Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The View Retrospective

Though the View is no longer produced in a print format, there are still numerous gems contained within the paper pages of the many years of past editions. However, unless one has, or knows someone who has, a collection of past issues, it can be difficult  for many players to gain access to this content - let alone sift through each booklet to find it. To that end, the staff of The View from Valehaven would like to take this opportunity to announce the launch of a new Feature series.  Called "The View Retrospective," the goal of this series is to draw out articles, stories, and guides that are as pertinent today as they were when they were first written. By re-publishing these pieces in our current online format, it is our hope that these pieces can not only continue to serve as a source of knowledge, entertainment, and inspiration to the community as a whole, but will also find a more easily accessible home on The View from Valehaven blog. Additionally, re-publishing of past content through the "Retrospective" series will  serve not only to highlight some excellent  submissions from players that may not be as active in the game anymore, but also showcase their dedication to our Realms community through their writing.- Jennifer DeNardis Rosa

Back to Basics:
What new players should know, and old ones should remember....
By Kelly Bonci (Dame Twenaria) and Angela Earle Gray (Dame Phoenix of Folkestone)
  Originally published in The View from Valehaven, 2nd Edition, Volume 1, Issue 1, June/July 2004. 

                PART I: When new players join our game there is often an emphasis on combat. The importance of learning to call blows properly and fight safely is rightfully recognized. However, there is a tendency to overlook the value of studying our in-character world, and the benefit of role-playing. Remembering the following when in-character can help you immerse yourself in the Realms world.

·         There are no such things as "NPC's" (Or Non-Player Characters). Thus, "look the NPC's are coming," is not an IC (or In-Character) statement. Try to figure out what you are fighting, and call them what they are, be it Trolls, Goblins, or brown, furry beasts. It is often helpful to ask an NPC to describe what they are playing to you, and keep that mental picture in your mind. For example if when fighting a Drider you understand they have eight legs, the fact that they are immune to leg shots can add to your mental picture. You can boast. "I took off one of his hairy legs, but he stood strong on his other seven, seemingly oblivious to my blows!"
·         Characters always take their shots. It is frustrating to fight against someone who doesn't seem to be taking their blows. It is an appropriate situation to go out of character to talk to a Marshal. Then try to let it go, or avoid fighting that particular person. Taking blows is an OOC (or Out-of-Character) mechanic, and focusing on if people are doing it well or not, changes your focus to an OOC one.
·          Your role-playing doesn't just add to the game for you. Many people come to Realms to immerse themselves in a living fantasy world. When you are in-character, it helps others play in-character and enjoy the game more. You may be able to come up with some wonderfully creative reasons that you have cell phones, soda cans. baseball hats, and other modern items. That doesn't change the fact that the presence of these items will often detract from the experience of others.
·         Having appropriate garb helps maintain the illusion for people as well. There are many simple and inexpensive ways to obtain or create garb, some are listed in the Newbie Guide, and more will be in future entries of this column. The most essential advice is to avoid clothes with advertising, or lettering.
·         Ask questions. Forming a picture of the world helps make it easier to live in it. Knowing where your character is from and their age lets you know where to focus your energy on. If you've lived in an area you should know something about what the land is like and who is in charge. A sense of major events that have occurred there in your lifetime helps a lot too.

                There are as many other pieces of advice as there are oldbies. Ask around, people are willing to share lots of tips. We are happy you're here. New characters add to the role-playing experience for us, and most of us would be happy to help add to the experience for you.

