Friday, 24 December 2010

In which Mint Returns to Reasonable Posting Standards

Well, Christmas is on Saturday, and given that I'm suddenly realising that I will be very busy over the next week, I decided that I would end the year (probably; there may be another post given sufficient time and inspiration) on a nice substantial post, with lots of pictures and lots of impassioned ranting. And no, it's not going to be about how much I hate Christmas or anything to do with it.

It's going to be about Pokemon.

Well, it's actually going to be about why Ash Ketchum should not be allowed to train pokemon, but why quibble?

Okay, so as you know, this is our protagonist. After deciding that he was going to be the world's greatest Pokemon Master, he was all set to go off on his great Pokemon journey at the age of 10 years old. Interestingly enough, he is still 10 years old, even after over 650 episodes spanning 13 years. In any case, after sleeping in and turning up too late to get one of the traditional starter pokemon, he gets that pikachu we all know and love, and thus begins Pokemon; the story of one little boy and his outstanding idiocy.

Before I get into the main body of the post however, honourable mentions go to Professor Oak, Delia Ketchum and the general society of the Pokemon world as a whole. Who lets 10 year olds go out basically alone into a world filled with things that can injure, eat and otherwise horribly maim and/or kill them with basically no effort, and worse still, let them carry them around in their pockets? This gets even worse in later installments where we come into contact with pokemon that control time and space.

Also, this is the Pokemon God. Yes, you can catch him.
Despite the fact that Ash becoming a Pokemon Trainer is a fantastically bad idea anyway because of all these reasons, he manages to be so hideously inept at training his pokemon that it's a wonder someone hasn't frogmarched him home and banned him from keeping the things.

The Beginnings
Ash started off his quest in probably the worst fashion possible. Unable to pick the pokemon he actually wanted, he ends up with a stubborn (and to begin with, borderline homicidal) pikachu that is not going in that pokeball thank you and is just as likely to shock him at any given point as it is to look at him (or possibly more likely to shock him actually). Add to that the fact that Ash, for all the tv he's watched (we first see him watching a League fight between two trainers), actually knows nothing about pokemon and we have a recipe for disaster. I mean, are you seriously telling me that he didn't at least go along to Professor Oak a few times to even learn some basics?

Anyway, since he has no clue what he's doing, Professor Oak gives him his handy-dandy Pokedex, which he obeys to the letter. Except when it tells him that pokemon must be carried in pokeballs; Pikachu saw to that pretty fast. Oh, and he also developed a bad habit of frying the bike of any possible-sidekick-material females. Basically, Ash starts off really badly. And doesn't get any better.

Gotta Catch 'em All!
Part of the whole appeal of Pokemon was the challenge of getting every single one of them, and of course, the anime kept this. Hell, the English dub even gave him the surname 'Ketchum' as a pun on the (dub introduced) motto. So of course, Ash claimed that he was going to catch all the pokemon there are. After over 650 episodes, he must have caught quite a lot huh? Let's see, there are currently 649 pokemon with the introduction of generation V. Ash has been through four regions already, so he's had loads of time to catch pokemon.

Oh wait, he's only caught 35.

Okay, there's more than that. Techinally, he's had 37, plus one egg (not counting Togepi's), but he never actually caught those other two, he just sort of let them tag along. Oh, and then there's his Gliscor, except that no one knows what happened to that. It's just... not around anymore. Anyway, to put this is in perspective, by the time Ash finally managed to catch his seventh pokemon, his rival, Gary Oak, had managed to catch forty-five, and train a damn good team too.

Now, we can quibble over numbers here, because Ash actually owns a herd of 30 Taurus that he somehow managed to catch by accident, and no, he didn't technically catch that Charmander or the Chimchar, but the point is that Ash basically goes to a new region, dumps all of his old pokemon bar Pikachu onto Professor Oak (except when he lets them go, or foists them off on other people so they can train them instead of him, but we'll get to that later) and proceeds to catch that region's version of the exact same pokemon. In every region, he catches the traditional starter pokemon, along with the primary flying type (pidgeotto in Kanto, noctowl in Johto, etc.).

Yeah, yeah, like we haven't seen this set-up four times before.
 Ash has at least managed to get the method right by now. In the first episode, he decided that chucking a rock at a pidgey is the best way to catch it. When that didn't work, he proceeded to try it again with a spearow, which was an even worse idea. Gradually, and with a lot of help from Misty and Brock, he did actually figure out what he was doing. However, that didn't stop him from failing to actually catch that Haunter in Lavender Town, and then acting surprised when it vanished for while.

I Wanna be the Very Best
Okay, so maybe Ash isn't great at catching pokemon, so how about battling? He wants to be the greatest Pokemon Master in the world, so he's got to travel around all the gyms, collecting badges and then challenging the Pokemon League in any given region.

To date, Ash actually does have all of the gym badges from Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh, plus the ones from the anime-only region The Orange Islands, and one from the new region, Unova. This would be more impressive if it hadn't taken him until his third gym battle to actually win a badge by himself, and even then, it was a rematch. Before this, and again afterwards he was usually just handed a badge after seeing off the hilariously inept (even moreso than Ash himself) Team Rocket trio.

Also, there's this.
And then we have the Leagues. To date, Ash has only managed to win in The Orange Islands League, which only consisted of five battles with gym leaders and doesn't consist of the tournaments seen in the major Leagues. Also, despite the fact that he's so serious about being a Master, he gets berated by Brock for lazing around doing nothing before his first League tournament when he should have been training his pokemon and making them able to withstand an actual challenge from talented trainers. That said, he did finally manage to beat Gary during that tournament, so I guess that's something.

Teach Pokemon to Understand the Power that's Inside
Hoo boy, this is where it gets good. Or really, really terrible.

Ash is a pokemon trainer. This means, as suggested by the name, that he trains his pokemon, learning how to use them to their greatest potential in battle. Or in Ash's case, ignores all concepts of tactics and just goes with whatever pops into his head at the time.

One thing that people learn very quickly when they start playing the games is the concept of type advantages between pokemon. Things like grass being weak to fire, fire weak to water and water to grass, and the many other type set-ups. Ash... not so much.

Okay, here's the deal, flying type pokemon are weak to electrical attacks. In a double battle against the Hoenn gym leaders Tate and Liza, Ash's Pikachu and Swellow (a flying type) are losing horribly against their Lunatone and Solrock (both rock/psychic types, and therefore resistant to both flying and electrical attacks). So what does Ash do?

He electrocutes the shit out of his swellow.

Given that Pikachu uses Thunder, the strongest electrical attack, and is already stupidly overpowered, this should have outright killed the poor bird. However, Ash's stupidity is apparently on a par with that of Fighter from 8 Bit Theater, and as such, his plan works because no one tells him it won't. And so, we get this:

Thunder Armour. I am not shitting you.
This is not the first incidence of Ash refusing to change his strategy when faced with a losing battle. In his very first gym battle, he gets his ass handed to him because no matter what he does, electricity is not going to do a damn thing to Brock's rock type pokemon, and instead of asking Misty, who clearly has more idea of how to battle than he does at that point (and she probably still does, given that she's a gym leader), for help, he simply decides to charge up his pikachu and try the same strategy again, only with a bit more power.

You'd think he would learn over the course of his travels that this stategy is terrible, but he does it again in the Sinnoh arc in his gym battle against steel-type trainer Byron. Fire is strong against steel, so Ash starts off with a halfway smart choice and sends out a fire type. On using flamethrower and discovering that Byron's Bronzor has an attack that negates a huge chunk of his Chimchar's attack, does he switch to his water type? No, he uses flamethrower again.

The stupid thing is, Ash always has other pokemon on his team that have the upper hand, and in the last case, if he's bothered training Chimchar at all, it should have some fighting-type moves in its arsenal, and those are strong against steel types.

