2021 Prospective

Hey, this took a long time to write! It’s Q2, and here I am finally putting virtual pen to virtual paper. But rest assured, I have been trying to live this, even if I haven’t been talking about it.

My theme for the year is: “Making my outsides match my insides.” Or, put another way, “wearing my heart on my sleeve.”

What does that mean?

My mother said to me once, “You just don’t pay attention to how you look, do you?” At the time I heard it as an insult, but I’ve come to realize it’s not — it was an accurate observation of my state of mind.

See, this shows in how I treat my body — as a sort of meat car for the really important stuff, i.e. my thoughts, memories, mind, etc. What does it matter what my outsides look like?

Heck, I drive a 2007 Toyota Yaris; I don’t even care what my car-car looks like. It just gets me from one place to another.

And so with my meat car.

But I’m a materialist, so I know this is false thinking. There is not separate mind stuff and body stuff. (Take that, Descartes!) The mind is the brain is the body. (Or, at least, the mind is an epiphenomenon that can’t be directly controlled except through the bo– look, I was a cog sci major, okay??)

So, yeah, I have never paid a lot of attention to my appearance. Most days I work from home wearing pajamas; if I have a meeting, I might actually take a shower and put on a bra and real clothes. This is a lifestyle the pandemic has only encouraged — and the permanently remote job I have now does not help.

A lot of my work over the past few years — with these annual themes, in therapy — has been about being genuine, vulnerable, true to myself. About putting my “heart on my sleeve” in an emotional or mental way.

Now I want to put my heart on my sleeve in terms of my physical being — my personal style, my body image, and the stuff I’m putting out into the world.

Get ready, we’re putting a party hat on this meat car.

Or at least on this slime. (Credit: @theperkypugs on Twitter)

Personal style

I have always been envious of people who have a personal style. The sort of person who you see and think “gee, I feel like I know who they are just from looking at them.”

I am not like that, unless you consider my greasy face and a 10-year t-shirt to be an expression of my personality.

(I mean… I think my ripped “Rowsdower: Canada’s Brass Knuckles” t-shirt does have some personality to it).

I’ve put a lot of thought, last year and this, into what I WANT my personal style to be. I’ve put together a Pinterest board called “I want to be fabulous” with pictures that inspire me. I’ve also written out some bullet points that I think express my desired aesthetic well:

  • Androgyny/gender-bending
  • Historical elements
  • Baroque (in both senses) details — beautiful inutility. Lace, ruffles, silk.
  • A bit of equestrian chic, like an eccentric noblewoman riding through the fields
  • Academic
  • Nerdy things, ie my Tee Turtle shirts, TES jewelry
  • Lushness, swishiness
  • Jewel tones and blacks
  • A little bit of goth
  • Moons
  • Capital R Romanticism
  • Actually, if I could look like Orly of Buckingham1, that’s right on. Maybe with more skulls and moons.
  • Fae/elven
  1. By which I mean Orlando Bloom as the Duke of Buckingham in the 2011 The Three Musketeers. My god he’s fabulous and I’m not sure if I want to be him or I want to bang him… or, being ace, “have passionate conversations about poetic forms while brushing each other’s hair and kissing.”

I tried to boil this down to a single tagline, and what I came up with was “eccentric time-lost noblethem.”

So how does one become such a grand thing? Let’s set some intentions!

Catalog wardrobe using the Stylebook app

I downloaded Stylebook a couple of months ago, and while I’m not making full use of it yet, I already love it. It’s inexpensive (a one-time $3.99), and has a ton of functionality, as well as robust documentation to help you learn how to use it. Once you have a full wardrobe to work with, you can ask it to “shuffle” items and suggest outfits.

Basically, it helps you get the most out of the wardrobe you have.

However, it does operate on having all your wardrobe items entered in, and that is a challenge I’ve only just begun.

I think a modest goal here would be to add five items to Stylebook per week. That’s one for every week day. I assume I will be wearing more than one garment per day, and that I will wear real clothes at least one or two days a week.

Participate in Snazzual Fridays

This is a hashtag/event my friend Tegan created at the start of the pandemic last year, to get us out of the rut of the permanent athleisure lifestyle and to put on clothes that might not otherwise get worn. I’ve done this a couple of times, but mostly my snazzual days don’t fall on Fridays. That’s okay — any day can be snazzual if you feel it in your heart.