                 Just remember to catch us when we are out of character. J

Why I Want to Go- Tournaments of Chaos

This weekend brings a long standing Northern tradition: the 9th Tournaments of Chaos.  The event promises to be full of traditional tournaments (counts towards Order of the List), a feast of food, and (most exciting in my book) a set of modular quests.  The quests are designed to go on while there are tourneys, and can take parties of 6-10 people at a time.  While it centers on Stonewood plot, the EH seems open to tailoring the quest to allow player to have the most fun possible.  This is in addition to a night quest each Friday night and Saturday night.
While the event is a bit of a drive (Creathorne farm in Grafton) this weekend will be beautiful for checking out the leaves, so why not take a trip up North and see what the 9th annual Tournaments of Chaos has in store for you.
But be kind and pre reg!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Building the Fourth Wall, or, How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Paste by Rhiannon Chiacchiaro

There is a common piece of snark that goes around the Realms community: “The Realms is a LARP without the RP.” Some people blame “stick jock” culture, others say it’s due to the low barrier to entry, and yet another opinion places fault on the fact that so many of us consider the Realms a community first and a game second. Recently, there has been some more drive to keep the game in-character during events. Garbing initiatives, immersion marshals, and enhanced witchcraft rules have all played a part in trying to keep the Realms from becoming little more than a boffer sport with chainmaille. But I’m not here to discuss the fine points of what does or doesn’t make a LARP. Instead, I’m here to provide a guide to those interested in getting into character during an event and staying there. Some of these tips might seem silly or a little passive aggressive, but use your best judgment and adapt to fit your needs.

  1. Lead by example
In my opinion, the best and easiest way to stay in character is to make sure that you make a point to not break character, even if someone else does. The biggest examples of this are situations where someone calls out your OOC name, references plans for after the event, or tries to make other, non-game related small talk during down time. In these situations, the best thing to do is to not break character. For example, I have a lot of people call me Rhiannon during events. The way I respond to this is by saying “Sorry, I think Rhiannon is that lady from Folkestone. My name is Tria/Starmaw/Elspeth/whoever I may be at the time.” I usually then add some sort of good natured quip about how we don’t really look that much alike and I have no idea why we keep getting confused. Keeping IC and politely correcting is a good way to remind the person that you would like to stay immersed without giving them a hard time about it.

Another tricky situation is when you’re in an environment where it feels like nobody wants to RP. When you’re at a feast, it can be incredibly difficult to keep people IC because a lot of times they just want to socialize. There’s nothing wrong with saying “Hey, if you guys are going to be chatting OOC, I’m going to go hang out over there.” Look for a group of people working on puzzles or divinations, since those both often lead to more intense RP than people just sitting around. At the very least, you’ll be able to surround yourself in more immersion, and if you’re lucky, you might just make some friends.

If you find yourself really unable to get IC because someone (or someones) just can’t RP to save their lives and won’t listen to polite nudging, you always have the option to inform a marshal. I can’t guarantee that they’ll do anything about it, but most questing events (especially ones that have immersion rules in effect) will have someone willing to speak to the person about staying IC. You paid to go to a LARP, and you have the right to actually LARP while you’re there. (There is a caveat to this, which I explain in tip 5).

  1. Find your shtick
As with certain spells, a focus can sometimes aid your RP experience. When I play Starmaw, I have a very distinct accent. This forces my brain to remain in “Starmaw mode” until the end of the event, because I am so obviously changing something about myself (in this case, my voice). If you can pull off an accent or affect of the voice, it might prove to be helpful.  Be careful with this (and any other shtick) though, because if you end up with something goofy or inconsistent, it’s more likely to cause people to break character around you to rib you about it. Also make sure that whatever you choose won’t inhibit your ability to move or RP comfortably. You don’t want to hurt yourself and end up with a real bad leg because of your fake limp.

If you aren’t good with accents or don’t want to have to change your voice, here are some other possibilities for your IC “totem” as it were:
  • A physical tick (a bouncy knee or quiet voice)
  • A specific jewelry or garb item that you are aware of (a half-veil or bell bracelet)
  • A physical alteration (a tattoo or elf ears)
  • An action you do regularly (kissing a charm before battle or praying at sunset)
And remember, if you find yourself not liking the shtick you picked, you can do something to change it. Just remember to do it IC. We are a world of magic, myth, and meddling deities. Try to think of a way to RP your convalescence or change, and it may even lead to improved character depth.

