Friday, June 15, 2012

Let The Games Begin!

And so!

We have arrived in Maryland safe and sound. The drive was not too bad at all, compared to a lot of the other long drives we've taken.

The very day after we arrived it was out to the woods to hack each other to-- er, I mean, to play. Hee. The armory of PVC Pipe swords were a smash hit right from the start. Dana adores the claymore Percy made for him, and Bob (Dana's younger brother) likes the Wander Blade Percy made him. Lynn's wardrobe of various costumes and cloaks is incredibly impressive, and has kept our whole company well robed in medieval garb.

So far I've been involved in two games. We've discovered that the element of 'objects' in an Imagination Game is very near essential.

Obviously, for an Imagination Game, one needs characters. That's a no brainer. Costumes come in close second, and weaponry, and location. Those kind of go without saying. But one element that has been invaluable and I think often overlooked or poorly defined is the element of objects, which can be anything from a coke can to a ring of dungeon keys. An object is an inanimate thing that allows the balance of power in the game to shift back and forth, usually because it is desired by more than one party of characters within the game itself. Objects are fast, easy ways to spark conflict, which is what makes Imagination Games fun.

For example, in the first game I played with the others (Dana and I had to go out for a bit so we missed the first Imagination Game everyone played), the main object was a ring of oversized keys that I'd bought from JoAnn's just before leaving home. Dungeon keys. We had three character groups, two in each group; Rosi and I, who wanted the keys to save my Uncle; Dana and Percy, who wanted the keys to rescue their family; Lynn and Pippin, who wanted the keys because they owned them; and then Seph, who wanted the keys because he was the official Key Keeper of the realm.

So you see, there are five groups who all want the same thing. Some of them could forge alliances, since their causes are common, and there is no specific villain even though some of the groups must also work against each other in order to achieve their objectives.

There doesn't have to be just one object, either. In the game we are currently playing, there are two: a diamond and a message to the king. However, in this game also, I am playing the villain. Needless to say, we have a plethora of conflict, especially since I am the type of villain to play tricks rather than fight head to head. (I have alos managed to con both groups holding objects out of their objects and hidden them, but they aren't meant to know that yet. Shh!)

In both games, the balance of power has shifted numerous times. Whoever holds the object(s) automatically has an advantage over the others. Since everyone's trying to get them, and since several will undoubtedly succeed, the game never stands still. There are obviously other elements that play into keeping the game on its toes, but objects are extremely helpful.

As you can see, there are no pictures. I apologize. I haven't had time to download the pictures from the SD card onto the computer yet, but I promise I will soon.

Dia duit,

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Rosie's Library -- The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson

Okay, here's my other little sister, Rosie Grymm. As I mentioned before, she is our librarian. She absolutely adores to read, watch, and listen to stories, so not surprisingly, she likes to read. A lot.

In spite of what she may seem like in the picture, she is in fact only thirteen. True to the picture, however, she is dead gorgeous.

My Dad's an expert in hand to hand combat and pistol shooting, by the way.

Just sayin'.

Anyway, Rosie recently read a book called The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson, and loved it. It's then that I asked her if she'd write a book review on it so I could post it here on the blog. She's also compiling a book list that I'll release next month sometime.

Since this is her very first book report, I believe she did an excellent job, and I applaud her for jumping right into it without hesitation when I asked her if she'd write it. Thank you, Rosie! You're awesome. ^.^

The title of the book is 'The False Prince'. It is the first book in the Ascendance trilogy.
The author of this book is Jennifer A. Nielsen, who also wrote 'The underworld Chronicles', which I have not read.

The main five Characters are; Sage, Conner Tobias, Roden, Imogen. 

A synopsis: Sage is a fifteen year old orphan living on whatever he can grab off the streets in this medieval fantasy. One day a nobleman named Conner, comes and buys him. Later he finds out that he is meant to compete against two other boys to be chosen as part of Conner's plan or be gotten rid of. The entire country is about to start a civil war. Trying to stay alive and learning more of Connors dishonest plans, Sage has a choice between runnings or finding out what Conner is up to.

That is the brief summary of the book. On a score of one to ten I would give it a nine. the things that I liked about the book was one; there was no magic, and the characters were really well done. You could never tell who was on which side. the ending was very surprising, and I love surprises, especially in books. ^.^ I can't really think of anything I didn't like about the book off the top of my head. It was extremely well written.

To end this, here is my favorite part from the book.
Tobias raised his hand. A sign he'd been educated. At the orphanage I came from, a person only raised a hand if he was about to hit someone with it. ~Sage  

Hope you like it!

