Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resolutions for the New Year 1015 - Part II

[Editor's note: these resolutions are wholly in-character. Responses were gathered in-person during Uncle Cecil's Crazy Tavern.]


For this coming new year, I resolve to....

  • "win Champion of Grimloch and Queen of Hearts." - Jayne Wrath

  • "drink to excess, be mean to people who deserve it, and change absolutely nothing about myself because - to heck with you all." - Mestoph

  • "put on three pounds and drink no more Mad-Dog." - Maisey

  • "get a crew before the year is out." - Sayeh

  • "continue to dedicate myself to the one family I give a damn about." - Vuel

  • "emulate Mestoph more." - Jarrod 

  • "re-energize the Knights of the Sable Dragon."  - Guilliam

  • "do more questing." - Kyomi

  • "get back into fighting shape." - Rawlin

  • "surpass Rawlin as the greatest bard in the Realms." - Nos

  • "not kill a squire." - Adara

  • "be a better squire." - Balthasar

  • "spend more time on land." - Tommy Two-Dice

  • "smite more evil, and shop at Jamie's Antiquities." - Vawn

  • "stay married to Nighthawk."  - Gwen

  • "remember, improve, and practice with my new buckler."  - Iawen 

  • "keep stealing Adara's identity." - Adara

  • "find something to do with myself." - Atticus

  • "I don't generally make resolutions, I try to improve every day, not just once a year." ­- Freesia

  • "be a better Auroran." - Laika

  • "lose fifty pounds." - Rillan

  • "be friendlier to everyone." ­ - Umbra

  • "battle my inner demon." - Caleal

  • "to get into the Top Eight at Order of the List Invitational." - Raynor

  • "keep better track of my possessions." - Moriah

  • "not eat babies this year." - Meeble

  • "get into more mischief."  - Yimmit

  • "drink more beer."  - Osric 
[Editor's note: this piece marks the first of a potential new series in the View.  In place of Question of the Week, which is driven primarily by comment responses, we are trialing a system wherein we will ask preselected IC or OOC questions in-person at a variety of more socially-themed events throughout the year, and then publish the answers in this manner.]

Resolutions for the New Year 1015 - Part I

[Editor's note: these resolutions are wholly in-character. Responses were gathered in-person during Uncle Cecil's Crazy Tavern.]


For this coming new year, I resolve to....

  • " find school of magic students to protect them." - Baron Diamond

  • " not abandon the Baron to any more tragic fates."  - Meerkat

  • " leave Teng Hua occasionally to socialize with the rest of the Realms."  - Sybil

  • " contribute more to the community." - Imari

  • " have a New Year's year." - Radstar

  • ” be around more (and I think I'll succeed)."  - Rel

  • " treat my squires better, or worse...I haven't decided yet." - Aeston

  • " be around more." - Aymise

  • " win an individual tournament." - Shader

  •  "do more writing." - Kwido

  • "not to burn any more books."  - Sir Sean

  • "work more on knowing when to act and when to think."  - Janus

  • "make money."  - Dodge

  • "attempt more than four gatherings." - Metron

  • "spend less time on land."  - Zamira

  • " eradicate undead in Grimloch." - Jaha

  • "preserve the virtue of young women." - Tallon

  • "scalp more people."  - T.Main

  • "make the Order of the List Invitational." - Squire Taliea

  • "get a Rhiassan kilt, and help someone become a squire." - Kyro

  • "finish my chainmail."  - Charlotte

  • "I don't have a resolution, I'm perfect." - Malaki

  • "try to find stuff that people won't get mad at me for after." - Karmha

  • "finish my second path." - Rubis

  • "take Magnus on 20% fewer deadly walks." - Sasha

  • "make sure to have a pike at all times." - Jace

  • "not hug Umbra, Temorse, or Luke-John unless they want me to. My goal is to talk them in to wanting hugs." - Phoenix

  • "get a clue."  - Borjid

  • "practice my combat skills more." - Kyntela


[Editor's note: this piece marks the first of a potential new series in the View.  In place of Question of the Week, which is driven primarily by comment responses, we are trialing a system wherein we will ask preselected IC or OOC questions in-person at a variety of more socially-themed events throughout the year, and then publish the answers in this manner.]

