Friday, March 30, 2018

Ask the Editors


In what ways was your concept of knighthood formed both before and after you became a part of the Realms?

I have read a lot of fantasy fiction growing up and of course have continued to do so throughout my adult life. Many times these have included knights, or some reference to knightly codes or honor, or were generally just set in that time period. I have also read numerous informational and historical books on knights and the age of knights. All of this helped me form the basis for my concept of what a knight was and what a knight did. But it was harder to figure out how knighthood related to me as a female, as most of the discussion in these books centered on the male knight, keeping in line with common history. So it stands to reason that the books that stood out to me the most, simply going by number of times read, would be "The Protector of the Small" quartet and "The Song of the Lioness" quartet by Tamora Pierce. For those of you who may not be familiar with Pierce's writing, almost all of her story series focus on strong female protagonists that go out and kill it in a medieval-based man's world. "Protector" and "Lioness" are both about female knights, though the circumstances are different - "Lioness" comes first and the main character, Alanna, completes her knightly training while hiding her identify and passing as a boy (thus earning the title of "Sir"), whereas "Protector," which comes later, details the main character Keladry's journey to being the first female to openly complete knightly training and earn the title of "Lady Knight," while dealing with the resultant bullying, prejudice, and discrimination that comes along with it. Truth be told, I like the "Protector" series a bit more than "Lioness," though both are very good. I've always been very interested in knights, knighthood, and knightly code so it makes sense that I would gravitate towards these books. And so when I first joined the Realms and learned that there were in-game knighthoods that people could work towards joining, I was really excited. One of my earliest and dearest goals was to become a squire and work my way towards knighthood. When I joined Rhiassa, my biggest desire was to work to be able to eventually become a Knight of Rhiassa, as the knightly tenets and the requirements of squirehood really resonated with me. And so I think to some extent, I have tried to incorporate the characteristics and ethics of these two strong female knights into the character of Areni, while also trying to stay true to myself. ---Jen “Areni” DeNardis-Rosa



Knighthoods, before and after. What a complicated, and deeply personal question. I grew up in a time where Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers were at a peak. With cartoons like King Arthur and the Knights of Justice, Ronin Warriors, and Justice League. There was an emphasis on small teams that had different virtues, that worked together to make one cohesive unit. They were boy bands, really. Before I came to the Realms, the idea of a knight to me would have stemmed from those teams and thus would have been the embodiment of heroism. Fearless, honorable, willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. It's a romantic idea. It's an idealism that sort of seems unobtainable. So this might seem like a tangent, but I swear it's related. I wear a lot of Superman stuff. I have tee shirts, sweatshirts, shorts. So on. He’s hardly my favorite comic book character. I think he’s overpowered, and through that a bit unrelatable, and sometimes boring. But I still wear it. Why? Well he represents an ideal. You might have seen a meme that says something like “always be yourself. Unless you can be batman, then be batman.” Well I say “Always be yourself, but strive to be Superman Even if it's unrealistic.” That idea is kind of what I would have said about attaining knighthood, before really joining the Realms. And it's still something I live by now. But my outlook on knighthood has changed a bit. Knighthoods come in all shapes and sizes. They brandish all sorts of ideals, and like it or not, I can't say that I think they all represent the virtue that I believe in. Now I see some politics involved. Some notoriety. In some ways, in our game, being a knight is claiming a name for yourself. Getting people who represent an ideal that you think you can latch onto, to respect you for that ideal. I kind of like that. It has a lot more depth. Which is why, now, if you ask me what I think it means to be a Knight, I will tell you that I think it means being effective for the order you are representing. Whatever ideal they cherish. ----Keith “Saegan” Cronyn



That is an interesting question. I didn’t join Realms out of any particular fascination for medieval history or literature, so I hadn’t really considered much of what it meant to be a knight. Most of my perception of what it means to be a knight comes from the Realms itself. From the very beginning of my years as a newbie, I looked to the various knights of the Realms community as role models and even then I instinctively knew that I wanted to be like them one day. To me, being a knight is about serving those around you to the best of your ability, and I try to emulate that example whenever possible.

One thing that has profoundly shaped my vision of knighthood is a poem that Sir Aeston shared with me when I was his squire, “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Although they are not technically my knightly tenets as a Knight of Rhiassa, they are unofficially the code that I personally follow in my vision of what it means to be knightly. I feel like I grow along with that poem, and that no matter the circumstance I can find meaning and comfort in its stanzas. It reminds me to strive to be the best version of myself each and every day. In the end, that’s what knighthood is really about. It's about being willing to grow and never giving up on your quest to be the best version of yourself.

--- Lani "Gwen" Jones





Thursday, March 29, 2018

What You Missed - The Imperium Strikes Back Section 1: Anthur's Lab


by Cory "Asharn" Roy

I joined my fellow Rhiassans and a bunch of Chimeronians and Avendar at the Imperium March for a fun day of questing and what we got did not disappoint. We found ourselves trying to get through what seemed to be a lab full of different plants and insects. We had to find our way in disabling some alarms and fighting some three-headed plant dragon. After fighting our way through and solving some alarm codes we eventually got open the locks on the door.

Through the door we found a tunnel leading to an area with a lot of rushing water which made it hard for us to get across. We quickly found out that killing the elementals caused platforms to form where they died allowing us to make our way over the rushing water. We used these platforms to get these pillars to their designated areas; luckily, Avendar was able to lift them by himself when normally it would have taken a few people to carry. Once the pillars where in place it opened up the way to what I can only describe as a butterfly sanctuary.

Photo by Steve Yazinka

Entering this area, we see colorful butterflies with a lot of dots on the wings. We found javelins lying around along with some puzzle pieces. Once we put the pieces together it was apparent that we had to get the wings off the butterflies to make flowers so we could get farther into our quest. We used the javelins to attack the butterflies and their wings seemed to fall off when hit. Once we had all the wings it took some time for us to figure out how we had to arrange them to make the flowers but once we figured it out it wasn't long before we made our way to the next area.

