While visual novels I read are fantasy-oriented, some of them aren't. I found the extended demo for the Victorian queer romance, Of Sense and Soul, to be high-quality in every way. Since its still gathering funds via Backerkit, I've reviewed it in hopes of spreading the word a little further.
I've reviewed one of my favorite visual novel demos, Sigh of the Abyss: Shadow Bonds. Please read it, go try it, and wishlist the full visual novel on Steam.
I just completed my first review of an explicit erotic visual novel, Sanguine Rose. I haven't read many erotic VNs thus far, but this one was my first and the experience has stuck with me, so I'm adding my thoughts here. While my review isn't explicit, the novel is for adults only and won't be to everyone's taste, so reader discretion is advised.
The rain from Hurricane (now tropical storm) Hilary has begun in earnest in Los Angeles today, so I'm staying in and improving code here around the site. I've added a banner image that means a lot to me, since it's a campfire scene from Chrono Trigger. Once upon a time, as a teenager, I played the hell of of that game. For its time, it was a perfect RPG, featuring time travel, a unique cast of characters, and its own fun magic system in which characters could create different effects by working together. My imagination took the art and made it real; my mind translated the music into the stereo stratosphere. I have its soundtrack on my music player and will listen to it from time to time because it always makes me happy. Somewhere in my heart, the theme from Zeal is always playing and I am watching the world from that doomed floating kingdom's elegant spires. Wherever you are today, I hope you are safe and spending time with the people and things you love.
This evening, I finished my first round of quick demo reviews. I can't possibly give all the demos I try an extended treatment, but I can share my thoughts and bring attention to those I don't dig into in depth.
Today I finished reviewing the TOUCHSTARVED demo and added another micro VN review of "A Bit Tied Up". I wasn't sure about spending time reviewing demos, since they're works in progress and liable to change. It's also true that just because a demo exists, that doesn't mean the full visual novel will ever be completed. But I've seen how difficult it can be for creators to get the word out about the projects. I also know there's a ton of demos out there, and people might be reluctant to try them without knowing how others liked them. In the age of online shopping, reviews matter. So I'll be giving some demos more robust writeups and doing brief reviews for others, as a compromise with myself. Because I only have so much time and there's so much I want to do!
Today I added a page for quick reviews of micro visual novels (those that tend to take less than half an hour to complete), and reviews of several ones that I've tried recently.
This evening, I finished my visual novel fan profile so you can learn about what I'm after before you dive into one of my reviews. I also created a new section of the site just for reviews, and I'm hoping to do more of them.
Happy August, everyone! I added my first visual novel review today for Ballads at Midnight, a Gothic fantasy romance that I enjoyed playing. If you find my review useful, I hope you'll let me know. If there's something I forgot to cover, feel free to ask about it. I'm still working out the format I want to use for VN reviews, and I want them to be helpful.
Today, I added a few other versions of my template for session notes and worked on streamlining the sizes of images so the documents will remain small (37-69 kb) and easier to load.
Today, I made a template for session notes that you can use to record and share notes during play. It's a Google Doc meant for players to use, either one at a time or together. You can change anything you'd like about it, and you can use it to get ideas for how to set up your own. If you give it a go, please let me know how it worked for you!
Today, I fixed dead links across the site and added a number of links to my gaming-related links page.
I also finished rewriting and expanding my discussion of common pitfalls in tabletop gaming as a hobby.
After trying to get around to it for years, I finally revised and updated my page about Pregnancy & Childbirth in fantasy tabletop RPGs. That includes the general rules I have for fertility, conception, multiple offspring, and so on. I'm rather embarrassed by the mistakes I found and hope they are clearer and easier to follow.
Today, I rewrote my page about the common benefits of roleplaying games. It was an old entry that I tossed onto the site in a hurry. I'd fully intended to expand on it but kept forgetting to do so. Well, no longer! If there's something I missed, feel free to let me know.
I've added images to every page on this site except for 2: my discussion of problems outside the game and concerns that roleplaying games lead to violent behavior. After serious thought, I'm still not sure what to use. Finding something that's royalty-free is also a concern. So I'm leaving them alone for now.
Hello again! Coding improvements continue apace across the site. I've also been adding art to pages that haven't had pieces before (so if any images are borked, please let me know so I can fix them).
But for the first time in a while, I have a whole new article to share with you: Why You Should Read Visual Novels!
I think it's safe to say that visual novels have become my latest obsession, and I just know that a lot of other gamers out there will love them. VNs can also be great for folks who are burnt out on traditional reading. So I'd like to tell you why you should try them out. I'll also be adding reviews for the visual novels I've been reading in the near future, in case you're looking for recommendations!
