Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Chaining for Shinies pt 2

I am writing this while I'm sitting here on a 351 chain of grubbin. This is the third attempt at grubbin in particular, the first time I got to 12 and accidentally ran. The second time I got to like 270 and the grubbin started hitting itself and I got thrown out of the chain. This time, I'm sitting on 353, and aside from the fact that I'm not getting infested every other turn it's almost as big a pain in the ass as Dewpider was.

I'm going to repost the list of chains (and hopefully by the time I'm finished I'll actually be able to add grubbin to the list) so I don't have to go scrolling back for it.

Bruxish (Josh) - 71
Cutiefly (Me) - 315
Spinarak (Me) - 42
Dewpider (Me) - 373

I'm going to talk about some of the problems I had with these pokemon as I was chaining them, in the mean time. I'm sitting on 356 now. No one ever said this was a fast process.

Anyway, for Cutiefly and Spinarak it was pretty much the same set of issues; status effects are a pain in the butt. It's hard to keep a pokemon in for hundreds of pokemon when it's being paralysed and can't attack or it's poisoned and slowly being knocked out.

Dewpider's big problem was infestation. There are berries you can use to cure poisoning and paralysis (and believe me I did, a lot) but infestation just kind of sticks to you and there's nothing you can do to lessen the damage and it doesn't even matter if you're 50 levels higher than the pokemon you're grinding it's still going to knock you out fairly quickly because no matter what it does, what, 1/8th of your health?

Grubbin on the other hand is an easy grind. They're all levels 3-6. They have Vice Grip, which does one or maybe two damage to my false swipe cubone, and String Shot, which slows you down but when they're only doing two damage max being bottomed out on speed is not a big deal.

You've probably gathered by now that I'm working on a bug team. In all honesty, I want a fairy team too (and Ribombee will be on both) but the shiny Mimikyu I want is going to be a pain in the ass. Because the pokemon I have that know False Swipe and Hold Back are Cubone, a bunch of Sneazels, Snorlax and Golisopod.

And False Swipe and Hold Back are both Normal Type moves that don't effect ghosts.

(365)

Now I keep hearing Pancham has this hidden ability that lets it hit ghosts with normal type moves. And the best chance of getting the hidden ability is to chain for it. So here I am thinking about grinding for a shiny Pancham just so I can use it to get Mimikyu.

I really need to take a minute to look at my life and my choices.

But that tangent aside, bug team.

I'm trying to get some decent type coverage while still having them all be the same type, gym leader style. Bugs are weak to Fire, Flying and Rock, and strong to Grass, Psychic and Dark.

Ribombee is a speedy little badass and the shiny form is pink. Looking at it next to a regular Ribombee is like looking at different kinds of lemon aid, it's just super cute. She's bug-fairy, and I probably don't have to tell you that fairy type is the new Dragonslayer and useful for a bunch of other reasons besides. Fairy is strong to Fighting, Dragon and Dark.

Ariados is bug poison. Bug type is already good against grass so really Ariados is only going to be super helpful against fairy type pokemon, but given Fairy is only really weak to poison and steel I'm not super concerned about this.

Araquanid is bug water. That's going to be super helpful with rock and fire types, which are two huge glaring weaknesses that this type set has to begin with. It doesn't hurt that he's got defense out the butthole, either.

Grubbin itself is not that useful but after it evolves into Vikavolt it will be bug-electric, and good against flying (one of the bug weaknesses I had to worry about) and water. So at the very least after I get this freaking grubbin (375 now btw--officially at least in the numbers, a worse pain in the butt than dewpider was) I'll have all my weaknesses covered.

Which leaves me with the following to worry about: Steel, Ghost, Bug, Poison, Ice, Electric, Normal.

Steel is weak to Fire, Fighting and Ground.
Ghost is weak to Ghost and Dark.
Bug is weak to Fire, Flying and Rock.
Poison is weak to Ground and Psychic.
Ice is weak to Fire, Fighting, Rock and Steel.
Electric is weak to Ground.
Normal is weak to Fighting.

Fire keeps popping up here. Volcarona would be a good one to add to my team even if it's not available on Sun and Moon yet. I can keep that slot open and it's something I'll for sure want at least eventually.

And then maybe Scizor, it's bug steel and has a mega form. So does Heracross and it's bug fighting. They're both big contenders right now. But Scizor has the slight advantage of being procurable in the game I'm playing right now without me having to wait. Of course I could probably just take a step back after I finally get this freaking grubbin and focus on filling out my pokedex.

And with that I'm sitting on 383 dead grubbin, still no shiny. Starting to question if shiny grubbin even exists. Or maybe I am in the one patch of grass in all the land that just doesn't have one in it anywhere. But either way I've made it kind of a habit of taking a break every 100 chained on so that I don't wear myself out.

How did I get that spinarak in 42 tries.

I do, just because I'm a boosted animal like that, want to go and get the bottlecaps to make my pokemon I already have perfect in their IVs. All of them have at least 4 IVs right now but I want all of them. It's not that they don't have the right ones, it's more to the point that it gives me something to do while I'm waiting to be able to import from other games.

I am so stupid happy that you can change the IVs now, it's a lot of work but it's going to be totally worth it.

I'm sitting on 391 grubbin now. Stay with me for a minute, I'll cut this off when I breach 400 and if I don't have it by then I might come back and make an edit instead of doing a whole new journal entry because this one's gotten pretty long.

I don't know why that surprises me it feels like that always happens. I am in too deep now. In too deep with the blogging, in too deep with the pokemon, in too deep with hitting my personal goals in general.

Wow I think these grubbin legitimately only know two moves each. I have been playing a dangerous game letting them chain as long as I have at some junctures. 396. There's like no way I'm getting that shiny in the next four pokemon right? This is getting ridiculous. But at the same time it's like, I've been at this too long to just give up now. But I'm at the point where they keep calling for help and none shows up and it's eerily like the grubbin know what's going to happen to them if they come out. I am a jerk and committing almost genocide just to find that one particular grubbin that's a different color than the others.

And people are totally going to think I cheated them in XD They're going to see my team of all shinies and be like "There is a cheater in the forest!" and I know this because that is exactly what I would say.

399

And yep, that's 400 and like I promised I'm gonna shut up now. But holy cow why is Grubbin taking so long.

Fortune Favors

Edit: I ended up dropping my DS and the cartridge came out and I lost my chain at around 432. Tears.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Some Thoughts on Racism in Fantasy

I haven't had this blog for very long, and I have a few posts up and a lot more queued that are not the most serious in terms of subject matter. On the whole, that's the vibe I want to go for here, because this blog is mine and I am typically not a very serious kind of person. That said, tonight during our gaming session I had some thoughts that I want to get down of a more serious nature.

So here's your warning. This might bum you out or make you feel neurotic. It's honestly going to be kind of a downer of a post, full of things that will make me look like a major party pooper. Tonight, that's okay. I'm not going to be mad at you if you skip this one. But it's my blog and I'll party poop on it if I want to, so without further ado...

Tonight's gaming session made me think a lot about fantastic racism. Like the trope page says, "fantastic" meaning "fantasy", not "awesome". And I'm focusing on the unfortunate implications of a species in D&D being always chaotic evil. Sorry for all the trope links, but it's really the quickest shorthand to getting to what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about orcs. I'm talking about goblins and trolls. I'm talking about drow and red dragons and kobolds. The things in D&D you don't have to feel bad about killing because they as a species are considered a blight upon the world and who cares if you kill them because "it was just an orc and it probably would have murdered a whole orphanage full of children later anyway".

Let me be clear here. I'm not talking about characters in the setting taking that attitude. That is going to happen. People (and in this case people are humans, elves, dwarves, and yes I also mean orcs and kobolds--anything that's sentient) are going to look down their noses at each other. We are always going to find an excuse to be haters. This is part of our condition as sentient beings. And even though it's a bad thing, in order to read like they are real, characters should be flawed.

What I'm talking about, though, is when the setting itself makes it out like they're right. When every time you come across orcs they're raping and pillaging, or dragons truly only exist to burn down villages and take their valuables. When you find a young lamia and the whole party can get behind putting a spear through it because it is actually only going to grow up to be a vicious monster. They all are.

That, I have a problem with.

On one hand, a lot of us play tabletop games because it's cathartic. We want to be able to cut loose like we can't in real life and kill things with no consequence and everybody loves a bad guy they can slaughter and not have to feel bad about it. Many of us play because we have tough real lives where we have to think too hard about shit and we play this game to get away from that.

It's just a game. It's just a story. It's just fiction.

Except it isn't. Think about your favorite book you've ever read. Maybe think about a few of them. You can't tell me you've never come away from it with a feeling like you have learned something about yourself or about the world. That book wasn't just a story to you. I'm willing to bet many of you have a campaign you can think of that was so much more to you than just a story.

Stories aren't just stories. They are how we learn about the way the world works, and how we experience lives that are not our own. They leave us feeling like we understand someone else so thoroughly that we could really be that person. Tabletops are the exact same way. We learn from an early age that the underdog wins, that cheaters never prosper and that a truly horrible person will get theirs in the end and for a long time we really truly believe these things even when they aren't true.