Photo by Steve Yazinka

After leaving the butterflies we found a lot of statues in a bunch of different poses. Not far in we found a pedestal with a key on it and of course I suggested we just pick it up knowing very well that all these statues would start moving. So after a small discussion, that's what I did and a lot of us blew up from that but after a moment of healing we were all better and ready to fight these statues. We were gathering some sparkly clay from them so we could replace the key we took and a barrier would no longer be blocking the way out. We ended up figuring out that they where enchanted so we started rounding them up before they could regenerate and loading them into a circle of protection which was a great plan until a larger one came in and broke it open releasing a horde of enemies right on top of us. But after some more fighting and gathering enough clay to match the weight of the key we eventually got to the final part of our quest.

Reaching the final area we where confronted with a bunch of strong plant-like creatures and a very large and impressive living and moving tree. We had to work together to kill the smaller plants and use their guts to make a rune on the ground and to cause the large tree to walk over it. It was a hard fight but a fun one and eventually we made the rune and led the tree over it and once it stepped on it there was an explosion. The tree was dead and we finished our quest. It was a fun time, Ashenmark is great at throwing events that are a good balance of fun and challenging and this one was no different. If you didn't make this one I strongly suggest going to events they throw in the future.

-Asharn


Photo by Steve Yazinka

Photo by Steve Yazinka

Photo by Steve Yazinka

Photo by Steve Yazinka


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Break-In and the Case of the Donated Gem

(AKA: What You Missed: The Imperium Strikes Back Section 2: Imperium Heist)

by Callahan "Duke Syruss" O'Leary


Then I chucked that file in the never to be viewed again drawer, and called the Case of the Kung Fu Vampires finally to a rest. I swooped past the filing cabinet to my desk, but there was a magical aura still lingering. Someone cast magic here recently. I could sense it. That and thanks to one of my recent cases I knew what I was looking for (See Kazoo issue Feb 2018 The Case of the Missing Cases). I could smell it in the air, Portal Magic. It always smells of burnt eggs or some rude demon busting some intestinal gas in a space entirely too small.

Worn out, tired, covered in blood, wreaking of garlic, but not done for the day it would seem as I staggered my way over to the desk to see what Naj left for me. Much to my surprise it was not sent via Sir Naj’s Portal but rather an unknown source had sent me a sealed manila envelope. I sat at my chair and reclined. 

Pulled up the manila envelope and smiled as I started to open it. I smiled a child's smile. Manila, a fun word that rhymes with vanilla. I love vanilla. Mmmmmmm, ice cream. Nothing soothes a sore throat like some yummy ice cream. Darn it! I got lost in inner monologue again.

I opened the envelope and started to read. It appeared to be my typical parcel. Someone looking for the great Syruss’ help. It read:

    “Dear Syruss,
Your exploits are known far and wide, varying from person to person. Honestly, it has become hard to separate what is the Myth and what is the Man. If you are a fraction as helpful as your written exploits make you out to be then you will be more than enough to solve my issue. Currently, I am looking to reallocate an artifact that was stolen from me by the Imperium. I will leave a Portal open in your bathroom, come see me once you are able. The job only pays 50 gold but I imagine there will be plenty of things in the Vault you can help yourself to plus unknown scientific research that I am sure would be of value to an inquisitive mind such as yours.

See you soon.

-Sincerely

NotImportantRightNow”

Weird letter, odd name, but then again no odder then some of the names I get with my Ask Syruss letters. WAIT WHAT, the LOO?!?! Sure enough as I opened the door to my private throne **Zipp Zapp schworp Fizzle Portal Sounds*** A big red portal.

Well, it was settled. I had a small case and I knew just the two individuals to help. Obviously my first instinct was to bring Sir Naj. I was already studying Portal Magic under him but I know he would jump at a chance to add to his research. That and I am nowhere near as competent a Portal Mage as Sir Naj. Now I needed someone with nerves of steel and who knew his way around a vault. My old Darkhaven Stomping buddy and Neden’s resident Safecracker Sir Blaximus Blackasaurous Rex aka Sir Blacky himself.

 As we were loading up our gear in the Neden Vault old Lord Nymbous poked his head in and inquired what we were up to. In fact his exact words were.. “Hey you crazy numbskulls what the hell are you doing with my stuff?” We explained we were borrowing a few things for a case and he was delighted. Nymbous quickly got ideas of grandeur and wanted to make a day trip out of it. He quickly cast an amplifier charm and started making his announcements throughout the halls. “Listen Up Boy-o’s we are heading out to parts unknown by way of magical elements emitting from Duke Syruss’s bathroom so be there or be square.” Nymbous’s words echoed throughout the halls like a yodeler singing in their prime. Lord Nymbous was so excited and thought this was going to be another Dungeon Delve as we have been known to do. He was so excited in fact he started recruiting our usual colleagues of mercenaries to help us “rock this thing” as he aptly put it. There was no amount of pleading with him to get him and the rabble to stay behind. There was nothing that could convince him, not even the fact that he was now paying the mercenaries out more money than I was making on this case (Note: to all you would be adventurers out there the Big Guy pays for sell swords just sayin’). Faster than a 20 word verbal being sputtered soundly in super speed we were back and all filing into my bathroom.

My three-man crew turned into a small questing force. We had the usual Neden Crowd with us: Sir Rawlin, Master of Coin Jayce, Dresden, Siff, Darkin Sir Naj, and Sir D.. Let’s see who else was there. There was my Brother Tyruss a.k.a Meat that Jean Baptiste sent along in his stead, Sir Naj’s newest apprentice Wolf and three of our favorite Hired Guns, Sir Quayloth, Karmha and Tuilli. I would like to say this is the most people I have had in my bathroom...I really really would like to.

*Swish SZworp Squish Zoop and Florp*** We went through the portal and were instantly in the hellish waiting hall in some sort of fancy building. This looked like the nicest offices in Neden times a million, like if our offices had a bunch of gold to spend on frivolous decorations. 

As soon as we arrived, Tuilli  started casting small amounts of Glamour magic on the questing party so we would all appear Mustachioed. The thought was if we got caught we didn’t want to be identified. It did not help that we were all wearing the same thing...I mean I pointed it out but when the questing troop is excited about something give it to them...Cherish the small things.

