Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tabletop Tuesday! Finding a Tabletop RPG Group

This Tabletop Tuesday topic is about how I found my Dungeons & Dragons group.

I had been wanting to play D&D for a few years, but was anxious and unsure about finding a group to play with - until I learned that my favorite local comic book store hosted tabletop RPG (role-playing game) events, specifically D&D Adventurers League and Pathfinder Society.

I was already comfortable at that comic store - the staff members are always nice and respectful, and the other customers are either friendly or at the very least mind their own business. But I was still nervous, being a D&D n00b. It turns out I had nothing to worry about!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Star Wars: A New Dawn

I recently finished Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. This novel takes place between Episode III and Episode IV, and portrays some of the events leading to the start of the rebellion against the Empire, specifically the meeting of Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus, two characters on Star Wars Rebels.

I will keep this review spoiler free, but if you aren't familiar with Star Wars Rebels season 1 you should probably proceed with caution.

The book begins by establishing Kanan as a former Jedi who survived Order 66 and where he has ended up roughly 8 years later (6 years before the events of the tv series, 11 before Episode IV). He is a bit of a drifter and a roughneck, moving from system to system, picking up new jobs before the Empire presence grows too strong and he is forced to move on again. He has changed his name and hidden his identity, concealing his Force powers from everyone, even himself.

At the start of the book, Kanan is living and working on Gorse, a mining planet in the Outer Rim. The Empire has taken an interest in the planet Gorse, its moon (Cynda), and the thorilide mined there. A star destroyer arrives, bringing Count Vidian, a wealthy businessman and Empire efficiency expert. Hera Syndulla, a twi'lek pilot and rebel, has also arrived on the planet to learn more about the Empire's intentions and the mysterious Vidian.

The events of the book help establish how difficult life in the Outer Rim has become under the Empire, and how ruthless the Empire is; lives are expendable, as long as the Empire keeps running. Hera arrives on Gorse to gather information on the Empire and their interest in the Gorse system, though we also learn that she works as a liaison between a network of rebels and people tired of living under the oppression of the Empire. There are also references to her looking for potential team members, and we are led to understand that is how the crew of the Ghost was assembled prior to the events of the Rebels TV show.

This grassroots rebellion, life under the oppressive Empire, and corruption within the Empire's ranks bring Hera and Kanan together as they find themselves unlikely partners working to uncover a plot against Vidian's rivals and save Gorse.

Miller has done a fine job writing this book. I've read some awful tie-in novels before, some of them from the Star Wars EU, but this book does not suffer from the problems I've seen before. Specifically, the characterization of Hera and Kanan is consistent with their portrayal on Star Wars Rebels. This is likely due to the involvement of the Star Wars Rebels executive producers in the creation of this novel. It is also not too heavy-handed - the book does not get bogged down trying to make readers believe these are the same characters on the Disney XD show, nor does it introduce unbelievable behaviors or characters traits.

The action sequences are well written, for the most part - the hoverbus chase scene halfway through the book is particularly fun and helps to demonstrate Hera's fantastic flying skills. I also liked the descriptions of technology and scenery, and thought they helped root the book in the Star Wars galaxy without overwhelming readers with superfluous details.

Hera's ship, Ghost. via Wookieepedia

As for secondary characters, there are only a few to keep track of. Everyone introduced seems to serve a purpose, showing what life is like on Gorse, how the Empire operates, or acting as a foil to our main characters. I also liked the gender balance among the characters, with a fairly equal number of important male and female characters (of many species) contributing to the story. And several of the female characters held powerful positions, such as Star Destroyer captain.

I do have one complaint with the writing, though. This story is told predominantly through Kanan's experience, and readers are frequently reminded of how attractive he finds Hera. At times I found this derailing - why are we reading a paragraph on how green her eyes are when there are more important things to worry about? But what I found most irritating was the frequency with which these paragraphs appeared. These moments seemed to reduce Hera to her physical appearance. This bothered me because Hera and her story are just as interesting as Kanan. We never learn why she joined the rebellion or how she got her ship, but we are told frequently just how green her eyes are, or how the sound of her voice pleases Kanan, or how gracefully she moves. Yes, Kanan is attracted to her, yes the attraction is mostly one-sided, yes it contributes to his characterization, but it is unnecessary to remind readers of that.
(Disclaimer: I ship them. I was still put off by this.)

