Catalyst: Crowley

I just wanted to provide a brief bit of background before you read what is by far the longest bit of writing I’ve ever posted on the internet. When I make a new D&D character I often write an extended bit of background for them, what I call their “catalyst” story, the event in their life that set them on their adventuring path. This is the catalyst story for my warlock Crowley, detailing how he met his patron. The campaign I play Crowley in takes place in The Myriad, a region made of scattered islands in a sea and four surrounding continents. I considered splitting this story into two posts, but wasn’t sure of a good place to split it, so here it is in all of its glory! I hope you enjoy it!

A bit of location inspiration for you. I took this in 2018 at Two Lights State Park near Portland, Maine.

Crowley woke up to find that Kestrel’s bed hadn’t been slept in. This wasn’t inherently ominous on its own, it wasn’t like the twins had never slept a night apart, especially now that they were getting older and occasionally wanted to slip off with someone for a bit of private fun. But it was a bit unusual for her to not at least drop a hint that she wouldn’t be coming back to their little room crammed beneath the eaves of the mansion called home by the Red Rivers.

The mansion had been built by some wealthy merchant when living close to the water had been fashionable and abandoned when the owner got sick of the smell of sea brine and rotted fish and decided to relocate to a more inland part of the city. The room Crowley and Kestrel had claimed was just big enough for two single beds and a table that was just long enough for them to work at side by side without bumping elbows. They were glad for their little roost, glad to have a place to fly under the radar of the gang they’d joined out of necessity when they were 12, after about a year of trying to get by on the streets on their own and barely surviving.

Yes, they had sworn loyalty to the gang, but it was secondary to their loyalty to each other. After all, at the end of the day they were each the only person that the other felt they could fully trust. They did enough work to keep their spots in the gang, but tried to keep a low profile otherwise. Even so, they gained a reputation and a pair of nicknames. Kestrel was The Mind, sharp as a nail, a schemer of schemes. Crowley was The Mouth, the one who took those schemes and made them happen, often by convincing people to do things they ordinarily wouldn’t have done. They hadn’t spent every last moment of their lives together, but it was a near enough thing.

Which is why other members of the Red Rivers were surprised when Crowley started asking around about her when she still hadn’t turned up by dark. “I thought you two was sewn together at the hip, birds of a feather and all that,” said fellow gang member Jack. Crowley’s inquiries didn’t turn up Kestrel’s whereabouts, but he did learn that actually nobody had seen her since the prior morning. A couple of people suggested that maybe she had been sent out on some kind of job, but Gideon, one of the heads of the Red Rivers, told him no such thing had happened.

Crowley tried to smother his growing unease by going to bed early, only to be prevented from sleep by the sight of Kestrel’s empty bed. Even after he’d deactivated the small, bewitched oil-less lamp that was the first piece of loot they’d been allowed to keep for themselves he found himself staring into the darkness at her bed, willing her to magically appear in it. Eventually, just as the sky lightened with the oncoming dawn, he drifted off into a fitful sleep, plagued by dreams of being lost on his own in a large, dark cave.

Crowley woke around noon. Kestrel was still gone. He had some tea and a little bread and cheese even though he didn’t feel much like eating and then set off for the city’s Archives. Kestrel’s schemes were greatly aided by research and she was well known to the staff there for spending hours poring over various books and documents. Crowley had barely spent any time at the Archives, but the clerk working the front desk recognized him on sight, probably due to their resemblance. “She was here the day before yesterday, in the morning, but she left just before midday with a big tough looking guy with dark hair. She said she was just getting something to eat so she left her things on her table, but she never came back. We collected her things when we closed for the night, if you’d like to take them?” Crowley accepted the linen bag the clerk offered and peered inside to see a couple of the many notebooks Kestrel was often scribbling in, as well as the small wooden case that he knew held her portable writing kit. The clerk couldn’t answer any of Crowley’s other questions, so he thanked him and left.

When Crowley returned to the mansion without Kestrel in tow, he found that some of the other members of the Red Rivers were beginning to worry as well. The Mind was highly dependable, it was highly unlike her to just run off with no explanation. Inquiries had been quietly made around the city and Gideon had even reached out to the leaders of a couple of the other gangs in town, but no one had any information. It was like she had disappeared into the mists of the Myriad itself. The one lead Crowley had gotten at the Archives wasn’t much help — most the gangs in town had at least one member that fit the description the clerk had given him.

Crowley wasn’t often one for anxiety, but Kestrel’s continued disappearance had him on edge. He tried to dull it with alcohol, drinking himself into oblivion in an attempt to forget she was missing, or at least trying to become drunk enough that he could plausibly convince himself she was simply traveling and not missing without a trace. He even wound up in the bed of his on again/off again fling Lucille, although he was too drunk to do anything other than sleep curled around her while he got there. He dreamed of the cave again and somehow even in the dream he was too drunk to do much besides sit on the ground and call for Kestrel.

On the third morning since Kestrel had gone missing, the Red Rivers were awakened by a shout. Crowley was vaguely roused by the sound, but shrugged it off and slipped back into sleep. They were a gang, shouting happened. But then he was being shaken awake by Lucille. He blinked at her blearily as he sat up, still somewhat drunk from the night before. She thrust a cup of water into his hands and as he drank she told, “Kestrel’s turned up.” The grim tone of her voice made the water turn to ashes in his mouth. Suddenly much more sober, he followed Lucille down to the dining room.

A body was laid out on one of the tables with a blanket over it and member of the Red Rivers filled the room. Crowley dimly noted that the boots sticking out of the bottom of the blanket were Kestrel’s. Hands shaking, he slowly peeled the blanket back from the body’s head and found himself face to face with Kestrel. She had been roughed up a great deal, her face and neck littered with cuts and bruises. Whoever had laid her on the table had folded her arms across her chest and they bore more cuts and what looked perhaps like burns. They’d even cut off the tips of her pointed ears and Crowley absently reached up to scratch at his own. The small hunk of quartz Kestrel wore around her neck was still there, as were the tiny golden hoops she wore in her lower earlobes. Clearly this was no mere robbery, but instead was likely targeted violence.

Crowley stared at her numbly for a long moment, all sound gone from his world beyond the beating of his own heart, a lonely echo in a vast, dark cave. And something snapped in him and he was hunched over, bracing his hands on the table for support, his breath coming in ragged, heaving gasps. At this Gideon came over and flipped the blanket back over Kestrel’s face, saying “Someone take him out of here, give him something so he can sleep.” Crowley gripped the edge of the table tightly, saying between gasps, “No. NO. I can’t, I can’t leave her.” And then Lucille’s gentle touch was prying his hand away from the table and her soft arms wrapped around his shoulders. “Come away for now, love. She’s not going anywhere,” she said. Lucille brought Crowley up to his and Kestrel’s little room under the eaves and although he didn’t typically like to take drugs, when she offered him one of the sleeping potions from the gang’s stash he swiftly drank it only to be swallowed up by the dreadful dream cave again. This time it was even larger and more cavernous, his cries for help not even able to echo back at him.

Crowley was jostled awake at sunset when Gideon sat down on the end of his bed, his mouth dry from the sleeping potion. He sat up against his headboard and accepted the flask of water that Gideon offered. “Marta’s the one who found her,” Gideon explained as Crowley drank. “She was going out this morning to buy bread and tripped right over her on the front steps. She saw a couple of big guys running off down the street in grey cloaks.”

“Oh, so the Gulls then? We’re going after them?” Crowley asked, perking up slightly at the thought of vengeance.

Gideon shook his head. “The Gulls are dumb, but not dumb enough to wear their own colors to drop off a body,” he said. “And besides, when I was asking around about Kestrel the other day Len told me their base had been broken into the other week and some stuff was stolen. Probably where the cloaks came from.”

Crowley perked up at the idea of having a plan of action. “Then we start there. We find who robbed them, then we find Kestrel’s killers and –”

Gideon shook his head again and raised a hand to cut him off. “Slow down. We’re not looking to get into a gang war right now, Crowley. We’ve got a couple of potentially big jobs coming down the line and we don’t need any extra attention. Maybe we’ll find who did it eventually, but there’s no need to rush into anything.”

Crowley flushed with anger, his voice beginning to rise in volume. “We’re just going to do nothing? Kestrel swore an oath to this gang and –”

“It’s a hard life out here by the Myriad and people die all the time. Why are you surprised? The two of you would’ve died years ago without our help.” Gideon snatched back the water flask and stood. “Look at this like the gift it is. You’re your own man now, no longer shackled to anyone else. I always thought you were holding yourself back because of her, now you get to live your own life. We’re sending her off in a couple of hours. You can stay here and pout or you can come say your goodbyes.” And Gideon left, slamming the door behind him.

When night had well and truly fallen, the Red Rivers bore Kestrel down to the docks, clad in their dark red cloaks, bringing a couple of small lanterns along to light their way. Someone had cleaned her up and tightly bundled her up in a blanket while Crowley was sleeping. One of the gang members had already stolen a small rowboat and they laid Kestrel in it before shoving it out into the Myriad. Once it was a fair distance out Jocelyn, their best archer, used one of the lanterns to light an arrow and let it fly towards the boat holding Kestrel. Her aim was true and the boat was quickly fully alight, the distant light searing Crowley’s eyes. The weight of his grief slammed into him again like a strong wave and he collapsed to his knees. Lucille laid a sympathetic hand on his shoulder while the rest of the gang stood respectfully mute for few minutes before gradually dispersing.