So my modest goal here is to Be snazzual 1-2 times per month, and document it. (More on that latter part below).

Continue to define my personal style, and expand (or purge) my wardrobe appropriately

As with all “stuff,” acquiring clothes is infinitely easier than getting rid of them.

My most recent influx of clothes has been a) giant bag of shirts and leggings I got from someone on my Buy Nothing group, and b) Stitchfix.

I’ve been surprised how many new-to-me pieces came out of the giant bag o’ clothes — there’s a lot of “tunic tops and leggings,” which is my go-to day-to-day style when I actually put on clothes. (It also ties in well with my “lushness” and “swishiness” elements — and I generally think the “long over lean” look is a good one for me).

Stitchfix has also been positive, but it’s also expensive, and I want to avoid getting more clothes than I will wear or have room to store. I’ll continue to use Stitchfix, but I’m still figuring out the right frequency.

I also want to expand my personal style pinboard and use it to extend the possibilities of my wardrobe.

Finally, I want to make a habit of reorganizing my closet seasonally, to rotate in seasonal items and get rid of stuff I haven’t worn in the past X amount of time.

Body image

One thing I run into pretty quickly when thinking about personal style is… the mirror.

I want to look like an elf, and I have the body of a hobbit.

I am not tall and thin and angular and androgynous. I am short and fat and squishy.

I’m not okay with this. I’ve never been okay with this.

And yet… this body is here to stay. It’s the only meat car I’ve got. I’m not getting any taller, my fat is always going to be distributed this way, and whenever I’ve intentionally tried to lose weight, it hasn’t been terribly effective.

In the vein of “accepting the things you cannot change,” here’s what I’m going to do to improve my body image in 2021.

Take more selfies

Selfies aren’t just vanity — they play an important role in accepting our body by curating how we present it to the world. If we can repeatedly see ourselves at our best, maybe it becomes easier to say “ew I’m ugly and fat and my hair is too thin” every time I look in the mirror

I’ve already created a “Selfiegeddon 2021” album on Facebook; I intend to add 50 selfies to it by the end of the year. (We’ll see if that’s unique shots or total — I’m willing to bend the rules depending on how I’m doing).

In that spirit, here’s MAH FACE.

Focus on health, not weight

Do I want to weigh less? Yes — if nothing else, I want a more proportional body, so that clothes fit me better.

Do I want to focus on losing weight? Hell nah.

My solution to this is to focus on activities that are healthier — and be surprised by weight loss that may happen.

For example, since the beginning of this year I’ve been trying to eradicate my sweet tooth. Not just sucrose, either — I make ample use of artificial sweetener. But I feel like all that does is keep those cravings alive and make me hungrier in the long run.

When I get to the point where I would sell my soul for a Boston creme donut is usually where I say, “okay, it’s time to lay off the sweets.” After about two weeks without, I crave sweets a lot less and my hunger levels are less spiky.

So, in that vein, my “healthy not weighty” goals:

  • Moderate my relationship with sweets, as specified above.
  • Continue exercise in a gentle, non-competitive way.
  • Eat more veggies. “More” is vague, I know. For one thing, more than three mini peppers with my usual lunch of meat and cheese 😉
  • Eat breakfast. I don’t do this enough, because usually when I wake up the last thing I want is food. But it keeps my hunger at reasonable levels throughout the day.

Find better role models in body image

I want to look like an elf — but who says elves have to be tall and thin?

Tolkien, probably, but let’s not forget he was drawing from the poetic Eddas. And if you go back far enough in Nordic/Germanic myth, elves and dwarves are the same. (Alberich, who appears in the Ring cycle, is variously described as an elf or a dwarf, I seem to recall).

… and if there’s anything playing D&D taught me about dwarves, it’s that you can hear the clap of their ass cheeks through Mithril Hall.

So, uh, I guess what I’m saying is, I not only need to put my own image out into the world — I need to find images that represent what I am looking for and are relatable and achievable. I also want to stop having a viscerally different reaction to images of thin vs. fat people.

Earlier this year I followed some plus-size alt-fashion Instagrammers. But I’m not a heavy Insta user, so I can’t say this has done anything for me. I also try to skew my pinboard towards plus-size fashion icons, too, but lemme just say all your results change for the worse when you add “plus size” to any query on Pinterest.

