Since the dawn of tradition (or about two years ago), Thursday is the night. It's an evening of conversation, of good food and good company. On each sacred Thursday, every member of our found family finds a gap in their busy schedules to coalesce at the table. We eat, drink, and laugh together before the work begins. Dice bags are emptied with a glorious clatter. Well-loved books are stacked within easy reach. The table is partitioned accordingly. Thursday is the night. Thursday is for D&D.
It is my duty and privilege to be their Game Master. Throughout the week, shorthand notes are tapped into my phone or scratched into the soft paper of my notebook. The ideas come to me between activities, the floodlights of creativity dazzling me with plot twists in the shower or character concepts on my way to the grocery store. Even my dreams gift me with potential moments, captured in still images that drip with style and personality.
On Wednesday night, I compile and organize these ideas into a cohesive timeline of events. How will my players react to their newest revelation or tribulation? It is not my job to predict, only to respond. I am all but five forces in this world. As a result, my narrative encircles my players and bends to their wishes. Of course, the dice have final say in what does and does not transpire. They, too, help tell our story.
The time before the game brings not peace, but anticipation. Nerves rubbed raw by vulnerability have me picking at my fingernails. My players live within the story I have provided, but what is that story if not a glimpse into my own mind? Every week, I cannot help but fear that they won't like what they see, or worse-- that they won't understand it.
No, preparation does not bring peace. Instead, it brings a speeding, spinning wheel of emotions rampaging through my heart. Devious deception spins into benevolent opportunities for my players' characters to shine, which in turn surrenders to a biting fear that I'm forgetting a major story beat. The storm will not relent, not until a select player begins the recap of last week's session. I always remind them that a free reroll of the dice is on the line if they are to forget something important.
I see their faces tense, brows furrowed as they collectively try to remember every detail of last Thursday's gathering, lest they lose their coveted reward. They often backtrack to prove themselves before I can snake their reroll away, shouting in earnest that they were "just getting to that part!" Unbeknownst to my dear players, the ones that make the legends real, I have a secret. The reroll is not a prize, but a gift freely given for their willingness to participate in our precious proceedings every week. It's a gift that I have never and will never take from them. Of course, I would never tell them that.
This is where the cooling waters of peace begin to soothe my spirit. My anxiety is always eased by their excitement to continue our tale. This antidote is what readies me to forge ahead, to speak my ideas into being for my players to mold into our collective truth. With the purgatory of preparation finally satisfied, peace may finally make an appearance.
This hard-earned peace comes in many forms. In our recounting of hectic workweeks, shared meals, and togetherness around the table comes peace in camaraderie. In my sister's face, after her character sacrificed her earthly form to protect a consecrated forest from an encroaching evil, shone peace in catharsis. In our heroic moments, when the enemy lies thwarted and all that remains is epilogue and reverie, we share peace in triumph! However, among all of these, one truth remains evident:
Peace comes after presentation.