We were soon greeted by the person who sent me the letter. An older grey-bearded man with a problem of the shifty kind. I mean here is a tip kids, if the gig is on the up and up it usually doesn’t involve a B&E and the person hiring is usually not so careful with their identity. He was quick to note the immense amount of mustaches and then asked if we were the Neden questing party. Apparently he received the lord’s scrying RSVP and was ready for us…..

The man identified himself as Thorin, after much pressure and maybe a threat to walk from the gig unless I knew who my benefactor was. I made the threat but I could tell there was no backing out now. Nope, the Lord had that look in his eye. The look of adventure, the look of mischief, the same look I have when Sir Naj is doling out the goodies at Feast of Neden. Yup, he was a man on a mission all right.

We entered the first room way more stealthily than I would have assumed from a group of fifteen. That is until someone...totally not me...who gave an inappropriate inquisitive “Hello?” again totally not me no matter what Rawlin says, that guy is a liar and a charlatan.

******WEEEEEEE OOOOOOOOO WEEEEEEEooooooo BRAAAAAAAAAANG BRAAAAAAAANG********* The alarm filled the room like air fills the lungs. Like an Anemoi God of wind blowing and filling the sails of sailors at sea.

Sir Blacky and I quickly scrambled throughout the halls cutting wires as fast as our comrades were cutting through those poor security guards. I mean I am not saying the slaughter of 9 to 5 working schmoes was the sole reason I told Nymbous not to bring a small army, but it is up there.

 As Sir Blacky and I cut one of the final panels clean of wires, we could feel a noticeable difference in heat throughout the room. *****WOOOOSHHHHHHHHHH***** A large funnel of fire penetrated the center of the room and from out of that fire tornado spawned four fire elementals. Quickly, our cohorts were burned where they stood. A pile of goo where our Lord once stood started reforming, first an eye then a mouth then a middle finger. We knew our lord was going to be fine. Sir Naj was quickly negating fireballs with some fine impromptu spell slinging. Unfortunately, it was not fast enough to save his young apprentice, Wolf, who swung his sword at the fire feeding the flames with oxygen and only enraging their wrath and carnage.

***LIGHTNING BOLT**** A flash of lighting flew across the room hitting multiple fire elementals… Rushing in with a sword in hand and smile on his face, Dresden seemed pleased. That was until he realized it only enraged them.

Fire ball, fire ball, fire ball. Balls of swirling flame were being hurled and our comrades were falling left and right.  As I look for a solution, out from the shadows Jayce appeared with a new treasure chest in his hands….Why was I not surprised?
“What did I miss?” Jayce inquired. 
“We need a way to destroy these fire elementals!” I shouted.
“Will this help?” Jayce asked as he opened the glowing chest showcasing the most dangerous weapon in the Realms during the winter months...SNOWBALLS!!!!!

Quickly Jayce, Blacky, and I started hurling snowballs at the fire…  Ssssssss Sizzle SSSSSS...The snowballs where having an effect but surely we would run out...Snowball after snowball we fought the fire elementals until they were almost no more. We stopped questioning the amount of snowballs in the case. I mean after all we have encountered bags of holding before, why not an infinite snowball case. After all was said and done, Jayce picked the lock to the next floor of the vault. We had defeated the first room. D and Qualoth along with Karmha started raising the dead.

The next room went quickly. Blacky and I were in a rhythm with the disarming of the alarms. The questing group was in a murderous rhythm with dispatching the guards and then it happened. The twist. We all knew it was going to happen, right? We all knew that questing doesn’t go smoothly but there it was anyway, the twist. A tied-up man claiming the identity of Thorin although this was not a grey-beard shifty man but another Portal Mage being held captive by the Imperium! Was this the man who sent the original message? Who was the first man? These questions and more would puzzle my brain before the day was through. Either way, I needed to free this man. Anyone being held in chains in a safe underground in a different portal has to be trustworthy. 
I made quick work of the tumblers after Rawlin failed to pick the lock.

Thorin proved to be quite useful. No longer were we delayed with locks. Furthermore, he was showing Naj new portal tricks to get around wards that prevent Portal Mages from coming and going as they pleased… Note to self: Upgrade my Wards in my bathroom…

The next room was filled with one of the most horrific things the Realms produces….BEES. As it turned out we needed some magic nectar from this realm in order to break one of the wards. I wanted to do this room as stealthy as possible because bees are essential to our ecosystem and the Realms is already having a honey shortage and in no way did I want my name tied to that sort of scandal.
After grabbing the honey, the hive, the crown from the queen bee and 1,000,000 stings latter we were onto the next room. This room was filled with water sprites that felt great on some of the burns after the first room. Karmha and Naj deduced how to stop the sprites. There were these magical stumps that produced enchanted vines from the ground. Once the sprites were corralled the water was absorbed into the ground and a large tree started to grow.

Now as adventurers we do a lot of damage but every once in a while we do something awesome, like plant a tree. We watched this tree grow from sapling to the tallest of redwoods I have ever seen. It humbles the soul to see such a sight….but I digress…

The next room was filled with acid and these creatures that floated above the danger almost as if they could fly. Darkin took a fighting force of Jayce, Karmha, Tuilli , Sir Naj, Sir D and Dresden. The lightning bolt gang hurled their magic with extremely deadly accuracy and as these new creatures fell the ground arose from underneath them creating a passable path. This room required us to post these Magical Totems in specific places that matched their magical output.  Once this was done a portal appeared and Thorin and Naj were leading us to the next room.

In the room ahead of us stood a pillar and on said pillar was our goal. What we came to retrieve, a powerful crystal of unknown magical properties.  Naj and I have seen puzzles like this a million times, it was a weight distribution puzzle. As Naj, Siff, and I gathered items we believed would be equivalent in weight, our friends D, Karmha, Darkin and Quayloth were slaughtering those who would attack us. As our defenders fell, their fatal foes, the bodies started to drop this clay-esque type material.

While they fought, we switched out our items for the gem; the weight was sure to be right...

If only we had seen the material fall as they slaughtered the guards, if only we were faster with the transfer of items for the gem, if only we had guessed a better weight distribution, if only...

WeeeeOOOOOOOmmWeeeeeOOOOOOOOMMMMm a loud alarm filled the rooms, gravity shifted and knocked all of us would-be burglars onto the ground.