Lucille tried to tug Crowley away from the docks and usher him back home, but he shrugged her off. “Then I’ll stay with you,” she said. “No, go home,” Crowley said sharply, his eyes fixed on the flame on the water. He saw Lucille flinch out at his tone out of the corner of his eye and when he looked at her her face was so full of worry that he softened just a little. “I promise not to throw myself into the Myriad. I just need a moment alone.” Lucille nodded, gave his shoulder a little squeeze, and left. Crowley remained at the docks for a long while, fixated on Kestrel’s glowing boat until finally the flame went out and that evening’s chilly mist rolled in off the water. Reluctantly, Crowley wrapped his cloak tightly around himself and returned to the mansion.

When he arrived, a large party was in full swing to celebrate Kestrel’s short life. Not in the mood for a party, Crowley slipped up the back steps unnoticed. He found that someone had been in their room while he was gone. (“My room,” he corrected himself with a wince.) The little magic lamp was on and there was food, water, and another vial of sleeping potion on the table so he assumed it was Lucille trying to take care of him again. He picked up the potion bottle and uncorked it, considering the contents for a long moment. And then another wave of his grief swelled over him and he decided sleep was the last thing he wanted right now. It was too similar to death and, besides, he was scared to dream of that lonely cave again. He tried to re-cork the potion bottle, but his hands were shaking and he dropped it.

The sound of the glass breaking on the floor shattered something in Crowley as well and his grief became overwhelming rage. It made him feel good to break something, so he decided to break more things. The first item he laid his hands on was the little lamp and he held it between his palms and hurled it at the floor with all the force he could muster. From there he made short work of as much of what he and Kestrel owned, smashing small trinkets, ripping open pillows, overturning furniture, tearing pages out of books. At one point in the middle of this maelstrom, an oblivious Lucille came to check on him, his destruction in the attic unheard over the party on the ground floor. He roared at her to get out and she scurried away.

The one coherent thought in Crowley’s head amidst this chaos was that this is not how it was supposed to be, and it played on repeat, tormenting him. He and Kestrel had plans to travel the Myriad, visiting islands and maybe even the other three continents. He knew better than to think they would’ve lived together all of their lives, but he’d expected her to at least be around somewhere to be a shoulder to lean on when he needed, and he was supposed to do the same for her. Except for the two minutes between when he was born and Kestrel followed, they had always been companions in life and the idea of having to continue without her had Crowley at a total loss. Who could he rely on now? The gang that didn’t consider solving the murder of one of their sworn members a priority? No. He knew he was fully on his own now, but it wasn’t a gift like Gideon had suggested.

And then, at last, Crowley ran out of energy for destruction, collapsed to the floor in the middle of his carnage, and finally, bitterly wept. The strangled sobbing sounds escaping his throat shocked him, but he could not get himself to stop making them as long overdue as they were. By the time he finally quieted the sky outside the window was the blue grey of predawn. The house was silent, the party downstairs over. No one else had come to check on Crowley after he’d scared Lucille off and he wondered if she’d even mentioned it to anyone. He decided he didn’t care. He had a reputation for affability. Let them know he could rage too.

As he laid on the floor, wiping away snot and tears with his sleeve his eye caught on something — Kestrel’s linen bag that the clerk at the Archives had given him, it’s contents tipped out. The wooden case of the portable writing kit was cracked and leaking ink and the notebook looked a bit crumpled, but was otherwise intact. It had fallen open to a page full of Kestrel’s tidily looping handwriting. He heaved himself to a sitting position and pulled the notebook into reading range.

At the head of the page were the words “Ritual for Wish Granting” and the title of the obscure book Kestrel had copied it from. This was followed by a set of instructions with annotations and questions written in the margins. Below this Kestrel had scribbled some thoughts. “Could be promising, but potentially unlikely to work due to the long absence of the Old Gods and the relatively low occurrence of magic in the modern world. Discuss with Crowley?” This was the last page of writing in the notebook and Crowley assumed it was what she had been looking into the day she vanished.

He read the instructions over again. The whole process seemed like it would be relatively simple if he could procure the ingredients. Coming across these notes so soon after Kestrel’s death felt like she was giving him a sign. Maybe she’d known what was about to happen to her, maybe she didn’t, but either way she had left Crowley something that could perhaps reunite them if it worked. And if it didn’t, well at least it likely wouldn’t waste too much of his time and would give him something to do to get him through his first bit of mourning. He tore the page with the ritual’s details out of the notebook and pocketed it along with his money pouch before heading out to the city’s marketplace, leaving the mess of his room behind.

Between the market stalls and the apothecary’s shop Crowley was able to procure most of the components he needed and he only had to go a little ways into the sandy woods bordering the town to get the rest. Finally, around mid-afternoon, he made his way to the docks and pilfered a rowboat that he was reasonably sure he could paddle alone. The Myriad was clam that day, but the rolling waves still gave him a bit of trouble as he rowed himself out as far from town as he thought would be necessary — the instructions were exceedingly vague in that regard.

Once settled, he set about his work, adding the ingredients to the small bowl he pilfered from the mansion’s kitchen and grinding them down a bit with a stone before setting the tiny heap ablaze, spending two matches to do so due to the sea wind. Carefully guarding the fire in the bowl, he watched the various herbs and twigs burn down to ash. Once it had burned itself out, but before the ashes were fully cold Crowley pinched the dust between his fingers and sprinkled it into the water around the boat, taking care not to capsize himself in the process.

And then he waited.

And waited.

It was cold and windy, as the seas in that quadrant of The Myriad tended to be that time of year, and Crowley huddled in his cloak, becoming increasingly aware of just how cold his toes were. He wondered if maybe the instructions were incomplete, maybe Kestrel hadn’t actually figured out the whole ting yet and there were some words he ought to have said. Or maybe the whole thing was a dud and never would have worked anyway. And here he was looking like a fucking idiot alone in a little boat tossing ashes into the sea as if it could really give him what he wanted, could give him Kestrel back and —

As his thoughts reached a fervent kind of despair and desperation, the water around the boat churned and a figure came to the surface. It hauled itself into Crowley’s boat, somehow without tipping it at all, and sat onto the bench across from Crowley. Crowley recoiled a bit in shock as he watched it settle itself, arranging the assortment of tentacles that made up its lower body just so. Crowley’s eyes ranged upwards, taking in the humanoid torso with tentacle arms, the octopus-like head with shrewd eyes and a slit of a mouth, all of it a deep sea blue. With a start, Crowley realized it was wearing Kestrel’s hunk of quartz around its neck.

“Where did you get that?” asked Crowley, voice weaker than he would’ve liked due to shock.

“What? No hello? No how are you? No thank you, oh powerful one, for answering my puny little call?” Its voice was scratchy like sand shifting against itself on the ocean floor.

Where did you get that?” Crowley asked again, more forcefully.

The being shrugged. “It drifted down into my home a day ago. Maybe two days? Hard to say, time doesn’t work down there like it does up here. Are you trying to tell me you did all of this –,” it gestured to the ritual debris littering the bottom of the boat, “– for just a little necklace?”

Crowley frowned. “No. Well, maybe? I don’t know. I didn’t even know what was going to happen when I did the ritual. I just thought it would grant a wish.”

Crowley’s companion laughed, its lower tentacles squirming in a quite unsettling way. “You must be crazy or desperate to do a ritual without knowing what it’ll do.” It eyed Crowley, sizing him up as he shivered from the cold Myriad wind and a bit of fear. “Maybe both in your case. So what’s your wish, if it’s not for this necklace?”

“My sister Kestrel was murdered earlier this week.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” said the creature, grinning.

“You can bring her back?”

Another laugh, this one louder than before. Waves jostled the rowboat and Crowley felt like they were in time with the chuckles. “No, I can’t undo death, kid, but I can get you the next best thing.”

Crowley frowned, his heart pounding in his chest. “And what’s that?”

“Revenge. But it’ll cost ya.”

“But I don’t know who did it.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’m a guy who can get things done. I’ll figure it out.”

Crowley hesitated for just a moment, knowing that this whole thing was crazy and dangerous and potentially even all in his head. But he decided he had nothing to lose so he nodded and said, “Okay, how do we get started?”

The creature used its upper tentacle arms to remove Kestrel’s hunk of quartz from around its neck. “Like this,” it said and used a sharp edge of the stone to carve a line across the skin of one its tentacles. Blood welled up, thicker than any blood Crowley had seen on land and so dark blue it was nearly black. “Now you.” It offered Crowley the quartz and he sliced open his own palm. The being wrapped its cut tentacle around Crowley’s bleeding hand, creating a sticky mess that stung with the ocean salt that still clung to the creature’s clammy skin. Crowley grimaced at the sensation as he felt a tingling start to spread up his arm. Just as Crowley was adjusting to that unpleasantness his companion said, “I’m Jeff, by the way,” and plunged a tentacle into Crowley’s chest, a wicked grin on its face.

