E3 2018: A Brief Recap

This year, my awesome friend Carney and I decided to take a trip to Los Angeles and attend E3 2018! I just got back and while I intend to write a blog about the ENTIRE trip, I wanted to do a quickie overview of E3 first.

LOS ANGELES

Things that were great about E3:

  • Game Demos. Obvi. If you can manage to get into a line, playing some of the latest games is one of the best parts of E3. I played Super Smash Bros. for Switch, as well as the new Monster Hunter. However, those were the only demos I managed to play. More on that later.
  • Swag. While not QUITE as impressive an offering as I remembered in 2013, there is still a decent amount of free stuff to get at E3. Tote bags, Vault Boy masks, and free Drakes snack cakes were some of the most prevalent finds at the convention center.
  • Decor. For some reason, the booth setups at E3 are always the coolest. I’ve gone to NYCC, PAX East and PAX West and none of it compares to E3 when it comes to life-size dioramas and game world immersion.

Things that were pretty shitty about E3:

  • Lines. LINES!!! I quickly realized that E3 actually stands for Everything has 3 Hour Lines. Because that’s how it is. We got there at 9am and by the time I was scanned in and at the Nintendo booth at 9:24, the line for Let’s Go Pikachu was 3 hours long. It was very disheartening. The only reason I was able to play the Smash demo was because they forced us to book time slots in advance. But now I’m actually grateful they made me do the extra work because that at least ensured that I got to play SOMETHING. Jeez.
  • Lack of Panels. There were not many ‘events’ planned for E3. Not that it would have mattered, because you’d probably have to commit an entire day to waiting on the line to get in. But one of the best parts of conventions are celebrity panels. Why aren’t there any at E3?
  • The Cool Nintendo Events Weren’t Actually At E3. The Splatoon 2 Tournament was held at a theater offsite and you had to line up at a specific time on June 11th (BEFORE E3 EVEN STARTS) to get wristbands. Guess what? My flight was only arriving at that time. Same deal with the Smash Bros. Tournament – that day they were giving out tickets at the same time as my Smash Bros. demo time slot. Soooo wait in a line in hopes of getting tickets to watch the Smash Invitational, or actually go to E3 and play the demo I had registered for in advance. Naturally we went with the sure thing. But why was Nintendo forcing us to pick which thing was a priority? It felt very unfair. I caught a few glimpses of the tournaments on live feeds they had on TV screens. Whoop.
  • You Can’t Even Go to the Major Press Conferences. Yeah yeah I don’t have a press pass. But in the game company livestream videos, it always looks like a huge auditorium filled with fans in attendance. In reality, those are all paid professional press badge holders at those events. They are getting PAID to cheer. Actual die-hard fans don’t even get to go to the press conferences. Hmph. Plus they hold the press conferences early in the morning when the rest of us plebs have to wait in lines to get in. We don’t even get to watch unless we wanna burn mobile data.

You might sense my disappointment in E3 by now. You would be very correct. I quickly realized that the lines are likely to be much more manageable when I go to the Nintendo NYC store and play in the E3 Demo Area in the convenience of my home state. Honestly, my time spent away from E3 was much more fun. I did lots of cool touristy things and had a blast in LA. I’ll blog about the rest of my trip in a day or two. But for now, check out my Flickr album and enjoy the VISUALS of E3…. at least it’s a very IG-friendly event.

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The Pokemon QUEST Continues!

Oh man oh man I know I’m late with this one but I’m sure any self-respecting Nintendo & Pokemon fan already knows the news about the upcoming games “Let’s Go Pikachu!” and “Let’s Go Eevee!” due to release in November for the Nintendo Switch. These games will be compatible with Pokemon Go, which has recently inspired me to re-download the app and start playing again since the weather is getting nice! I’m way behind in Pokemon Go so I have plenty of work to do if I’m gonna catch ’em all! Where’s my Team Instinct squad at?? lol

Of course that wasn’t the only important Pokemon announcement. Another, main title franchise Pokemon game is coming out in 2019… and it will be releasing on the Switch! It’s a little sad that the 3DS is really starting to be phased out, but the potential awesomeness of playing a main Pokemon title on a big TV screen is too good to pass up. I hear that there will be even MORE new Pokemon added to the ‘Dex too so it’s time to renew my Pokemon Bank account and make sure I finish my Alola Dex before I fall too far behind! Gah!

Was that all? Nope! Right now you can download a “free-to-start” game called Pokemon Quest. It’s been on the eShop for about a week or so now and I downloaded it. Their game design choice was to make all of the Pokemon into block-form, as though they were made of legos or in the game Minecraft. Why are they like this? No clue.

They call it free-to-start because you can certainly start the game for free and play it for free, but it will be very slow. In this game you have a battery and when it runs out of charges you have to wait for it to re-charge, or use in-game currency, which you earn a little bit of each day… but there’s a lot of perks to buy and it’s easy to run out.

This is when the game becomes less free. Sure you can wait for your daily allocation, or you can pay real money to get more. If you buy the premium packages, not only do you get bonus in-game money, but you also earn more on your daily allotments. The premium packages also include other perks like decorations that help with getting certain color berry drops, attracting certain types of Pokemon, etc.  as well as a few higher level bonus ‘mons to add to your team right then and there.

I decided to buy the most expensive pack because it seemed like the best deal. For around $30 I got a major head start on the game, plus way more in-game bucks. This helped me bolster my team so I could make some good progress in expedition mode. Using their new My Nintendo gold coin function in the eShop, I was able to apply 400 coins and get $4 off my total price, which was pretty nice!

The actual gameplay is EXTREMELY CASUAL. Hardcore gamers will likely be frustrated with this game. Hardcore Pokemon fans gotta catch em all so I play it for the Pokedex completion, because the gameplay is frankly… boring. There’s two modes: automatic and manual. Neither of these modes allow you to control where the Pokemon move around in the field. (Originally I had expected this game to be like Pokemon Rumble, but in that game you have full control of your toy Pokemon.) What you can control, in the manual mode, is which Pokemon Attack the ‘mons in your team decide to use, and when. However, I found that trying to do manual mode was a bit chaotic and kind of wasteful, since I didn’t know where the ‘mons would be moving to, and my moves would end up missing. So I moved to automatic mode and took more of an “overseer” approach to the game. I play it more like team management strategy.