~Rosie Grymm

[Buy False Prince here.]

So there you have it. I haven't read the book yet, myself, but Rosie's gotten Percy, Seph, and Pippin (another sister. Yes.... I have a lot of siblings.) to read it and they all insist I read it, too. And being such an obdedient, kind hearted, benevolent big sister, I plan to aquiesce to their wishes. I'm actually quite intrigued...

Dia duit,

Friday, June 8, 2012

Speed Tunic

This Tuesday I and my family are driving up to Maryland to meet with all the other PenKnights.



No, I'm not packed yet. I'm a last minute packer. It's worked so far. But I have managed to get together all the costumes in a big tub to bring up there with us. We have a lot of cosutmes, the majority of them handmade for various movies or Imagination Games in the past. I'm praying the tub will fit in the van.

As well, I worked on a couple of long tunics that turned out pretty well, I thought. Once again, super duper easy pattern. Really, I just cut out two long rectangles and sewed them together at the top and sides, leaving holes for the head and arms. Bing, bam, boom, tunic.

This is another of my sisters, Rosi Grymm.
She's our librarian. I'll introduce her later.

Very bad picture quality, but they were last minute. I also made a tunic in a sea green color, too. Exact same style. That belt is my absolute favorite belt in the whole wide world EVER. I bought it from Maurices (<3) and it's been an accent to many an outfit and costume alike.

So I should go eat supper now. Yup.

Dia duit,

Friday Music Post #5

Friday again! Today we have a somewhat haunting tune, laced with indications of perseverence through hardship and pain.

Dia duit,

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Thursday Legend Post #4 -- Rob Roy

First off I'd like to say that I've seen the 1995 movie "Rob Roy" starring Liam Neelson and I hated it. Rephrase: I still hate it. I hate it simply because it was over the top inappropriate. I don't care how heroic the hero is, how adventerous the story, or how amazing the swordfights; that one element, no matter how realistic, I don't care, ruins entire movies and poisons minds.

Just sayin'.

In spite of that, I do actually really like the legend of the Scottish outlaw Raibeart Ruadh MacGregor, also known as Red Robert, also known as Rob Roy. He's the Robin Hood of the Highlands.

Like with Robin Hood, Rob Roy was made into a legend. Since we don't have a time machine it's hard to say what kind of person he was in real life. Unlik Robin Hood, however, there's more historical fact to go on than just a mysterious headstone in an obscure graveyard as with the English outlaw. A book was written by Sir Walter Scott, titled simply "Rob Roy", during Rob's lifetime, and while it was undoubtedly romantisized to some degree, it's still based in more fact than Robin's legend simply because there was more material to go off of.

But who cares? I like legends as legends. I'm not one of those people who tries to pick each of them apart and prove the heroes were really scoundrels and dogs. The heroes in legends -- be they truth or the result of hunger for true heroism -- are valid, in my mind. Of course, one must look out for predjudices, but if nothing else, legends give insight to how the people of the time percieved life and what they desired to see in those they chose to exalt.

But back to Rob Roy, who I'm not going to refer to as Raibeart, because I think it's cool.

Born Glen Gyle, 1671, died Inverlochlarig, 1734

Robert MacGregor was born at Glen Gyle, at the western end of Loch Katrine, in the Trossachs region of Central Scotland. His popular moniker 'Rob Roy' comes from the Celtic for 'Red Robert', a reference to his red hair. His father was Donald MacGregor, and his mother was Margaret Campbell. At that time the MacGregor clan was 'proscribed', which meant that no one was allowed to use the name MacGregor, or wear the clan tartan.

In another article it mentioned that sometimes Raibeart used his mother's maiden name, Campbell, instead of MacGregor. At age 22, Raibeart married his cousin, Mary MacGregor, and they had four sons, James, Renal, Coll, and Robin. If you're like me you'll find it amusing that the Scottish outlaw had a son who shared the name of the famous English outlaw. But maybe I'm just weird.

Rob fought with his father Donald in support of the Catholic James Stewart in his struggle with the Protestant king of England, William of Orange. Donald was captured and imprisoned and Rob's mother died while Donald was captive.
After the cessation of struggles Rob turned his hand to cattle. In a nutshell, he stole cattle and ran a protection racket, offering to protect the herds of others for a fee. This makes him sound like a Chicago gangster, but it is important to remember that the customs of the time were quite different from our own; cattle were considered common property, so taking them was not a crime, and the protection racket, as I called it earlier, was a common and very respectable way of making a living.