So when we get into a tabletop game and every example we see of an orc involves them raping and pillaging, isn't it reasonable to think that on some level that resonates too? If it's possible for elves to be lithe and graceful if a little bit aloof and self-important, and we can believe that out of real people--and this is where I'm about to get uncomfortable so bear with me--isn't it possible that orcs always being deeply horrible beings that can do no good might become something we could believe out of real people too?

Except people don't work that way. That comes with sentience. Agency and the ability to reason gives us a variety of lives and people within every group. Which is why it's so hard for me to believe that even if the Monster Manual says so, any species that's capable of reason could possibly actually be always a certain way.

And yet that's how we play it. To the point that we can burn down a hut full of orc kids and the party cheers like there was nothing at all depraved about it and then we pat ourselves on the back like this isn't desensitizing us at all.

We don't care because they aren't us. We don't care because they are so much not us that they're dangerous and it would have been irresponsible to leave them alive. And while I don't think it's necessarily wrong for a character to take this point of view--because again, characters are flawed and sometimes we do want to play them evil--I do think it's dangerous for the player, out of character, to view this as a positive thing and not a flaw.

If a character does it, that's one thing. If the world itself--not the characters in it, but the world they are in--treats them like they have done some virtuous thing in slaying a sentient being just for being a member of a certain species, there is something really wrong with that.

I don't like what that says about the real world. I don't like what that says about we the players who are reveling in it. If stories are important because of what we take away from them and we can overlook this and not be bothered by it even a little, I think that says something about us as human beings.

No, orcs aren't human. Neither are elves though, and we are perfectly comfortable playing them. In a game like D&D it's generally accepted that "people" are every sentient species, not just the humans. And yet we don't treat them all like people. Just the "pretty" ones.

Of course we're adults for the most part who are capable of separating something in a game from the real world, but this is just something I have a hard time believing in. It mars my suspension of disbelief, it breaks my immersion. It makes me uncomfortably aware of how little sentience means in terms of who gets the luxury of being considered a person.

I'll be honest, I very much prefer a villain who has earned the title. Give me a reason to want him dead that isn't 'he is green and standing in front of me'. Or don't, but show me that he's still a person after the deed has been done. If we're waylaid on the road by brigands typically we are going to slaughter every one of them, but they strike first. They give us a reason. There's some effort involved.

Making a species always chaotic evil is at best, lazy. At worst...well. I think it's pretty clear how I feel about that. And I could be wrong. It may just be me. Of course I don't mean to shake a pitchfork and rabble about the state of Fantasyland, because at the end of the day it really is just a game and this is and has always been a major part of it, but you know...so were half naked women until very recently.

It's just something that's been on my mind tonight.

What I Learned Today: Furtive also means clandestine or stealthy (along with surreptitious from the last blog I posted).

Fortune Favors

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Player's Log: A Dungeon Full of Dragon Stuff

Happy Saturday everybody! That means we're playing D&D, and while everybody's levelling (because we never do that before we actually come to D&D, I'm sure a lot of other gaming groups can relate) I'm going to go ahead and write my pre-game bullshit.

-/-/-/-/-

Pre-Play Reference Stuff:

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR TYRANNY OF DRAGONS AND POSSIBLY LOST MINE OF PHANDELVER AHEAD.

We're currently playing out way through Tyranny of Dragons. We just rescued a bunch of slaves from the Dragon Cult, helped the town of Greenest with the attack they were under and are currently making plans to go back and screw over the encampment as soon as the bulk of their forces move for Baldur's Gate.

Keep in mind, this is going to be full of fantasy names that I haven't seen only heard so they're probably going to be spelled wrong and if they aren't I likely asked the DM (My fiance Josh) how to spell them.

We're all level 7 now, by the way, because that will allow us to actually play at level 20 a little bit when we get to that.

-/-/-/-/-

Cast of Characters:

Nicophel Arthainas - Moon Elf Wizard - Me : D - Robed and wielding the Glass Staff of Defense. He's quiet and observant, and considers himself the definition of a subtle wizard. (He isn't.) Nicophel does not like to be spoken to as though he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Varis the Illustrious - Elven Fighter - June - Big armored badass, his noble papers are faked, cannot say no to a challenge. He's arrogant and (kind of) short tempered, but unquestioningly strong and an amazing warrior.

Stalkurn XVI - Drow Rogue - Patrick - Stalkurn as Stalkurn always is (Yes this is actually the 16th Stalkurn Patrick has actually played; not the same Stalkurn but Stalkurn son of Stalkurn--the one in the Nim books was Stalkurn the 8th so he's a great great ect grandfather of this Stalkurn). His personality traits literally say "Is Great" and his "Ideals" are "To be Greater". His bonds say "I love myself". That should give you an idea of who this guy is.

Iroh - Human Ranger/Fighter - Cody - Really fucking hates dragons and will always kill them. Also a bounty hunter so his other favored enemy is "humans". Is very probably named after the one from "Avatar".

-/-/-/-/-

Return to the Encampment / Dungeon Crawl
(I'm not a big fan of dungeon crawling expect my description of this part to be lackluster at best.)

So we get back to the encampment and there are signs of people taking off. It looks like the inhabitants have spread out all over the place but the wagons and shit all went west, which doesn't contradict what we've heard. It's the middle of the day and it doesn't appear as though anyone is here.

Oh boy it looks like we're dungeon crawling, okay. I'll spare you guys the play by play of every single room but...

Stalkurn: What are we supposed to do here, look for loot?

Varis: Yeah, loot the place that makes sense.

We can see an ambush by a few people that aren't as hidden as they think they are.

Stalkurn: You are possibly the least stealthy people I have ever seen.

Nicophel: That was such a piss poor performance that I almost don't even want to kick your ass anymore, get out of here.

???: We can't let you pass.

So we roll initiative and commence the slaughter. Iroh immediately shoots them both dead and Varis laments that they should have picked a different career and takes their shiny daggers.

We go down some stairs, going farther into the compound. Apparently we trip a trap that makes the stairs slide us downward and brings us faith to face with "these tiny pourous penis looking mushrooms with tentacles" (direct quote from the DM).

They hit Stalkurn and then Nicophel proceeds to firebolt them until they die because he can cantrip all day bitches.

There are bats flying around the next part of the cave minding their own business. There are also dead bats on the floor so Nicophel decides not to let his familiar socialize with the other bats. Then there's a cold patch and Varis is like "Nope" and we go the other way.

Now there's kobolds, including one with wings, and some steps that lead down to an iron gate. We dispatch the kobolds quickly after Varis nat 1's and accidentally hands his weapon to the kobold, which inadvertently makes the kobold cute and makes me not want to kill it but Nicophel kills it anyway because he wouldn't so much care about that even though it kind of hurts my soul.

Then we fight more kobolds.

And then we find the place we think the kobolds were sleeping. We get some loot, including money and some dragon statuettes, Varis keeps most of which intending to sell but Nicophel keeps his because he wants it as a souvenir (or possibly to send to his sister in Silverymoon).

Cyanrath is in the shrine inside beyond the kobold fight, and he looks at Varis and says he isn't sure whether to be surprised or impressed that he survived (of course Varis wasn't supposed to win that combat as we found out later).

Anyway we win that combat and find a big idol of Tiamat and a chest in front of it. Stalkurn picks the lock and then after the fact realizes he had the key the whole time. Dividing up the loot is pretty difficult because one piece of treasure is worth like half the wealth.

We find out that one of the murals in the shrine depicts a volcano named the "Well of Dragons" and it happens to be very close to Silverymoon where Nicophel grew up. And where his twin sister is.

-/-/-/-/-

More Dungeons, Probably More Dragons

We head down this dark and windy path leaving a healthy amount of distance between Varis and the rest of the party due to the traps that have been rampant here. Eventually we find a ladder that leads straight up into some chute. Stalkurn sends dancing lights up the shaft and the party maturely giggles about the word "shaft".

We find a staircase down that we know leads to dragons because of Iroh's ranger senses. Stalkurn tries to sneak down the stairs and crit fails so he falls down the stairs and hits the metal door. Iroh actually sneaks down the staircase anyway even though our cover is so blown.

There's blood on the floor, we roll initiative, more combat happens.

Nicophel gets covered in glue and everybody else manages not to and we all start taking fire damage.

There are kobolds and some kind of stalactite monster. Another combat happens and I'm going to be honest I never got a turn so I didn't pay a whole lot of attention and then we find dragon eggs and Iroh proceeds to late term abort the baby dragons.

Which I'm not going to linger on because "always chaotic evil" is bullshit imo and sounds like an excuse to make it okay to treat a whole species as acceptable to kill and the descriptions got kind of gross and I'm low key actually really bothered by it. Like I don't have a problem with abortion but if you don't see how there's a difference between a late term abortion for the sake of the health of a mammalian mother who is still carrying a baby and breaking a dragon egg and graphically telling me about the thing that flops out of it there's probably something wrong with you.

So then there's a room with a desk that has some shitty poetry about dragons in it written by the person Stalkurn left the love letter for before and he goes ahead and takes it because he's a doofus.

The notes say that everything must be freighted to Naerytar and mentions some of the things that were allowed to be kept here (things we already have on our persons). Well, now we know where the horde is.

The party asks Nicophel to go ahead and burn the clothes in the wardrobe but he goes through it first and takes what he wants because fuck you guys he's fashion forward.

-/-/-/-/-

Elturel

So after we get done with that we go to meet with Leosin. We get to the tavern and there's a squire there whose like "Hello, I suppose you all will be here for my master and his friend?" and ushers us over.