Hi everybody! I've spent time over the last month improving this site, page by page. I worked on finding and fixing errors, streamlining coding, standardizing appearances and functions, and trying to cut down load time first. I'm proud to say that I'm mostly done, though I'm sure there are a few things I overlooked. If you find something that doesn't work right, do let me know.
Along the way, I updated some content:
I updated my page on the city of Eltabbar to reflect how it was when we last played.
I reorganized my Thayan name list.
I made my Thayan noble houses available for download.
I also made my timeline of Thay available for download.
I've also updated the look of my Google Sheets offerings so they're more readable. I hope you like them!
Lately, I've been adjusting code and options across this site. You may have noticed that the main menu has changed. Some pages now have table of contents buttons so you can navigate to different sections more easily (I have a long way to go before most of them have that option, but I'm working on it). Soon, any downloads will also be available via a button. I hope this makes things tidier and easier to use.
While doing all that, I decided to rewrite most of my article about creating romantic characters - and while doing that, I made improvements to my romantic relationship generator, which is explained on that page. I couldn't stop writing and thinking about it until it was done, which hasn't happened in a while and is always a great experience. I feel like that article now has a lot to offer gamers and writers, and I hope you enjoy it!
Recently, I've revised every generator I offer on this site and added two more - and now you can download and use them all! You can find a list of every generator I offer here.
Since almost all of them are system agnostic, you can use them for various fantasy games or writing projects. They're also free and can be altered to suit your needs. I'm also tinkering with code on this site for the first time in months, so you may see some changes to how things look and work. If something isn't working at all, though, please let me know!
Thanks, and happy gaming!
After further thought, I've removed any AI images I made from this site. I've also gone through and replaced most art that's here. I'm grateful for art I can share via Creative Commons and hope you enjoy it! Happy Valentine's Day!
To make it easier for me to upload and easier for you to find and download what you like, I've moved all of my NightCafe images to a special gallery. Everything will be there, from the gothic to the high fantasy stuff. Enjoy!
Even more images are in my galleries and better ones, too. Check them out!
You want castles and other pretty fantasy locations? How about maps? I've added three galleries of images for them, and added more pieces to other galleries, too.
I've added two more galleries of images: miscellaneous fantasy characters and fantasy creatures. I've also started to sprinkle some of the images I've made on other pages here, too, so you can see them in larger sizes.
I discovered some images offered completely for free, for personal and commercial purposes, by the talented and generous Ramona. I decided to play with them and liked them so much I've added one to index pages and will be adding others elsewhere. I've just started using Twitter and I'm glad I did, or I would probably have missed her post!
After some consideration, I've decided to add many of the images I've made on NightCafe to galleries on this site. (If something really didn't turn out well, I probably won't add it here.) I started using NightCafe in the first place for several reasons, and one of the top ones involved my desire to share with the community. To do that, I want browsing and downloading to be easy. Thus, I've added a couple of galleries and will add more as time permits. I'm also going to add the modern, real-world, and gothic images I've made to my World of Darkness site, when I have the chance. (Which reminds me: I still need to finish updating that site's layout...)
I know AI art is quite controversial and I mean no harm to anyone. I want artists to be seen and commissioned, which is why I didn't want to add my images to DeviantArt or some other outlet and will share posts asking for commissions when I can. I want to respect artists, as well; they're not just people, skilled workers, and vital sources of inspiration, but also my friends. When I've looked up my images, I haven't found them to be significantly close to other works. If they are, however, please let me know and I can remove them. I know the way the AI learns based on images online - without artists' consent - is in and of itself a tricky issue that's being hashed out globally, but will ultimately be decided locally. For now, I'm going with the notion that styles and ideas in art can't be copyrighted, only finished works and derivatives that are significantly close to originals. Of course, I'll be watching as things progress and adjusting accordingly.
I hope to have your understanding and to be understanding, as well, as we navigate the choppy waters in which new waves of technology meet ancient wells of artistic human impulse. Thank you!
Since my yearly subscription to World Anvil is nearly up, I decided to write my review of the service today. It took a lot longer than I anticipated, which has generally been the case when I've interacted with WA, but I did my best to relate my experience in fair terms, and I'm not sorry I checked it out.
While fiddling with behind-the-scenes stuff today, I decided to update my gaming music page. People are always looking for music and we've never had more options to choose from, but my page was quite out of date.
First, I added better advice on what to listen for when choosing gaming music and reasons why you should consult with your group about noises you use. Then, I took a look around and found more streaming services and apps than I knew about, so I had to add them to the list. If you know of other services or programs (not individual playlists), please let me know so I can check them out! I decided to leave my old, quick reviews of various soundtracks because they're still solid albums, but I reorganized them according to type (film soundtracks, video game soundtracks, etc.). I hope the page is more useful now!