It looks like the author of this article may be attempting to reconcile the cattle racket aspect, but in this case I'm not inclined to discredit it. Not just because I like it when heroes live up to their legends to a certain degree, but because I've learned that customs of various timeframes really do play a significant role in a given culture. Things people did back then that we would consider low nowadays were not considered low, and sometimes were even acceptable, by the people of the time. We have to remember to look at things through the context lense and not judge based solely on our perception, which is tainted by the rules of our own modern culture.

But anyway, Raibeart was a bit of a rogue right from the start, as one would expect from a red headed Scotsman. But as the legend goes, there were rogues far worse them him and with much more power...

Things began to unravel however, when Rob Roy borrowed money from the Duke of Montrose to expand his herd. Here is where the story gets murky. One version is that Rob Roy stole the money. Rob Roy's version was that his chief herdsman absconded with the coins. Whatever the truth, the money was gone, there were no cows to show for it, and Rob Roy was unable to repay the loan. As a result of this episode Rob Roy was declared an outlaw. He fled from his home at Inversnaid, leaving his wife, Mary, and their children. Montrose's men descended on Inversnaid, burned Rob Roy's house to the ground and forced his family to leave.

So now Raibeart's an outlaw. If I were to write my own version of this legend, I'd have him steal the money and turn the story into one of redemption. However, I believe the more commonly accepted theory is that Raibeart's chief herdsman betrayed, and that Raibeart was persecuted nonetheless. This would more easily reflect the Scottish ideals of freedom and the tyranny of Brittish rule.

Either way Montrose is a villain in my book because noone is allowed to mess with the family. Ever.

From this point on Rob Roy was a thorn in the side of the Duke of Montrose and the forces of the law sent to find him. He roamed the hills of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs like a sort of Scottish Robin Hood. On one occasion he abducted the Duke's factor and held him on an island in Loch Katrine. Finally, in 1722 he was captured and imprisoned for five years.

Loch Lomond!!

Yes, that's one of the places in Scotland I really want to visit. That short little paragraph there is where the majority of a legend would take place, after setting up the inciting incident of Roy being declared an outlaw. However, it's during Raibeart's imprisonment that the legends begin to grow. Daniel Defoe writes "Highland Rogue" in 1723, and Raibeart's fame grew. (As a side note I'd like to point out that this is a perfect example of how powerful stories are.) This could possibly have led to the issuing of Raibeart's pardon by King George I of England in 1727, just before Raibeart was due to be transported abroad.

He returned to the Trossachs and lived a Inverlochlarig, at the western end of Loch Doine. He died in 1734 and was buried in the churchyard at Balquhidder. Later, Mary and his sons Coll and Robin were laid beside him.

In some ways the story of Rob Roy MacGregor's life has come to represent the struggle of the Highland clans for recognition and fair treatment by a largely English aristocracy.

A very Scottish theme if ever I saw one. Overall, the legend carries traces of themes like justice against injustice, redemption (like I mentioned earlier), freedom, perseverence, loyalty, and even compassion, honor, and patriotic pride. All in all, the fiery red headed outlaw Raibeart Ruadh MacGregor is quickly becoming one of my favorite legendary characters.

Dia duit,

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Storytellers of the Middle Ages

Minstrel's Path by Yue-Iceseal
If I had to pick a job to have in the Middle Ages, it would be that of a minstrel. Storytellers of the Medieval era!

Definition and description of the Minstrels: The Minstrels can be described as one of an order of men who earned a living by the arts of poetry and music, and sang verses to the accompaniment of a lute, harp or other instrument.

Musical storytellers. What could be better?

There were two main types of Medieval Musicians - the Minstrels and the Troubadours. A minstrel was a servant first employed as a travelling entertainer and then as a castle or court musician or Medieval Bard. The name 'minstrel' means a "little servant". Medieval Minstrels often created their own ballads but they were also famous for memorising long poems based on myths and legends which were called 'chansons de geste'. The themes of the songs sung by the Troubadours also dealt with chivalry and courtly love but they also told stories of far lands and historical events. The Medieval Minstrels were replaced by Troubadours and started to move around and were known as 'Wandering Minstrels'.

A wandering minstrel. Music, storytelling, and travel! That is definitely the job I would pick. I'm not sure if there were many female minstrels -- I expect not many at all -- but that's what imagination is for, right?

Because I know that you're asking this question in your head, the difference between a minstrel and a troubadour is that troubadours were more refined and poetic than the minstrels. Hence the troubadours being retained in royal courts and minstrels being kicked out to wander from place to place. Such is life.