So I need to do some noodling on this point. But bottom line, I want to merge “people who look like me,” “people who are being their authentic selves through fashion,” and “people who look fabulous.”

All right? All right. I think that’s enough to keep me busy for a year. Now back to my paint-stained pajamas for the night.

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 12

Read chapter 12 (“Siltrin”) here.

Chapter Summary

“You are touch-starved, I think,” she concluded, tapping her lips.

He didn’t know what that meant, but it felt like a rope thrown down to a prisoner in an oubliette. He grabbed onto it more eagerly than he cared admit.

In the aftermath of a fight with a fomorian and some purple worms, Mavash seeks to ease some of Jorlan’s physical pain. But his wounds are more than surface deep, and Jorlan finds the cure is worse than the sickness.

Content warnings

Implied/referenced sexual assault, as we talk more about Jorlan’s terrible history.

Incidentally, this chapter is a bit spicier than the others, but this is as spicy as it gets. I am admitting my characters want to bang, but there are never gonna be details. I like the sexual tension more than the physics.

Chapter End Notes

  • As written, Oloth tlu malla is only a +2 longsword. Not actually a vorpal scimitar. Come on, Chris Perkins. You say right in the introduction to OotA there’s a lot of Alice in Wonderland inspiration in this adventure, and you pass up the opportunity to put in a vorpal sword?
  • I left out the part where Mavash tried to make Jorlan think it was an intelligent weapon by talking to him telepathically with a bad drow accent.
  • Yes, an owlbear is a monstrosity, not a beast, and a druid shouldn’t be able to turn into one. But listen, if WoW taught me anything, it’s that druids and owlbears are inextricably linked. Also it’s basically a CR3 cave bear, and DM Nixon suggested it.
  • The drow poetry book that the fomorian has is, strangely enough, part of the actual treasure in RAW. I have no idea what Jorlan intended with it. I suspect DM Nixon just had him take it to create interesting fanfic hooks. Operation: successful.
  • Grinna, who is briefly mentioned, is a gender-swapped version of Grin Ousstyl, Vizeran’s apprentice in RAW. I don’t think there’s anything that prevents drow women from being wizards, although I imagine it’s frowned upon.
  • Jorlan’s rant about “stories surfacers tell about the drow” is a modified version of my rant about the ridiculous, over-the-top evil of the drow matriarchy as seen in the books and in (a lot of) fanfic. So much of the drow matriarchy reads like some guy’s BDSM fantasy or a “bitches be crazy” joke. That’s one of the things that makes the drow so problematic; it turns female characters into caricatures without inner life other than I WILL BE TERRIBLE TO MEN AND PLEASE LOLTH.

(That said, I mean… all of the things he mentions ARE things that happen in drow society that he’s trying to gloss over. He graduated from Melee-Magthere; he should know from demonic orgies).

  • I jokingly call this “the chapter where Jorlan learns that a boner is not consent.” It’s basically impossible for him to have been in a consensual relationship within the drow matriarchy, because of the lack of freedom to say “no.” But of course he doesn’t realize that. And since I have painted him as a survivor of sexual assault, I think that the ethical thing for Mavash to do (and she would do the ethical thing; she’s chaotic good) would be to let any sexual aspect of their relationship develop entirely on his terms.

Which is also incredibly difficult for him, for much the reason Mavash named. And of course he’s going to read it as a rejection of him at first, which leads to sadness. But I hope I ended it with a bit of hope for these two lovebirds.

  • The chapter title, “siltrin,” means “flesh” in the fan dictionary. “Touch,” alas, is not defined, or I would have used that as the chapter title.
  • Finally, this chapter is still a little displaced in time. I wrote it before the previous two chapters, and there is still one more chapter to be placed between “El’lar” and this one. But hey, you just got two chapters back to back of plot-less Mavash/Jorlan schmaltz, so… you’re welcome?

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 11

Read chapter 10 (“El’lar”) here.

Chapter Summary

There was something about her presence pulling at him, calling him to cross the distance between them. He recalled how she had dominated the conversation with Vizeran — how he had coached her to do that — and his hands ached with a familiar energy: to placate, to please.

Jorlan and Mavash have a conversation in a mushroom grove about homes, youthful foolishness, and things they can’t put behind them.

