Vignette is into the third trimester

I am in the "third trimester" of knitting Vignette.

Long-sleeved sweaters can be broken down in thirds or even sixths. The back uses about one third of your yarn, the front uses another third, and both sleeves together use the last third. So when you finish the back of a pieced sweater, you are roughly one-third done with the sweater.

That’s not 100% true, of course. Some sweaters have more work on the back or front or sleeves. Short sleeves are less yarn. Some sweaters just confound you.

But Vignette is a nice sweater that isn’t giving me too much trouble and falls rather nicely into the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 model. I’ve used 5 and a half balls of yarn so far, and expect to use a total of 6.5 total. The yarn is Cascade superwash 220, which are 220 yards per ball (convenient labeling, there, Cascade!)

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I have picked out the buttons. They are plain pearl-like flat buttons that fit nicely through the buttonholes. They are made by Fruit of the Loom sometime back in the days best described as "vintage." They were made in New York state, and probably date back to the 1960’s. My mother gave them to me a couple of years ago when my button box was stolen out of a car (there are no button-junkies in Las Vegas that I know of– the button box was inside a craft bag that looked more or less like a purse… because my craft bags are, in fact, purses I buy at the thrift store.)

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Inheriting buttons and other sewing supplies from your parents and grandparents is actually a really special thing. Some time I’ll talk about that, but for now, let’s just say that, whether you make something with fiber or not, giving it to the next generation is a legacy that should not be understated.

This is sleeve #1:

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I made a change to the pattern. In the interest of making the pattern simpler for newer knitters, this pattern uses a basic cast on and knit 1" of the hem using a smaller needle, switch to the regular needle, purl a turning row, and then proceed in pattern. During the sewing-up, you fold the hem under and stitch it closed.

That’s a perfectly respectable way to turn a hem, but it’s not the "most proper" way to do it, which would have required two additional techniques, and would have made Vignette a more difficult pattern. The pattern as written is lovely and will do nice things for anyone knitting it.

The "more proper" way to turn a hem is to cast on with a provisional cast-on (I used a crochet cast on, because I am very comfortable with crochet), knit 1" in stockinette, switch needles, purl 1 row, knit 1" (3 rows) in the pattern, and then, on the wrong side of the knitting, work one stitch from the working needle and one stitch from the provisional cast on stitches together all the way across. At that point, the hem is turned under and done– and there’s one less thing to do during the seaming up.

This is sleeve #2:

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Note that the hem (which is currently curling in this photo) is already turned and knitted in. Go me!

At my current pace, with the upcoming things and events, I hope to be done by Thanksgiving, and definitely before the end of Thanksgiving weekend.

Which is good, because Vegas is getting chilly. It’s been 60 degrees this week!

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Feral Dragons on an Obstacle Course

Last night, Dad, Mom, and Kiddo and I played a variation on the Goblin Quest playtest. This is a game in which you have 5 goblin characters and rotate through them as each of your goblins dies. You build a dice pool based on your relevant stats, though ultimately, you pick one to 4 d6’s to roll, with a 1/3 chance of success and a 1/3 chance of hit point loss (and each goblin has 2 hit points).

The result is universally a silly game where you’re trying to do whatever the quest is, before the clock (and your supply of goblins) runs out.

We modified it for the Feral Dragons that were invented last week, with a few changes. The clutch had Something We’re Good At, Something We’re Terrible At, and each dragon had a Special Feature that had to be somehow visible. You couldn’t just say “We’re smart.” You had to have some way that I would look at the character and see that they are smart.

Mechanically, Goblin Quest boils down to “build a dice pool of 1-4 d6’s, roll them, and narrate how you get hurt and/or succeed, based on the dice rolls. You need nx9 successes, where n is the number of players, over the course of the story, to complete the quest, and each player can get 10 injuries total before they are out. Statistically, it favors failure.