For the next while, Jeff had control of Crowley’s body. It was an exceedingly odd sensation to watch the world go by, feel his hands do things, hear his voice speak while having no control over it. A part of Crowley considered that maybe the situation should frighten him, but honestly after the week he’d been having it was something of a relief to have all decision making taken away from him. When he looked back later, Crowley couldn’t guess how long Jeff spent controlling him and he remembered only brief flashes of events, feeling as if he was in some kind of dim dream. The weight of Kestrel’s quartz pendant was around his neck. The rowboat somehow propelled itself back to shore as the ritual materials were stuffed into Crowley’s bag. There was a trip to the Gulls’ base and Crowley was vaguely aware that his voice was being used to demand information a bit more forcefully than he would’ve done if he was in control.

Then suddenly they were back on the street and Jeff was turning over a scrap of fabric in Crowley’s hands. He felt Jeff rummaging through his mind, like flipping pages in a notebook. It was a thoroughly unpleasant sensation that made Crowley itch. “Hey, quit that, it’s uncomfortable,” he thought at Jeff, hoping the message would get across.

He felt Jeff use his face to smile. “Oh, good, you’re awake. That will make this easier,” Jeff silently said to Crowley, the sandy sound of his real voice gently brushing against Crowley’s consciousness. “That Len man gave me this, said it was caught on a trap when something stolen was put back? What does it mean?”

Focusing hard to really properly see through his eyes, Crowley noted the deep green color of the fabric. “Green is the Bolts,” he told Jeff. “Unless someone stole their cloaks too?”

“And where do these Bolts reside?”

“They tend to move bases more often than most gangs. Last I heard they were somewhere by the Archives.” Crowley’s stomach dropped at the realization.

Jeff must have felt it too because he asked, “What? Why do you feel this way?”

“The Archives were the last place Kestrel was seen alive.”

As they set off for the Archives district, Jeff grinned so broadly it felt unnatural on Crowley’s face. It was fully dark by this point and they settled in at one of the major squares in the district, huddling in Crowley’s cloak in the shadows cast by a large fountain statue. Crowley Before long someone came by in a Bolt green cloak. Jeff tailed them, cornering them in a nearby alley. They were young, likely a relatively new recruit, and when they saw Crowley’s face they squeaked out a little scream and blurted out, “I swear I had nothing to do with it. I knew taking her was a bad idea, but you know how it is with gangs.”

Crowley pushed his way to the forefront of his mind and spoke. “Why did they take her?”

“They wanted her for the Bolts, but she said no because they wouldn’t take you too. And they couldn’t have her saying anything so, well, you know what they did.”

Crowley felt a surge of rage and he felt Jeff’s approval at that emotion. United in purpose they used Crowley’s mouth to say, “Give me your cloak and show me how to get inside.”

The Bolts’ hideaway was currently in an old grain warehouse complex and when Crowley and Jeff, newly dressed in green, let themselves in they were in sync. The Bolts’ door guard fled at the sight of Crowley yelling, “Oh shit, how did you find us?” Crowley had never had a knack for magic, but with Jeff’s aid it flowed out through his hands as smoothly as water, sprouting spectral tentacles from the ground that pummeled their enemies, blasting people with ice as cold as the Myriad depths, firing off wicked blasts of crackling energy that flung the members of the Bolts to the floor. Crowley’s blind rage had returned at the prospect of further destruction and Jeff reveled in the feeling, suggesting further ways for Crowley to use the magic. Crowley didn’t send spells after anyone who fled, but otherwise he attacked indiscriminately, considering all of the Bolts to be culpable for Kestrel’s death.

Before long Crowley was surrounded by splintered furniture and the bodies of people who were either dead or convincingly pretending to be. Breathing heavily in the silence and the sky outside the windows the pale grey color of early dawn, he decided their job was done and finally left, but not before knocking a kerosene lantern onto the floor, and setting the building ablaze as a final message. When Crowley reached his room in the Red Rivers’ mansion, he found that someone, probably Lucille, had made an attempt at tidying the mess he had made and the beds were set properly upright on their frames. The beds were made and Crowley had a new pillow on his to replace the one whose feathers littered the floor.

Exhausted by everything that had happened, Crowley was barely able to get his boots off before he fell into bed asleep. He did not dream of the empty cave, as he feared he might. When he woke up, he thought that perhaps the prior day’s events had all been a deeply unsettling dream and that Jeff was nothing more than a figment of his imagination. Maybe when he got up he’d find that the last few days hadn’t happened and Kestrel would be asleep in the bed across from his, as she was supposed to. But as he stirred the palm of his left hand felt tight and itchy and when he looked at it there was a thick pink scar where he had sealed the deal with Jeff. He sat up and saw that Kestrel’s bed wasn’t empty after all. Jeff had evidently vacated Crowley’s body and was asleep on top of it, curled up like some kind of messed up cat. It was a rare sunny day for that time of year and Jeff’s translucent blue skin glowed in the light. Crowley was considering what to do next when he heard a commotion downstairs and Gideon yell, “Where is he?” and his gut and the feet on the stairs told him they were looking for him. He nudged Jeff awake and mouthed “hide” at him. Jeff dropped to the floor and slithered into the shadows under Kestrel’s bed.

Crowley casually sat back down on his bed just in time for Gideon to burst into the room and haul him to his feet by the front of his shirt. “What did you do?” he said firmly, not yet fully raising his voice. Crowley tried plastering an innocent, confused expression onto his face, but Gideon apparently didn’t buy it because he shook Crowley forcefully and said, “Half the Bolts are dead and their base is burned to the ground. The survivors say you were there doing magic? I told you it was a bad time to do anything that would bring attention to us.”

“Don’t worry,” said Crowley, “I wasn’t wearing my cloak at the time. I was just a grieving brother, on my own, giving those assholes what they deserved for killing my sister.”

“I gave you an order!” Gideon yelled, shoving Crowley down onto the bed so hard he nearly hit his head on the wall. Crowley sensed Jeff stirring as if maybe he was considering coming to Crowley’s defense, but he stayed put.

“Well somebody had to do something!” Crowley shouted. “Even if she wasn’t my sister, she was a member of the Red Rivers and her murder was disrespect. Can’t have people thinking we’re weak, can we?”

By this point a number of the gang members crowding the doorway trying to see what was going on, including Lucille, who looked to be on the edge of worried tears. Crowley was thankful that in the midst of his argument with Gideon nobody noticed the creature under Kestrel’s bed.

Gideon considered Crowley for a moment, looking like he was weighing up different options. Then he said, “You deliberately disobeyed me. I told you to leave it alone and you didn’t. Pack your things.” He glanced around the wreckage of Crowley’s room. “Or what’s left anyway. And then get out.” He took Crowley’s red cloak from where it was hanging on a hook on the wall and left the room, slamming the door behind him.

Crowley listened to the footsteps of the crowd in the hallway dispersing and when he felt reasonably certain that everyone had left he muttered to Jeff, “You told me there would be a price? Is this it?”

Jeff slithered out from under Kestrel’s bed, his response in Crowley’s mind. “We can still talk like this even though we’re separate again. But no, that is not the price I had in mind.”

“Then what is?” Crowley thought back at Jeff. “I assume it’s not my life since you haven’t killed me yet.”

“I need you alive for what I want, but in a way I do want your life.” Jeff used his arm tentacles to haul himself onto the end of Crowley’s bed. “You see, I’ve been down in the deeps for…well, I’m not quite sure how long. Except I do know it was a very long time. Time doesn’t quite flow the same up here as it does at home. And it’s so dreadfully boring to stay in one place for so long. I’d like to see the world, but, as I’m sure you can guess by looking at me, it would be difficult for me to do that on my own.”

“But surely it will be just as hard for me to take you with me considering you’re…?” Crowley gestured vaguely at Jeff’s octopus-like form.

Jeff flapped a few of his tentacles dismissively. “I can just go incorporeal again like last night,” he said. “No big deal.”

Crowley recalled the sensation of being out of control of his body. It was one thing to mind speak with someone, but another entirely to have that being’s spirit inside of his skin alongside his own spirit, fighting for control of the same space. “I’m not sharing my body again, no more mind melding,” Crowley told Jeff firmly.

Jeff sighed and rolled his eyes. “Mortals. Always so touchy about their forms. Fine, I can travel in an object just as well.” He looked around the room before settling on Kestrel’s hunk of quartz hanging around Crowley’s neck. “That rock will do just fine, and that way I’ll always be with you. I’ll need to come out every so often and stretch my legs, but we’ll work that out when we get there. After all, I can’t see the world if you get thrown in the brig because some backwater island thinks you’re cavorting with demons or whatever.”

“Okay, I can live with that,” said Crowley. Jeff held a tentacle out to shake on it and Crowley shook his head.

Jeff rolled his eyes as he slowly faded out of sight. “I wasn’t going to snatch your body, idiot,” he said teasingly. “Not this time anyway.” Crowley could practically see Jeff smirking as he felt the quartz around his neck grow ever so slightly heavier with Crowley’s spiritual weight. It also felt somewhat cooler, like someone had thrown it in the sea for a brief moment.

Crowley gathered what items he wanted to salvage from the wreckage of his room and then left the Red Rivers’ mansion for the last time, his former gang mates eyeing him with suspicion or outright shrinking away from him in fear in the hallways. As Crowley set off down the road towards the port, his heart ached for the loss of his home and from the uncertainty about his future. Evidently he and Jeff were still somewhat emotionally linked because he heard Jeff hum thoughtfully in his head.

“What?” he thought back.

“I’d forgotten how deliciously dramatic mortal emotions can be,” was Jeff’s delighted reply.

