Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A First Time EH Reflects by Carol "Charwindle" Eddy

Me, by myself.  9:30 in the morning, unpacking boxes in the park.  A curious jogger, the only person in site, shoots me a look as he trots by.  Inside my head: I am so terrified.  I am so terrified.

An hour and a half before The Silver Eye is scheduled to begin, and I stand there wondering how the hell I let myself get talked into this.

It's not my fault, you see.  These terrifying jitters, this first-time Event Holder crisis.  It isn't.  It's Ranger's fault, who shot back at me guesses of what the players would do, ways they might 'break' the crazy plot ideas I was just spinning out into the air.  It's Aeston's fault, all those times we crossed paths at practice or behind the scenes at this or that event and he casually mentions (to the other Rhiassans, of course, I'm just close enough to hear... … …. ) that it's time for new stories to be told.

It's Jess's fault, all those times riding to and from fight practice – each and every week, without fail – when I talk about this or that idea and she gets so terribly excited by the possibilities.  It's Sheri's fault, when she lays out another incredible impeccable Realms-commissioned costume and I stare at it with my heart in my throat.  It's Panther's fault, telling stories of events long gone by as the leftovers hang out after SMAC at the local pizza joint.  It's the fault of every attendee at practice who comes in chatting about the occurrences at the Event the weekend before.

I blame you.  I blame all of you.

I blame you, and I bless you – and I write to remind you, all you old hands who have done this half a dozen times before, of how terrifying that first time was.  And I write to tell you, all you new folks who have heard the “I could do that...” whisper in your minds and have stomped it out, because all you have is a whisper and an idea -  that a whisper is all that's required.

For here I am, morning in the park, with the sun climbing, and I'm terrified because – what if no one comes?

Ranger shows up first.  (That's fitting.)  Then Jess, the enabler, my magic marshal who's never even shadowed a magic marshal before and has little notes in case she can't keep straight what the different Seer spells do.  We all begin somewhere – and I realize how much trust I'm putting in her, and how much responsibility.   That's the moment I realize how much I've grown.  And how far there still is to go.  Deep breath, and leap of faith.

Sheri's with Jess, and I show her how I've bagged and labeled all the costumes for efficient swapping.  (Pro tip to new Event Holders: 2 gallon ziploc bags, tagged with painter's tape and labeled with a black sharpie.  Get yourself a quartermaster on staff, and then you can just send the NPCs over to her in ones and twos with the name of what they'll be changing into.  Costuming went through flawlessly and this was why!)

We're just moving things down the path when the first car full of NPCs show up.  Friends all, fellow fighters from Uconn SMAC.  Seconds later the second carful pulls up, and I wonder how it is that I'm so lucky – more than an hour before the event, I have more than 10 NPCs on site.  All of them know the combat system inside out... I know them all from fight practice, after all.  Sure, a few of them are first time NPCs.  First time event-goers, even.  And just like that, I'm proud of all of them for coming.  Proud of myself, for throwing the event they went to first.

And a little less nervous.  (A little.)

I handed out little NPC cards – index cards with name and stats on one side, a short paragraph about 'who' this person or faction is on the other.  (Pro tip #2: I cannot tell you how many times this saved my bacon at the event.  I could pull an NPC off the line, say “go find Sheri and become a sapling,” or, “you three switch to katta”, and that was all the instruction I needed to give.)

My brain tells me: this thing is happening.  It's actually happening.

Yeah, I'm still terrified.

I wasn't worried about my story.  The story started a year ago, back when it was “just” a story, back when it was a ridiculous idea that I'd even be doing this.  I didn't worry about how practical or impractical it would be to make all those costumes, or how in the world I planned on pulling the costume changes off, or kept the PCs going in a linear direction... it was a big site!... or any of the later issues that would haunt me the weeks leading up to TSE.  I didn't worry because the event was never going to happen.  I didn't have the infrastructure, the gumption, the sheer know-how.  I'm a person of plans, of rules, of guidelines and absolutes.  There had to be a million things that went into throwing an event – where was my check list that I can go down so that I know I'm ready?  Such a thing does not exist, and there was no way – NO way – I would ever actually turn this story into anything more than a story.

