Quarantine Blog Update

Hi everyone, I hope you are well!

As you may have guessed by the lack of posts over the past month, COVID-19 has had an impact on my ability to keep this blog updated.

I am currently working from home full-time, whilst having to look after my pregnant wife and little one. This has had a direct impact on my capacity to create content, in that I have very little capacity in this current season.

I have had to step back from being the Dungeon Master in one of my Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and the second one is likely to be suspended as well, as day-to-day life is taking up all of my creative energy.

If you are still wanting to see the content I create I will, from time to time, be streaming gameplay on Twitch at www.twitch.tv/silent__hydra. These streams will not be particularly regular, as I will stream as and when I have time and capacity, but if you follow me on Twitter I will post whenever I am online.

I am sure many of you are finding yourselves in similar positions, and I am thankful for your understanding in these trying times.

I hope all of you, your friends and family are keeping safe in these difficult times.

– Aaron

This is art, not real life icon

Chapter 1: A Conjunction of Fates | Part 3

Sorry for the delay on this part, I have been adjusting to quarrantine life, and unfortunately writing had to take a side seat for a few weeks.

But now I and ‘The Wardens of Corinthia’ are back, and we continue the story with part three of chapter one!

If you want to the earlier parts of this chapter you can check them out below:

Prelude
Part 1
Part 2

I hope you enjoy the continuation of this story and a huge thank you for joining me on this adventure!

 


3

‘What does it mean?’ the sharp-eyed Dragonborn asked the wizened wizard.

‘In truth Mojito, I do not know.’ Alysha said as she poured over her scrolls and tomes, consulting all of the divination mechania that filled her study. ‘The appearance of this star is not an accident, and it clearly has some connection to the very weaves of fate that have brought you here.’

‘But it wasn’t fate that brought me here master, I chose to come here of my own volition! I travelled seeking answers from you and found you after a long journey, I was not wandering aimlessly in the wilderness!’ Mojito took a breath after his statement. He had not been able to fully learn the habit of taking breath between sentences and often waited until all thoughts were out of his mouth before re-filling his lungs.

‘I do not disagree with you, but you have just so happened to arrive in our town at the same time as two other travellers who come fleeing significant dangers and are seeking help. That is an impressive coincidence. Particularly under the burning star that is shining today.’ Alysha turned from her books and stared into a looking glass. Mojito could see nothing but a simple reflection in the polished surface, but Alysha was focused on something beyond the glass.

‘Two? There is only the gnome, no other travellers have come since I have arrived.’ replied Mojito uncertainly.

‘There was only the gnome, but a second has now arrived. It’s time for you to go to Aggie again. Tell her to go to the town square, her final guest is arriving.’ Alysha’s eyes remained focussed on what lay beyond the glass. Mojito rose, and with a bow left the wizard’s study, making his way down the spiral stair to the base of the tower, and out to the Studregg Tavern.

***

‘So what exactly did Alysha say?’ Aggie asked as Mojito led her and Tana to the town square.

‘She said that another person is coming and we are to go to the town square to meet them, she didn’t explain more than that,’ replied Mojito, impatient to find out exactly what was going on and meet this final guest. Stood in the town square, the trio watched the bustle as townsfolk attempted to carry on their work, as much as they could, whilst keeping half an eye on the burning meteor in the sky.

‘What’s goin’ on Aggie?’ Willow, the owner of one of the town’s general good stores, asked as she walked over from her small shop front.

‘Well, Alysha an’ Hektor ‘ave asked us t’ meet one of their friends out here, apparently, they are new in town.’ Aggie replied with a shrug.

‘Oh! Well that can’t be good, can it?’ Willow replied, hesitantly. ‘Don’t get me wrong, I love them two, but I mean, it can’t be good news right? Wizards friends turning up at such a time?’ Willow tried to avoid looking at Mojito and Tana as she spoke, but her eyes could not help but flicker across the group. Tana shifted uncomfortably behind Aggie’s large frame as she avoided eye contact with Willow, whilst Mojito scanned the town. If he heard Willow he did not acknowledge her.

‘Come on now, that’s no way to talk! You know these two are friends, and ‘ave been nothing but lovely since they got ‘ere!’ Aggie replied, kindly but not softly. ‘Who knows what’s happening and we have no right t’ judge people who pass through-‘

‘Oh! Who’s that?!’ Mojito called out cutting Aggie short and causing both her and Willow to turn to his direction. Mojito pointed and hopped to see over the crowd, whilst Tana hopelessly scanned the crowd’s legs. She was getting used to not seeing much when there was a lot of large-folk around, but she did not resign herself to impassivity in such a situation. Aggie looked across the square and saw someone who appeared to just as startlingly tall as her, if not taller. ‘It’s a Firbolg!’ Mojito called out ‘It must be, I have never seen one but look! It’s all furry like a Goliath with hair!’ As the Firbolg made its way through town it kept attempting to engage townsfolk in conversation. Had it been any other day Harstead would have been more than welcoming, but people were on edge with the star hanging in the morning sky, and much to Aggie’s embarrassment, people were visibly avoiding the stranger and pointing them in any direction away from themselves.