Pokemon, you're my Best Friend
Okay, so we've identified that Ash is pretty rubbish at catching pokemon, winning things with pokemon and battling with pokemon. But Ash is always portrayed as being a good and kind trainer, always making tight bonds with them.

Until something new comes along.

Ash may be shown having some great times with his pokemon, and there's no denying that him and pikachu are solid. But what about his other pokemon? What about his squirtle? What about the bayleef that was arguably just as fiercely loyal to Ash as Pikachu?

Squirtle was shooed off back to his old gang because Ash believed they needed him more than he did. Nevermind the fact that the Squirtle Squad had been doing fine without him while Squirtle was off with Ash, or that he won a match for Ash in his first Pokemon League attempt.

Bayleef was shunted off to Professor Oak after a long hard struggle to become one of Ash's strongest pokemon, evolving from a chikorita in order to save him from Team Rocket. Later, she would help save Ash again from a team of Rocket mechas, only to be left behind with Professor Oak again. This being after it's shown that she gets very distressed when she's away from Ash.

Ash is very prone to building up these friendships and then leaving his pokemon in the dust. I mean, sure, there's that problem with Pokemon where this sort of thing happens:

But surely it would make sense to take more than just one strong pokemon into a new region with you, at least to begin with. Plus, he promised that Pidgeot that he was coming back for it after he finished in the Orange Islands. That was 593 episodes ago and he still hasn't kept that promise.

So Yeah...
I think it's safe to say that Ash is a pretty terrible Pokemon Trainer. I'm pretty sure the only reason he makes any progress is because Pikachu spends all of its spare time training the rest of his pokemon offscreen.

The Poster Boy for 'How NOT to train your Pokemon'

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

A Month for Mint

Okay, so I was short one post last week, and I have an idea for a post that will make up for failtastic one I made last time, but that awesome post is not this one, because I don't have the time to write the epic post right now. So instead, I'm going to write a simplified rundown of my life over the past month in order to show you why I don't have time for epic posting.

Events may be slightly out of order, since this is going to be written in the way that my brain is currently functioning, which is not very chronologically. In any case, this has been my December.

WARNING: This post contains multiple and flagrant cases of CAPSLOCK ABUSE.

STIRLING: *ker-snowed!*

ESSAY DEADLINES: *appear on horizon*
MINT: *procrastinates*
MINT: *plays video games*
MINT: OMGWTF *spazflail*

AWESOME AMERICAN FRIEND: Hey, so I have to go back to America in a couple of weeks.
MINT:  ):
AWESOME CANADIAN FRIEND: Hey, so I have to go back to Canada in a few weeks

EXAM DATE: *appears on horizon*
MINT: *studyflail*

11TH OF DECEMBER: Hey, it's your birthday today!
MINT: *procrastinates, with SUSHI and FLATMATES*
EXAM DATE: *taps MINT on shoulder*
MINT: Well, shit *more studyflail*

EXAM PAPER: So all that studying you did? Yeah, so not gonna help.
MINT: WTF IS THIS I DON'T EVEN-! *examflail*

FLATMATES: We have exams tomorrow! *studyflail*
FLATMATES: *glaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaare*
MINT: I'll be good...

COWORKER: We are having a leaving party for AAF where we work tomorrow. You'll work it right?
MINT: Yeah, okay.
COWORKER: And you'll work the day after that even though it'll be a late night? And Sunday? And Saturday too? Great!
MINT: Wait, what?!

AAF: Thanks for doing this, this party's pretty awesome.
MINT: That's okay, we're-

ACF: I'm really drunk. Can I have hugs?
MINT: Of course ACF
ACF: I'm going to miss you when I go back to Canada.
MINT: Okay!

MINT: *whimper*


MINT:  I can fold up flat packed giftboxes in my sleep. Speaking of sleep, I'm going to do that.
BOYFRIEND: I have to go home now.

MINT: ARGH *plotscramble*

SCOTLAND: *ker-snowed!*
GODFATHER: Come have lunch with us in Glasgow!
MINT: Awesome!
TRAINS: Fiiiiiiiiine, but you are standing on that platform in the cold for an hour before we take you anywhere.

GLASGOW: *ker-freeze!*
GODFATHER: Happy late birthday!
MINT: Yay! *ker-lunched*


RED5: Hey, we have some pretty cool stuff!
MINT: Neat!


SSD: *ahem*
TRAINS: NOT SO FAST! *delayed!*

MINT: IN A MINUTE *failure to giftwrap*
SSD: *facepalm*

So yeah, that's why I'm lame and wrote a lame post last time and it was lame again this time and I'm going to go finish writing that secret santa now...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

In which Mint looks at 4Kids while avoiding studying.

Due to the impending exam crisis of December 2010, we did not have a D&D game yesterday, so here's a post about something else instead.

I talked about anime a bit last time, and today I'm going to continue that theme by talking about that company we all shudder to think about when anime is mentioned: 4Kids Entertainment.

4Kids is a New York based production company that was founded in 1970 as Leisure Concepts Inc. and was then changed to 4Kids when it began television production in 1992. Naturally, it is best known for dubbing anime into English, the best known examples being Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Well, I say it's best known for dubbing these programs. What's it's actually known for is doing this sort of thing:

Was this really necessary?

The Edits

Part of what got a lot of anime fans annoyed at 4Kids was the fact that they made a lot of edits that were, at best, unnecessary and at worst, completely nonsensical. This ranged from their apparent hatred of rice balls in Pokemon (they were called everything from doughnuts to popcorn, or edited out to sandwiches), to the erasure of guns in Yu-Gi-Oh, leading to lots of dramatic and really silly pointing scenes (kids like guns!) to what they did to Tokyo Mew Mew and One Piece.

Tokyo Mew Mew is your typical Magical Girl anime involving 13 year-old girls who transform into animal themed soldiers to fight against aliens. It's a show that would translate well into Saturday morning viewing. So 4Kids got hold of it, changed its name to Mew Mew Power, changed all of the characters' names, inserted terrible pop music and made so many pointless edits to both the script and the animation that it's a wonder there was anything left by the end of it.

Mew Mew Power was one of the lesser known dubs that 4Kids produced, whereas their dub of One Piece proved to be the final straw as far as the fans were concerned.

This dub had all of the usual edits done; the theme song changed, violence and anything to do with the word 'death' taken out, guns edited to look more like toys, that sort of thing.

I really don't know what they were thinking here...
I suppose edits like those are fair enough for a Saturday morning cartoon, but when you start editing out things that really didn't make all that much difference, it starts getting silly. Any and all signs of cleavage on any woman was edited out, including any body lines that even hinted at it, leading to some odd looking scenes. When they edited out some of the characters cigarettes and cigars, they didn't always bother to replace them, leading to some awkward looking and pointless hand movements, and they sometimes left the smoke in. A lot of background writing was removed from the show, along with any lettering or tattoos the characters had, because kids are dumb or something.

In fact, you know what? VG Cats said it best.

That's all I've got for now. My brain's dying due to protesting so much about studying.

Friday, 10 December 2010

In which Mint muses on some animated shows; the Silly, the Bad and the Weird.

We have already covered in previous posts the fact that I am a gigantic nerd. But that's not just limited to roleplay games. I'm also a manic JRPG fan and I'm a huge cartoon and anime junkie. And since I'm meant to be revising for an exam just now, I thought I'd write a blog post about some of my newer discoveries.

I wasn't your typical kid in regards to TV growing up. I actually spent most of my time watching nature documentries and the Channel 4 learning programs that used to be on in the morning and cartoons barely factored in. My parents didn't have anything to do with that decision either; I was just a weird kid. Eventually Pokemon filtered in and I watched that, along with Flint the Time Detective, which was an amazing anime that actually didn't make a huge amount of sense now that I think about it...

