Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dear Anime: Please Shut Up About Your Main Character

So remember how I was really loving Log Horizon? SPOILERS FOR LOG HORIZON AHEAD.

I just hit the part in the series where three separate characters have their brains leak out their ears and suddenly start crushing on Shiro, and everybody else wants to talk about nothing else, and suddenly some monarch from a different in game area wants to bone him.

Wow, can you stop please.

Like I get that writing is basically just wish fulfillment, and everybody wants to be respected and talked about and liked and shit, but seriously this is ridiculous. And it happens a lot in anime, and an embarrassing amount in books and stuff.

Listen. You have drama going on. And world building. And a mystery that I'm on the edge of my seat about seeing. Does your main character really need three different women in love with him? Do people really need to sit there and talk about how brilliant and scary he is? And if everyone is respecting and loving him so much how do you justify continuing to call him a socially inept dork when he is so obviously not?

You can't have it both ways, anime. I'm looking at you too, Urban Fantasy. Please stop acting like the rest of your cast is just furniture for your main character to lean on, I am very sure that the split of people who like and dislike your main character is not exactly the same as the split of good and evil people in your world.

And not everyone has to absolutely love or absolutely hate this person, why do you feel the need? We were tired of hearing about you brag on yourself your main character the first three times you did it, you can take your foot off the gas. We know your character is bad ass. We've seen them in action. When you have the rest of your characters stand around and talk about how badass and scary and respectable your main character is it just comes off as super cheap like you aren't confident you've shown us they're a badass well enough.

The world does not revolve around you, protagonist. Will you stop being such a boosted animal.I'm believing in you less and less by the second.

If you love your protagonist please get them out of your story's way. Please.

That said. At the very least the women that are in love with the main character in Log Horizon kind of make sense. One of them is in Middle School and they play it off totally realistically for how a middle schooler would behave. And the other one I guess seems like the kind of person that would be into his character archetype but it just seemed sort of arbitrary and unnecessary to me.

I mean still, though, at least the characters are getting some characterization. At the very least I'd believe it out of an RP party. Except the part where all the guys continuously talk about how awesome Shiro is and keep wondering when he's going to get to do more stuff.

Today I Learned: Ocean Sunfish are the most useless animal ever.

Fortune Favors

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Player's Log: Ice Mesa

Happy Saturday! Once again doing the pre-writing for my live blogging of our weekly D&D game while everybody else is leveling. Been a rough week, but this is my favorite part of it 90% of the time so it's totally much needed.

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Pre-Game Reference Stuff:

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

We're finally back in town! Waterdeep! And we have a new party member so this is going to prove to be super interesting.

-/-/-/-/-

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...is actually getting there.) Nicophel does not like to be spoken to as though he doesn't know what he's talking about. Currently undergoing an alignment shift.

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. He's also a fucking maniac that does things like throw dead bodies out of windows.

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". Is the most rational party member.

Genevieve - Aasimar Paladin - Richie - Our new party member, she's a paladin in super awesome armor with super awesome grey dreadlocks. Have I mentioned I love seeing older ladies in games and stuff? It pretty much never happens and I respect it so hard.

-/-/-/-/-

Waterdeep

We're going shopping when a raven shows up and speaks to us to let us know that Leosin wants to meet us where he's staying within city limits. He tells us there's a lot going on right now and the various factions are kind of rubbing each other the wrong way through their begrudging decision that the cult is something that needs dealt with. They have put together a council but people are iffy about whether or not they want to contribute.

We walk in to find them arguing about whether or not destroying those dragon eggs a while back was the right thing to do and Nicophel handily convinces them that we couldn't have done it any other way. The woman at the head of the table is shuffling papers and wasn't sure when to expect us but says that now is as good a time as any.

They ask us to go and appropriate a dragon horn. They say it is far in the North in the Sea of Moving Ice. That it's past Neverwinter. They ask us to go find Makath the Crimson (at this point Nicophel says he wants a color, Varis snarkily suggests Nicophel the Rainbow but Iroh says "Nicophel of Many Colors" and it sticks).

They also tell us they've been investigating dragon attacks in the Misty Forest. They say it isn't pressing but are pretty sure there is a wyrmspeaker involved.

The Order of the Gauntlet finally tells us they have a resource they can give us right now. A large towering figure steps forward, totally decked in plate armor. The right gauntlet is shimmering white as opposed to the rest of it which is regular steel colored. He is also decked out in vestiments, chords and small banners. He is quite decorated and has a huge halberd and at this point I realize Richie keeps saying "They" so I will do the same.

Then she takes her helmet off and she has hella long grey dreadlocks, is kind of older and is pretty damn awesome. Her name is Genevieve. I already adore her.

A super attractive elven woman approaches Nicophel and gives him an envelope and tells him to "give it some thought" and Stalkurn immediately wants to sleep with her. Nicophel just wants the name of her tailor because her robe is very flowy and amazing.

-/-/-/-/-

We Get On the Boat

Nicophel buys a small ship for 3000gp because he got a copy of the spell Ringmaster's Captivating Caravel. No one else paid for it it's just mine so I'm the captain even though no one wants to listen to me when I say so. It gets colder and colder as we go. It's a good thing we have a hot tub.

And I have a boat to name.

Genevieve and Nicophel name it the Snowskimmer but Stalkurn and Varis insist that it is the Pishrot. We settle on "The Dragonrot". I put an arcane lock on the door to the captain's cabin.

Iroh knows where we are going all the time always so he is officially named the Ship Navigator and told to find out where we're headed. Stalkurn is the Quartermaster, Varis is the Tactical Officer and Genevieve is the First Mate. So spake Nicophel. He's having a really fun time pretending to be a sailor.

It turns out it is a really dinky ship and the next step up was 10k gold but I'd have totally bought it if I'd known this boat was gonna be so crappy. We do kind of nudge into something and Genevieve goes to check it out, and what she finds is a desert tundra dotted with some of the natives up here.

We get up closer and find an actual village with banners and homes made out of what appear to be the remnants of some sea creatures. We proceed on to the mesa that towers over the city and finally get to the top to see several dragon related carvings in the ice.

And now we're dungeon crawling again so I will give you the highlights.

-/-/-/-/-

The  Ice Mesa

We get a treasure chest and we're also fighting some trolls right now. We kill the trolls and keep on trucking. We find a calishite style tent in the middle of a chamber and I just bet the tiefling we're looking for is in there.

And she is. And she tells us that she's doing a translation of some ancient arcane documents and I tell her that I can put her stuff in my portable hole and help her get back to mainland. She tells us that the dragon is beneath the scriptorium and most of the material stolen from the host tower is in there but a few might be in his lair.

She gives us two arrows of dragon slaying (which Iroh takes) and a ring of Cold Resist (which Nicophel takes). She tells us that the dragon moves in and out via underwater passages. The Drakhorn was here whenever she arrived but a group in robes came and took it already a year ago.

We get a bunch of books and papers and head down into the dragon's lair to fight another gd cold dragon. It's like in the negatives down here and so dark and foggy that we can only see 30 feet in front of us and this is creepy and the ambiance is amazeballs.