I've been fiddling with the navigation and merged two pages into one big index so more articles are available with one click (from the Gaming link). I'm also doing little tweaks here and there as I review pages. If you ever find an error or something that doesn't work, please let me know. Thanks!
I've completely restructured my character palette, a tool I developed many years ago for digging deep into characters and keeping track of their details. I'm pretty happy with how the results look and act now!
After much thought and rewriting, I've finally posted Fighting the Dragons of Anxiety, my first article about how having anxiety has affected my gaming life. I want to take part in the larger conversation about how Real LifeTM issues can affect our abilities to participate in and enjoy our hobbies. I've come to take this more seriously in the last decade not just because I've struggled but because I've heard others speak about how much they've struggled. And gaming can be such a great release. A gathering of friends. A brief escape from one's own reality. A cathartic, creative outlet. It enriches our quality of life. I want to keep doing it, and I want others to be able to keep gaming, too.
I also revamped the Google Doc versions of all articles that I have available. I've added a table of contents for each one right up front, to make them easier to navigate, and some small images, to make them less stark. I hope they look and act better.
Since I've been working on my WoD site recently, I thought I'd take a quick look here and see if there's anything I should adjust. As it turned out, I realized that I could get rid of the few images I was still using from an old web graphics set. Even though I liked the splash image, there's just no need for it on every page. I was using an occasional button or divider, but was bored with them, so I went through every page to make sure old images wouldn't be left behind before deleting them. I found a free dragon divider image from pixabay and edited it, and I'm pretty pleased with the results; you can see it surrounding each table of contents. There's a new, simple title image and that's it for the basics.
Last year, I backed a Kickstarter for an urban fantasy game I'd never heard of before. It had already been released previously; the creators just wanted to improve it and get it in print. So when the PDF of the original core book showed up, I made it my downtime project to read the whole thing. Since I spent a good deal of time with it, I've decided to review it. Introducing Defiant by Game Machinery!
Since I finally finished the first season of The Legend of Vox Machina, I decided to update my review of it today. I've also been updating any downloadable documents for this site, trying to make them more readable.
I finished the first half of the first season of The Legend of Vox Machina today and decided to share my thoughts on it.
Hello folks! You may have noticed some coding changes to the headings and subheadings around here in January. I'm trying to make them pop out while still remaining readable. I'm also trying to organize them so they're consistent and work well devices for the sight-impaired. I'm pretty pleased with the results!
I've also been updating code for all of the tables on this site (which, as you can imagine, has taken a little while; there are LOTS of tables).
There's a lot more color, distinguished borders, and the row you're hovering over with your mouse will change color so you can tell where you are. I taught myself more CSS last year but didn't have the chance to improve things here until now. And I can't help but feel like this is a big improvement. I hope you like it, too!
I can't believe that it's been six months since I've had the time or energy to write for pleasure, but here we are. I didn't even realize it until just now, when I saw the date of my last update below. But I've had a great time writing about secrets and stories today, so I'm making up for the gap with zeal! I've added a new section to my series of articles about what soap operas can teach us about making better games. You can check it out here: As the World Turns: Soap Operas & Story Creation. I hope you enjoy reading it even half as much as I enjoyed writing it!
After some reflection recently, I've written a brief article about ways that your gaming style can change over the years. There may be things that I forgot to cover, but I've discussed some of the major shifts I've seen in my group, how I feel about those changes, and why you should think about larger developments in your games, too.
I've just added a ton of character portraits for House Valgon at Eltabbar, the branch I've been expanding upon this year. I've also been expanding on the content for each character. I recently got a WorldAnvil membership and have been using its templates to help guide my efforts, and I have to say, it's been a lot of fun. I've written more than I thought I had in me, given time constraints and how little I knew about some of the NPCs when I started. But WA has inspired me, and it's a way to relax, when I get the chance. As I update on WA, I'll update things here.
There's still a lot left to do on House Valgon at Eltabbar. It's a major branch (with over 40 members in 5 generations) and has been the main focus of our campaign. I'm trying to give a little more insight even into characters who were dead before our game began and the young children of the house. But I love my Valgons and look forward to fleshing them out further, one character at a time.
I'd done some work on my location generators that I forgot to share, so I updated the generator files, the Google Sheets version, and the page. I also updated my directions on how to use my generator files at RPGChartMaker's site. It's really very easy and fast. I hope you find them useful!
I just discovered that someone found my marriage customs page and liked the options enough to create a generator from my random roll tables, and I love it! So I've linked to Thundermark's generator from the web page and the Google doc. I'm always grateful when folks create and share useful things with the material I have here.
I've completed my rewrites of my women in gaming section by overhauling my page on women in the hobby. I hope that it continues to provide food for thought for those who visit my site.