This all changed after my gran had Sky installed at her house, and I discovered that there were whole channels that had cartoons on all the time. I was around thirteen or so at the time, and I had a lot of catching up to do, so every waking minute spent at my gran's house was divided between food and cartoons, and even then, those mostly happened simultaeneously. Since then, I'm constantly looking for some new animated thing to sink my obsessive hooks into, and I'm still finding things, even now.

Not all of them good things.

The Silly:
Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z!

The Powerpuff Girls was one of my favourite classic cartoons. It was, and still is, awesome. It was also a stealth parody (although not always very stealthy) of Japanese Magical Girl shows. And then this happened:

Yep, they made a Magical Girl anime out of it, complete with transformation sequences for the girls. And you know what? It worked. Despite the fact that suddenly Professor Utonium has a son and a robot dog, the girls are aged around 12/13, are not related and got their powers in a freak accident, and it's set in Tokyo, not Townsville, this thing works. Well, as long as you just forget the first episode ever happened. It was terrible, and added nothing to the show.

But yeah, this took the Powerpuff Girls and turned it into a hyperactive sugar-coated whirl of both accidental  and deliberate cross-parodies. Also, for some reason they seem to have almost switched Bubbles and Blossom's personalities around, and Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup are not their real names (those would be Momoko, Miyako and Kaoru respectively). Instead, they are applied only when they're in their Powerpuff forms. The traditional villains are still around though, with Sedusa, the Gangreen Gang and Fuzzy Lumpkins making appearances, along with Mojo Jojo (of course) and Princess. The Rowdyruff Boys are in there too, leading to much rejoicing from the original fandom.

Okay, I'm making it sound pretty bad, and on some level it is. As a Powerpuff fan, I do have to divorce this from the original show in its entirety, but you know what? I still enjoyed watching it.

The Bad:
Loonatics Unleashed

Okay, so you know how I said Powerpuff Girls Z was good even though it changed pretty much everything from its original concept? This is what happens they do that wrong:


This is what happened when Warner Brothers came up with the stupid idea that the Looney Toons needed a gritty reboot and an anime-esque art style. Which they didn't, and even if they did, they didn't need this.

I'll admit it, I watched a full series and a half of this show, for much the same reason that I read the first three Twilight books; in the futile hope that it would get better. And, much like the Twilight books, there is so much wrong with this show. These are Looney Toons (well, apparently they're descendents of them, which gets creepy at one point and makes no sense at others, but we'll get to that in a minute) with superpowers. Which they got because a meteor crashed into their 'City Planet' (yes, it's a planet that is just one big city) Acmetropolis and knocked it off its axis. And this somehow gave some people superpowers, more specifically, those six and a couple of villain characters.

Before I go on, okay, there are some good things about this show. Two good things in fact; specifically, these two:

These characters are Rev Runner and Tech. E. Coyote, and they are pretty much the only redeeming feature of this show, due to good voice actors (these versions can talk), good dialogue and superpowers that actually make sense. The rest of them... not so much. It doesn't help that our two rabbit characters, Ace and Lexi, are apparently both descended from Bugs and Lola bunny, and yet there are a couple of times where the show seems to want to pair them up, which isn't really that bad since they're probably only distant relatives, but then we have the fact that Foghorn Leghorn and Pepe Le Pew both apparently ended up with human descendents, and this just shoots straight into WTFery.

And speaking of WTFery...

The Weird:
Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt

Okay, when you take a look at this artstyle, you may be fooled into thinking that we're looking at another Powerpuff Girls Z type thing, but believe me, the artstyle is where any and all similarities end.

Just to be clear, when I say this is weird, I mean it's really effing weird. But I don't mean it in a bad way; I mean it in a crazy awesome way. I've watched my way through the ten episodes of this that have been released so far and, although there have been moments where I've had to reach for the mental bleach, there are plenty of other ones where I've had a silly grin plastered on my face for entire episodes.

Panty and Stocking is something of an experimental show; experimental in the sense that the people behind it are trying to see just how far they can push it before the censors explode. To start with, the two main characters are angels who fight ghosts. Their weapons to do so? Well Panty, the blonde, can turn her panties into a gun, while Stocking, the gothic one, can turn her stockings into swords. They have a transformation sequence. Wanna see?

Yep, that's a Magical Girl transformation sequence... with stripper poles. There's also the fact that in ten episodes I've seen more fetishes catered to in this show than I have from visits to 4Chan (admittedly, this might be because 4Chan scares me a little bit and I avoid staying on it for more than ten minutes at a time). Add to that the extreme amounts of bad language, the fact that the girls live with a priest who is pretty much every black stereotype ever and also apparently has a thing for young boys, buckets of awesome fight scenes, comedy and a catchy soundtrack and you get this show, which really just has to be seen to be believed.

And even if you don't feel you can stomach the weirder aspects (I have an iron stomach for these things and even I had weirded out moments), I would still reccomend watching episode 6, because it is around twenty minutes of absolute win.

So yeah, that's all I've got for now. Hope you enjoyed.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

D&D Stupidity: Week Four, in which the party doesn't suck, and Illyria and Bob have some bonding time.

This week, due to horrible weather, we were again down our regular players for Damakos and Bob. As a result, Lucifer was still sleeping in some bushes somewhere or something and Damakos was in the hands of someone else. Bob decided to hang around with the party, now under the hand of flatmate Claire.

After clearing out the kobold lair last week, the party grabbed the tons of weapons left lying around and headed on back to Winterhaven to report the good news to Lord Padraig. However, on returning to the town, they found the gates closed, the guards alert with their weapons drawn and a rather high militia presence. On seeing the party approaching Lord Padraig called out to them, telling them that people have disappeared from the town and undead monsters have started appearing. The party exchanged looks, and then grudgingly agreed to go look into the problem, the Lord promising them payment for doing so.

Heading off to the nearby cemetary, the party wondered if undead horrors would be any worse than kobolds. They decided they probably couldn't be, since Carric and Larrs had both developed nervous twitches whenever the 'k' word was mentioned. The cemetary loomed up in the distance, surrounded by a wrought iron fence. As they neared it, they noticed that some of the earth around the densely packed gravestones had been disturbed, and behind one of the three mauseleums a sickly glow was pulsing. As they neared the gateway, a horde of skeletons emerged, joined by a pair of zombie hounds. Behind them stood a female elf, armed with a sword and a longbow. If any of them had been paying attention at the time, they may have recognised the elf as the same one who had been sitting in the pub a couple of nights prior. As it was, they had totally ignored her, and so she seemed completely unfamiliar.

Carric, wasting no time, moved forward and lobbed a shuriken at one of the skeletons. He missed. Larrs then pulled Bob up to the front lines along with him, and then just sort of stood there trying to look menacing. Damakos, doing something useful, used his Cloud of Daggers spell to take out one of the skeletons. He then took a shortbow bolt to the arm along with Bob, while the elf narrowly missed hitting Larrs with her longbow.

Illyria made her way along the perimeter of the cemetary, concealing herself but ultimately failing to set off her Dire Radiance spell successfully. Bob, on the other hand, smacked a skeleton in the face so hard that it fell apart. Bob was happy with this. Swiftpaw was then made equally happy when Carric sent her to gnaw on a skeleton's spinal column. She got a bit carried away and proceeded to shake the thing apart as she tried to choose between vertebrae.

Larrs, finding that all the closer targets had been disposed of, took a shot at a skeleton with his sling and crushed its skull in with the shot. Damakos then downed and took out three of the skeletons by turning the ground to ice beneath them. The elf, severely annoyed, missed shooting the wizard in her frustration, and the skeletons swarmed the party, along with the two zombie hounds. One of them failed to bite Bob, but the other knocked Carric over, delivering a nasty bite to his leg which was unfortunately necrotic. To make matters worse, he was stabbed with a longsword. Larrs was also shot twice and Damakos took a stab wound of his own.

