It's OK, Richard Garriott is protected by spells from harmful use of his blood
Chatting weird reliquary sculptures with the Shroud of the Avatar guys.
Bit weird, wasn't it, when Richard Garriott and Starr Long tried to sell their blood on eBay for $5000? I wouldn't do that. Imagine someone owning your blood: they could make black pudding with it. That's disgusting. Or they could use it to curse you and what would you do about that?
I tell you what Richard Garriott and Starr Long did about it, because people actually bought their blood: they had members of their Shroud of the Avatar community cast spells on them for protection. Yes really.
"We have actually had several players reach out to us and request doing things like casting protection spells on us to protect us from harmful acts done with people now being able to own our blood and do various nefarious things with it," Starr Long, executive producer of Shroud, told me. "And we've given them permission to cast those protection spells.
"I guess Richard and I are quirky like that. I have no qualms with someone owning my blood."
You can actually watch the blood being sucked from their arms during a telethon fundraiser for Shroud of the Avatar, which is the second highest-earning crowdfunded game around, with over $9m raised. You can watch it, but it's disgusting, like Black Pudding made of human blood.
If you watch the videoed telethon closely you can see Starr Long and Richard Garriott go quite pasty after their blood-letting too - a morbid thing for me to point out. "Especially me!" said Long when I made this observation to them. "I do not like needles. I'm very squeamish."
And guess what? Richard Garriott knew that all along.
"I must say I was a pretty horrible friend in that I knew he was squeamish and I was pushing him on purpose," said Garriott, the tormenter. "I didn't think I was being as effective as apparently I was! And you may have noticed he retired from the scene for a while and that was to lie on the floor and recover."
Nevertheless, neither man was drained dry. Only a "very, very tiny amount was taken", and not all of it was used in the reliquary sculptures. Richard Garriott still has half a test tube left, and I know that because he waggled it in front of his Skype video camera for me. And it looked a much healthier shade of red than the worryingly bright blood in the reliquary in case you're wondering. But you're not, are you.
But how on earth did it get to blood in the first place? Well, you see, it started with Richard Garriott's rat's tail, a straggly braided dangling thing of hair.
A few years ago, when Garriott went to space - I know: you couldn't make this up - a friend of his who makes reliquaries made one to contain a lock of Garriott's space hair and a lock of his father's space hair, because Garriott senior is an astronaut too. "I thought that's kind of cool and I have that at my house," the younger space man told me.
That was on his mind while recording a previous Shroud of the Avatar telethon, and it prompted him to offer live on air to cut two inches of his rat's tail off and put it in a reliquary for anyone who bid $5000. "And it worked immediately," he said. "So that was the inspiration: if hair is inspirational then blood must be more inspirational."
Incidentally, those prices - those $5000 prices - aren't only for a hair reliquary or a blood reliquary: they include heaps of in-game Shroud of the Avatar content, primarily property, equivalent to what you'd get pledging a similar amount to the game. The "crazy piece of art", as Richard Garriott calls it, is a cherry on top.
Incidentally again, I wrote an in-depth article about Shroud of the Avatar's pricey property market earlier this year.
"One thing I want to mention about the crazy stunts like that, the telethons and the fund raising in general, is that we are a crowdfunded game," Starr Long said. "We don't have traditional investors; we don't do marketing or advertising."
"We've put literally zero dollars into marketing," Richard Garriott added.
"The point of us doing stunts like that," Long carried on, "and doing telethons and creating these blood reliquaries is really to get dollars to develop the game."
10 Shroud of the Avatar blood reliquaries have been made, five each for Richard Garriott and Starr Long, and three of them have sold - two of Garriott's and one of Long's. The two men know who bought them and will even get to meet their blood buyers when they redeem the office visit part of their pledge rewards.
You can't buy the reliquaries on eBay any more as they were removed pretty sharpish as soon as blood was mentioned (the original listings were for empty reliquaries), because that contravenes eBay's gruesome 'Human remains and body parts' policy, which essentially says no to anything fitting that description.
But apparently Garriott and Long expected as much and only listed on eBay as "a kind of lark", and to see how much people would pay. "We didn't know if these were going to sell for $200 or $2000 or $20,000 - we really had no idea," Garriott said.
The blood reliquaries are now available to buy, as was always the plan, from the Make a Difference part of the Shroud of the Avatar store, where a portion of sale price is donated to charity - 10 per cent in this case. The remaining reliquary bundles are, however, more expensive, ranging from $8000 up to $13,000. Don't you go ruining yourself trying to afford one!
So that's Richard Garriott, a man who took people's DNA to space while promoting Tablua Rasa, and who's cut his rat's tail off and given blood to promote Shroud of the Avatar. Question is, what will he do next - flog a body part? "I'm not sure how small the tip of a finger we can cut off, or the tip of a toe, and make it valid," he said. Joking. Or was he?