‘Hiya darlin’ how’re doing?’ Aggie asked as she strode forward through the crowd, Tana and Mojito in tow, holding out a hand to the new visitor.

‘Oh! Hello! “I” am pleased to meet you!’ replied the Firbolg placing a hand over her heart as she spoke. Seeing Aggie’s outstretched hand she mimicked the gesture uncertainly.

‘What brings you to our town darlin’?’ Aggie asked as she reached forward and took the Firbolg’s hand and shook it with a smile, ‘You seem like you’re a long way from ‘ome.’

‘Well we are looking for help you see’ the Firbolg replied continuing to shake Aggie’s hand as she spoke, ‘we were sent by the people to find help, and so “I” came here.’

‘So what’s your name darlin’?’ Aggie asked as she subtly tried to break the handshake without outright tugging her hand away.

‘Darling? Erm.’ The Firbolg let go of Aggie’s hand as her golden eyes glanced down in thought, ‘Yes, Darling is my name?’ The Firbolg’s gaze fixed on Aggie inquisitively.

‘You ain’t sure?’ Aggie replied keeping the Firbolg’s gaze. ‘You can be Darling if you want.’

‘Okay!’ replied the Firbolg with a flash of relief crossing her face, ‘”I” am Darling!’

 

(to be continued…)

 

 

 

Personal Identity In Persona 5: Honne and Tatemae

This article contains spoilers for Persona 5

One of the key themes explored in Persona 5 is that of identity. Who are you behind all of society’s expectations of who you are? It starts with your character, Joker.

Joker is a new student at Shujin Academy, with a criminal record for assault. As to be expected rumours spin around your character about what kind of villain he is, after all, he is on probation and was expelled from his last school. He is outcast from those around him before he even has a chance to make an impression.

But the truth is that Joker tried to stop a man from sexually assaulting a woman who was calling for help. The man was particularly powerful and wealthy and scared the woman into making a statement against Joker. Thus Joker starts the game criminalised for doing the right thing when everyone else looked the other way.

The first friend Joker makes is Ryuji, a fellow outcast from the school after getting in a fight with the gym teacher who ran the running club. Again Ryuji is outcast for being a thug, but society does not understand the reality of the situation; that Kamoshida the gym teacher is an abusive letch, who physically beats his students for not performing. Ryuji fought back against this abuse and was firmly beaten by the adult Kamoshida, who broke Ryuji’s leg in the process, permanently ending Ryuji’s promising future as a star athlete. No one knows the truth, everyone believes the teacher, because he is the one to be trusted.

The disparity between truth and society’s perception and the divide between the inner self and outer expectations is a key part of Japanese culture, which is described in Japan as ‘honne’ and ‘tatemae’.

Honne and Tatemae

Honne are the true feelings that someone has. The word translates to “true sound” and what honne is, is the true sound of someone’s heart. In Japanese culture, one’s honne is kept well hidden, never shown in society, and only shared with one’s closest confidants.

This is contrasted with Tatemae, which is what is society expects of you. Tatemae translates to “built in front” or “façade” and this is what you allow everyone in society to see. Your honne is always hidden behind your tatemae.

Social scientists have studied the phenomenon of honne and tatemae as being linked to Japan’s high population density, and the perception of incredible politeness and decorum that is noted in Japanese culture.

Everyone lives in such close proximity, it is important that people get along and cooperate with each other, so the idea behind honne and tatemae is that you set aside your wants and desires for the betterment of the whole. A place for everyone and everyone in their place.

When this societal construct works it results in a polite society where arguments should not happen over trivial matters and respect is shown to everyone by everyone. People know how to treat others and how they will be treated in return and so the status quo should be respected for mutual benefit, regardless of personal feelings to the contrary.

But humans are rarely perfect.

But what happens when everyone is expected to be polite and respectful and someone with power uses these expectations to abuse others?

This is a question that is asked globally in our world, and this is the power dynamic that Persona 5 explores.

Unlocking your Persona

In Persona 5 your characters are supported in combat by personas, manifestations of who they are in their hearts. To unlock their persona a character is driven to desperation. A point where they must fight or die. And as they reach a point of desperation and choose to live, they tear off masks that they wear in the metaverse, which are connected to their face. It is painful and bloody, but in tearing off their mask they free their persona.

A symbolic embodiment of the conflict of tatemae and honne. Tatemae the mask that is worn, but when someone comes who can take advantage of tatemae, one’s honne presses against tatemae, a cry for rebellion. Rebellion against social expectations. Rebellion against social norms. Rebellion against how things are.