Before turning the corner at the end of the lane, Crowley stopped to look back at the house one last time and saw Lucille dashing up the street after him, a parcel bundled up in her arms. “I’m so glad I caught you before you disappeared,” she said breathlessly when she reached him. “I don’t know where you’ll go, but it can be dreadfully cold this time of year so you had better take this.”

Crowley opened the parcel she handed to him to find his arms full of red fabric. “My cloak,” he said with a sad smile as he wrapped it around himself.

Lucille shrugged. “Gideon’ll be furious with me, but he won’t do anything to me that I can’t handle. And if he kicks me out too, I think the Bolts might be recruiting.” Crowley flinched at that and Lucille laid a soothing hand on his arm. “What you did was terrifying and extreme, but you had a good reason for it.” She cracked weak grin, trying for a little levity. “It’s a shame you’ve been kicked out, I don’t think anyone would’ve messed with us if you were around.”

Crowley half-smiled back and then leaned in and kissed Lucille on the cheek. “Thank you for looking out for me. I just wish I had something to give you.”

Lucille reached up and cupped his cheek in her hand. “Don’t worry about it. Just go live your life, Crowley. Take care of yourself. And wear the damn cloak so you don’t freeze to death.”

“And the same to you, Lucille.”

They shared a farewell hug and then Crowley headed down to the docks to see about getting hired onto a ship’s crew.

“Hard labor?” whined Jeff.

“We don’t have that much money, I can’t waste it on booking passage,” replied Crowley as they walked past the docked ships. “If you don’t like it you can always leave.”

Jeff laughed inside of Crowley’s head. “No way. This is only the beginning for us. You and me are gonna be hanging out for a long time.”

5 Things I’ve Learned as a Beginner DM

You may have noticed that after doing pretty well about keeping to my monthly blog posts for most of the year I’ve fallen off track over the last few months. There are a few different reasons for this (traveling, my chronic focus/procrastination problems, etc.), but also some of the time I would have spent writing blogs has been spent prepping for sessions of Dungeons & Dragons instead. I first started playing D&D at the start of the pandemic, as it was a solid escape from *gestures vaguely at the state of the world* and a way to keep remotely connected to friends on a regular basis. At the beginning of September I took the reins and started DMing for the first time for one of the two D&D groups I’m in.

(These are the 1st nice set of dice I ever bought, for my 1st D&D character, my paladin Ellie Crane. You can find them here on Kraken Dice’s site.)

Up until this point, this group hasn’t been playing with much of a formal system, but I requested that we try D&D 5e because that’s what the other group I’m in uses and I’m someone who really does the best with firm structure, lol. Instead of using one of the many campaign source books that exist, we’re using a setting and story of my own creation, because I was afraid the group wouldn’t enjoy the more structured nature of the 5e ruleset. If at the end of our journey through my little story they want to continue with their characters, I can easily pull a premade campaign book for us to use because I’m not planning on taking us to a very high level, but if they don’t want to continue with 5e then we can move on to another new system.

The original plan in March 2020 was actually for me to be the first DM of this group, but I was nervous and felt overwhelmed by the idea so I gently bowed out and two of my friends took turns to lead us through stories before I finally felt comfortable taking a turn. I was nervous the first night we played in my setting of the marshlands of Fendria because I was afraid they wouldn’t like my more high fantasy/historical-ish setting (there have been both werewolves and the mention of a salt cellar so far). However, they do seem to be enjoying the story so far – yes, I did directly ask because I’m that worried about everyone having fun, lol. I do still feel a little nervous before each session, but am getting more comfortable every time.

Leading the game via DMing has been a whole new learning experience for me and over the past two months of doing it, here are my main takeaways:

ENUMERATE EVERYTHING: When setting the menu at the first inn/tavern the party went to, I casually included chicken nuggets as a fun little throwaway because when I had the players complete character surveys before we began someone mentioned their character enjoying them. Somehow I did not anticipate that player asking, “What is the maximum number of chicken nuggets I can buy?” leading to me having to unexpectedly decide how many orders of chicken nuggets the barkeep had. This incident has since been followed by “How many bowls of porridge will the innkeeper let me have?” and “How many dog biscuits did I loot from the dead werewolf?” Fortunately from the porridge incident onward I realized that having the party member roll a d6 to determine how many of the item they get is a good way to deal with that kind of situation. Going forward though, I do intend to remember to determine proper quantities for more of these grouped items.

(My desk in D&D prep mode.)

PLANNING TAKES A LONG TIME: Probably there are many DMs who can sit down for just an hour or two to prep for a session, but I am not that that person. If I were working from a sourcebook I probably wouldn’t have to spend as much time as I do prepping, but since I’m making this campaign up from scratch it takes me a long time to get ready for each session. A good portion of this is because I basically wind up doing my notes twice, once by hand and the second type when I type them into my computer. I’ve written a bit before about how if you stick me in front of a computer and expect me to easily write, it’s not going to work very well. The words just don’t flow as easily and I also don’t have the self-discipline to prevent myself from wandering the internet instead. The dual process is helpful because I get my ideas down easily by hand and then can revise and reorder them in my computer as necessary when I type them up. However, this combined with my horribly distractable nature means that I can often take up an entire Sunday afternoon prepping for our Monday night sessions, which kind of sucks and I feel like it shouldn’t be that way, but I guess this is my curse to bear.

But my players do seem to be enjoying the story/setting I’m creating and so while I’m frustrated with myself for not being a more efficient prepper, their enjoyment makes it worth it. Making my own campaign gives me the space to include all of the silly little in jokes that I find funny. For instance, I created a recurring character very vaguely based on Criss Angel who I’ve named Christoph Engel and the laugh I got when I first introduced him and mimicked his “heavy breathing while doing magic” thing made me so glad I had written him into the story.

I’M BETTER AT IMPROV THAN I THOUGHT: As someone who thrives in planning and organization, the thing I was most worried about as a first time DM was the element of chaos the group would bring. I can only plan for so much, after all, and also the group is very capable of making decisions that could throw my plans off and force me to scramble. We’d been playing narrative games together for a year and a half before I took the lead so I was very familiar with the potential for my friends to do unexpected things, like when we decided not to not go kill the medieval versions of our characters’ bosses in the first story we played through or in our second game when someone rolled a crit to instantly stab and defeat a scary boss fight with a robot. Nothing so catastrophically game changing has happened to me yet, but I have turned out to be better than I thought I would be at dealing with the various surprises the group throws at me. For instance, at one point I created an opportunity in the story for the cleric to provide some spiritual solace to a distraught person and instead she chose to slap them in the face to snap them out of it and I think I rolled with it pretty well. It probably helps that I’m very much the type of DM to say, “well, sure, if it feels reasonably plausible to me, you can do it,” instead of overly analyzing the rules or having a very strict idea of what flies in the setting I’ve created. I’m sure at some point they will find a way to break my story, and hopefully I will be able to handle it gracefully.

(The rest of my shiny math rocks hoard! My favorite dice are from Everything Dice and Cozy Gamer, but I also have a few micellaneous sets that I’ve acquired one way or another.)

THE PLAYERS ARE A FANTASTIC RESOURCE: I mean, I guess this isn’t something I’ve necessarily newly learned because I’ve been playing narrative games with this group for well over a year, but boy are they good providing suggestions for situations that pop up during sessions that I struggle to find a solution to. For instance, a big “problem” has been the fact that one of the party members is a warforged. Warforged are constructs that do not eat or sleep and I have an unfortunately high number of situations in the campaign where eating or sleeping happens, such as waiting until morning to depart from a place. During our first long rest the warforged requested to go in the forest and hunt wolves and I was torn between “don’t squash the player’s fun” and “I don’t want them to take damage because they’re going to a boss encounter the next day.” One of the other party members helpfully suggested, “well, what if he just doesn’t find any wolves?” and so that’s what we went with. I consider this game to be a collaborative effort above all. I’ve written the story, I’m leading the way, and I’m the one making final rulings on things, but I’m also flexible and open to the players’ ideas.

DON’T USE IMPOSSIBLE ACCENTS FOR CHARACTERS: When I was helping one of the players put his character together, he mentioned to me that accents would really help with his immersion in my campaign. That made me internally go, “Well, fuck,” because I’m not terribly good at accents and can’t do very many of them, but now I knew I had to at least try to use them even though I hadn’t been planning on it. For the most part it’s been okay, but there have been a few setbacks. One of the main accents I can do is a rough, deep, gravely British-ish kind of accent that makes me cough when I use it for more than a sentence or two, so the two characters I’ve wound up using that for have been a bit tricky. But even worse was my decision to give the aforementioned Christoph Engel a Russian/Eastern European-ish accent. I’d thought I was okay at that one, but it turns out I am awful at sustaining it for any extended period of time. The party has suggested that it turns out he’s faking the accent, but I want to stick to my original idea instead of going that route, so instead we’ve decided that he’s traveled around so much that his native accent isn’t quite firm anymore. Engel’s accent is something I slightly regret choosing, but not so much that I’m willing to give up yet.

I’m sure I will have more lessons/advice to share the longer I DM. I do feel kind of silly for avoiding it and being nervous about it for so long because while I don’t claim to be the best DM ever, I’m far better at it than I expected. I have what I call my “big sister instinct” where I just want to take care of my friends and make sure they’re having a good time and I suppose that DMing kind of feeds off of that, lol. I’m excited to see what the players do with the rest of my story. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun!