Trolls and kobolds for trash mobs, it was a miserable battle but we dominated the field eventually and our new paladin friend made all the difference. That said now we have a long rest to take and a crap ton of loot to dig out from under the ice. Good thing I have firebolt as a cantrip.

-/-/-/-/-

Alright all we got left is divvying up the loot so we're going to go ahead and put this up <3

What I Learned Today: Finger of Death leaves what you killed with it permanently under your control.

Fortune Favors,
Megan R. Miller

"Everyone Deserves to be the Subject of Their Own Eulogy"

Today, we buried my great grandma Jo. I heard about her passing on Tuesday afternoon and since then everything has been absolute chaos. Now, I understand why people take time off from work when there's a death in the family. It isn't because we can't handle day to day business as usual, it's because those little set backs that don't matter usually hit you like a wrecking ball right in the chest and compound with your grief.

But it's over now. The shadow of death passed through and now we are left with the echo of it. The funeral was lovely. Or I should say it was a lovely church service. I mean no disrespect to those who spoke, both of them are ministers in the church where I grew up and they are my uncles and they did an amazing job at what they were there to do.

It's just that nothing that was said was really about her. They read her obituary, told us who she was following into death's embrace and who she left behind. And then they talked a lot about heaven and god and the bible. And it was a comfort. I do understand that funerals are for the living, more so than the dead.

My fiance was there with me for moral support. He'd never met her before. He came out of that funeral without knowing a single thing about her, and that, I think, is a real tragedy.

The next time we have a death in the family I am going to ask to speak like I could have this time. My Grandma Jo was a kind woman. She was sassy and she was sharp as a tack. She was the smell of lingering cigarette smoke and a cracked and drawn out voice. She was omni-present wrapped candies in her purse and hugs that were far too tight to expect them to come from a woman her size. She was always a person to do what she wanted to do, no matter what. She lived her life on her own terms.

At the end she was 90 and on oxygen and she smoked like a freighter anyway. She lived alone in a small house in town and took care of herself up until the end. She was fierce and she would not be denied those things that she wanted. Nor should she have been.

She deserved to have something said about her. My sworn sister, Gwen, gave me the title for this blog entry and it's up there, but I'll paraphrase it again because it's an apt one. She deserved to be the subject of her own eulogy.

Grandma, if you're reading this, I admire the hell out of your spirit. Thank you for always being so affectionate with us as kids, for watching us when we didn't have other places to go in the afternoons, for watching Digimon with us even if you didn't always understand it and for bringing me so much cardstock paper. You're probably one of the reasons I ended up a writer and I should have used that to honor you today. I am sorry. I will do better. I love you.

Fortune Favors,
Megan R. Miller

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Writing: Fight, Fight, Fight!

So, this blog entry was inspired by my brother in spirit, Luca, who asked for my advice recently on writing fight scenes. What I did at the time was link him to a video that I found helpful in regards to such a thing, but I've been thinking about it since then and had a few ideas of things to say.

Fight scenes are a difficult animal in the same way sex scenes are (and I know some people might be looking at this and making faces at me because none of my books that are currently out have sex scenes in them but it isn't because I've never written any, they're just not those kinds of books) in the sense that they're typically an entire scene based around a certain kind of action that most of us as writers probably don't do a whole lot of.

Both are intimate. Both are physical. Both are primal and instinctual in a way that is difficult to put into words, and yet putting them into words is exactly what we're trying to do.

So let me start off by listing some of the advice I've read that has been helpful to me, spoken by far wiser people than I am, and then I'll add what I can after.


  • Write inside the body - Get up and strike poses if you have to, think about your character's position and what they are doing and it will be easier to figure out where they will move from there, particularly when it comes to more complicated actions. Most of this doesn't need to be described but you the writer still need to know, particularly if your character is hurt and their left arm isn't working as well as it should for example.
  • Put your focus on the emotions - Most readers are going to respond much better to your character's fear or anger than they will the exact fencing move they just used to disarm their opponent.
  • Be concise with your details - As I've said before in previous journals, the human mind is made to fill in holes. If you see the whole fight in your head, great. If you want your reader to see the whole fight in their head too, all you need to give them is the important bits and they will see it too. Will it be the same thing you see? Probably not. And that's okay. They will see what they want to see and it will look bad ass to them.
  • Be immediate - Short sentences give impact. If you can describe something in two words instead of four, do it. Better if it's just one. "His fist crunched into her face" is much more visceral than "He swung and drove his knuckles at her mouth, making contact". Most fights in real life are over quickly and you don't have a lot of time to analyse every movement. Let what's happening happen and move on.
Now as far as what I have to add, it's not a lot. My suggestions are as follows:
  • Write the kind of fighting you are actually interested in. - If you don't care about sword fights don't try to write sword fights. Or at least, don't try to write the kinds of sword fights you don't care about. Find something you do like instead. So you aren't into the idea of an armored fighter, try someone going florentine with a pair of rapiers instead, or write a story with guns in it. It's also totally okay to go over the top anime as hell if you want to, just make it clear from the get go that anime as hell is the kind of story your reader is getting themselves into.
  • If you don't want to be realistic then don't be. - All over the internet I see people saying "don't do this and don't do that and whatever you do don't write prettified fight scenes because that isn't how it works in real life" but if your readers wanted real life violence they'd be watching MMA. If you want your protagonist to carry a sword twice as big as she is because that is what you love and you just want her to, then do it. I'm writing you a prescription. Don't let a bunch of elitists ruin your fun. Just be up front about it and own your ridiculousness. One of my favorite books I've ever read culminates in the main character riding a zombie t-rex into a wizard battle in the middle of modern day Chicago. And it was amazing.
  • Know what level of realism you are writing at - Gritty sci fi and fantasy calls for gritty combat in which one solid blow might actually kill you if not now then from infection later. The campier you go the more wiggle room you have, as long as you are consistent. Keep in mind that just because something is more exaggerated combat doesn't mean it has to be sunshine and rainbows, either. No one ever said you couldn't be both over the top and dark (we're looking at you RWBY).
  • Just remember that your fighting is like your magic - In the sense that you aren't required to follow arbitrary rules just because 'that's how it works in real life' but you'd better be consistent. If your 5'3" protagonist is wielding a 7 foot long sword easily, just make sure you establish it early on that it can happen and don't stop doing it or try to use "but I'm small and not strong enough" as an excuse for other stuff (unless the sword is made lighter by enchantment or having an air elemental in it or something). If beheading isn't instant death for your good guys then it sure as hell better not be for your bad guys either unless there's a good reason. Make your rules, apply them equally, keep them consistent.
  • Internal monologue - I do so very much want to know what your character is thinking. This matters far more than the play by play. The reader isn't going to remember exactly how your bad ass elf beheaded the giant, they are going to remember how she kept telling herself she could not go down to this because if she did he was going to eat the captives in the cage in the back of the cave and how horrible it would be to let that happen.
  • Go do some text based RP. - As in roleplay. If you're a D&Der you might fall into the rut of "I got a 17, I hit the monster for 10 damage". If you're a LARPer, you're not even describing your attacks, you're actually doing them. Text based roleplay makes you get into more detail than that. I've learned more about writing combat just RPing it with other people than I ever have from any amount of studying or writing it on my own. If what you're doing gets your blood pumping you are doing it right.
I might end up with more to say about this later but that's all I've got for now.