Crew of the Ghost. via Wikipedia

I am very much hoping that we get a Hera-focused novel, because I want to know more about her. Why is she a rebel? How did she first meet/contact Fulcrum? Where did she get her ship? What was her life like after the Jedi helped her family during the Clone Wars? And after the fall of the Republic? How did she meet Chopper? The second season of Star Wars Rebels is supposed to reveal more about Hera and the other characters, but Kanan has a comic and this book to tell his story and I am doubtful that the TV series, being an ensemble cast, will delve very deeply into Hera, Sabine, and Zeb's backstories.

Despite these complaints I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Star Wars, especially if they have watched Star Wars Rebels. It was a fun and easy read that helped expand on newer characters, and has set the bar high for the remaining books being published in the lead up to episode VII.

Friday, April 24, 2015

#Fandom5: Five Games I Love to Play, April 24th, 2015

Hello again! Did you have a nice week?

I love playing games. Video games, tabletop games, card games, role-playing games. This post was very hard to write, and I think I changed my list at least four times before hitting publish!

I've even started writing a weekly post called Tabletop Tuesday, where I discuss my latest adventures in tabletop gaming. Check it out!

Because I like so many games, I made two lists by type - tabletop and video games! What are your favorite games? Have you played any of the ones I've listed? What would you recommend I play next?

Tabletop Games

1. Munchkin
I taught my little cousins to play this a few years ago, and they loved it! This is like a D&D dungeon crawler minus the role-playing and character building, and the cards are really funny and clever.

image via Amazon

2. Dungeons and Dragons
I posted about this tabletop RPG in this week's Tabletop Tuesday. I really like the group I've been playing with, and I'm having a great time acting out my character and learning how to play.

3. Pandemic
This is a cooperative game. Players work together to cure and eradicate diseases - this is different from the mobile game, which has players trying to wipe out the human species. I played this for the first time on TableTop Day 2015 and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it!
image via Amazon

4. Star Wars X-Wing Miniature Game
We bought the Star Wars X-Wing Miniature Game starter kit and we were immediately hooked. I love this game because it was very easy to learn, winning requires a combination of strategy and luck, and there are a variety of scenarios/goals/ships so the game can be different every time you play.

We want to build a fancy light-up game board to play on.

image via Amazon

5. Forbidden Island/Desert
Players take on the roles of adventurers who are stranded on the Forbidden Island or Desert and must gather items in order to escape. This is a cooperative game, and there are mechanisms built into the game that make the island or desert work against the group, either by the Island flooding or the Desert becoming covered in sand - there are plenty of ways to lose and only one way to win, so players must work together to delay the destruction of the environment and gather the artifacts they need.

image via Amazon

Video Games

1. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, N64
I love my N64 and think it is the best console ever. There are plenty of N64 games I loved playing through, but Ocarina of Time is the best of all of those. My sister and I used to collaborate - she would do the Shadow Temple, I would do the Spirit Temple, we'd take turns on boss fights or log into the other's account to go fishing.

image via Amazon

2. Star Wars: the Old Republic, PC
I love SWTOR. The Boyfriend participated in a few beta weekends and let me play through the smuggler class starting zone while he was working. I was hooked. I named my character Chik Solo, gave her Leia buns, and gave up my Warcraft subscription so I could pay for SWTOR instead.

In anticipation of the game's release, I preordered a copy and built a new gaming computer, which I packed up and took to my parent's house (the game was released right before Christmas).  Like most MMOs, there are different ways to play the game (PVP, PVE, questing, raiding, crafting, flight missions), but what hooked me was the storyline - every character class has a different storyline and some unique quests to complete. I also really enjoyed romancing my crew member, Corso Riggs.