The FDM's Notes

The FDM’s Notes

I had everyone write down a clutch and good/terrible, and one feral dragon. Dad and Kiddo sped ahead and wrote down several ferals to start, but I mentioned they would probably want to change them when they came up in play.

Dad made his feral clutch based on the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo.

The Mystery Machine Ferals (I wanted to kill Scrappy Doo more than anything else in any game I've ever played....)

The Mystery Machine Ferals (I wanted to kill Scrappy Doo more than anything else in any game I’ve ever played….)

Mom made hers based on Starbucks drinks.

Mocha died falling and breaking a nail, I believe....

Mocha died falling and breaking a nail, I believe….

And Kiddo made hers based on misery and pain… except not.

The Misery Clutch of Emo Power-Ups

The Misery Clutch of Emo Power-Ups

We also made a fiction rule that feral dragons who “die” are not dead. They turn to stone, but will be back to normal the next day. This explains a LOT about the other feral dragons and their relative lack of concern when someone is turned to stone.

As a back-pocket rule, losing the second hit point didn’t have to mean death or even being turned to stone for any feral dragon, as long as they were taken out of the story. This was important later.

I sketched a little map and they decided to have a quest of clearing out the trampoline (it was supposed to be a barn, but hey. Trampoline!) and that morphed into an obstacle course which would have crocodiles they needed to swing above on a rope, and a tire obstacle, and the trampoline. We invented another group of ferals, the Gloop Gloops, who would compete with them.

In the course of the game, we realized that the prize was the much-desired “Bone Thingy,” also known as a skeleton! If you’re paying attention to my Epyllion posts, you know that ferals who do not have a skeleton are Trouble. I think we know why, now.

The three stages of the adventure were to get rope and tires, set up the course and clear out the trampoline brush, and then run the race.

In the first scene, Dad’s dragon “Fred” whose special feature was “wears an ascot” cast some powerful dragon magic. Now, we’re not saying he turned into a pile of tires. We’re just saying that when the smoke cleared, there were tires and Fred was gone.

Kiddo’s dragon Undead had a special feature of being able to remove her body parts and reattach them. She lost her last hit point when she took off her own head to scare the rival Gloop Gloops. There is now a feral dragon statue holding her own head out with a scary face.

The Gloop Gloops showed up in scene two, during the setup, and cast a curse on the dragons. From that point on, the characters all had an extra d6 for their dice, an orange die that I had in my collection. They had to roll it until it was somehow negated, and the d6 always had a -1. This escalated the failures quite a bit, but that d6 rolls 6’s a lot, and on the balance, I think it helped more than hindered the players.

The hijinx in the game were very high. The tension was ratcheted up in the final scene, the actual race, where the players had to decide how much their dragons wanted to cheat ( the Gloop Gloops are notorious cheaters).

At one point, Dad’s dragons (they were modeled on the Mystery Machine characters) unmasked a crocodile as Old Man Winters.

Kiddo had made a feral dragon named Talent who was good at “Everything.” I passed a note to her dad that this was Kiddo’s 4th RPG session and she was already min maxing. I’m so proud.

Her next-to-last character was L.M., who was super-smart and had a power armor suit (power creep!) L.M. is an interesting dragon, because Kiddo was emotionally invested in her. When L.M. rolled a bunch of 1’s on the dice, she wanted to take it back.

Her parents were firm– you can’t take it back.

I’m the FDM (Feral Dragon Master). Kiddo was really upset. Something about what had just happened wasn’t fair to her mind, and it was going badly. Trust in my DMing was being lost. Time for the back-pocket rule.

“OK, Kiddo. No matter what L.M. does, you would still have to roll those dice and sit by the results. So, let’s look at what happened. This isn’t a great outcome– you got Something Good, and a lot of 1’s and 2’s. So, think for a few minutes. All that matters to the outcome is that L.M. is going to help her next team mate– probably Scrappy Doo– but she is otherwise out of the race. How do you want her to be out of the race?”