What I learned today: Feverfew is good for a headache.

Fortune Favors

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Character Hacks: 5 Quick and Dirty Consistency Tricks

Keeping your characters consistent can be a difficult thing. A lot of people have trouble with continuity, and a lot of people I know personally have a problem where their characters all read like they're the same person and it makes them difficult to tell apart. So I'm going to share some of my dirty little tricks that help keep your characters apart and make them read like separate people even if it's cheap.

Give them a favorite snack. - Food is a really cheap and easy bookmark for "this is that character". I have a character I RP as in my play by post gaming group that, whenever she is on screen and there is food consumption going on, is drinking Dr. Pepper. This fact is so consistent about her that when she was kidnapped and replaced by a doppelganger the first real hint that tipped people off that it wasn't her was that it got a different brand of soda to drink. Another character of mine is always eating spicy foods and munches ghost peppers like they're potato chips. It seems like a small thing but eventually people will notice the pattern and it will make your character seem more real to them.

Pick out some unusual words for their vocabulary. - A friend of mine once had a character who was always talking about how "awesome" everything is. In that exact word. I had a friend IRL who referred to everything as "great". This goes for the negatives too. Find an unusual word that you don't ordinarily use, staple it to that character in particular, and it will create the illusion of them having their own speech patterns.

Remember what they are afraid of. - A fear of the dark or enclosed spaces, when kept consistent, can be an amazingly powerful tool for keeping your character consistent. Whether it's a debilitating phobia or just something that makes them nervous, it will stand out and people will remember it. Even better, it counts as a flaw of sorts and makes them more relate-able because everyone has something that scares them to one degree or another. It's a good way to make them human.

Remember what they geek out over. - Everyone has something they can talk about all day. If your character has something like that not only does it make them read more consistently but it gives other players something to approach them about and it makes it easy to get into more meaningful conversations with other players's characters. In a book, the second this thing comes up your reader will instantly know your character is about to spazz and make them feel as though they know them better.

Give them a berserk button. - Something that can always piss this character off. Does she hate being called short? He got a problem with women in positions of authority? She just really not like seeing other people eat meat? It doesn't have to be a justifiable thing, you can use this to give them a flaw after all. Just be careful if you pick a bigoted thing to be this because inevitably it is going to make them look like an asshole in a way that is really hard to recover from.

I know this all can seem really tropey, but the tropes are such for a reason. There's no shame in going quick and dirty with this stuff, no shame in using the short hand in order to give yourself a leg up in actually building your plot line and story details instead.

What I learned today: The ASL signs for "job" and "rough sex" are one flipped hand away from each other. Oops.

Fortune Favors

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Player's Log: Castle in the Sky

Happy Saturday! Once again doing the pre-writing for my live blogging of our weekly D&D game while everybody else is leveling. Gonna get right to it.

-/-/-/-/-

Pre-Game Reference Stuff:

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

So we just took the portal into a different place and we're not 100% sure where we're going only that Nicophel accidentally sent Stalkurn there for a minute last week. That said we're probably kicking this week off with some out of character discussions because of the library kerfuffle next week ;w;

-/-/-/-/-

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. Currently undergoing an alignment shift.

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. He's also a fucking maniac that does things like throw dead bodies out of windows.

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". Is the most rational party member.

-/-/-/-/-

The Hunting Lodge

We come out in a row of portals that seem to go all over the place. Varis decides it's a good idea to go through the front door and so we do. Again, it seems as though we're dungeon crawling so I'm just going to hit you with the story highlights.

Stalkurn gets frozen in the doorway. Nicophel casts magic missile at him to thaw him and then gives him a healing potion. Varis straight up steals two suits of plate armor and straps them to his back I quote "like a fucking sedan".

We then get the jump on some gargoyles. Patrick won't stop saying "sus" even if the situation is not "sus" at all. Varis is quickly becoming the old woman in The Labyrinth with all the junk on her back. We're picking through some people's bedrooms and taking all their crap.

We go into the kitchen and the humans working there get pissed because Varis has the suits of armor from the hallway citing that it has the same paint job and then Stalkurn puts some of the armor on and says "See, totally different paint job". Stalkurn has a homebrew ability that turns everything he equips to himself gold and purple.

At this point I got up to go make food and came back to the party asking Nicophel to investigate the pantry. He found a hidden compartment in the floor with the silverware hidden inside it. I got up to go actually get my food out of the microwave and apparently there are barns now.

We are now fighting a troll and a minidragon and of course Iroh just immediately shoots it and we have a troll to contend with. Fortunately Nicophel is a smart person and knows that trolls are weak to fire. AND he just changed his spell school to Loremastery so he can substitute other kinds of damage with flamey damage. This was the first good initiative roll he has gotten all game thanks to being able to sub in his int mod instead.

The troll had a crappy clammy cloak that Stalkurn keeps sneaking onto people with his sleight of hand and Nicophel attempts to and fails at burning it which convinces us that taking ten minutes to cast identify on it would be a good idea. So the party continues to investigate the stables while we do.

It turns out there's nothing special about the cloak other than that it's covered in mud but Nicophel is still salty about the library so he tells Varis it's magical and Varis starts wearing it.

Eventually we end up running into a fucking dullahan that Varis thought was a normal suit of plate so and then it attacked him when he got close so now there's combat okay. No but seriously I think being able to use my Int modifier instead of Dex for initiative is the best class feature this spec I just switched to has.

The tapestry has teleportation powers and Stalkurn starts throwing loot through it that we couldn't carry otherwise to make it easier to go and get later so it'll all be in one place.

We then find some prisoners in the basement, emaciated and chained. Stalkurn frees them and we ask them some questions about who they are and what they are doing here. Nicophel escorts them to the door tells them to take the portal and to tell the lizardfolk that he sent them.

We proceed to walk in on a meeting room and a woman greets us as if we are guests. Stalkurn immediately starts asking about Frulam because he wants to do her. She tells us that she has a rival within the cult, a dwarf named Varim the White. She also wants us to screw over Rezmir and tells us that she can get us onto this flying castle to take care of the work she needs done.

She tells us there are rumors that the castle is powered by the spirit of the current owner's dead wife. We will need to present the banner with the five stripes of Tiamat when we approach. The passphrase is "Tiamat, our mother and strength". She also tells us there are a couple of red wizards held up in the castle as well.

The clouds are inhabited by a white dragon who she seems pretty enamored with. She says the castle will be there for a day or so. We get every bit of information as we can get out of her and then Nicophel casts cone of cold, kills her bodyguards, almost kills her, and Iroh finishes her off with an arrow. Yeah, we're totally an evil party.

Nicophel uses a modified Stone Shape to compound 5 gems together to make a 500 gp sapphire and modifies a Drawmij's Instant Summons to make it summon something much bigger so that we can teleport all the huge loot in the lodge when we get back to Waterdeep so that we can sell it and make bookoo money.

-/-/-/-/-

Giant Castle in the Clouds

So in the town we walk into the tavern and everyone gets all stiff and freaked out. We eat and then the castle is leaving without us and Nicophel basically flies his ass over there and tries to convince a giant to land again. Which he somehow succeeds to do by kissing the giant's butt.

