Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Bardic Circle: Red and Black

Swoop and Pilpus perform (photo by Jesse Gifford)

  The Red and the Black

Words and music by Michael "Swoop" Zajac. Accompanied by Benjamin "Pilpus" Lacasse on guitar.

Listen friends and I'll sing you a song
of a nation so storied of brave knights so strong
of mages and fighters who never turn back
who fight to the death for the Red and the Black.

First came Sir Duncan a brave stalwart knight
invaded by drow, exiled by home
a warrior of Garm who fights for what's right
a mentor, a leader well fit for the throne.

For woe to the foe who crosses the path
of lions clad in the Red and the Black
Take heart if you fight with one by your side
for their prowess and might shall sure turn the tide.

Next came Sir Da'oud a fiery man
uniting Free Nations from faraway lands
From goblins and trolls to the mighty Erl King
You just can't beat Rhiassan men and women.

For woe to the foe who crosses the path
of lions clad in the Red and the Black
Take heart if you fight with one by your side
for their prowess and might shall sure turn the tide.

Long live Lord Aeston and long may he reign
savior of Cold Springs from Bedlam's dark taint
defending the Realms whilst under attack
and looking quite good in that infamous hat.

For woe to the foe who crosses the path
of lions clad in the Red and the Black
Take heart if you fight with one by your side
for their prowess and might shall sure turn the tide.

Swoop and Pilpus perform (photo by Dustin Mack)

 [Editor's note: performed during the Bardic Competition at Feast of the Leviathan 17 on January 17, 2015]

Knigh tError by Michael "Panther" Palumbo

With great power comes great screw up.

Being knighted was a wonderful recognition for my efforts and contribution, and I was squired to a successful knight who took the time to show me the path. And for every knight there comes a time when you think, it's time for me to take a squire of my own and give a willing eager young cadet the full benefit of all I've learned. I'm here to tell you to think twice. It's not that I discourage the squiring of would-be knights, I just want to caution you to take the responsibility seriously and think about whether you are ready for it.

I personally failed my first two squires. The first left the game not with animosity, just didn't see it going anywhere and didn't enjoy it anymore. The second left our group and found his own way. In both cases, my failure was in commitment. My first squire was one of a pair of brothers that came to us as newbies. After some time with us, Randal wanted to squire one of them. I thought that was great. Then he convinced me that I should squire the other, so as not to have him feel left out. That made sense to me, so what the hell. Let's do it.

No. I suppose it could have worked out, but from the get-go, I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I didn't really want a squire; it was someone else's idea. I had no plan, no expectations. I saw it as a reward I could bestow instead of the start of a journey through which I would lead them. Wrong.

The second squire I took for better reasons, this time I wanted the squire. He had expectations and I failed to meet them. He left me and the group, having made the complaint that he needed people who play the game more than we did. And he was spot on. I took the squire at the height of my involvement in Event Holding and then our group's involvement in event production began to wane. We went from throwing 3 or 4 events a year to just one, and then only one every few years. Even our PC involvement waned as lives changed and other players dropped out. I had no business taking a squire when I couldn't commit to being involved at the same level the squire desired.

What did I learn from this?  Well of the three knights in our group, none of our squires had advanced in any significant way. We realized that individually we were not able to sustain the responsibility. Not to mention, the whole squire/knight relationship doesn't particular go well with our PC shtick of a thief/assassin guild. So we started to treat our guild as a local knighthood, with levels within them. In the spirit of "it takes a village..." we decided that we'd each take the best of our entry level associates and work with them, but after a time, they'd rotate. Each knight could in turn, teach the "squire" what the others lacked. Ultimately, we believed the product would be the sum of our individual parts. I'm happy to say that we were more successful. We were able to produce a small handful of outstanding community members some of which continue to contribute, as well as one who went far enough to earn his own white belt.

Belts of the Eternal Flame

Matt "Sir Zula" Daviault


Photo by Jesse Gifford

1.      What year were you awarded your white belt?
I know it was at Feast of Folkstone 2005 or 2006

2.      Who administered "the punch" and-- be honest!!--did it hurt?
Jarrod did the honors.  The punch was solid, it didn’t hurt. The bruise it left for a week after did.

