Hey, guys! Blackbird here! It’s November 27th. And if you haven’t been with us long enough to know what that means, let me tell you: It’s Valcrest’s birthday! November 27th 2010 was the date the first ever post was made in Shadows of The Enlightened, which was the original RP that started this whole entire thing. And yes, that means Plotstains and I have been working together on this for a literal decade now. I started SOE on a whim, thinking it wouldn’t go anywhere because I had never run a roleplay before and I didn’t know what I was doing, but sheer dumb luck or fate or whatever cosmic force you wanna believe makes these things happen, the very first application I got for that RP would turn out to be the one person crazy enough to stick around with me all these years. The Shadows Crew has lasted longer than a lot of marriages out there, and definitely a lot longer than most creative partnerships born out of a roleplay site. Our RPs were on the front page of RoleplayGateway as some of the lengthiest longest running works on the site and even though the third of those RPs, Shadows of the Forgotten, went unfinished, it’s pretty clear we never stopped working on Valcrest. I don’t think we ever will stop working on Valcrest. Because even with everything we have planned already, we continuously find new ideas to explore.
There’s a lot I could say about our partnership and the whole process of developing this world up to this point, but with this marking ten years since we started (and the end of Arc 02), I feel like there’s a much more important story that I need to tell. And that’s the story of Sibrand: who he was in our roleplay group and how deeply his contributions shaped not only the RPs themselves but the serial you’ve all been reading for the past year.
Before I get into this, I need to give two disclaimers.
1) I am about to speak at lengths about the events of Arc 02’s Epilogue as well as a character introduced in that chapter. If you haven’t read that far and you don’t want spoilers, I suggest you come back once you’re caught up.
2) I am going to discuss the creation of this character’s original iteration back during our RP days. And because of this I would like to make one thing absolutely clear: Shadows Rise was initially conceptualized as a prequel to the RP series. When we made the decision to turn this series into a proper serial, however, it became a reboot instead. That means that while we will be keeping a lot of the main plot of these RPs, they will change based on how Shadows Rise progresses; up to and including character outcomes. That is to say, nothing I say about Shadows of The Enlightened as a roleplay is an indication of how Shadows Rise will end.
Are we clear on that? Good. Then we can move forward.
As I mentioned before, Plotstains was literally the first application I received for SOE when I put it up. If you’re not familiar with the initial process of creating and starting a text RP, first you open the roleplay with a small description of the setting and story outline, some guidelines for character creation, and some rules for the players. Then the players will create a character and submit it for your approval. Plotstains’ character, which will remain unnamed for the purposes of this post, was the first application I received for SOE. Sibrand’s character, on the other hand, joined right when the RP had started.
This is important because I want you guys to understand that we were just about getting started with this RP when I read this character sheet for the first time. Later on Sibrand would tell me he was worried I was going to reject him right off the bat because of how his contribution would change the entire dynamic I’d already set up in the RP’s intro. But honestly, I took one look at that character sheet and I was ecstatic. My initial reaction was “this is great, how far can I run with this?”
Turns out… Pretty damn far. Lol
That character was Theron Lockwood. And the backstory Sibrand wrote in that character application was the Wolf Hunters’ original inception. Theron was a lone assassin hunter with a gigantic grudge against the Wolfpack, not only for assassinating his father when he was a boy, but for killing off his entire group. That version of Theron was much older, battle-weary, hardened, but Sibrand also described him being discovered by the Wolf Hunters as a frightened teenager, crying in this abandoned cabin in the woods in the aftermath of his father’s murder. If that sounds familiar… Good, you read Arc 02’s epilogue. Theron’s ‘backstory’ starts here.
I had never GMed before in my life, I didn’t know how you’re supposed to run a roleplay or how much freedom to give your players. That ignorance could have spelled disaster for SOE, but my willingness to let other people contribute shaped Valcrest into what it is today. And it started with Theron. Because my first instinct was to scrap some of my Wolf characters’ backstories completely, and connect them to Theron’s backstory. I sent Sibrand a Private Message about this and just like that… The beginnings of Shadows Rise had formed. Almost point by point. From the moment Theron met the Wolf Hunters up to the moment he was left alone, presumed dead by the Wolfpack, planning his revenge.
Theron’s Arc in SOE was equally beautiful and weird. By the end he’d not only found redemption, but forgiveness. He started out as a full on villain and just by how we played these characters in real time, he took on a mentor role to a lot of the main cast of that RP. And this happened because, while he was initially a ‘villain’ from the Pack’s perspective, he wasn’t the villain of that story. If you’ll recall I had other plans for SOE before Sibrand came around. The real villain of that story served as the common ground Theron was able to find with the Wolfpack in order to resolve that past.
And here, I need to remind you all, that was an RP. And if this sounds all too good and saccharine for you… Great. Like I said, we’re reworking a lot of SOE based on how SR plays out now. So redemption and forgiveness…. Eeeeh, I can’t promise something like that. I can’t even promise you Theron for SOE (and I’ve been doing my best to not name any other characters in the original RP, because I can’t promise them either). But if you’re already growing attached to him; good. Because I was too, so was Plotstains… Likewise our characters.
Theron became a very important character, as you may have realized by now, and at the same time I’d surrendered the role of the main villain to Plotstains; another very important character in this series (that I can’t get into here). At the point the three of us were very much playing equal parts in the creative process. Sibrand was constantly offering new ideas. In fact, he was the first to bring up the idea of a sequel. An idea that I’d been holding on to the first time he suddenly vanished.