We talk to Leosin and his paladin friend about what's going on and they explain that they for some reason need us four adventurers to take on the whole dragon cult (???) and then we go shopping. With our purchases we continue North and proceed to try to furtively get hired on by a caravan as guards.

-/-/-/-/-

Caravan

Everybody rolls really well except for Nicophel who ends up a pleb guard instead of somebody's body guard and gets paid half as much for two whole months because of one bad roll. On the other hand at least he's got the wiggle room to investigate the dragon cult which I guess is why we're here to begin with and he finds out there's 12 dragon cult guards and the palanquin that Stalkurn wants isn't even in this group of wagons. Nicophel low key acts like he deserved that even though he didn't because he's sort of petty like that.

This whole time Stalkurn is trying to seduce his boss. "She sees what you're doing and she is not turned off" <--DM's exact words.

Anyway while we're on the road Iroh's electrum mug goes missing in his sleep after his employer kept trying to ask him to sell it at a fraction of what it was worth. We do find out that the man was run out of Baldur's Gate. We also find out that the dragon cult stole it for their horde.

We make a plan for Stalkurn to "steal" something from Alder (he's Iroh's crochety employer) and frame the cultists for it. Meanwhile Stalkurn is pulling the "I'm secretly a secret agent" card trying to get in his employer's pants.

At this point Alder goes nuts and everyone is pointing fingers at the cultists and we are all laughing so hard we can't breathe. All of our shit does turn back up.

Not long after we find a head lying in the road and it's a living person buried up to the neck. When Nicophel digs him up he finds out that the man is a Harper and was tracking some smugglers (he fed us a lie at first about a marriage contract but Nicophel has been storing all kinds of "detect thoughts" in that ring of spell storing he bought earlier) and Nicophel manages to secure his help and contacts for when we get to Waterdeep.

At Daggerford, two travelers join the caravan. A male human with a woolen cap like, South Park style, that covers some tattoos--we've pretty much discerned already that he's a red wizard of Thay. And a female halfling that we already know from Ringmaster's Captivating Caravel. Fortunately we have some good will with her already.

And at that point we decide to drop for the night.

What I learned today: Surreptitiously means in secret or clandestine.

Fortune Favors

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How to Make Me Hate a Fictional Character

Maybe it's just me, but sometimes I'll be watching TV or reading a book and just straight up want to defenestrate a character. And usually when that happens it's for some of the same reasons that keep cropping up over and over again. And it's not just watching TV or reading that causes this, sometimes I'll be sitting in an RP (usually paragraph or chat stream, for whatever reason a lot of these don't tend to happen at the game table for some reason?) and one of these things will happen. Sometimes it's bad enough that I feel the sudden and intense urge to defenestrate the player for about three or four seconds.

Typically, though, the RP list and the fiction list are different. And all of the below listed things are things that make me mad on a meta level, not like "I hate this douche because they're the antagonist" I mean these things just peeve me off when the protagonists do them and we're supposed to like that character.

When there's a situation where they've been personally called out or have every opportunity to do something about a situation but they just stand there so the main character can handle it instead. 

I think this happens the most in anime.

Prime example. Asuna from Sword Art Online. I actually think that anime is complete garbage for a bunch of other reasons than this one, but this is easily the most egregious example of this particular problem I've seen. We are told from the very beginning of the anime that she's supposed to be some kind of sword prodigy. She's so good that she's second in command of her whole guild. But for some reason everybody treats her like she has the autonomy of a new recruit and her bodyguard (if she's so bad ass why does she need one in the first place?) refuses to leave her side even when she tells him to go away.

He's super disrespectful to her. Everything the show has told us about her as a character says she can and should turn around and kick his ass but instead she lets Kirito do it. Because he's the designated protagonist and no one in the whole freaking anime ever gets to do anything but him. It would be less of a big deal if it were just a generic problem and not someone being directly disrespectful to her, but no one that I have ever met with any kind of authority would take that bullshit from some guy that works for them.

This is the kind of thing that won't make me hate the character that suddenly stalls out like they're having a hardware malfunction. It will make me hate the protagonist. It doesn't count if they're already established to be a coward or incapable (or if they're Lina Inverse and just wanted the chance to pretend to be a scared shreiky heroine for the fun of it but it's clear they were never actually in danger) but if the character standing around with their thumb up their butthole should be capable, and stands around with their thumb up their butthole anyway, it's just going to make me hate the character that took their place.

And it's also probably going to make me hate you. Not a lot, just a little. Because it's not the stalled out character's fault, it's yours, for writing them like they're furniture.

When they get super pissed about something so that there's omg more drama but it could have been avoided if they'd stopped and asked a question or gave the other party a minute to explain.

The first example that comes to mind is in one of the Dresden Files books. Harry has a picture of this glyph in his pocket and one of the other characters instead of asking him where he got it or what it was, saw it somewhere else and immediately says "Oh you must be guilty" instead of doing what a friend should do and letting him explain.

Don't get me wrong, I actually love that series. Almost everything in it tickles me. This one particular scene left a bad taste in my mouth and I'm not gonna say who it was or how the situation turned out because I acknowledge some people might not have read it yet, but dear god. It certainly raised the tension but it made that particular character look like the world's biggest douche.

Now if you want your character to look like the world's biggest douche, please, by all means, go ahead and have them be an assuming asshole. But realize it's going to be hard to recover from that.

When they wear armor that isn't actually armor.

Let me preface this. I don't actually mind skimpy outfits sometimes. If your character is, say, a dancer or a wizard, I'm going to be a lottle bit more tolerant of this. But if it's supposed to be armor for Bowie's sake, it should cover all the vital areas.

Worshippers of Elistraee in the Forgotten Realms often go into battle totally nude and I am fine with this because they do it for the mobility. Demon Hunters in World of Warcraft strip to the waist and I am fine with that too because it's for the same reasons. But if you show me a character with huge ass pauldrons and this itty bitty breastplate that literally only covers the breasts and leaves their stomach exposed I am going to assume that it must be because either you are an idiot or you wanted to make them (let's be honest, usually her) sexier.

First of all, I'm going to blame that on you, not her. Second of all, I'm going to stare daggers into the screen waiting for someone to just run by and disembowel her because she's wearing those huge spaulders and slowed by them so how is she supposed to be fast enough to stop them from doing it?

On a separate slightly less related note, I am way into characters that are sexy and use it to their advantage, wear their nudity like it's armor in social situations and own themselves. But when it's like 90% of the female characters in the story and 2% at most of the males that's called a double standard and it's horse shit. And you need to go back to character development school and learn how to make different types of characters.

When they suddenly manifest skills that there hasn't even been a hint they had before.

This is straight up cheating. You have to hint at it at least. Have them talk about it. Best case scenario show them doing it but I'll forgive it if they at least mention it in their internal monologue (I'm guilty of this one to a certain extent in the first Nim book, I was trying to make it a chekov's skill sort of thing and went a hair too subtle but the mention was there).

I'm going to cite Sword Art Online again because it sucks. I would try to be vague about this and not mention who did it but lol I think we all know it was Kirito because if anybody in that show ever did anything it was Kirito, period. Unless that thing is having a crush on Kirito and then it's every female in that show ever. I'm going to stop and get on with my point.

He hacked the game. Did something really super difficult in the span of a couple of seconds using that unrealistic hacker typing speed that characters on TV tend to have (that in and of itself doesn't bother me a story has to be interesting over realistic and I get that) and did this in spite of having shown no interest at all in programming in the entire anime up until this point.

It was, plain and simple, deus ex machina. And I mean that almost literally because he's the most godmoded character ever. If I were in an RP with this character I would want to defenestrate his player.

When they're supposed to be a mentor or teacher or parent or something and one of their pupils does something wrong but instead of explaining themselves and giving constructive criticism they're just a raging dildo and yell or act like a jerk.

Fucking Gurkinn from Pokemon. Okay first of all this asshole's name is Gurkinn. Apparently he aspires to be a pickle or something. But that aside he's gym leader Korrina's grandfather and he's old as balls so you can tell that he's supposed to be like, wise and junk. Tough but fair. Except he's not.

At one point Korrina screws up. And I can't even spoil how she did it for you because I still don't know exactly what she did wrong. She did some unknown thing and he instantly started screaming at her about how horrible it was and how horrible she was and how irresponsible she was as a trainer but he never told her what she did wrong or how to fix it.

Like dude. Teacher 101: Be constructive when you criticize. Just yelling and telling someone how horrible they are isn't helpful. That's the opposite of helpful that gives people a complex.All that tells me is that he's an abusive grandpa and doesn't at all convince me that the writer knew anything at all about how to educate anyone to do anything.

When they do any of these things or anything else seriously douchey and no one calls them out on it. Bonus points if everyone else acts like they're right.

Like ugh. Hard core in RP too, this one counts all across the board and all it tells me is that you yourself don't realize the thing your character did was douchey. Or maybe, you would realize it if it were anybody but your protagonist that did it but you're so up their butt that you didn't see it. Or, also maybe, you did realize it but you're so up their but that you forgave them and expected everybody else to do the same because lol how could they not also be up your protagonist's butt it smells great up here.

Fortunately this is what feedback is for. Someone will point it out to you. Unfortunately it still slips through a lot and people who are prone to doing this nonsense are also prone to not listening when people tell them 'hey that was kind of a douchey thing of you to do'.