3.      Whose belt did you wear until you got your own, and how was this significant for you?
I wore Steve Matulewicz’s belt.  It was very significant; Steve was and still is a close friend and mentor to me.

4.      Please describe your own belt's heraldry.
It is a black willow tree with a red background.

5.      Why did you choose that heraldry to represent you?
It is the heraldry of the Darkwillow family; we are a small group of people from different places in the Realms who kind of adopted each other. 

6.      Who did the artwork on your belt?
Leanne Calagione Micciche

7.      What do you remember most about your knighting?
I remember Jarred, Tom, and Dave all talking about this guy.  I kept thinking I should know who they were talking to but had no idea.  I wasn’t till the end when they mentioned gambling that it dawned on me (at the time I was the only one running a casino, so happy it caught on). I also remember seeing people clapping and making noise, but not hearing any of it.

8.      What does being a KoEF mean to you?
This is a tough question as putting feelings into words as my other fellow Knights has said is difficult.
I have taken this to heart, in both realms and real life.  “To thine ownself be true”
It is a mantra that I use every day.  It means doing things that some people might not understand for the betterment of yourself or the Realms.

Photo by Travis Wilcox

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

So you think you can draw?

The title says it all!

Do you think you have what it takes to design the next front page image for ?  Do you think that the tiny little cabin picture is due for retirement?  Give us your best shot!


The icon needs to look good against a white background, and should probably be around 500-600px per side.

The icon needs to represent the Realms as a whole. Meaning, no specific PC or NPC, or existing heraldry in use in the game.  The icon needs to not be in use by anyone else!  The icon needs to be made by You!

We will begin go accept entries on 2/1/15 and ends on 2/13/15.  Send the image to .  We will put them up for voting here at The View from Valeheaven, voting will being on 2/14/15 and end on 2/28/15.

Show us your art skills!!!

The View from Valehaven Staff reserves the right to disqualify any image that does not meet the criteria, would be considered non work safe, or does not qualify in the spirit of the contest.

The View from Valehaven Staff will pick up to 5 entries that most represent the spirit of the contest for voting by the general populace of the game.

Being a Squire- by Lani "Gwen" Grayson

Being a squire has been hard work in many ways. (Being a knight is even harder, so it’s good practice). I’ve been truly lucky to have a knight-squire relationship that has led to me growing in many ways as a person both in and out of game. As my squireship comes to a close, I am happy to reflect on the myriad of changes that have taken place in the past few years.

The biggest attribute that I gained as a result of my squireship is confidence. Jason gave me many opportunities in a variety of ways to learn this, for lack of a better word, skill. I was barely a squire for a few months when he gave me the opportunity to run Leviathan. He handed over the reigns of his most prized event to a newbie. But that was the boost to my self-confidence that I needed to accomplish the many tasks I have taken on since then. When he called me up in front of the entire feast hall to thank me, I simply burst into tears, unable to fully express the range of emotions I was feeling at the time. Now, I can look back and think of words like  gratitude, pride, and joy.

Jason is an experiential teacher for sure. As an educator myself, I recognize my own kind. Every lesson or skill he has wanted me to learn, he hasn’t lectured on (a shock for some of you, I am sure), but instead has provided me with a task that will require the underlying skill to accomplish. I have learned perseverance through many tedious mask making projects. I have learned leadership and decision-making by having it thrust upon me at practice, and most recently, as head war maneuver marshall at Queen of Hearts. I have learned innovation through many planning meetings for Queen of Hearts and Leviathan that have resulted in no small part in things like real bridges for bridge battles and plated feasts.

I think that the knight-squire relationship worked particularly well in this instance because Jason and I are such good friends out-of-game. I sometimes hear someone making a joke, “Isn’t that what you have squires for?” when they want someone to go get something, or do some menial task. I would be very offended if Jason or Aeston sent me to do busy work that he was perfectly capable of doing on his own. That is not the case with us, and I think it is largely because that is not how friends treat one another. Instead, our projects are joint efforts, and I like to think that they are things that we are both proud to have accomplished when all is said and done. It has led to a meaningful few years of mentoring that I am sure will not end when I am knighted, but will continue for many years to come as we embark on still more quests, projects, and hell, maybe even more bridge building.