When others use societal expectation to crush you, survival comes when self is placed before societal expectation.

Persona 5 uses imagery to give voice to the very real struggle that people face in our world.

The #metoo movement is born from this conflict. A societal expectation existed that certain kinds of behaviour happened in professional environments between men and women, particularly because powerful men could ruin the careers and lives of those women whom they have targeted. But the hearts of women who have been wronged push against this societal expectation and power dynamic. #metoo was born from the rebellious honne, taking supremacy over tatemae.

From this rebellion, a new societal expectation can be built. One that could not have existed if not for those who chose to forsake their social standing and image for the drive of their hearts.

Achieving Balance

So is tatemae something wrong and to be avoided? No. Life in a community is all about balance. When everyone focuses on self-interest, it leads to people not helping others and leads to a breakdown of community. It is not a surprise that in the western world, which touts individuality, that depression and isolation, particularly in big cities, are the key mental health issues of our time. Neither should a blind eye be turned to injustice simply for the sake of societal appearances because that is what gives strength to those individuals who use their societal position to abuse those around them.

Unfortunately, I do not have the five-point-plan to achieve this balance, as it comes from the individual choices that people in the community have to make for themselves. No doubt if we managed to get this perfect we would resolve the largest sum of our societal issues.

In the meantime, I am going to continue enjoying Persona 5’s exploration of these issues.

Chapter 1: A Conjunction of Fates | Part 2

The Wardens of Corinthia is back, and we continue the story with part two of chapter one!

If you want to catch part one of this chapter you can check this out here!

I hope you continue to enjoy this story and thank you for joining me on this adventure!

 


 

2

This was the furthest the firbolg known as the Lalar had ever travelled from her woodland home. She had heard of races cultivating the land and transforming it to produce food in vast quantities, but she had never truly seen it close. Stretches of uniform wheat growing within constructed barriers of deadwood prevented intruders from casually walking across the fields. It was a far cry from foraging in the woodland groves, but upon close inspection it was clear that even in this cultivated land many animals were able to make their home here.

A small family of dormice ran up and down the wheat sheave stalks, and many cottontail rabbits were enjoying the luxurious feasts that such intensive cultivation nurtured. Small birds built nests in the bushes that reclaimed the deadwood barriers, and sung tales of love and joy to the morning light; Chaffinches, dunnocks and wrens flitted from hidden perch to hidden perch. And where there are small animals, there are always larger animals to hunt them, and as far as Lalar could tell by their scent there was at least one family of foxes that had built a set nearby.

Nature always made a way, and no one could tame it for long.

Coming out of the wheat fields Lalar came upon a dirt path that lead to a dwelling built from deadwood and stone. She started towards the homestead before something caught her eye and her stomach turned. Across the top bar of the deadwood barrier that ran along the dirt path, little tiny bodies had been pinned. The bodies of many little, lifeless moles.

The grim trophies framed the dwelling darkly, and so, turning her back on the dwelling, Lalar followed the path in the opposite direction to what was presumably the large city that she had been told to go to.

Over the city she noticed a strange star burning brightly on the horizon. She had been so intent on the goings on the ground she had missed it completely until that moment. Perhaps it was a sign that fortune was with her.

***

‘THE SKY IS WHAT?!’ Tana cried out, rolling off her chair and running to a window of the Studregg Tavern to peak out at the sky nervously. ‘What is going on?!’ The sky was blue and clear, and not a flame could be seen.

‘Oh it’s nothing like that little one,’ laughed Hektor, choking on some bread that had been in his mouth as the deep gnome caught him off guard. Coughing he slammed his fist on the table several times, before settling his throat with some water. Aggie’s stared at him unflinching. ‘There is a comet in the sky Tana,’ Hektor announced as he stood up and walked over to the opposite side of the Tavern. ‘You won’t see it out of that window, but you can see it out of here, look!’ There was a rush and the sound of wooden chairs scraping on wooden floors as guests at the tavern scrambled to look out of the window that Hektor stood by, leaving Tana unable to get close. ‘BACK UP! BACK UP YOU LOT!’ Hektor called out at the crowd, making space for Tana to see the burning crimson and gold firebrand in the deep, cloudless sky.

‘What is it?’ Tana asked nervously, her large green eyes fixed on the burning sigil.

‘Tis a sign. An omen.’ Hektor replied solemnly.  ‘You know what that means?’ Hektor asked the small gnome who had pulled herself up onto the windowsill. Tana nodded darkly before turning her attention back to Aggie, who was still sat in her chair, looking past the tavern door. Hektor walked over to Aggie, through the whispering rabble, and sat back at the table, continuing to pick at his food.

