This is my Ouya Unboxing video. About 6 minutes long, just a first impressions video to talk about.
Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a 30-something writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.
This is my Ouya Unboxing video. About 6 minutes long, just a first impressions video to talk about.
I’ve been performing some re-balancing on my life lately. I was feeling really… down, physically. Eating a lot of junk food and sweets, and not exercising. My skin was in bad shape– kind of oily. My back ached a lot. And I was stressed out– I can’t even begin to tell you how often I would think “I need to do this thing, but I have literally no time to do it.”
I still don’t have time, by the way. But I’m working on that.
When I went to the ziplines and got weighed, the number bothered me– a lot, even though I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want us to buy any of the pictures that I was in– I really felt my weight, really perceived that I just looked frumpy and overweight and… ugh.
I realized that I need to exercise more. Even if I’m not ready yet to make a more serious effort about my diet, just moving a little more every day will be helpful for me.
When I installed the RunDouble app to start tracking my walking routines, I found an ad for this company called Achievemint that is doing kind of a points/rewards thing for making healthy lifestyle choices. The ad came with an offer: sign up for Achievemint and get the Couch-to-5K program already programmed into RunDouble for free.
Well, heck. I’ve done Couch-to-5K (or C25K as it’s called) before. I signed up. In addition to getting Achievemint points for RunDouble, I get points for tracking my weight, tweeting healthy articles, and so forth.
So, I started back on C25K and this is Week 3 of that journey. It’s not easy, let me tell you. I was bit by a dog last week while out jogging in my neighborhood– just one week into the program! On Tuesday, I had a grueling 15 minutes of run-walking in 97 degree weather (and it’s unlikely to get cooler!) I have to set aside an hour, three times a week, in order to stay on the program. It takes an hour from the time I grab my gym clothes to change until I put on street clothes again after my shower. Running without a shower isn’t an option, nor is running without my asthma meds.
One of the benefits is that I crave sweets and junk food a lot less– a benefit I’ve enjoyed in the past as well. I remember that, in time, I came to really enjoy running– and in fact, my runner’s high was so fantastic, I was downright giddy after the dog bit me. I’ve had an extremely stressful couple of weeks, and the running has just given me a little bit of space to just… go.
I also, at the encouragement of a friend of mine, started the 100 Push Ups program. That one’s a little tougher– I gradually work my way up from 1 pushup to 100, over the course of 9 weeks. Each week, you do 3 days of pushups, 5 sets each day, with a 60 to 120 second rest in between. On the last set, you do pushups until you can’t do anymore– that failure point helps build your muscles.
When I started, I could not do 1 pushup. I still can’t, not really. When I try to do a floor pushup, my stomach hits the floor long before the pushup is complete, and I fail.
So instead, I do my pushups against a countertop in the bathroom. I keep my core/torso very still and stand a few feet away from the countertop. Put my hands on the counter and lower myself down to it– again, keeping my torso very stiff. For now, counter pushups are a good place to start. After I finish these, I will move to doing pushups against a chair. Then maybe yoga blocks. Possibly by then, the floor. I’m in week 2 of the pushup program. I find they take about 10-15 minutes to complete.
So, I’m dedicating about four hours a week to making sure my body doesn’t completely fall apart. That doesn’t seem too bad, I think. If I’m gaming for 16-8 hours a week (which is about average for me), then spending 4 hours to undo some of the damage of a sedentary lifestyle isn’t so bad.
Oh, and I bought some makeup and hair gel last weekend. Now that my hair is growing out, I’m trying to gel it down so it’ll look like a pixie cut instead of a weird anglo-fro.
My Fate players and I finally got together on Saturday. We sat down and created characters for the PCs, a couple of NPCs, and some setting concepts.
We have Garosh, the heir to a doomed barbarian tribe. Garosh is big, beefy, all muscle, but a keen hunter, especially out in the wilderness. He’s also got a big mouth. He’s at the Arco trying to raise money and resources to bring back to his tribe and hopefully help them fight off the Blackheart Horde. If he fails, his tribe will doubtless die out or be assimilated by the Horde.
And Symon Ashworth, the seventh son of Lord Ashworth, an industrial-focused noble house of the Arco. The Ash is the gigantic furnace that powers most of the Arco’s mechanical abilities and gadgets. The Ashworth house is full of hard-working inventors and engineers, constantly looking to create more efficient ways to deliver steam to the rest of the city. And Symon is…. different. His signature invention is a set of turbine arm guards that empower him with control over wind. In a family born of fire and earth, he is air and flight. He’s also, as the least important member of the house, the bearer of a cursed artifact, one of the magical items in this world. Symon’s player was very specific– he wants it to be something kind of “trickstery” that always twists its gifts around on him.