Sharpening the Pen - By Graham of Folkestone

Eventholding is hard. Like anything that’s hard, it’s worth doing, and if you’re already doing it, it’s worth getting better at. Even the most experienced eventholders have had a scene that goes sideways on them, or perhaps an entire event that kind of misses the mark. New EHs have a hard time even knowing what kind of story to tell, and what seems like it might be a good idea can very subtly be the often-tread ground of newbie EH mistakes. How do you as a newer storyteller entertain the oldbie who has seen everything, the midbie looking to make a name for themselves, and the newbie who can barely hold a sword?

Throwing a questing event is a massive creative endeavor, and like any other work of art or group undertaking, everybody has their own process that works for their own organization and strengths.  Creativity is often described as a muscle, something that gets stronger over time. The more you work at throwing events, making characters, and designing stories, the more robust ideas will come to you over time. Do not worry about spending your creative energy forever, more will come. It is daunting to start, but the first step is to actually start.

I can’t tell you how to throw events; I’m still learning myself and there isn’t any clear answer. I’ve worked with a bunch of different teams, and helped with many events on the backend from being a simple crunchy to head writer. What I can do is give you the numerous questions that make up my internal process, and let you come up with the answers for yourself.  These are lenses that help you to look at yourself, your staff, your event, your story, and your encounter from a different perspective. They sum up the lessons I’ve learned in throwing and playing, and hopefully I can help you to not make the same mistakes I have or have seen. I am constantly revisiting these questions in my mind. They are designed to make even the most seasoned EH run his or her event through its paces, and even if you don’t change anything, you are at least more deliberate in your actions.

As we go through them, I’m going to try and be as unbiased about the answers to the questions as possible, I clearly have answers that form my style and my voice in events. I’d like you, the reader, to answer them for yourselves as best as possible. Even putting these to paper has made me rethink the process and has been immensely helpful. To be clear, this is about throwing quests, and while some of the broad themes can apply to tournaments or feasts, it’s not nearly as applicable. Those are hard in their own right, but I’m going to talk about the stories we tell.

Let’s begin.

Why do you want to throw an event?
You can re-read this question with the accent on each of the words to find nearly a different meaning, but I am mostly interested in the “why”. Don’t take it as trying to talk you out of it, or assuming that you would be bad at it, but what is it you are looking to accomplish? Hopefully the answer comes out to be “I have a story to tell” or “I want to entertain my friends”. There are a good number of variations of those two that are among the best answers as to this question. There are many others however, and what you say might reveal more than you might think.

Let’s dig a little deeper. Wanting to entertain people is different than having a story to tell. They say different things about who you are, and even perhaps where your strengths lie. We’re going to tackle what your eventholding strengths are in a different question in a couple of weeks, but not answering in the affirmative to both might mean that you need people on your team to help balance you out some. For instance, if you are more concerned about rigid story flow, but aren’t as concerned if the encounters aren’t fun, then you might be one type of eventholder. If you really are just looking to make fun in the moment, and the story is a wash of paint to make it all flow, then you are another type of eventholder.

The answers that should make you carefully think about what you are about to undertake are “I want to create a particular moment”, “I think this magic item would be funny to release” or “Wouldn’t it be great if the PCs got to do/had to do this?” While we joke a lot in veteran circles about that last one, we know in our heart that you can’t sustain six hours of content on a single mechanic or schtick. At their ideal, events should tell a complete story and have a beginning, action, and some kind of resolution. Rarely do events stand up as a full experience on a single quirky NPC or a certain type of fight. These can be components of an event, but they themselves aren’t an event.

Another answer that is it’s own to address is “I feel that our nation should do this.” This answer can be a mixed bag. It is excellent that you want your nation to stand up and join the host of other groups that are contributing to the game as a whole. Projects like events, when properly planned and executed, give you something to do together, and are great for OOC nature of groups to get to hang out. Don’t let this slant at the answer push you into doing it before you are ready. There are alternatives that you can take to start on that path, such as NPCing as a group to see how other established teams handle it, or sign up as an individual to get some experience before striking out on your own. Conversely, don’t fear failure. We’ve all thrown a bad event, and have picked ourselves up again. Ask for advice along the way.