‘I still thought I would’a had more time,’ Aggie said, turning to look at Hektor. ‘But I guess ye can’t really choose these things can ya?’ Hektor smiled the same warm, chip-toothed, smile he had had for as long as she could remember.

‘Course you can Aggie.’ Hektor said, in a quiet rumble, pushing his empty plate into the centre of the table. ‘You always have a choice. But what ye don’t always have is the opportunity t’do something truly different, t’go out there and see the world.’ Hektor’s hand gestured pointingly to emphasise his words, ‘You have always had a fiery ‘eart Aggie, and you ‘ave built somethin’ truly beautiful here.’ Hektor looked over to Tana who had turned back to look at the comet in the sky. Aggie followed his gaze to the small gnome. ‘There are others who need ‘elp, outside of ‘arstead. Help that me an’ Alysha can’t exactly do no more.’ Hektor stood up and placed his hand on Aggie’s shoulder comfortingly, ‘The last one will be ‘ere soon, after that it’s up t’you. Ye can’t make a wrong decision here Aggie. It’s an important decision, but it’s not possible t’get it wrong.’ Hektor dropped a gold piece on the table as he walked towards the tavern door.

‘Hektor wait!’ Aggie called after the grizzled veteran as he neared the door. Hektor turned around with raised eyebrows.

‘Hmm?’

‘You forgot your leftovers!’ said as she rushed into the kitchen to pack a fresh meal to go for her old friend.

(to be continued…)

 

 

 

Chapter 1: A Conjunction of Fates | Part 1

The Wardens of Corinthia is here, and we start with part 1 of chapter 1!

If you want to catch the prelude you can check this out here!

I hope you enjoy the beginings of this story and writing experiement!

 


 

1

It was a bright and cold Spring morning as Aggie looked out at the frost that still sat on the rooftops of her small hometown. Of the twin moons that hung in the sky, only Luna could be seen in the dawn-light, slowly waning like the closing eye of a lethargic god.

Hektor’s words stuck in her mind like a thorn. This town, this life was all she had ever wanted. It held her parent’s memories and love. Wasn’t that enough? Sighing, Aggie turned back into her tavern.

The wooden floor was clean and the tables and chairs had been arranged neatly. A well-worn bearskin rug lay before the simple stone hearth, which crackled with the morning’s fresh firewood. The creaking of the floorboards above foretold the rising of her guests from their slumber. And it would be amiss for any one of them to wake up without breakfast and a hot drink to greet them into the new day.

***

‘MOJITO!’ Aggie cried out, startling the mixed-blood Dragonborn, who had been quietly raiding the pantry before the other guests had awoken, causing food to scatter across the floor in the process. ‘How many times to I have to tell you to stay outta my kitchen?’ her southern drawl softened the tone of her loud Orcish voice. Mojito’s vibrant blue crest stood on end, like the fur of a kitten that felt threatened, as he reeled back coughing.

‘S…shhooryy…’ choaked Mojito, between coughing fits, which quickly became silent as he struggled to catch a breath. Aggie walked up to him and gave him a solid thump on his back, knocking him to the floor, and causing a large chunk of onion to come flying out of his mouth in the process.

‘Now you know that that tastes better cooked right?’ Aggie said as she helped her scaled visitor to his feet.

‘Well yes, quite,’ replied Mojito regaining his composure and intonation, before diving into a hurried explanation ‘I was hoping to set out early today and was very worried that I would go hungry because I am not sure when Alysha is planning to eat, if she wants me to be with her at all, and if she does not then I am uncertain what it is that would be good for eating around these parts, as I have grown rather accustomed to your home-cooking and figured that your raw ingredients would taste a hell of a lot better than whatever I could find in the woods.’

‘Well raw onions ain’t good for no-one,’ replied Aggie as she started grabbing food out of the pantry, and setting it out on the kitchen counter. ‘And if you can waitfur five minutes I will throw sumthin’ together that will taste a lot better than anythin’ you could scavenge on your own.’

***

Mojito, satisfyingly full, walked to the tall stone tower where Alysha had set up her study and observatory in the heart of Harstead. The chill was slowly breaking as the sun rose, and Mojito was excited about what the day might hold. As he strode past townsfolk beginning their days work, a small mote of light caught his eye. Floating on the wind like a dandelion seed, the small figure of an elemental landed upon Mojito’s hand. The translucent, vaguely humanoid spirit pointed skyward, and as Mojito shielded his eyes from the sun’s glare, something came into focus.

A comet slowly burned silently across the sky, brighter than the Morning Star.

As Mojito stood transfixed by this omen, those around him started to notice the celestial event as well. Worried and excited whispers and shouts came from the townsfolk as early birds roused their households to see this important sign.  Realising the hubbub that now surrounded him Mojito looked to his now empty hand curiously, before continuing onward to his teachers home.