Recently, I've been approached by a journalist about my women in gaming section and my experiences as a female player, DM, and content producer. While I've been thoughtfully working on answering her questions, I've also gone back and reviewed what I have written here. This has made me realize some interesting facts about this site. Simply put, some of the material is quite old now; there are articles that I wrote over a decade ago. I may have updated parts of articles over the years, or I might have just left pages alone, only updating them when I'm improving the look and functionality of the site. I also don't tend to have people review what I present here before it's published, write in my dwindling spare time, and don't have time to read old pages, so not everything is as carefully considered as it could be. On top of all of that, my views, assumptions, and expressions have changed over the decades, and this site as a whole is nearly 20 years old.
So sometimes I'll reread something I wrote here and find aspects that make me cringe. It's not just a matter of finding typos or judging the quality of my writing, but also about seeing problems with my ideas. This has happened in places in my writing about women. Despite my best intentions, I've found aspects that aren't phrased as respectfully as I'd like or comments that are based on misogynistic assumptions that I didn't realize I possessed. I've learned more and tried to do better, and the pages in question deserve better from me. With that in mind, I've rewritten the intro and the page about female characters, and I'll be finishing my edits on the page on women in the hobby as soon as I get the chance.
And whenever the article I'm being interviewed for is published, I'll be sure to let you know.
Today, I published a new article that I didn't expect to write (although perhaps I should have). It's called Of Dice & Death, and it's about dice that are being made with human ashes and/or bones. Some are being sold to strangers, and others are memorial items for family and friends. If you're a gamer, this is an option for you to consider, and you might be offered dice made from the remains of a friend. I recently received such an offer, and want to share what I've learned from it.
As part of my recent work all over the site, I rewrote most of my page about consent in gaming (particularly in games that include romance and/or sex). I'm not trying to please everyone because I know that's impossible, but I'm really trying to do better than the first draft I put up previously.
Yesterday, I went in and redid one of the family trees for the Valgons, the noble family the player characters are part of in our evil campaign. I've also been adding more character portraits as I've created them, mostly for the Valgons.
I've been cleaning up code around here this weekend, and as a result, I revised and updated my general overview of D&D so it accounts for 5th edition.
Last night, I started publishing the first of a series of articles I'm writing about how soap operas can teach us ways to build better stories and characters in tabletop campaigns. I've added the second half of my discussion about characters today, and I hope it serves you well. If you've tried some of these techniques in your games already - or if you try them after reading about them here - I'd love to hear about how it went.
The Worldspinner Portrait Workshop app beta is now at a point where I've been able to start generating character portraits to represent characters in our games well, so I've started adding them to the section on my original campaign and our evil campaign. Thankfully, the good folks at Worldspinner allow users to post the portraits they create online, so I can feature them here and show you some of what the app is capable of. There are only a few portraits right now, but rest assured, there will be more, as I make them. I can also say that the app is worth every cent I paid and probably more, especially since it's still in beta and there's a lot left to be added. It has incredible versatility and value to gamers who aren't visual artists but still want good portraits for their games.
Using portraits on this site is one of the major reasons why I backed the Kickstarter in the first place, even though it was for a phone app (while I would have preferred a computer program or web version, which will hopefully happens someday). A gallery of automatically generated portraits loads every time you open the app, and there tend to be many evocative results. If you get lucky and one of them is close to what you have in mind for a character, then you'll only need to adjust a few things, apply a background, and upload it to the location of your choice; the whole process won't take more than 5-15 minutes. However, if you can't find something that's close to what you want, it takes real time to adjust the options to suit your vision. I've had one portrait take me over half an hour to get right, but I'm hoping that with updates and improvements, the loading times will decrease.
I hope you enjoy them here and on my Facebook page; I know I do!
Slowly but surely, I've been doing back-end work on this site. I've shared a whole new crop of art that I find inspirational, though none of it was made for D&D or this site in particular. I haven't changed any of the artwork, except to share pieces in smaller file sizes/dimensions than the originals so pages load faster. I've been working on cleaning up coding, layout, and other concerns that lead to a better user experience.
I haven't run D&D or Pathfinder in about a year due to COVID turning everything upside down. My group isn't comfortable gaming online and we've been avoiding gatherings offline. None of us have been vaccinated yet, either, but hopefully that will change soon. Some of us had our workload increased crazy amounts last year. In the meantime, I've been playing with and running for my honey, mostly in our heavily homebrewed World of Darkness games. I've been reading D&D 5e's core books recently and hope to run it someday soon, however. I have an awesome Ravenloft concept I'd like to try out. I don't even need the upcoming official book for it - I just need time to develop it and learn enough 5e to run it. Wish me luck! Happy gaming!
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