Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time, in the distant annals of the past, there was a Guy. He wasn't especially smart, not very social, not much to look at, and definitely not the sort to call attention to himself.

He did, however, have quite a vivid imagination. He would arrange games from all sorts of genres: from high fantasy, to gritty sci-fi; cyberpunk to horror; vampire and fairies, kings and robots... He could throw on some old rags and be the helpful beggar. Some dark robes and be the malevolent necromancer. A suit, and a suave businessman. A heavy suit of chain mail, and be the most noble of knights...

After a time, when He could no longer run around a forest or a cave system, battering all and sundry with weaponry, His realm became based around a table. He would produce maps and props, do accents and have fun with his friends. He would entertain friends and strangers alike, from His own dinner table, to a corner of a local pub, up to entertaining complete strangers for the companies that wrote the systems He would use, to the point that He would be told six months in advance that He had to write an entire scenario for a large group - for competition-level adventures. And when that became too much, He moved into cyberspace. While no one could hear Him or see Him, He used his written word to tell the story, to lead people across vast realms, to battle evil, and to save the day. His days were filled with maps and private conversations, notes and plotting, scripting adversaries and rolling dice for random outcomes.

And then one day, something happened. His real-life Princess was lost, and with it, his imagination. With her passing, He could feel the characters and the places slipping away. The costumes seemed strange, the acting-out imaginary stories an odd pass-time, and finally, pretending to be someone in front of others was so bizarre, He grew shy and embarrassed. Even hiding behind words and a screen seemed too much, and the worlds and characters, places and villains - they all seemed stupid and slipped further and further from His priorities, and a stasis fell across His imagination.

Days, weeks, months and, eventually, years slipped by. Now and then, something would spark in the back of His mind, but then would fade almost as suddenly as it appeared. The people around Him changed... Some grew up and changed. Some grew up and left. Over time, others came into His life to fill the void left by others, but none understood the passion He once felt for his hobbies. Some would look at him with a strange look, some would chuckle, others would outright ridicule Him, and the thought of rolling dice and pretending to be someone He was not seemed beyond stupid.

One year, an invitation arrived - to attend a party with friends, and to solve a murder while assuming the mantle of a different person. Role-Playing had effectively muscled its way into His life, and there was nothing He could do to avoid it. As the day and time grew closer, His nervousness and embarrassment increased. In reality, it shouldn't have been so difficult. A scripted character, a list of ideas for costumes and props, and to add to the things which would have made things easier, the character was already scripted as nervous - which played into His wheelhouse.

The night came and went, much laughter and fun was had. The nervous vicar did not commit the murder, nor did He explode into flame on the spot. That isn't to say that He didn't will himself to disappear a multitude of times over the course of the evening, but He did indeed survive. The people around were friends and loved ones, and some were as nervous as He.

But all He could think, was how far He had fallen. A scripted character? Told what to wear? Told what to SAY??

Even this, however, did not return His imagination. Despite being very aware of himself, and how this should have been child's play, He struggled to play to the simple role.

A year later, and another murder mystery. The murder of the doctor put the suave ladies man and famous cricketer of the 1920s firmly into the "Suspect Number One" position. This man was not a nervous vicar, but a loud, brave, flirty ladies man.

The real person, however, while He could be loud, was most certainly not loud, brave and flirtatious - especially around His assembled friends and loved ones. Once again, He felt the pangs of performing from a script, but He tried his best, and even now is unsure if He managed to convince people that He was not shaking in His suspenders and cap.

Over the course of the evening, however, someone said something He never thought He would hear, but struck the same chord as being told that He would be role-playing for the evening.

Someone suggested that - thanks to his background - perhaps HE should write a murder-mystery evening... Create the scenario, make the characters, plot out the evening with scripts, revelations, clues, and host it.

If you have been paying attention to this tale, you would realise that that is exactly what He used to do - many many years before.

Before He became a nervous wreck.

Before He would panic in normal social situations.

Before He would be laughed at for His hobby.

Before He lost the fair Princess.

The subject cropped up several times over the course of the evening, but He laughed and shook His head - while at the same time feeling terror at the very thought of it.

He journeyed home that night, climbed into bed with his Queen, and, despite the late hour, lay reading, immersing himself in a world of high fantasy once more.

After a time, His eyes grew heavy, and He placed his book down, settled under the covers and set to sleep. But, as is common knowledge, He was not sleeping. Instead, His mind was replaying the evening, cringing at His comments, His abilities, His accent, dwelling on things He had done and said. And, eventually, it replayed the "You should run a murder mystery night..." comment from His own Queen.

Again, the fear and nervousness crept over His mind like a shroud, but this time - maybe the late hour, maybe the alcohol - but along with the worry of such a situation, the spark flared once again. The rest of the night, it seemed, was filled with Him virtually arguing with Himself. Could He do it? Should He do it? What if this, What if that...

And so, today, the strange, nervous, worrying Guy is wondering if He could manage it.

Honestly - despite thinking and considering and debating all night, He isn't sure if He could manage it. And yet, at the same time as thinking He couldn't do it, He's also thinking about the setting, the era, the characters, even the victim...

Time will tell, I suppose. Maybe the spark will remain, maybe it will fade once again. And while He is considering, He is not setting anything in stone. On one hand, there is the thought of failure - to fail to produce something fun and imaginative, failing to meet the deadline He sets, failing to create something fun and engaging. On the other hand, there is the thought of performing in front of others, and putting Himself out for all to see - if the evening fails or there are glaring errors, they cannot be blamed on a company or unknown individual... They would fall squarely upon His own lap.

Time will tell.

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