Ansteorran White Scarf Ruby Anniversary

The event this weekend was an absolute blast – I got to see old friends, amazing rapier fighting, meet new people and even spend part of my day in service to the community as a scribe. Plus I got to learn The Very Basics of listmistressing, which is the art of pairing fighters on a list field – something I’ve never done before, but which was fun. 

The event was in Livingston, which is almost exactly 100 miles north of where I live, so it took a little over 90 minutes to drive there, even early on a Saturday morning. I planned my morning well, so that I arrived at Sonic at 7:10 (right after they open), got my breakfast not-in-a-burrito (you can order breakfast burritos in a tray instead of a tortilla) and an iced tea the size of my head, and hit the road. There had clearly been storms the night before – site was wet and parking was muddy, but no deep or dangerous mud. I got great parking right near one of two huge permanent pavillions on site. 

Found my friends – lots of people to hug (especially Baron William, he gives the best hugs). Gated in, and set up shop with Elena and Brian to spend the day at a picnic table doing scribally things. I knew I was there to paint – Elena had done original scrolls for all the tourneys that day, and had done the calligraphy and drawn in the illumination, but they were not all painted yet, so I painted the three youth awards. 

Her Majesty also gave out two Queen’s Rapiers (basically a “wow you really impressed me” award), and though we only had one on site – and we really did try to get a second one – I painted that too. (The other will come from Sable Scroll this week and get given out on Saturday at Queen’s Champion, presuming the recipient is there – which I believe he said he would be.)

Then Elena got roped into helping with the afternoon lists, and I went and learned the very basics. Fun skill, got to meet a lot of fighters. There was truly some spectacular fighting on display – some of the best rapier fighters in the Known World were there, and HRM was clearly delighted to be part of this.

The backstory is that originally in the SCA if you wanted to fight, you fought heavy armor chivalric fighting. But a couple of upstarts in Ansteorra (led by one Tivar Moondragon) started researching period rapier fighting manuals, and began a tradition here in our own kingdom that led to HRH Tessa creating what was first called the Order of Cavaliers – the insignia of which is a white scarf tied on the left arm above the elbow (or at the shoulder). These became the White Scarves – and rapier fighting has always had a very special relationship with the Queen. As the King’s Champion is the King’s personal defender, so the Queen’s champion – a rapier fighter – is hers. Many a Don (the title taken by most White Scarf holders) remembers poignantly which Queen granted him access to the order, and the Queen’s Champions all hold very dear their relationships to their queens. 

It’s a special thing, and a thing that really doesn’t exist anywhere else in the Known World (there are some kingdoms where there was no Order of the White Scarf at all). Now that there’s a rapier peerage – the Masters of the Order of Defense – many kingdoms are closing their White Scarf orders, which is a grant level award, and I find that to be a loss. I grew up in the SCA in the rapier community, and there’s a panache and a style to it that you don’t see in other places. 

My thoughts on rapier fighting aside, it was a good day, not too hot, though muggy once the sun came out and started burning off the puddles. Feast was excellent, and by the end of it I was exceptionally tired, and chose to drive home rather than stay and see the bardic circle that followed. Many folks camped Saturday night, and the site has running water and showers, so hopefully it’ll be a site we use regularly, even if it’s a bit far away.

Next event I’ll be at will either be Steppes Warlord (Memorial Day weekend) or Ansteorran Heraldic and Scribal Symposium (late June). Possible detour to Known World Dance and Music in mid-June as well.

I’m doing my best to dance these events around when D&D is – some events (like the AHSS event) will be worth missing D&D for, but most won’t, so I’ll be scattering my event attendance in between weeks or on off weeks. 

I’ll have a post up later this week about garb. I need to make some decisions about what I’ll be wearing, since the garb I have needs alterations or additional layers to be really period. 

Dreaming the Dream

So after many long years away, I’ve decided it’s finally time to really rejoin the SCA for really real. I played seriously from 2004-2010, and then a little in 2014, but hadn’t even unpacked my garb from the move over two years ago. (I’m still missing pieces of it – I have no idea what boxes it might be in.)