My Convention Essentials

Another Anime Boston has come and gone, and seeing as how this is about the point where I really started to fall off of blogging last year, I thought it might be a good time to make an attempt at starting things up here again! I do want to do a general overview post about my experiences at the convention, but first I wanted do a bit of a “What’s in my Bag?” kind of thing. I did this as a video a long time ago on my now-defunct YouTube channel, but this year was my sixth Anime Boston (I attended 2011-12, 2015, and 2017-19), and as such I’ve really distilled down what I like to have on me during a day of running around at the convention.

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This is the bag that I bring. I bought it in the Dealers’ Room on the first day of Anime Boston 2017 when the massive cross-body purse I’d brought was causing me a lot of pain and this was the most functional thing available that didn’t have Naruto or Goku’s face on it, lol. This has been a go to day trip bag for me ever since because it’s a pretty good size and is pretty sturdy, although the back is maybe not as stiff as I would like.

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This looks like a mess, but it’s organized I swear. Firstly, there’s two small pockets at the top of the back that are the perfect size for my travel wallet and my phone or iPod to slip into for quick access. I don’t like to use the outer zipper pocket for valuables because I am paranoid about getting robbed and not being able to feel it happen. Everything else in here is either big enough to sort through easily or organized into a series of pouches.

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If the weather forecast is calling for rain, I always make sure to bring an umbrella, with a plastic bag to put it into when I go inside so I can put it back in my backpack without making everything wet. The scarf in the middle is large, blanket-like, and absolutely necessary — many of the panel rooms in the Hynes Convention Center are very cold for some reason. When I start to freeze, I can whip it out, but it’s easily put away when I start walking around in the main halls again. On the right is my refillable Brita filter bottle and the plastic bag that I keep it in if I carry it in a bag because it leaks if the water tilts up to the level of the cap.

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On the left here we have my Kindle, with stickers of some of my favorite ghost Pokemon on the front that were drawn by Miski (but aren’t available anymore, sorry!). My Kindle is indispensable to me in my life, whether or not I’m traveling. I can’t read on the long bus ride to Boston because I’ll get sick, but it’s great to have around for reading while waiting for the bus, during downtime between panels, or when you’re the grandma of the group who goes back to the room early to rest and waits up for all of your friends to come back so you can spend time with them. The notebook on the right was designed by Maya Kern and has stickers on it from inki-Drop’s Starwhal Kickstarter. Honestly, I only bring it to stiffen up the inside of the backpack, but it’s also proven useful for keeping my bus tickets tidy and for holding small prints, like this one that I got from Milkbun this year. (Oh how I wish I could get away with hanging this in my cubicle at work!)

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And now finally pouches! This pouch has a bunch of miscellaneous yet important things, like aspirin, hair ties and pins (in a reused orange pill bottle!), tissues, pens, a little mirror, etc.!

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This is my technology pouch. I’ve got two portable batteries in here, the wires to connect them to my phone and iPod, and three pairs of headphones. In hindsight this is an excessive amount of headphones, especially considering I had a fourth pair hooked up to my iPod all weekend. All I can say is, one time on the bus on my way to the con I realized one of my earbuds wasn’t working. I had a spare pair with me, but they were in my suitcase in the bottom of the bus. I can only imagine that in my packing frenzy this year I went “what if that happens again, but more times?” I also don’t tend to use these batteries at all because I’m not a super phone crazy person when I have things to occupy me. So maybe next year I’ll keep one battery in this pouch and only two extra pairs of earbuds, lol.

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This pouch fits both my phone and iPod, but my phone mainly lived in the upper inner pocket of my backpack or the pocket of my skirt because I don’t use my iPod when I walk around the con. It mainly stays with me just so I don’t run the risk of losing it in the hotel room somehow. I always know where it is, and I absolutely need it for the bus because, as mentioned above, I can’t read on the bus so I need music to help me drown out the noises and sleep to pass the time, lol.

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I don’t typically play my 3DS during AB, but I do collect Streetpasses. I don’t tend to try Streetpassing in my daily life because I never go anywhere, but thanks to AB over the years I’ve got a nearly complete puzzle collection and have nearly completely beaten the free Streetpass games. This year I noticed I was getting repeat Streetpasses, which was kind of exciting and interesting to me because it means those people were also at past ABs. It’s a nice little connection to other people!

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And now for the front zipper pocket of the backpack! Which actually -is- as much of a mess as it looks, lol.

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This pocket is for things I want close at hand that aren’t particularly valuable. The only thing I would really be upset about losing is that pen because it’s a really good pen! The little white pot is full of hand cream because I’ve been having a really awful dry hands problem all winter. The fan was actually a $5 impulse purchase I made on Saturday this year when I was starting to get really sweaty walking around the Dealers’ Hall, and I’d say it was well worth it — I’ll probably bring it back again next year. This pocket is where I keep my convention badge at night so I don’t misplace it, otherwise that badge is around my neck. The badge lanyards at AB are usually an advertisement for some anime company or other, but for the past few years I’ve been swapping it out for this YuGiOh one that my friend Kristen surprised me with from New York Comic Con in 2016 right before the anniversary movie came out in English because I will forever be YuGiOh trash and I want the world to know it, lol.

The only thing not in any of these pictures that I have with me every day is related to those granola bars and it is lunch. To save money on food I buy supplies for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and make them every morning before I head out. I also get a couple of other small snacks that don’t need refrigeration, like those granola bars or little individual applesauces. When it’s time for lunch, I find a spot to sit that has good people watching (so I can admire people’s cosplays) and chow down.

So that’s all! I’ll follow this post up soon with one about things I actually did at Anime Boston, but I thought my convention survival supplies might be interesting to share in the meantime.

Until next time!
–Krys

 

Pin Display Project

I like decorative pins — artists all over the internet are making really great designs! But I always worry that if I attach them to a jacket or bag they’ll fall off and I’ll lose them forever. If you saw my Desk Tour post, then you’ll know I found a solution for that! It was very simple — nothing more than an embroidery hoop and a piece of cloth.

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I don’t know the artists for all of these, but I’ll have links to all the pins I do know at the end of this post!

However, this first attempt was far from perfect. I cut the fabric quite short around the back so it wouldn’t show at the front, but I don’t own a hot glue gun, so it wasn’t terribly secure. Adding or removing pins would cause the fabric to shift or lose tension. I do have a friend with a hot glue gun and I always meant to fix this up, and also make more hoops, but I kept forgetting. Until recently!

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Awhile ago I got two new hoops at a craft chain called Michaels (the little one and the biggest one). The fabric I picked up at Walmart. The label on each bit of fabric (the colors were sold separately) said they were “fat quarters” which makes me giggle for some reason. Apart from a hot glue gun, to make these you’ll also need some nice sharp scissors and maybe some string depending on how you plan on hanging them. And also some kind of flat piece to press the fabric into the hot glue — I used a disposable chopstick for this.

I don’t have any progress pictures because I needed both hands to work on these and I didn’t want to ask my friend to stop playing Dragon Age, because it is a very important game that we both love, lol. But here are the steps of my process:

  • Load the fabric in between the two parts of the hoop and tighten the screw at the top so the fabric is taut.
  • Cut the fabric short until it is close to the hoop, but still long enough to tuck around inside. (You could also measure the fabric around the hoop and cut it before putting the fabric in, but I couldn’t be bothered.)
  • Apply hot glue to the hoop, going little by little, and press the fabric into it somehow (fingers are not recommended for obvious reasons).
  • Optional: loop a string around the screw at the top to help you hang it. I discovered when I was taking photos for this post that my hoops will fit over my hook of choice without string, which I didn’t realize with my first hoop. (For the record, I’m obsessed with all things Command Strips/Hooks for hanging things in my room.)
  • Ta-da! You’re done!

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To be honest, my hoops are kind of a mess inside. I didn’t cut the fabric very carefully — I probably could have cut it closer so it would lay flatter.

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This excess fabric/my sloppy mess is super visible in the yellow hoop (which formerly held the gray fabric, hence the string). On the darker colors this doesn’t show much or at all. So maybe I wouldn’t recommend light colors for this if you’re not prepared to be super precise, but the fabric I bought is also cheap/thin so if you had thicker cloth you might also be able to get away with a light color. My friend suggested getting some nice beads and gluing them around the edge so you can’t see the ugliness.

My only other regret with this project is that I didn’t take better care lining up the creases in the fabric. (Because, let’s be honest, who is going to iron the fabric for a little project like this?) If I make more of these, I’ll do a better job at lining the creases up horizontally or vertically, because looking at the crooked creases kind of irritates me. But again, this is something that shows less on darker fabric.

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I haven’t entirely decided which pins of mine are going on which hoop, but I know I want to bring the little one to my cubicle at work. The big polka dot one will hang in my room, and I can expand to the yellow one once I fix it up/need more pin space.

I’m very excited to collect more pins now! Are there any artists you recommend? And if you have any questions about this project, please let me know.

Pins Featured In This Post (That I Know The Source Of):

 

Ariel Nendoroid!

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Recently, I was finally able to receive my Christmas present from my friend T! They preordered this Nendoroid figure for me, it finally released in March (or April?), and by the time the post office stopped fucking around (as they are wont to do with T’s packages) and it arrived, it was May.