To make friends with new Pokemon, you have to cook up dishes using berries to attract different types of ‘mons to visit your little base camp. One time I even got a shiny! Once you have a Pokemon on your team, it will level up when it completes an expedition. The Pokemon seem to follow the normal evolution rules of their species, with the exception of any evolution stones, because I haven’t seen those. There are Power Stones that you can collect and apply to the Pokemon to increase their power and defense, as well as to amplify their moves. You can even train up your Pokemon to learn new moves, but you will have to sacrifice some of your existing Pokemon to finish the training. Choose wisely!

Overall, do I recommend this Pokemon Quest to all gamers? No. I would recommend it for younger players and those who just love anything from the world of Pokemon. It definitely is not like most other Pokemon games, and those looking for an RPG will be very disappointed. If you go into it with lower expectations, you might find that it’s a fun casual game to play when you’re on the go.

Danaeryzard & Alaria: Mushroom Cup Cave

It’s Dungeons and Dragons time! Here’s the latest installment of the epic journey of our heroines, Danaeryzard and Alaria! (If you’re new here, you can read the earlier chapters of the saga using this tag search.)

…………..

Sunset at Water’s Edge was truly a sight to behold. The vast width of Lake Constant gave an impression of looking out at an endless sea, with the sun slowly making it’s way toward the horizon and casting succulent shades of peach and orange across the sky. However, Danaeryzard and Alaria didn’t have much time to appreciate the natural beauty – they were looking for the cave where Cledus would be selling his crystals. They walked along the rocky perimeter of town, where they came upon a large, carefully carved opening to a dark cave. 

“Hey – wait a sec!” a young voice called after the duo.

Dany and Alaria wheeled around, surprised. Behind them was a young, scraggly looking girl with shaggy hair and dirt on her face. “Who are you?” asked Alaria.

Charlotte

“Oh uhh I’m Charlotte. Are you going in the cave?” asked the girl. Without receiving an answer, Charlotte rambled on. “Lots of people check out the caves, especially foreigners. Like those crazy religious folk. They’re always looking for the big crystals. Are you looking for the big crystals too? Did you know they can amplify magic? But it takes a turn to charge ’em, so you have to plan ahead! My mom always tells me to plan ahead, but it’s so hard to remember… Oh hey can I ask a favor?”

Alaria looked at Dany quizzically. Who was this scruffy girl with all this information? Why was she talking so fast? What could she possibly ask them to do? 

“You are quite bold to come up to foreigners all alone like this,” Dany said to the child, trying to sound wise and give warning of their potential danger. “What could we do for you?”

“Well… I’m not supposed to go in the caves. But sometimes I sneak in. I never go too far, because it gets dark and I don’t want to get lost. But uhh… well, I left something in there last time. It was my Grandpa’s Stein. It’s an old brass mug with a crystal fish on the side. If ya see it, can ya bring it back to me? Or give it to my mom – she works at the Inn. Please? Could ya?”

A stein? Why would a child be carrying a stein into a cave at all? It was a strange request, but Dany and Alaria said they would keep an eye out for it. Charlotte thanked them and ran off towards the main road. The partners shrugged at each other and proceeded cautiously inside the cave.

It was a well made cave, carefully crafted with support beams and a sunlight shaft, allowing what was left of the daylight to illuminate the interior. The cave was damp, sandy and musty, and looked as thought it was not being used regularly. On the right side was a darker opening that led deeper into the cave, and on the left was a large door with a giant bolt lock going through the middle. Alaria inspected the lock, hoping to use her lock-picking skills to open the door, but was confounded by the complexity of the ancient lock. They decided to proceed into the darker passage, which led to a much larger open chamber.

The main cave chamber felt even mustier than the entrance. There was moss growing all over the walls, and appeared to have accumulated in mounds in the far corners of the chamber. Little white mushrooms were clumped together and tiny white spores floated lazily in the air. A soft clicking sound echoed throughout the chamber, but Dany and Alaria could not see the source of the sound. They continued to carefully walk through the chamber, in search of any sign of Cledus or maybe a good hiding spot. 

Suddenly in the corner of her eye, Dany spotted something shiny among a pile of rocks. She always loved shiny things, ever since she was a hatchling, and could easily spot something shiny even in dark places. The shiny thing was indeed the missing stein, but when Dany picked it up she accidentally disturbed the rocks and they spilled across the ground, rolling over a white mushroom. It popped and hundreds of little spores poofed up in a small cloud. The clicking sound quickly intensified in volume. Alaria looked toward the back of the cave and saw that the mounds of moss in the back of the cave were stirring and moving on their own. 

“I think you should get over there Dany. Try some of that fiery breath of yours on those mossy mounds.”

She tried to walk over as carefully as she could, but Dragonborn were never known to be very graceful or light-footed. Danaeryzard’s large talon feet managed to smush a cluster of white mushrooms as she walked deeper into the cave. Another poof of spores rose up and the mysterious clicking almost sounded like angry yells that were echoing through the chamber. 

Vegepygmy

Without warning, the moving mounds of moss popped upwards and sprang into the form of Vegepygmy warriors! These leafy, spear wielding soldiers were short but quite full of rage. Apparently Dany and Alaria were not expected or welcomed in this cave after all! Was the ‘missing stein’ a trap to awaken these monsters? Quickly they moved into defensive poses as the Vegepygmy lept toward them. Dany took on two at once, and a third ran towards Alaria, clicking angrily. One attack from the Vegepygmy on Danaeryzard showed that their leafy spears were no match for Dany’s red-gilded scale armor skin. The spearhead seemed to bounce off of her, leaving the Vegepygmy looking confused and angry. 

Alaria shoved her short sword into the chest of the Vegepygmy that was charging toward her. It cried out in pain, but when it stepped back, Alaria watched in horror as the wound she had just doled into him was glowing green and regenerating. The stab wound was practically healed as the Veggie heaved it’s spear into Alaria’s arm.

On the other side of the cave, Danaeryzard used her Fire Bolt cantrip to attack one of the Veggies that were flanking each side of her. The flames hit the Vegepygmy directly in the face and it cried out in pain. The smell of singed leaves began to fill the cave. Again the Veggies tried to attack Dany but her thick scaled skin was too powerful. Feeling boisterous, Dany tried to do a slick move with her crystal orb and hit the Vegepygmy on the other side with another fire bolt, but her fingers slipped and she almost dropped the orb. 