If somebody does something douchey and people actually tell them it was douchey and act like it was douchey I'm probably not only going to forgive it but it will make me like them more. I am all for you letting your character do dumb shit but your other characters, at least some of them, should be smart enough to realize it was dumb shit.

Okay that one was a doozy. But it was a therapeutic doozy. Cathartic even. I'm gonna go eat a piece of cold pizza now.

Fortune Favors

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Nimbus Book 4: Hot-Style Takeover

The New Nimbus Book is available on Createspace! I said I'd keep my plugging to a minimum except when there's a new release and there is one so I'm doing it. Hot-Style Takeover can be found clicking the link below <3

https://www.createspace.com/6669628

It might take a day or two to show up on Amazon but when it does I'll come back and fix my links.

What I learned today: Historical "Amazons" are usually referencing Scythian women. Not sure which is cooler.

Fortune Favors,
Megan R. Miller

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My Big Fat Geek Wedding

So if you've been reading along with me so far you've heard me reference my fiance, Josh. He's a huge part of my life, I'm in nigh constant contact with him, when it comes to things like writing and tabletopping pretty much everything I do goes through him too because he's always right there to talk to. He is in every way my life partner.

And he's a bigger geek than I am. Well. Okay not necessarily bigger, just a geek in different ways sometimes. The point is, he is my fiance, and the implication with that is that eventually there's going to be a wedding.

And I was reading this bridal book that I got for Christmas and it occurred to me that this is actually a totally relevant topic for my blog. Bear with me for a minute.

Every article I've read about planning a wedding talks about how when you're planning a wedding people expect it to be memorable and all of the source material acts like you're trash if everything isn't perfect. But Josh and I, we're not traditional kind of people and we've decided that we're going to have this wedding the way we want to and forget what anyone else has to say about it. We're going to treat it like the big party that it is.

And we're going to have a D&D theme.

Mind you we're not planning on having this thing until fall of 2018, we haven't set a date or booked a venue yet, all I have is pinterest and a bunch of ideas for things I'd like to do (for instance instead of numbering tables have them all be classes like "Rogues" and "Fighters"). I'm pretty stoked about it, and I've only gotten stressed thinking about it once and that's because two of my brides maids are coming in from New York and Oklahoma respectively. I live in Ohio for some context on that, it's a farther trip for LynZ than it is for Faith.

But my online community is actually super important to me and I wouldn't feel right if they weren't there. So the stress dream was basically that something had to be rushed and they didn't have time to actually get here and it was just awful, but fortunately that's the only one I've had so far and hopefully it stays that way.

But I'm going to go ahead and make the title of this journal one of my tabs and topics and blog about it whenever relevant stuff comes up to do with it because hey, it's on my mind a lot and this is my blog and my goal was just to write and not about anything super specific.

I'd say I'd try not to gush too much but that would be a bald faced lie. I'm going to hella gush. Why wouldn't I, I'm getting married : D To the best person ever. And I'm just really stoked that he was game to go into it all casual with me and not have to do a bunch of crazy traditional things, we're just going to make it us.

We still have plenty of time to plan this thing so I'm 100% open to ideas. Let me see if I can link my pinterest board here actually.

https://www.pinterest.com/arcanazero11/wedding-inspiration-board/

Oh good it worked. So yeah more on that later ^_^

Fortune Favors

Monday, January 23, 2017

My Bookshelf

I'm an indie author, so when I say "My Bookshelf" I mean the ones I've written. I'll do my best to keep my plugging to an absolute minimum (I'll blog about it when there's a new one but that's probably going to be about the extent of it I promise) but if you happen to be interested in my work this is where you'll find the links.

[Edit Note: For some dumb boosted reason the page I made that was this doesn't have its own address. But you can link to blog entries specifically. So instead of making a page, which seemed like the way to go for something like this, I'm just making it a blog entry. Seemed far easier than trying to fix the problem.]

The Nimbus Mysteries
[My tabletop group and I were playing Shadowrun and we finished one adventure and decided the system wasn't for us, but I really missed our characters so I kind of moved them into a more generic cyberpunk setting and kept writing about them, that is basically what this is.]
Nimbus is a mercenary, the kind of small scale urban one that you hire when you want some dirt dredged up on a political rival or you just want someone to cause some trouble for you. Her hacking skills are at your fingertips, for a price. If only it weren't for that unfortunate habit she's developed of stumbling across dead bodies...

Book 1: 404: Killer Not Found
--Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01CFNZ9M8/ref=pd_sim_351_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=YY0RMS9Z25MP4MQ9CWVX
--Createspace: https://www.createspace.com/6111542

Book 2: Bread and Circuits
--Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EZW90HM/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1
--Createspace: https://www.createspace.com/6159438


Book 3: He's Dead, Nim
--Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KQ0ZHNI/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1#nav-subnav
--Createspace: https://www.createspace.com/6298084

Book 4: Hot-Style Takeover
--Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hot-Style-Takeover-Nimbus-Mysteries-4/dp/1539723437/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485469768&sr=8-1&keywords=hot-style+takeover
--Createspace: https://www.createspace.com/6669628

The Chronicles of Drasule
(This one is only available digitally)
The city of Drasule exists surrounded by miles of dying lands saturated with a corruption that is meant to kill anything it touches. It is kept out of the city by a holy tree, Pan'Drasule, that its inhabitants worship and care for with reverence. The city is divided between the noble ruling class of psions, and the regular common folk below them.

Book 1: The Revenant Pact
--Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Revenant-Pact-Chronicles-Drasule-Book-ebook/dp/B00H21OFAG
--Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-revenant-pact-megan-miller/1117544581?type=eBook

Book 2: Black Alchemy
--Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Black-Alchemy-Chronicles-Drasule-Book-ebook/dp/B00JPU885U
--Barnes & Noble: http://prerelease.barnesandnoble.com/w/black-alchemy-megan-r-miller/1119241299;jsessionid=47B3637907A933EB2C0B725B0E88C84B.prodny_store01-va01?ean=2940149259137

Shea Centore - In case you're curious about the cover art for the Drasule Series, this amazing artist is the one responsible. She's been awesome working with me and is 100% worth checking out if you're in the market for an illustrator.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Player's Log: Dragon Assault

Alright, we're playing D&D this week for the first time in like a month so I can finally update my player's log! I'll probably be writing during breaks and after the game so for the time being let me break down the party again just for handy dandy reference and so you all know who I'm talking about.

-/-/-/-/-

Pre-Play Reference Stuff:

We just got done playing The Lost Mine of Phandelver and are moving into Tyranny of Dragons at present. I haven't read it so I have no idea what's coming. Also, it's going to be full of fantasy names so expect me to spell them incorrectly because I'm not seeing them written. That said, it's a good time to start a proper campaign diary because we're only just now starting into this particular module.

My fiance, Josh, is DMing, and because we're all level 5 instead of level one due to Lost Mine, he had to amp some things up in the module so if you have played it or run it or for some other reason know it very well and things sound wonky that is probably why.

SPOILERS FOR TYRANNY OF DRAGONS (and possibly Lost Mine of Phandelver) AHEAD

-/-/-/-/-

The Party:

Nicophel Arthainas - Moon Elf Wizard - Me : D - Robed and wielding the Glass Staff of Defense. He's quiet and observant, and considers himself the definition of a subtle wizard. (He isn't.) Nicophel does not like to be spoken to as though he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Varis the Illustrious - Elven Fighter - June - Big armored badass, his noble papers are faked, cannot say no to a challenge. He's arrogant and (kind of) short tempered, but unquestioningly strong and an amazing warrior.

Stalkurn XVI - Drow Rogue - Patrick - Stalkurn as Stalkurn always is (Yes this is actually the 16th Stalkurn Patrick has actually played). His personality traits literally say "Is Great" and his "Ideals" are "To be Greater". His bonds say "I love myself". That should give you an idea of who this guy is.

Iroh - Human Ranger/Fighter - Cody - Really fucking hates dragons and will always kill them. Also a bounty hunter so his other favored enemy is "humans". Is very probably named after the one from "Avatar".

-/-/-/-/-

Baldur's Gate

We get off the boat in Baldur's Gate, and the very first thing the party wants to do is go shopping. We sell off vendor trash. This includes some dragon scales and claws from a dragon we slayed during Lost Mine, except for Iroh who kept his probably to make armor or something out of later.

Stalkurn gets his rapiers and gloves enchanted.

Nicophel basically trades a gold tooth that he's been carrying for some tobacco and pipe weed for the jeweled pipe he got last session. He gets a garnet that he picked up in a dungeon set in a silver band primed for enchanting later on and fitted for his index finger. He also buys a jade comb to send home to his twin sister, Sylthiel, to bribe her into moving his share of the gold from the mine from the bank in Silverymoon and into the family vault instead. He also sends a letter to Droop, the contents of which are not as important as the fact that we're thinking of him.

Varis considers buying new armor but it's too expensive right now.

Iroh commissions a set of studded leather armor and asks the leather worker to use the dragon scales and dragon bones he has for decoration (called it) and got that enchanted.

We spend the night in Baldur's gate and in the morning head east for Greenest.

-/-/-/-/-

We Go East

When we get to Greenest it's on fire and being attacked by a dragon. When we finally get into town we see a family running, the mother of which is ready to help fight the eight kobolds that have flooded the street and we jump into the fray. We dispatch the kobolds easily.