We went back and forth. I suggested a bunch of non-death ways for L.M. to be out– including the idea that her power armor jets power up and she goes so fast she can’t turn around and come back to the race in time.

In the end, she decided that L.M. would slip out of her power armor and fly up into a tree, disqualifying herself, but being available as a “swing” to boost the next contestant in the race. L.M. survives the obstacle course (which is good, because I’m going to bring her back next week as the spokesman for this feral colony).

Scrappy Doo, meanwhile, was taken out when he was revealed as a meddling kid (I think?)

In the final die roll of the night, the race is heading for the finish line. Everyone is down except for Kiddo’s last character, a male dragon named Pain. Pain casts some special portal magic in front of the Gloop Gloops to make them run into a portal and out, then straight back into the first portal. I call it the Gloop Gloop Endless Loop and it’s the best thing of the night.

Unfortunately, it also takes out Pain’s last hit point. At this time, we’re ready to wind down, and Kiddo is having a hard time losing in the story. The players didn’t win, but neither did the Gloop Gloops. More importantly, I want to tie this story back to our big dragons. So I steal my earlier idea.

“The portal magic goes awry, and Pain is suddenly super-sonic– he’s so fast, and he can’t stop moving. He darts all the way around the world in a single, unbroken line. His race attracts Lydia’s dragon magic– in fact, it’s the homing beacon she follows on her quest–”

“Who’s Lydia?”

I point to Mom. “Lydia is your mom’s character, remember? We’re back to the big dragons now.”

“Oh.”

I describe how, back with Samera, Lydia, Trogdor, Samsmelt, and the dozen ferals from the cave, the party is gliding down into this forest clearing, where they see this bizarre scene, with multiple stone-shaped feral dragons, and a bunch of obstacles, a random crocodile or two, and a couple of portals with an endlessly looping relay team of dragons. The skeleton is nowhere in sight, which, as Trogdor dourly points out, is definitely not good.

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The scene upon arrival of Samera, Trogdor, Lydia, and Samsmelt.

In the end, 12 dragons from the players were turned to stone, not counting the Gloop Gloops who were almost certainly equally affected during this race. 1 dragon disappeared, perhaps becoming a pile of tires. 1 dragon is hanging out above the crocodile-infested river. And 1 dragon went on a supersonic trip around the world, catching the quest spell of a much larger dragon and her clutch of cave ferals.

Next session is going to be an interesting journey, indeed!

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Tell Me Another, Episode 26

A couple of weeks ago, I joined Josh Jordan, P.K. Sullivan, and Ryan McSwain on the Tell Me Another storytelling podcast.

It was posted this weekend! Part One (43 minutes) and Part Two (49 minutes).

It was a ton of fun to join the crew for this podcast. I enjoyed the experience and felt that I helped contribute to a lively discussion.

Tell Me Another also sponsors the Actual Play Festival, a collaborative storytelling vlog festival from December 1 through 15. Expect to see me post something between those dates– I have Nefarious Plans with some friends! And if you want to participate, get a friend or two, a camera or webcam, and get going!

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A Letter from Kindel

A letter from Lt. Gwenn Jade to her beloved Marco, the handsome half-devil.

Dear Marco,

I am like the cat with a canary feather sticking out of her lips! I don’t have any idea what to do with this information, but you’re probably a safe person to brag to. Pride is unbecoming, I know, but I hope you’ll overlook it.

We are in Kindel. Finally. I won’t go into my reasons for finally coming home. I know the risks. But… the Harriers have work to do far, far away, and I couldn’t leave without saying good bye. To Rob. To my parents. To my own grave.

Ah, yes. That’s an eerie feeling, seeing your own grave.