Chapter End Notes

Drow aren’t supposed to have very keen noses, canonically, but let’s just say it’s Jorlan’s rogue senses. (He does have expertise in Perception).

I spent a long time looking at this map trying to figure out what path Mavash would have taken to get to Neverwinter Wood. (It’s from 2E, but that’s really the only map that had Sossal on it — it’s kind of been forgotten in subsequent editions). Up in the northeast corner there is Sossal, and I figured she lived inland, somewhere like Dharvil, near the Armridge Mountains.

Anyway, it is a long, long distance to Neverwinter Wood — at least two thousand miles. I figured crossing the Anauroch Desert would be impossible, since there don’t appear to be roads. So she traveled with a caravan across Novularond, to the town of Ostra in Vaasa — whence she sent her “I’m dead” message. From there she went west around the northern shores of the Moonsea, cut south around Zhentil Keep, and spent some time in Cormanthor Forest. From there she went west to Cormyr and then Iriebar, then she headed north and west until she reached the Trade Way around Baldur’s Gate. From there it was a straight shot to Neverwinter.

I still haven’t satisfactorily answered why she decided not to settle in Cormanthor Forest, or why she felt the particular calling to Neverwinter Wood. But it probably was from some goading from her quori, who had a sense of her Destiny ™ as the one who will stop il-Lashtavar.

I also had to decide what age she left home at. It had to be young enough that she still sorta imprinted on her grove in Neverwinter Wood as her “family.” But given the reason I gave her for wanting to leave, she had to be old enough to be married — not to mention, how old is old enough to cross an entire continent on foot?

Also clearly I have a headcanon about the drow and non-monogamy. I see it not unlike the drow view on murder and house warfare — if you can destroy everyone who could accuse you of the crime, it didn’t happen. And yes, I imagine this is a game Jorlan has played before.

I’m still not entirely happy with where this ends, but eh, good enough for now. Maybe inspiration will strike me later.

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 10

Read chapter 10 (“Araj”) here.

Chapter Summary

Vizeran has a plan for getting rid of the demon princes, and it’s a bad one. How is he going to get our heedless do-gooding adventurers to buy into it?

Easy: he’s going to make someone else explain it.

Or: in which Vizeran continues to be insufferable, Mavash gets angry, and Jorlan Explains It All (where “all” = drow politics)

Chapter End Notes

Technically the “Great Wheel” model of the planes is no longer valid by the 1480s DR? OH WELL. It’s much more interesting than the tree model. Apparently it’s not so much that it’s invalid; it’s just that 5E basically says, “eh, it’s all an abstraction for mortal minds, anyway”.

I believe, rules as written, Rystia Zav is a random crazy human NPC you can meet in Mantol-Derith, a Harper spy infiltrating the Zhentarim. Here, obviously, she’s still a Harper spy, but she’s an elf, and she’s more interested in infiltrating Menzoberranzan. Obviously the fact that she’s hanging out in the Tower, or is Grinna’s girlfriend, is entirely our DM’s take on it. (And yet, isn’t this better?) Our DM also got rid of Vizeran’s pet death slaad, because seriously? (Fake drow girlfriend > death slaad).

The drow political situation laid out here is a weird blend of the RAW module, canonical-to-books stuff (like, the re-creation of House Do’Urden) and custom stuff our DM came up with. For example, the figurehead Matron Mother is someone else entirely, not Inshalee. As I said before, I have very little patience for trying to catch up on the Drizzt books, so mostly I have Nixon, what of the RAW module isn’t spoilery, and the FR wiki to go on.

(And if you know the lore better than me, you probably can guess that there’s something — or someone — that Rystia and Jorlan are dancing around here. But we the players didn’t know that at this point in the adventure, so you don’t get to know it, either).

Also once again Jorlan refuses to mention Drizzt. My headcanon is that Jorlan disdains the guy; they are of an age, were probably at Melee-Magthere at the same time, and their families were always in competition for that valued eighth spot on the Council. Plus I think Jorlan bought in more to the chaotic Drow Mindset ™, at least grudgingly. So he probably sees Drizzt as an insufferable twat who thinks there’s no blood on his hands.

Two funny Jorlan moments here that were true to the actual session: 1) Jorlan did in fact go all VOLDEMORT VOLDEMORT VOLDEMORT about the name of Lolth. 2) The comment about the noodle shops was in fact made. (Which is how my “Jorlan likes a dish called Menzoberranzan noodles” headcanon got started).

