Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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Explosions and Escapes

On Thursday, my gaming group got together for a Very Special Episode of gaming.

We played Explosions and Escapes, a quick-and-dirty RPG for playing action heroes. Very quickly in the game, I looked down and saw “the top” was waaaaay below us. The game devolved quickly into some silliness, as our sidekick (played by LeeAnn) went with a ducky motif, throwing duck-shaped grenades and eventually crafting a duck-shaped space ship to launch us up to destroy Fidel Castro on the space station.

I played a highly-effective PR representative for McLain Superbad, an over-the-top badass action hero. McLain was played by Krissy, whose birthday was last week and who was a guest player. The game was partly her birthday present, and I was really glad to glance over several times and see her with a huge grin on her face while she thought of the next most awesome way to beat some bad guys and defeat Castro.

We had 2 additional guests– Joe and Justin– who played martial arts sciency guys.

Overall, the night was full of hilarious jokes, bizarre acts of silliness, stunts that were so implausible, it would make Michael Bay even cry. The GM (Brian) never said “no, you can’t do that,” but rather heightened all the drama by closing all the scenes by answering “what would make this more complicated and fun?”

It was a great night of gaming, and it was beautiful to see Brian as a GM. He has a knack for improvisational storytelling, and I look forward to our upcoming Fate mini-campaign (3 weeks in November).

We’re off this week for Halloween, so I’m prepping an online playtest of a game developed by Nathan Paoletta.

A Knight’s Future Hangs in the Past

“I have plans for the old man, Firiel. Him dying is inconvenient to those plans.”

Firiel gave me a look then that made me pause. Even to my own ears, my words sounded… cold. Like the only value in Ser Carrigan is what he will do for me in the future.

It’s not that, and I couldn’t explain it to her then, even if I’d wanted to. Ser Carrigan was the first person outside the Rebellion who I trusted with our secrets. He’s the model for living a life that doesn’t play directly into Vecna’s hands. He already has enough on us to have us killed if he chose to– and more than that, he’s had opportunity, reason, and little motive to keep our identities safe. And yet, he hasn’t betrayed us.

That counts for something, to be sure. But it’s more than that.

When Kyala told me Ser Carrigan would be executed, with only time being a factor, my heart stilled for a moment. I have envisioned many futures for myself in the past few months. I have imagined how it will be to fall in battle. How it will be to stand on a gallows before the executioner’s axe. How it would feel to walk away from it all, slip into obscurity and exile away from home. How it will be to thrust my sword through the Regent’s chest, sliding between ribs into his heart…..

I have rehearsed in my mind standing in the Assembly, trying to make my case, and in every scenario I imagine, I fail to convince anyone that I’m worth anything, least of all worthy of leading them.

Worse than that, I have pictured myself, through some miracle, with the Regent’s scepter in hand…. and I do not like what I see there.

I am not a strong woman. I am prone to anger and jealousy and revenge. Oh, revenge…. I have wanted the church of Erathis eradicated for what they did… and yet, I know in my head that not everyone is evil within them.

But when I picture the people around me, the advisors who help make decisions that will help this country…. I know I will need to choose very wisely such men and women.

I need Ser Carrigan, later. I need him alive and unburdened by the kind of anger and need for vengeance I will have in my other counselors. I need him to be a solid counselor who can see many sides to a conflict and help me see a clear path. These allies of mine, when all the dust has settled, are the people I will rely on to steer this country. Ser Carrigan will counterbalance Ordune. I need him to be that antidote.

So I was relieved that we were able to help him after the fight with those demonic birds. And moreso that we found the documents he sought…. and that we were able to retrieve them without damage. And that he had not lost the will to live, to fight, to try and save his own skin during these trying political times.

The things we found in the basement… well, those are something to talk about with Firiel. No doubt, Ordune has already dismissed them as “sick men,” rather than accept what we all saw and smelled.

 

A New Fate

My friend and gaming buddy Justin has been in town the past 2 weeks, and he, Mike, and I got together for some gaming to take home. Basically, we did character/setting creation for an online Fate game.coverbit

Setting is “New London,” a fictionalized steampunk London, England. We went pretty generic, here, with automatons and that’s about it. In many ways, the flavor is very similar to the setting for The Strange Case of Finley Jayne, which I read this week– after we made our characters and setting for this game. The central conflict in our setting is that the Martians are coming… eventually.

Mike is playing a former military man turned baker, Capt Winfield, who tends to attract “the weird.” Mike wanted something kind of light and fluffy, down to being a pie-throwing baker (for the record: this is a concept Mike has played before, so I kind of knew where he was going with it).

Despite wanting something light and fluffy myself, I also want us to not die when shit hits the fan. So I’m playing an awakened automaton named Abigail. Her high concept is “Automaton with a heart of gold.” Her trouble is “built for battle.” In essence: she was created as an assassin-bot, but after her traumatic awakening, she abhors violence and now works as a shop girl and laborer for one of Winfield’s neighbors (I actually want her to work for him, but don’t know if that’ll change our dynamic too much).