***

Aggie had just started to eat her own breakfast with Tana, after serving the handful of guests that had rented rooms, when Hektor burst through the Tavern door. ‘Where’s my lil’ Aggie?!’ he roared to the startled and sleepy room of guests who were thoroughly underprepared for such excitement so early in the day.

Although he had not been taller than Aggie for many years, Hektor had always called her ‘lil’ Aggie, and hearing those words from the scarred, chip-toothed, bushy bearded veteran, always filled her heart with excitement, even after all these years.

‘Goodness Hektor, what are you shoutin’ about? Are you tryin’ to scare the skin off of everyone here?!’ She roared back, slamming her heavy fist onto the wooden table she was sat at as she spoke.

There was a moment’s silence as uncertain guests shifted uncomfortably in their seats, before Hektor and Aggie could no longer maintain their composure and broke into hearty laughter.

Embracing each other, Aggie lifted Hektor off his feet for a moment before putting him down again and bringing over to the table where she was sat with Tana. ‘How’re you doing little one?’ Hektor asked the small deep gnome at the table.

‘Okay,’ Tana said, averting her eyes from the large man that took a seat at the table opposite her. She found the way Aggie’s friend looked at her to be unnerving. He seemed to know who she was as soon as he had met her, four weeks ago, after Aggie had offered her the shelter she had so desperately sought. He had asked why she had come to Harstead back then, but he did not seem surprised by her story, it seemed like he had already heard it before. But Aggie trusted him, even if he wasn’t telling her everything.

‘So what’re you doing here?’ Aggie called out, as she returned from the kitchen with fresh bread and cheese, which she placed in front of Hektor.

‘The sky’s on fire Aggie,’ Hektor replied with a smile as Aggie sat back at the table. ‘And that means that the time has come for you to make a choice.’ Unmoving, Aggie kept Hektor’s gaze as he started to eat…

(To be continued…)

The Wardens of Corinthia

“After The Sundering the power of the gods was broken. Those that lived under their yoke were free to strike out their own path through history. People of all races and nations now had the opportunity to reach out beyond the mold that had been cast for them by their gods, to reshape the world to their own vision.

However, the ability to take advantage of this power vacuum was not isolated to the material plane…”   (read more)

Welcome to this new writing series!

Over the next several months I am going to be posting short episodic chapters for a new high fantasy story, which will form the Campaign Diaries of a current Dungeon and Dragons game I am running.

Dungeons and Dragons is a collaborative storytelling medium, and the story that will unfold will follow four main-characters, who were crafted and are acted by four real-world people. My role in this collaboration is to provide the setting and the story for these characters to explore and build on together. I have used several sourcebooks from the Wizards of the Coast to help build this setting and the adventure, but this campaign diary will be my own words; my own twist on the events and individuals that have come from a variety of sources, including my own imagination.

The ownership of a collaborative effort is hard to pin down, which is why we are sharing this experience with you for free.

I hope you enjoy the story that will unfold every week. I have ideas about what direction the story may head, but as I do not control the four main characters, they may, and do, undertake actions that I was not expecting, which adds to the suspense and drama of this storytelling experience as a writer.

The first part of this story is a prelude.

From the stage I set this week we will dive into the experiences that my players and their characters have had, presented with proper narrative and prose, for the enjoyment of everyone!

I hope you enjoy this writing experiment and that you choose to continue this exciting journey with us!

With all that said, let’s start the story first, by going back 15 years ago…

Giff Wars Session 4 Part 2: Finale

The continuation of the journal of Nei, a Paladin in the service of House Organo, written with assistance of those that survived.

The Party

 

The giff knight’s armour was blown to pieces, his skin utterly desiccated, eyes sunken, face rotted. The console was obliterated.

“I was pressing that”, Jurah said, disgruntled.

The giff ship started to descend rapidly.

“Where’s my daughter? Where’s Ubi?” the king cried. Geoff brutalised the deceased giff knight and chuckled evilly as he relieved him of his head. Geoff clung onto the lifeless grisly remains of the warrior’s body to cushion his fall.

Jurah slapped Alicath shouting, “Magic!”, thinking he had magic slaps. He was so impressed with himself, infact, he believed he was probably the God of magic slaps. This led him to ponder whether he could pass this ability onto his followers, when he had more, of course.

Keorath tried to pull javelin out of my shoulder. It came out of the floor but wasn’t completely removed from my body, which hurt! Geoff kept punching the giff’s body, even as he clung to it. Keorath pulled again, harder, and the javelin came out. Jurah muttered something about escape pods, or a lack of them, but it was hard to hear.

As the ship continued to roll, San pulled up underneath the punctured window shouting, “You’ll have to jump or find another way!” Alicath cast featherfall on himself, the king,  Eddie, and myself, allowing us to float down to San’s ship. Geoff cast down a rope and slid down, falling into a heap at the end. Keorath followed him. Jurah went next and, as his calluses started to wear down from the friction, he worried that his magic slap potential could be ruined. He reasoned to himself though that maybe it was actually okay, maybe his slaps were even more potent, as it brought the slap closer to himself a very-much definitely real god. Distracted by his thoughts he landed next to Geoff, on his back, with a thud.