Meanwhile the rest of the party has gotten their hands on wyverns.

All of the doors are ten feet up from the ground. And we're dungeon crawling again.

We end up in an ice tower and I use Legend Lore to find out the name of the Giant's Wife and teleport after I say it. I thought her ghost was here but apparently it's just a password. Then we find her sarcophagus.

Anyway not much longer after we end up finding a dragon in an ice lair that was downstairs somewhere on the airship and Iroh immediately started attacking it and now we're in some hella combat. Nicophel got to use his disintegrate spell but the dragon nat20'd its save so tears.

OH GOD FIGHTING THIS DRAGON WAS DEFINITELY A MISTAKE.

We're gonna keep fighting it anyway.

Holy shit we won. Nicophel has 3 hit points left and Iroh has 2. Omg that was /insane/.

So picking through loot. We basically rest down there for a whole day because we're continuing to use the crate summon trick to move stuff because we have the problem not problem of not being able to move all the treasure we're finding.

We then proceed to find and kill Rezmir and check out a bunch of other rooms in the castle but we still don't know how to crash it yet. We decide not to crash it and just convince the giant not to work with the cultists, he then drops us off in Waterdeep and because of our Instant Summons hack we have a stupid amount of money.

-/-/-/-/-

Wheeeeew that was a lot of dungeon crawling and a lot of combat but we got mad platinum from this so I'm not going to fight it. I hear there will be RP next time.

What I Learned Today: Cody is really stupid good at throwing paper airplanes.
Fortune Favors <3

Friday, February 17, 2017

My Life in an Airship

Fixed up my twitter account today. It was attached to an old e-mail that I no longer have access to, and now I have it hooked up to my g-mail account and fixed so that the "R." is in my name--which is important. I have a super common name. I got tagged on accident in this article about how a scientist also named Megan Miller thinks we can eat locusts and really increase the amount of protein in our diets (but by 'our' I think she more meant people in South Africa). It seemed like a cool idea but they tagged the wrong Megan in it, hence why I really need the R. because this kind of thing happens a lot. I swear I'm not being a diva I just have one of the most common first names and one of the most common last names in the world.

Ironically, I don't have the R. on my blog posts and haven't yet figured out how to fix that, but it's coming!

Wow, my life has kind of just exploded though. So I'm going to take a minute to talk about me because, heh, this is my blog and I'm allowed to do that here. So a couple of weeks ago my writing sensei (that's another thing I learned, I can't just refer to him as my sensei or people think we're doing martial arts) Ty asked me to write a weekly article for the Nerdarchy website.

And alright, like, I was totally stoked out of my mind about that. Because my fiance and I like to sit around together on quiet days, throw something up on youtube and just shoot the breeze and these guys are some of the people that we just throw up on the monitor like that. We watch them, they're a part of our routine, and then suddenly being a part of that is just mind-blowing to me.

Everyone is like, crazy levels of nice. Samantha Karr even invited me into a livestream game they do on youtube and that was ridiculously fun. She and Vex (that's the player's name, not the character's) are awesome party members, ladies are a riot, and Dave is legitimately the most amazing DM.

Just when I thought I'd gotten over the question of whether my tether to the Prime Material Plane had been accidentally cut or not, something else happens and I get that kind of nervous but mostly excited feeling all over again.

And I also feel like I'm re-learning to manage my time. Last year, I got four books written. Realistically I don't think I'm going to be able to do that again this year, but that's okay. If I can get two, I'll be happy with myself. I did say in January that this year was going to be about visibility, I just didn't think it'd be anything nearly like this. I was picturing slogging through networking and stuff and instead I'm having the time of my life with these amazing people working with subject matter that is completely up my alley.

Oh oh oh! And on a totally unrelated but still super exciting note: Johto pokemon are up on Go!!! That means Espeon and Umbreon. Spinarak and Ariados. Ah, I'm just beside myself. February 2k17 has been a good month for me.

What I Learned Today: That "i.e." doesn't stand for "in example", it stands for "that is". "e.g." stands for "for example". Not gonna lie, that threw me a lot, but chalk it up to my something new for today.

Fortune Favors,
Megan R. Miller

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Writing: Getting the Novel Finished

Let's take a moment to talk about something that I see a lot of people concerned about online. The thing that a lot of people tend to consider the thing that separates the writers from the aspiring writers. Actually finishing the damn book.

It's hard. Of course it is. If writing a novel were easy every shmuck would do it. But for every person that does you have dozens that sit around bemoaning the fact that they would write if only they had time (like the rest of us have so much of that) or if they had any good ideas (they actually do even if they don't realize it) or were any good at writing (and I would be a brain surgeon if I knew anything about anatomy and blood didn't make me squeamish).

But it's one of those big deal things, the first major hump. If you haven't done it, it looks impossible. If you've done it more than once, it looks easy and you might question why it was ever hard to begin with. If you've done it once or twice, then you understand completely and sympathize and may even worry about whether or not you'll be able to get your second novel finished.

There's a lot of advice about this floating around the internet. I'm just going to throw down what works for me and toss it into the void and hope it finds someone for whom this works as well as it does for me.

For the first one, use an outline.

I know a lot of writers that don't. My sensei, Ty, has told me before that he doesn't. Just diving right in works for a lot of people, and that's okay, but this advice is for those of us that are in that phase where we just can't seat-of-our-pants it yet.

When I wrote the first Drasule book, the only thing that got me to the end of that novel was the fact that I had a solid outline. A lot of people also swear by this--and the truth is I used to but it changed for me and I can now seat-of-my-pants like a fucking professional--but I'm about to break down specifically why it worked for me.

You see, I had no problem at all writing short stories. I had no problem at all writing scenes. It was novel length works that eluded me for a long time. And the reason for that was because it was easy to see a whole scene in my head but the second I started thinking longer term it became a problem.

The trick was breaking it into pieces. And an outline helped me do that. A novel isn't a big insurmountable thing, it is a bunch of little scenes strung together to make a whole. When you think "I'm going to write three scenes today" it becomes way less intimidating than "I need to work on my novel".

Like slipping beads on a string. Eventually it's finished.

Don't worry about it sucking.

Parts of it probably do. That's fine. I'm working on my tenth book total if you count the ones that aren't out yet and the ones that will never see the light of day and parts of them still suck in the first draft. But you can't worry about that when you're writing.

Even if it sucks you have to keep plugging forward. Let it suck, go back and fix it later when the book is done. You might even go back and find it doesn't actually suck at all, you were just having a moment.

But if it does that's what editing is for.

Knowing how it ends is more important than knowing how it starts.

Writing a novel is 90% just knowing where you're going. Know your climax because you will be building to it through the whole book. Know your climax because that will shape so much of what comes before it.

Your beginning is vital, but your ending will be the difference between whether your book is stellar or pretty okay. And besides, if you want to finish it you need to know how. If it doesn't end you'll just be writing in circles forever.

If you're unmotivated you have to do it anyway.

You can't just skip going to work because you aren't motivated. Get up and write shit. Put your fingers back on the keys. If you're worried that your lack of motivation is going to hurt your narrative it's okay to open a new document and just write a bunch of bullshit, but write something. Better to work on your narrative, honestly, because (as stated above) even if it sucks that's what editing is for, but under no circumstances do you get to sit there and do nothing.

