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“What is Elf on a Shelf, anyway?”

One fateful day off, as I sat in front of my computer with a steaming cup of coffee, it dawned on me – Elf on a Shelf is a terrifying, horrible concept that has further polluted the beautiful idea of the holiday season. What mad, commercialism-driven fiend developed this evil toy that watches people from a shelf, and moves around on its own? What horrors this would have meant for me if it existed when I were a wee child!

A split second later, I was hard at work programming a similar toy for Serenwilde.

Before I knew what I wanted to do, I remember that I was hanging out with a new (and extremely talented!) ephemeral, chatting about my ideas for this little quest. Little by little, a few more administrators happened along for the discussion.

“It’s so awful. What a terrible thing to add to the holidays.” (I think Ieptix said this)
“I’ve never heard of it.” (Estarra definitely said this)

After spending a few minutes researching links about Elf on a Shelf for the late-comers, inspiration struck: 

Hey, Lisaera. Serenwilde has been through a lot this year. You came back and then promptly fell ill for a few months, you’re about to be sick again as part of the year-end event, wars happened, alliances shifted, and everything’s kind of confusing. Let’s give them something cute this time, hmm?

And voila! That’s all it took for me to spend about five hours on my day off designing a simple mini-quest that would let players interact with Adasser (the brain child of an invaluable administrator who’s always going the extra mile for the sake of roleplay) and learn a thing or two about how the fae would have perceived the Serenwilde pantheon, eons ago. The ephemeral mentioned above helped me design the quest items, I drew up the bones and muscles for the quest itself, and together, the three of us – the ephemeral, the yet-unnamed administrator, and I – fleshed it out with visions. Later that evening, I presented our hard work to Estarra.

“It’s cute!” she said, nodding enthusiastically. 

Yes! I thought. I cannot wait for this to go live! They’re going to love it!

“Let’s make it work for every nation, though. I don’t want them to feel left out.”

Gulp.

So I went back to the drawing board. The wreaths were meant to be temporary – players would wander into a room, find the pigwidgeon, and hold onto the wreath for a few extra visions we’d tossed in for the holiday season. Then, after a couple of hours, the wreaths would vanish again, letting another player have a turn. Something temporary and frivolous and cute, in the wake of all of the bloodshed and upcoming mayhem of the notorious Year End events.

If other nations were going to join in the fun, wouldn’t it be cool if the mini-quest were harder? Why not make them solve a puzzle, learn a new language, become experts in beastlore, and trek through a terrifying maze of moonfire hell and Lisaera wrath just to earn the right to find the pigwidgeon?! Let them SUFFER! Let them BURN! THIS. IS. SERENWILDE. 

Then I realized, No, Lisaera, this is supposed to be cute. This is a gift. Don’t be a hater. And so it was that I left the quest alone, altering it in small ways so that reset-times and the quest items lined up well. 

When Estarra came back later, she asked how it was going. I told her that I thought it was a great idea to include the other nations, and that Serenwilde’s programs were all done. She looked it over, nodded approvingly, and then told me we’d make the wreaths permanent and resetting so that players could take away another little gift this year. 

Now, this might seem like a little thing to you, but to me, the architect of this cute little idea, it was amazing that Estarra, the producer and my boss, liked the idea enough to make it a permanent little gift and to also include the other nations in on the fun. 

Then the clouds came. It clicked in my head that we wanted to release this before Christmas. The idea was generated on the 15th. Christmas was only 10 days away, and all of the active Gods were already extremely busy pumping out progs, designs, and lore (oh, my!) for the Year End event. How was I going to drop the bomb that my bright idea translated into more work for them? I could certainly drive the creative process and help set up the skeletons of the progs, but the Gods would have to fill in the visions. I know some lore for one other organization, but even that wouldn’t be enough to give players the satisfaction that comes from knowing that someone spent time and energy on building something unique to their roleplay centres. 

I wrote up a little “How-to” guide for our out-of-game communal boards, where we pin all of our behind-the-scenes ideas, and then wrote a post for our Admin newsboards in-game, so I could be certain everyone would see this right away. At first, I sort of said “Hey, guys, look what we’re doing! Yay, heh heh…” in person. I got a lot of “What is that? Elf on a what? Pig on a twig? Huh?” in response, but then something magnificent happened.

Everyone jumped on board. Even if some people couldn’t devote too much time to the project, it was amazing to see so many volunteer administrators, whose lives are just as hectic and crazy as mine, throw in even a description or two so that we could create this little mini-quest. Estarra Herself, whose own life boggles my mind in how busy it is, stepped in to help me make sure that every nation had a fully-fledged, working program a day or two before the release. She wrote descriptions, she wrote dialogue, she guided other administrators who were a little lost at first, and then when it was time to kick things off, she set the stage beautifully with a day of peace without mushrooms. 

The work the other administrators did is gorgeous. Drocilla and the Unnamed Administrator quickly became co-architects in ensuring that everything went off without a hitch (also, have you SEEN Drocilla’s version? It’s so impressive, I’m a little jealous I didn’t come up with some of her ideas), Isune took a break from her fabulous holiday parties (she really IS a sociallite in real life, guys, so don’t think it’s an act) to add her ideas to the mix, the helpful ephemeral from above became a fast whiz at generating content for literally every organization, Nocht stepped forward from the shadows, his sister in tow, to pull beauty out of thin air, Darvellan added his amazing sense of humour and brilliant writing to Celest’s version, Yomoigu, on a dime, drew up completely outstanding artwork for his people, Crumkane hammed it up in Gaudiguch with his usual (and adorable) flair, and Mysrai, as always, manifested to work the paradigms into shape (who also leads an incredibly social and enviable life outside of the game, so we all knew she was busy). 

I could go on and on with my raving about how incredible this crew is, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few names (and will here about it later), but you all know how amazing they are already. What was meant to be a tiny, seemingly insigifnicant mini-quest became an exercise in teamwork and sheer creative willpower, and it was inspiring to see so many minds take my little idea and transform it into something way, way better. 

I hope you all enjoyed it! I know I sure did! Happy holidays, Lusternia! 

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