(We finally did get to Menzoberranzan in the campaign, and LET ME TELL YOU how angry we all were that there was no time to go slumming for noodles. I may need to write a fix-it fic just for this).

(Alsoalso we are only about one or two sessions away from the end of the game. AND THEN WHAT WILL I DO WITH MY LIFE???)

(Continue to write unending authors’ notes, apparently).

D&D Campaign Idea: Wilderness Survival + Player-Driven Plot

(This is a repost/slight reframing of something I posted on Facebook earlier today).

An intriguing campaign idea came to me as I was falling asleep last night… this may be why I’m feeling so tired today.

The PCs are fellow travelers on the road to a “gold rush”-type place across the continent. But their past is on their tail, and their dreams are still unfulfilled.

Also, they may or may not have a map.

It would be wilderness survival with an overarching plot determined by two questions the PCs answer:

What are you running from? What are you running to?

More details:

  • This is somewhat inspired by the research I did for Mavash re: crossing Faerûn on foot. It occurred to me that running or playing an overland adventure — which was focused on the travel, not the destination — would be kind of fun.
  • I think I would probably use Faerûn as the continent being crossed, but only because it’s a familiar environment for a lot of players, and would help in creating personal plot hooks. I am not interested in whether or not it cleaves to Forgotten Realms lore, except as it pertains to the characters. The “gold rush” place would be entirely my own invention, though, though you’d probably be leaving from some place like Baldur’s Gate.
  • What I mean by “wilderness survival” is actually using the mechanics in D&D for things like overland travel, foraging, weather, getting lost, exhaustion, exposure, etc.
  • I am also interested in making a game out of the fiddly resource management stuff that everyone tends to gloss over, i.e. equipping, encumbrance, tracking food rations and arrows, etc. I want it to matter if you have enough rations to get to the next city or a tent to sleep under.
    • I have the idea that as the players level there will be less of this, because those levels should allow them to “get ahead of the game.” Nobody wants to spend levels 1-20 rolling Survival checks every day to see if you get to eat.
  • I am expecting a lot of emergent plot via the characters’ histories and how they react to the challenges they encounter. I am very much trying to combat my tendency to overprep. That said, it would depend on a level of player investment that is more typical of a make-your-own-character larp than a TTRPG.

I think this could be fun, if played right — and if player expectations are set correctly! Then again, I am the sort of person who installs tons of survival mods in otherwise perfectly good video games, so I also admit this may not be everyone’s cuppa.

Is this the sort of game anyone else would be interested in?

Image credit: Denise Jans on Unsplash

I finished playing Out of the Abyss and I feel empty inside

This past weekend, my Out of the Abyss game had its final session. I got what I wanted for my druid — a happily ever after with her drow boyfriend in Neverwinter Wood, with bonus noodles and fancy hats. I also had some awful/amazing tension on the road to that.

Tears were shed. Feels were had. And now I will be writing fanfic about it for… well, a long time.

But in the wake of it… I have an emotional hangover. I feel empty inside, and like I don’t know what to do with myself.

“Feeling pointless” meme of dude staring vacantly into space, with the caption “Me After Finishing Out of the Abyss.”

I need a new D&D game to play, and waiting until DM Nixon is ready to run something again seems unbearable at the moment.

At the same time, trawling /r/lfg looking for games to join is… not super productive. A game is like a relationship, right? And I just got out of an INTENSE one. So I feel like this would be the TTRPG equivalent of looking for hookups on Tinder after an intense breakup.

(But what do I know; I haven’t dated since the late 1990s).

I did start thinking, however, about what I want in my next game. This isn’t something I gave a lot of thought to before I dove headfirst back into the TTRPG pool last year, so I’d like to lay it out now.

Plus, this will be useful in the future in case I do decide to apply to certain games.