Okay. Under some circumstances. If someone died, if you're in the hospital, if it's Christmas or your birthday, or if your house is on fire, you can skip it. Basically...if you'd have skipped actual work, you can skip it. But on the whole try to treat it like it's a real job. Because chances are you want it to be right?

Listen to music in the car.

This doesn't count as writing. But I cannot tell you how many ideas I've gotten that have made my stories so much better as I was sitting in the car with headphones on. Watch the pictures in your head, that shit is gold.

Obey NaNo's Law.

We have a saying over at the NaNoWriMo forums: When in Doubt Add Ninjas. This doesn't mean literal ninjas usually. It means when your plot is stalling out and you feel like you just don't know where to go, make something happen. Something dramatic, something unexpected. Let somebody die. Have somebody pull a gun. Worry about how you're going to explain it later just do anything you can to get shit happening because the literal worst thing you can do to your readers is bore them.

Depress them, offend them, make them say "yeah right", all of these things before you bore them. Because if you've offended someone they are still talking about you but if you bore them they walk away and never come back. Ninjas aren't boring. Ninjas are awesome.

Now I've got one more thing and I'm not sure how useful it is to finishing a book but my online friends (you have checked out Shea's website, right?) and I have one particular golden rule when it comes to storytelling and it is this:

Trust your subconscious mind, it knows wtf it's doing.

So you're in mid scene and one of your characters starts doing something you didn't expect. Just let it happen. I know you're thinking "this is going to fuck up my whole outline" and "oh god this is a horrible idea" and "no, why are you doing this, no" but even if you don't know why you're doing it right now, it will probably become clear to you later. And if it doesn't guess what? That's what editing is for.

But you'll probably realize it later and be like "Wow subconscious brain, you're amazing why didn't I think of that?"

You did think of that. You thought of it and you questioned it and yet here you are.

So anyway, this might not work for you. But it did work for me and if you're like me it might work for you. Please don't comment on this and be like "this isn't how it works for me" because no one promised it would, and if it doesn't it's just because you're not the person this journal needed to find and that's okay. Writing process isn't one size fits all, if it was apparently everybody would be writers.

What I learned today: Here is a handy list of different types of gladiators. I'm not typing them all out for you but if you want to click over and give them a browse it's really interesting stuff.

Fortune Favors

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Chaining for Shinies Part 5: Asdkflajda

Shiny Statistics so far:
Bruxish (Josh) - 71
Cutiefly (ZK)* - 60
Rockruff (ZK)* - 35
Salandit (ZK)* - 70
Cutiefly (Me) - 315
Spinarak (Me) - 42
Dewpider (Me) - 373
*With the Shiny Charm

I finally got the shiny charm. The Sooth Bell actually does a lot in terms of making a pokemon happy for evolution so that really helped get Type: Null to evolve into Silvally and now I'm chaining grubbin again. I did try last night and at about 18 accidentally ran, but at that point it was stupid late and I was really tired so I didn't freak out too badly over that.

Tonight, I'm really dead set on getting what I need out of this chain. So we'll see if the shiny charm actually even helps.But according to the internet SOS chaining should give me a 1/172 chance of finding a shiny through chaining.

I have once again broken 200 grubbin chaining for them. That's 996 total grubbin that I have just lain the smackdown on if I count every time I've chained for them. I mean that's counting some of my shorter chains that broke off before I could really get them started, but statistically speaking I really should have had it by now. The shiny grind is hard.

And I know these entries are like, 2% useful information and 98% just me bitching about how hard it is to find this damn grubbin but you don't understand how badly I want it and I'm also kind of hoping my notes on how long other people's chains have been might help somebody else with their data eventually. That said, though, if for some reason you're reading this and you have more data for me I am hella interested so I can record it up there with my statistics. Please leave a comment!

Anyway this chain is sitting on 213, so if 172 were accurate I am once again in statistical improbability mode. But it probably isn't. Like everything I've read online implies that grubbin is just really hard to find. I have yet to find someone that got a shiny grubbin in under 100 chained. Pretty much we are doomed to play the long game if we eventually want a shiny vikavolt.

I have so many other things to be doing right now. Might take another break and leave my DS on sleep mode. When your pokemon goes from nothing in the xp bar to levelling up from level 4 and 5 grubbins you know you've been doing this too long. But at this point it's 7:30 AM and I am way too tired to actually be doing anything productive, I don't trust myself not to jack it up. Not actually sure I should be trusting myself not to jack /this/ up either but c'est la vie.

But yeah you know that feeling when things are getting pretty ridiculous but you just kind of want them to get more ridiculous and see how crazy it can get? That is where I am right now. But I can tell you if something happens and this chain gets broken I am totally just going to masuda a grubbin instead. This is, 100%, the last chain of grubbin. -draws a line in the sand-

It has been super called to my attention though that I really need to sleep, I'm getting confused and rambly, so I'm going to save this, and get back to it later. <3

-/-/-/-/-

So on a chain of 522 grubbin struggled and KO'd itself. I think I'm gonna go ahead and Masuda this one instead.

What I Learned Today: SOS chains reset at 255.
Fortune Favors

What Not To Do With Your Love Interest

I had a blog entry on fighting scheduled to go up today but then I looked back and realized that if I keep to my regularly scheduled Tuesday/Thursday updates, I have one that will go up on Valentine's day. So, instead of letting that fight blog go up as planned, I'm pushing it back for later and instead going on a bit of a rant about designated love interest characters.

Let's play a game called 'you're probably an asshole if'. (Disclaimer; I don't actually think you're an asshole, I'm being facetious, roll with it).

You're probably an asshole if your character's love interest never does anything in the story except stand there and swoon over them. You are particularly an asshole if your character's love interest is called out personally for something and instead of letting the love interest handle it, you have your character do it instead. If you know me, even a little bit, you know who those shots were fired at (Sword Art Online).

It is not that hard to have your characters show a little bit of agency. If you can't do that you should not be writing a character, you should be writing a blow up doll. Real people don't just stand there when they are being insulted to their face. Okay, some real people do that, but no one is going to mistake those people for bad ass, so do not, in the same breath, sit there and try to tell me that your character is both bad ass and just passively letting the hero save them.

You're probably an asshole if you kill the love interest off just to give the hero a more gripping story line. Sometimes, there's a good reason to kill a character off. Sometimes, though, you just do it because you want your hero to mourn and be super upset and come out stronger for it and all that--and it has nothing to do with the character you just killed off. And when you do that it is painfully obvious and you aren't fooling anyone.

You're probably an asshole if you write a love triangle and you're dumb ass hero chooses the emotionally abusive, manipulative sociopath that has at no point shown they're capable of basic human respect. Do not whine to me and say "but she doesn't love character b" like it's an excuse. Walking away and not getting together with anyone is a totally valid option.

Oh, and you know what? You're probably also an asshole if no one else in the story realizes the sociopathic character is being a sociopath or says anything about it. If your hero doesn't see it because they're in love and looking through gross love goggles that's fine, that happens and can happen to anyone. But their friends and family members aren't going to be that blind about it and you are definitely an asshole if you let your in story world treat the loved ones that call your sociopath out as if they're wrong for interfering in "true love".

