Monday, December 22, 2014

The 12 Hats of Cecils Photos by Jesse Gifford

In honor of this special tradition, here are my personal pick for the pictures that best showcase this tradition. It could easily have been the 30 or even 40 hats of Cecils!! 

By Request- From Tria's Kitchen, French Onion Soup Tarts

Mini French Onion Soup Tarts

4 large onions

1 stick butter

1 cube vegetable bouillion

1 cup (and a little more) water

2 cups shredded mozzarella

1 cup shredded swiss

1 package puff pastry cups

1. Slice the onions into long, thin slices.

2. Melt butter in the bottom of a large stock pot. Slowly caramelize the onions in the butter, stirring nearly constantly towards the end, until they are a nice deep brown.  They will reduce in size a bunch. This will take a long time, possibly 30 minutes or more.

3. Once the onions are fully caramelized, deglaze the pan with a bit of hot water.

4. Place onions in a bag and let chill overnight.

5. The next day, reheat onions in broth (bouillion + water) and simmer.

6. Fill each puff pastry cup with onions

7. Sprinkle mozzarella on top of the onions.

8. Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is melted and brown

Friday, December 19, 2014

Behind the Curtain: PCs Are Stupid by Mikey “Janus” Donnelly

The army of the Unseen Evil hide on the other side of a sealed doorway.  As soon as the foolish adventurers solve the final ward, the army will be unleashed at last to wreak havoc upon the world.  The army has waited millennia to be unleashed...and freedom shall be theirs in the next five minutes.  An hour later, the excitement of the army has worn off, and chatter has broken out amongst the troops.  The Event Holder walks up and apologizes to the Unseen Evil’s general.  “Sorry about the should only be a few more minutes.  I think they almost have the puzzle solved.  I forgot how stupid PCs can be.”  The general looks up and asks “What is the puzzle they have to solve anyway?”   The event holder just sighs and responds “It’s only a Rubik’s Cube...can you believe nobody there knows how to solve a rubiks cube?”  Upon hearing this news, the general settles down for a nap.  It’s going to be a few more hours.

PCs are stupid.  This statement has been bandied about over the years whenever NPCs and Staff start to get bored waiting for the PCs to overcome an obstacle.  While on occasion the PCs may be having an off day, more often it is simply because the PCs don’t know how the the event is planned and are working off of partial information which may or may not be correct.  Today’s article will provide a series of tips and tricks to avoid having your PCs feel lost.

We will start with simple puzzles and encounters in which the PCs need to figure something out, rather than simply killing creatures on the way to a location.  These encounters, when designed with minimal effort, usually look something like “go to the location, say the magic words, and the door will open.” So, lets take a look at how to improve it.  For each part of the encounter, ask yourself, “How will the PCs know to do this, or even where to go?”  Always question this, even if you feel you already know the answer, and keep asking it over and over again until you feel satisfied with all of those answers.   For example, how do the PC’s know to “go to the location from where they currently are”?  Perhaps it is because a guide is leading them to the sacred grove.  How will they know to find the guide?  Perhaps the guide will need to be rescued.  How will they know to rescue him?  Perhaps, the guide’s wife comes to ask the PCs to save her husband.  That is a good starting point.  Now, there is another question of why the guide would lead them to the sacred grove/why will the PCs follow him?  Well...perhaps the Unseen Evil’s forces have kidnapped the guide so nobody could find the grove, and now knowing this, the guide will lead the PCs to stop the forces there.  This line of questioning turned “go to the location” into “The guide’s wife will ask the heroes to save her husband, the PCs find the guide, and then follow him at his prompting to find the forces of the Unseen Evil at the sacred grove.”

The second half of the encounter was “and say the magic words to open the door.”   How will the PCs know the magic words?  How will they know to speak them?  Is there a puzzle on the door that clues the PCs into what the magic words are?  How can they solve the puzzle?  How do they know to speak the words aloud?  Until all of these are answered, the places the PCs can get lost still exist. As an event holder it looks trivial, but as a PC, they do not already know the solution, and can get lost pursuing an incorrect assumption.

Once everything is designed, playtest the puzzle or encounter if you can.  It may point out where there may be issues you didn’t expect.  Not only playtest it, but playtest it with multiple people.  This will give you a rough guideline on the minimum amount of time something can take, as well if it might take too long.  Don’t rely just on this for a maximum timeframe, because PCs are under a lot of stress at an event.  They are working on figuring out what is happening, while trying to stay alive, and quite possibly sleep deprived, up later than they normally are, while not having eaten properly throughout the day.  These factors can make thinking rather difficult, and sometimes a simple anagram can take a long time to solve.