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Priest Harris' Sacrifice- by Thorp Lightcalled

My name is Thorp Lightcalled. For the past eleven years I have served as a temple priest for the Goddess of Light in Vinehaeven Town in the Southern Wastes. My story is a sad one, but also one where the grace of Aurora is clear. And it gives me strength even to this day in a land that is beset by danger often.

Eleven years ago I was learning how to be a priests to the Goddess, and served as an acolyte in a very small community on the southern boundary of Rhiassa. There was a border keep there, and attracted by the relative safety of the place, some of the woodcutters and hunters that made use of the southern woods built small homes near the fort. My master, Priest Harris, had built a small temple for that community and served them as he could. The healing of minor cuts and bruises, leading worship regularly, occasionally performing a marriage ceremony or the like. He was a pious man, and deeply loved Aurora.

The life that we had all built, however, came to an abrupt end one early October day. Lord Sir Da'oud, leader of Rhiassa, had send a runner to tell all of us that the keep around which we lived would soon come under attack from an army of monsters. He ordered all of us back to Cold Springs with as many of our belongings as we could carry. He sent mules to help with the task. The evacuation under the direction of the Lion Militia was organized and efficient and proceeded well in advance of of the attacking army arriving. I am sure that not a single person would have perished that day, but for the divine plan of the Goddess of Light.

As Priest Harris and I packed up the humble artifacts that anointed our small temple, the whole of the building began to glow brightly with a white and calming light. Both of us then could hear the voice of Aurora, gentle but stern. She spoke only a simple phrase: "If you have faith in Me and in My Light, fall upon your sword, Harris."

We both stood transfixed. We were not mighty spell casters, nor was Harris of the caste of high priests that could occasionally converse with the Goddess. Yet Aurora had called him by name and given him a task. He looked at me with purpose in his eyes and I knew what to do. I darted out of the temple and spotted a sword laying in a pile of supplies. No militia man trained in Rhiassa would willfully set down his blade and I knew that Aurora had subtly influenced his actions. I grabbed the sword before anyone could see and I dove back into the temple to deliver the weapon to Harris.

He barely had time to say a word of parting, so devout was he and so eager to follow the command of his Goddess. He held the sword in front of him, in an unpracticed way, and thrust it to his chest. He fell to the ground instantly, no grimace of pain painted on him, only an expression of fulfillment and joy. I looked to see the severity of the wound but I was amazed when not a drop of blood seeped from it. Instead, the banner that hung over our alter began to shine with its own light, and began to change. The blood that should have poured from Priest Harris' wound instead began to fill the Star of Aurora that sat upon the banner. The red liquid began at the top of the symbol and slowly cascaded down, a few small drops falling from the end of the bottom point.

I reached out and touched the banner. Perhaps I should not have and it was beyond my station, but I was overcome with curiosity. As my finger brushed the edge I felt power well up within me and somehow knew that my ability to resurrect the deceased would be endless as long as I held it. I supressed a small wave of greed to take it with me, surely the Goddess had meant it as a boon to aid the forces of Rhiassa in this great battle. I fell to my knees and uttered a prayer to Aurora, then quietly joined the small caravan making its way to Cold Spring.

What became of the banner I do not know, nor am I sure that it aided the heroes as Aurora intended in their battle. But in honor of Priest Harris' sacrifice, my life path was made more clear. I swore that I would always serve the Goddess in the places that she is needed most, no matter the danger there. It is a small sacrifice compared to that of Priest Harris but it is one I find comfort in. Perhaps one day the Goddess will speak to me in the same way and call upon me to aid her people. Nothing would bring me greater joy.