Illyria, still hiding behind the outer fence, took out one of the zombie hounds with Dire Radiance, while Bob took a hefty chunk out of the other one. Carric managed to get to his feet as his fox savaged another skeleton in her excitement. Larrs ordered Bob to help him flank the remaining hound, but the attack he made afterwards failed. Damakos attempted to use his Thunderwave spell but failed to do so, and then got stabbed in the leg while Larrs was shot in the chest. The zombie dog attempted to chew on Bob's leg, but didn't penetrate his plate mail, however Carric was shot in  the back.

Illyria exploded one of the skeletons that moved to surround Damakos and Bob took a swing at the hound clinging to his leg. Unfortunately, this didn't put an end to it, but it wasn't looking too healthy by the end of it. Carric, apparently fed up of this, pulled out his Five Storms kung-fu awesomeness and smashed two skeletons to pieces, and Larrs decided on a very efficient course of action, healing himself, Damakos and Carric, pulling Damakos out of danger and shifting himself closer to the elf. Damakos, hoping to join in on the awesomeness, tried to pull off Thunderwave again. He failed again.

A skeleton lunged at Damakos and missed, but the hound finally managed to sink its teeth into Bob's leg, pulling him over and giving him a nasty necrotic wound. The elf made to move past Larrs and he tried to get an attack in, but unfortunately failed. And then the elf shot him.

Illyria missed the hound with a shot of Dire Radiance, but Bob, now angered, got up, shook the thing off his leg and used his dragonbreath to burn it to death. Or whatever the zombie equivalent is. He also singed the elf a bit, since she had wandered a little too close. Meanwhile, Carric made his way around the back of the mauseleums and took a look at the magic circle that was the source of the glow. On attempting to analyse it, he determined that it was magic. And glowy. And circular.

Larrs tried to fire a glue pot at the elf to hold her still, but he missed and settled for moving away a little bit and healing himself instead. Damakos tried to use Thunderwave again and finally hit something with it, downing the last of the skeletons and leaving only the elf to deal with. The elf, reacting badly to being burned, shot Bob rather seriously, and Illyria attempted to use Vampiric Embrace on her, but didn't quite manage. Bob healed himself quickly and then made his way over to the elf, landing a hefy Holy Smiting as he reached her. This left her very badly off, adn when Carric and Swiftpaw moved to flank her, she was downed in the resulting attack.

On looting the bodies, the party picked up the usual ton of weapons and a bit of money from the elf. They also found a sheet of vellum with a message for the elf written on it:
'I received your report on the adventurers. Next time you see them, put an end to their meddling. Mix the blood of ten people with the elixir my messenger brings. Then trace the following pattern on the ground of a graveyard and pour the liquid into the lines. That should supply you with a force to thwart them. I'm very close to completion; see that I'm not interrupted. As you already know, if you do come to the second level of the keep, the pass phrase is 'From the ground, some magic was found.' - Kalarel

After reading this and feeling vaguely worried, the party decided that they should really destroy the magic circle. Larrs and Damakos did fine with their end of things, but Illyria got distracted and messed up on her end of things, leading to an ominous creaking sound from somewhere. Damakos managed to fix it, however, and the circle disappeared.

The party returned to Winterhaven and were allowed into the city by a very happy Lord Padraig. He took them to the inn and bought their first round, as well as paying Larrsinan for their trouble. On the way to the inn, they dropped off the huge piles of looted weapons at the blacksmith's, but didn't bother staying around to pick up the money for them, instead agreeing to have it dropped off at the inn later. Larrs and Carric did stay around long enough to pick up some magic armour for Carric and a pact blade for Illyria, while the warlock in question took herself and Bob off to the pub where they found the grateful townspeople ready to buy drinks for them all night.

The night that followed was much fun for everyone except for possibly Damakos and Carric. The former spent the whole night huddled in a corner pretending not to know anyone in the party while Carric meditated. Larrs proceeded to seduce one of the waitresses and had a pleasureable night and morning after. Bob and Illyria seduced a waitress of their own, although they were so drunk that they couldn't actually remember much of what happened. They figured it had been pretty good though, given the general nakedness when they woke up. Swiftpaw also apparently had a good night, slinking in early in the morning looking awfully smug. Lord Padraig was heard remarking the next day that one of his pedigree hounds was looking rather pleased with itself.

However, resigning themselves to going and investigating the keep and hopefully putting a lid on the cult, the party got themselves together and headed out. As they neared it, they noticed how overgrown the general area was, seeing that not many people had come this way in a long time. They entered a clearing surrounded by old ruined pieces of masonry, at which point complete silence fell. Even the wind stopped blowing. Feeling more and more worried about this, the party moved on until they found a set of stairs leading down into darkness. The rubble had been cleared away from the area here, shoved aside to allow access to the entrance.

Slowly, the party descended the stairs towards a light at the base. A cold wind started to blow as they did, carrying the scent of unwashed bodies and the sound of chattering squeaks. As they neared the doorway at the bottom, a goblin came into view. As it sighted the party, it taunted them, and they got ready to attack.

Larrs started off by firing his sling at the goblin, but he missed, the shot glancing off one of the many pillars in the room. Bob charged forward to attack on Larrs' orders, but found himself landing in a spiked pit trap full of rats. The goblins advanced but didn't actually make any attacks, and so Damakos used his ice spell to knock two of them over. One of them lobbed a javelin and got Carric it in the shoulder. Illyria landed a Dire Radiance on a goblin that was sneaking up a side corridor towards them, and Bob got chewed on by the rats at the bottom of the pit that managed to get into the elbow joints in his armour

Larrs made the executive decision to haul Bob out of the pit, but had buried his rope at the bottom of his kit and had to stop and dig it out. While he was doing that, he ordered Carric to to hit the goblins, but he missed due to them being too far away.

Bob languished in his pit, managing to pull himself off the spikes and try to stop the rats chewing on his elbows. Carric then landed a hit on a goblin with Swiftpaw's help. One of the goblin archers got up from the patch of ice further up the corridor and fired on the fox, but thankfully missed and Damakos managed to lower the rope down to Bob to get him out of the pit. Another of the goblins threw a spear past Carric's ear while the one down the side corridor managed to hit Illyria. Distracted by the injury, she failed to retaliate.

Now out of the pit, Bob brushed the rats off his elbows and advanced on the goblin down the side corridor. He marked it, but when trying to hit it with a Holy Strike, he apparently forgot how to use his sword. Behind him, the goblin archers took a chunk out of the fox and Carric with some well-timed shots and Damakos tried to take care of the side-corridor goblin with Cloud of Daggers. Unfortunately, it only took a little damage before sidestepping the cloud and stabbing Bob. Illyria, unhappy that her new best friend was being attacked, proceeded to blast the thing to bits with an Eldritch Blast and Larrs was quickly healed by Bob, while Carric hid himself and did some healing of his own.

Bob, now bored with the proceedings, moved round the corridor hoping to come across a bar or drinks cabinet of some sort. Instead, he found a heavy tapestry curtain that he paused in front of, wondering if there were any goblins behind it. Illyria followed him through, in her opinion, lack of anything better to do.

The two remaining goblins suddenly high-tailed it away from the party, which was considered a bad thing since they were probably heading off to regroup with other things that wanted the party dead. In order to stop them, Carric, Larrs and Damakos came up with a plan that was either brilliant or really, really, really dumb.

Damakos, having illusion magic, proceeded to project what he hoped was the image of (since this was not something the party was familiar with) a sexy female goblin in hopes of luring the fleeing goblins back. This failed miserably, and the goblins disappeared into the darkness of another staircase leading deeper into the keep.