Nendoroids are figures of pop culture characters manufactured by the Good Smile Company. Over the years they’ve released figures from anime and manga, as well as video games and movies. Nendoroids aren’t the only type of figure Good Smile makes — what makes them unique are their big heads, tiny bodies, and overall kawaii/chibi/cutesy look. Also, they come with a ton of alternate body parts (but are not the only figures on the market that do).

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I’ve been aware of Nendoroids over the years, but haven’t purchased any for myself because all the little parts seemed such a fuss, and I knew I would put it in one pose and leave it that way forever. But T spotted the announcement of this one in the fall and thought I would love it, and I do! She’s very cute, and I was excited to see the little dinglehopper (fork) in the box. I immediately set about putting together a pose that used it.

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Disappointingly, I found that even once I sorted out which hand was for the dinglehopper, it didn’t stay in the hand very well. I also found that sometimes when I was manipulating the figure, the tails would pop out of the slot easily. Additionally, it could be difficult to get the peg into her back. The top of the peg actually comes off of the the rest of the blue arm that she’s attached to, and that happened to me a lot as I was trying to get the blue arm situated. That big head of hers is heavy, and it was a little tricky to keep things balanced on the base. This isn’t an issue that all Nendos have — Ariel is made to look as if she’s swimming, but many of the other characters just stand on the base (which is usually clear, but, again, we’re swimming here). But, she is very cute!

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I took this shot to demonstrate how to change the face plate. You just slide the front of her her hair out of the pegholes and then slide the face off in a similar fashion. Here you can also see where the peg keeping her up enters her back. It’s a little rough to get it in there under her hair. The back of her hair actually comes off as well, and when I first inserted the peg, I found it easier to do with the hair off.

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Another arrangement of the parts. I imagine that she’s fleeing from Flounder and Sebastian while on a mission to do something incredibly headstrong and foolhardy, lol. This one was hard to achieve, though. The pole holding her up is made of two parts that curve in the same direction and putting her so far forward made the whole base want to tip over. It took very precise positioning of the curves to get this shot.

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Here’s a close up of Flounder and Sebastian. They are…not the best. Sebastian looks sort of okay, but Flounder looks a little off. (Or is that just me?) Their posts are also a little flimsy and awkward. I kept accidentally popping them apart at the hinge while putting the pegs into the holes, which were a tight fit. This is the same pose as the previous picture, and you can also see a little bit of the tricky curves of the post holding Ariel up that I just mentioned.

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She also has a pair of arms that is specifically for holding Flounder. Maybe Sebastian would fit too? I didn’t try it because it looked like it wouldn’t work as well.

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This is the final pose I settled on, the one that she will now stay in for the rest of her days. I think I would get another Nendoroid or two in the future if they made any characters that I was really really interested in. (For instance, if they ever make Seto Kaiba, they will immediately have all of my money.) But despite the fact that she is really cute, I’m not totally sure I would recommend this figure to just anyone because of struggles I had that are specific to this particular figure.

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There wasn’t really a good place to mention it above, but there is such good attention to detail with this line of figures, even the interior of the box was beautiful. It would be a nice display backdrop for the figure if I had the space for that, but instead I recycled it. The figure has really good attention to detail and quality throughout this figure. So, again, I would recommend checking out other Nendoroids if  you think you’d be interested, but, again, I don’t know if I would recommend this one.

All the same, Good Smile has links to places to buy this figure on the product page for her, so check it out if you want to!

My Cosplay History!

Ever since I got back from Anime Boston, I’ve been wanting to do a post about the cosplays I’ve done so far. (Well, actually, fun fact, this is the post I wanted to write the week of the con, but I didn’t have time due to travel prep, etc.) I’m not nearly so prolific or skilled as any of my friends who cosplay, but I’ve done some good work over the years (and, in all honesty, some really, really bad) and I want to share it with all of you!

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A babby, with the Staryu that still hangs on her wall.

2009 — Misty (Pokemon): I didn’t call this Misty costume a cosplay at the time (not sure I even knew the word then?), but thinking back, it really was my first one. For years my high school held an event for seniors at the local bowling alley called “Midnight Bowling” (actually held from 10pm to midnight). The tradition was for each lane to dress up in costumes around whatever theme they wanted, with costume prizes awarded at the end of the night. My friends and I dressed up as the gym trainers from the first Generation of Pokemon. No one seemed to understand who we were; a fellow student asked me if I was Ash, and I wasn’t sure if they were being sarcastic. (If you’ve watched my YouTube at all, you may recognize Staryu from my art wall! We cut our characters’ distinctive Pokemon out of cardboard for props.)

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All of the pictures from this night are blurry and dark, because bowling alleys are blurry and dark.

Most of this costume was borrowed — my shirt was a friend’s graphic tee turned inside out and I borrowed the suspenders from my older brother’s girlfriend even though they were the wrong color because I didn’t have the means to get red ones. My hair was the wrong color and way too short to do a proper ponytail. At least my bag was red! And we had a fun night bowling together, as I recall. (If you’re curious, no, we did not place in the costume contest and the group that took first place was a group of boys where one dressed as a pimp and the rest dressed in drag. Tells you a lot about my high school, doesn’t it?)

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Oh no.

AnimeNext 2009 — Lucas (Mother 3 / Smash Bros.): This Lucas cosplay was a travesty. My friends and I decided to cosplay characters from Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but their alternate color versions. I don’t know why I went along with this instead of doing my own thing, since my friends were cosplaying characters recognizable regardless of color palette (Fox and Pit), whereas without his red and yellow shirt, Lucas is just a random small blond child. I had never worn a wig before, and we styled it the morning of the con. Instead of, I dunno, buying a striped shirt, I painted stripes on a white shirt, using masking tape to mark them off. Except, surprise, the blue fabric paint bled under the tape, so I tried to fix it with white paint, and it was just a huge mess. The only thing I like about this is my Rope Snake! I sewed him by hand out of an old t-shirt, and I think I still have him in the attic.

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Me with two Dark Magician cosplayers, because I have always been, and will always be, YuGiOh trash.

AnimeNext 2010 (Female Trainer from FireRed/LeafGreen): This is probably my favorite work! I did a lot of sewing work on this one, hemming a skirt I bought on eBay, making the blue shirt, altering a t-shirt into the black undershirt, attaching the red parts to a borrowed hat, and making the bag entirely from scratch. I bought some fabric, decided what dimensions I wanted, and went from there.

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I don’t do “angry face” very well, lol.

I wasn’t satisfied with the shirt though, so when I eventually brought this costume to Anime Boston in 2011 and 2012, I just wore a blue tanktop. By the time I brought it to AB I’d also resewn the felt onto a properly white hat, and I might’ve just worn red Converse with my leg warmers too, because I remember at one point the fabric top of the shoes mysteriously shrank and became very uncomfortable to wear (I don’t think it’s that my feet got swollen, because even though I’m fat, none of that fat is in my feet).

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Hauled this bad boy out of storage for its closeup, since it’s not properly shown in any of my pics!

The bag held up remarkably well through the three different cons I brought it to, although it’d need patching/remaking to put it to heavy, all-day convention use again. The skirt also no longer fits, and I want another try at doing the top properly. And I guess if I was gonna do this costume thoroughly, I’d have to get a really long brown wig, but I don’t like wearing them, so probably I won’t. Maybe I should get my act together and try and revive this for AB next year?

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Spooooky.

AnimeNext 2011 — Bosses from Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: This is the most impressive cosplay I’ve done by far, and getting to do it with a group of friends made it super fun! It definitely wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have friends that were waaaay more artistic than I am. One or two of them (or three? my memories have faded) did up the designs, we acquired our individual materials, and then worked together to get the costumes done. It was a very collaborative effort; most of the costumes were worked on by more than one person, at least a little. For instance, I vividly remember painting that lantern brown. Someone was usually playing Wind Waker in the background while others worked on costumes — this summer is definitely when I fell in love with this game.

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Another friend of ours dressed as Link.

I portrayed the boss of the Forbidden Woods, Kalle Demos. We used an old dress of mine as the base, and the sleeves are from a high school graduation gown that someone still had. The flower around the neck, is actually just a collar, so the whole outfit is relatively easy to put on, although I remember having trouble with the hat slipping around. I still have this one in the back of my closet, and last I checked it still fits! I’d wear it again, but doesn’t really make sense out of context. (If you want a look at the official art of the rest of the bosses, I’ve got a link for you here.)

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“And then I said, ‘OATMEAL? Are you CRAZY?'”

AnimeNext 2012 — Pinkie Pie (MLP): I had a very brief My Little Pony phase between 2011 and 2012. I originally tried to have this costume together for Anime Boston 2012, I even brought it to the con, but when I started putting it on, it just didn’t feel right, so I decided to revise it before wearing it. Part of that was restyling the twintailed wig I’d bought into a single ponytail, which was a mistake because it was incredibly uncomfortable to have all that weight in the back and the wig kept slipping back on my head.

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Ta-da!

I honestly wasn’t too crazy about this costume overall, except for the bag, which I sewed by hand again. This one worked out a little better than the Pokemon bag, because I made the strap wider and the bag smaller. I really felt that my costume was kind of mediocre, especially because my friends did AMAZING cosplays for this con. It made me not want to cosplay anymore, because I just felt that my crafting skills just weren’t up to snuff, and I didn’t feel invested enough in cosplaying/going to cons to put the money/effort/time into improving. After Pinkie Pie, I didn’t cosplay for six years. Which brings me to….