The Death of Dalindanna as told by Faelinn (Leanne Hoffman)

It is oft accepted that even the gods themselves are not immune to true love’s embrace.  These stories of love and of the legendary children of the gods persist throughout generations of tales in the mortal realms.  None are more famous than the love between the God of Balance and the Goddess of the Sun.

Though none know how or why, Garm came to love Aurora and she in turn loved him.  Their love was so great that the two had a daughter called Dalindanna.  An immortal woman with hair of spun gold with a touch of flame, she sought the righteous path of her mother but tempered with the wisdom of her father.  Her skill with a great sword was unmatched and her love and kind words could melt any heart.  Dalindanna lived among her mother’s chosen people for many years.  She eventually took a human lover and bore him a son who’s own radiance shone like the dawn.

Beloved of her people, Dalindanna attracted her own followers and with them continued to do Aurora’s work in the mortal land.  Stories of old Auroran lore called these first followers of Dalindanna the first Hunters.  Other tales call them the first angels, for with Dalindanna’s blessings they achieved feats no mortals could do.

There came a day when Dalindanna stood with her lover and her son.  She also stood with her son’s wife Fiona, her other lover Matthew and with a few mortals of exceptional faith and love. She spoke to them of a great task.  The avatar of Dionin, the immortal creature known as The Champion also a child of gods, had gone too far in his torment of the mortals.  The Champion had also loved Dalindanna, and when she rejected him, he turned his fury on those who were defenseless.  Dalindanna called upon each of her followers by name and bestowed upon them a token of her love.  For where they were going, there may not be a return and she would lay down her life to end this threat.  Matthew was despondent.  He would not bear witness to Dalindanna’s suicide mission for he loved her truly and could not bear to think of her dead.  He turned his back on his comrades and then left.

Dalindanna then spoke to those remaining.  Whatever happened to her, they must attack the stronghold of The Champion and break his ties to the mortal land.  The mission must succeed.  It was then that The Champion attacked and dragged Dalindanna through a portal to Hell.  She called out to her followers to leave her an continue with their goal.  Enraged at the loss of their leader, Dalindanna’s followers broke their oath and jumped through the portal to Hell after her…all save one.  Fiona shouted at her husband.  She shouted at her father-in-law.  She shouted at all of those who ran for the portal to stop and remember the task Dalindanna gave to them.  It was to no avail.  Fiona watched every last one turn their back on her only to later return from the portal changed and twisted.  These fallen angels became the first demons.

Fiona told what had happened to Matthew.  She pleaded with him to come with her and complete Dalindanna’s mission, but he too turned his back on her.  Fiona called after him.  Alone and afraid, Fiona whispered that to deny Dalindanna’s last wish would bring nothing but regret and sorrow. Her words traveled after Matthew like a curse.

Matthew stormed the stronghold of The Champion.  Single handedly, he pushed through the defenses until he came face to face with his adversary.  Try has he might, The Champion could not force Dalindanna to love him.  Blind with rage, Matthew took up his mace and with a mighty yell swung a crushing blow at The Champion…only to hit and kill Dalindanna by mistake.  Kneeling beside her broken body, Matthew gave up on life and let darkness into his heart.  Fiona’s curse came true and Matthew became known as the Demon of Corruption, a slave to The Champion.

The light of the immortal Dalindanna faded from the world of the mortals.

The gods could do nothing but watch. To do anything else would be a violation of the Rules.

Knowing her daughter lay dead, Aurora cried tears of grief.  Those tears containing a bit of her essence fell to the mortal realm and crystalized.  They become  known as Tears of Aurora.

Garm shed no tears at the death of his daughter.  He instead sent his sworn knights to collect her body and bring it to his realms.  Garm carried the body of his daughter through his domain to the Crossroads.  With fury and rage, he commanded Hephaestus to give her a new purpose.  Under Garm’s order, the smith forged Dalindanna’s body into that of a longsword.  Taking the sword in his hands, Garm bestowed on it his blessing.  Should the wielder choose to invoke it, those struck by the sword would forgo Judgment and be obliterated.