Regrouping, the party shared nervous glances at the staircases and hesitated before moving on.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

In the name of procrastination, and magical drinks.

Okay, here's the deal. I am currently sitting and freezing my ass off in the university library and freaking out over a linguistics project. What I should be doing is actually working on it since it's due on Monday. What I am going to do is write a blog post on a group of products that I've been availing myself of without actually delving into what they are.

The products in question are the line of Neuro drinks. I don't know how many of you will have heard of them; they're only sold in a couple of different places in the UK, including the campus shop at Stirling University. Apparently they're pretty popular with celebrities these days.

And if Gaga likes them, you know they aren't your average drink.

Neuro currently have a range of seven drinks, all made from vitamins and herbal extracts with whatever else they add to get the added effects they claim. After looking at the names and supposed properties of these things, I'm pretty sure this must include fairy dust, because some of these things must be frigging magical.

Warning: magical creatures may have been harmed in the making of these products.


This is Neuro's equivalent of an energy drink. I've actually had this a couple of times, and it really does work. Probably because there's a shit ton of caffeine in it. Sure Neuro, you can claim that 'Unlike other energy drinks, NeuroSonic® uses a unique combination of plant extracts, amino acids, and other dietary ingredients to provide the fuel you need to stay alert and focused for hours.' but that doesn't change the fact that there's a shit ton of caffeine in there. Like, over 140mg per bottle, and you're not meant to give it to kids under twelve because of this. I'm not sure if that's because it's unhealthy for them or hellish on their parents, but I will say that unlike other energy drinks, it actually tastes nice, so I'll give you that one.


This is the first of the 'fairy dust' drinks. Bliss claims that there is 'happiness in every bottle'. That's right folks, Neuro are officially selling bottled happiness. That said, I have actually had a bottle of this one too, and while it didn't make me happy per se, it did leave me feeling wonderfully non-stressed for an afternoon. This one apparently 'uses ingredients like L-Theanine — found most commonly in green tea — to reduce your stress by shifting your brain waves from the beta to the alpha spectrum. This change allows your brain to be focused and alert while remaining calm.' So basically, you could buy this, or you could switch to green tea, which may actually be cheaper. But green tea doesn't taste like ginger ale I guess, and this does, so that swings it for me. Actual happiness notwithstanding.


Okay, now we're just getting silly Neuro. Let's see... 'The key ingredient that makes NeuroTrim™ work so well is derived from a centuries-old Japanese fiber that we really couldn't make up if we tried. It's called konjac, and it expands to 200 times its size after it enters your belly. So you drink a little — and you feel like you've consumed a lot.' It feels like you're making excuses there Neuro, and I don't care what you may say about those 20 clinical trials that say it's perfectly safe; making people not hungry by drinking this stuff ain't gonna help them lose weight in anything like a healthy manner.



'The key to giving you a passion-filled night is nitric oxide. Every bottle of NeuroGasm® contains two L's — L-Arginine and L-Citrulline — that help your body produce more of it.
What does a combination of nitrogen and oxygen — the two most common elements found in the Earth's atmosphere — have to do with your evening plans? Well, nitric oxide regulates your blood flow so the right nutrients get to your muscles and brain, kicking off a physiological process that stimulates a sexual response.
To keep your date coming back for more, we add green tea and L-Theanine to promote energy levels without nervous anxiety or tension — two things that can ruin even the best rendezvous.'

Neuro is selling sex in a bottle you guys!!! Seriously, if you ever see this, it might be worth buying it just to say you did. Unfortunately, this one hasn't been released outside of the US yet, but when it is, I'm totally tracking it down. Imagine looking into the eyes of the shopkeeper as you handed this baby over.

Although I will point out that nitric oxide is also an air pollutant. The air pollutant that causes acid rain in fact. Sexy.


Okay, right, no, seriously, what? Well, okay, I suppose this still makes more sense than the bottled aphrodisiac, and it has a less silly sounding name, but since it apparently contains 'an amino acid that is directly related to tryptophan, the active ingredient in turkey that makes us tired' I am going straight back to the WTF end of the scale. I was not aware that turkey made you tired. Does turkey make you tired? Well, Christmas is coming up; I guess I'll get some experimentation done. This, again, has not been released outside of the US yet, and neither has the next one on the list:


... It's water.
FRIGGING WATER NEURO. Don't you give me that fancy 'critical electrolyte' crap. You imported some spring water from California and putting it in a pretty bottle and telling us it's better than regular water does not change this fact. Treating it like some sort of celebrity or something. I bet you like Katy Perry's California Girls, don't you Neuro? Don't you?


Let's see here... 'NeuroSport™ has all five key electrolytes — potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and chloride — which is three more than most sports drinks on the market. Two electrolytes simply isn't enough to keep your body properly hydrated. What's more, NeuroSport™ has 12 other good-for-you minerals that get depleted when you work out. Replenishing these minerals while you exercise will improve your endurance and increase your overall fitness levels.'
So... all we know is that it has stuff that's good for us, and it isn't carbonated.
It's NeuroAqua in a different coloured bottle. Isn't it?

I don't know you guys. I mean, I like the Sonic stuff, and the Bliss one was okay, but do we really want to trust a company that is apparently trying to sell us everything we need in our lives in pretty coloured bottles? I mean, what's next? NeuroAttract, to make you more attractive to the opposite sex? Heck, if they made NeuroGasm, I reckon they'd try to flog that.

 Here's Neuro's website by the way, just in case you're suddenly desperate to know where you can buy these things.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

D&D Stupidity: Week Three, in which the party are maimed horrifically and we witness the remarkable return of Bob

Y'know, there's a reason D&D players are funny about their dice. Three out of our four players (and the DM) have their own set, me included, except that now Garry (Carric) and Cameron (Larrsinan) are seriously considering changing theirs after the horrific amount of bad rolling last night. The god of dice rolls was apparently very unhappy with us.

So uh... expect lots of instances of the party failing horribly. Thankfully we have a nice DM, who I may or may not have bribed with the promise of discount beer in order to get a reroll at one point. We were also down a paladin and our wizard was in the hands of someone else due to there being a stupid amount of snow for this early in the year and their players being unable to get to my flat. But anyway, let's get cracking, shall we?

Last week we left off with the party regrouping oustside the waterfall entrance to the kobolds' cave lair. Everyone was rather excited about this, since once they cleared this out, there would be no more bloody kobolds to fight. Lucifer, we have to assume for the sake of the blog, was so excited that he passed out or something. After listening to the gang inside the cave talking about whatever kobolds talk about in their spare time, Larrsinan (henceforth referred to as Larrs for brevity) and Carric sat and had a brief argument as to what sort of approach they should take, eventually deciding that a full frontal assault would be quicker and easier. And so, yelling like idiots, onward they charged, with the two magic users following at a safe distance. The kobolds were indeed rather surprised.

Pausing to briefly analyse the enemy, there were rather mixed reactions. Carric had a nervous breakdown, Illyria was pretty much indifferent and Larrs seemed rather happy about the situation. Damakos just sort of stood there staring at the ceiling, until Carric snapped, rushed forward and sort of... flailed... at two of the kobolds, somehow managing to kill one in the process. And then everything started going straight to hell.

Illyria got off to a bad start by being stabbed in the leg, while Carric, Swiftpaw and Damakos also obtained stab wounds. In retaliation, Damakos roasted three of them. Carric, apparently startled by the sudden bright light and heat, was then stabbed twice more. Illyria, highly unimpressed, exloded her attacker with Dire Radiance, because concentrated and very painful starlight is the best punishment, while Larrs got in a good solid thwack on one of the tougher ones that was menacing Damakos.