But we're talking about minstrels first. Stay focused.

The role of the Minstrel often required many different skills including:
  • Juggling
  • Acrobatics
  • Dancing
  • Fire eating
  • Conjuring
  • Playing Musical Instruments
  • Reciting poems
  • Singing
  • Buffoonery which led to roles as jesters
  • Animal trainers - including animals such as dogs and monkeys in their shows

This is probably why I'd take the job of a minstrel over that of a troubadour; minstrels were more versitile and multi-talented. Obviously my strong point would be storytelling, but I'd certainly not be averse to learned the other skills listed there (besides singing. I already sing. And I'm not sure what I'd think about fire eating....)

Plus I get an assistant.

Jongleurs were the assistants of minstrels. Jongleurs gained a reputation of itinerant entertainers of the Middle Ages in France and Norman England. Another type of performer of even lower rank than the minstrels were the gleemen, a travelling entertainer.

Hee hee. So me and my Jongleur buddy travel all over England (with a few dips up into Scotland, of course) earning our bread and meade by entertaining nobles and peasants alike.

There were many venues for the wandering minstrels who had been displaced at the castles and courts by the refined and fashionable troubadours. Middle Ages Feasts, Fairs and Festivals were all common occurrences during the Middle Ages and were celebrated during specific times of the year (most of which were dictated by the Church and religious festivals.) The instruments played by wandering minstrels who performed at these events were light and easily carried. They included fiddles, the lute, recorders and small percussion instruments. The songs and ballads sang by the such minstrels were traditional English favorites.
[Exerpts taken from here and here. They're both almost exactly the same; you can read one and not the other without missing anything.]

I think minstrels probably had one of the more interesting lives in the Middle Ages. They got to see the splendor of the royal courts and castles of nobility, but still had access to the Hall of Secrets (more commonly referred to as the Servant's Hall, or Kitchen). They told stories of valor and adventure, love and sacrifice, but also performed acrobatic feats and mind boggling trickery through conjuring. Really, they're wholly fascinating.

I think I want to write about a minstrel and a jongluer, now. *considers*

I'll do a seperate post on Troubadours later on.

Dia duit,

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Things That Happen at Two AM in the Morning

Sometimes time just slips by. Usually I'm either talking to a friend on skype, or am in a glum mood. Tonight it was both.

So here I am, saying hello to two 'o' clock AM. Hello, 2 AM! *mad waving*

Now that we have the formalities out of the way....

Here's what I've been goofing off with:
I wish I had this outfit in real life....
A friend of mine called Katana Kain introduced me to Polyvore a while back, but I'd never really had time to goof around with it. Well, until now. Although technically I was going to write a couple blog posts, but I ended up feeling under the weather, so.... Yeah, lame excuse.


I'm on Polyvore. This does actually tie in to a post that I plan on doing later about putting outfits together. Obviously the Dragon Tamer Set I did up there is modern, but one can put together a medieval/fantasy looking outfit from bits a pieces from here and there without having to buy a specific costume. Thrift stores are the best when it comesto this sort of thing, and I can say for certain that thrift store prices beat tailored costume prices hands down.

But that's for some other time. Right now, I should probably go to bed and attempt to arise at a semi-decent hour tomor.... er, today.


Dia duit,

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Improv Characters and Ponderings on Personality Bases

There are two ways to get Percy to carry on a conversation: talk about something he's interested in and leave out 'yes' and 'no' questions, or take him for a walk. He's very much like my Dad in that once you get his legs moving, his mouth starts moving, too.
Percy and I conspiring.
So he and Seph take turns coming with me when I walk my dog, Gypsy. One day when it was Percy's turn, we started on the subject of acting. Now, it must be understood that I dislike acting. A lot. Mostly because I stink at it. That being said, I have no problem -- and actually enjoy -- our Imagination Games.

But that's a form of acting, right?

Well, to me, it's not quite the same. When acting, it's your job to portray the character you've been assigned. In Imagination Games, you get to pick which character to portray, and also have the freedom to develop that character on your own, around your own capabilities and personality. You are the character, you don't have to become the character beause the character is just you in a different life. All you have to do is toss in a few quirks to make your character slightly different from the real you, but even still you're not constrained by script pressure to be a character that's been created with a completely different mindset as yourself.