What I Want in My Next Relationship Game

  • I’m looking primarily for a campaign, not a one-shot, at this time.
  • I’m currently available Thurs/Fri evenings, and Sat/Sun afternoons Eastern time.
  • I’m mostly interested in D&D 5e — and most of these points are relevant to that — but I’m also interested in trying other games in a fantasy setting.
  • I like roleplay a lot, but I also really like tactical combat. I’d prefer roughly a 65%/35% RP-to-combat ratio. I’m not interested in playing a campaign that’s nothing more than a dungeon crawl.
  • By “tactical combat” I mean where the enemies don’t just stand still and fight to the death — where generally they act like they have two brain cells to rub together, and they have motives other than “kill the PCs.” Also where inventive tactics on the part of the PCs are rewarded.
  • I don’t mind random encounters, if it’s more than just “here’s a random monster I rolled on a table to keep you busy.” I prefer when they’re used to characterize the world, i.e. “here is a type of enemy you might fight later” or “here is a landmark that might be relevant in the next town.”
  • Also, I like a CHALLENGE. If there’s not occasionally a risk of your character dying, how am I supposed to stay invested? I don’t consider one PC going unconscious to be a dangerous fight.
  • I WANT TO FEEL THINGS. I WANT TO SHED TEARS. I firmly believe there are no emotions that someone won’t pay to experience within the safety of narrative. OotA was stand-out for me in that regard, and not just because I developed a romance plot with an NPC.
  • Relatedly, I am cool with character romance so long as all parties involved are consenting in- and out-of-character.
  • I like writing character histories; they range in length from a few bullet points to a few thousand words. I write these mostly for myself — writing is thinking, for me — but I also expect the DM to read them and, if possible, use them as personal plot hooks. If I write about a missing sibling in my backstory, I would very much like to see that come up in game.
  • I want my fellow players to be invested, too. I would hope they’ve come up with a few character bullet points, don’t spend the entire session browsing Facebook, and don’t perpetually show up late.
  • I would really like a semi-serious campaign. I don’t want joke characters, or joke names. I don’t want people to do random zany shit and call it “chaotic neutral.” That said, I’m not a humorless automaton, and I don’t mind the occasional OOC joke or derailment.
  • I am Done for all eternity with murderhobos, chaotic neutral “it’s what my character would do!” assholes, cheeseweasels, metagaming, and on-screen sexual violence.
  • I want to play with adults (18+).
  • An online game is a must. Even aside from COVID, if I have to travel to play, I’d rather play a larp.
    • No preference as to virtual tabletop — though I’m most familiar with roll20.
    • I have a slight preference for no camera, but that’s only because I like not having to put on real clothes 😉
    • A slight preference for Discord for voice chat.
    • Not super interested in text or play-by-post campaigns.
  • My next group will be woke, accepting, and anti-racist or it will be bullshit. If it wouldn’t fly on the Chaotic Good Dungeons & Dragons Memes Facebook group, I’m not interested.

Nice to Haves

  • I have a preference for good-aligned campaigns, because my no-consequences power fantasy is being able to help everybody.
  • As someone who installs a bunch of “immersion” mods in perfectly good video games, I actually enjoy some of the fiddly resource management you can do in D&D (but no one ever does), like tracking resources like rations or arrows, or dealing with encumbrance. I feel like it adds an interesting dimension of challenge to the game other than “give the monsters bigger numbers.”
  • On a scale from “published adventure run RAW” and “complete homebrew,” I prefer somewhere in the middle, i.e. a published adventure modified for the needs of the group. But I am pretty flexible on this.

That’s not asking a lot, right? 😉

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 9

Read chapter 9 (“Dalninil”) here.

Chapter Summary

Mavash’s premonition comes true, but the heroes are prepared. Jorlan is (maybe?) still full of secrets.

Chapter End Notes

Mavash is using ogham for divination, the “language of trees” of neo-pagan druidry. I drew the interpretation of the runes from John Michael Greer’s The Druidry Handbook. Basically I was like, hmm, what would you draw if you wanted to get the message of “prepare Earthbind, dumbass?”

The plant Mavash describes as a stand-in for heather is a little bit of both mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and sheep laurel (K. angustifolia).

(Also I came up with the divination as a way to explain DM Nixon giving us a long rest before fighting the dracolich, and thus the opportunity to plan out our spells).

Also worth noting: in actual play, that fight with the dracolich suuuuuucked for Mavash. I spent most of the fight either a) positioning myself, b) being Frightened, or c) on the ground. I never did succeed at casting Earthbind; it’s a STR check, and unsurprisingly dragons are STRONK.

But that doesn’t make for a very compelling story, does it?