Thus was the Sword of the Crossroads made.

It would  be many years before mortals traveled to Garm’s domain, takinge the sword out into the world.  It would be almost a generation after that before Dalindanna would live again as an immortal, but those are stories for another day.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Six Practices, Four Days, Three States by Christopher "Jaha" Marques

One of the most impressive developments of the last decade in the Realms is the proliferation of fight practices across New England.  When I started playing in 2002 there were three weekly practices running at WPI. the Kingston Plains, and the Commuter Parking Lot in Nashua.  There are now up to six practices running on four different days of the week in three states:

Monday WPI Practice

Consistently bringing in new batches of players each fall and working with them for a number of weeks to ensure every combatant is safe makes this a great practice for newer players.  The practice tends to begin with a period of one on one sparring, normally lasting twenty to forty minutes depending on the week.  What makes this practice unique is their program of having a guest instructor each week.  This means the focus of each practice changes by the week exploring both individual and team tactics.  The overall fighting skill level of the practice tends to skew a bit lower with the number of new players, but that makes it a great environment to “get your feet wet” if you are just getting back into practicing, and with the relaxed pace of the practice there are plenty of opportunities to grab someone and do some one on one sparring.  As a reminder the first month of so of practice (September through early October) after the new school year begins is single short only, to help teach the new recruits.

Tuesday Nottingham Practice

Likely the smallest practice actively running.  Average attendance tends to be between eight and twelve people depending on the week.  Practice normally begins with a period of one on one sparring that lasts the better part of an hour.  This is followed by line battles that last until the end of practice.  Line battles at Nottingham practice are “Ditch” style, where the first person dead from the winning team moves to the losing team.  This keeps the teams fresh with the smaller number of attendees.  Grimloch “Fat Burner” exercises are also sometimes mixed in after sparring during some practices. The average skill level at this practice is likely the highest of all the practices.  This is a practice filled with highly skilled veteran combatants, although new players that have attended often have a wealth of combat knowledge to absorb.  The pace is also quite high, there is generally only one short break between sparring and line battles and even some of the more in-shape players need to take a breather because of the pace of the line battles.

Tuesday UMASS Lowell Practice

One of the newer practices, it has only been running for a couple of years.  This practice has a feel very similar to WPI practice on Mondays.  It is very accommodating to new/inexperienced players, and there is a small core of veterans that always seem available for one on one training.  The practice seems to run similar to WPI in that there is a period of one on one sparring to being the practice, followed by group fights, which when I was there was line battles.  This is a medium size practice that seems to be growing each year, as the club associated with the school grows.  The overall skill level of the park skews a bit lower due to the number of new players (similar to WPI) but there are great veterans to practice with as well.

Wednesday UCONN Practice

Widely considered the premier practice in the game, and with good reason.  It is the largest practice by a large margin, averaging over thirty attendees per week and some weeks even pushing fifty!  The practice generally begins with a period of one on one sparring.  This is followed by some kind of individual or small team drill.  Some weeks they will run Grimloch Fat Burners, while other weeks they will have two on one and three on two drills.  Normally the last hour of practice are line battles, and these are the largest line battles you will see outside of events.  The average skill level of this practice is mixed because of the large attendance.  You will run into everything from first year new players to highly skilled veterans.  The pace of this practice is also high, with there being very little downtime and structured activities for almost the entire practice.

Wednesday Nashua Practice

This practice runs from the middle of March until November (weather dependant).  This is a medium sized practice.  Some weeks there may only be a handful of attendees but other weeks there can be over twenty people ready to fight.   This practice has one of the more relaxed paces of all the practices.  It is not uncommon to see small groups of people sparring together for most of the practice.   A normal practice has a fairly long period of one on one sparring, followed by a series of grand melees, and continuing with line battles.  This is another practice that often utilizes the “ditch” variant of line battles.  After line battles, there is generally another period of one on one sparring to end practice.  Some weeks there is also a bear pit running, where if you keep your wounds and if you win two fights you get a limb back.  The overall skill level is mixed similar to UCONN because there is a blend of experienced players and some newer players.

