Blog

Menet’s Tattoos

Fantastic friends, it’s time for us to learn about something I’ve neglected to spend any time describing: Menet’s tattoos. She is half Varisian as you (hopefully) know, and one key marker of Varisian folks is that they often have tattoos, and quite a few. Some are even born with the rare “birth tattoo” which was technically the first tattoo Menet ever received. She didn’t know about this phenomenon until she was 16 however, and so was always told by her family that she was simply marked by Khepri. She often chalked the eerily detailed scarab tattoo on her right arm up to chance – and considered it a weird birthmark. She still doesn’t believe it means much of anything, and thinks it’s just a marker of her Varisian heritage, more than anything. The intricacy of the scarab tattoo comes from its many whorls and designs contained within. It is not a lifelike representation of the beetle, but instead looks like an artistic rendition.

Now, on to the other tattoos! I believe I’ve mentioned in the campaign that she has two facial tattoos, but I’m not 100% sure of that. Either way, we’re going to talk about it now. Menet’s tattoo style is “whatever looks nice.” That doesn’t mean none of her tattoos have any significance, it just means that some are simply there for aesthetics. Hence, her first facial tattoo, which she got at the age of 16 to mark the start of her journey away from home. It is a half-inch wide blue line that extends from one ear to the other, going over the bridge of her nose. She got this tattoo in particular because she saw a Varisian harrower with several lines across her face, and thought it looked beautiful.

The second tattoo she got on her face (not long after the first) was more symbolic. She started to feel homesick upon leaving Osirion, and so she got a simple shen ring in the center of her forehead, about an inch above her eyebrows. It is the same shade of blue as the line mainly because she wanted to match, but also because the color blue represents health, youth, and beauty. This may seem strange considering Menet’s apparent lack of vanity, but she sees beauty as a part of life, and celebrates it as a part of herself because there is no reason to deny it.

The third tattoo she got was on her left arm, in the same location as her birth tattoo on the other arm. She wanted to balance the scarab, and further represent her culture and homeland. Continuing the theme she started with her shen circle (which represents all that the sun circles in Osirion), she decided to get a tattoo of a phoenix (benu), which also represents the sun. It matches the tone of her birth tattoo, however her birth tattoo has always maintained a slight lustre and sheen in its blackness that her other tattoo simply cannot. She considers all of these symbols of her dedication to Khepri as he is linked to the rising sun and to Ra.

The final tattoo she has is a rather large, detailed piece that she has been slowly building on. It is across her shoulders and extends to the middle of her back, and contains as many colors as possible, representing various things to her fellow Varisians. It includes orange, pink, green, blue, turquoise, violet, and red. It is a stylized wagon wheel (think Roma Chakra) surrounded by flowers and whorls to make it more aesthetically pleasing. She has had various flowers added over time, most notably, hyacinthe winding through the spokes.

And those are all of Menet’s tattoos! I thought about using some image references between the text, but at the same time, I think it’s fun to let you all imagine these tattoos as you like. So for those of you who prefer to imagine it yourself, I’ll leave it up to your imagination.

Here are some links for those of you who’d like to see what I was looking at for reference:

https://goo.gl/images/i76rrw

https://goo.gl/images/ARVsFc

https://goo.gl/images/MsxVWY

https://goo.gl/images/BRysUU

https://goo.gl/images/Ag771Y

Why Ready Player One the Movie was a Failure in my Eyes

Strong female characters are such a huge influence to me and the world I see rising up around me. The representation is so inspiring. Working in a bookstore for years and having customers ask for recommendations from my male coworkers because my own “probably aren’t up to their standards” cuts me down.

Being the women trying to fit into a culture where women get pushed aside or criticized for menial things such as not being a true fan of something, or not belonging is actively hurtful. So that representation helps bring me back up again.

But straight white women are not the only people who deserve that honor.

Ready Player One was a book shone light on what it’s like to be a queer woman of color. H struggled with being accepted to the point where she decided to make a male avatar to help improve the ease of access to basic social rights, such as equal pay and respect, as well as just being more widely accepted. In the movie, this was completely removed.