Carric then made a brief recovery, killing two of the things in rapid succession and beating another round the head. Distracted by the kung fu, Illyria was stabbed in the leg again while two more kobolds sailed past Swiftpaw as they tried to attack her. Damakos threw another one of his by now trademark fireballs, hitting one of the tougher kobolds, dodging a spear, and getting another one in the ribs anyway. Carric was then stabbed repeatedly, catapulting him straight back into the gibbering mess he was at the start of the battle, while Illyria fried one of the kobolds attacking him. Larrs then just succeeded in landing a blow on another one, and Carric frantically healed himself before launching himself at one of them, missing, then punching straight through another's chest, missing another one, and then smacking the first one that he missed on the follow-through.

Illyria was attacked again, being grazed by another spear which made her rather... unhappy. And so the unlucky kobold found her sucking out part of his life force and healing herself a little in the process. In the background, Larrs failed to hit anything.

Just when it was starting to look like the end of the battle was nigh, a horn sounded at the back of the cavern, exciting the remaining kobolds. A few more of them trickled out of various places in the cave, as well as an old, battle-scarred goblin armed with a big battle axe that had seen a lot of use. He was not a friendly looking guy, probably due to the ram skull and wolfskin adornments. Carric freaked out upon seeing him, although this did lead to him mangling a kobold.

Then it got worse.

Damakos and Illyria got some solid hits in against a few of the mooks, although Illyria's target managed to get her with his spear before he was seared to death. Thinking that she was being injured entirely too much, Illyria proceeded to move herself, going invisible in the process. A kobold spellcaster who had snuck out of the back of the cave attempted to throw some acid at Larrs, but thankfully failed. Larrs, apparently hyped up on adrenalin or something, made the stupid mistake of trying to taunt the goblin. This ended up amounting to him pulling silly faces at it and the goblin looking severely unimpressed. Then, in a smarter move, he moved Carric around so that they could coordinate attacks against the thing. This did, unfortunately, end up failing.

Then, in the midst of his nervous gibberings, Carric pulled off a bit of kung fu that was so epic that he beat the shit out of two kobolds without touching them. And then he got hit with the goblin's battle axe. In order to try and help even the odds, Damakos tried a Ray of Enfeeblement on the goblin warrior, failing, but hitting one of the kobolds hard with a scorching burst. Illyria, now frustrated and rather sore, levelled her Flames of Phlegethos spell at the goblin, taking a massive chunk out of him and setting him on enchanted fire. Then another ball of acid flew past Larrs' head while Swiftpaw sunk her teeth into the goblin's achilles' tendon. In response, it smacked her and her master around with its axe, while its kobold flunkies severely stabbed Larrs twice.

Larrs managed to land a solid blow on the goblin and get the party some hit points in the process. Carric then rolled up his sleevs and prepared to kick some ass. And then didn't.

Illyria was attacked again, but avoided any serious injury. Carric, on the other hand, took a heavy blow and Damakos levelled another scorching burst, followed up with Illyria killing the unfortunate target with a magic missile.

The kobold mage aimed for Larrs again and missed, presumably because it was not very bright and was just sort of standing there drooling and waving its staff around in case it actually hit anything. Larrs ignored it and made to attack the goblin again. He failed. So did Carric.

And then, to the sound of a cheering studio audience (sound effects provided by flatmate Claire), Bob reappeared to save the day. Bob may have been slightly drunk at the time and hoping that the cave was another pub, but since the party was dying horribly, they didn't really care.

Damakos, in celebration, hit the kobold mage with a fireball to the gut, while Illyria blasted the goblin and the pulled her invisibilty trick. And then the moronic scaled mage actually managed to hit Larrs with his next ball of acid, although this didn't stop him from hitting the goblin.

Bob then set a dude on fire in epic fashion. Isn't Bob awesome?

Carric failed to land another blow and his fox took a severe wallop to the face and fell unconcscious while Damakos launched a magic missile at the goblin and Illyria failed to connect with her eldritch blast. Larrs then took another glob of acid to the face and subsequently missed everything. So did Carric, who was then rendered unconscious.

Damakos landed another magic missile, Illyria missed again, and the Larrs was hit with even more acid and joined Carric on the floor of the cave. Things did not look good.

And then Bob swept in in magnificent fashion and cleaved the kobold mage in twain with a holy strike while Larrs and Carric struggled and failed to get back to their feet and failed to manage it. The fox, however, got back on her feet. The goblin, now unconcerned with the prone figures, moved to attack Bob, landing a blow on him. It was then killed with a magic missile to the back of the head, courtesy of Damakos.

While Larrs and Carric gingerly picked themselves up, Illyria took the liberty of going over the body of the goblin, finding a small silver key and a message scroll. The message was not good news for the party, as it informed them that someone was apparently rather close to opening up that rift hidden in the old keep in the hills.

However, the mood was improved somewhat by the big chest full of gold and a suit of magic chainmail that was opened by the key.

Three guesses who wasn't allowed to get her hands on any of it.

Friday, 26 November 2010

A Wondering...

There's something funny about people today. Well, okay, there's a lot of things that are a bit off about people today, but I'm not going into all of them because I'm not spending the rest of my life writing this post. What I am going into is the fact that honesty and kindness seem to have become almost alien concepts. I'm not saying that everyone is dishonest or unkind, it's just that when presented with an honest or kind act, a lot of people seem disproportionately surprised by it.

I've been seeing this a lot lately. For instance, during my adventures at Auchinawa, we went to get a Chinese for dinner. The woman at the counter mistook the £5 note I handed her for a £10, and gave me the change appropriate to that. As someone raised by people in law enforcement, I'm honest pretty much by reflex, so I automatically handed the £5 she'd given me back. In response, she blinked at me, then started thanking me profusely and added a free bag of prawn crackers to my order, despite me not having spent enough to get them. This rather confused me. Was it really such a big deal that I had handed back the money? It wasn't the first time something like that has happened to me, due to the 'honesty by reflex' thing. The staff in the students' union at the university were very surprised when I settled up after not having enough money on me initially to buy my lunch, but making sure to borrow enough to make up the right amount. As I was walking away after paying the full price, I heard one of the staff commenting that she had been sure I was just going to walk out without bothering.

I also got thanked profusely when I ran out of work and chased a customer down the street to give her back the £5 she had dropped on the floor. She was another one that was genuinely surprised that I would bother doing that for her, to the point where she actually asked me why I did. I actually didn't know what to say other than 'it's your money' since surely that should have been an obvious reason, right...?

Random acts of kindness are another thing that people seem genuinely surprised at. It seems that the automatic response these days are to assume that the person showing the kindness is actually mocking you. While, regretably, this is sometimes the case, it seems equally as mean to make the assumption, although I have been guilty of it myself in the past. To put my example of an occurence like this into context, I went to a private school filled with kids who had a lot of money and, in the case of a fair few in my year, and indeed in other years, were not hugely tolerant of anyone who did not fit the chosen view of 'normal'. However, during one of the prize givings, there was a brief ray of hope that maybe they were not all completely discriminatory idiots. One of the merit prizes went to a boy in my year who had learning disabilities and needed a hearing aid, and the second he walked onstage, the whole place went from polite applause to full-on celebrity style uproar. This wasn't planned, no one said anything to anyone else, it just happened. His mother was in tears; she honestly couldn't believe that people would do something like that for her son.

I'm going to fully admit to being somewhat jaded about society in general these days. Anyone who knows me even a little can attest to the fact that I can be a suspicious judgemental bitch when the mood takes me, but is it really so bad that we feel that we can never expect these things? The woman in the Chinese was genuinely surprised and extremely grateful that I gave her back the extra change, when I would consider that an automatic response. Is that naive of me? I don't find it all that hard to give back something that isn't mine. As far as I'm concerned, holding it in my hand doesn't make it mine, and so giving it back isn't a problem, because I technically never had it. Maybe other people feel differently, I don't know.