Thursday WPI Practice

Only recently opened to the public, this used to be a SMAS (Society for Medieval Arts and Sciences) newbie-only practice.  This was also often the first practice that weapon combinations were introduced to the new recruits.  I personally haven’t been to this practice since they opened it to the public, so my perceptions may be a bit inaccurate to what the practices are like now.  This practice tended to focus on certain skills.  Some weeks that was specifically teamwork, while other weeks it was individual drills.  Being a newbie practice by design, the skill level was low with some experienced instructors to help teach the new players new tactics.  Now that this practice is open to the public, I suspect the practices will run quite similar to Monday WPI practices.

Whether a veteran or this is your first time attending, you can find great fights and opportunities for combat instruction at any of the above practices.  If it isn’t possible to attend any of the above practices remember it is always possible to start your own, many of these practices started with only a small handful of people.

The Library of Ivory- By Leanne "Faelinn" Miccichi

I’ve said it often and in many places that the Library of Ivory is a labor of love.    Here, I’d like to give out some background information on its history, what it means, and how it works.    While this isn’t a “How to” guide (I’ve already written one),  I hope it offers some light into what makes it tick and how it was brought about.

In 2006,  members of the City of Ivory had come into possession of a large bin of scrolls recovered at an event.  When I mean big, I mean the bin was crammed with rolls of paper, pieces of string, and little folds of paper.  To paint a broad picture of the “what do we do with all of this crap” conversation, Jay Bonci (then Cain/now Graham of Folkekstone), Dave Kapell (Iacob of Ivory), and myself (possible a few others) came up with the idea of making an online resource to host all the recovered documents.  Information was hard to share and papers could be lost at events.  This was also a time when Bad Guys ™ were reading the IC lists, so sharing  information via email to the masses wasn’t an option.  From this, the idea of a wiki came up.

Dave wrote the wiki from the ground up, did all the coding, and set up the frame work.  Jay bought the hosting and helped Dave with the technical aspects of site maintenance.  I worked with them and other other members of the group to organize the papers and tried to figure out what we needed from the wiki.  It turned out that what we all came up with was a nation page that had a cool side benefit /store of information.

We did something a lot of wikis don’t do.  We set up privacy group and locked down editing.  This made it so we could use the wiki for our plots and event write ups.  We all had pet projects to work on and would throw up notes online to share with the group.    We even added an “Auroran only” privacy group for people who wanted to play in that aspect of the game to get a small cookie and share private histories and information that was located in Aurora’s holy city.  This also meant we could keep bad guys from coming in and reading the information. We farmed out the idea that plot marshals could seed information and lore into the Library for plot hooks (none were more successful at that than Randy Gordon).  We also tried to keep the information without biases and retained all the spelling errors, mistakes, and such that were in the original documents.

All members of the nation would be editors and would throw information on the site to share.  Admin privileges were locked down to the national leaders.  Every member of the group could contribute as much or as little to the project as they wanted.  This was our gift to the Realms.  This was something we spent a lot of OOC time and money on that we thought would benefit our newbies, our group, and maybe even the Realms community at large.  The one golden rule would always be for plot “You do not touch the Library” because it was a gift for everyone.

Fast forward to 2014 (the time of writing this).

The City of Ivory now belongs to the Kingdom of Coventry.  Jay has moved on to another nation and character.  Dave makes a few guest appearances at events a year.  I now work with a small group of people (Coventry members and close friends) who maintain and add content to the Library.  The wiki has grown from a national resource page to what Dave Dolph once called “one of the most important resources for the game”.  The Library has over 1200 individual pages, 20 pictures/maps, and various “project pages” for Realms resources and private “to do” lists.  Editors have come and gone and I’ve take over curating the site’s content.  Jay still owes the site hosting.  Dave still works as the senior admin resolving technical issues and being incredibly gracious about random emails and phone calls when something breaks or there is an issue.  We’ve all grown up and are in different places in our lives  in terms of involvement in the game and doing that careful balancing act with real life (for many of us that now means having a family, continuing with grad school, work, and other hobbies and commitments).