You're probably an asshole if you have gay characters but are super careful never to actually show them being gay. Being gay does not mean being sassy and knowing interior decorating (although it certainly can include those things). It means being a homosexual. That isn't an insult. It's not going to make them look bad if they actually get romantic with someone of the same biological sex as they are. This isn't even shocking anymore, you don't have to tiptoe around it.

If your love interest's personality can basically be described as "dark and brooding" and you cannot think of any other adjectives or interests of theirs that appear in the story, you're probably an asshole.

If your love interest is physically abusive and suffers no repercussions for it ever, you're definitely an asshole. If your physically abusive love interest is female and you got to this sentence not thinking it was physical abuse just because she's a girl, you are a rare medically undocumented double asshole.

If you are not specifically writing fetish erotica, and you try to play off noncon as romance, you are an asshole. If you are specifically writing fetish erotica...like shit, you're still toeing a line but at least there's an implied "this is not how it is supposed to work in real life" at work. You might be a taint but probably not an asshole.

If you are using "they didn't say no" in place of a "yes" and assuming that means the character was consenting, you're an asshole.

If your character was drunk and said "yes" and your sober love interest did it with them anyway they're an asshole. If your story treats this like it was totally okay, you are too.

If your characters hook up under the influence of some kind of love potion and you treat that like it's consent, you're an asshole.

If there's some kind of 'zomg destiny' at work and your characters instantly hook up forever because the magic told them to and you treat that like it's consent, you're an asshole.

You are probably an asshole if your character gropes an unconscious person. You are probably more of an asshole if they play it off like they were doing something medical. You're an uber asshole if the unconscious character believes it and the groper gets away scott free--like I honestly cannot believe somebody who was old enough to write in complete sentences was actually unaware enough that I need to say this.

You're also probably an asshole if your main character turns into a useless puddle of goo every time the love interest is around to save them. No seriously why do I see women doing this to female characters most of the time? What about that situation springs you? Honest question. Why would you want to have to be rescued in your own fantasy?

And finally. You're probably an asshole if your character is wishywashy and indecisive about their potential love interests and said love interests just wait around for the hero to make up their mind. Real people don't behave that way. Well. Some of them do. But real, confident people don't.

What I Learned Today: Valentine's Day falls on a Tuesday this year. Hey, just because I learned it doesn't mean it has to be a mindblowing fact, some things you learn are very small.

Fortune Favors

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Player's Log: Frogs and Crap

Happy Saturday! Once again doing the pre-writing for my live blogging of our weekly D&D game while everybody else is leveling. Gonna get right to it.

-/-/-/-/-

Pre-Game Reference Stuff:

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

We left off in the inn where a bunch of cultists were staying, after Nicophel legit killed like 13 of them with a fireball, and are now getting ready to delve into some tunnels and find some awesome loot (hopefully).

-/-/-/-/-

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. Currently undergoing an alignment shift.

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. He's also a fucking maniac that does things like throw dead bodies out of windows.

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".

-/-/-/-/-

Tunnels

The tunnel is narrow and damp and muddy and cold. And then we emerge into a cold damn muddy swamp. Our ranger can tell there have been dozens of lizard folk carrying treasure along this route. It's really super wet and we are definitely leaving tracks.

Nicophel lets out the hem of the cloak he stole from a cultist and ties some rocks in there so it drags behind him and erases his footprints. Varis doesn't care about the footprints. Stalkurn pees on one of the trees to mark his territory.

Oh god and it's like unpleasant knee deep cold water much of the time and Nicophel bitches about it the whole way there because fly wasn't able to help him not get wet. Iroh and Stalkurn sneak ahead and Varis and Nicophel hold back as we reach an encampment where everything is still wet and obnoxious. There doesn't appear to be anyone around right now however, but there is food.

We hella take a canoe and continue on.

Well. We were going to and then three canoes with three lizardfolk each in them and Varis makes no attempt at hiding at all. So now there's combat. Nicophel ends up dominating one of the lizardfolk and another one is convinced to talk to us and asks us to come to a castle and fight some bollywogs and take their treasure which Stalkurn is totally down with doing. His name is Snapjaw.

We find out the lizardmen are being treated like shit in favor of the bollywogs and that works out just fine for us because it means they're willing to betray the cult for us. There's a fluxuating amount of cultists but one of the common staples is a man named "Dralmorrer Borngrey" and the cultists seem more fanatical when he's around. Occasionally there is a half dragon that is at the castle but she's not there all the time. He also says there's a man with a bald head and red robes, and an uncountable number of bollywogs and lizardfolk.

The lizardfolk agree to help us if it looks like we're going to win but they don't want to get in trouble. There's a little over a dozen shitty straw huts and there's a castle not far from there with a moat around it. We talk about how to best get into the castle and climbing over the walls appears to be the best bet.

-/-/-/-/-

Castle Crashing

We get inside into this corridor and there are several jumping bollywogs in the hallway we're in. Cue dungeon crawl mode, and again I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of doors and hallways I'll hit you with the highlights rather than the play by play.

We find what was once the priest's living quarters with many sturdy cabinets that have been hacked and slashed open long ago. And there are some cultists in here that haven't noticed us yet. Nicophel just raises his staff and freezes them all to death with a cone of cold. And then we find this AMAZING library but we can't possibly take all the books in it with us but Nicophel super wants like all of them and Varis just wants to go kill more things.

We find out there's a portal under the castle and we find out the command word to operate it is Drazir. At least Nicophel and Iroh do. Meanwhile fucking Stalkurn and Varis start dragging statues behind them across the floor of the castle like baboons and Nicophel's judgement is hard core upon them.

We do find some intense treasure and other people are in the process of gathering some super valuable shit. Stalkurn and Varis are stupid excited. Stalkurn ACTUALLY convinces a bunch of cultists to drag his statues for him by pretending to be a high ranking dragon official.

There's more combat, we keep moving through the castle, Stalkurn at some point ends up covered in centipedes and Nicophel shocking grasps  him to kill the centipedes and also slightly damage Stalkurn but with permission because he can think of no better way to do that.

Iroh convinces Stalkurn to go stand on the glowy circle, and he deduces it's the portal. Iroh says it requires a pass phrase and Nicophel offhandedly says the password is Drazir and accidentally activates the portal sending him elsewhere.

We find the red wizard that I made friends with before, Ezbarra, and he starts talking to us about what he's doing with the cult and confirms for Stalkurn that the woman he's into is, indeed, hot. He does tell us that he planned to broker a deal with Tiamat to take care of the lich that's taken over Thay and we offer to find him something else to help with that problem if he could /not/ let Tiamat be summoned in the first place.

We also find a scroll that's like really super rare and will break if the party tries to move it and Stalkurn and Varis want to sell it but Nicophel is fucking going off on them. Okay we fought about that for an hour I'm not even exaggerating. And then we end up in a fight with a tentacle monster that pulls Stalkurn and Varis under the muck because they tried to jump and Nicophel just spider climbs up into the room without them like a douche bag. Iroh seems to just be irritated that the party strife has gotten this bad.