(The story was the easy part; I fancy myself something of a writer, and stories are like breathing.  They're alive, they move, they write themselves.)

Then the local fabric place had a deal on cat-print fabric and... once I had put money into it, there was no going back.

I started making costumes some 3 months before.  Me, a $5 sewing machine picked up at a garage sale, some scrap fabric, and no greater sewing knowledge than how to stitch a straight seam.  Even that was shaky at first.  I learned.  And, to the background of 4 straight seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I turned yards of Affordable Fabrics goods into Fern Folk and Katta, Saplings and Moon Spirits, cultists and werekin.

(Pro tip #3... start crafting in advance.  Way, WAY in advance.  But know, too, no matter how far in advance you begin, be prepared for your house to become a total disasterpiece in the days leading up to the event!) 

There were times I hated myself leading up to this event.  I was a novice, searching to fill in all the holes in my planning with a novice staff.  I was incredibly fortunate in that I'm a part of Uconn SMAC, and have been for three straight years of weekly fight practice.  I was lucky enough to have friends who were willing to come and NPC for me, who trusted me enough to tell the story even though they had no real reason to trust my ability to pull any of this off.

As for me – I in turn had to learn to trust them.  I admit it, I'm a control freak.  I would like to be in four places at once and be all my own Event Staff.  My own head NPC, my own quartermaster, my own magic marshal.  But you know what? - that's just not possible; and if Realms is, in a way, in the business of showing us all how to grow as individuals, then it's not leadership or honesty or responsibility that Realms is teaching me the most.  It's trust.  That terrible, ephemeral virtue that says, “I am willing to risk being betrayed”, because at the end of the day, promises made won't always be kept, directions given won't always be followed, and you can't be there yourself to handle every crisis.

And that's a GOOD thing.  The very BEST thing.

The story exists in your head.  The characters, the situation, the world, all in your head.  But as soon as you tell the tale you give it out to the world and it does not belong to you anymore.  That's the part where you just let things go.  Where you trust your staff, your NPCs, and your players to keep it all alive.  When the first of EH prowess relaxes and events just... unfold.  I'm not good at this part yet.  I imagine it will be a while before I am.

At the end of the day it worked.  Oh, we stumbled and erred, we slipped up and hedged.  But the monsters were slain (or negotiated around), the puzzles were solved, the speeches were given and the chapter closed... or rather, opened.  We learned.  And we had fun.  That is, after all, what this is all about...

To all of you, whether listed here or not, who pushed, prodded, inspired, and advised.  To my friends and family, who put up with my (not so temporary) insanity.  To the folks who came out to help out.  To the people who attended – you poor, foolish people willing and able to take that risk.  To everyone who stopped at my side afterward, a midnight chat over cookies and water and the autumn wind, to tell me what I did right, and what I did wrong.  I take your words to heart.

Now I learn, and move forward.

In the days before The Silver Eye I discovered a great truth of holding a Realms Event.  There is always more to be done and never enough time to do it in.  Those last few days, scrambling to make sure I had water and snacks, my bins organized and a list of regionals printed, all my little in-house doo-dads laid out... I hated it.  And I swore to myself that this was it.  One event, and only one event, and then I'd slink back into the anonymity of PCing war maneuvers and NPCing local quest events because this was hell and I'd never do it again.

Twelve hours after the event closed, I was planning the next one. 

(April 26th, folks.  May we meet again.)

So, you out there, you first-time Event-Holder-to-be out there with that whisper in your mind... with the dream and the ghost of an idea.  Be warned.  The muse is a harpy.  Her claws are sharp, and she's a persistent little sprite.  Feed her once, and she won't go away.

But oh, how she can fly.

Carol Eddy
Charwindle, Captain of Mayerling


  1. I went through this EXACT same thing when I threw my first event. Thank god for my staff. I actually froze up at one scene change - but everyone knew what they were doing so well I didn't have to say or do anything for things to get done. And what was gonna be one event turned into a series, as I'm starting to prep for event #4.

    This is amazing advice, and I look forward to seeing the events you throw!

  2. bad news, you alwas stress over the next event you will be throwing. Good job, recognizing it for what it is and working hard to overcome it.