you'd better either have wizard eye, or hope you pick the right direction. Once you are one step inside, your recall is set to that clantown, as usual. You can then recall to the portal (all portals are located at recall, except for in cases such as Medievia (portal is south and east of recall) and Trellor (portal is a few rooms outside the west gate)), enter the portal again and continue on your way. The second type of misportal is slightly nicer, and is only a minor inconvenience. It does however, occur with greater frequency. As far as I can tell, these misportals, also referred to as spinning out due to the message which is generated when you enter the portal (You step into the portal, and the world spins madly.), occur roughly 11-12% of the time, although I believe that they are more likely to occur when you are travelling larger distances on the astral plane (some people prefer to make smaller portal jumps to increase the accuracy of their portals, I think it is not worth the bother). This type of misportal simply causes you to arrive at a different location to the one you intended. When you exit the portal, you "stagger out of the portal, then collapse." This means that you must first stand up before entering the portal again. You will often find that these misportals bring you back to the place which you were at before you entered the portal. Note that these misportals have a different message at both the start and end of the astral plane journey. By carefully watching, you will be able to tell whether your portal will be successful, and warn clannies that you will be taking slightly longer if you spin out.
Time in portals can also be utilised effectively. Whilst the time you spend on a dragon is always fairly useless, since you can do very little by eat and drink from items already in your inventory, time in portals is most usefull. While you are on the astral plane, you can cast spells, rest, eat, drink, clean up your inventory (note: while items can be put into containers on the astral plane, you cannot take them out. Also note that while you cannot examine a container (eg, exa bag), you can in fact look in it (eg, look in bag)), even catch up on a bit of lost vitality by either using the time to refresh yourself a lot, or sleep (most portal trips will not take 3 whole ticks, but if you are with a form of people, you can simply ask one of them to wake you when you reach the end of the portal ride. Also, you cannot dream while sleeping on the astral plane). Note: blood will not wear off while you are on the astral plane, and you cannot edit descriptions or pieces of paper. My favourite portal activity is recasting all my spells, or, if I know I am short of food, using the time to repeatedly cast create food. Then, when I reach the destination portal, I am always prepared, and don't need to make my form wait while I cast all the spells that wore off on dragonback. :p Some spells can be seen by all people currently on the astral plane. These spells include shield room, and faerie fog. So if you occasionally receive a message such as "The area dazzles and shimmers as the shield begins to lose it's anchor," nothing is going wrong, someone is just having fun. :-)
Another strange message that can sometimes be seen in portals is a dragon message, such as "A large, silver dragon stretches his wings...wanting to fly." This is because you can take mounts into portals. This makes portals very usefull for trading. How? Warhorses are among the best mounts on the continent (stamina wise, not movement wise) - my clan trades on nothing else. They are also wonderful for trading because they don't wander when not tethered (very useful since the new one tethered mount per room rule was introduced). They can only be found at the Medievia Stables (west of Rodenberry Park North), or Lokrath's Stables (south east corner of Merchant Circle, Trellor). If one of your trading party flies to the trading post, the others can portal, with warhorses, to the nearest clantown, and then phase or be summoned to the post. Then one of the clerics can recall back to the clantowns, portal to med and grab a horse for the member of the party who flew to the post. This way, your entire form can be mounted on warhorses. The nearest clantown to your post can be found by checking the map on the MedWeb, although I keep a list of zones that I visit regularly (or just when I remember to write down a new zone), and their closest clantowns near my computer at all times (the link at the bottom of the page leads to this list). If the post is out of phasing distance for your form (I find New Genesia to be quite a pain), you may want either to find the stables in the zone near your post, or set up phase jumps. This means having a clannie fly or walk to halfway between the nearest clantown and the post, and having a cleric phase them from the clantown, then phasing clannies at the post. This does require some effort to set up, quite a few clannies, and uses a LOT of mana (repeated phasing on a horse is no fun with little mana). If you do use portals to get warhorses, warn clannies to watch carefully for misportal or spin out messages. If you misport, and end up at the wrong clantown, you will have to mount your horse again, because when you stagger out of the portal and collapse, you automatically dismount, although no message shows (similar to casting farsight while mounted).
A lot of my clannies have huge problems with portaling. I know several who I would just have to say are cursed, I would not believe some of the bad luck they have (it has been suggested that maybe bless has an effect on successful portaling. I haven't tested this yet, but the people who have the biggest problem in my clan - which is full of mostly clerics and mages - are the mages, who almost never have bless on. I think there would have to be some kind of factor like this effecting whether your portal is successful, because there is no way that I misport as often as some of my clannies. I doubt it's just luck). A lot of people on Med (including these clannies of mine :p) are of the opinion that portals SUCK. I have two things to say in response to this: 1). they're free. Noone forces you to use them. So if they suck so much, don't use them. And 2). I remember what it was like before portals. Sure, if you go far enough back, as long as you were in the right kingdom, you had free dragons, but in between kingdoms and portals? I'll just say that travelling around Med was a lot more expensive and time-consuming then than it is now, and I, for one, love portals, and think that they among the best changes made recently.
While this is by no means everything to be said about portals, I certainly hope it will make various aspects of your med life, xping, trading, etc, a bit easier and less time consuming.
The list of various zones, and their nearest clantown is available at http://www.crosswinds.net/~hfi/towns.html