When site edits happen, usually there is a sudden burst of activity as someone (usually Janna Oakfellow-Pushee or myself) added or edits huge amounts of new content.  Amanda Sieracki will add a month or two worth of rumors to file away.  Dave will update a broken feature.  At times, the “to do” list is daunting.  Edits are out of date.  So-and-so stopped playing and there is a new plot marshal.  Someone wrote 50+ pages of plot information and wants to share it.  Someone misspelled another person’s name20 times on content that was originally from another site or letter.  And oh god the formatting….

Maintaining the site can be a full time job.  It’s as involved as you let it be and sometimes is extremely demanding.

It’s also a careful balancing act between the “wants” of the community and the desires of plot staff/marshals.  We try to honor the requests of plot marshals when we deal with “their” property.  Lands, gods, lore, all of that stuff.  We leaving in spelling errors on primary sources and recovered scrolls.  We make notes and comments about updated information or things what were proved wrong.  We try to preserve the original intent and build on it in unobtrusive ways.  In this we are very, very slow to make sweeping changes to new threats, new gods, or changes in the ebb and flow of the game’s players or environments.  One day a new nation of 50 players shows up, and by the end of the year they are gone.  In the end, we err on the side of small changes and side with the original intents of plot marshals.  If something is going to persist for many years at a high level, it will generate its own content and drive other people to perpetuate it in the game and our culture.

When the nation choses and adds new editors, we have a very careful vetting process.  We look for people with little bias, a knack for organization, and a desire to help build upon this crazy idea that information should be  preserved and shared.  Being able to add content and curate the Library is also one of the perks of being a member of Coventry  For those who aren’t members, they must have to have a good working OOC relationship with the group and adhere to the same principles of content editing as everyone else.

The Library has grown from a crazy idea of plot sharing to a community resource.  It’s truly a beast of thing to keep up with and is a thankless job.  If you have edits or comments/suggestions  you want to make, feel free to email me (or anyone in the nation) or talk to us at events.   We don’t know if something is inaccurate unless you tell us.  We also won’t make changes because someone thinks a piece of content is “stupid” or “wrong”.  We go with the original intent and limit sweeping changes.  We also don’t host purely OOC information though we have had requests to change the policy and are looking into it.

I hope everyone enjoys the Library for what it is.  It takes time and resources that many people don’t necessarily know about to keep up with.  I could not do with without my small, yet feisty editing team of Coventry members and it owes a lot to the founding members of Ivory and their hard work.  I ask everyone to please be respectful when using the Library or in suggesting edits and content additions.   Like many things in the community, it’s the hard work of volunteers that even makes it possible.  And above all, it’s a gift.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas to all

Thanks to Matt Norris for providing this picture.
You can see and purchase more of his awesome work at M.G. Norris Contemporary Photography

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

What You Missed- Gift Swap at Cecil's Uncle's Crazy Tavern (Part 4)