The pivotal scene with Wade and H meeting for the first time was cut and briefly replaced with a cheap knockoff with Art3mis and H. The reason this scene was important is that it gave H the stage to express why she had disguised herself online and give a stage for an important dialogue.

© Warner Bros.

Other characters were robbed of their chance to make a stance as well. In the book, Shoto and Dijo were inseparable and both struggled with extreme depression that kept them locked in their rooms. In Japan, this is referred to as a Hikkiomori. They are people who rarely, if ever, leave their room due to overwhelming anxiety or a variety of other mental health obstacles. This was also completely removed from the movie. Instead, they made them background characters who shared no connection with no story given to them whatsoever.

My final complaint is with the casting for the movie, which clearly left something to be desired. Almost every character was described in the book as being a little chubby, slightly overweight, or having blemished skin. The classical image of someone who you would think spent most of their time playing a video game, or even just the more typical teenager. The actors that they chose were thin and flawless, aside from the strawberry birthmark that they left on Art3mis. This perpetuates the idea that people need to strive to attain the standard image of beauty and stole away the spotlight for those people who honestly look more like the average human.

The positive feedback I’ve heard is how they made Art3mis a stronger character which made Wade seem less gross in his unyielding attempt to date her. For me this wasn’t about lifting Art3mis up, it was about cleaning up the “white knight” gamer guy who had consent issues. Wade was written as being problematic because he was problematic. But the movie wiped him clean of all his issues, and in doing so stole the foundation of the marginalized communities that the book actually addressed.

Rolling Abraxas

I am playing a few online games at the moment. It is not uncommon for me to look up talent or ship builds. Y’all know what I am talking about, right? Yah you do, you delightful nerds. I don’t do that as often when building pen and paper characters. When it was time to roll up a toon for the Reign of Winter campaign, I didn’t scour the internet for THE best first level toon. I had a basic idea revolving around a winter druid. Lucky for me the arctic druid archetype existed. I will be honest with you, I immediately thought about rolling an Aasimar. They pack some sweet racial traits. What druid wouldn’t like a nice Wisdom and Charisma boost? He looked pretty good by the time I finished up. Then I got to thinking about a Mowgli character. Raised by wolves prior to finding the path of the druid. A few days passed, and I still liked the idea. The week progressed, and I kept on musing about a feral background. Story first, math second. Says it right on our website. So, I scrapped the Aasimar druid build and wrote a decent character background. I chose feats and skills based on wilderness survival instead of boosting my AC or damage. When the time comes to increase an ability score at level 4, I am leaving my Wisdom as is. I have never done that with any prior character; ability increase equals primary stat boost. I am excited to see how far Abraxas can go and see his story unfold. I am really excited to see how his interactions with his companions affects his growth. Maybe he will pick up a bit of gunsmithing or learn to how to pick a few pockets. Only time and the story will tell.

Mixed Review: The Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Series by Laurell K. Hamilton

I got into this series while I was in high school (around 15ish) after it was recommended to me by the boy I was dating at the time. He was 16, dyed his hair black, smoked, wore skinny jeans, had a lip ring and told me he had to get electroshock therapy every Monday to manage his schizophrenia or something like that – all of which I thought officially made him the coolest person who could possibly exist. Alas, my relationship with this edgy punk lasted only three weeks – but it started me down the path of a much longer but no less turbulent relationship with Anita Blake.

The first 9 books of this series are something truly amazing, especially for a girl in high school who liked scary monsters and mysteries but was lacking a female window into those genres. Anita was tough as nails, no-nonsense, sarcastic and broken in a way that seemed revolutionary to me. These kinds of female characters seem a dime a dozen now, but I give LKH a lot of credit for helping to trailblaze the woman led smart, sexy, supernatural horror thriller novel. This first part of the Anita Blake series and it’s particular brand of feminism is a product of its time (the first book came out in 1993) and has more than a few themes that are problematic in light of how much cultural attitudes towards white 90’s feminism has shifted – but it was still a story I desperately needed and in some ways still do.