Alaria was in pain and in her desperation she had a moment of clarity – as a Rogue, she had the ability to dash, disengage, and sneak her way through battles! If her attacks were simply being healed by this Vegepygmy, then she was not going to be able to beat it on her own. She quickly dashed away from the little green monster attacking her, and charged at the Veggie that Dany had burnt in the face. This time the Vegepygmy did not heal up after Alaria’s short sword hit. This was when Alaria realized that once you attack a Vegepygmy with fire, their magical healing ability was disabled. 

“Dany – you have to hit them all with your fire attacks! Roast these brussel sprouts!!”

After shrugging off another attack, Dany heaved her firey breath weapon towards the Vegepygmy that she had missed last time. While it wasn’t a huge hit (she was still struggling to fully control the power of her breath weapon, and she was pretty sure the dampness of the cave only made things worse), she knew it would be enough to do some damage and negate the magic power.

With her next move, Alaria chopped the first Vegepygmy directly in half. She had a victorious gleam in her eye and set her sights on the other newly singed Veggie. As she kept that warrior busy, Dany turned around and sent a Fire Bolt towards the last Vegepygmy, and it’s healing magic finally stopped. The two remaining Veggies were getting desperate and livid. In a rage and attacking from behind, one of the Vegepygmy found the sweet spot under her arm and stabbed Dany deep under her scaled skin before she could turn and defend herself.

But Dany wasn’t too injured to retaliate. With her crystal orb in hand she conjured a Magic Missile spell, creating three thunderous bolts of energy that pulverized what was left of the Vegepygmy attackers. Their lifeless bodies collapsed in leafy heaps, and Dany spotted an old key in the enemy that Alaria had recently chopped in half. The key was surely intended to be used on the locked door from the cave entrance! They made their way back to the old locked door.

Before proceeding, they needed to heal. Alaria used a potion, and Dany decided to try out her False Life spell to regain some additional HP. She’d never practiced necromancy in her past Sorcerer practice, and felt the strange surge of dead spirits creating an invisible defensive shield around her. 

After they unlocked the door the two partners continued into the deep chamber, which looked like it had been used much more frequently and recently than the rest of the cave. As they walked deeper in, they saw a body laying on the ground. Cautiously they looked closer and saw that it was the body of Cledus. His skin was white and his throat had been slit. He looked like he had been killed several days ago. 

If that was Cledus, then who were they playing Roll It with at the bar the day before??

“HAAA-ARUK-UK-UK-HAAA!!”

Golden Dragonborn

A deep laughing voice that made Danaeryzard’s heart sink with despair echoed through the chamber. The ominous laugh had a distinctly Dragonborn accent and was the all-too-familiar sound that Dany heard when her clansmen would laugh at her and call her names when she was younger. In the back of the chamber, huge crystals began to glow in the darkness. From the shadows walked out a tall golden Dragonborn, holding a staff.

The Dragonborn continued to scoff at Dany and Alaria as he began to approach. 

“Looking to buy some crystals, are we?? HAAA-ARUK-UK-UK!! Ahh, and I see that you’ve found Cledus!”

Alaria and Dany exchanged horrified glances as they realized that this entire scenario was a setup. This golden Dragonborn had somehow used magic to impersonate Cledus and lead them into this trap. How did they not see this coming?

“Do you two really think you can interfere with us? The Sun Wizard is always going to be one step ahead of you! These crystals don’t matter to us anymore!”

The golden Dragonborn held his staff out in front of him, towards Dany and Alaria. The crystal orb installed at the top of the staff began to glow with a red light.

“SOON YOU’LL BE JOINING YOUR FRIEND CLEDUS!!”

……………………

And so ends the latest installment of our DnD adventures! Thanks for reading! I hope you like this ongoing storyline lol! If you play Dungeons and Dragons too, let’s hear about your character in the comments! 🙂

Book Report: The Handmaid’s Tale

Custom cover art by @gluxbox

Book Title: The Handmaid’s Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood

About the Author: She has written several other novels, although I haven’t read them. She looks like a nice lady. She lives in Canada!

Main Characters: As always, there are many characters in the book so I’ll focus on the main ones. Sorry for spoilers!

Offred (June?): Protagonist. She has completed training to be a Handmaid in the dystopian future of this country, which is renamed Gilead after a horrific government coup led by a radically religious Christian sect. There is a disease or genetic mutation or something causing sterilization and infertility, so only women with certain genes are able to give birth – the Handmaids. There’s a crazy new system for procreation where a married couple uses a handmaid as a surrogate, but with crazy sex practices and strange indentured servitude with a religious zealot flair. Definitely a scary scenario.

The Commander: The antagonist? But it’s unclear if he’s the TOP of the totem pole or just one of the high ranking officials. He’s certainly complicit in the new laws that deprive all women of the right to read and write, own property and money, and robbing women of their families and the children they had given birth to before the regime change. The Commander toys with Offred, inviting her to visit him at night (which is normally forbidden) to read books and magazines, and he even took her on a little excursion one time.

Serena Joy: The wife of the Commander. She’s a bitch. I’m sure any woman in her situation would feel the envy and hatred for a handmaid, yet her ‘religion’ forces her to accept the ceremonies. Why did the women in this dystopian future allow this to happen? How did they all become convinced that this crazy religion was the answer?

Luke: He and June/Offred were married before this craziness happened. They have a daughter together, but the crazy religious government decided it was unfit because Luke had been married before. Divorce was no longer legal or something. It was somewhat unclear what exactly happened to him. He might have been killed, he might have escaped. Offred doesn’t know.

Moira: In the time before Gilead, Moira and June were best friends. I wrote June with a question mark before because I didn’t really know her name when I read the book, although I probably just forgot the one instance that they said her name. But in the Hulu series they say June all the time. Anyway, Moira is full of life and is brave. She sees June/Offred one last time in an unexpected place. (This is totally different from the plot of the Hulu series, for some reason they changed a LOT of these details.)

Oflgen: A fellow handmaid, she walks to the market and goes to Gilead events with Offred every day. At first they didn’t talk much but eventually she reveals that there is an underground network fighting against the regime. They have hope. But then tragedy strikes. (ahh trying not to reveal too much!)