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2018 — Ariel (The Little Mermaid): This was a dream costume of mine. I’d even researched how I could do it back when I was more seriously into cosplaying. But this year for Halloween I was hosting a costume party at my house, and I saw Torrid carrying this dress, and the rest was history. I brought this to Anime Boston 2018 as well, and it was a big hit! If you want to read more about this costume, check out my post about the Halloween party, since I’ve already blathered on long enough in this post.

So there’s my cosplay history! I have some cosplays I’d maybe like to do in the future, but, again, it’s a matter of having the energy/skill/creativity to pull them off. Plus, I’ve kind of gotten too accustomed to just wearing comfortable clothes at cons (aka, the one con I go to annually) to feel much desire to go fussing about with cosplay again. So we’ll see what happens in the future!

–Krys

Anime Boston 2018!

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This year I spent my Easter weekend up in New England, at a very special event — Anime Boston (hereafter referred to as AB). This is a convention held in Boston that is devoted to the appreciation of Japanese media and pop culture. It’s run by the New England Anime Society, and has been held annually since 2003 and it. is. HUGE. It’s not quite big enough to fill the massive convention center where the famous PAX East is held, but in 2017 there were nearly 26,000 attendees throughout the whole weekend.

It’s crazy to think that it’s been eight years since my first AB in 2011. I missed a few years between then and now, but this year was my fifth time attending. Some people, like some of my friends, go to multiple conventions in a year, but AB is the only one I go to. There are other conventions that look cool (like MAGFest!), but they’re either super far away and have hotels that get booked up super fast, or are waaaay larger than I’m comfortable with (coughNYComicConcough).

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The view from our hotel room!

AB is large enough that there’s almost always something interesting going on, or cool things to go look at. I really enjoy going to panels and getting my education on. They always schedule a wide variety of topics, and as soon as I get the convention schedule I fill it up with circles to highlight the panels that have caught my eye. I keep an eye out for panels about things I already really love. For instance, Revolutionary Girl Utena is my favorite anime, and Froborr’s panel about it this year was FANTASTIC. I’ve been to other panels of hers in past years, and her analysis is always really good and enlightening!

I also always circle panels about things that I know nothing, or only a little about, but which sound interesting. This year in this area of things, I went to a panel talking about the different types of visual kei bands, one about various Japanese composers (beyond just anime composers), and one about the history of ninjas and how media gets them wrong. This panel was a major highlight for me — the presenter was really animated and entertaining, on top of really knowing their shit!

I’d also marked up my schedule with panels about Japanese folklore, history, and culture; panels about famous creators like Studio Ghibli and Osamu Tezuka (one of my favorite guys); and panels hosted by voice actors. And also a panel on Japanese professional wrestling leagues, which I was super intrigued by when I saw it on the schedule. But I obviously didn’t get to go to all of these panels — sometimes multiple cool things are scheduled at the same time (or at weirdly early or late times), and also in the last couple of years I’ve found that something that really helps my happiness and energy level over the course of the weekend is making sure to take plenty of breaks.

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As Ariel on Friday, sitting on the floor to rest and eat my lunch.

These breaks were most often in the form of sitting on the floor in some corner to scroll Twitter on my phone, but this year I also found myself going back to my room every day at around 3pm to have a rest from all the crowds and noise. This is one of the two big things that made me feel super elderly during the weekend. The other one was overhearing two girls talk about my first anime like it was one of the oldest things ever; I originally watched it around 13 years ago. I have rarely felt so ancient in all of my 27 years, lol.

 

When I go to AB, I also spend a good chunk of time wandering around the Dealer’s Hall and Artist Alley to fritter my spending money away. If you’re unfamiliar with the terms — the Dealer’s Hall is where vendors sell various official merchandise, while the Artist Alley is filled with fan artists and other small scale craftspeople. I didn’t buy too many things for myself this year, mostly just birthday presents for my friends. But I did get this nice notebook from Maya Kern, and this gorgeous Utena print from Etherelle. I also splurged just a tiny bit on this Rise figure because my love for Persona 4: Dancing All Night knows no bounds.

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Sorry the lighting is bad — I don’t plan ahead and took this picture at 9pm when I was writing this post, lol.

But more important than what I get to learn or see at AB is who I get to experience it with. AB is the one guaranteed time of year that I get to see my New England friends! I met some of these friends in college, while others are convention friends that I made through my college friends. We all chip in money to get a hotel room together. All things considered we don’t really spend that much time together during the weekend because we all have different interests when it comes to panels, but it’s nice to have friendly faces to go to dinner with at the end of the day and talk about the things we’ve seen and done at the con in between catching up on our lives at home like we’ve spent no time apart. They’re all very good people. ❤

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The only picture I took with a friend all weekend. She looks cute cosplaying a casual, grungy Keith from Voltron! I look a slightly less cute tired mess, lol.

There are a couple of other convention-related things that I’d like to talk about, like my history with cosplay, or what I consider to be convention essentials, but this post is already starting to get a little long, so I’ll mark those down as post ideas for later!

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I absolutely -had- to take a selfie with this adorable giant plush in the Dealer’s Hall.

 

Do you have any events like this that you enjoy going to? Or would you be interested in going to a convention like this? (I bet a lot of you would say you’d want to go to NYCC or SDCC, but I have the opposite of interest in those just based on their size, lol.)

–Krys

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(PS: These didn’t really fit in anywhere else in the post, but I just really wanted to share these hilarious Gakuen Handsome keychains I found in the Dealer’s Hall. It’s a media property where the characters are intentionally drawn horribly, lmao. Here’s a trailer!)

Desk Tour!

Since I’m not in a financial position to move out of my family home, something I’ve been working on is making my room as nice a place as possible. A big part of that was having a functioning work space. I had a desk, but it was the desk I’d had since I was a child, and the space for the chair was so low that the worktop was at an uncomfortably high level. My desk was basically unworkable, so I was using my laptop on my bed all the time, which was awful for both my back and my mattress.

Getting a new desk was complicated, because the locations of the electrical outlets in my room means that basically all my furniture has to stay where it is. So any replacement desk would have to go in a very narrow space. I looked for months and months, even considering long skinny tables instead of desks, until I stumbled upon the perfect solution. And now I have a work area that I really love!

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My desk is Ikea’s Lisabo. When I first spotted it in the store I thought it was a skinny table, but when I realized it was an actual desk, I was even more excited. The drawer is very small, which is mildly annoying, but I am still able to keep a few essentials right at hand (headphones, hand cream, other assorted wires and things). I’m not sure where my chair came from, but my mom kindly bought it for me a few years ago when I still had my old desk. It’s not very comfortable (note the makeshift cushion I’ve made by stuffing a fleece blanket into a pillowcase). I’d like to get a new chair, but good desk chairs are surprisingly expensive, so I’m waiting for now. It’s good enough. I got that little rug at Target to muffle my wheels, and keep the chair from sliding so much. (It was on clearance when I bought it, so I can’t link it, sorry!)

Another thing I’d like to point out while we’re on this picture is the black wire dangling from the side of my desk. I was tired of leaning over to pick up my laptop cable whenever it was time to charge, so I stuck up a Command hook to hold the wire when I don’t need it. I love Command products (strips, hooks, etc.), I’m pretty sure everything on my wall is held up by them. (Not spon, but 3M, please spon? lol.)

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Here’s what that little Ikea lamp looks like turned on. It was daytime when I snapped this, but it still looks very pretty. I love this lamp so much that when I accidentally smashed it this summer, I cried really hard (summer was a low time for my mental health, fyi). As soon as I was able to make a trip out to Ikea (which wasn’t for more than a week) I went and bought a replacement. It’s a Knubbig, but for some reason they don’t sell this version (or its silver counterpart) online.

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Here you can see my workaround for having a tiny desk drawer: bins! Like many of my other organizational things, I picked them up at Target. I keep the things I want most often in the top bin, and the rest of my desk stuff in the bottom one. I also occasionally pull the stack out and use the flat top as an extra surface to put stuff on, like when I’m doing my makeup or something. I’ll also store bills/papers on top of the stack when it’s pushed in, just so the desktop feels tidier.

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Speaking of my desktop….

There’s a lot to unpack here. My laptop is a several year old big boy from HP’s Envy line. It runs Windows 8 and has a touch screen that I don’t really use that much. When I was shopping I told the guy at the store that I wanted to edit video and play games, because my previous laptop struggled with both (so much lag with games!), and this is what he suggested. I’m still using the same wired mouse I got for my first laptop in 2009, because if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! Also along the lines of technology is the Blue Yeti microphone folded up in the corner there. I asked for it for Christmas when I was in my songwriting phase with the intention of recording my songs and doing YouTube voiceovers, and I haven’t really done either of those very much, but I find it pretty easy to use, a very plug and play device.

My makeup is all stacked up on the left hand side. Basically everything is from Target. The white bin on top is holding my brushes, mirrors, pens, and a few other miscellaneous things. Target sells this bin in various colors and sizes, and I use others throughout my room. Those stacked boxes with the green latches are where I keep most of my makeup — eyes on top, face in the middle, lips on the bottom. The blue fabric pouch on the side is where I keep eyeshadow palettes. Chocolate is mandatory to keep on hand, lol.