The room flooded with enemies as fast as it was filled with sound. The ground shook with a tremble from the alarm or  so I thought.. Just then a eight foot tall guard entered the fray. Sir D called all the lightning users to him. Dresden, Karmha, and Sij Naj all lined up on D.

“Everyone on my command aim for his heart...3...2...1…” D screamed and they listened. As if they were one, they all casted their lightning bolts and a bright brilliant flash brought down the behemoth of a man. The lightning crew was certainly earning the pay the lord promised. Speaking of the Lord, that is when he came up with the plan to use the clay as the counterbalance.  Karmha used her expertise craftsmanship to form a forgery that of which rivaled the original in every way. AND IT WORKED. The alarm shut off at the same time that Darkin and I discovered our combined powerful glare was that of the level of Basilisk and we froze all the guards in place...that or it had something to do with Karmha’s perfect gem replacement.


Either way we had what Thorin and Naj needed to get us home….

****SWISH swhirl ZORM zip Blorp Portal Sounds******

Or so we thought.


“This is not Neden” Lord Nymbous said astutely.


“No...No this is not,” Naj stated “It is some sort of magical compound chemically bonding to the vault’s elemental properties.”


“What the hell does that mean?” Darkin said, frustrated without things to hit.


“It means the magic needs to be directed...sorted out...so we can focus this gem to get us where we need to go,” Naj deduced.


“Your Portal Mage knows his stuff,” Thorin chimed in. "He is correct.”

Thorin instructed us to enter this small temporal circle that should send us to a magical wayline. As he sent us off to gather different colored orbs to sort the elements Sir Rawlin lead a fighting force to fend off our soulless bodies.

Sir Quayloth and Karmha got the most orbs and Naj and Dresden sorted them into their appropriate places.

Thorin was about to say something when...

**********Booom***********

The portal magic overloaded...Apparently Lord Nymbous kept going back because there were more balls to collect and he is a completionist.

We were separated by a large granite wall with elemental auras of fire and water on either end and before we could organize our troops. Then all of the elements and guards we had encountered surrounded us and had goals to make short work of our fighting force. With my great sword I bashed and bludgeoned until there was a clear cut path to the center, a mage HURLING ELEMENTAL SPELLS OF ALL TYPES IN EVERY DIRECTION.

While I was trying to figure out how to stop the magical menace a fire elemental charged me and lunged their body hand-first at my head, but like the nimble warrior I am I ducked….Yup, ducking it has its value...BOOM It hit the water wall and SIZZLE a fireball landed at my feet.
Strange thing, it was quite cool to the touch. So I picked it up and hurled it at the center creature and as I deduced one of its shields went down. Through trickery, I got the water elemental to crash into the fire wall, and then once again I was granted an elemental orb of power.

Just then Naj and Quayloth used the force to send me a vision of putting the stone creature in a specific non-marked spot and then as with the previous two enemies I was awarded another elemental bolt.  Nymbous picked up one and I the other. We hurled in unison and with a loud crash and crackle the shields were down. Neden swarmed on the big bad guy like a pack of piranhas and devoured him within seconds.

“Hooray!” Thorin screamed. “That was the supervisor for the vault!”

Thorin went on to tell us he had what he needed to get us home. Neden as Neden do, scavenged the vault for anything not nailed down.

Now was my favorite time of every case, when the benefactor is happy and the payment is forthwith.

“50 gold as discussed,” Thorin said  My shrewd negotiations pointed out that we still had the gem and we felt we had spent far more in resources and expenses. Heck, our mercenary cost alone was 150 gold. But before I could squeeze another cent from the Magical Miser, Lord Nymbous handed over the gem and Thronin ported away leaving behind a note….

“Dear Syruss,

Thank you so much for your assistance. You are worth every penny and your reputation as a detective and problem solver was not exaggerated. I will call upon you again if we should ever need your assistance again.

Yours Truly,

The Thorins”

I guess both men were Thorin's, or perhaps same person different time remnant. Either way, he paid. The case was closed and I got a fun new trinket from all this. The most powerful weapon of them all.

That's right I kept the SNOWBALL chest.

So now, next time you are in Neden stop by the O’Leary Snowball Emporium where I have currently made 360 in gold….suck it Thorin.

Tune in Next time Loyal Readers as THE GREAT DETECTIVE SYRUSS takes on the Case of the Howl at Night.







Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Why I Want To Go: Unavoidable Conflict by Keith

Why I want to go to Unavoidable Conflict? Is that really the question I'm answering right now?

It's going to be awesome. That's it.

Not sold? Alright. This event seems like it's going to bring together what has seemed like a mesh of serious plots, and allow them to coalesce into what can only be described as epic.

I'm fairly new to the plot, having really only been involved for the passed year. But I can say I'm invested, it has the right blend of evil looming on the horizon, and dark powers that my friends will inevitably delve too far into forcing me to try and save them. And war. They have war.

And I love that stuff.

Beyond that, this plot relies heavily on the mythos of the plot lines this staff, and the kindred of Chimeron have put forth, giving them a lot of background to play around with. I know from a source in the shadows that they have several story shards submitted for this event, which is kind of a unique thing to these events, because it allows players to accomplish things between events, and thus get special perks during the events themselves. People offering personal plot, or giving opportunities for people to get specifically invested are pretty rare, so I'd recommend taking it when you can.

It would be silly of me to ignore the fact that this will be the first opportunity for people to grandfather into the new spell system. I know behind the scenes that the OEC has worked hard getting the rules together and they should finally be ready for play by Unavoidable Conflict. This means you friendlies should come with your spell books all updated and ready for action, because I know these magic marshals will have a critical eye, and be ready to offer a helping hand, to make sure you start off on the right foot.

Now this is a capped event, and last I knew they already had a waiting list and everything, but if you're looking for something to do that day, I know the staff are welcome to NPCs, and from what I've heard it could be a mutual learning experience, as a person sees the behind the scenes of how they run their events.