Anyway Nicophel ends up fighting some spectres and it is actually kind of scary how close he comes to dying but he doesn't, gets the star charts that you can get up there and brings them back for the rest of the party after he copies them down.

We also end up pissing off a bunch like 30+ bollywogs. Anyway we kill their leader and get out of that room, and head through the portal together. We also level. Levelling is always good.

-/-/-/-/-

What I Learned Today: Stone evolutions are a pain in the ass.

Fortune Favors

Chaining for Shinies Part 4: Pangoro Don't Know When to Quit

Shiny Statistics so far:
Bruxish (Josh) - 71
Cutiefly (ZK)* - 60
Rockruff (ZK)* - 35
Salandit (ZK)* - 70
Cutiefly (Me) - 315
Spinarak (Me) - 42
Dewpider (Me) - 373
*With the Shiny Charm

Kay so I've been working on filling out the pokedex and today I started chaining Pancham because as I mentioned last time around the only good way to chain for ghosts is with a scrappy pokemon. Now here is where I get brilliant so pay attention; I'm chaining with my alolan Marowak. IE, nothing these Pancham and Pangoro can do can hurt it. And the second one can, I'll know it's scrappy.

The biggest problem I have found myself having is that Pangoro won't call for help. It's down to 1 HP, and it just won't call. I am sitting here and it keeps swinging and not hitting me and this damn Pangoro just doesn't know when to quit.

So lesson learned, do not let Pangoro continue the chain, Pancham only, because Pangoro is way to stubborn to admit when it needs help.

Oh right, that's another thing I learned today about SOS chains! All members of the evolutionary line count. Knocking out pancham in favor of pangoro doesn't break the chain, but any other species would. The big problem with this is that, as I said, pangoro isn't calling for help it's being a stubborn biatch.

I am actually kind of concerned it'll struggle and knock itself out before it calls for help. I should catch it and name it April. (That's my mom's name, she's stubborn and would totally also be that guy who does that.)

Okay so I just found out. Pangoro actually will not call for help. So I have to start that chain over, fortunately I was only like 9 in.

And now I have a scrappy pangoro. Time to breed some pancham.

What I Learned Today: Javanese is a language. Spelled like that. I had no idea it even existed until today.

Fortune Favors

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Writing: Descriptions and Details [The Three Room Challenge]

There's an interesting little fact about the human mind that I'd like to call your attention to.

Our brains really like to take partial information and fill in the holes for us.

For example, as I am writing this right now my mother is rambling to me about this Star Wars thing she wants to go see and I am only half paying attention and managing to carry on a complete conversation with her only hearing key words and a few context phrases.

I know that she's talking about some kind of exhibit with costumes and props from the Star Wars movies and that it's not far from here because she said we could make it a day trip. I didn't hear where it was, I didn't hear whose costumes or what props, but I have a very vivid image of what she's describing to me because our brains are capable of filtering a lot of information and straining out the irrelevant from the relevant.

I'm sure you've heard before the idea that when someone is reading your work you want them to forget they're reading, right? Don't call attention to the words you're using, let the story speak for itself. I'm a little bit less sure about this one, but you've probably also heard that there are some words that are basically invisible to readers. Words like "said" and as you can see above, "the".

That is because our brains are wired to filter them out. They are not relevant. They are connective words and the important ones are around them. This applies to descriptions and details, too. Let me give it a try.

Cyril's sitting room was immaculate to the point of eeriness. The claw footed divan and matching arm chair were covered in a layer of plastic to protect them from dust and stains. The polished wood floor hosted an imported rug. There was a glass cabinet against the wall containing elegantly displayed china and crystal. The fireplace sat empty and polished, with a clean iron poker and other tools hanging beside it. All in all, it looked more like a staged example of a home than a place where someone actually lived.
 Without getting into the implications such a room makes about the man that lives there, I'm willing to bet you have an idea in your head of what the layout of the room is like. Where the furniture is facing, where the rug is compared to the divan and the chair, which wall the cabinet is shoved up against, where the fireplace is. But I didn't tell you any of that.

I'm also willing to bet that a few people who read this will picture the cabinet against a different wall than I did. The fireplace, too. And that's okay. You want your reader to get a complete picture of what you're describing to them, but you don't have to spell out the whole picture for that to happen.

Think about the room again for me. What color are the walls? Did something come to mind? I never told you that either. Or what color the furniture was. But I'm willing to bet you have an idea in your head anyway, and it's probably based on a similar room you've either been in yourself or seen on TV.

What I'm suggesting is, as a writing exercise, take this Three Rooms challenge that I am making up on the spot right now as I type this.

One room will be a living room. One room will be a kitchen. One room will be a classroom. The details of these are entirely up to you. Who does the living room belong to? What socioeconomic class? What typically takes place there? Does it belong to a happy home? Is the kitchen in a private residence? A restaurant? The communal kitchen of a dorm room? What do the tools look like? What kind of dishes? Is the classroom one in a public school? A private tutoring room? A big lecture hall?

In one of these rooms, a murder will take place. In another, a character will do something resourceful and save somebody's life. In the last, someone will discover an object, hidden there for years, that puts several details of their life to date into context.

The idea is to write descriptions for three different rooms and choose your details carefully. Your goals: For your reader to get a clear idea in their heads of what the rooms look like and for what happens in them to be realistic and built up to, but not completely obvious.

Consider what details you want to include in your description. Consider what's important. Make sure to include those details, but also details that clue your reader in to what sort of living room, kitchen or classroom you are describing. You are not allowed to flat out say you are in a rich man's home. You are not allowed to flat out say the kitchen is in a restaurant or the classroom is in a boarding school. You must describe these things with context clues.

And trust your reader's brain to fill in the blanks.

What I Learned Today: Black bath bombs smell like sandalwood.

Fortune Favors,
Megan R. Miller

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Player's Log: "Kill them all."

It's Saturday again, and you know what that means! Live-blogging tonight's D&D session. So as usual while everyone who didn't level up during the break like they should have catches up and levels up I'm going to go ahead and write my usual pre-game bullshit.

-/-/-/-/-

Pre-Game Reference Stuff:

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

We left off on the road to Naerytar and will be picking back up in the same place. We're trying to low key keep an eye on dragon cultists and the halfling we met on Ringmaster's Captivating Caravel just joined the caravan with a wizard from Thay.

-/-/-/-/-

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. Has started to develop a little crush on Varis, that is probably not going to go over great.

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".

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The Stag

So we find this gorgeous ass stag and everyone in the caravan wants to shoot it except for a couple people. Nicophel is against shooting the stag, Iroh wants to shoot the stag, Stalkurn sneaks up and mounts the stag and for some reason we have no idea where Varis is.

Stalkurn rides the stag while Iroh tracks them and after a time Iroh thinks it's possible he might have lost it. He has advantage on everything so that's not super likely. It brings them to this idealic clearing with the ruin of an old castle, says something in Sylvan and when neither of them understands repeats it in Elvish.

"Greetings, I am Fariel."

"I'm Stalkurn, I've never really talked to a deer before this is a new experience for me."

"I have not always been a deer. My story is a sad one but it is not the right time for that now. You and your friend are on the right path, you must continue following the river of gold until you reach the castle in the sky. Sadly your path will be filled with bloodshed but I will help how I can."