Aunt Lydia: One of the crazy older ladies in charge of training the handmaids and she seems to enjoy threatening and scaring the groups of women in her charge at the Red Center. She runs Salvaging events too, during which a sinner is punished – usually hung or beat to death in some way. Sometimes the handmaids are ordered to participate in carrying out the sentence. Brutal stuff!

Nick: He works for the Commander as a driver, and helps to facilitate the secret meetings between the Commander and Offred. He is also an Eye, someone who spies on people to report back to the government. But he apparently is also a part of the underground resistance. Offred/June has conflicted feelings about him after Serena Joy arranges for her to have sex with Nick to “increase her chances” of making a baby. Offred and Nick start to have a secret (illegal) relationship, which she feels conflicted about considering she doesn’t know what happened to her husband.

Plot Summary: It’s a dystopian future where women have lost their rights – but only in Gilead. Tourists come to visit and take photos of the handmaids in their strange uniforms. Women have been brainwashed to feel shame and blame for not being able to conceive, yet the Handmaids are the only fertile women and they’re still treated like garbage. What kind of messed up patriarchy is this? If I were a character in this book, I would have been shot already for dissent.

The story is told in a non-linear way that jumps between present day and times before Gilead, when they “were happy but didn’t know it”. The establishment is running Gilead but there was enough opposition to have a secret underground network. Unfortunately the end of the book is very abrupt and there isn’t much conflict resolution. I don’t want to give too much away. All I can say is that the plot of the book and the plot of the Hulu series are extraordinarily different and I found it a little confusing and off-putting when I watched the series right after reading the novel.

Lessons Learned: This book should be a reminder that women especially need to stand up for their rights and not let something horrendous like this happen to us. If we stand together we are strong. Also, I think this book reminds us that women should NEVER be defined by their status of motherhood.

Personal Opinions: Ugh this book was tough to get through at some points. It’s a fast read (aside from some disturbing scenes in the story) and you basically feel icky after it’s done. I did enjoy the storytelling, it was informal and direct to “you” the reader, which helps you to really get wrapped into the story. I felt pain for the protagonist, I wanted to help her, I wanted to slap sense into all of the Gilead assholes. I feel confident that our society would never devolve into this… as long as we don’t get rid of all the scientists. In the book, science was outlawed. I hope that this country is smart enough to not do that…

Tarot: A Pet Project

Lately I cannot get enough of tarot cards! I am addicted to doing at least one reading a day. I’d like to do more, honestly. I’ve recently started reading a book about how to write fiction using tarot cards and it sounds like so much fun! I’ve decided that since the Manga deck has such storytelling illustrations, I will use that deck for writing purposes. So of course that meant I needed to get a THIRD deck to keep in my backpack and use for travel or readings for friends. What kind of deck does one carry around with them?? A pet, of course. I got the Pagan Cat Deck. Now I have kitties with me all the time! As always, I must start with a deck interview. I tried to shuffle as best I could, but…

Tell me about yourself.

4 of Swords: Purrrr…. I’m napping right now. I like to rest and have deep thoughts. Contemplation is one of my favorite things to do. Aside from sleeping.

What are your strengths?

10 of Chalices: I’m an expert snuggler. I love to help create a happy home. Harmony and alignment are my specialties. 

What are your limitations?

3 of Chalices: I only come out when friends are around! I’m here to be a travel companion and to guide your friends and community. Just don’t call me an emotional support animal!

What are you here to teach?

The Magician: My abilities to share knowledge will spread magick to others. I will teach you and your friends to learn more about your inner powers, skills, and to find your own answers. And I’ll teach the world to love cats, of course. Mrow.

How can we best collaborate?

Hierophant: You, the hooman tarot reader, must establish yourself as a trusted tarot interpreter. Together we will uncover the mysteries of daily life for yourself and others. I’ll bring the catnip.

What is the potential outcome of our relationship?

9 of Chalices: If we work together, we can grant wishes. Bowls and bowls of tuna can be ready for us to feast upon. Satisfaction and happiness is in the future!

What breed of cat are you?

Mreh! I cannot be defined. Sometimes I am a gorgeous longhaired Persian requiring grooming and maintenance. Sometimes I am a black cat deeply in touch with the occult. And at all times, I am the QUEEN of the house, so don’t forget that. What matters most is that in my heart, I care about others and I want to be an inspiration.

I think this deck will require lots of petting, I mean shuffling, to make sure it gives concise answers. But I love it’s compact size and it’s already in my backpack ready to go on adventures! Who wants a reading from the Cat Deck??

Danaeryzard & Alaria: A Gambling Interrogation

It’s Dungeons and Dragons time! Here’s the latest installment of the epic journey of our heroines, Danaeryzard and Alaria! (If you’re new here, you can read the earlier chapters of the saga using this tag search.)

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The midday sun beat down on them as Danaeryzard and Alaria walked south on the beach towards the Fisherman’s Guild at Water’s Edge. The hot windy air stirred up scents of salt and old fish. They passed a few unused boats that remained on the shore; the fisherman had taken the better ones out to sea earlier in the day. As they walked around the perimeter of the massive Fisherman’s Guild building, they noticed that the entrance was a huge stable door, with the top half open to allow for some ocean breeze. Alaria motioned to Dany to be quiet and stay hidden for the moment – she was going to use her Wand of Magic Detection first.

With a flick of her wrist, Alaria cast a wave of magic across the open chamber of the Guild. The two then peeked inside carefully, to determine what the wand might reveal. Inside the Guild was one huge room, filled with fishing supplies of all sorts. Rods, tackles, bait and anything else that a fisherman might dream up. Alaria noticed that the rods and tools were gleaming with traces of enchantments, which meant that the fisherman were certainly maximizing their profits… but there was no sign of the magic crystals that they sought for their mission. 

Bengie

They also saw Bengie. An awkward preteen who was left behind to ‘stand guard’ at the Fisherman’s Guild while all the grown men were working during the day. Dany and Alaria decide to ask him a few questions, starting with the whereabouts of Cledus. 

“Cledus? Oh, he’s at the Constant’s Heart. He’s always there, these days. Always drunk too.” Bengie seemed pretty talkative, even though he was nervous talking to a Dragonborn and a Tiefling who seemed to have appeared out of the blue. Alaria boldly asked if Bengie had seen any crystals around, and he replied that the crystals were quite common in Water’s Edge. One could find crystals of all sizes in these waters, from small little crystals sold as trinket souvenirs, to large crystals spanning several feet.