But I need people. I need MY people – the nerdy ones, the ones who geek out about hem stitches and wool types and pigments, the ones who make parchment and who cook over open fires. I need people who won’t expect me to be an authority except where I actually am one (see: nowhere, right now), and who will meet me where I am and let me find my footing in a world that captures my imagination AND my desire to create things.

D&D is amazing – I still play every weekend give or take. But D&D is 4 hours  a week, and since I’m not DMing, I’m not having to prep for a game – it’s just time set aside to do things with friends, and those friends are virtual.

I need people in real life, friends to do things with and people to teach me new things. I’ve become very focused and specialized and I miss being able to talk about all of the things I was learning. 

So tomorrow I’m going to my first SCA event in almost six years. Some of the people have changed, but others are still around – probably much better at their arts and skills than they were when last I saw them. The event is Ansteorra’s White Scarf Ruby Anniversary – celebrating rapier fighting in the kingdom that started that entire line of study and fighting in the Known World. 

This is a really apt event for me to go back to. When I first joined the SCA, I was in college in Waco (Emerald Keep), which was being run by a gentleman named Don Edward Mercer. Don Edward was Queen’s Champion for HRM Sibri in the fall of 2005, and he basically offered me a free ride (I’d bring breakfast and gas money) to whatever events he was going to. We’d talk in the car about the history of rapier fighting, about the stories and legends of the art, about the relationship between a fighter and the Queen. It set up a magical thing for me to be part of and to sink my teeth into at the same time as I was first starting to play WoW. 

So from Emerald Keep I moved to Loch Soilleir, where I still live, and there I truly blossomed – learning scribal arts and fiber arts, learning cooking and weaving and dyeing. I made friends that I’m still friends with. 

It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be spending my free time this week getting ready to event – the early morning drive, the garb, the feast gear, the packing a cold bag with snacks and things to eat and drink. The realization that I have no feast gear, no period-looking mug to drink out of. I’ll make do, but I’ve got some kit-rebuilding to do. (And I really probably need to pick up some mundane camping gear.)

But most of what I’m excited for is the chance to meet people – to have friends again that I share common interests with, or that I can nerd out with about things that are interesting to both of us. There’s so much out there to learn, and so much that I want to start doing again, that I’m having to pace myself. I’ll get there though.

And until then, tomorrow I get to go and see if the dream is still alive, in the little things. I don’t have a full set of garb yet – I’m just wearing a plain burnt orange kirtle and a white headscarf/veil. But that will come with time as well. I love making clothes for the SCA, and I think an order of linen is in my future, for a new sideless surcoat and for a proper veil and wimple. 

Wish me luck then, as I start this new (old) chapter in my life. I’ve been Anna online since 2004… but I’ve been Anne in the SCA since 2006 or so, and it’s time to try that name back on again.

Lady Anne atte Rydeforde

First Game Post-Mortem

Monday night, from around 8 (I had some trouble finding the place, oops) until around 12:30, I got to hang with the new D&D table and see what that would be like. In reality, I only got to meet one new person – J I’d met before (we’ve been on a few dates), but K is their usual DM but taking a break, so he joined me as a player. J2 (yes, in a group of four players, we have two guys with the same name) had a flat tire and wasn’t able to make it last-minute.

So we spent a few hours shooting the shit, getting to know each other and nerding out together, which was fun and encouraging. I love being around other nerds, because nerds unabashedly, unashamedly LOVE things. (Sometimes this leads to gatekeeping, but these nerds are not like that, and gatekeeping can suck it.) We nerded out about D&D, about druidry and paganism, about the Astros. It was all around a good time.

And then we sat down and rolled some dice. K’s character was a bit of a douchebag, but Annie Mae took him right in stride and – quite frankly – saved him from being a victim of human trafficking, so she figures someday he’ll at least give her some credit. Being an urban ranger is fun too – all sneaky in back alleys and pass without a trace to get away from the bad guys.