San hurriedly brought us to the top of the airship to help Ubi, who is unloading ammo, alternating between the crystal and enemies, a large bulging bag at his feet. He saw us and yelled “We need to destroy it before we crash!” He reached into the bag and pulled out another grenade, tossing it into the hole in the crystal. Keorath and Jurah ran over to Ubi and tried to reach for the bag. Ubi opposed them; “Get back!” he shouted.

“Grummush guide my magic hand!”, says Jurah as he slapped Ubi. Nothing happened.

“Are you going to slap me, or help me?” Ubi asks. Jurah looked at his hand, shaking it. He then bowed his head solemnly as he realised maybe the rope did take away his powers. Keorath pulled over a loose rope and they bound Ubi with it, “Help! Stop that!” he cries. Jurah reached into the bag and picked out a canister, crushed it, and dropped it back into the bag.

Keorath and Jurah backed up towards the edge of the ship and Keorath sent a large fireball straight towards the bag. “Nooooooo” yelled Ubi. There was a flash of green light. The crystal shattered. The falling ship was blasted downwards with tremendous force, pure energy ripping through the ship, tearing through wood and sail…

Then nothing…

The light faded, and I opened my eyes.

The air was whistling past my ears, the giff ship was falling a little further below me, riddled with explosions. San’s ship appeared to be in pieces. Alicath, the King, Geoff, Eddie, and San, were all falling around me. Jurah, Keorath and Ubi were nowhere to be seen. Even as they fall to their doom, San said, “I can still get us out here guys. I’ve been in worse. I’ve been in worse…” there was a little quaver in his voice.

Alcath cast featherfall again saving those that he could. Geoff gathers bits of San’s destroyed airship, some wood, a sail, and parachutes down, raging the whole way. The remaining companions crashed into the water, and those that made it out made their way to the shore looking over the city.

The crashing ship had sent a tidal wave over the city of Alder, which now lies in flooded ruins. Even as we watched, water was still gushing back into the sea. There was no sign of any empire ships.

“At least the royal line of Aldar survived…” announced the king shortly before Geoff knocked him out cold.

With the city of Alder in ruins, it was a phyyric victory. The Empire was stopped here, but the cost was large. With such a cost to the kingdom, who knows what the future will hold for the House of Organo.

Written by Chloe Wakefield

Artwork by Jess Butcher – www.friendlyurchin.com

Edited by Aaron Surnaym

Previous: The Throne Room

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Giff Wars Session 4 Part 1: The Throne Room

The continuation of the journal of Nei, a Paladin in the service of House Organo, written with assistance of those that survived.

The Party

 

At about this time the Giff-controlled city became a hive of activity and new ships appeared to be launching from the port.

The door swung open revealing a large Giff knight dressed all in black, looking comfortable on a throne, and a hunched figure shackled beside him. Flanking them on either side were two guards, and behind them, workers were busy at a control board and paid us no attention.

Eddie stepped forward and knocked out the two guards with magic. I engaged the Giff knight but was parried with ease. Deep echoing booms filled our ears and the ship started trembling beneath us.

Taking damage, the dark Giff pulled out a metal canister and, crushing it, threw it in the air. The canister exploded ferociously and I flew backward, crumpling on the floor, unconscious…

From what I am told the workers start panicking at this point. In the common tongue, the Giff knight cried out, “Don’t leave your stations until the very end!” Geoff appeared nearby, swinging in anger, again and again, but the Giff knight knocked Geoff’s sword aside.

Back on the ship, San could hear loud bells and explosions coming from the Giff ship. He saw from the ship that the green crystal summiting the Giff ship was cracked, and smoke poured out of it. There was a Giff figure on top of the ship near the crystal and, squinting, he saw that it was Ubi. Several groups of people were streaming towards him, all alone.

San saw another explosion further down, and thick smoke poured out of a large hole in the ship’s hull. Jurah and Keorath, Goliath ship hands, saw this and demanded to be taken to the action, “Remember what Nei said. This is a mission from God, and we must serve him in the bloodiest way”. San disliked the danger and asked where to drop them off as he wanted somebody alive so he could be paid for his troubles. They told him to put them down where the explosions were happening. Grapples launched to the Giff ship, and Jurah and Keorath burst through one of the windows of the control room, landing on the console amongst a handful of minions, and saw their companions fighting a large Giff figure.