Dany and Alaria immediately thought of the large crystals that were used during the battle against the Sun Wizard a few weeks ago. He, or one of his minions, must have procured the large crystals here. They needed more information! They thanked Bengie for his help and made their way back through town to the Constant’s Heart bar. 

The bar wasn’t very big, but large enough for a few tables in a back area, where a man and a woman were laughing very loudly. The rest of the bar patrons were sitting quietly and keeping to themselves… it was still the middle of the day, after all. Not the usual time to be rowdy and drunk. Alaria lead the way to the bar and they asked the bartender if he knew which one of these men was Cledus. The bartender seemed a little surprised that they were asking, because everyone in this town knows Cledus. He was the one playing Roll It over at the back table with Miss Sinder.

The bartender seemed to sigh when he mentioned Miss Sinder, but Dany didn’t really see what the big deal was with this woman. She looked in her direction and saw a woman who seemed normal enough, but she was very drunk. She seemed quite smitten with the man they knew now must be Cledus. She also seemed like she was somewhat of a rich woman, based on the fancy corseted dress she was wearing.

Cledus

Cledus however did not look rich. He looked like a fisherman and he looked very drunk. His arms flopped around as he spoke. The bartender told Dany and Alaria to go join them for a game! They awkwardly approached the table, sat down and Alaria plunked her huge coin purse down for all to see. 

“Can we join your game? We’ve got money.”

Sinder made a pout as Cledus said, “Sure, the more the merrier. Do you know how to play?”

They admitted that they did not, so Cledus said they could do a practice round first, to show them the ropes. He anted up one gold piece, and indicated that everyone should do the same. Sinder rolled her eyes and joined in too. Dany suddenly notices that Cledus seems to be staring at her.

The game is played simply, in two parts. First is a dice game, roll to see who gets the highest number. The two highest numbers then compete in an arm wrestle to determine the winner. The practice dice round ends up with Dany and Alaria as the finalists, and Dany’s large lizard arms beat Alaria’s small Tiefling frame without much effort. Everyone laughed and Cledus claimed it was all beginner’s luck. They formally introduce themselves by name and they get ready to ante up. This time, Cledus antes up 15G. Higher stakes.

This time, Alaria thought she’d try to use her skills and do a sleight of hand to win the dice game. She and Cledus both rolled a 6. Sinder decided to get up and get another drink, and this was when both Dany and Alaria noticed that Cledus hadn’t actually been drinking at all. He was PRETENDING to be drunk. Alaria gave Dany a look and then asks Cledus if he knows about the crystals in the lake. He winked at her and said, “Let’s finish the game, first. Time to arm wrestle!”

What they didn’t realize was that losing the arm wrestling round of Roll It means that you’re eliminated from the game. Unfortunately for Alaria, she was no match for Cledus’ arm wrestling abilities and had to sit out the rest of the game. The two travelers looked nervously at each other – they were pretty sure that they had to WIN in order to get any useful information out of Cledus. It was all up to Dany now.

In the second round, it came down to Dany and Sinder, and it was no surprise that Dany won the arm wrestling match once again. Finally her large lizard body was proving to be useful! She also couldn’t ignore the fact that Cledus was still staring her down. At the end of the second round, Dany again asked Cledus for information about the crystals. He sighed at their persistence, but didn’t seem to think the inquiry too suspicious. He told them that he actually had a delivery scheduled for the following evening, and maybe he could sell a few to them as well. But he doesn’t want to talk business! It was time for the final round.

Cledus tossed 35G on the table. “What do you say? Want to skip straight to the arm wrestle?” His manhood was now at stake too, no time to waste!

Dany almost felt bad for him as he tried to get a handle on her large three fingered claw hand. He was fumbling and had a terrible grip, she could tell his hand was sweating as well. She was grinning as she easily pushed his muscular arm into submission. Cledus was visibly annoyed but laughed and congratulated Danaeryzard anyway. 

She was getting a bit boisterous, and asked, “Don’t you know that Dragonborn are strong? Haven’t you seen any of my kin before?” He looked at her with a deep, thoughtful stare, and said, “Not for a long time.” Dany was unsure what to think of that, but didn’t want to push the subject further. She knew the history of her race. There were plenty of violent stories that maybe didn’t need to be mentioned.

Alaria pulled out her map and asked where Cledus would be meeting the other crystal buyer. He pointed out a specific cave on the map, by the outskirts of town. He also showed them where the inn was, and encouraged them to stay the night there. He would meet up with them at the cave tomorrow, at sunset.

However, Alaria had other plans. After Cledus took his leave, searching for wherever Sinder had gone, Alaria went back to the bar and picked up a small keg of beer to go. Since she had some liquid courage, she was going to try her luck again with She’i. Not knowing what else to do, Dany rolled her eyes and trotted along behind her as Alaria rushed back to the carpenter’s shack by the beach.

When they arrived, She’i was surprisingly receptive. She put down her tools and decided it was a good time to take a break! Alaria and She’i began to drink and flirt more, as Dany kept to herself in the corner. Dany was more worried about burping and subsequently burning down all of the wooden creations in the carpenter’s house, so when Alaria suddenly decided they should all go out to the water, Dany followed the two little drunk ladies outside. What Dany did not follow was the other two dropping their clothes! Dany decided to pass on the drunken ocean skinny-dipping, and spent the rest of the night at the inn.

The next morning, Alaria found her way back to Dany at the inn and since they had plenty of time to kill, they decided to go to the General Store across the road. Alaria had her stockpile of gold, much of it stolen from her victims in previous battles, and Dany had her winnings from Roll It the day before. They decided to pick up some needed supplies like food rations and crossbow bolts. The shopkeeper mentioned rumors about religious zealots sighted in the area and how they claimed they could use magic on the crystal trinkets he sold at the counter. Again, the partners exchanged glances. Zealots? These might be the Sun Wizard minions that are meeting up with Cledus this very evening!