The family gets out fairly easily after telling us that the kobolds are with cultists who brought the dragon with them. We let them know the road to Baldur's gate is clear and Stalkurn, Varis and Iroh keep an eye out for things to loot while Nicophel pretends he doesn't hear them saying that and goes to help civilians up to the keep, where the family we helped said was safest.

On the way up we see several groups of cultists going around burning barns and causing trouble. Nicophel throws a fireball into one of them killing a large knot of people instantly, and we book it away up to the keep before they can retaliate.

We participate in another skirmish with some cultists attempting to leave at least one alive for questioning. Varis comes in, incapacitates one cultist, lifts his sword into the air and declares that we should "Kill the rest!". We make short work of them.

Varis hog ties the incapacitated cultist and we finally make our way up to the keep. Our party is the last group through the gate before they close and bar the doors. Cultists begin to assemble around the base of the hill outside the wall.

Inside the keep the people are in chaos and disarray, most with only the clothes on their backs. There is an older human male with a bandaged face doing a headcount and keeping track of how many people have made it into the keep. We are probably the only ones here that look as though we're capable so he approaches us.

He asks us who we are, and Nicophel is the designated diplomat so he explains that we came here tracking some slavers. "But it appears you have bigger problems."

Varis asks about the raid and the man explains that the cultists only seem interested in looting rather than hurting anyone. The man, whose name we now know is Nighthill, calls for a dwarf named Escabert the Red who shows us to a gutted armory room we can use to interrogate the cultist.

We immediately find out their leaders wear purple (small side note, everything Stalkurn puts on automatically turns purple and last session we stole some of the cultist regalia, this is going to be fun) and their encampment is to the east through a mountain pass and they keep their looted goods there as well as the slaves we've come to find. We find out there are a couple hundred cultists and an unknown number of mercenaries.

Iroh brands the cultist on the palm so that when he does the cultist hand sign it will be very easy to tell he's one of the ones we allowed to live so that we'll know he's a primary target for killing if he ever goes back to them. When we release him Stalkurn steals his pants.

-/-/-/-/-

CQC Looking for the Back Door

We return and report what we found out to Escabert, who seems impressed by the amount of information we were able to find out in such a short amount of time. The problem is the church is under siege and there are people there who will want to come to the keep for safety and they can't open the doors to let them in or to let us out. He tells us there's an old tunnel that runs below the keep and hasn't been accessed in many years, and that there is a small chance there's something dangerous down there.

We find ourselves in a tight corridor infested with a very large number of rats. The party agrees and Nicophel tosses a Flaming Sphere into the swarm. A few of them die but the rest are only angered by it and at this point we're involved in another skirmish. The rats prove to actually be extremely difficult to kill. At this point we the party on a meta level realize we're dealing with a swarm.

When we finally kill all the rats (that the DM assures us usually wipe level 1 parties) and continue on our way.

There is a rusted metal gate at the end of the tunnel, more of a grate than anything, and it's so old it's caked with mud and plants and "you hope that's it". Varis attempts to smash the lock on the gate with an axe and rolls a natural one and hurts himself. Stalkurn finally reaches around him and picks the lock instead.

Varis kicks the door open and draws the attention of yet more cultists and kobolds in the process. These, we dispatch far more quickly than the rats, and get out of the tunnels to head for the church.

-/-/-/-/-

Going to Church

We take the back alleys to the church, finding a couple of people hiding poorly in a haystack on the way. Stalkurn directs them to the tunnel that leads into the keep.

Stalkurn explains to us that this is the church of Chuntea, a goddess of grain and farming. There are groups of raiders circling the sanctuary and some scorch marks on the stone where some stupid kobolds tried to light it on fire anyway. They have a battering ram that they're attacking the front door with.

Stalkurn is still wearing his pilfered cultist gear that turned purple when he turned it on automatically, so he puts his mask on, walks around to where the cultists are and says "You all, there, what the fuck are you guys doing?"

The kobolds get out of his way and the highest ranking cultists says, "Eh, some towns folk held up in there, and they've got all sorts of religious shit in there too. I'm sure that's all valuable."

"Mate, you're going to waste this much time battering down a church when there's everything in the rest of this town?"

The cultists actually make very reasonable points during this dialogue and Stalkurn doesn't manage to convince the cultists to leave. We find out, however, that there are other cultists around the back trying to set the back door on fire and Nicophel takes off to go see what that's about.

We pretend to help the cultists break into the church, Varis stepping forward to axe the door open rather than set it on fire like the dumb kobolds are trying to do. It takes him two swings, but he does manage to crack it enough that we can see inside the church. The townsfolk who notice the back door is going down freak out and run deeper into the church.

Stalkurn and Varis are inside and Nicophel and Iroh are in the back, so we pincer the cultists and kobolds and handily slaughter them all. We make a plan to let them in the front door and kill him from the inside and a half elven priest tells us he also thinks this is a good idea. His name is Eadyan. (I had to ask how to spell that the DM pronounced it Eden)

Varis closes the door behind the last kobold that enters with the battering ram and begins the onslaught.

It's really a blood bath, it wasn't even fair for the cultists how easily we killed their asses. So we then proceed to put on our cultist disguises and pretend to usher the villagers through the town when actually we're escorting them to the tunnel so they can go into the keep and be safe.

From up on the ramparts someone lets us know the mill is on fire. From there, Stalkurn wants to go to the dragon where the army is amassing, Varis wants to go to the encampment (which we have decided is not a tactically sound decision due to the fact that they would realize we were outsiders since we'd be showing up without the rest of the army) and Nicophel wants to go to the mill. From there it's basically Iroh's decision what we do.

-/-/-/-/-

Dragon Assault

The dragon starts to attack the keep while we're trying to make up our minds what we're doing. Escabert quaffs a potion and jumps off the rampart literally onto the dragon and we go in to help. Stalkurn and Nicophel both fail their saves and run away and Varis didn't want to do this in the first place so he's directing civilians and not risking his life against the dragon.

Our ranger Iroh, who was the only one who passed his save and has favored enemy against dragons, fucks it up so badly that it retreats.

So we start evacuating people and a humanoid that everyone here appears to be afraid of comes up slow clapping for us and says that we put up a bit of a fight and that he's feeling generous so that we can have his four prisoners if we send our best fighter for single combat. Varis has had his confidence shaken but we do manage to convince him to take the challenge.

Varis walks down the path to the mill. The creature he's fighting is at least seven feet tall, covered in scales and has reptilian eyes. Behind him are the four slaves (a woman, a teenaged boy in a blood soaked tunic and two children) being prodded by kobolds. The children are released immediately but he keeps the woman as insurance that no one interferes in their single combat.

Varis gets hit by the huge dragony creature and all of the cultists cheer. At this point our party are holding our breaths. Nicophel buffed him with a shield spell before he went in but that was all we could do for Varis before he went into this. He manages to hit once, at least, but it's very clear immediately that this is not an even fight.

Varis and the dragon bastard lock blades for a moment before the dragon bastard smirks and breaths lightning in Varis's face like an evil twat. Iroh discerns at this moment that the bastard is a full blooded half dragon, not a dragonborn. It's also at this point that we decide there are far too many kobolds for Stalkurn to reasonably go and assassinate them all and save the woman, Varis is locked into this single combat and if we step into save him it will be at the expense of the woman's life.

They both explode into a flurry of strikes and parries as the party and the assembled cultists and kobolds look on holding their breath. The half dragon breaks his series of blows for a moment and steps back to use his breath weapon again. Both of them appear hurt but neither looks ready to cave yet.

The half dragon darts back and throws a spear at Varis. It speeds past him, landing point first into the dirt as Varis presses the offensive, closing the distance between them and swinging. When the half dragon opens his maw again we know before he does it what he intends. Varis has been very quick getting out of the way of his breath weapons so far, but he's still taken quite a bit of damage.

With another pair of swipes of his sword, Varis drops the half dragon. The kobolds rush in to retrieve the fallen half dragon and meanwhile Varis turns to the keep and raises his sword in victory.

Nicophel gives Varis a healing potion and for the first time since we got here everything is quiet as the cultists withdraw. At this point it's probably around two in the morning and Varis stalks off to go find Escabert stuck in the mud.

Escabert brushes it off like he didn't just fall a couple hundred feet and he and Varis walk back to the keep. The party follows. Escabert found it difficult to believe that so many people lived through that and says he has the party to thank for all of this.

We assist the villagers in organizing themselves to find safe places to sleep for the night and organize their watches, which Stalkurn takes part in. Iroh sleeps on the ramparts so he will be in a convenient place to shoot if necessary and Varis goes to the church. Nicophel actually stays inside the keep because it's a quiet place to study.

At this point we take a level break.

-/-/-/-/-

Encampment

We meet at the end of the road leading out of the city to the east and Nicophel attempts to smoke some of the tobacco he bought out of his filigree pipe and ends up coughing up a lung because he's never done that before, and Stalkurn just shakes his head at him.

Nighthill approaches us at the exit and asks us if we'd be willing to locate the raider's camp and do away with them for good, offers us a reward.

"We do have to eat so we're not going to say no," Nicophel tells him.

"We'll do about anything for the right amount of money," Stalkurn says.

There are two kinds of people.