3. Portal/Portal 2, PC
Portal is a puzzle game, and while there is always a threat to your character from the supercomputer GLADoS, the emphasis is on solving the levels and not action/fighting.

image via Amazon

4. Aladdin & The Lion King, Sega Genesis
I couldn't decide between these two, because most of the games I owned for the Sega Genesis were amazing! The Disney games were especially good though, so I chose them for this list. They were a lot of fun to play and were difficult enough to be satisfying without being impossible to beat (once in a while).

images via Wikipedia

5. World of Warcraft, PC
While there are other games I would love to include on this list, it wouldn't be right to exclude Warcraft. I have so many memories with this game, and Azeroth is a place where I feel comfortable and confident.

Runner Up: Skyrim, PC 
This is a great game, but I prefer the PC version because you can tailor the game using mods. This one is especially hilarious! (warning, if you're sensitive to video game violence, there is a beheading at the beginning of the video. It's not too graphic, but it does happen):

What are your favorite games? Do you prefer tabletop or video games? Do you have a group of people you play with, or do you like to solo?

#Fandom5, or 5 Fandom Friday is a weekly blog link-up, and the creation of Kristin at Super Space Chick and Megan at The Nerdy Girlie.  It's a lot of fun and it's a great way to find new blogs! Go here to learn more about it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tabletop Tuesday! Adventures of a D&D n00b

Hi everybody! This is a new series I'm working on called Tabletop Tuesday. In this series I will review new (to me) board games, discuss game systems, detail my new D&D adventures, and generally talk about almost anything to do with gaming.

For my second post, I will discuss my newest adventure in tabletop gaming... Dungeons & Dragons Expeditions.

D&D is a tabletop role-playing game (RPG). Players make characters according to the rules of the game and create backstories and personas that they may act out or use to determine how their character will behave in a situation. Using either a pre-made adventure or one created by the Dungeon Master/Game Master (DM/GM), the players take their characters on quests, exploring dungeons, solving puzzles, and fighting monsters and non-player characters (NPCs) controlled by the DM. Dice are used to determine character stats, decide if a player's action is successful, and how much damage is caused by an attack.

Friday, April 17, 2015

#Fandom5: Five Favorite Theme Park Rides, April 17th, 2015

Happy Friday!

I love theme parks and thrill rides. Growing up, I was lucky to have an amusement park within an hour's drive of my home. It was a small park, but we visited it once or twice most summers and always had a great time.

My favorite person to visit amusement parks with is my sister, and I have some great memories of visiting parks with her. In 2013 we went to Disney World and visited all four parks! It was so much fun and I can't wait to visit with her again.

I like coasters, and while I like spinning rides I have started struggling with those now that I'm getting older.  But my favorite rides have a story integrated with the ride, which is why the Disney World parks are my favorites to visit. This list was very hard to generate, because there are so many rides I wanted to include!

1. The Beast, Kings Island
I love Kings Island (especially their Fear Fest! which I guess is now known as Halloween Haunt?) and The Beast is one of my all-time favorite coasters.

It's a wooden coaster, and has just the right amount of shake to it - there's something about wooden coasters, they age in a way that makes the ride better, while steel coasters just get painful to ride as they age. Or is that just me?

I love this coaster, and have some great memories of riding it with my favorite aunt, my mom, and my sister. There's this one drop The Beast is known for that makes it feel like you're about to launch over this large wooded area before it turns and yanks you into a tunnel! Awesome.

via CoasterGallery.com

2. Millenium Force, Cedar Point
In 2007 my sister and I took an impromptu trip to Cedar Point, near Sandusky, Ohio. This coaster is one of the best I've ever ridden, and if the wait hadn't been so long (hour+) we would have ridden it multiple times. The largest drop is 300 feet high and has an 80 degree angle - you are almost heading straight down! It felt amazing.