It was time to hatch a plan. Dany and Alaria would continue to pose as crystal buyers. They planned to hide discreetly in the cave to scope out who the other buyers were, and if they happened to be religious zealots, or even the Sun Wizard himself, they would be ready. This evening they needed to get information, or even follow the other buyers back to where they came from – this was the best way to find the Sun Wizard and end his reign of terror once and for all!

The only thing left to do now was wait for the sun to set…

……………………

And so ends the latest installment of our DnD adventures! Thanks for reading! I hope you like this ongoing storyline lol! If you play Dungeons and Dragons too, let’s hear about your character in the comments! 🙂

Crystal Light Meditation

Meditation is something that I’ve started committing to on a daily basis, and I think it really helps me to reduce anxiety and find some clarity in this crazy life. As I wrote in my recent post about Nap York, I have been searching for new places to take my meditation to the next level.

One place that I’ve discovered is Modrn Sanctuary. OK, to be honest, I first read about them in Time Out New York, so I guess they discovered it and shared the info with me. But I have tried their Crystal Light Bed therapy twice now, and I really recommend that everyone try it out if they can.

My Crystal Light Bed

‘What is a Crystal Light Bed?’ you may ask. Excellent question, because it’s a very unique ‘energy bath’ that uses a combination of crystal light, ethereal soundscapes, vibration therapy, and energy frequencies to help clients reach a high level of relaxation and a deeply meditative state.

The Crystal Light Bed is a specially designed bed on a raised platform. You lay down on a “thermo-electrotherapeutic biomat” aka a comfy heated mat that sends vibrational pulses to the beat of the calming music. Over you are strategically placed quartz crystals aligned with the seven chakras of the body. Before the session begins, you select a frequency to align with your intention. Then you relax and let the senses be taken over…

I had done this therapy once before, and had visualizations of seeing the planet from space. That time I had chosen the lowest frequency, Root. This time I went for the opposite – the highest frequency, Crown. My experience was quite different.

I don’t know if it’s because I had a crazy day and my mind was racing, but I could not fully focus. But when I was able truly open up my mind, what I felt was more along the lines of floating.  First I felt like I was floating, maybe 6 inches above the biomat. I felt weightless. A few minutes later I felt as though my bed had moved 90 degrees; like it had moved perpendicular to the floor and I was somehow in a standing position. (Obviously I wasn’t really moving, but it really felt that way to me.) However, near the end of the session, my alignment changed again and I spent a majority of the final minutes feeling as though I was horizontal again, but on a slant. I felt like my feet were higher and my head was low to the ground, like I was on a seesaw or a scale tipped to the side. Afterward, I reflected and thought it was interesting that my head, or the Crown Chakra, was the ‘heavy’ side of my tipped scale of consciousness, because that was the frequency I had chosen for the session. My instincts tell me that this is a sign of chakra imbalance. Maybe I’m top heavy and need to work more on the lower chakras. I will have to do more research.

I am really loving that Crystal Light Bed. Not only does it look cool, but the biomat is so relaxing. I read that the bed costs $16,000 to make, which I guess means that I can’t have one in my house… lol! But I plan on going back again. The pricing is a little more affordable than it was last time, but as of now I only go when there is a discount or coupon to use. Modrn Sanctuary also has other services, including a Salt Room which I’ve heard lots of good things about. Compared to Nap York’s very low rates, Modrn Sanctuary is definitely more expensive but you get a more premium experience. It’s definitely great that there are options on both ends of the spectrum! I still have other places to explore, such as MNDFL Meditation near my office. It’s really a wonderful journey to find the best place to meditate.

It’s never too late to get started with meditation! Have you ever tried it? Do you have any places to recommend? I’d love to hear from you!

Carnies Come to Taproom 307!

What do you think of when you hear “Brooklyn, NY”? For most people, maybe it’s the Brooklyn Bridge, or the Barclay’s Center, or Junior’s Cheesecake. (All wonderful things!) But when it comes to me, I think of Coney Island!

Coney Island is so much fun to visit. They have roller coasters and amusement rides, a minor league baseball team, a beachfront boardwalk, a museum, an aquarium, and of course the freak show! There is an old world kind of charm that still lingers on Surf Ave. I used to go there a lot when I lived in Park Slope – I recommend that everyone visits Coney Island, and the original Nathan’s Hot Dogs location at least once! This is also the home of the Coney Island Brewery, which has awesome beer and hosts lots of super fun events, like when they hosted a Cinnamon Toast Brunch to celebrate the launch of their Cinnamon Toast Kolsch beer.

But I know. Sometimes it’s hard to make the trip. From where I live now, it’s like a two hour endeavor to get to Coney Island. Luckily, Coney Island Brewery understands that it’s not easy to get to them all the time, so they coordinate with local bars in Manhattan to bring a little bit of Coney Island to the heart of the city!

Most recently Coney Island Brewery hosted a tap takeover at Taproom 307. It was SUPER fun! I was greeted by a stilt-walker before I even got inside.

For me there were two highlights – delicious Watermelon Wheat Ale and the professional Sword Swallower: Claire Kasper! She was beautiful and talented, and of course very friendly and nice. Not only did she swallow a sword, but she used a hammer and nailed a nail up her nose. 😱

I got a video of the sword swallowing. Claire had this crazy wavy looking sword. Seemed pretty risky! Check it out!

Sword Swallowing

Love it!!! She’s so cool! Anyway, we had a lot of fun and I highly recommend everyone to check out Coney Island Brewery beers, events and the brewery itself! It’s super fun and they do lots of giveaways. I got Mermaid Pilsner pins and CIB sunglasses.

They give out raffle tickets when you buy their beer at the tap takeover, and then give out cool prizes! My friend won a sweet cooler!!

Meet the Manga Deck

Today I visited a store on 14th Street called Namaste. I wanted to pick up some witchy tools and a second full tarot deck. I had read a recommendation that you should keep a tarot deck for yourself, and use a different deck when you do readings for other people. And who couldn’t use another tarot deck (or 3 or 4)?? After deliberating over the vast selection of tarot decks available in the store, I decided upon a little, portable deck called the Manga Deck. It is designed to look like old Japanese manga and is very beautiful! I wanted to start out with it right away with a deck interview.

Keep in mind that when you buy a new deck, all of the cards are in order. I shuffled it as best I could but when you start out a new deck, it seems that you will inevitably get some similar suits. Interestingly, the recurring suit in this interview is Wands – perhaps this means this deck is best suited for matters of the mind, personal thoughts, ego and spirituality. Let’s get started!