I already had an artifact in mind, and have sent him a description of the White Rose of Ashworth. It’s a white, metallic rose. Its previous bearer is a maiden aunt who is quite daft. The rose tends to choose its own bearer, and when the aunt claimed it had moved on, everyone thought she’d just lost it. In truth…. it had passed itself along to Symon. He can’t get rid of it until it’s ready to move along– it might disappear for a while, but it always makes its way back to its bearer.
I also created two NPCs and tied them to the characters: Em the Scroom, a laborer who is kind of lazy, but who is a big fan of Garosh. She always knows what’s going on with Garosh. She also either has or pretends to have a lame leg from an industrial accident. And Tink the emotion-seeking golem, who Garosh knows (Tink is a member of Garosh’s tribe), but who doesn’t actually know Symon. When Tink heard about one of Symon’s misadventures, however, he laughed for the first time.
At one point during character creation, Garosh’s player had a flash of narrative inspiration, and jotted down an idea for something he wants to happen, somewhere in the distant future. At this point, I grinned, because I had wanted to include the concept of a “Character Destiny” or “Doom” to this game.
The character doom comes from a little game called Archipelago, which is an RPG that tries to give an epic feel to small-picture PCs. In it, players write down a destiny for the other characters, and the player decides on one of them. That PC cannot die until their doom is fulfilled. A lot of times, the results are some doom that is vague and mystical-sounding, like “the sun rises over his army.” Now, if there’s a very appropriate moment for that character to die, perhaps a noble sacrifice, etc.– then he may find himself feeling cheated if not fulfilling his doom means he cannot make that sacrifice and cannot end his story. At that point, he narrates a flashback scene, in which his doom came to pass somewhere in his past, but he simply did not notice (perhaps he was playing with wooden soldiers at daybreak when he was a child, for example). In addition, once they have met their doom, they are free to continue adventuring– it’s just that they’ve achieved their main destiny, and are now into waters uncharted.
So, Garosh has his doom, and it’s DARK. At some point in the future, he will steal an artifact and take it to his tribe, hoping to save them. In truth, the artifact will end up being the death of his tribe.
We then talked about Symon’s doom. I suggested one that could be either light or dark, depending on how it plays out, and he agreed: Symon’s doom is that he leaves House Ashworth, forever. Could be for a very positive happy reason, like becoming the Emperor, or marrying a barbarian chieftain’s beautiful daughter. Or he could be cast out. Or exiled. Or run away. Or kidnapped! Basically, there’s a lot to work with, in this doom.
The two dooms also work very well together. If I want both of them to meet their dooms at the same time, I can manipulate the narrative to do that fairly easily.
It was at this point, I asked the players how much they want to know about how magic works. See, this is Fate– they’re always supposed to know how the mechanics work for anything. But… we always wanted magic to be somewhat mysterious. I’ve written up the system of magic, how it works, what the costs are, so I know what his artifact is and does. But Symon only knows that it’s magic, kind of cursed, and nobody in the family has ever really benefited from it.
Both players agreed that, as long as the GM knows how it works, they don’t want to know. Let the mystery unfold as the story does.
This is excellent, because the default quest of the story is “go find this artifact and bring it back to be neutralized.”
You see, we also talked a bit about what kind of adventures they want to go on. I asked if they’d prefer a big, epic campaign path, or something more episodic. Epic campaigns can feel like a railroad, while episodic stories give you a chance to change and adapt more easily to the narrative. One thing I’ve been thinking about is how to deliver an epic campaign within the episodic structure, much like how Buffy and other Joss Whedon series deliver a big story arc within smaller episodes.
They both wanted magic to be part of the central storyline, and I asked if they minded taking a direction I’d like to go– kind of a Warehouse 13 meets X Files. They’re a buddy team who go out to find and retrieve artifacts for “Agency Y.” They know nothing about the agency, really, except that it pays them pretty well for the work they do (which is good, since neither one took “Resources” as a skill). Their contact is a Nick Fury-like guy. He’s a nobleman, but he’s clearly operating outside of House Shadowriver’s purview. Which means he’s a great mentor for young Symon! It also means he’s a continual thread in the narrative, something to point them to the railroad tracks and set them on their way.
In terms of campaign design, I am left with some core things to work on between now and our next game:
As it turns out? The first adventure practically wrote itself. I’d already written up an artifact when I was testing out and examining the magic system. I wrote a basic adventure structure, then tilted my head and thought “how can I make this more interesting?”
If you’re one of my players, here’s where you should stop reading.
Seems like everyone did our work for us– enemies and allies alike. And unfortunately, we did theirs, too.
Armos came for us in the early dawn. He brought an orcish mercenary troop with him. He might have beaten us, if we hadn’t already teamed up with Venak and his soldiers. There may be no love lost between orcs and elves, but I, for one, found the Eye of Gruumsh to be an orc of honor. Honor among outlaws? Perhaps. In any case… Cleric Armos died, choking on poisoned gasses, in the southern edge of the courtyard.