Anyway he also gives us a crate of 10 healing potions. Iroh and Stalkurn take two each and Varis and Nicophel take three. Varis because he takes a lot of damage and Nicophel because he has all of 35 hit points and the party knows that if they need one of then Nicophel is prone to sharing.

We all put our dragon costumes on. Stalkurn's outfit just turns purple passively so we literally cannot have him disguise himself as anything less than a wearer of purple so we're going to have to be really super careful not to get caught by any of them. It's fortunate that he's stealthy.

On our way out of town a man with a busted leg asks us to go find his master, Leosin, an elf that was taken by the cultists. Disappeared the night before. The man gives us Leosin's broken staff and Nicophel casts mending on it and just carries it casually to return to the man. He tells us Leosin has been investigating this cult for months and that the information he has might be invaluable.

Varis asks Nicophel if he's quite finished with the pleasantries he's exchanging with the injured man and Nicophel gives a small smile and tells him that he is before we take off. We soon realize that the tracks on the way back to the encampment are deeper than the tracks too.

Nicophel's hypothesis is that they were loaded down with loot on the way back and Iroh soon confirms this theory.

We enter the mountains and eventually we see smoke rising in the distance. We assume we've arrived at the encampment and make a plan for the party to go in cloaked (all of us are wearing the normal disguises except for Varis who is in a purple trimmed robe but not the full purple version) and find out where the wearers of purple are so that Stalkurn can avoid them more easily. But it turns out to be just one small fire.

Over this campire there's a bird of some sort being roasted by a human wearing the same underclothes the cultists wear, but the weapons appear to be leaning up against the rock. There are kobolds in a corner and we're spotted as we come around the corner, but being in disguise it doesn't cause much trouble between them.

We do finally reach the encampment, leaving Stalkurn outside so that we can figure out where the wearers of purple are and find a way to avoid them. When we get in there most of them are unmasked and casual but Stalkurn is a drow and would totally stand out so we still have to do what we're doing.

We find up near the top of a plateau there's a well decorated tent outside a massive cave mouth.

When we get into the human part of the encampment Varis fails his charisma check so badly that people notice and Nicophel casts an illusion on him quickly to make him look human. Meanwhile someone notices there's some blue blood on the blade Varis is carrying.

Meanwhile back in the kobold camp Stalkurn is just chilling and not even actively trying to do anything.

They tell Varis to go lie down in an area that's in plane sight, and Nicophel asks him how much he trusts him. Varis says not very much and Nicophel tells him he needs to trust him more and tells him he could put him into a fake deathlike state and act like he died on the mat there.

Everyone goes back to what they're doing and we do find a minute for Varis to change out of the high and mighty robe and into a more normal one so we can disappear back into the crowd. Nicophel meanwhile illusions his own face to blend in and Varis goes back to get Stalkurn.

Iroh sees the slaves mining against one of the cave walls on the plateau above under the watchful eye of four fancier cultists (called it). We find out that they will be making for Baldur's Gate soon.

There is no way we can take on this entire encampment by ourselves so we decide to rescue the slaves and then ride for Baldur's Gate. Lucky for us no one guards the prisoners at night so we have a fairly easy job getting in to rescue them. Leosin is not here and the other prisoners tell us that they've been beating him badly and keeping him in a different place.

Nicophel casts Spider Climb (and sits in the slave tent to just focus on that) on Stalkurn, who quaffs a potion of invisibility and goes to rescue Leosin. Meanwhile Varis and Iroh go to spirit the rest of the slaves away with the use of "Pass Without Trace".

Stalkurn finds Leosin chained to a whipping post and easily unlocks his shackles. He proceeds to carry him down the mountain still with the use of spider climb. Leosin wants to stay behind because he hasn't gotten to see what's going on in the cave yet and we manage to convince him to leave with the rest of the people. Stalkurn meanwhile sneaks back into the cave still under the effect of Nicophel's Spider Climb spell and goes to see what's going on in there.

Immediately inside the cave Stalkurn finds that it's a big one, very wide and tall. Big enough to house a dragon. Stalkurn goes farther into the cave and finds a massive shrine to a dragon deity inside it. He also finds large dragonlike creatures in there. Stalkurn picks the lock the dragonlike mounts are behind and leaves the gate open so they can get out or wreak havoc on the encampment.

He then finds a bunch of lumps hanging from the ceiling, casts dancing lights very quickly so he can see what they are and most of them are rotting deer carcasses. He also finds a shit pit. Once we get out and a safe distance away, Leosin tells us what he knows.

He tells us the camp belongs to the cult of the dragon (Varis: No shit.) and that not everyone here is a full fledged member of the cult. A lot of them are mercenaries, and many of them are still working their way up to acceptance. The kobolds worship dragons and are here because there are some high ranking half dragons in the group.  The humans treat the kobolds like shit, however. The cult has been ranging far and wide to try and get treasure, Greenest was the closest one to them, the biggest of the towns they've attacked and the most profitable. Most of their slaves die and are then fed to drakes.

The cave in the back of the camp is off limits to anyone who hasn't been cleared by Mondath and Rezmir, who plans on hatching a clutch of dragon eggs in there. He is the one who set up the camp a couple months ago and is a black half dragon. The half blue dragon is Cyanrath, who is Mondath's right hand and is seldom far from her side. Tiamat is the goddess the cult is centered around and are trying to amass a horde to bring her back from the nine hells.

The treasure is in the cave. Stalkurn laments that he didn't find any of the good stuff.

We decide that if they succeed in rezzing Tiamat we're fucked along with the rest of the world so this is definitely our fight and we plan to go to Baldur's gate and enlist more help. We head back to Greenest with the slaves and that is where we leave off for the night.

Leosin thanks us but also requests that we return to the camp to take care of whatever goes on in the cave. We arrange it so that Leosin sends someone to warn Baldur's Gate of the assault and we agree to go back to the caves and take care of what's going on there while the bulk of their force leaves for the North.

-/-/-/-/-

So it's 3 AM, the session is over, I had a hell of a lot of fun, everybody had at least one good character moment this week which is awesome. Hopefully we don't end up cancelling next week. I actually wrote most of this during play and I think it went pretty well so I'll be doing it again next time we play more than likely.

What I Learned Today: GPS stands for Global Positioning System, Blog is a truncated compound of the words "web log". "Truncated" means to shorten something by cutting off the top or end of it.

Fortune Favors

Thursday, January 19, 2017

DM's Log: DMPCs

I watch a lot of youtube and listen to a lot of people on a regular basis talk about their opinions on D&D, what to do, what not to do, and how to handle certain things. A popular topic is NPCs, how to make them work and particularly how to handle them if they're as powerful or more powerful than the PCs.

The consensus seems to be the same across the board; NPCs that are more powerful than the PCs should exist. That makes sense for a breathing world. They shouldn't just drop everything to help the PCs at a moment's notice, but they should be there.

And then they get to talking about DMPCs and another general consensus pops up; just fucking don't. And I disagree with this by a pretty wide margin. So while there are a lot of people saying "just don't ever do this it always ends bad", I'm going to try to take it from another angle and actually attempt to advise how to do this properly.

I'm used to playing in hot seat campaigns where everybody gets a turn in the DM seat. It's my favorite way to play, it doesn't leave me stuck DMing all the time but if I want to the option is there, and it's just generally fun to see what kind of world you and all the other players create together when you have free reign to mold the world equally. This does not work for every gaming group and that's okay, but if it does and you want to try it I highly recommend it.

Except in a game like that DMPCs are pretty much required. Which is part of why I think it's so weird that everyone seems so against DMPCs as a construct. But because of this I have a long standing history with running DMPCs and being in a party with other people's DMPCs and I feel like I have a pretty decent perspective to talk about how to make this work.

I think the most important thing to remember is that when you are DMing you are a DM first and a player second. If you need to have your character on the backburner that's fine, and in fact it's pretty inevitable. You want the party to be doing things like solving puzzles and talking to NPCs for the most part. Your DMPC is another person for the party to talk to, you want to make that fun for them without stealing too much spotlight.

Another big piece of advice I have is not to try to do it if you have more than five players. I know a few people that can manage a big group,  but I'm not one; most of the DMs I know aren't. So that's very likely to be a clusterfuck of a disaster, just make sure you can run the party before you try to throw in a character to be with them all the time.

DMPCs are a unique animal.

You can't play them as straight up PCs. They are never going to have an organic reaction to the plot because you already know what's going to happen and you're going to need to focus on what you're running for other players. Your DMPC cannot be authentically surprised because you will not be authentically surprised by your own work.

However, you also can't play them as an ordinary NPC either because they are always with the party and taking an equal part in the combat with an equal stake in the outcome of the campaign. While with most NPCs they aren't going to give a damn if your heroes fail or succeed, your DMPC will.

My two cents is to try and play them from a support angle. Focus on what your DMPC thinks of the other player characters rather than just on who the DMPC is as a person. Everybody likes to hear about themselves. Even if your DMPC doesn't like all the other party members, they will be interested in hearing why, possibly in the bickering that comes from it and very likely in mending whatever is broken between them and this other character. It's a great opportunity for character development on both sides.

Give them a solid flaw to remind the players that this is another character and not you. If you need an excuse for them to be shite at solving puzzles or talking to people, a low Int or Cha score is a good way to do that on paper and either could manifest itself in a lot of interesting ways.