(Jorlan did totally show up to put a potion down Mavash’s throat, though. I blame DM Nixon for the phrase “gentle fingers”)

Pretty sure that in RAW there’s not a dracolich and an illithilich waiting for you at the Tower of Araj. And Grinna is intended to be Grin, male apprentice to Vizeran.

… man, have we really never seen Mavash cast spells before? Anyway, druids being druids, I imagine the verbal and somatic components of their spells are all very individual; there’s no “magic word” that Mavash has to say to cast them, but she does have to say something personally meaningful.

(Also I totally imagine “words against fear” being the Bene Gesserit “fear is the mind killer” thing).

“Dalninil,” from the fan dictionary, means “sister.”

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 8

Read chapter 8 (“Zhaunil”) here.

Chapter Summary

“Show us,” she said, closing her eyes, “how the Lords of the Abyss came to the Underdark.”

In which the heroes learn what they need from the Gravenhollow.

Or: in which Mavash has premonitions, Jorlan is forced to be astonishingly candid, and Vizeran is an arch-bitch about Gromph Baenre.

Chapter End Notes

Quite some time has passed since this session, and my notes were shoddy, so I fabricated more here than I usually do for our sessions. While it didn’t happen precisely like this, I can assure you that Jorlan’s moment of candor is true to the actual session.

Zhaunil is the Drow word for “knowledge.”

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 7

Read chapter 7 (“Khaless”) here.

Chapter Summary

Mavash paused, sorting through feelings she’d never dared put words to before, and resigning herself to them with a sigh. “Jorlan, I think about you… a troubling amount.”

In which Mavash and Jorlan are honest about their feelings for each other, but still our boy is gonna overthink everything.

Chapter End Notes

Jal khaless zhah waela is a Drow proverb meaning “all trust is foolish,” with khaless being the word for “trust.”

I didn’t say much more than that in the original author’s note, so let me just add: this was one of my favorite chapters to write, overall. Really, any chapter where I get to go beyond “what happened in the campaign” and let these two characters talk to each other about their histories and their trauma, and how it informs their views on what is happening in the adventure.

I am narratively in love with these two <3

Fanfic journal: “Bright Future,” chapter 6

Read chapter 6 (“Jhinrae”) here.

Chapter Summary

“I do wonder what you would be like drunk.” Mavash’s smile broadened into a grin.

Jorlan narrowed his eyes in mirth, and said, his voice low, “You’d find me very entertaining when I’m drunk. I become, if possible, even more charismatic.”

Chapter End Notes

Jorlan being the son of Vizeran de Vir is, of course, not from the RAW adventure, although all the stuff about Vizeran being banished is. The stuff about House deVir being destroyed is canonical, as is the re-creation of House Do’Urden.

In case you saw the name of Lux’s sweetie and said, “Wait, wasn’t Neheedra the medusa in the Rockblight of Blingdenstone?” YES SHE WAS. This party does one thing well, and that’s forming attachments to random NPCs we probably should have killed.

Folks, I spent so much time thinking about wine in the chapter. Starting with:why do the drow have a word for wine? and following up with Do mushrooms have enough sugar to ferment by themselves? (no) and Come to think of it, where does one get sugars in the Underdark? (it basically has to come from the surface — photosynthesis, yo).

I decided jhinrae is made with mushrooms augmented with sugar from the surface, and fermented with wild yeast/lactobacillus, in the style of sour-type beers. This beer snob imagines it tasting kind of Revival Brewing Company’s Up Ship’s Kriek, which tastes like alcoholic pickle juice and yet is AMAZINGLY GOOD.

For all that I’m a beer snob, I’ve never been blackout drunk, so please excuse any inaccuracies to the experience of being utterly shit-faced.

I recently put together a Pinterest board called “hot elf bois” (as one does), and came across this art, which is exactly how I picture Jorlan.

In case you are curious how much of my fic comes directly from the session vs. stuff I make up… it’s about 50/50. I have a pretty good memory for the session, especially if I write things down, so I can usually quote DM Nixon fairly accurately. But most of the Jorlan/Mavash one-on-one stuff is made up, because we don’t usually split the party just so I can have heartfelt roleplay with my waifu.

There is another chapter in progress, which is the logical conclusion of “Jorlan and Mavash get drunk” and in which there MAY ACTUALLY BE SNOGGING OMG. Dear reader, there was in fact snogging.