  1. Hide your shame
Alright,” you might say to me. “I understand the point of trying to find something specific to use as an IC reminder, but what if I don’t want to have to constantly remind myself or be reminded? Is there anything I can do ahead of time to get into the game?” Good news, you! There are some very easy ways to make sure you get into character and it all comes down to one basic concept: don’t be naked.
Now, by naked, I don’t mean running around with your bits going everywhere. I mean wearing clothing that is just obviously not garb. While comfortable shoes and kneepads for fighters are important, there is a difference between being ready for the battlefield and being ready for the basketball court. Wearing sneakers, gym shorts, and a T-shirt is not being in garb. You’re not going to feel like you’re part of a medieval fantasy world in an outfit like that. You’re going to feel like you’re going out for a run. At the *very* least, throw on a tabard and a ring belt. If you can manage it, find some armor or perhaps a basic tunic and poofy pants. There are many newbie bins and resources out there for people looking to improve their fashion but are low on money, time or skill (and I highly encourage anyone who has such a collection going to comment below with their contact information).

Once you have something that can be considered passable garb, make a point of saying to yourself that once you put it on, you’re going to be IC. If you want, do what I do and have a “getting into character” ritual. As Starmaw, I make sure that as soon as I get my elf ears on, the accent goes with it and stays. From that moment on, I am IC. Even if you don’t use shtick like that, you can still make a point of saying “once my surcoat is on, I am my character” or something to that effect. Sometimes you’re running late and might have to throw your garb on last minute. Just make sure to take a second while doing so to remind yourself that you’re leaving real life with the car (emergencies notwithstanding of course) and you’re going to be immersed now.

  1. Define the line
One of the biggest issues I’ve observed in terms of people breaking character is that they will be talking about something IC and then suddenly just switch to OOC. This can be very jarring and can really screw with your immersion. Now, while you can’t force someone else to clearly define their IC/OOC line, there are things you can do to be obvious about it (and, by extension, do that leading by example thing I mentioned).
The official Realms method for talking OOC is to put your hand over your head. A lot of times, however, people in extended conversations won’t do that because it’s tiring. The best counter to this is to do it yourself. Always have your hand over your head when talking OOC, no matter how long the conversation. In my experience, people often say “Oh, put your hand down” after a while or something, which gives you the prime opportunity to let them know that if you do, you will be back IC. You can also pull the trick from earlier and refuse to break character if someone isn’t obviously signalling they are OOC. Without getting passive aggressive about it, you can make it clear that you as your character have no idea who these Bruins are or what it means to completely destroy a Hab, giving the hint that their OOC talk is going to fall on deaf ears.

Another option, if people don’t really regard the hand over the head, is to add a secondary, verbal cue. Many other LARPs use the word “Clarify” to indicate that they are asking an OOC question. You can use “Clarify,” “Out of game,” or some other short, unintrusive word or phrase to make it clear that you are taking a brief step away from your character. Just make sure to obviously step back into character afterwards.

  1. Don’t sweat it
The last piece of advice I have for you is one that seems intuitive but seems to be hard to live by. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you make a mistake and slip up, deal with it and move on. If you accidentally start referencing something OOC and catch yourself, just a quick “my bad” and a return to character is fine. A common issue that I encounter is that people will get over-explanatory on something like “I’m acting this way IC but don’t worry because I actually feel this way OOC.” Ironically, that often ends up breaking immersion harder than if someone just stayed IC and let it happen. If you feel it’s something that warrants clarification, pull the person aside at some point and have a quick “Everything cool?” conversation, but don’t necessarily break the flow of the interaction to do so.

Additionally, don’t take it upon yourself to be the immersion police. If someone makes one accidental slip, don’t go dogging them for the rest of the event. Also don’t be that guy who listens around for other people breaking character, because that’s actually going to pull you out more and make everyone feel uncomfortable RPing around you. In the end, we’re here to have fun. If you find your fun inhibited, you have the right to make that known. Just remember that if you’re keeping someone else from enjoying themselves, they’re probably going to tell you as well.

So there you have it. Your basic guide to playing the roles. Next time, we’ll be taking a look at the EH perspective, and coming up with some good tips for running an immersive event. Comment below with your favorite techniques for keeping IC, or post questions that I can address at the beginning of my next article. Happy roleplaying!