But let me back track. We arrived  in disguise. Firiel looks like a gentleman of quality, and Tris is her servant. Emilien and Ordune came in separately, also in disguise. Emilien’s is the same disguise he has worn for months– he’s ostensibly here for supplies. I am in disguise as a servant. Firiel did a decent enough job altering one of her uniforms, but she had to slit the sleeves to make them fit. To my eye, my bare arms look downright scandalous, but my assessment that no one would even look at a servant girl was spot-on. I was ignored even when climbing onto a roof-top.

I gave Firiel an assignment to look for my old weapons master– an assignment she utterly passed off to other people, I might add– and took Tristram with me to… my home.

House Jader is beautiful any time of year. They’ve pruned back the branches on the tree in the back, though, so we had to climb up on the neighbor’s stables, over the fence, and down the tree. Once there, it’s a fairly quick jog across the lawn to the mausoleum, but for the guards that we could spot at their post.

I had a clever idea, though, and convinced Tris to put a light glamour on us, making us glow very faintly. A few suggestions to him on how Rob used to carry himself, and we strode across the lawn in the gathering dusk, just as bold as can be. Tristram’s blond hair is currently dyed brown for his normal disguise, which definitely completed the ruse.

We made it to the mausoleum, and I left Tris outside while I took care of things in the interior. I needed to be there, to see the legacy of the Jaders, to see the pathetic building that houses our bones, if I should fail and this is all that remains of who we were. I don’t know if you, with your eternal life, will understand that, but… for me, eternity is measured in generations and our impact upon them.

When I was done, I found a trigger for a panel, which opened, and I summoned Tris just as the guards were coming for us. We slipped behind the panel, closing it and listened while the guards searched the crypt in confusion.

After they left, muttering about what they might put in their report, we followed the passage behind the panel. It led out, Marco! A secret passage I never knew about in my own house! Of course I’d never have been able to use it before, but now… now a passage that leads out can also be used to get back in.

And I’m going to need it.

When we reconvened later that night, Ordune had quite a bit to report of his own. He’d been searching for the Normand family and found them. And he found quite a bit more about them, including the younger Normand’s cruelty to the servants, their wanton disregard for the household which they have newly taken over (the war has turned fortunes aplenty), and so forth.

As he described the cook he had encountered, the name and description were quite familiar to me. I haven’t told Ordune this yet, but… I am fairly certain that the Normands have taken over the Jader estate. This may put us at odds in our respective goals, if we cannot agree about whether we want the Normands executed, murdered, or to pay dearly but in ways that make them suffer for a very long time.

As you can see, I am completely unfit for joining you in Avernus, my dear.

Send my regards to your family. I hope to feel your warm call on my wrist soon.

—Gwenn Jade

This scene was straight out of Scooby Doo. I’m surprised Gwenn and Tris didn’t get caught by some meddling kids, but Steve was just improvising as fast as he could wrap his mind around what we were doing.

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Interstellar: The White Guy’s Hero Space Adventure!

interstellar-photos-pictures-stills_thumb.jpgI saw Interstellar last night.

interstellar-photos-pictures-stillsIt’s a good sci fi movie. It felt like a cross between Contact and Gravity, but with a larger cast of crewmembers. It was gorgeous visually, had amazing special effects, and significantly limited the “that doesn’t work like that in space” that many other movies fall into. For example: things were more or less silent in space, except when the musical soundtrack had to swell up to make sure we knew Drama! was happening, and drown out the dialog.

But I digress. Clearly, I have a few…. problems with the movie. That’s okay, right? It’s okay to like problematic media, right? And it’s okay to blog about them and give a nice little rant about the things that made me go “huh.” while I was watching, right?

Spoilers ahead! No, seriously. LOTS OF SPOILERS. I WILL RUIN THIS MOVIE FOR YOU! STOP READING NOW! And I’m all over the place with this post, bouncing from one problematic part to another. I’ve put them behind a cut-tag and a new spoiler-tag plugin, but if you’re reading this somewhere other than directly on my blog, that spoiler tag might not work the way I think it should.

This post is like the spider-baby hatching of spoilers for this movie.

Continue reading

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