Basically, I guess I'm a little disappointed that we've apparently gotten to a point where nothing can be taken at face value anymore. Sure, I know there are a lot of dishonest people in the world, and just as many unkind ones, but that doesn't mean we have to be utterly shocked when someone does something selfless or just plain nice.

Besides, it was only a £5 note, not the moon.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

D&D Stupidity: Week Two, in which Carric learns kung fu, the party exemplify incompetence and some new challengers appear!

Current caffeine levels [///////////////               ]. Probable post coherance, minimal.

I hate Tuesday mornings. Anyway, here is the second installment of our epic D&D misadventures. Just in case you weren't paying attention last time, here's a quick run down of our characters, introducing our two newcomers.

Larrsinan: The party leader, a tiefling warlord favouring axes and with an apparent predisposition for having the shit kicked out of him.
Carric: A half-elf ranger who's been reading books on martial arts since last time, and so now has some crazy kung fu skills going on. His fox companion, however, does not.
Illyria: Antisocial half-elf warlock with hugely destructive powers, and rather alcoholic tendencies.
Damakos: A tiefling wizard who's just as much of an antisocial git as Illyria, although without the alcoholism.
Lucifer: A human paladin who is unfailingly polite and under the unfortunate impression that Illyria is in any way ladylike. Also very handy with his broadsword, much to the relief of our party.

We left our heroes at the Dragon Graveyard where they had just killed off a group of bandits and rescued the friend of the sage. Said friend, who will now be known as Rescuee, was very grateful, but when the party was confronted by a gang of kobolds on the way back to Winterhaven, he wasn't exactly what you might call useful.

This group of kobolds had a shaman in their midst, and were much better armed than the last lot. They also got the drop on everyone since the party had apparently decided that being somewhat competant in the last battle meant that they could stop paying attention. Thus we started off with Larrsinan taking a ball of acid to the gut while everyone else just sort of stared. After much flailing and being useless, Carric finally managed to get some hits in against one of them and Illyria blew another one to pieces. And then they went straight back to being utterly useless, as Swiftpaw took a heavy blow and went down, and Carric, instead of raising her, opted to charge through the kobolds with his shiny new Steel Avalanche attack, possibly as some form of vengeance. This, while doing some damage, ultimately was not very helpful, as Carric was then downed almost immediately after, while Larrsinan limped about with exactly one hit point left, managing an Inspiring Word to at least get Carric conscious, if not upright.

In the midst of our failtastic flailing, the first of our shiny new party members appeared on the horizon. Being a paladin, and noticing that the party were not exactly doing well, he immediately charged in and landed a hefty Holy Strike on the back of the nearest kobold's head. It didn't kill it, but it was better than almost anything the rest of them had managed. Illyria attempted to level a blow at the shaman and missed it completely, although thankfully it missed her too, although the ball of acid winging past her face at high speed was rather alarming,

It was then that our second new addition arrived. Damakos stumbled out of a bush and took a chunk out of the shaman with a Magic Missile, thus earning Illyria's ire for being a better shot than she was, although she still held herself as one point up because she had actually killed something. Then she got distracted by one kobold stabbing Lucifer in the leg, which led to her getting a stab wound of her own; her first wound in the campaign so far. Rescuee was then briefly useful as he smacked one of the kobolds in the face. Larrsinan, still limping and still useless, proceeded to run away to a safe distance and order Lucifer to attack another of them. Illyria, severely pissed off, attempted to ruin her attacker with Dire Radiance and Vampiric Embrace. She spectacularly failed at both and Damakos took a ball of acid to the stomach a moment later. His response was to summon a Flaming Sphere (christened Fred) which thoroughly toasted the offending shaman. In the background, Carric finally got up and kung fued one of the few remaining to death.

One of the hardier kobolds took another chunk out of Lucifer while another tried and failed to hit Rescuee. Lucifer, in one of his worse moments, decided to try and intimidate one of the kobolds, which basically entailed him standing over it and going 'ooga booga' while it blinked at him stupidly. Illyria, rather pissed off at this point, then exploded it all over Lucifer's nice shiny white plate mail. Meanwhile, Fred the Flaming Sphere proceeded to miss his next target and the last kobold spearman went for Rescuee, except didn't actually connect in any way, instead sailing past and landing in a heap. Lucifer, since he's a nice guy and all, challenged the thing, and then utterly failed to actually hurt him. Illyria then attempted to kill the last of the kobolds, only to find that everyone was in her way, so she simply healed herself and grumbled about the lack of violence.

Fred, in fine flaming fashion, then lightly roasted the kobold. And Damakos. And Carric. And Lucifer. Thus everyone in the party learned to dislike Fred, except Illyria, who found all of this hilarious. Finally, after much yelling at Damakos to get his damn fireball under control, the kobold was intimidated into submission and tied upside down to his own spear. The party tried to interrogate him, but he was a gibbering idiot, so they all just kicked him on their way past, especially Larrsinan, who hadn't actually hit anything for the entire duration of the battle.

While looting the bodies, Lucifer introduced himself, in typical very polite paladin fashion. Illyira decided that they could keep him, while Larrsinan and Carric sniggered at the fact Lucifer called her a 'lady'. In the background, Damakos helped himself to an amulet that one of the kobolds was carrying, namely one bearing the sign of the Underworld god Orcus.

Finally, the party returned to Winterhaven, beaten and bruised and very, very annoyed at all things kobold-shaped. However, they also noticed that the field around the town were awfully empty looking, and the guards standing on the gate suddenly looked terribly attentive. However, nothing was actually wrong per say, everyone was just a bit on edge. The party members looked at each other, shrugged, and went to give the sage a beating for sending them into kobold territory. Well, most of them did. Lucifer excused himself and went to the pub instead.

On reaching the tower and presenting the sage with both Rescuee and the Orcus amulet, he stopped them before they gave him the kicking he totally deserved and told them a story:
Hundreds of years ago, a group of powerful sorcerors opened a rift to the Shadowfell. This rift was eventually sealed in the time of the Empire and a keep was built over it. However, the knight, Sir Keegan, who was tasked with defending the keep, descended into madness, killing his wife, his children and his lieutenants, before going on to slaughter his men until he was subdued. The keep was subsequently abandoned, and has since fallen into disrepair. The few who knew of the existence of the rift assumed that the remote location in the hills would remain secret, and even if the seal was found, it would take an extremely powerful sorceror to open it.
The sage explained that the rift opened onto a section of the Shadowfell that was sacred to Orcus, and that the cult the party had been sent to investigate may be attempting to open it up again, using the kobolds to defend and distract from their efforts. He also told them that the kobolds are camped out in a cave to the south east.

With this in mind, the party moved on to the inn to rest up and, in Illyria's case, get something to drink. The others filled in Lucifer and Damakos on their mission, before being distracted by the town leader, Lord Padraig, entering the inn for a drink.

Everyone, minus Illyria who was propping up the bar, sidled up to him to inform him that the cult may have moved into the old keep and that they may have something to do with the numerous kobold attacks. Padraig admitted that the kobold attacks have been becoming more of a problem, and also acknowledged that his town militia have been less than effective since they cannot operated outside of the town limits. Given their new grudge against all things kobold, Carric volunteered the party to clear out the kobold lair, and Padraig hired them as mercenaries.

The next morning, the party (with a hungover Illyria, of course), stopped off at the blacksmith's to offload some of the loot they picked up, as well as dropping by the sage's tower to sell off the dragon scale shields they had picked up from the kobolds and to get directions to the lair. They also invested in some ranged weapons at Lucifer's suggestion. Except for Illyria, who is a ranged weapon. They picked up some lanterns too, because, you know, cave.