When using riddles, be careful.  If you are using pre-made riddles, people will have already heard them, which makes them barely a speed bump. If nobody has heard that particular riddle, it may take forever to solve.  Riddles are often an “all or nothing” kind of puzzle, and plan for PCs being unable to solve one or two of them.  On that note, plan for PC’s being unable to solve a puzzle.  See my article on PC Failure to figure out how this can be handled.

An interesting concept to incorporate into puzzles is feedback.  Having some IC mechanism to tell the PCs they are on the right path can lead to a cleaner solution overall.  Having clicks or dings or buzzers or something else to help the PCs can lead to a more enjoyable and less frustrating experience overall.  Think of the game “Mastermind” where rather than blind luck, you get feedback to help your next attempt at solving the pattern.

Be careful designing anything which requires knowledge of previous events.  The more your PCs are invested in the plot, the more you can use previous knowledge (and the PCs will know the information), but early on in the plot people will not remember everything from a year ago.  If you want to do this, there are two different ways to handle it.  First, you can re-release the information.  This will help the PCs remember it, and guarantee the information is available.  The other way is to design something which requires previous knowledge, but make it optional.  Perhaps a chance to meet or gain an ally, weapon, or magic item that isn’t absolutely mandatory for completion of the quest.

Finally, as a general tip, take PC communication into account.  When PCs communicate, sometimes a game of telephone occurs, and as the information spreads outwards, it changes to become something useless or even harmful to the plot.  If you need information to be on the quest, be sure to give it to the PCs either in writing or from multiple sources so multiple people can get the untarnished information before it changes.

How have you handled PC’s being “Stupid” at your events?  Did I miss any methods you use to avoid the problem?  Do you disagree with these approaches?  Leave a message in the comments.

10 Questions- Britini "Rivers" Chandler

How long have you been playing?
KOEF 2013

How has the game changed since you've been playing?
I haven’t really been playing long enough that things have changed in the game itself (at least that I’ve noticed) but personally it has been easier to get to know the people who play and that is really great.

Who have you learned the most from?
I have learned the absolute most from Steve Johnson (Sir Duncann), Dave Hayden (Vawn), and Steve Nelson. I never would have picked up the game without these guys. I feel myself getting better and better each week and I see my members get more social and skilled at each Realms event/practice we have. Clan Riverhawk truly would not exist without them. :)

What was your best moment IC?
My best IC moment was Black and White’s Court (it was also my birthday!). Sir Duncan had asked me if I thought we were ready as a group to be formally introduced to the Realms. It felt so official to be introduced that way and I was surprised with a gift (a necklace) that I have never taken off. It represents so much to me to be a part of this group.

What was your best moment as a NPC/EH/Player?
One of my best moments as a player was being in my first quest with spells. It was deep dark secrets and I had just learned Heal Limb, I was at the front lines of the action ready to heal all the legs and arms I could. It was pretty awesome.

What would you like to see changed or developed more in game?
I don’t really know much about how the game has changed already but I have enjoyed the consistencies in plots from event to event. (the shades, as an example) It immediately gives context to get excited about as a player.

What advice would you give new players?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be social most players are willing to get new members interested in the game!

What do you love most about the game?
I love the openness and the acceptance that is present at any given event. I love that events provide a place for people to explore parts of themselves they’d be hesitant about in real life. I’ve never felt important the way I do at events.

Who would you like to see the next interview be with?
Steve Johnson?

Anything else you'd like to take the opportunity to put into print?

I’d like to thank the realms to be so understanding and helpful to the Hawks as a new group! It has been integral to my time as an undergrad!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What You Missed- Tournaments of Artemis 4, Photos by Jesse Gifford

Not only did Team Grimloch (Illy, XT, Dygan) win the day but they also get the View Staff's
choice award for the most bad ass banner of 2014.

Huntresses were given a sheet of "side challenges"
to complete between the main tournaments.

Team Rivers vies for position in Queen of the Hill

Team Grimloch 

The former and current EH for the Event- (Alysha & Heather)

Belts of the Eternal Flame

Tucker "Sir Temorse" Noyes


Photo by Jesse Gifford

1.      What year were you awarded your white belt?
It was at North South War 2012

2.      Who administered "the punch" and, be honest, did it hurt?
Josh Learned/Sir Shandar was the one who threw the punch.  I think it likely would have hurt had I not been so stunned by the whole knighting.