As you start to dig into the “what” of your event, it helps time and time again to go back to the why, and truly understand it. The more pure your internal motivation, the better event it will end up being. Avoid thoughts like “to prove a point”. The answers “I want to entertain people” and “I want to tell an engaging story” together make truly whole events. The blending of these two statements make up the heart of every other question I will pose in this series, so keep them in mind as we continue down this path.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ask Syruss

Ask Sir Syruss. Sir Syruss is a seasoned adventurer with over 10 years of experience slaughtering undead and charming the ladies, beating up bad guys, frustrating good guys, and grossing out the ladies. So if you have a question no matter how bizarre, weird or funny (the funnier the better then we can sell more issues of the View) consider asking the man who loves to tell you how to live your life……..even though no one tells you how to live your life.

(OOC- Questions for Sir Syruss should be sent to view staff at


 Congratulations on winning best trainer. What, in your expert opinion, are the differences between men and women in combat? Do you train men and women differently?

Yours truly,
Eager to Train

Dear Next Year’s Competition,
The difference between men and women in combat….
Let me tell you about those chicks on the field (* seess Illy and Katasha glaring at him*)
Ahem, THEY’RE great!!!
Let me try this again. The field of battle doesn’t care! It doesn’t care if you are old or young, man or women, even caster or fighter. The field of battle is ruthless and exact and if you don’t train and hone your skills it will chew you up and spit you out.

You ask what the difference is between men and women on the field, well, I am here to tell the real difference is between the trained and un-trained.

You see some people may think women are smaller so they must be more timid on the field. Sure, smaller people can be more timid but that is not gender specific either and that timid feeling will reflect your training. I have seen men buckle under the pressure of a falling flank just as well as women and, because statistically there are more male fighters than women fighters, one could say I have seen men crumble more often than women.
You might think, well, are women fighters less aggressive than men fighters? Once again I would say certain combatants are less aggressive than others.

Playing defensively is certainly a style and a non-gender-specific one. One can look at Illy of Grimloch and know she is going to block most of your shots coming in and then counter strike the bananas out of you. Is her counter strike technique developed because she is a girl or how she trained?
Answer? That’s right, it’s how she trained. Look at Dygan who came out of the same camp as Illy. He counter strikes just as effectively and yet still has a Y chromosome, huh weird.

So to answer your question on if I train females differently than males, the answer is a definitive unabashed NO.
We are no longer in an era where the strongest can swing our weapons the most effectively. Both men and women of smaller frames and muscle mass now have different weapon cores available to them that were not around a decade ago.

With lighter materials, more and more people can pick up weapons and use them for longer periods of time without wearing themselves completely out and leaving themselves open to attack.
Now, I do train experience levels differently. I am not going to start roughing up a walk on the field newbie who has picked up his sword just a handful of times. Instead, I am going to work them from the ground up building a solid foundation of fundamental parrying and striking combinations as well as a proficient grasp of calling shots all while being bombarded with shots.

The flips side to that is I am not going to take a seasoned vet and try to break them down like a day one green horn (Unless of course they are Dark One, awful at fighting, and really need it).
Instead I am going to develop a training program for them and their speed.

The way I train at the acclaimed Order of the List “Pit” is very personal and very tailored to the individual.  How does this person learn with soft guiding hands? Perhaps they learn with a stern tongue and tough approach? Some people only learn with a reward system while others do great with the lash to the back every time they mess up.

While I would love to tell you that I train X like Y and all you need to do is start doing A and you can teach a person B. It ultimately is not that simple.

Much like every trainer has their own way of teaching, every student will have their own way of learning.

If you want more advice on what I do for my less seasoned combatants I invite you to seek me out at any event you see me.

The Order of The List may not always have “The Pit” banner in tow but we are always willing, ready and able to train.

I hope this helps. Sorry if doesn’t, just keep practicing and you will do fine.

“Unbroken Habits lead to Broken Records” Sir Nymbous

See you on the Field,

Question Master
Sir Syruss O’Leary
Order of the List
Knight of the Potentium
Knight of the Blue Rose