Then they headed off to kill themselves some kobolds.

After a nice long kobold-free walk, the party came across a pleasantly rugged area with a waterfall. And a ton of of little dragony bastards. There was also a big glowing magic circle, and after much muttering and scratching of heads, Illyria and Lucifer finally figured out that it made any attacks made inside the circle a fair bit stronger. Unfortunately, one of the aformentioned little dragony bastards was standing right in the middle of it.

Deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, Carric and Larrsinan took the stealthy approach and moved along to get a proper look at the enemy. Illyria pulled her own ninja act and moved along the side of the cave, and Lucifer, who is actually incapable of stealth, just sort of wandered along after her. Damakos was apparently asleep in a bush or something at this point.

Then in a stunning display of rangerly sneaking, Carric blew everyone's cover, not that it made much difference because we're talking about kobolds here; they ain't bright. Larrsinan, eager for violence after his spectacular failure to take part in any other than the receiving kind last time, rushed the kobold in the circle and bludgeoned it, followed swiftly by Carric who flanked it along with Swiftpaw and proceeded to beat the tar out of it. Over on the left flank, Lucifer challenged a lone kobold, while Illyria moved into the surrounding woods and laid a curse on an unsuspecting enemy.

Back at the magic circle, Larrsinan killed off the kobold and moved himself firmly into the circle, while Lucifer continued beating his little friend over in the corner of the area. Carric distracted another one with Swiftpaw killed it. Illyira, from her position in the trees, heavily singed a rather confused kobold who had no idea where this was coming from or why it was happening to him, and then his day was made even worse as Damakos finally woke up and re-summoned Fred the Flaming Sphere, who proceeded to menace the poor kobold and his friends.

Larrsinan was then hit with a glue bomb, which unfortunately stuck him in place, yet left him still able to attack. Inside the magic circle, which gave extra power to those attacks. A tragedy. Then, Carric removed the needs for this effect by killing three kobolds thoroughly to death with one hit. Three more tired to stab him, but only one was successful, and the rest were roasted by Fred. Lucifer finally dealt with his mate on the left and Larrsinan chucked a rock at one of the few remaining around the circle. It hit the thing between the eyes and dropped it. Finally, Carric mopped up the couple remaining with another mighty kung fu display and then the ritual looting of the bodies commenced.

Illyria was still not allowed to hold any of the money.

And that was the end of the week's adventures. Next week: Kobold Extermination Funtime!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Auchinawa 2010, in which Mint braves her first ever anime convention, attempts cosplaying, and relearns that cats do not like this sharing nonsense.

I'm going to start off this post with an apology. I am very sorry if any parts of this post do not make sense. It is quite possible that large chunks of it will not, as I have just got back from Edinburgh after attending Auchinawa 2010 (as you may have guessed from the title of the post) and I am a little bit on the bone tired side and I haven't had enough coffee. Nowhere near enough.

Anyway, yeah, the last three days have been spent in a whirl of train rides, fast food, cosplays and cat hair. The cat hair actually has nothing to do with the con; me and the boyfriend were staying at a friend's place since she lived about ten minutes by train away from the hotel where the con was being held, and she has cats. And they shed. Everywhere. They also immediately claimed ownership of our stuff, and commandeered us for cuddles whenever they damn well pleased. We had to chase them out of our room each night before we could actually get into bed, and even then I spent the first night with a cat on my ankles. Yeah, typical cats. Everything is theirs, nothing is yours. They also stole a pair of boyfriend's socks this morning, although so did I since that was the one thing I forgot to pack.

The first day was fairly easygoing. We got to Haymarket at around one, me lugging around my beuatifully carved wooden staff for my Garnet cosplay. This was promptly removed from me when I got to the Ops room at the hotel, as all props had to be checked and although they complemented me on how nice the staff was, they told me they really couldn't let me keep it. Since I had to admit that I could easily bludgeon someone to death with it and also because hell, I didn't want to carry it around all weeked, I relinquished it quite happily. They did say they'd let me borrow it for picture, and they kept their word on that one, so I couldn't complain.

Moving on, my first purchase of the weekend was a great little pair of blue wings from Yaya Han, who is an epic cosplayer and made me insanely jealous since she's awesome at both costumes and props. She wasn't the only one either; the cosplay standard was amazing, highlights being an Ezio with working retractable wrist blades made from drawer slides, an Amatarasu (in human form) from Okami who rightly won the masqurade, several awesome Links, an Arkham Asylum Harley Quinn, Victor von Doom and so many more that my mind is actively rejecting the awesome. The point is that there was a ton of epic going on in the cosplay category.

And, because dammit I wanted to say that I'd done it at least once, I cosplayed on the second day of the con, as Garnet as I mentioned before. Since I hate wigs and also have no idea where to get good quality ones, my Friday night was spent sitting in my friend's bathroom as she dyed my hair and I sat gibbering because I'm a wuss and I've never dyed my hair before. Thankfully, it worked, and I did not look like some hideous mutant. That said, I still had to brave the train in a bright orange jumpsuit with big buckles on the legs, so my hair looking okay wasn't really the biggest issue on that front. But when I got to the con, I stopped feeling so weird, although there was that awkward moment when I thrashed a FFXIII Lightning at BlazBlue, complemented her on her costume and got an awkward 'yours is awesome too, but... who are you?'

This was the first of two occurences of that question, but there were many more of 'Oh my god you're Garnet' which was nice. My neighbour was nice enough to handmake my costume from scratch since I can't sew to save myself, and all her hard work paid off. It really paid off. It's a pretty awesome feeling when you have a Sephiroth (who was actually the proper height, and had a really great costume) running over because IX is his favourite game and can he please get a picture right now because that Garnet costume is awesome. I tried to play it cool and posed for him and everything. And then got all shy and mumbled something about getting a picture of him because I like VII. He was very nice about it, but I really will have to get over my public bumbling for the next con.

Now, as far as actual con events go, there was a fair few interesting things going on. I dropped into a blogging panel on the first day, which may have been helpful, but probably not really, given that it's me and I'm set in my ways. Then we hit the Opening Ceremony and watched a fun introductory video in the style of the Battle Royale information film. The next day we went to the Bad Anime panel, which was made of pure win. Pure so-bad-it's-awesome win. For the record, Garzey's Wing is one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen. It is also one of the most awful, and it was made by the same guy who did Gundam. Yeah.

There was also an Adult Event tonight, which we planned to be the last thing we did before heading home. They hyped it and hyped it all weekend, and then we got there, expecting to be shocked and appalled by hentai of all genres. What we got was less than satisfactory. It was a bunch of drunken idiots playing vaguely porn themed versions of cheesy old game shows and no actual porn. To put it in the correct terms; it was all build up, and no climax.

In between all of this, we spent a huge amount of time in the games room, where I learned how to kick ass at BlazBlue (with one of the characters anyway), learned that I do not kick ass at DDR and got to watch Vincent Valentine playing Sing Star. He was actually pretty good, and he complemented me on my wings, which made me happy. There were also instances of food, and a large amount of time in the dealers' room, where I spent pretty much all of my money on such things as a Kingdom Hearts wall scroll, the Persona 3 artbook I have wanted for like a year (I did indeed squee very loudly when I came across that), a thermos mug for my coffee (an essential) and a set of very cute earmuffs. I have about £10 left in my savings account, but damn I am happy.

There was, however, a severe lack of coffee. Like, I only had two cups of coffee all weekend. I don't know how I'm still alive you guys, I have more blood than caffeine in my system right now (I subsist on coffee and bagels. And Xbox games. That is my life). But that aside, I had a lot of fun. And didn't get too scarred, although there was that one Misty cosplayer who was a middle-aged man...

Actually, let's just stop there, shall we?
Mint, signing out and dropping off