Question of the Week 163

We're going to try a new format for questions of the week. The first week of the month we'll be asking people to share their advice on something. The second week we'll be asking for stories of specific things. The third we'll be asking out of character questions. The fourth we'll be asking for suggestions and feedback related to the View.

This week looking for suggestions for future questions of the week?

Friday, September 19, 2014

What You Missed- Disregard of Shadows- by Leanne "Faelinn" Miccichi

This even promised high roleplaying and did a great job of trying to immerse the players.  At the start of the event, the reading of the event specific rules was done completely in an in-character fashion.  You really got the feel of the event right off the bat.

There were plenty of people to interact with if you didn't want to go on the various mini-missions.  The students (who were very well prepped NPCs, complete with their own quirks and magical specialties) encouraged participation and exploration of not only the magic school itself, but also various forms of magic.  A wild-eyed alchemist looking for just the right potion combinations (don't touch his stuff, he's sensitive).  A shady merchant with his discount scrolls of dubious origin.  You even got to learn about the importance of fire-magic safety.  Don't sit in the line of fire of a dubiously warded piece of paper while a fireball is being flung at it.  It turns out the paper will be completely fine, but you'll be burnt to a crisp and your fellow adventures will use your body to experiment with runic magic trying to raise you.  Just ask Magus Meerkat!

As stated, there were various missions and adventures going on all day that let you get a glimpse of the bigger picture without giving it all away.  NPCs not affiliated with the school hinted at a sinister "Mistress" sending her minions looking for a mana sprite and various dark magics trying to blight the land.  There was even an alligator infested river!  And a cube of ULTIMATE EVIL!!!

Due to the low PC turn out, you had to really try to not be involved.  You didn't need to go on every exploration adventure or talk to every NPC to feel like you were a main player.  The upside/downside of that is that when the PCs spent longer than necessary trying to solve some problems, there were NPC students to help troubleshoot or solve things for you.

At the end of the day, we were asked to flee from the school when the Mistress's onslaught became too much.  Why was the Headmaster so reluctant to order an evacuation?  What do you do with the font of power left over from curing the blight?  What else was empowered by the ritual?  And what was up with that little girl and her "dragon" familiar?

All in all it was a fun day that players explore, learn weird powers, and dip their toes into a larger plot with ease.

Also ice cream cake!

Jeremy "Nighthawk" Grayson

Photo by Robyn Nielsen
How long have you been playing?
My first event was The Brenda Armageddon, Labor Day Weekend 1996, although I had attended practices in CT before that.

How has the game changed since you've been playing?
Weapons have gotten lighter and it has sped up combat and made it more accessible to the  less burly crowd. Tournament fighting has become more prevalent, partially due to the Order of the list and its members.  I think your average quester has become much more reliant on spells and seer magic to solve problems, instead of critical thinking.

Who have you learned the most from?
I have learned from almost every person whom I have had continued contact with in and out of game.  To all of you, I thank you.   To Dave Dolph, thank you for being goofy with a first event newbie who was out of his element.

Photo by Robyn Nielsen
What was your best moment IC?
Being knighted. All of them.

What was your best moment as a NPC/EH/Player?
There are several: helping Lani and Alysha throw their first event, winning the “Most Dependable to Help an Event Holder” view award, being involved in Lani winning her first “Best Feast” award.  Any time I can help the new people in our game learn how it works.

What would you like to see changed or developed more in game?
I think combat has a little way to go. Armor calling seems to be the issue I see the most; increasing armor use at practice will hopefully fix this. If not, we might need a more drastic change. The Spell System… it is bloated and needs to be changed or pruned.
Somewhere the rules interpretations changed from, “if the Omnibus doesn’t say something is legal, I can’t do it” to “if it doesn't say I can’t, I can.” This is a bad understanding shift.

What advice would you give new players?
Photo by Jesse Gifford
Learn to separate the player from the character. Ask for help and input. Try new things in game. The most important things in the game are to not cheat and have fun.