こんばんは Manga Deck-san. Tell me about yourself.

Temperance

There is a time for fighting, and a time for healing. I will provide pure insights for your readings. I am balanced and fair. Readings from my deck will create clear visions as to which path is best to take, and will bring peace to the recipient.

What are your strengths?

2 of Wands

Where the eyes don’t see, the heart sees. My readings will help bring to light the deepest desires of the recipient. I can help make decisions and plan for the future and reach new levels of self-discovery. Plus, I’m very pretty, ですか ?

What are your limitations?

Ace of Wands

Know yourself and don’t be afraid. Keep the ego in check when reading my deck. The limit here is what the person you are reading for is willing to admit and realize about themselves. There is unknown potential to my power, if the person who is receiving this reading is able to truly listen and feel inspired by my guidance.

What are you here to teach?

3 of Wands

Sometimes the only thing to do is wait. The right path is laid out for those who are ready to take it. My deck will give foresight and will help your readings to prepare the recipient for the journey ahead. I will teach you to look ahead and consider the choices at hand, and how they will affect the future.

How can we best collaborate?

10 of Pentacles

It was before, it is today, it will be tomorrow… tarot is a timeless way to give guidance to your friends and family. My deck contains a wealth of information, ready to be shared when channeled properly. As an added bonus you, Glux, will feel accomplished when you complete a reading for one of your loved ones. 

What is the potential outcome of our relationship?

Prince of Pentacles

Curiosity is the initial contact between us and the world. Your friends and family will come to you requesting a reading, and each new reading is the birth of their interest into the world of tarot and alternative spirituality. In addition, this card symbolizes a new job, so if you want to get REALLY serious and read tarot cards for others, this is definitely a good first step.

As I have been reading these cards and looking through the artwork, I have definitely noticed some big differences between this deck and the Rider Waite deck. It almost feels like I’m learning to read in a different language! Some of the cards have been re-cast with different genders and roles, which keep it a little interesting for me – I’ve got to stay on my toes when I’m doing a reading with this deck! I think this deck is wonderful, it is an adorable compact size and the artwork is simply gorgeous.

I guess the next thing to do is…. schedule a reading with YOU! Do you want to learn insights into your deepest desires? Foresight to help you reach your best future? Let me do a reading for you with the Manga deck! Reach out to me, I’d be very happy to do a tarot spread with you.

Danaeryzard & Alaria: The Journey to Water’s Edge

It’s Dungeons and Dragons time! Here’s the latest installment of the epic journey of our heroines, Danaeryzard and Alaria! (If you’re new here, you can read the earlier chapters of the saga using this tag search.)

…………..

The moon was high in the sky – not that they could see it. Danaeryzard and Alaria, now Level 2 and official members of the Expeditionary Guard, were on overnight security detail at the Castle Drachen stables… in the pouring rain. Their charge seemed pointless and boring, so they played dice games to pass the time. 

“I heard something,” Alaria suddenly whispered.

Dany only heard the rain falling, but trusted Alaria’s instincts when it came to these things. They ventured outside towards the back of the stable, with Alaria creeping ahead to investigate. She stopped short and was surprised to be face to face with two cloaked spies. Through the rain she could see their drawn swords glimmering in the passing moonlight.

A spy

In her recent battle experience, Danaeryzard had learned that staying further away from the enemy was safer when it came to performing her magic. But these spies were unfamiliar to her. Who were they, and why were they on the offensive? Dany cast a True Strike cantrip to see if she could learn anything about these foes, but all she was able to determine was that they were not protected by any magic. 

Before they could set themselves up for an attack, one of the spies charged at Alaria. She was slashed on the arm! This didn’t stop her from jabbing at the second spy as he attempted to slip past and gain a better vantage point, taking out his crossbow and aiming directly at Dany. Feeling confident, Danaeryzard lifted her crystal orb and channeled her Fire Bolt cantrip through it to send a mote of flames at the second spy. However, the damage was minimal – she has yet to manifest a truly powerful flame with her sorcerer abilities. Or was the rain weakening her power? The second spy smirked at Dany, patting down the remaining flames on his cloak. She noticed him looking over her shoulder, past her, at something behind her. Whirling around, Dany saw two more spies silently approaching from the south and west! They were now surrounded by four spies. Who were they? Why were they attacking? 

One by one, the third and fourth spies shot their crossbow at Dany. She was in the middle of the road, a sitting duck… there was no chance to escape. The arrows pierced through her and she fell to the ground, blacking out once again.

Alaria, now in a bit of a panic after seeing her partner get skewered, darted away from the oncoming attackers. The rain was falling heavier now. From the east, the third spy was moving toward her… but then something happens. He comically stepped on a rake and it hit him directly in the face. The spy fell down instantly, howling in pain. The other three spies began to laugh at their comrade. A hood falls back from one of the spy’s cloaks and an Expeditionary Guard uniform could be seen, although obscured, underneath. 

“Can’t take a joke??” one of the spies asked Alaria, laughing.

“You’ve practically killed my partner! Who are you anyway?” She spat back at them.

The remaining spies pull back their hoods and reveal that they all are part of the Expeditionary Guard. This was apparently their idea of a practical joke, some ‘friendly’ hazing. Alaria was furious and insisted that they revive Dany at once. The veteran guards obliged and apologized; perhaps they went a little too far with their antics. Alaria and Danaeryzard tried to laugh it off, but Dany did notice Alaria stealing a pocket watch out of one of the veteran’s cloaks as they were leaving. Apparently hazing was a normal thing in the Expeditionary Guard. All they could do was hope that this was the only time they would be antagonized by their fellow guards. Alaria began to wonder if they should defect and find Ezra, maybe join up with the Midnight Ring instead…

Esmeralda

Back in the barracks not long after, the duo is visited by the beautiful yet strangely intimidating Esmeralda, a high ranking officer in the EG. She invites them to come and speak with her about something important. They followed her to the mess hall of the barracks, and Kolari was there waiting for them. A new mission was at hand!