3. Haunted Mansion, Magic Kingdom
This is one of the best rides in all of Disney. I love ghost stories and haunted houses, and this one has so many neat tricks and details. My sister and I rode this at least four times between our two days in Magic Kingdom, and we got the same Hitchhiking Ghost every time! Spooky!

via Disney World official site

4. Splash Mountain, Magic Kingdom
Not only does this log flume ride have a very satisfying drop, but it's one of those rides that follows a story instead of just ending after 60 seconds.  Splash Mountain follows the story of Brere Rabbit and the Briar Patch from Disney's Song of the South. I love listening to "How Do You Do?" as the anticipation builds and you're thrown in the briar patch with Brere Rabbit (the drop into the water!)

via Disney World official site

5. Star Tours, Disney Hollywood Studios
I visited DHS (or MGM if you're old skool) for the first time on our 2013 trip and had a great time! There are some amazing and fun rides there, and while it was hard to choose a favorite, I had to go with Star Tours. I fangirled pretty hard on this ride and went on it twice. My sister has trouble with this ride, since the movement makes her feel sick, but she rallied and went on it once with me and patiently waited while I went again (there was barely a line, so she didn't have to wait long!)

Selfie with R2!!!

Honorable mention: Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
This isn't a ride, but it was so much fun! This is a game played in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World that uses trading cards and interactive displays hidden all over the park. The premise is Hades has gathered the villains to take over the park and you have to help stop them using the magic spells on your cards.

What is your favorite park or park ride? Do you like coasters? Spinning rides? Carousels?

#Fandom5, or 5 Fandom Friday is a weekly blog link-up, and the creation of Kristin at Super Space Chick and Megan at The Nerdy Girlie.  It's a lot of fun and it's a great way to find new blogs! Go here to learn more about it!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tabletop Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Hi everybody! This is a new series I'm working on called Tabletop Tuesday. In this series I will review new (to me) board games, discuss game systems and 2-player games, detail my new D&D adventures, and generally talk about almost anything to do with gaming.

This past Saturday, April 11th, was the third annual International TableTop Day. International TableTop Day was started in 2012 by Geek & Sundry as part of their TableTop YouTube series, hosted by Wil Wheaton.  Since then the event has become extremely popular - last year, TableTop Day events were held in 80 countries!  These events are held in comic book stores, libraries, and even people's homes - if you follow the International TableTop Day link above, you can find events in your local area.

The Boyfriend and I spent the previous Saturday playing Dungeons & Dragons for 8 hours, so we decided to stay in and have a low-key TableTop Day!

Friday, April 10, 2015

#Fandom5: Five Magical Items I Want to Own, April 10th, 2015

How many devices, tools, and accessories do our beloved characters use that we wish we could own? And how many of them are magical? That's today's topic for 5 Fandom Friday!

This topic proved to be harder than I first thought. But I think I've found some awesome, useful, and rather iconic items that I'd love to have on my shelf! (or in my stable... not that I own a stable... I would need to get a stable.)

1. An Ollivander Magic Wand, from the Harry Potter series
Obviously this would make the list. I hate cleaning, so I predict that my most-used spells would be "Accio!" and "Scourgify!"

If I ever visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Florida, I am totally buying a wand
(and whatever Ravenclaw gear I can find!)

2. The Luna Pen, from Sailor Moon
It would be so nice to have the power to transform into any outfit or disguise. Everyone would think I was so fashionable.

3. Babel Fish, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
It's an animal, but we'll lump it in with unicorns and other magical creatures.  It would be so useful to be able to understand any language.

4. Dorothy's Slippers, The Wizard of Oz
I prefer the ruby slippers from the movie to the silver shoes from the source material (I like the color red!), but either way I get a gorgeous pair of shoes that transports me to wherever I want to go!  There's no place like SWCA, there's no place like SWCA, there's no place like SWCA!

5. An Alicorn/Pegacorn/Winged Unicorn, various
Whatever you want to call it, it's a magical winged horse - I could ride it and have adventures, like She-Ra and Swift Wind! Awww yeah!

What would you choose? Thanks for reading!

#Fandom5, or 5 Fandom Friday is a weekly blog link-up, and the creation of Kristin at Super Space Chick and Megan at The Nerdy Girlie.  It's a lot of fun and it's a great way to find new blogs! Go here to learn more about it!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Peggy Carter Cosplay, post 3

Thank you for the comments on my last peggy Carter Cosplay post!  I followed your advice and bought the Stetson (Treat Yo Self!) and am doubly glad I did because a couple days after it arrived I received this tweet:

Yeah, if the Agent Carter costume designer tells you to get the Stetson, you get the Stetson!