What do you love most about the game?
The people. All of my longest and closest friends are from game.

Who would you like to see the next interview be with?
Dave Dolph, but as of this printing his Interview was published (and be read here), and Travis Wilcox.

Anything else you'd like to take the opportunity to put into print?
NPC more, there are almost never enough.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What You Missed- IC Report on KoEF Questing by Gerard "Gray"

Good eve to you, gents. Crowded tonight. May I sit here with you folk? Thank you, that’s very kind of you. Innkeep! Bread, a bowl of whatever that stew is, and mead to wash it down with. Who am I? Gray Erikkson, sorcerer and healer, master of the Stormseeker, the finest ship ever to grace the waters off the Realms. A tale you say? Hmm, very well, I suppose I have one worth telling. It began with a summons to aid dwarven miners. A stout, surly lot they were. They were having a problem with dracolits. No, draco­LITs. Yes, when they said it, I thought they were saying dracolich as well. I think their thick beards have a tendency to muffle their speech. At any rate, a goodly party of adventurers gathered and we set off with the dwarves to their mine, battling little dragon things en route. As we progressed, we began finding fragments of parchment, which I didn’t pay too much heed to at the time. Janus and Starmaw and Kallen were on it, and often having too many people work a puzzle makes it harder, not easier, so I trusted them to it.
At the mine itself, the fighting was close. No place to be flinging around bolts of lightning, even if I could press my way far enough forward to do so. The fighters went to the front, led by the warriors of Grimloch. They cleared the mine so the rest of us could safely wriggle our way through the tight passages. I was just getting to the last chamber of the mine when we were transported to some other place. No, I’m not quite sure what happened, but I suspect those fragments of parchment I’d paid not much heed to earlier factored rather large. So, suddenly instead of being in a mine with the whole of our party, I found myself on a trail with half of it. The trail led to a village of goblins and trolls. Now, I’ve generally found goblins and trolls to be hostile menaces as well, but these creatures were quite personable. They quickly accepted us as “pink goblins” and inducted us into the Star and Moon tribe. We were invited to compete for positions of honor in an imminent battle-ceremony. I found myself competing for the title of high mage. I acquitted myself well with accuracy with magic missiles, but archery proved my undoing, literally shooting myself in the foot! I suspect some flaw on the part of the goblin-­made bow was the cause. Mestoph took the title, even after having drunk a potion transforming him into a troll! This was a little disconcerting at first, but he was not alone in that regard, and it quickly became the new normal. I even found myself calling him Trollstoph. By now, we’d determined we’d been taken to some other plane of existence. I’m sure Ranger’s expertise would have come in handy here, but he was off doing something else, so we had to muddle through as best we could. So, from the village we proceeded to the great wall, which our goblin elder told us had stood for hundreds of years. Here we engaged in honorable combat with another goblin village, their numbers bolstered by the other half of our party of adventurers. This battle seemed to be some kind of ceremony on the part of these goblins, taken part in with joyous hearts, with the victors raising the vanquished back to life for the post-­combat feast. I imagine my gods would approve of these goblins. Battle was joined. I’d thought we would have a fairly typical bridge battle at the gap in the wall, but with both sides hurling boulders at each other, a shield wall proved impractical, so a looser skirmish line became necessary. We acquitted ourselves well, but the other side was victorious. As promised, we were raised, and brought to the communal tavern for the feast. I have to admit, at least on that plane, goblin cuisine wasn’t too bad, though I imagine I don’t want to dwell too much on what it consists of or how it’s prepared. Sadly for me, I was just beginning to partake when I was again transported to another place, a pitch-­black chamber with a cold stone floor, along with about a half­-dozen other adventurers. There, a voice told the tale of the spirit of luck, who had almost been in the right place at the right time to prevent the adversary from trickling into that plane of existence, but also being the spirit of freedom, she could not bring herself to curtail him. The voice then asked if we were lucky, and tested our luck through the expedient of a simple deck of cards. Each of us had seven chances to guess the next card. I guessed well on the