Overall, it was grand fun, and I look forward to next week’s continuation.

Things I did notice – this is both an alcohol and a 420 friendly table, which is 100% new to me. I’ve played D&D slightly tipsy, but never with drunk or high people, and it did change the timbre of the game slightly. Not in a bad way, and in fact, it slowed the game down a little, which meant I had more time to think (and meant my quick thinking got us out of some scrapes). Nobody was pushy or anything, and they were all super polite (and due to both politeness and good ventilation I did not go home smelling of cigarettes or MJ).

The table is gorgeous and hand-made – but currently lives in an un-airconditioned garage. They have lights, full music and sound, everything you’d ever want to play D&D… just no A/C. So my planned outfit, which included a pashmina headwrap made of black wool and silk, was a little too warm. Thankfully the night was pretty mild – only about 85 outside – and they have fans running so there’s good circulation.

I will hopefully meet J2 on Monday, but so far the two guys I have met are super excited to have me there – which is flattering. I’m an experienced player, but I’m nothing compared to the folks who stream professionally. Still, I felt warmly welcomed, encouraged to roleplay and take risks with my character, and rewarded for rolling well and thinking quickly.

So yeah. I’m happy with how this turned out. I’m thankful for Critical Role, which brought me to this group, and which has given me so much to learn as a player and even inspired me to think about sitting behind the DM screen sometime in the future.

Here’s hoping things continue to go well.

First Game Jitters and a Dice Blessing

I play my first D&D game with the new group tonight. We’re not jumping right away into campaign 2 for them, instead taking a month to do some one-shots or short 2-3 game campaigns. The first actual game will be the first Monday of October.

Tonight though, I get to meet these guys (and they are all guys – I’ll be the only woman at the table) for the first time, and I’m honestly pretty nervous.

The one-shot we’re playing is being DMed by my current crush and possible new beau, J. (He’s usually a player, but is DMing for September to give the usual DM a break.) It’ll be urban D&D in a Forgotten Realms-ish port city. I’ve decided to bring back Annie Mae Spursparkle for this stint, because she’s fun, funny, easy to roleplay, and I have a friend in the City of Fangs campaign who has a level 5 urban ranger that I can just lift her character sheet and not have to worry about rolling up a character from scratch.

Annie Mae is a halfling ranger, a country girl at heart, living in the city to make ends-meet, with her pony Meg, her giant dog (unnamed as yet), her shotgun, and her Very Fine Hat.

HORSEGUN GNOMEPOWER

I think she’ll translate well into D&D, and I’ll get to stretch my roleplaying muscles just a little. Wish me luck – I’m turning over a new leaf in life right now, in a lot of ways, and I’m really hoping that this game will be part of that turnover. So far everyone I’ve met has been really chill, and I hope the table chemistry is as good as J says it is.

Here’s hoping this is the start of something really cool. I’ve needed more real life friends, and these guys are Critters, so there’s a good chance we’ll get along just fine. I’m trying not to be too nervous, because I know I can’t control this, but I really do want it to work. It’s been too long since I sat around a physical table, rolling dice and shooting the shit with friends.

And in that vein, a blessing for your dice. What good is a priest if she can’t write a blessing for good rolls and good times?

 

Gay Tieflings are the Best Kind

In Which Anvari Zarthus, Warlock of the Undying Light, makes doe eyes at her new girlfriend, Leyl Tyranas, Trickster Paladin of the Goddess of Song and Secrets. Anvari and Leyl have thus far kept their relationship a secret from the other players. For how long that lasts, your guess is as good as mine. Personally, I highly doubt it’s going to survive whatever the end of the current campaign arc is bringing, which includes a giant Met-like Gala onboard a new ship in the City of Fangs.

Art by Jenn St. Onge

Being a Good ???

Before I launch into my own spiel about this, know that today’s mumblings about D&D are inspired by Matthew Colville, who posted a Youtube video in the last few days about being a good player at a D&D table. Colville is an inspiration to new DM’s everywhere – so much so that he has ME thinking about running a Waterdeep: Dragon Heist game when that module comes out next month. The video isn’t long – about 17 minutes – and it’s worth a listen.