3.      Whose belt did you wear until you got your own, and how was this significant for you?
I was given Kelly Bonci/Twenaria's belt.  Twen was my knight, mentor and friend for almost five years leading up to this point, so it wouldn't have made sense to go any other way.

4.      Please describe your own belt's heraldry.
It's already a bit worn, but I like to think that's because I put it to good use.  There are two main parts, the first being my personal heraldry for Temorse, who although I was not playing when knighted, will always be my Realms character in my mind.  Temorse's heraldry consists of a grey teardrop with two grey wind lines.  The second part are the three gold and black stripes.

5.      Why did you chose that heraldry to represent you?
The first one I chose as Temorse is the character I've played the most for the past ten years (when he wasn't dead), and who is most mirrored in my actual personality.  The second one is much more meaningful to me in that it represents what I believe to be my crowning achievement in the game, which is being a part of the founding of Ashenmark.  I've always thought that taking the lead on that endeavor was what earned me my belt and it also helps to remind me, not only of the continuing responsibility and obligation to the group, but also of how far we've come and all we've achieved.  

6.      Who did the artwork on your belt?
A friend from outside the game.

7.      What do you remember most about your knighting?
I remember who spoke, but not as much what they said.  As soon as the Baron started speaking it hit me that I was the person who was being talked about, so I was pretty shell shocked throughout the entire ordeal.

8.      What does being a KoEF mean to you?
To me, being a knight in the game is both an honor and a responsibility to uphold the values of the knighthood, but also the integrity of the community,  Being a Knight of the Eternal Flame specifically is recognition for service to the community and game that you have made, and that the other knights entrust you to continue that service.

Photo by Robyn C. Nielsen

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

From The Editor's Desk

Only 2 days till Cecil’s Uncle’s Crazy Tavern!!! YAY!!!  While we’ve already run a “Why I Want To Go” for the event, I’m taking full advantage of my editor’s privilege to talk a bit more about a couple of the sub-segments that I think are extra special.

First up the auction, I don’t know about you but I’d support it just because it was run by Kelly “Twenaria” Bonci. She has been a great friend to me personally, and done a lot to consistently support not just me but a large number of people I love.  If saving the mosquito was an important cause to her, I’d support it just because it was her asking.

Luckily though, she has better taste and has picked an awesome charity to support. War Dogs is a not-for-profit that pairs returning veterans with PTSD/TBI with rescued dogs that are trained along with the vets as service dogs for them.

And not only are there lots of reasons you get to feel good about supporting the auction, you also get an opportunity to win some amazing stuff. There are two types of prizes. You can purchase raffle tickets for a tenguanese auction for the smaller items. The larger ones are bid on in a silent auction. This year’s large prizes include a bottle of Moniack mead, a Dr Seus bundle, admission to all of Folkestone’s 2015 events, a half case of a fancy Italian red wine, and a custom chest created by Karma Creations. These are amazing opportunities to get valuable items, for excellent prices, while getting a warm fuzzy feeling of supporting Kelly and a great cause.

I don’t just give lip service to supporting this cause, last year I bought the custom chest from Karma Creations, check it out!!

The other segment I personally adore is the gift swap. I’m fairly sure when she started it, Twen didn’t understand how big of a deal it would become. There are over 60 people participating this year, and some of the gifts given will be the AMAZING result of either lots of work or a significant financial investment!!  That brings me to my main point on this. It is awesome that people participate and it is thrilling to get a big exciting gift. I know I have (Thanks Casey!). It is even more awesome to give a big exciting gift (I know I have done that too), but it is important that as we all go into it we remember that everyone is in different situations. Some are far more skilled in crafts than others, and there are huge differences in people’s discretionary income. Be a gracious giver and receiver. While my big gift from Casey stands out in my memory, another one that does were some exceptionally good homemade chocolate chip cookies ( <3 Andrew).  

What stood out in terms of bad though was the time Jason got grocery store chocolate chip cookies complete with the price tag still on. The year I didn’t get a gift at all stood out, too. So basically don’t worry if your gift for or from someone is big or small, but be thoughtful, AND make sure you give a gift or if something came up and you really can’t speak up. TODAY!!! NOW!!! I happen to know for a fact Twen or one of her friendly elves will make sure the person you had isn’t left out of the fun.