third try, and found myself back in the tavern with another of those pieces of parchment. I was not alone in my experience, and from the pieces of parchment various adventurers brought back, a picture started to emerge of seven spirits or gods of the plane destroyed and absorbed by an intruding spirit. Contradictions in the natures of the native gods prevented them from opposing the intruder effectively, allowing him to pick them off one by one. Seeking guidance on how to proceed, we sought out the Oracle of the Lake. The Oracle told us we could each ask one question, the value of the answer depending on how deeply the questioner was willing to immerse him ­or ­herself into the lake. From this I discovered XT has surprisingly sexy legs, as he stripped his trousers off to go thigh­-deep. Not to be outdone, Starmaw doffed her dress and fully immersed herself, which I found out when I turned around and was almost killed by an imp when I got distracted by her display of mighty bosoms. What? No, I won’t describe her bosoms in detail. What’s wrong with you? Did I mention there were imps? Foul, cackling creatures they were, and they kept pouring out of the woods, but through might of arms and spells we kept them at bay. Our troll­-converted brethren proved their worth, smashing the foul things with thrown boulders, and I found them both susceptible to my combat spells and unable to cross my Circle of Protection. I thus took part in the defense as Janus, Starmaw, and Kallen coordinated obtaining the information we needed to proceed. Learning what we could from the Oracle, we pushed on, battling our way through never­-ending waves of imps as we made our way to a village of surprisingly friendly and helpful kobolds. They aided us in attuning to the natural magic of the plane, and told us how to harvest the essence of slain imps so we might apply that raw magic to defeating the adversary and restoring balance to the plane. As night fell, we set out to harvest essence from the infestation of imps. We flailed ineffectually until we smartened up and moved to a defensible position at the edge of the field. Nonetheless, we managed, filling the vessels and returning to the tavern, wherein waited the kobold shaman to further advise us. From the tavern, we divided into groups and the kobolds led us to a series of arcane contraptions we had to puzzle out the workings of. I’m not ashamed to admit I and my companions took quite some time working out how to use the bizarre devices, finally having to resort to divination magic to understand the apparatus sufficiently to process the raw imp essence into...well, I’m not quite sure what it was – refined essence of one of the defeated gods, perhaps. Whatever it was, it was green, and we took it back to the inn. We were not the first to return, but far from the last, and each party’s refined essence was of a different color. Thus prepared, we marched forth to confront the adversary, attacking him in turns while flinging the essence upon him, in shifts depending on the color he was manifesting and we were as individuals attuned to. So was battle joined, the adversary – it was at this point I mentally dubbed him “the Rainbow King” – sending forth his minions in the vain attempt to overwhelm us. As his minions fell to our swords and spells, the Rainbow King took to the field himself, affording us the opportunity to attack him directly. No one attack was sufficient to fell him, but bit by bit, we wore him down, and as the sum of his many wounds took their toll, he began losing the manifestations of the aspects he’d wrested from the plane’s fallen gods. We collected these as they fell, and wielding the essence we’d collected and refined, we hurled the Rainbow King into defeat.
When the Rainbow King fell, figures appeared, spirit­-potential waiting to be shaped into the new gods of the plane. We set out the half­-sphere aspect manifestations we’d wrested from the usurper god and, to the best of our sometimes-­limited reason, attempted to assign each spirit-potential with a pair of aspects that would not lumber them with the disastrous inability to act their predecessors had possessed.
Eventually, we empowered and named each of the spirit­-manifestations but one, who was empowered but not named. I had the honor of empowering and naming one of them, granting him the aspects of Command and Morality and naming him The Captain, because command and morality should be the qualities of every good ship captain. The new gods ascended to their stations and we were sent back to our own plane, finding ourselves in a peaceful field under a half-moon. We parted and went our separate ways. As I returned to the Stormseeker, I couldn’t help but wonder about the plane we’d left and what we’d wrought. I wonder if fate will give us the chance to someday return to that plane and see how it fared under the gods we’d taken part in creating.