Maybe he just isn't great at critical thinking under pressure.

Maybe she's kind of gruff and every time she has to talk to another NPC she seriously botches it.

Maybe he's afraid of the dark.

Maybe she's in super big debt from gambling and syndicate members show up once in a while to try and beat the crap out of her.

Maybe he is just straight up racist against dragonborn or tieflings, and that brings up another conflict point for the PCs to resolve whenever one comes on screen. Whatever is bad about this character, keep it consistent. In my experience, D&D players really like being able to meddle in other people's lives and help fix their problems.

Try to look at them like a companion in a video game and give them a companion quest to solve. The more instrumental the other PCs are in that, the better. Everybody wants to save somebody, particularly their travelling companions. The more they do to help the NPC the more patient they are going to be with things like them getting the last hit on their own big bad guy. Think about your favorite companion quest in a video game you've played. Don't do exactly that, but do think about what you liked about it and what about it worked for you, pick it apart until you have the pieces, then reassemble them for your DMPC.

I also advise having a home base for your companion characters, to park them when the PCs don't want them along. I know it's not heartening to hear this but sometimes the PCs just won't want the DMPC with them and that is okay. If they decide they want to leave them behind or if you need to, having a town the PCs keep coming back to and a place to park them that the PCs will know where they are is hella handy.

Consider what the party doesn't already have. 100% do not double book them. If there is already a rogue don't roll a rogue. Do something the party is lacking. My group, for example, never wants to roll a healer so my DMPCs often end up being clerics who stand back and heal or buff the rest of the party. For this, a bard is also a solid choice, or even a wizard with the right spells.

Don't just pay attention to what they have mechanically, either. If the party is full of jokesters try giving them a straight man to play off of. Got a party with Spongebob and Patrick? It's made that much better if your DMPC is a Squidward. Alternatively if they're all super serious edgelords, throw in a prankster.

Mostly, just pay attention to who this character is primarily in relation to the other PCs. Make it 90% about them first and foremost and once you've touched on something specific and meaningful for each PC, you can do one thing for your DMPC. But always be super conscious about that. Err on the side of favoring the PCs every single time and if they decide they don't want to travel with your character, that's okay.

Also don't try to hide that this character is your character they're going to see right through that from a mile away. Be honest with them, your players will respect that.

I actually wanted to get into some anecdotes of DMPCs I've seen done right, but I just realized how long this journal has gotten so perhaps another time.

Fortune Favors

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Treasure Chest: Black Dragon Bone Armor Set

Something Josh and I end up talking about a lot recently is loot. We both had phases where we handed out far too much of it too fast and now we're both on this kick where we want to continue to thrill players with the loot they get, but not give them too much of it or things that are too powerful too quickly.

During one of these discussions something Josh brought up was set bonuses for armor. You get it a lot in video games but it's been a super long time since I've seen it done in a tabletop (and actually I'm not 100% sure I ever have). The idea is to have a set of matching armor maybe with a weapon or some kind of utility artifact that are all useful on their own but when equipped together give you a set bonus that makes them even better.

The trick is not to give the player the whole set at once. Say you're going through a dungeon and a player finds this helmet that gives them resistance to electric damage. It's made of dragon bone and juts out like a skull and whether or not they're dragonborn it still fits them. And then a few dungeons later they get into the treasure room and find a breastplate made from the same bone and you make it totally clear that they're meant to go together and imply that there are more pieces to be found.

Suddenly it's not just loot anymore. This is not just a magical item, it's a piece of a set that has a story and the rest of it is out there, and if the player likes what they have already they're going to want to go track down the rest of it. If they want it badly enough you might even be able to use that as an adventure hook to get them to go where you want.

I did homebrew the Dragon Bone Armor set. I have a couple others sitting on my hard drive but I plan to bust this baby out the next time someone in the party decides to play a dragonborn. It can be worn by anyone but only a dragonborn can get the best use out of it and this is how it works. (It's worth noting that in this instance "set piece" means that all pieces of the Black Dragon Bone armor set are capable of sharing the same attunement slot.)


Black Dragon Bone Helmet (Wondrous item, uncommon, set piece, requires attunement) - This helmet was fashioned out of the skull of a black dragon, and will fit perfectly over the head of a dragonborn or decently well over the head of another adventurer, though the snout will stick out a little bit over the face and shade them. While wearing this helmet, you have resistance to electric damage.

Black Dragon Bone Breastplate (Wondrous item, uncommon, set piece, requires attunement) - This scale mail breastplate was clearly fashioned over the spine and rib cage of a black dragon, with the scales sewn to overlap around the bones. When equipped, the bones will fit themselves to the torso of whoever is wearing it and loosen themselves when the buckles on the sides are unhooked for ease of removal. This scale mail breast plate does not impose disadvantage on stealth checks.

Black Dragon Bone Spaulders (Wondrous item, uncommon, set piece, requires attunement) - These spaulders were fashioned out of the hind claws of a black dragon and curl around the shoulders of whoever is wearing it when equipped. While wearing these spaulders, you have advantage to hit on ranged evocation spells.

Black Dragon Bone Grieves (Wondrous item, uncommon, set piece, requires attunement) - These grieves were fashioned out of the leg bones of a black dragon and are meant to be belted around the shins of the wearer. Once per long rest, you may activate the grieves. They will remain active for two minutes, during which you will be made swifter and more agile as if under the effects of the "Haste" spell.

Black Dragon Bone Tail Guard (Wondrous item, uncommon, set piece, requires attunement) - This tail guard was fashioned out of the tail bones and scales of a black dragon. It is made to fit over the tail of a dragonborn and does not restrict the movement of the tail in any way once equipped. It may only be equipped by dragonborn. It acts as a special weapon that deals 2d8 Slashing damage only to targets who are directly behind you. This attack can be made as a bonus action.

Four Piece Bonus: +2 to the wearer's Charisma score.

Full Set (Five Piece) Bonus: Frightful Presence – Each creature of the wearer’s choice that is within 60 feet of the wearer and aware of them must succeed on a DC16 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on success. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the wearer’s Frightful Presence for the next 24 hours.


They have varying degrees of usefulness on their own, but when you've taken the time to collect the whole set Frightful Presence is certainly nothing to sneeze at. As long as you're careful not to drop the armor pieces all at once the full set bonus should come about at a relatively high level. It's probably going to be a little while before I actually get to drop this loot into a game but when I do I will definitely let you know how that works out for me.

Fortune Favors

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Player's Log: Let Me Tell You About Nicophel

So I talked a little bit about the one-shot I DMed during the off season while one of our party members, June, was gone for Christmas break. We're about to launch into Horde of the Dragon Queen, after having just played Lost Mine of Phandelver. The party is Level 5 and I am totally stoked to be sitting in the player's seat for a while because I'm usually the person DMing. Right now, my fiance Josh is stuck with that responsibility.

So I'm going to ramble a little bit about the party we have and what's happened so far. Spoilers ahead for Lost Mine if you haven't played it or read it yet, just a fair warning.

The Party:

>Nicophel Arthainas - That's Me - Elven wizard, moon elf to be exact. He's got the noble background, is the seventh son of a seventh son whose father only inherited the family's lands and titles because his six older brothers all died during the spellplague. Nicophel is a twin, and he writes to his sister Sylthiel all the time to let her know he's doing okay. He was mugged on his way into town when the story started and carried around bruises for a little while but he's getting to the point that he's learning how people are and beginning to be able to hold his own.

>Stalkurn XV - Patrick - I'm going to level with you Patrick is always playing a drow rogue named Stalkurn. But it's not exactly the same drow rogue, it's just a line of drow rogues who are all named Stalkurn and are pretty much the same snarky bastard. He's a fast talker, a charismatic asshole, and everything he owns is purple and gold. If you play in one of our campaigns with this group you probably know a Stalkurn.

>Iroh - Cody - Human. He's a ranger that took all his favored enemies in Humanoid. Basically he's only a ranger on paper, the truth is he's an assassin. We don't know a whole lot about him other than that he's got loose morals and will kill for coin and it doesn't particularly matter a lot to him who.

>Varis the Illustrious - Elven fighter, cannot say no to a dare. The first real interaction he and Nicophel had together was outside a cave with a bunch of goblins in it and Nicophel got him to go in and fight the goblins by taunting him and saying "Oh, I bet you can't kill eight of them" to which Varis immediately just had to go and do that thing. We found out a little later on in the adventure that all of his noble papers are forged and I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what that whole thing is about.

So that's the party. We got into Phandelin and the very first thing Stalkurn did was make a loud announcement that anyone that needed help should go to the town hall and we were taking requests. Josh gave him a point of inspiration for that. This was while Varis and I were killing a bunch of goblins.

They did catch up with us fairly quickly. The bugbear nearly killed us and after we got into the room with Sildar and the bunch of goblins Iroh shot the goblin on the big raised thingy before he could threaten Sildar and we got him out and that was a happy day.

We went after this gang that had been harassing the town, the redbrands, shortly after that, took out a bunch of them, stole some of their cloaks, found out they'd been selling slaves. Found out where the slaves were. Are presently still going after those.

We tried to make a deal with the drow that was puppeteering the redbrands and of course he betrayed us and we had to kill him, and that really upset Nicophel because while he'd killed people before that was really the first time he'd had to do it to someone he'd exchanged words with if that makes sense. Like, there's killing a person and then there's killing a person. 

