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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!



Why I Game – Jessica Negin

I grew up in a household wherein gaming was a near daily occurrence. My mom had my sister and I playing Settlers of Catan as early as 2000 when I was just 8 years old. I’ve been obsessed with board games ever since, and the same goes for video games.

 

Naturally, I was always fascinated by the idea of tabletop roleplaying games, but I didn’t have the chance to play until 2009. That’s when I started my first Pathfinder campaign, and I was immediately hooked. The thrill of our group’s struggles, our failures, and our victories was addictive. I obsessed over my character’s stats and backstory, I roleplayed my little heart out, and from then on, there was no going back. I went on to play the same character type for every campaign after that – basically a heightened version of myself with badass magic powers – and as a teenager, it was the most thrilling form of self-expression I had at my disposal.

 

Since then, I’ve grown up quite a bit and found a new appreciation for gaming as a means of telling a story as a group, solving puzzles together, and getting to know people better. However, there is still a small part of me that simply enjoys that self-expression. At the heart of it, these games are a creative endeavor undertaken by a group of individuals who all want to articulate something. What we create together can be altogether different from what we set out to create as individuals, and that’s what makes it so special. That’s why I game.

Labeling the Container

Dustin and I went and got tattoos together in July (pictured above) and no lie, that was easily the nerdiest thing I’ve ever done. Yes, I’m including starting an actual play Pathfinder podcast with my friends online in my estimation of that. We both got watercolor D20 tattoos and, to complete the look, I had our artist add my adorable cat, Thor, to mine.

We were discussing tattoos and identity and why people choose what they choose and Jackie Rabbit (our amazing artist) said that she heard one of her other clients refer to tattooing as “labeling the container.” That statement hit me hard as such an accurate representation of what body modification can be – taking the physical body that was made for us completely beyond our control and marking it with what we know to be true of ourselves on the inside so we are better reflected and better known.

So here’s how I’ve labeled myself so far: a lover of games and my cat, a devoted sister, an anthropologist, a playful if easily distracted friend, a hoarder of knowledge and sparkly items and a fantasy superfan. I also have a #basicbitch tattoo of a flock of crows representing…something about…my wrist looking cooler with that tattoo on it, because your tattoos don’t have to have any further meaning beyond you liking how it looks. Who knows what else I’ll add as I continue to develop as a person but one thing is certain: I am getting SO MANY MORE – I have a lot of unlabeled space left.

P.S. if you want a good tattoo Instagram account to follow check out Jackie’s (@jackie_rabbit) – she does the neatest fantasy/horror/gothic art and her feed is a delight. Show yours off too, tag us on Twitter or whatever, I love seeing everyone’s ink!