I specifically asked for the opportunity to write this "What You Missed" issue. I will begin with the disclaimer that, obviously, as a Free Nations event, I am part of one of the groups that was responsible for its creation. That being said, I was not involved with any of the planning or execution of the parts of the event that happened and therefore was a patron of the event in the full sense of the word.
I write this retrospective with very mixed emotions. First, I am elated overall with the theme, quality, and production of the Free Nations Fall Festival for reasons I will expound upon shortly, but also I am saddened by the great number of groups and individuals that did not get to personally experience a social event that is every bit on par with some of the best our community offers.
As this event was, from the beginning, planned to be a social event, I am sad to say that it suffered, even more than other types of events would, from the low attendance. It was still an engaging, enjoyable, and worthy event, but I could not help but see the myriad of ways it would have been exceptional had a greater number of individuals had attended.
The atmosphere at the event was well planned. Banners and pennants hung in the pavilion and bagpipe and similarly appropriate and festive music played all during the day. This site is one of my favorites, there is a fantastic kitchen and BBQ pit, and it has just the right amount of room for all manner of activities. It felt like a festival atmosphere.
The daytime was slated for a smattering of different tournament types. The standard Order of the List individual tournaments were there, but the star of the day were the aloof, entertaining contests designed to be fun and casual, "archery bowling" and "the three legged race" among them. Here is one of the many places where the event would have benefited many times over from more people coming out. These tournaments were designed to be at their best with a whole crowd of participants and spectators, cheering and laughing together as a community in the spirit of friendly competition, and it is unfortunate that they did not get a chance to reach their full potential for entertainment.
Another component of the day (and the evening as well) was the food. As good as the food at any feast, this is one of the areas where the staff excelled. The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender. The steaks were a fantastic cut and cooked perfectly. Bacon-wrapped chicken, gouda mac and cheese, deviled eggs, marinated steak tips, loaded baked potatoes, the list of amazing, hearty, perfectly made food goes on and on, and the deserts were nothing short of decadent. The staff was very kind to make every variety of food that they brought along to delight their attendees, despite not actually having enough people there to eat it all.
As day waned into evening the tournaments ended and the revelry began. I know that there was an evening tournament planned on the large field that sounded like it was going to be a lot of fun, but without enough players to participate I believe the staff decided to keep it secret and hope for a better turn out in the future. But unfettered by that disappointment, the staff and participants began one of the most fun and relaxing evenings I have been privileged to partake of in my time in the Realms.
Live music was performed by several different musicians on a variety of types of instruments. The food continued to pour out of the kitchen, keeping everyone full and happy throughout the night hours, and, of course, people partook of spirits as they talked and celebrated late into the night, rekindling old friendships and forging new ones. It was honestly one of the most enjoyable evenings I ever had in my time in the games, and again, I must lament the opportunity lost. Had the event been more populated by a crowd more diverse in age and affiliation, I can only imagine the closeness it could have inspired in future generations and the myriad of ways the community could have grown from the ability to talk to one another as equals and to raise our glasses to each other in friendship.
I should note as well that the staff lived up to their boasts of keeping the celebration in character. The music was either live or played over the speaker but entirely appropriate to the mood. Plenty of tankards were brought or provided so there was not a red solo cup or aluminum can in sight. Even though there were tournaments during the day, throughout the entire event garb standards were high and conversations seemed to almost universally pertain to in character topics. It felt like a day of celebration for our characters, not just for us as players.
Sunday, was slated to be a day of questing, and because my own squire had developed it all from the ground up I am confident everything about it would have been successful. Unfortunately almost all of the people that remained for Sunday were staff members or people who had been asked to NPC, so it was decided that quest would be run another time. Another unavoidable result of the low turn out. But the staff did follow through as promised, providing a delicious and hearty breakfast to begin the morning with, allowing everyone a relaxing early day as people eventually collected themselves enough to leave their fantasy lives behind rejoin the real world.
As I said when I began, I asked for the opportunity to write this "What You Missed". I wanted to convey, as honestly and strongly as I could that we, as a community, missed something here, and I take no pause in editorializing how much so.
I do not begrudge a single individual their reasons for not attending. Not everyone can go to every event. Very few people can go to more than one, maybe two a month, and there have a been a lot of superior ones in the last few weeks. I certainly have a limit of what I can go to and it is only a rare individual who does not have to pick and choose what events they hit. Each of us have real lives and other duties that we must attend to. Each of us have unfortunate circumstances that can get in the way even when we have every intention to hit a Realms event that weekend. I am not shaming those of you who were unable to come nor am I belittling whatever happened to keep you away. I believe very strongly that you would have been there if you could have, and I thank you for that intention.
In the end, I am only suggesting these things; first to the eventholders and staff of The Free Nations Fall Festival; you did a fantastic job in every way and you should not let the unfortunate circumstances of your low attendance dissuade you from doing it all over again next year. You did everything right. You provided a fully in character environment in a set of situations where people are always more likely to break character at any other event. Well done.
Secondly, that if and when next autumn comes around, and this event again appears on the calendar, that those of you who are able to do so try your best to overcome competing obligations and conflicts of schedule to at least stop by. I am sure that next year's event will be every bit the quality of this year's, and it will be made all the better by your presence there to help us celebrate and to more fully join us together as a community.