Now, I’m not going to call Sibrand flaky and complain about him coming and going. I always knew that RPers come and go and, sometimes, RPs don’t get a conclusion. People have lives. Just because they enter your online storytelling game, doesn’t mean they owe you their time no matter what. The problem was more with Theron’s significance. We were struggling to move the plot along without him and we weren’t even considering writing him off in case Sibrand came back. So, Plotstains and I started discussing what to do about this. We started discussing how we thought SOE would end, and from that, developing our own sequel idea. We didn’t want to use Sibrand’s idea if he wasn’t going to be around to participate in it; it’d feel like stealing essentially. That’s how Shadow of The Past came to be.
HOWEVER, lo and behold, Sibrand came back. Not indefinitely, but just long enough to move the plot along and take part in the story’s climax. We still had to close SOE by ourselves, but Theron got to say goodbye to his new Wolf allies and ride off into the sunset a redeemed man.
Theron didn’t return for SOP. Neither did Sibrand. We were almost done with SOP when we saw him again. At that point Shadows of The Forgotten was already in the plans so I told him if he wanted to bring Theron back, SOF was the place to do it. We planned around it and in the meantime, he created another character for SOP; a Wolf. He isn’t very important so I won’t be discussing him here.
Now my plan isn’t to go over Sibrand’s entire RP history with us. He was in and out of SOF, but neither Theron or his created side characters played that major of a role in that one as they did in SOE. In the time between SOP and SOF though, Sibrand began to expand on Theron’s backstory as well as develop what he’d been up to since the first RP ended. And the specifics of it don’t matter, but what remains of that character development he did for Theron is… The Empire of Terra and basically everything else in the continent outside of Valcrest. These are elements that won’t come into play in the serials for a very long time, but I want to impact on you guys the level of influence this guy had on our creative process. Even though he wasn’t around through all of it, and even though I would often have to say no to his more outlandish ideas, Sibrand thought big and by doing so he pushed us to expand this world even further than we already had, to question what was beyond what we’d already created. And, maybe that’s something Plotstains can talk about further, since he was the one most involved in that aspect of worldbuilding and he was the one who created all our maps from the start. A lot of what we have now deviates from Sibrand’s original ideas for the continent, but he absolutely paved the way for all of it.
Back to Shadows Rise though; yes, there’s more about that. SOF rolled around and, compared to its predecessors, it was a beast of an RP. It had way too many characters, too many subplots, it was… Amazing, but also a complete disaster. And because of that, there were periods of intense activity followed by long drawn out periods of nothingness waiting for players to catch up and post. Now, one thing I did often, and still do, is reread our stuff. And I would use those periods of inactivity to either free write with my characters, reread the previous RPs, or both. In doing so I started to look back on SOE and that piece of backstory Sibrand and I created back in the day more and more. See, there’s one more thing Sibrand pioneered… Actually, two things: he was the first to write a story by himself based on these RPs. He was also the first to create a public character journal on RPG detailing some of Theron’s journey after SOE. Why is this important to the inception of modern day Shadows Rise?
Well, Sibrand didn’t create all of the Wolf Hunters. See, Kyle and Sebastian were always my characters. During those periods of inactivity in SOF, thinking about that backstory we created way back in the day, I started writing a journal for Sebastian. Not in public, just for myself in Google docs. These journal entries were my first draft of SR. I detailed Sebastian’s impression of the other Hunters, his feelings about losing his sister, questioning if this was the path she’d want him to take… His relationship with Theron. And at that point I felt I should get Sibrand’s opinion on this. It was becoming its own thing at that point. Furthermore, I was taking vague traits he’d given for these characters and expanded on it without even consulting him about it. So I did. I consulted him about it and he was very pleased with how I wrote the Hunters, with how I’d interpreted the group’s dynamic and their bond most importantly. So this was the beginning of me taking these characters he created; that were his, and making them mine. Johanna’s quiet nature, Gabrielle (the only character I renamed, because she originally shared a name with another character, and we couldn’t really have that) being the stern sort-of-leader figure, Gerald’s role as more of a teacher and an investigator, his bond with Johanna… Those were traits Sibrand created for these characters and I later expanded on. We’d talk about this idea often, he’d press me to write more of it in PMs. He was the first enthusiastic reader of the messy skeleton that would later become this web serial. Shadows Rise wouldn’t exist without Sibrand. A lot of what the main series becomes; however we choose to rewrite it, will contain elements that would not be a part of this world without him.
Ten years in the making, practically, and every time I write these characters I do so wondering what he would say if he was here to be a part of this. To at least see what we made of it.
And if you’re wondering what happened, did we have some sort of falling out? No. Sibrand and I had a lot of creative differences. He was very attached to his ideas, he had a very strong personality, we butted heads a lot, but I legitimately loved the guy. A lot of the time I felt he was too big for what we were creating. He had ideas too fantastic for the realism we wanted to establish for Valcrest and I’d often try to encourage him to do other things with them. He’d ask for my input in the RPs he ran himself, I’d read all the posts and we’d talk about it in messages. In the same way he encouraged my early efforts in telling this story. There was absolutely never any ill-will between us ever. And if he was still around and wanted to be a part of this I wouldn’t think twice about it. But he’s not. He hasn’t been since 2013. The last post on RPG from his account was a message from his brother, giving us Sibrand’s final goodbyes.
I don’t want to go into lengths about that part. I just want to finish this post by saying that Theron was not only important to those RPs, and to us, but he was also very important to Sibrand. And the process of making this character mine hasn’t been as easy as it was with the rest of the Wolf Hunters. There’s a lot of baggage there, a lot of history, but in the end we could never bring ourselves to leave him out of Shadows Rise. On my end, I hope that with his introduction now, in some way, Sibrand can still be a part of this with us.
I sincerely hope you’ll all enjoy his contribution to the serial. And that you’ll stick around to celebrate with us again next year.