And since the staff was so kind-- a sneak peak ---

A message from Warlord Saka:

We have found evidence that this faction of the Risen Kingdom, House Triskwater, has been playing the long game, operating in the caverns below Chimeron for around a decade. This will be a tough fight. The strike squad of adventurers will need to be smart, strong, and decisive.
The Militia has completed a number of daring scouting missions, and we expect the adventurers will be able leverage that intel to capture some of the facilities then turn them against the enemy. The adventurers will be coordinating with our Militia to strategically hit various objectives simultaneously, crippling key Risen Kingdom resources and keeping their command structure in crisis-mode. We've found a good point to hit first and use as a forward command center so the adventurers can direct Militia forces. Hopefully their tactical coordination will be successful in routing the enemy, and one way or another removing the Risen Kingdom from our world.

---------------------

That's all for now, I hope to see you on the field,

Keith “Saegan” Cronyn

Monday, March 26, 2018

Friday, March 23, 2018

Fireside Chat with Syruss

White Coast City may have been a lovely town, but I only noticed the cold, and the sad elves with scars on their faces. One day, Ill learn not to travel far in winter. Syruss proved to have more sense than I did, and showed up by way of a portal. I followed him to what I hoped would be a cozy tavern, but was distressed to find us heading to a church to the Dark One. In case you didn't know, I am not a fan. At all. Hoping to avoid a smiting, I followed Syrups into the building. He turned with a warm smile, and hit a switch. It seems there is a secret room filled with a cozy fire, and, for lack of another word, a small petting zoo. Who knew Syruss had such soft spot? (well, I think most of us know that, but we don't talk about it). All in all, Syruss proved to be an excellent host, not only providing a comfortable atmosphere, but also answering all the questions I could come up with.

    Syruss, aside from running a secret petting zoo, how do you spend you time when you are not out on an adventure? 
Let's see. I do a lot to stay busy. I Co-Own a few small business in Neden. If I am not looking into the New Eden Casino or checking in on Nedens Traveling Carnival and Emporium then I am often in my and Lord Nymbous's Brewery making the next great O'Leary Cider or working Hard over at the Neden Kazoo on my next story. That's my down time, unfortunately, I am, like, almost always adventuring. If I am not heading over to my friend's lands to help them with the next Realms crisis then I am busy in neden solving smaller crimes as the Realms greatest detective. Do you have a new quest on the horizon? My next quest is getting ready for the winter Thaw and cleaning out Neden's front lawn from various creatures of the wild or escaped experiments from Jean Baptiste. We have a big BBQ coming up in a few months and there are always something to heard away or put down if they are a threat. 

    How does your nation affect your actions? 
 Neden at first was a lot of work when I came over from Grimloch so it affected everything I did for a while. Lord Nymbous was establishing his reign, there were a lot of moving pieces. But now I feel we have settled into a good grove. Now as the Duke of this great land I am constantly checking in to make sure day to day operations are still running smoothly. I organize the rabble on behalf of the Lord when he so asks, and I am constantly looking out for the prosperity and well-being of the Neden Boys. 

    Is there a correlation between JB's experiments and what you are serving at the BBQ? 
I would be so happy if I could say that JB's experiments don't lead to some of Neden delectable treats, but alas I cannot. It is because of Jaybles that we got Pizza Zombies (I still don't know how they have hot fresh pizza every time?!?! ) or his delicious Owl Bear Steaks. But to answer your question more directly about the BBQ, unless JB is bringing an experimental side dish, then it will be our newest full member Gumbo cooking and will be providing the food, which is mostly cow and chicken.

    Speaking of BBQ, what is your favorite dish at a Feast? 
My favorite dish at a feast, geez that's a tough question. I really like Rhiassa's Lord Gwen Buffalo Chicken Stew, which she keeps insisting is just dipping sauce for bread and then yells at me to stop eating it all with a spoon. But really I am biased towards Neden's Turkey Dinner Sir Naj and his crew really know how to cook a bird right, shout out to the cranberry sauce, to which was one of JB's original Experiments....Poor Gelatinous Cube Man he never saw it coming.

    Who do you most admire? Why? 
Who do I most admire, lots of people. I admire any who who push themselves to be the best version of themselves, those who stand by their friends, our dreamers and our artists, I admire the Realms Bards and those who put themselves out there. I admire those willing to train the next generation and I admire the generation that paved the way for us here and now. I admire the brave, not because they're fearless, but because they do something courageous in the face of fear. But if I had to say who I admire most it would be you because you are the one giving the interview and could totally beat me up. 
** Of note:  He may not be wrong  ~T

    Aside from Nymbous, are you courting anyone? 
He laughed.  
Nymbous and I don't like labels. But no, I am in an open relationship with adventure and friendship.

                                                                         
And there we have it.  Duke Syruss is happy to be friends with all of us, and we should be delighted to have such a friend.  


If you want to chat, and a cozy place to visit, let me know.  
XOXO
Twen

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Into Castle Ravensloft, Part 3


(This is a re-post of a story originally written for the printed version of the View some 10-15 years ago)
[Editor's Note: click here to read Part I, and click here to read Part II]

Into Castle Ravensloft by Steven Matulewicz

3

Twenaria was hanging out in Pyr’s Library. Not exactly where she would prefer to be, but hey, if you want to see your Bro, sometimes you have to go to him. And them hit him over the head and drag him into the woods. It’s much more fun out there than with all the stuffy crud. So she bided her time.

The Private Library in Chimeron Castle is a good sized room with several large oaken tables (which at this point were covered with books, maps, scrolls and whatever Pyr thought was interesting). A Couple of well-worn leather chiars sat near a fire, while harder wooden ones were hap-hazardly arranged around the tables. Pyr spent a lot of time in here and it showed. I mean hell, almost every story he ever wrote started or ended up in here. She wondered if he at least slept near or on the balcony. It overlooked the Garden. Even with the earth sleeping, there is an energy about it. Knowing him he probably ended up collapsing in a pile of books.

So she listened to him politely as he re-told the dealing of the past few days. A bit long-winded and overly-dramatic but still interesting. He had told her about the Vault before. The other stuff, not so much. But the reality is things were coming to a head. She’ll have to go and actively watch the Western Front to make sure nothing hits the main press. “One of these days,” she thought “Someone is going to write a story or tell a tale about the Western Front.” All that waiting is immensely boring, but now and again it’s a necessary thing. And sometimes it’s *very* exciting. But for all the times people have gone there, no one speaks about it much, if at all.