With her Browning, penguin stuffed animals, sassy coffee mugs and the ability to reanimate the dead Anita spends 9 books facing down a terrifying and wildly entertaining cast of zombies, vampires, shapeshifters, voodoo priests, evil circus performers and every other horror staple you can think of. She has a classic torrid love triangle with a hot werewolf and an equally hot vampire – both of whom are well fleshed out characters in their own right, with their own struggles and needs that often conflict with Anita’s. Her relationship with Edward, a fellow monster hunter, is still one of my favorite slow burn literary friendships to this day and the book that really expands on the development of that friendship, Obsidian Butterfly, is my favorite novel in the series.

Unfortunately, Obsidian Butterfly also marks the endpoint of the true Anita Blake series for me. In some ways I think that’s because there was no real way to top the stakes (Anita and Edward hunt a vampire so ancient she may actually be an Aztec goddess to save a child), but I think it marked such a huge change in LKH’s personal life that she started taking the series in a direction that is much more supernatural romance than horror thriller. That in and of itself doesn’t really bother me, it’s her series and if she’s in a happier romantic place herself then more power to her.

What bothers me is that outside of Anita’s romantic relationships and explorations of polyamory – some well written with great thoughtfulness (Nathaniel, Jean-Claude) some not so much (ugh Asher) – there really isn’t much story post-OB. The monster hunts, the murder mysteries, the explorations of Anita and her complex relationship with her own growing powers and dark past actions are still lightly touched on but all in all, will take up maybe 100 pages of a 500-page novel.

The rest will be spent on ever more elaborate sex scenes (which sounds titillating and is at first but you’d be surprised how fast that gets old), relationship negotiation and Anita’s strange growing dislike of other women and their strange immediate dislike of her (usually because of their uncontrollable jealousy of her many hot boyfriends). It varies from mildly interesting to eye rollingly cringy. And towards the end, almost as an afterthought, the book will wrap up the monster murder mystery in a few rushed pages and an epilogue.

And yet…I keep reading them. Every once in awhile LKH writes an entry in this series that reminds me of the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter I loved so much in high school (hello Affliction, you gave me such hope). Heavy on the action with a well explored, very creepy monster and 1-2 pretty hot sex scenes = ideal Anita Blake.

So I let LKH keep stringing me along because when she’s on her game it’s too good not to read. I’ll leave you with some final thoughts: I miss Ronnie, Olaf needs to die in a fire, Serpentine is completely skippable, and it’s been 14 books but Micah is STILL boring.

End of rant. If you’re also in a bad relationship with this series, hit me up! We have some things to discuss.

Taking time to find the right fit. Creating Menet.

When I began creating characters for the podcast, I ran into several stumbling blocks. First, I created a Paladin who was, unbeknownst to me, remarkably similar to one on another actual play podcast. That was obviously out, and I had to say goodbye to a beautiful, sweet boy that I’d fallen in love with (RIP Keanu).

 

Then I started getting some pretty crazy ideas about a Cleric of an Outer God or a chaotic neutral Cleric of Nethys/Calistria/Naderi. All of that sounded really fun, but difficult to maintain. I became particularly obsessed with a Cleric of Yog-Sothoth I had written up, and had to come to terms with the fact that she was definitely not playable long-term. As for the others, I’ve played nothing but chaotic neutral sorcerers since the start of my Pathfinder tenure, so playing another CN caster felt too easy. They’ve been badass and very fun to play, sure, but I wasn’t stretching my legs at all. Though there are definitely many more avenues I would like to explore with such characters, but that’s best left for a different post.

 

Ultimately, after toying with a Paladin of Arshea (very fun), and a Paladin of Yuelral (a bit less fun), Dustin suggested the god Khepri to me. I wasn’t feeling a strong connection to any of my Paladins (even if the Paladin of Arshea seemed fun), so I wasn’t sure how I would feel trying to create yet another one. It became apparent immediately, however, that this was the one. Her backstory practically wrote itself.

 

A suave, Robin Hood-esque, freedom-fighting, half-Varisian, half-Garundi Paladin of the people sounded exactly like the character I wanted to play. I loved her, and I loved imagining how I would play her. She’s sexy, she’s laid back, she’s good-natured, she’s dashing, she’s fun, and she’s out of her damn mind. She’s a patchwork of ideas and archetypes that usually don’t fit inside the mold of a Paladin, but I think she’s perfect. We’ll see how she develops together, and I’m excited to take that journey with you!