Alicath tumbled, stumbling over the guard’s unconscious bodies, but as he stumbled, he cast blindness on the Giff knight, and the Giff knight screamed. Proud of himself, he jumped up and over the Giff knight in mockery, but caught his foot on the knight’s helmet and fell over him. Geoff launched another swing at the Giff knight, this time with his wing scythe. The bony wing pierced the knight, sticking in him, and blood gushed out. Meanwhile, I was still bleeding out, unaware of all that was taking place around me.

The minions completely ignored the two goliaths on the console and continued working. Jurah said “Excuse me”, and strode past. The Giff knight yelled for help and staggered away from everyone in a blind rage. He pulled out a second canister and used it to blast open the wall in front of him. Metal dented, and wood splintered. The minions were left confused, after all, the knight told them to stay there no matter what, but also to help! Alicath used mage hand to place an explosive canister on the Giff knight. When it exploded, the knight was knocked off his feet and left prone, however, the canisters Ubi provided were not as powerful as the one the Giff knight used. The knight was bloodied but not badly damaged yet, but he was not in a good way, as he was blind and prone. Keorath stabilised me as Jurah parted the minions and started playing with the console buttons. “Any wheels here?” he muttered. The blinds on the windows opened and closed. There was an unsettling sound down below, of something spinny slowing down. WUBWUBWUBWUbWUbWubwubwubwubwub. The ship rolled to one side and everyone started sliding. Geoff crawled over, landing one final stab in the Giff warrior (who still had Geoff’s bony wing stuck in his back). Alicath clawed over to the king and used his dagger to break the king’s shackles, which fell off.

The ship was now at a significant angle and I was sliding faster and faster away from everyone. Geoff launched himself over and, seeing the 50ft I was about to fall, skewered me to the floor through the shoulder cuff with his javelin. Jurah was still clinging on to the console, mashing buttons, although significantly less happily. Over the tannoy came a quavering voice “Escape pods jettisoning”. Jurah looked over the console and saw a worried minion speaking into a microphone.

I woke with a gasp and decided that was as good a time as any to lay hands on myself. Still pinned by the javelin through my shoulder, the wound started to heal over, although it was an extremely strange sensation.

The Giff knight, bleeding out badly, crawled towards Keorath and Myself. He bellowed, “You may defeat me but you will never defeat the empire”.

His expression changed.

He sat up, breath rasping, laughing at everyone, and pulled out a third grenade.

He closed his eyes, holding it close, smiling, head tilted towards the sky, and set it off…

 


 

Written by Chloe Wakefield

Artwork by Jess Butcher – www.friendlyurchin.com

Edited by Aaron Surnaym

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Flashback Friday: No Man’s Sky – A Zen Exploration

This Flashback Friday I look back at the first video game article I ever wrote on this blog. It is crazy to think this happened over a year ago! I hope you enjoy this early exploration into video game blogging.


No Man’s Sky – A Zen Exploration

I have a full-time job.

I have a young child who I have to put to bed as soon as I get home after a long work day.

I have very little mental capacity to focus on anything when I finally sit down and rest.

No Man’s Sky has been my game of choice for these days.

I have Dark Souls, The Witcher 3, and even Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pain in my catalogue of games I need to finish, but these are all games that require more thought and mental activity than I can muster at the end of a long day, as I am sure more than a fair number of ‘grown-up’ video game fans can attest to. It is in this exhausted mental void that I discovered the beauty that is No Man’s Sky.

At its launch No Man’s Sky was a monumental flop with everyone who had been interested in the game. I was not one of those people, having heard of No Man’s Sky in video game media, but nothing about it seemed to spark my curiosity. This is something I am incredibly grateful for, as it means I have not approached the game from a place of previously being burned by it. In the years since initial release No Man’s Sky has had several large updates, including Atlas Rises and NEXT. After these updates I found it selling for £10 on the PlayStation Store, and noted that it had started to get some positive reviews. I figured I would give it a shot, if the game was rubbish I wouldn’t need to cry over it. With this in mind I took to the stars.

This is not so much a review, as there are plenty of those elsewhere, as it is a record of my experience with this controversial game. I really love this game. I have recorded about 32 hours gameplay, and it has been a relaxing exploration through the vast emptiness of space. I have a handful of personal ships and one large Freighter, which I treat mostly as storage for the various items I collect. I have the beginnings of a base, which I initially built simply to further one of the in-game quest lines, but have slowly started to add to as my desire to do so has grown. There are lots of ‘bits’ to do, lots of quests, which are generally not my cup of tea and I simply activate so they can be fulfilled in the background to reward my own exploration, but they mostly follow the same formula and get repetitive easily. However the exploration truly is the name of this game.