Pyr comes to the end of his story and she shifts her position in the chair so she might do a bit swifter mischief. And she waited a bit more.

“So what you’re saying, Pyr,” she says with a hint of humor, “is that you are the owner of a huge chunk of concentrated evil.”

“Yes.”

“AAAnd yet you are supposed to be this White Knight Palidin? Sounds shady to me.” Pyr sighs and looks at the floor a moment. He knows she is joking but it’s the same question, over and over. Testing him and pushing at him. You are not a Paladin because of X. You are not a King because you are not Meg or Jarrod.

The world can go to Hell. I am what I am. No one can take that away but himself. He looks at her levelly.

“And would you prefer I send in an army and destroy the Vault?”

“It would be a start.”

“These,” he says, indicating the whole room with the sweep of his arm, “Are mostly from the Castle. Do you know what they tell me? That Vault is older than the castle. It tells me hundreds have died, as individuals if not as groups, either getting into the vault or dying inside of it. And the things in there are for pure power to be examined by people who wanted god- like abilities, or supreme domination of this dimensions, and even all the dimensions. They tell me how tight the spells are. They don’t tell me how to un-do them. And that is on purpose.”

“The problem with past generations,” Pyr said, slightly changing the subject, “is that they never learned how to defeat things. They only learned how to “bottle” things up and figure that was as good as defeat. And our generation unwittingly opens them up. The biggest problems that this Realm has ever faced come from individual acts of ignorance or stupidity. And then we do what our generation does best: we actually defeat the evil.” He walks over to the opening to the Balcony and Twenaria follows him.

“Releasing that room would be one of those stupid acts. It would be like releasing Hell itself on this earth. Or so I have guessed. Is that Bravery or Stupidity? Is being a Paladin walking into Hell just because it exists? A Paladin’s job is to protect this universe and all life within it. They are dedicated to this cause, not just from their moral compass but from understanding and wisdom. The short is If I could destroy it, I would. And I have been, small bit by small bit. But to do something right, you don’t just charge in sometimes. You take the diligence to do it right.  It takes time.”

Twenaria smiles a bit, walks out to the balcony and looks down into the garden a moment. Pyr follows her out into the night sky. It was cold, but with their cloaks they didn’t notice it much.

“That doesn’t explain why you keep unwarded, plainly evil items in a partially warded part that could in itself be broken into, especially if there is any possibility of something either getting released in there or it getting out.”

“I keep them there because to be honest there is no safer place. There is no temple of Good that will accept such evil or powerful items under their roofs. I do not trust we have the ability to create something so protected as that place is, that something couldn’t find its way in. It is not there just to keep evil in or out. It’s there to keep everything in or out, unless they are supposed to be there. Like the beasts that guard it, I do not believe the wards are evil in themselves. I believe that was the intent of the casters, and why there are clearly evil items within it.”

“You know, Brother?” Twenaria steps in close to Pyr. He looks down at her and grins.

“No. What?”

Twenaria hits him firmly with the flat of her dagger and in one motion pushes him over the railing into the hay cart below.

“You talk too much.” She motions to the Militiaman driving the wagon and he begins his way out to the woodlands beyond the hills.

Twenaria hums silently to herself, getting her gear together for a good night of hunting with her Brother.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Why I Want to Go-The Imperium Strikes Back

by Lani "Gwen" Jones

I’ve been a loyal patron of the Ashenmark Questing team for years, and for good reason. They throw events that are fun, interesting, and often feature plants or googly eyes. Many of my all time favorite questing moments have come from this event staff, and I always keep an eye out for opportunities to play at their quests and dungeon crawls. It feels like I’ve said this a lot recently, but if you didn’t pre-reg for this event and get yourself a slot, you are definitely missing out on a good time. Get your life together next time and get in on the action.

What really has made the Imperium plot line stand out for me are the super well-thought out encounters which require both cooperation and teamwork to complete. This team creates clever mechanics that require just the right amount of work. We can solve the puzzle on our own without it being so complex that PCs reach the point of frustration. For example, last year’s dungeon crawl featured a puzzle room that allowed us to make and destroy bridges between islands by creating different runes. It was an interesting challenge of both moving small groups of people from island to island while also trying to communicate from across the room what runes needed to be built. It was a fun and creative way to ensure that the whole group was working together and coordinating their efforts toward a common goal.

In addition, the pace of this event format is noteworthy, is high energy with very little downtime and you certainly don’t feel like you were just one time slot of an event that wasn’t a full day, as the staff keeps that energy going. I find myself smiling throughout the whole event, eagerly awaiting the adventure right around the next turn. The scene changed are managed quickly and efficiently and there was never an opportunity to snap out of that adventure mode. As usual with any Ashenmark event, I am genuinely looking forward to seeing what the team has in store for us this weekend.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Winter/ Spring Zodiac

 By Janna "Iawen" Oakfellow-Pushee

A long time ago, the races of the Realms have looked into the stars and wondered, "What if?", never realizing that in some places, in some planes, those very stars were looking right back at us, wondering the same thing.  There's a lot the stars can tell us, if only we show a humble want for knowledge.

In past years, a man visited the Realms who was not a man at all, but a fallen star who took on a human persona as Hesperus Star-keeper. As it is, two Star People with the names Orion Mars and Cressida still walk with us from time to time. All have names, all have houses, all have a purpose and a drive.

And, if you're willing to listen to the what the stars have to say, you might just find yours, too.


These are thoughts on how your Winter, heading into Spring, might be turning out.

House of:

Aries:  Energetic and courageous, your reactions follow your natural spirit. You live each moment to the full, often not caring about tomorrow and this can lead to some surprises, both good and bad.   It's going to be okay; just realize that not everyone agrees with you (to your face), and if you're about to commit to something that has the potential to land you into the Necromancy Zone, think again.  Fighters who are Aries are going to have a hell of a time, celebrating and warming it up toward Spring, as are Abjurers and Channelers in this Star House.