I’ve also got that magnet board/white board, purchased at Target (but unavailable on their website). I’ve got a bunch of random things stuck up there with these cute little magnets I found on Amazon. Some of my favorite things on this board are the magnet on the upper right that my friend made me after I played the Doctor’s route of Hatoful Boyfriend; the baby picture of my old cat Kitty, who I still miss; and the picture of my friends and I in the bottom right where we posed “family photo” style. I also keep track of how many of my yearly days off from work I still have left.

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This is my calendar. I had a dry erase marker calendar for a long time, but I finally got rid of it over the summer. I like this style better, because I can flip ahead and fill in things happening in coming months, which isn’t possible with a whiteboard. I bought this in the summer, and tearing off each month has been satisfying. It’s by the brand Blue Sky and I found it at Target. When I see Blue Sky stationary stuff at Target, it’s usually pretty cute! I like the design of this calendar a lot.

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I like pins, but I’m afraid to put them on bags, jackets, etc. because I’m afraid to lose them. I saw a craft like this online a long time ago, and finally made one of my own. I bought and embroidery hoop and super cheap boring fabric at a craft store, in case it didn’t work nicely. But it worked out well, so I aim to someday get around to changing out the fabric and also making a second hoop so the pins aren’t so crowded. I can’t tell you the artists for most of these pins, but the mermaid pin in the middle is Maya Kern’s Sea Bitch pin, and the humanized Pinkie Pie is a very old design done by my close IRL friend, the moderately Tumblr famous artist kingsdarga. The Bioshock Infinite Vigors are a gift from a few years ago (actually, coincidentally, from kingsdarga), and are official merch, but don’t seem to be available anymore.

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I also have this pinboard, another Target find. I bought this because I had too many things to fit on my whiteboard. I don’t know the artists of a lot of this stuff, because much of it is gifts. Up top, I have some cards — on the left is the holiday card my friend Sam from the blog Pretty Thoughtful sent me, middle is a card kingsdarga wrote me in the summer when I was having super bad mental health times, and on the right is a joke-y Christmas card another friend drew after being super impressed by this mashup of Mariah Carey and My Chemical Romance. (Fun Fact: I am the only one of my friends incapable of producing excellent art, lol.)

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The final, latest addition to my desk area is this puzzle. My friend who drew the My Chem card got everyone in our friend group puzzles for Christmas, printed up on Shutterfly of different images pertaining to things that we liked. She also gave us frames and glue, so we could preserve them once we’d finished. My picture is from Journey, my favorite video game of all time. It’s a beautiful picture to look at. I hung this frame, as well as my whiteboard and pinboard, with these particular Command strips.

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So that’s it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek into my room, and seeing where the “magic” of this blog happens! What sorts of interesting things do y’all have in your office spaces?

–Krys

Halloween 2017!

I know I’m a few days (almost a week!) late on this, but I wanted to do a write-up on my Halloween anyway, because this one was a good one!

The Saturday before Halloween, I hosted a little Halloween party for my friends at my house — I affectionately titled this “Friendoween.” My friend T was going to host, but our friend S has cat allergies, and T has two cats and a small apartment. S’s allergies aren’t too severe, but it’s still more comfortable for her to not be around cats, so since my mom was going to be away, I volunteered to play host. My friends brought the food, and I was in charge of decorating / general supplies like cups and plates.

I’ve hosted two of our friend parties before, and in the past my decorations have been kind of elaborate (balloons taped everywhere, tons of streamers and other odds and ends), but this time I went a little more subtle. When I saw what decorations and supplies were still available at Target, the theme I settled on was “sort of witchy.”

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I pulled one of my family’s tablecloths onto the table, and covered our dining chairs with fake spiderweb. From the doorways I just hung gentle, graceful loops of streamers. This was more difficult than you’d think because I am short, lol.

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(Don’t mind the black boxes, just covered up my family’s faces for privacy’s sake!)

This area was kind of my piece de resistance. This party happened during a weird period of time where we had two sofas in the living room. This one had a funny little stain on the cushions, so to make it nicer, I took this starry curtain that I used to use to cover the scarred ugly top of my old desk and tucked it over the cushions. We had that owl and spider in a box of Halloween decorations, so I set them out and then twisted some little lights around a length of streamer to make a garland over the fireplace.

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Once everyone arrived, we wound up with quite a varied spread. And we also ordered pizza to have a “proper” dinner. It was so. much. food. But all so good! And then once we’d chatted and snacked a little, we went out in my backyard to photograph our costumes!

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In September I was casually browsing Torrid’s website and noticed they had their Halloween section up, and that this dress was in it. Ariel is my favorite Disney princess, and I’d wanted to cosplay her for awhile, but I have no skill with sewing and it can be hard to find the right clothing to build a costume when you’re plus size. So this dress was an exciting find! It’s nice and soft and holds up well in the washing machine. I wish I had got it a size smaller, but it’s really not that big a deal.

Torrid doesn’t have it up on their website anymore, but you can still grab it at Hot Topic, in straight sizes as well! (Pro-tip for my fellow plus size girls: Torrid and Hot Topic have the same parent company, and sometimes carry the same merchandise, so if something you want is sold out on Torrid, check Hot Topic!)

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My wig is the Ferrari Classic from Arda Wigs in Apple Red. A lot of people told me it looked really good on me, but it was kind of frustrating. I’d like to trim the bangs so I don’t have to pin them back, but I’m also terrified of ruining this nice wig, so pinning it is! My bow came from Tita’s Hiding Place on Etsy.

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All in all, I’m super pleased with how this came out, and now I have a solid cosplay for any future cons I go to!

My friends did some good costumes too, so I asked permission to post pictures of them and they said yes!

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L’s costume is an homage to Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance. She was listening to them a lot to get in the right mindset for drawing one of her characters, and the costume was originally going to be kind of a joke on the stereotype of an emo kid, but then she researched a bit about Gerard and MCR and grew to respect them a lot. I think she did really well with this!

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T dressed as the extreme stereotype of a disgruntled art student. T knows all about this because they commuted to college at one of the big famous art schools in the city. This costume meant lots of plaid, fingerless gloves, scarves and beanies, and large amounts of Starbucks coffee.

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Since I graduated a semester early, I was home while T was working on their last projects for school and I can attest to the accuracy of this portrayal, lol.

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S and her girlfriend M both dressed as Rey from Star Wars. M (not pictured in this post) was Force Awakens Rey and S was Last Jedi Rey.

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Didn’t you know a lightsaber makes a great guitar?

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Then we went back inside and watched this Japanese horror movie that is nowhere near as scary as its box. House (sometimes known as Hausu) is a movie from the 70’s that’s mainly known for being kind of goofy, kitschy, and somewhat surreal. Maybe I’ll do a write-up in a blog post sometime! I found a trailer for it on YouTube, and it makes the movie look scarier than it really is. And I hope you like that song at the start of the trailer, because different versions of it are basically the entire soundtrack of the movie, lol.

Then after the movie we played some spooky video games for awhile until gradually everyone started to fall asleep on the couches and we decided to call it a night. Everyone had a great time, and I couldn’t have asked to have more fun, or better company. I’m very glad to have the friends that I do.

What did you guys do for Halloween? Did you dress up?

— Krys

 

Old Weird YouTube Favorites

I’ve been using YouTube since the year the site opened, and I’m at a point where I have over 400 videos in my favorites playlist. That playlist is hidden, you can’t see it on my channel page because it’s got a weird variety of stuff in it. But I thought it might be fun to go to the start of the playlist, and share some of the videos I favorited so long ago.

Early YouTube was a magical place that I didn’t really appreciate at the time. It was an environment where people felt free to post whatever they wanted regardless of how low production it was, or how weird. So I want to highlight a few of the weird things that made me laugh way back when, and that also still do today.

Here we have a lovely little ditty called “My Hands Are Bananas.” It was published in August of 2006 and is a take on stereotypical German techno/dance/industrial music (but in English). It’s utter hilarious nonsense that my friends and I used to sing back and forth to each other in the lunchroom.

“Go to McDonald – (Earthbound gigyas’s theme RONALDver.)” requires a little background information. Basically, there was a period of time where I was super into watching Japanese commercials and music videos because of a couple of friends I’d made on MSN messenger. Because of those friends I stumbled onto a genre I’d call “remixing songs using Japanese Ronald McDonald commercials.” This particular remix is of the final boss theme from Earthbound, and also includes some video distortion that is quite creepy, so just beware of that. This is another one that my friends and I would reference to each other (especially “daiski daiski daiski daiski,” which starts at 1:20 in the video).

This is called “Slumber Party” and it’s a video that I think about a lot, especially when High School Musical is referenced, which you’ll understand if you watch it. It’s a comedic horror short created by Neil Cicierega, who’s been one of my creative idols since I first discovered his work back in high school. (He’s also the creator of the Potter Puppet Pals and releases music as Lemon Demon, and when I realized all of these things were made by the same person, I was super impressed!) I can’t say too much about this one without totally ruining the suspense/mystery, but it’s only 5 minutes long, what do you have to lose?

And to close us off, I give you “Spiderman’s Epic Battle!” Just watch it. Hopefully you’ll laugh as much as I do.

Share all of your favorite odd YouTube videos with me! I always love to see new things.

–Krys