This hat is gorgeous! The red is brighter in-person than in the product photo.  I received mine from Henry the Hatter, because the official Stetson page was sold out. I ordered a size large because my head measured 23 inches, but this one is actually a little big on me - it fits fine once I clip my hair back, but if you're ordering you might think about sizing down. Since I got mine this store has run out of smalls and mediums, and the Stetson website has been out since before I really started looking for a hat.

Right now I'm working on shaping the brim and waiting for my fabric to arrive. I'm not planning on cutting or sewing anything until the semester (and my job) ends, so this will probably be my last Peggy update for a while. Until then I will be working on my Hera Syndulla lekku and posting about how that goes - it's been interesting so far!

Friday, April 3, 2015

#Fandom5: Five Times I Totally Fangirled, April 3rd, 2015

As soon as I read this prompt on the new list of April Fandom5 topics (posted on Kristin's blog), I thought of a few moments that I just had to include. I get excited easily and completely - I like to think I'm passionate. And I have trouble understanding why some people never seem to get as excited about anything in their lives (cough::TheBoyfriend::cough). Is there seriously nothing in their lives that moves them to jumping around and clapping their hands? Or at least, to want to do that? Do they never squee?

1. Michael Bublé Concert, Spring 2008
You know those old black and white videos of the girls crying and screaming over the Beatles and Elvis? Yeah, let's just say I totally get what they were going through. There is video evidence of this freak-out, but I can't remember which hard drive I saved it to...

2. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 TV spot, Spring 2007
I was staying with my Grandma after she had hip replacement surgery and we were watching TV one night. My Grandma didn't have wifi and even though I tried to follow POTC news when I was on campus, I guess I missed the news that the trailer was debuting during the commercials for whatever show we were watching. It was a complete surprise when Captain Jack appeared on the screen, and in my excitement I fell out of the armchair where I was sitting!

3. Role Playing at Hampton Court Palace, Winter 2013
I love English history, and when I was last visiting England I finally took a trip to Hampton Court Palace. I love Anne Boleyn and was geeking out pretty hard wandering around a palace where she had lived while she was Queen. At various times throughout the day living history interpreters would stage scenes for visitors, acting out significant moments in the life of Henry VIII and his court.

Hampton Court Palace

I was looking for the room where the next scene would take place and ran into a reenactor playing the part of Lady Rochford, George Boleyn's wife. She was worried about if she should tell King Henry about the rumors that her husband and the Queen were involved in some "unsavory" activities.

Being an English history nerd, I played along and told her that it was her duty as a loyal subject to tell the King, and that if she kept quiet on the matter, people might suspect her as well.

The reenactor loved it, and took my arm as she led the group that had formed around us to the room where she would meet Henry and Jane Seymour.

4. Riding Star Tours and shopping at Tatooine Traders at Disney Hollywood Studios, Summer 2013
I almost cried. Entering the ride was like I was in SWTOR or one of the movies! There was an AT-AT!!! And I loved the ride! After, my sister and I went into Tatooine Traders, where I geeked out over all the merchandise, built a lightsaber, and bought a Salacious B. Crumb doll. I also had a lot of fun chatting to the cast members.

The whole day was one big Star Wars geek out for me. I wore my hair in Leia buns and my Millennium Falcon t-shirt. When I went through security to enter the park, the guard called me Princess Leia and asked "That's not a poisoned apple in your bag, is it? You're not going to give it to Snow White, are you?" I replied no, and that us princesses had to stick together! He liked that and gave me a high-five. Later, during a radio trivia show performed by the Citizens of Hollywood, one of them called me Carrie Fisher! It was so cool.

5. Pretty much any time I talk about SDCC or any of my geek passions with anyone
I get really excited and a little overheated.

Once, before I became a jaded and burnt-out grad student, I geeked out so hard about archaeology it moved a sorority sister to change her major...

What gets your geek heart stirring? When was the last time you Kermit-flailed?

#Fandom5, or 5 Fandom Friday is a weekly blog link-up, and the creation of Kristin at Super Space Chick and Megan at The Nerdy Girlie.  Go here to learn more about it!