Taurus:  Please don't be sad.  I know you've been beaten up more than normal for an adventurer, and I don't mean just physically (although I really AM sorry about that elbow to the nose; I was just reaching for a drink!).  While some describe those in House Taurus as 'bull-headed', but that doesn't mean they don't have a sensitive side as well.  And if you're chuckling over the word 'sensitive', then realize you're probably not going to make friends with that Taurus. At best, maybe close acquaintances?  A Taurus likes their praise short and public but needs private correcting with a detailed plan on how to improve.  That said, in order to improve upon the bull, you'll need to allow yourself to be yoked up for a while, and work hard. Harder than you ever have for this season.  You can rest up around the time of Feast of Chimeron.

Virgo: Yay for familiars, animal companions, and other cute, fluffy activities!  It's the only respite you'll get from the cacophony of noise and questing that awaits you.  Any Sorcerors in House Virgo will find that actions speak louder than words, as does a well-placed Lightning Bolt.  While the dramatics from your fellow questing party isn't news to you, it *will* feel off-putting and leave you a bit bewildered on how to proceed shortly after the Spring Equinox.  The stars' best advice is to keep moving forward, eyes wide open, and listen to whom might follow you (but don't look back. Never look back.).

Gemini:  Dual personality, but you already knew that.  Necromancers and Assassins who are Gemini are chomping at the bit; they cannot wait to show off their skills (or not, as the case may be).  Shooting from the shadows will land many a successful target for you this Winter into Spring, but come May the faeries will have their enchanted ways with the Trees once more, making it difficult to pull off Evil Acts. Not impossible, just difficult.  Meanwhile, Channelers and Blacksmiths in this House will find that at the end of Spring politically things are heating up, and whether they want to or not, they'll be caught up in it; time to polish that mask until it sparkles, as you'll need to put your "best face" forward to charm commoner and adventurer alike.  Sweet and sour, now's the hour.  Hop to it.

Cancer:  Fighters in this House are having a harder time than usual, but don't worry: you revel in a challenge and show remarkable stamina.  Some go for the quick strike, the flashiness of a ritual, the loud cry of 'Look at me!', but that's not you this season.  You're more content to play the long game, to wait it out, to watch from the sidelines and observe before making a move.  Observation skills, in fact, are heightened around this time until the Spring Equinox itself, so take mental advantage of every scene you can see.

Aquarius: Something smells fishy, but it's not you.  Too much water has drained your resources, your energy, your strength and almost your will.    Almost.  This winter wasn't anything to write home about, but the Spring will be spent repairing your amphora from the inside-out and filling it back up to the brim with fresh wine. Or water.  Or whatever it is that you choose to use and pour out.  Until then, though, it is strongly advised that you say 'No, thank you', to anyone who attempts to sign you up for an extra quest, a volunteer patrol, or even that cookie contest.  This is 'you time', and if you're a Shaman in this House, you're going to need it the most.

Pisces: Something smells fishy, and it's totally you.  Down in the ruins of White Coast City, were you?  While there are many sights to see from the Everglades to over the Western Mountain range, those in the Star House of Pisces ought to find their favorite body of water, and stay close to it for as long as possible.  Adventuring is great when you have the basic needs covered, yet you don't because planning a caper isn't one of your skills.  Healers, Seers, and Alchemists in this House will find their readings, their recipes, and their remedies way off the mark, and will be gaining "klutz points" right and left.  At times, you may even feel like a fish out of water (because you are), and no amount of flopping around is going to save you.  Look to help from above around the first full week of Spring, and then clear the mud off your schedules and plans in order to start fresh.

Leo: It's almost time to go out and patrol, take stock of what's going on in your territory.  Clear out the unwanted and undesirable.  You don’t like to compromise and relish confrontation with any pride that attempts to roam your territory, or even the singled-out ones that might be a threat to your clan.  Hold that paw, though, before you go swatting the mouse.  Mice can carry disease, and you don't want that, do you?  The disease goes under 'undesirable', but rather than cutting it out yourself (and risking health, among other things), this is the time to call in the experts, or the unbiased, or (dare one says it) a commoner to see the problem with fresh eyes.  And when you do tackle it, don't do it alone.  There's a reason Lions are in a Pride; carry the load together.

Libra:  I'm not judging, but you certainly are. It's shown in your body language and your actions, but not your words (even though you're speaking a lot).  While not put that to Good use (or Evil, if you're a Necromancer this is actually a great time for you and your House)?  Your judgments this season will carry weight across nations and guilds, and your decisions will swing things in your favor all the time, even if your favorite choice isn't the best choice at the time.  If you've been toying with the notion of changing yourself up completely (from caster to fighter, new looks or species, etc.), the stars are right for such an accomplishment. Make sure the demon is in the details (and choose your demon wisely).

Scorpio:  Okay, let's do this.  You're scared and excited at the same time, but you know you just have to Do The Thing, possible Things, and let's face it; you're more excited for it and what could be than being fearful(and this is a healthy change coming your way).  There's not much else to predict other than keep your head down, but your eyes up, and keep going.  Go go go!

Sagittarius: Shoot for the moon, not at it!  You don't want your arrows to bring the whole thing crashing down on you just because you didn't have the patience to line up the shot.  Look, everyone knows you're good at what you do, tremendously talented, even! It means a lot, then, to hold back and be incredibly sure of the direction you're going in.  Detailed plans are for suckers, but no plan at all is for the common chump.  Get an outline drawn up (especially if you're primarily an Alchemist or a Blacksmith), and THEN you can be spontaneous within the confines of 'the plan'.  And think of all the creativity you can get through to the target with one shot?  Best of luck to you!

Capricorn:  What's up? Chilling, chillin'.  Like you do.  Fighters and Casters alike in this House feel so far removed from the comings and goings at the moment in the Realms (as if they were in hibernation).  Soon, though, around the time after Feast of Creathorne, many will make a comeback in a slow yet determined way.  Other Houses should not mistake this for laziness; Capricorn is just getting their basic needs settled first. Shelter, Food, Trade? Check. Update or get new equipment and garb? Check.  Politics? Enh... maybe?  Not really your messenger bag. Speaking of messages, expect one soon to come from an unlikely source around the time of the Spring Equinox, but don't let it get you frazzled.