We ensured he, and indeed all of his troops, were laid to rest before departing in the morning. Venak’s man, too– he was placed in the green chapel for the time being.
Having been spared the trouble of hunting down Armos, I was relieved when our ally Ser Carrigan came to find us as well, seeking the book that Firiel had borrowed. We returned it, but not before he branded her as a liar.
Hearing her screams when the holy fire hit her– hasn’t she been through enough? Between Ilyria and the fire at the bridge, I’m not surprised she’s more than a bit heat-sensitive.
I leaped on Carrigan without thinking, hoping to bring him down and halt whatever he was doing to her. But it was already done and–
For all the roughhousing Rob and I did as kids, I still couldn’t throw a middle-aged paladin in clumsy plate mail armor.
I’ll admit it– I was angry. Firiel wasn’t just marked– she was hurt. I heard it in her voice, and it shook me. Firiel, Emilien, Tristram, and Ordune– they all have vulnerabilities. But none have expressed their weakness so sharply until that moment.
I looked powerless in front of my men. I may be commander of an army of only five, but they are my army, my men to discipline when discipline is needed. At the very least, I am to be consulted before anyone in my command is treated thusly. Even for acts they commit on their off time. As we move into the next phase of the plan, I need to make sure they know there is little difference between “company time” and personal. We will not win the hearts of the people if we are examples of mercy in the daytime, and unrepentant bastards when the wine is uncorked at night.
And now, I suppose, I need to come to confess my own vulnerability.
I mentioned that we did their dirty work? We killed one of our own. Driven mad by pain and blindness, he was locked in his druidic animal form. We could have… I don’t know what we could have done. Maybe if I’d been paying better attention, I’d have recognized him. I wanted to stay our hands, when we fought. I wanted to say “don’t kill this animal– it’s blind and uncertain.” I wanted to grant mercy. But I was uncertain, myself, if it was merely a driven monster, or something more, and I lack the understanding of natural things to know what I do not know. I was mute with indecision an lack of knowledge, and that lack led to his death.
There was no justice, there. There was no mercy, only a cease from pain. Ordune says that is a mercy in itself, but I disagree. The Lieutenant in me knows, we are simply too few to discard any of our comrades, even if they came through Ilyria’s fires scarred and broken.
The Lady in me weeps for the pain in those blind, maddened eyes. But for Emilien’s sharp senses, that would have been us.
Later, we found another spot where our enemies had done our work for us. A large circle of burned ash and destroyed men and horseflesh. Perhaps nearly a hundred men, all followers of Erathis.
The invokers who had raised the ritual against Ilyria.
Someone– and we found his footprints clearly in the ash– made sure there were no survivors to speak of what had happened.
We are heading for Sava next. Kyala might be there, and she might be a boon to our cause. In some ways, though, I hope she is gone elsewhere. She knew me before I became the Lieutenant. I fear that she will not recognize me for the Lieutenant, and will see me only as the girl who tagged along behind her, copying her style of dress and her mannerisms like a lovesick puppy. I fear she will let slip my name, that the burden of that life will return to me. I am not ready to take up that mantle yet.
Nonetheless, I miss it, deeply, and I have caught myself almost speaking my own name aloud, several times, as if the syllables are a balm against the screams of the world. I nearly spoke my family motto last night, when we discussed where to go next, what our plan of action should be. The words were on my lips, and I mouthed them without thinking. Mercy Tempers Justice Tempers Mercy. As we planned whether to drench the countryside in the blood of the clerics of Erathis, or to move forward with our lives, that motto came to me. As did memories of my first command, which I’ve recorded previously in this journal.
The next phase of the plan comes from the Lieutenant’s mind, but it rests in the Lady’s hand. We are moving towards Sava, true, but it is not a trip we hope to accomplish swiftly or in silence, this time. We are making our procession, from Psarios to Sava, then Masir, and onwards. The goal is to help solve the problems of the common people– the laborers, the artisans, the lesser nobility, even the clergy, now that nearly all who participated in Ilyria’s death are gone. It goes without saying that we extend our hands to help the elves and the arcanes, those who are left.
And whoever…. whatever killed the invokers. We will destroy it. Whatever it is, whoever it is. It’s dangerous, it’s malicious, and it’s trying to cover up its very existence. It is a secret that brings nothing but death. We will stop it. If the Harriers ask what our priorities are, they are to win the hearts of the common folk and take back this land.
But if I have to choose between stopping that thing and casting out the Regent and all his corrupt toadies… I will be the first to bend my knee. Those are hazards of the world, politics, and such things might mean death for one or five rebels. But whatever that thing is, the forces it wields are too powerful and dangerous to leave in the world.
I am signing this entry, because it is important that I hear my own name tonight, even if it is merely written.
Lady Gwenneffylasse Jader, Scion of House Jader.
Lieutenant Gwenn Jade of the Harriers for Ilyria.
Mercy Tempers Justice Tempers Mercy
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