When we did character creation, the 3-phase story creation got dark pretty quickly. I decided that Abigail had awakened shortly after killing a man. She doesn’t know who he is or why she did it, only that the deed was done. In the original phase, we decided that she had been acquitted during the trial, but not found innocent. However, when I took Abigail’s character sheet home, I decided that the trial and proceedings resulted in too much notoriety for my automaton. I want her to be a very nice, friendly robot girl who happens to have these terrifying skills which she almost never uses. As a result, her history has been rewritten– although Abigail knows how she awoke, nobody else does. Except Winfield, who saw her leave the alley, walked into the alley, and saw the dead man– he can deduce it was her, but lacks solid proof. And he doesn’t think she’s a bad person.

For Abigail’s part, she has a defective memory cell which results in her not remembering what happened just before she awakened (in fact, she may not remember any of her kills). This memory cell has also locked away the location of the Martian vault she and Winfield found in Greenland (Winfield’s trouble is “magnet for Weird”).

I’m not sure what Justin will do with our strange pair of characters. Abigail is an awakening creature who has only recently started to experience emotions, and who at some level has an ongoing existential crisis about the nature of being a “thing.” Stealing a bit from Steam Powered Giraffe for that one, actually– does this oil that is leaking mean this is a cry?

Abigail’s aspect relating to Winfield is that he makes her laugh. It’s a positive emotional response, and one of the first she’s ever had. The world, and her reactions to it, is a confusing place so being able to laugh is oddly soothing.

I’ll update as the campaign unfolds. We’re not sure where the game is going to go or how often we’ll play yet. But it’s nice to have something to do when the three of us get together for gaming.

Two Tails…. Er… I mean Tales.

Lt. Gwenn’s journal

“Well, a prehensile tail can be quite… fetching, Gwenn.”

I swear, I don’t know what made me blush about that– her words, the image in my mind of Marco’s tail, or the thing she said about lockpicking. I do not think she was talking about actual locks.

In any case, the conversation was strained, to say the least. But it– and Tristram’s girl trouble– did prompt me to consider writing him a letter. Apparently, it’s not such a bad idea, if you want someone to continue to care about you and keep you in their thoughts while out saving the world (or just your own skin).

Tristram’s girl trouble. Indeed. Colette is. Well. She’s trouble.

Continue reading Two Tails…. Er… I mean Tales.

For Years of Sweater Knitting

 

Pun intentional.

This week, I finished a project that was 4 years in the making:

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This is John’s handknit sweater, made with Wensleydale Longwool, a long-staple wool I bought in England in 2009. I started knitting at the end of October that year, and knitted on the drive down to Las Vegas when we moved here that November.

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The pattern is Andy, which is a nice men’s sweater pattern from Knitty. John did not pick the colors– I picked them out when I was buying the yarn. I settled on 2 complementary colors because there wasn’t quite enough of the dark green for a full sweater.

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As it turns out, the amount of wool I bought was almost exactly perfect for this pattern. I am personally proud of the fact that, on every single row, I remembered to wrap my colors during the color change, so there are no gaps. It’s truly a beautiful work.

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About a year ago, I was working on this project and I had passed the part where you separate the front and back at the armholes. Somewhere along the way, I made a mistake, and the pattern in the back was, well, wrong. Not very wrong, just wrong enough that it didn’t quite line up the way it was supposed to.

I finished the sweater anyway and bound off. But I wasn’t satisfied. It’s one thing to have a little mistake, but this looked like a blip in the matrix.

About a month ago, I sucked up my pride, frogged the back, and re-knitted to fix it.

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Fortunately, after that was done, I tackled the sleeves, and they went along at a nice quick clip, first one then the other.

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One of the hazards of taking so long to finish a project is that John’s body has changed somewhat– his waist has decreased, and his chest has increased. As a result, the sweater was a bit snug around the chest. It would stretch, sure, but it also would be nice if there was a little extra ease in it.

When we discovered this, I was initially thinking I would need to knit a border along the center line or something, and my brain was trying to calculate how best to do that, all things being equal. Mostly, my brain was screaming “ARE YOU INSANE?!?”

John found the TechKnitting blog’s post on underarm gussets, which add a small amount of ease (in this case, about 4 inches total) to a project. Because the front and back were knitted as one piece up to the armholes, I did have to cut about 2 inches on each side of the body of the sweater. I used my sewing machine and made tiny steeks for the gusset pieces. I think you can hardly tell they’re there– what do you think?

 

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The final, hair-tearing bit in finishing was the zipper. After everything was blocked and seamed, the collar-to-hem was 22 inches long (perfect!), so I only needed a dark green separating zipper. And the talent to install one.

I hemmed and hawed for about a week before buckling down yesterday and machine-basting the zipper in. Flawless. Then, I unzipped it and stitched it into place, folding and tucking the extra bit at the top and making sure everything came together.

However, because the repeating pattern has uneven “pull” horizontally, the edge is somewhat “wavy” even when blocked. As a result, there are a few little spots where the zipper catches or where the fibers of the yarn are a little too close and can get caught in the teeth. Over time, these will wear down and fall out, but for now, I handstitched a few of them out of the way, and called it done.

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As anyone who has seen my weather scarf, or any of the dozen or so shawls I’ve knitted over the years, I am not averse to spending time on a knitted project. But it’s nice to be done with something, especially when that thing has taken such a long time to finally come to fruition.

I love you, sweetheart, and I show my love for you in yarn.

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