Monday, March 19, 2018

Friday, March 16, 2018

10 Questions With an EH - Tucker Noyes

[Editor's Note: the first of a new interview series focusing on event-holding experience, style, and advice from different EHs throughout the Realms. Enjoy!]


What events have you previously thrown? (include years)

I have been the Event Holder for Tournaments of Nadina II (2007), Festival of Nadina (2008), and the Ashen Bounty series (2012-2017), as well as being on the main staff for the Order of the List Invitational series (2011-2016).


What led you to start throwing events?


I was interested in having a say in the rules of the game, as well as wanted to give back to my community. I had done a lot of staffing and NPCing leading up to my first few events and I wanted to give it a try and see what it was like from the Event Holder perspective.


What would you like your events to be known for?

That is a tough question, and I think the vague answer would be “good.” I think that depending on the events you throw, you have different goals in mind, but the biggest consistency is that I think that the events should be a good quality. The specific aspect most important to me me, if I had to pick a single one, is being innovative and being able to try out new things.


What aspects of event holding do you consider most challenging?


When it comes to tournaments and feasts that I have participated in the staffing of, probably coordination is the most challenging. There is a lot of preparation into coordinating a good tournament event to make it run smoothly that isn’t always obvious. When it comes to questing I think the part I find hardest is writing engaging and innovative content that our player base will enjoy. It also have the biggest payoff when it works, which is a nice reward for a lot of hard work.


Tell us about an event moment you are particularly proud of?


This is a tough one, as I don’t know that I really have a single moment that stands out. Even small things like having the pacing of your event really work out and minimizing downtime is really exciting, or having a general mechanic work well over the whole weekend is something I tend to be most proud of. For me, throwing an event is more a marathon than a sprint, and having consistent good content from your grunt NPC grinds up to the final boss and equally important. Again, if I am to pick a specific moment, I would have to say any of our Ashen Bounty boss monster reveals. Our props team does such great work and it is always fun to watch the players react.


Tell us about something that went wrong and what you learned from it?

Well, my first two events pretty much went terribly wrong. It was my first time throwing an event, and I didn’t really seek out the support or guidance I should have had going in to them. I think the biggest learning moments I had there was that I needed to surround myself with a good team, and that I should take time to really learn from the events I enjoyed staff or NPC’d and take those lessons and apply them to my own event.


What do you think makes an event site “good” and how have you gone about locating sites?


Again, depends in part in what you are doing. Obviously a site like Hicks Arena at UCONN is great for a tournament like Order of the List Invitational, but wouldn’t be a great place to have a feast. I think for feast and tournaments, finding an affordable spot that suits your space needs are most important. When it comes to multi-day questing, that is a whole different story. If I am going to throw a multi-day quest, usually I require cabins for a site to be usable, as that seems to be appealing to a lot of players, and that it is somewhat centrally located. Anything within 45 mins of Worcester is a solid site location in my book.


Have you managed to maintain a balanced budget? Any advice for other event holders on doing that?


I can only speak to the Ashen Bounty series, which I can firmly say, no. However for me, throwing an event is a labor of love, and I want to make the event as accessible as possible, which means helping people out who may not have the cash to attend. I will say, for the most part over the six Ashen Bounty events we have thrown, our budget creeps ever closer to becoming balanced. Part of this is due to investment in props and equipment that we can reuse over time, borrowing props from other EHs that we don’t need to make ourselves, and planning better. I think that more EHs need to be a little more stringent on using expensive sites or overspending in certain areas if they really want to drive costs down. There are a lot of sites out there that we have not used that may be viable with a little more investigation. I think we as a player community also need to start doing a better job at registering (and reviewing!) for events, as a more accurate player count makes a big difference for an EH's ability to plan.


What staff positions do you feel are essential to running your events and what do you do to help empower and support them?

First let me say, I am immensely proud of the Event Holding team I have within the Ashenmark crew. No tasks is ever too big or too small for these guys and having such a great team is the foundation on which good events are built. If there is a single thing that I think can make and break an event, it is the quality of the crew behind the EH whose name is on the event. Specifically I think that having several key positions helps make throwing events much smoother:

A Den Mother - Something I learned from staffing Folkestone Questing over the year is that having someone at your NPC hut who knows where everything is, when those things need to go out and how they work is invaluable. Ashen Bounty 6 was the first year we implemented this (Pi Fisher) and it made a big difference, especially when it came to clean up.

Props Team - I think another thing that is great is having an individual or small group of people who are skilled at making props. Every single person on the Ashenmark EHing team helps to make all sorts of props, but when it comes to specialty props that need to be detailed we have a group of go to people (Kyle Yazinka, Paul Tilton, Nataliya Kostenko, Keith Tatarczuk) with a diverse skill set that make amazing props.

Writing Team - While we always like to try and incorporate as many people's ideas as we can in the group, sometimes having fewer voices helps to create a more clear narrative. We have had a lot of people fill this role in the past (Steven Yazinka, Paul Tilton) and more recently, a great new team of writers whose keen minds have brought you our most recent Imperium plot (Alyssa Lee, Nick Quadrini, Pi Fisher, Nataliya Kostenko).

Beyond that, having solid NPCs you can trust to staff your events and be flexible both in the role playing and combat aspect is very important. A couple bad NPCs more concerned about flaunting their fighting skills and winning over making sure the players are enjoying the quests can really cause problems and affect player enjoyment.


What advice do you have for other Event Holders?

Try new things, but not all at once. One of the things that is great about Realms is the room for an EH to innovate. I love trying out new mechanics each year and hearing the feedback on it. However, if you do try to innovate too much at a single event, sometimes it is hard for people to decide what they did or did not like about those mechanics, especially if there is overlap. If you are an aspiring EH, I STRONGLY recommend seeking out some guidance for your first event or two. It will certainly help make your event more fun for players, because you won’t have to make the same mistakes that a lot of EHs have already made for you, and learned from.


What can we look forward to seeing from you in the foreseeable future?

Ashen Bounty will continue to be a staple event for me on a yearly basis, and I think the split format dungeon crawl we tried out last year at Imperium March is probably here to stay as long as we have player interest. I would also like to do a Convergences style quest with the Adventurers Guild team if there is enough player interest, so if you are a player let us know if and what you're interested in!