My favourite thing to do in No Man’s Sky is land on a planet I like to look of, so no scorched or barren ones thank you very much, and just explore. Scanning all the animals I can find, looking for strange new plants on the surface, then hopping in my ship, flying a bit further around the planet, and hopping out again to see if there is anything I have missed. Ensuring I stop by any outposts on the surface, and have a good old-fashioned loot, is simple and repetitive, but the infinite variation of kinds of animals and plants makes this experience a tranquil one. With headphones on you become your traveller, listening for the squeaks or creaks of animals, exploring caves, or just stopping to get a beautiful view of the procedurally generated universe. The photo above I took on a toxic planet, which I just thoroughly enjoyed exploring. I can’t put my finger on what it was about this planet that kept me exploring for several evenings in a row, but it was an immersive and compelling experience, that truly helped me to relax at the end of a long day.

no-mans-sky_20180819191735-e1538941701463.jpg
Giant antlered care-bears are the perfect way to relax at the end of the day.

With the approach I take to exploration the piecemeal storyline and drips of information as and when you find specific monoliths or computers works perfectly. I am not playing this game desiring a story, and so the little bits I pick up on different planets make me feel like an archaeologist picking through the pieces of an ancient civilisation. I can see how this game is not everyone’s cup of tea, and in a different life I think I would be among those people, but when you are exhausted, sometimes it is nice to just take to the stars and see what you can find.

There is a kind of multiplayer in this game, but I don’t enjoy other people entering my game-space. I like multiplayer in other games, but when it comes to No Man’s Sky, having another player on your isolated planet is like having someone trampling on your freshly planted flowerbed, it interrupts the very thing you are there to enjoy. Whenever someone starts to connect to my currently habited galaxy I always get that feeling of ‘out of all the galaxies in the universe you had to warp into mine’. Which is quite funny given the name of the game. The feeling of isolation is one that I crave in-game, and this is probably due to the strain of being an introvert working in a very extrovert-centric job.

This game is a real joy. Is it perfect? No. is it grindy? Kinda. Is fun? Absolutely. This limitless, isolated exploration is something that will keep me coming back to No Man’s Sky for years to come, when I get tired of the story driven games I tend to be drawn to, and with its recent update, that I will soon be playing, I am looking forward to many new and interesting things to discover.

If you like this article check out more video game impressions here.

Book Review: ‘The Last Wish’ by Andrzej Sapkowski

‘Evil is evil…Lesser, greater, middling, it’s all the same.’

Last Wish book

My first exposure to the world that Andrezej Sapkowski created took the form of the critically acclaimed Witcher games by CD Projekt Red following the adventures of an amnesiac monster hunter named Geralt of Rivia.

The loss of Geralt’s memory ensures the player does not have to have a prior knowledge of the books the game was based on before picking up and playing, as the games are set after the events in the books, and Geralt cannot remember what happened.

That changes by the final game, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, as Geralt has regained his memory, and his past from the books drives forward the story in the games.

One of the missions in that game is named the Last Wish, which calls back to the very first book in the Witcher series, a poetic curtailing of the world that Andrezej established.

But before we look at the end of the story we have to turn back to the begining if that story and that is what The Last Wish gives us.

The Last Wish has a non-standard narrative structure, taking the form of a series of short stories that establish who Geralt of Rivia is, tied together by the overarching narrative of Geralt reflecting on his during a time of recovery following an injury during a particular monster hunt.

This particular structure does leave you feeling like you are watching the clip show episode of your favourite TV series, but the fact that these stories are new prevents the creeping boredom that can be evoked by the often overused TV trope. Instead we are shown who Geralt of Rivia is by being given a selection of stories, such as might be told by a travelling bard, for us to understand who he is, even if we do not fully understand where he has come from by the end of the book.

The writing style is simple but paints an effective picture of a well-realised world where folklore and fantasy blend together with a realistic medieval setting. I understand the world well very early on in the book, but still have questions about the mechanics of its ontology, which is how a fantasy world should be introduced. The characters in the world don’t fully know and explore the mysteries of the world at the same time as we do.

The book is translated into English from its original Polish and so I will put some of the simplicity down to being lost in translation, as the rest of the world building is effective enough that simplicity is not distracting or unwanted.

A good sense of humour pervades the book with a smile being brought to my lips on several occasions, whether that be by characters own wit or happenstance to unexpected retellings of classic folklore tales.

If you enjoyed watching The Witcher on Netflix, this book is a nice read to see the source material, however all bar-one story in the Last Wish made it into the Netflix series, meaning you will not be reading much that you are not familiar with, and the Netflix Series is fairly close to the source material save for a few minor variations such as would be expected from any adaptation. As such if you read the Last Wish you will know a large portion of what to expect from the Netflix series and vice versa.

I fully enjoyed reading this book, it was a short but fun, slightly pulpy experience, which felt more than the sum of it’s parts by the end.

Having read this book I am now itching to read the rest that Andrezej Sapkowski has to offer. It is not the finest fantasy story ever written, but it is undeniably interesting and fun read, that does not overstay its welcome, and has left me wanting more.