And a bow appears out of sunrays on the ground as a gift from the deer that Iroh wanted to shoot. As it fades into mist it says, "Not all of you will survive."

That's not ominous at all.

The bow appears to be made of the antlers of the creature, very strong, "platinum with little bits jutting off of it".

And of course Stalkurn and Iroh have no choice but to come back and tell big fish stories to the rest of the caravan about how Stalkurn was crowned King of the Deer. Iroh even makes him a stick crown for it.

Varis and Nicophel are not believing a word of it, but Iroh is backing up every crazy word coming out of Stalkurn's mouth and we know at this point that we are never going to hear the end of it. The bow causes butterflies and cute woodland creatures to chill out around Iroh and Cody out of character makes a joke about it making it easier to find breakfast and mimes shooting a squirrel.

Iroh comes to Nicophel to get his bow identified. Which he can cast as a ritual and agrees to do so. Iroh also says that the deer said one of us is going to die, which wasn't the exact wording but Nicophel thinks it is.

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Better Camps and Taverns

The halfling shows us that the cultists have dosed our food with something that would cause a very slow death from the inside; it's a bead of bone that splinters and causes all kinds of internal bleeding. Varis trades food with one of the cultists, that apparently doesn't know they poisoned our food. Varis sits near the cultists and eats oat meal.

After another day of travel it gets really dark, really cold and the storm is starting to kick up. The Caravan ends up at a large comfortable in on the roadside. The innkeeper lets us know the entire inn is sold out.

The common room is rented out by a private party and we go to speak to a finely dressed judge and his finely dressed friends to convince them to let us take shelter here from the storm instead of leaving us out in the cold.

They are assholes and talk about how the stables are taken because their horses are very particular and say "sleep tight" so Nicophel enchanting gaze's one of the assholes and makes him spill his wine on his shirt. His buddies stand up and draw short swords so it's Nicophel and Iroh vs 5 guys by themselves while Stalkurn and Varis break into the rooms upstairs.

Varis breaks into some guy's room and tries to hire him, and the guy is apparently above what Varis can pay for and Varis asks if the guy can hire him instead and the guy laughs and says he doesn't understand how this works.

Stalkurn knocks on every door and wakes up the whole inn. He and Varis come in on round two of combat and Nicophel finds out the guys we're fighting are a group of assassins. This wasn't the best decision he's ever made apparently. He casts haste on himself and then blinks into the ethereal plane.

So combat continues to happen and once again it is a very close ass fight but we slowly wear the assassins down. It's clear that we have to kill them all because leaving any alive is just asking for them to come back and try to get revenge on us. To make matters worse, Nicophel can't use any of his more powerful spells because we are indoors in an inn that belongs to someone who didn't deserve any of this crap so we're trying not to break any of his stuff.

Meanwhile the other assassins are watching us from the stairs not convinced their friends will lose the fight. Stalkurn asks how much they're paying attention to the window. He robs the room blind and then proceeds to attack the man inside of it, as he finally enters the fray.

We all head up the stairs (Nicophel briefly stops to ask the innkeeper if anyone upstairs is not an assassin and has it confirmed that they are not) to engage the assassins that are left. We are going all out, Nicophel is almost out of spells, my boys Varis and Iroh are running low on hit points but hella holding their own. Eventually we kill every last one of those smug bastards.

The caravan is watching through the windows and our cover is so blown. Unless we can do some fast talking. So Nicophel tells the innkeeper that anyone who needs shelter from the storm tonight should get it because we're taking ownership of all the assassin's possessions and thus their renting out of the inn for the night and apologize for any damages.

Nicophel buries all but one of the bodies. Alone. In the rain. Apparently Varis kept it to sleep with for the night (not in a creepy way--okay it's always in a creepy way but not in a necrophiliac kind of way more in an Emily Rose kind of way....digging a hole) and the missing body kind of freaks Nicophel out.

We get our long rest and the next day we wake up to find a bunch of people standing in a circle in the middle of the common room.

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Finding a Body

Everyone is circled around Phil, who is dead on the floor. Which isn't too ridiculous given Varis fed him his own bone bead. Of course he clearly died from a sword wound and we're pretty sure the halfling did it but the cultists are clearly blaming Varis.

We continue on the road for a while, Nicophel befriends the red mage and Varis tries to sing and is really terrible at it. He's basically been a complete dumbass about whether or not anybody suspects him of killing Phil so that officially marks the end of Nicophel's short lived crush on him. He's really more into lawful good men anyway.

At one point we have to clear out some shrieking mushrooms and Varis and Nicophel are the only ones who do it and Nicophel gets mushroom poisoning and ends up just being sick the rest of the way there. Varis, by the way, is totally fine. He has like 4 dump stats but his constitution is perfect.

At this point, we level.

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Waterdeep

We get paid in change. The halfling is just gone now. The general sentiment is that she's a bitch. The cult wagons head for the north side of the city. Ezbarra (the red wizard) decides to stay with the cultists at this point and the halfling surfaces with them as well.

Stalkurn and Iroh sneak around and Nicophel just turns invisible to come with. Stalkurn asks if he sees his future girlfriend anywhere; the DM points out that he hasn't seen her and doesn't know what she looks like.

We all go shopping, as is the custom any time we're in a larger city. Nicophel gets a potion of blur, and since he got all Glasstaff's alchemy books and has learned some tricks he's going to learn how to create this potion as well as be trying to figure out how to brew a potion of speed since Haste is becoming a key spell for him.

Stalkurn legitimately buys a short sword that he hopes is good for all of the gold in his inventory and we have no idea if it's actually magical or not. Nicophel hopes no one tries to sell him some magic beans later.

After having Nicophel identify it he finds out that anyone the blade slays makes them disappear without a trace. Good for assassining, bad if you wanted to loot the body afterward. Stalkurn is excited at first until he realizes he needs to take their stuff before he kills them.

Meanwhile we follow the cultists north. They still have Ezbarra and the halfling with them. The path leads up into a swamp. This road used to be the fast track to Neverwinter, and as the swamp encroaches they keep moving the road. When Neverwinter fell out of use they let the road fall into disrepair but on the whole the road is not comfortable travel.

We find a crappy place where the cultusts are staying. There's a half orc who is, by the sheath of his dagger, probably a cultist as well that seems to be in charge here. Stalkurn, Varis and Iroh go to the warehouse and rob them blind. Meanwhile Nicophel sneaks upstairs to listen in and find out what's up here and we find out that not everyone here is a cultist.

Stalkurn and Nicophel infiltrate the caravan group all incognito. Iroh and Varis stay where they are and observe from the outside. A woman cultist accuses Nicophel of having killed Phil and challenges him to single combat, which they then proceed to get into in the middle of the room while the half orc clears tables.

She challenges him to single combat but when she realizes she can't kill him she calls in all her friends and Nicophel legit just fries 13 cultists at once single handedly with a fireball. Wow. He kind of scared himself with that actually. I mean there's really no doubt that as slaving dragon cultists they were evil, and killing them when they ganged up on him wasn't an inherently evil act, but still. 13 people up in smoke at once.

He did try to warn her. He did try to use diplomacy first.

And we leveled again.

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What I Learned Today: Always. Always take blink.

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