 This is when we hit upon the idea of personality bases. See, each of us in our group has a set of Improv Characters. These are characters we've made up or adopted from old legends during various games (e.g. Robin Hood, Camille, King Arthur, Fayre and Dascah Grey...) and kept around to re-use in other games. Got that? Okay. In examining the various characters that Percy and I have, we came across similar patterns for each of them, with slight differences. Boiling things down, we came up with the idea of personality bases.

Basically, when you're coming into an Imagination Game with a completely new character, you have to go off some established cliche as a starting point for how your character is going to develop. We called these personality bases. I'll give an example. I personally can play either a villain or a hero with no difficulty switching from one to the other. But one thing I'm not so good at is playing a perfectly cold, stone faced villain. I simply cannot do it. I am far too visually expressive, without intending to be, to be able to pull it off. So instead of starting from the cold villain base, I start from the misunderstood villain base. This gives me much more leeway to be flustered, smile, and laugh, even, while still being either completely heartless or else heartless enough to be villainous. I'm one of those villains you think you have a chance of turning, but who's always too hurt or too stubborn, in the end, to actually change sides. This comes all from the misunderstood villain base, one that allows for little weaknesses and does not require an immoveable demeanor.

For heroes, my base is still on the weaker end of things. I often use an impulsive hero base. Strategically, I'm not very spectacular (XD), but I cannot stand doing nothing, especially when it's my team member/brother/friend/etc. on the line. One of the others I have is the ringleader hero base. This comes from being naturally bossy, and talent for getting others to go along with my schemes.

Now Percy on the other hand often starts with the warrior base, whether hero or villain. He's a fighter right from the start, and stays one right to the end, win or lose. He makes quick decisions based on his own assessment of situations, which often lands him as a mercenary or wandering warrior character, though he will work on teams sometimes, as well.

A personality base is the dumbed down, oversimplified cliche description of a given character type. From there, you can layer histories, tendencies, quirks, and skills over top to make the character ultimately original. As of yet we haven't compiled a list of common personality bases, but we'll do it sometime, and I'll post it here.

Just some food for thought. As we have grown older, our Imagination Games have become more and more orginized. In the end, however, our goal is just to have fun. The whole reason we enjoy these games so much is because we love the comraderie, the story (most of us are writers), and, of course, the costumes and sword fights.

Yeah. The sword fights are awesome.

Dia duit,

Introducing Percival Drake

I know I've already technically introduced Percy at the beginning of the PVC Pipe sword tutorial, but I really ought to do it properly. So here he is: Percival Drake, my younger brother by a couple years. As you know, he handles our Forge, making the medieval weaponry we use when we play. As well as that, he likes to fiddle around with duct tape, and has constructed several back sheathes for our swords. He's a bit more reserved, personality wise, which is why he often gets picked to play either the mysterious lone warrior or the villain in our games.

I love him to pieces. He's an awesome brother.

It was Percy's birthday the other day, and I bought him a tunic and belt as presents. Well, they arrived a week late, since I kept forgetting to actually place the order, but oh well. So I bought these items from, the same place Dana got his kilt from. The tunic is a dark blue version of the Tall Lace-Up Shirt No.15.

"This shirt was developed in response to customer requests for a half-lace-up shirt with a longer hem. Like our similar tops, this design fits a wide variety of looks and epochs from pirate to peasant to renaissance poet. The 100% natural cotton is a favorite fabric with customers and provides an authentically rustic look with contemporary ease of care and comfort." [Taken from description of Tall Lace-Up Shirt No.15.]

The belt is the Medieval/Celtic belt No.1. It's real leather, and only cost $26. The tunic cost nearer forty dollars, but both of them are very much worth the money. I didn't get the tunic tailored to Percy's exact measurements -- that would have given away the surprise -- so I guessed and got him a medium. It fits him very well; quite a relief!

The hood he's wearing in the picture is one that I'd made him a while back for a Robin Hood Imagination Game we played a couple years ago. That back sheathe he made is constructed of duct tape, and his claymore is one of our numerous PVC pipe swords he made. As you can see the tunic falls to the lower thigh a little bit above the knees in length, and has a slit on either side that goes to about mid thigh to allow more ease of movement. I didn't manage to get a good shot of the lace up on the front because his back sheathe is in the way, but if you visit the link to this tunic, you'll be able to see it. It's made of lightweight, sturdy material that looks and feels like it will hold up very well even when we move back up to Illinois and play in the forest near our house.

In short, he's happy with it, I'm happy with it.... Percy had a very happy birthday. ^.^

Dia duit,

Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday Music Post #4

Now for a shorter song, one with a bittersweet melody that caresses the heartstrings.

Dia duit,