Stalkurn helped him dig a grave for the drow and didn't ask for anything in return. It was touching all around. Then we found out that the slaves the redbrands took were probably in Greenest and instead of taking the road like we were supposed to Nicophel chartered a ship to ferry us that way. So for that Josh went off book and ran a Magical Murder Mystery on Ringmaster's Captivating Caravel.

We framed some dragon cultists for the murder because the person who did it was a member of the Zhentarim and three out of four of our party members are also members. Hint: It's not me. But I wasn't about to screw them over because Nicophel while being a basically good person (and flirting with Silver Fox Paladin Sildar earlier) is slowly being corrupted by the party.

Anyway we should pick this back up on Saturday and I'm going to make an honest effort to write about it like right after it happens instead of weeks later like I did this time so the details will be less foggy and it will just be a generally all around better time.

It's worth noting Nicophel has some character goals not the least of which is to come up with some of his own spells. Because look at that name, doesn't it just look like it should be tacked onto some spells? Nicophel's Mystic Marking or something like that? I think it would be a nice way to keep hanging onto him after I'm done playing him. Someday he'll be one of those super powerful wizards people nod back to as an example.

-Fortune Favors

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

DM's Log: Two and a Half Hour Combat

I play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. For the past four years it's been at least once a week and sometimes twice if I'm lucky enough to have more than one group going at once. That's just been recently and consistently of course, I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons for at least eleven years and in all that time the thing I first realized was that I am not a very combat oriented person.

I like the RP factor. I like to play politics at the table. If I had a group that just wanted to sit down and run a straight political intrigue I would be tickled purple.

And then the other night the unthinkable happened, and last night I repeated the experiment just to see if it was a fluke; it wasn't. I ran a two and a half hour combat, and I loved it. So I'm going to talk about what was different about this combat that made it more interesting for me as a Dungeon Master.

I play with a group that often falls into this rut of "I swing my sword for 12, do I hit? Good. I do 16 damage." and that's it. Sometimes someone will introduce an interesting mechanic or an arena that isn't normal, sometimes we come close to dying, but on the whole as soon as combat starts I start dozing off and tuning out because the truth is I don't care. Not about the combat, anyway.

This time, I had an Underdark adventure prepared. One of the PCs was playing a drow male that was eighteen generations out of the Underdark and while it wasn't in my original plan to run it this way, I realized about halfway through the encounter (one priestess, one mage, four drow warriors and several summoned creatures) that Lolth probably wasn't too happy about that.

So instead of "I roll this number, I hit for this much damage", instead of just trying to fight and kill the party members, this time I took a different angle. Lolth wasn't too happy with Stalkurn's family, and these drow doing this surface raid and trying to curry favor with her, even if they hadn't originally surfaced for him, would certainly know she wanted him for a sacrifice.

So they started focusing all their fire on Stalkurn and trying to drag him back down to the Underdark with them.

And immediately some people are going to be thinking "Holy shit, you can't target one PC like that without massively pissing the player off!"

Except I did.

And he loved it.

Not only that but the rest of the table loved it too. Suddenly it wasn't just another combat encounter, suddenly they were all gathering around to help their comrade out of the sticky situation he'd gotten into just by chance. Suddenly it was personal. How dare these drow come up here and try to take our rogue?

The difference wasn't that I was targeting a PC, mind you, the difference was that suddenly the bad guys had their own reasons for doing what they were doing. There was motivation. There was RP inside the fight and it was glorious.

I suppose this probably seems super obvious to some people. In hindsight, it's pretty obvious for me too. But something being obvious in theory and something being obvious in practice are two very different things, I think, and if anything there might be someone else out there for whom this wasn't totally obvious.

So. What I learned:

-Target PCs; it won't work well in every single group and you shouldn't do the same one every single time, spread the love, but make it personal and a lot of players will really enjoy it.
-Having people stand on rooftops and things makes use of athletics/acrobatics checks mid-combat and then some of the NPCs have the high ground and that's much more interesting than just flat level fighting.
-Let the bad guys have an agenda if you're like me and really into the RP factor. Use the mechanics and the combat to enhance the RP. It's totally possible, especially in 5E.

-Fortune Favors

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Chaining for Shinies

So I said I was going to talk about whatever I wanted to talk about here, and this is me starting to do that. Right now, I want to talk about the new Pokemon games (Sun and Moon) and let me just start off with saying I honestly feel like the story in Sun and Moon is the best story any main franchise Pokemon game has ever had. I actually felt attached to the NPCs. Even the ones I thought I was going to detest ended up growing on me (tbh I'm talking about Guzma, he's my favorite now, ask my fiance I think he might be getting kind of jealous).

But that aside I've been doing a lot of shiny chaining recently and I want to talk a little bit about the process here and statistics and such. I don't want to be that jerk that makes you go to a bunch of different web pages just to find out what I'm talking about either, but bear with me for a second if you don't because I'm going to lead with some numbers in case anyone is here because they're like me and interested in the statistics of this.

Below are the shinies that Josh and I have and how many we had to chain to get them; I've been keeping track here trying to get an idea of averages and things.

Bruxish (Josh) - 71
Cutiefly (Me) - 315
Spinarak (Me) - 42
Dewpider (Me) - 373

I'm working on Grubbin right now and if I get it before I'm finished writing this I'll go back and stick it on the list.

Anyway, here's how this works. Pokemon in Sun and Moon do this thing where they call for help and drag other Pokemon into the battle. These are SOS Pokemon. So once the Pokemon you're trying to chain has called an SOS Pokemon, you knock one of them out, and then wait for that pokemon to call another SOS Pokemon. Keep doing this and the more Pokemon get called in, the longer your chain.

I start my chain count at the very first one, not the first SOS one, so just bear that in mind when I'm talking about numbers. It's also worth noting that they only start doing this after you've beaten the first totem Pokemon! So it doesn't happen right out of the gate.

The specific numbers seem to be up in the air. Your odds of finding a shiny organically without doing anything to find it on purpose are 1 in 4096. Not stellar but not horrible considering that before X and Y they used to be 1 in 8192.

Well, what I'm gathering is that those odds get shorter every time you chain, until you've done it 40 times and then they'll be stuck at 1 out of 200 from that point on. I've also heard that once you chain past 60 it just gives you 3 extra rolls for the shiny instead of actually increasing your odds. I've heard a lot of things, but what I actually know from experience is that I got obscenely lucky with my Spinarak,

Anyway if you're going to do this, you're going to want at least two adrenaline orbs. What those do is increase the odds of the Pokemon calling for help in the first place, and you want the second one because if you throw it again it won't use up the item but it does burn your turn without you having to use another item or use a move. This is useful because you aren't knocking the Pokemon you're trying to get out or wasting other objects.

Have a Pokemon that knows a move like Hold Back or False Swipe. What this does is damage, yes, but it will for sure not knock out a Pokemon that you want to call for help and if it's under 50% health it is far more likely to make the call. This is something you want to happen because even if it does call there's no guarantee the help will actually show up so you want it crying out as much as possible.

You're probably also going to want leppa berries because as you can see up there, this can take a /freaking/ long time to do. Leppa berries replenish your PP by 10. If you don't have something that can do this you're running the risk of just flat running out and that's no fun. Also the leppa berries have the added bonus that you can straight up breed them in pokepelago for free. So super useful, they grow in sets of 12 so they're easy to replenish, and they are going to be invaluable for your efforts.

While you're at it, consider sitrus berries too. They come in sets of 15 when you grow them, they are really easy to find and they restore a high percentage of your HP (I'm reading 1/4th) which makes it viable for higher level pokemon unlike the Oran berry that does a flat 10.

All I'm saying is potions run you a lot of money after a while and sitrus berries are free and you're going to be sitting there taking damage for a very long time even if it's in increments of one or two.

Adrenaline orbs only cost 300 pokedollars and by end game that's pretty much pennies to you. I have 68 of them in my bag right now because I'm the kind of trash that sees something I use and even if I already have a lot of it I buy more anyway if I think there's a good chance I'll use it eventually.

Anyway, it's super grindy. But all of my shinies that I've gotten this way have at least 4 perfect IVs each, even the Spinarak that I got in 42 chains--and it's worth noting that the Dewpider that gave me so much trouble has 5. So even if you don't care whether or not the pokemon is shiny it's worth doing because they are very likely to be superior. I've even heard guaranteed and I'll totally come back and let you know if I experience anything that disproves that.

Fortune Favors

New Years Resolutions

I keep trying to blog and I always forget to update it. Every time I've tried to do this it's died and withered and fallen into the inevitable entropic pit of dead web pages. Odds are good this won't be any different, but a lot of things have changed in my life since I last made the attempt.

For one thing, I've finished books. Not just finished them, but have a few circulating. This is connected to my google account, I'm not going to lose the password. That all aside, I am not going to start this off making big promises I can't keep.

I'm going to promise myself to make an honest effort and that is as far as this is going to go.

I will make an honest effort to try to keep this regular. I will not bog myself down with a bunch of different topics I'm just going to write about what I feel like writing about at that moment and if I happen to accumulate enough posts to do a thing and sort them then that's great. If it's not then it's no big deal and I'm not going to have another reason to feel bad about myself.

So anyway, here's to 2017. The bar's set really low, you pretty much have to do better than last year, right?

Fortune Favors,
Megan