"I feel that I got the most awesome gift this year, and I'm so excited that I want share what I received! This was my first time participating in the gift swap, so I didn't really know what to expect. When I first saw the wrapped present under the tree I was really excited! I went up and tried to move it and feel through the packaging to get some sort of clue as to what it was (I know, I'm bad like that!).  I couldn't tell anything except that it was heavy, and fairly large. I was stymied but that only contributed to the anticipation that helps to make Uncle Cecil's Tavern so much fun. I also want to add that Aeston knew who had gotten my name and what the gift was,  and all week leading up to the swap he wouldn't tell me anything except that he knew I would love the gift - so as you can imagine, I was beside myself with excitement.
When I finally got to unwrap it, I was absolutely blown away. As in, totally floored - no exaggeration. It was readily apparent that Lord Sir Vawn, who had received my name from Dame Twenaria, had put so much time and effort into the gift that I felt I could not thank him nearly enough.
What I received was a red wooden box, painted red with the Rhiassan lion etched onto both sides. The box in and of itself is absolutely beautiful, with a sturdy handle and gold metal corner protectors.  But when I opened it,  I was speechless. Vawn had taken the time to solicit the input of both those closest to me, to determine what I would want/ need the most, and those with specialized knowledge in this type of gift. What he gave me was a feast-o-crat/ kitchen kit, complete with my own set of tools in Rhiassan red and black; my very own knife set and pot holders, and two wonderful magical devices, one of which makes fire on demand and one that uses metal paddles to mix food! But that wasn't all - the box also contained a set of cutting boards, and various other small kitchen tools.  An invaluable gift for someone who considers herself a student of feasting and event food and hopes to spend a lot of time in Realms kitchens in the coming years!
All in all, the gift was amazing, more than I could have ever asked for, and as Vawn stood in front of me smiling after I had opened it, I found that I couldn't really express all that I wanted to say. It is truly humbling to know that somebody went to such effort and such length in finding something that I could use and producing a gift that would make me so happy. I was blessed this year and I really can't express the depths of my gratitude or my appreciation for the careful thought and hours of prep time I know he put into it. Words don't seem like enough but I will say it again, and again -- thank you, thank you, thank you Vawn!! I will think of you each time I open the box and I will treasure this gift for years to come. " - Areni (Jennifer DeNardis-Rosa)

"My favorite part of the yearly gift swap tradition is watching the reactions. The expressions on people’s faces when they open a gift that was exactly what they asked for, or when they see something that astounds them, or when the gift-giver says the exact right thing. 

It is also fun to watch the hunt begin. Your swap partner didn’t leave a note to tell you who they were! How will you ever go about thanking them? Well, as witnessed at least once this Yule, you can hold up your gift in the air while making happy noises, and look for someone’s secret smile. Or you can hound friends and acquaintances of who you think might have gotten you your gift until they crack under the pressure and spill the beans. Or you can be content knowing that somewhere out there, someone put a lot of thought, time, and effort into getting you exactly what you didn’t know you always wanted.

All in all though, my favorite reactions to watch are the reactions to handmade gifts. This Yule, I was not fortunate enough to see the gift I made opened, but I did get to see the aftermath, and it seems like the gift went over well. On the other hand, I got to see the host of the yearly celebration open his gift, and standing right next to him, an old friend. When he unwrapped his present, both their eyes lit up, and almost in unison they silently mouthed “wow!” 

Or perhaps it wasn’t silent, the tavern is often too loud to hear from that far away. Nevertheless, if you can get a reaction of astonishment, joy, or amusement out of a gift that you hand-selected or hand-made, you will understand the reason I participate every year that I can."- Hermian (Jacob Bouvier) 

"Probably the most impressive part about the gift swap every year is the many people who join it for the joy of giving a present and watching the recipient's reaction to it. That is true for me as well, and I was overjoyed at how much Malaki enjoyed my gift to him, a cape with a fur over the shoulder. He had asked for garb that evoked his position as lord of Folksetone, so I went with what I knew. Fancy fabric and a dead animal.
Photo by Jesse Gifford

I'm a hard guy to buy things for, however, and it is difficult for me to fill out the questionnaire about what I want as a gift. This year I just put down "Rhiassa" and left it to the mind of whoever drew me in the swap. Graham rose to the challenge. He presented me with a scroll (cleverly made up like a Munchkin card) that was an offer for a custom miniquest thrown for Rhiassa. It's probably the greatest thing that I could have been given. There is very little that gold doesn't buy and though I would have deeply appreciated any physical gift made with good intention, what Graham presented was something even more meaningful. A chance for us as a group to have an experience together, to overcome a challenge together, to play together, and to achieve something together. Everyone in Rhiassa is looking forward to it."- Aeston (Jason Rosa)