This is a departure for Colville, who has talked about how to be a good DM for different KINDS of players, but who hasn’t really talked too much (beyond one “why do we even play this whole D&D thing anyway” video – which is also great, you should watch that too) about approaching it from the players side of the table.

Full admission: If you hadn’t caught on – I’ve never sat behind a DM screen except in jest.

But what he talks about here – the lessons he’s learned as a player of D&D (and he even alludes to this at the end) are things that are just generally good ways to be a good human. He doesn’t tell you what kind of player to be – a strategist, a roleplayer, a mathematician, a maximiser. He tells you how to be yourself within the boundaries of a cooperative game in which somwhere between 3 and 8 other humans are all ALSO attempting to have a good time.

And that’s important.

D&D is not a game with winners and losers. Or more accurately, D&D is a game where everyone wins or everyone loses, together, and you roll with it as best you can. Because D&D is, at its core, a complex set of rules that are attempting to mimic the most complex thing in the world – reality. A fantasy version of reality, yes, but reality nonetheless. A quarterstaff does less damage than a greatsword, but a greatsword takes more strength to use. A simple spell might be more reliable, but the risk-reward payoff from a larger spell is sometimes worth it. Problems always arise because there’s no way for any ruleset to truly perfect upon reality, and so there are disagreements about particulars sometimes, but – as a good player – you learn to hash it out, make a “table rule” that applies at the table you’re at, note it down, and move on.

But the thing that got me thinking about this last night when I watched the video, and again this morning when I had a little time to extrapolate, is that the things that make people “good players” in D&D, are the things that generally make people “good humans” in real life. Respect the game you’re playing. Be prepared. Know how your stuff works. Find your fun within the fun that everyone else is also having. A conversation is not a competition. Know how to lose gracefully.

The D&D revival has been extreme, and I’ve loved and rollicked and frolicked in the new opportunities to revel in this game that I love more than any of the other hobbies that I have. But one of the things that I hope that it is showing us – and that I think most of the live streamed games that you can watch on Twitch and YouTube also show us – is that being a good person, a good player, means the fun is different. Whether you’re showing up to bash your head against a meat-grinder of a dungeon or play through a long-range adventure that tells a greater narrative, with D&D, when everyone is having fun, you’re winning, and being a good person goes a long way toward making sure that we’re all having fun here.

I thought of this, in particular, in contrast with another group that I am part of, that is more serious and not a game.

And I realized that while I could work with them, and could get things done with them, I didn’t want to play D&D with them. I couldn’t trust them to be willing to put the group first. To let everyone have their own spotlight in turn, to let the table as a whole determine the fun. For them, maybe, like Colville suggests, they’re looking for a different kind of validation than you can truly get from D&D. Maybe a different game – one with clear winners and losers – would make them happier. Because one or two players that enter into D&D with the mindset that they have to win every encounter, personally; that they have to have the last word, the fastest zinger, the slickest burn; that their character should get the killing blow on every enemy… can destroy not only the fun of the other people at the table, but eventually the fun they’re trying to have for themself.

That’s a slightly deeper layer for me, as well, because I am at heart a roleplayer, and that requires a place where I feel safe, that I can trust the other players to let me have a reaction that is true to my character, regardless of what that reaction is. A place where I can be vulnerable – and hopefully where others at the table can be vulnerable too.

I don’t know if I really have a point to this ramble, but it’s been percolating in my brain since last night and I thought it worth writing down, since I have this here blog thinger and that’s what blogs are for. But if I have one takeaway, it’s that the same things that make me want to sit and play D&D with someone are the kinds of things that make me want to be involved with someone on another project. That the breakdown between “being a good player” and “being a good person” is a lot smaller than I probably ever would have thought it was.

So thanks Matt for inspiring that train of thought.

And for giving me some new ways to aspire to be the kind of person that my friends want to sit at the D&D table alongside of.