Intel had reached the castle regarding the Sun Wizard. The Castle Drachen spies had learned that the protective crystals that the Sun Wizard had used in the Desert Cave battle came from Lake Constant, located at Water’s Edge. They were tasked with journeying to Water’s Edge and speaking to an informant named She’i. Kolari explained that She’i is a very protective and secretive type, and they would need to use a particular passphrase to get any information. When She’i asks, “What was the weather like yesterday?” they were to respond, “It was cloudy, until it wasn’t.”

The mission: Learn about the crystals. Find the Sun Wizard and defeat him. Simple right?

Luckily, Quartermaster Thamdid showed up just then, offering special new items for Dany and Alaria: a Circlet of Blasting and a Wind Fan, respectively. But he warns them that these magical items have a traceable aura. Powerful enemies such as the Sun Wizard will be able to detect such things, and he implored them to use these items with care. The more magical items they gather, the stronger this aura will be, and it could put them in danger. The two nodded and carefully placed their new magical items, along with some more food rations, into their packs and prepared for the three day journey to Water’s Edge. 

Alaria was given the map and proved to not be very good at reading it – the partners lost their way at the start, and had few hours of delay getting started. But the following days were sunny and there was a sense of progress in the air. They breakfasted in the Forest Wilderness under the trees. As they packed up their belongings and prepared to get back on the road, they heard a sniffing sound. Dany and Alaria exchanged confused glances, and silently readied themselves to investigate.

Blink Dog

Before they even took a step, a strange canine appeared out of nowhere a few yards directly in front of them! It took a step, sniffed a bush, and disappeared. Danaeryzard opened her mouth, about to ask what was that – when it appeared again, in a different location, a few yards further away. Alaria could sense that this animal did not pose a direct threat, and they decided to follow it. They approached it quietly, and as they got closer Dany could clearly see this canine, which had a sloping, pointed head and mean eyes. She instantly remembered that she had seen this species before, back in the markets of her Draconian village. It was a Blink Dog. But was it alone?

Gnoll

Alaria and Dany quietly pursued the Blink Dog deeper into the Forest Wilderness. That was when they saw who was luring them in. Two hairy, doglike Gnolls were snarling and hoisting up crossbows in the duo’s direction. 

Danaeryzard felt a burning anger rise within her. She should have said something when she remembered about the Blink Dog. While not violent, those were mean dogs and usually had evil masters. If Dany had mentioned this, maybe they wouldn’t have walked right into this trap… she felt angry and stepped forward, breathing in and feeling the air heat and steam within her body. Danaeryzard leaned back and harshly exhaled a fiery blast of Dragon Breath at the Gnolls. They screamed in pain and surprise. One of them was badly burnt.

Alaria expertly shot a bolt at the burned Gnoll with her crossbow, and he began to stagger. The other Gnoll was stunned by this onslaught and missed his attack. The Gnolls realized that their little plan had backfired – they were clearly overpowered by Danaeryzard and Alaria!

Seeing an opening, Danaeryzard conjured up a Magic Missile spell. Three bolts of magical energy burst from her crystal orb and hit the gnarly Gnolls. The burned Gnoll dropped to the ground and Alaria finished him off with an arrow. In final pursuit, Dany used what was starting to become her favorite cantrip – Fire Bolt – and hurled flames at the remaining Gnoll. After another pro crossbow shot from Alaria, the fleeing Gnoll fell face down and did not rise again.

The duo proceeded on, though not before Alaria did her signature move – steal anything of worth that the corpses were carrying. Danaeryzard simply laughed. The little Tiefling thief was consistent, that was certain!

The next day, Dany and Alaria finally stepped out from the woods and into a rocky clearing. Up ahead they could see a coastal fishing village. They climbed over the rocks, towards the huts and beach houses. It was time to get some information! They needed to find She’i. Alaria checked her map and saw that Kolari had marked She’i’s location. It was right on the coast, just north of a huge structure that looked important. Boats were docked up along side this large building on the coast, and fishing rods leaned along the exterior walls. 

However, She’i had a much more humble home. It looked more like a workshop than a residence. Partially built boats lay on the sand outside. They saw fire coming from the chimney and exchanged nods. She’i must be home. Alaria and Dany cautiously approached the house and knocked on the door. A voice from inside called out and asked who was there.

“Expeditionary Guard. We were sent here on official castle business,” Alaria replied, sounding official. There was a sound of shuffling inside, and the voice moved audibly closer to the door.

She’i

“Keep your voice down! ……What was the the weather like yesterday?”

Danaeryzard replied instantly, “It was cloudy, until it wasn’t.”

There was a pause. Dany looked nervously at Alaria. Maybe she said it wrong? A moment later, the door swung open and She’i stood before them, ushering them inside. The house is filled with dusty tools and half finished projects. In the dim light from the hearth they can see that She’i is very beautiful, and seemed to be staring at Alaria with interest. She’i apologized for the secrecy; she does not want to be known in the village as an informant. Looking thoughtfully at Dany and Alaria, she admitted that she was expecting the castle to send human guards. Dany felt a twinge of hurt and thought, Why did people have to be so abrasive towards Dragonborn and Tiefling races? They bleed and feel pain just like everyone else. What did it matter if they were human or not? 

She’i began to explain what she knew: that the crystals that had been used by the Sun Wizard were harvested locally from Lake Constant. She’i knew of some fishermen who would meet with outsiders late at night; she had seen them on the beach. These crystals were extremely valuable because they could harness magical energy. 

Dany and Alaria pressed She’i for more information. She revealed that the head of the Fishing Guild was the one who was selling the crystals to the outsiders. Presumably one of them was the Sun Wizard, or one of his minions. The head of the guild was named Cletus, and he was usually found at the guild during the day. She’i pointed out the window to the large building that the duo had passed on their way to her home. Of course! The large building was the Fishing Guild. 

They thanked She’i for the information and Alaria did some awkward flirting as they left. Dany rolled her eyes but secretly she was jealous. Nobody ever flirted with her… was it the scales, or the smoky breath? She could only wonder.

Alaria and Dany walked together towards the Fishing Guild, ready to confront Cletus.

………………….

Thanks for reading the latest chapter of the Danaeryzard and Alaria saga! I hope you enjoy these these blog entries, because DnD is super fun to play and super fun to recap and share with all of you! I’ve been trying to record a screen capture of our sessions (we play on Google Hangouts and Roll20) but I keep having technical issues. But if I can get it to work some day, is that something that you guys would want to watch?? Let me know in the comments! 😛