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Rick Riordan won a Stonewall award today

for his second Magnus Chase book, due to the inclusion of the character Alex Fierro who is gender fluid. This was the speech he gave, and it really distills why I love this author and his works so much, and why I will always recommend his works to anyone and everyone.

“Thank you for inviting me here today. As I told the Stonewall Award Committee, this is an honor both humbling and unexpected.

So, what is an old cis straight white male doing up here? Where did I get the nerve to write Alex Fierro, a transgender, gender fluid child of Loki in The Hammer of Thor, and why should I get cookies for that?

These are all fair and valid questions, which I have been asking myself a lot.

I think, to support young LGBTQ readers, the most important thing publishing can do is to publish and promote more stories by LGBTQ authors, authentic experiences by authentic voices. We have to keep pushing for this. The Stonewall committee’s work is a critical part of that effort. I can only accept the Stonewall Award in the sense that I accept a call to action – firstly, to do more myself to read and promote books by LGBTQ authors.

But also, it’s a call to do better in my own writing. As one of my genderqueer readers told me recently, “Hey, thanks for Alex. You didn’t do a terrible job!” I thought: Yes! Not doing a terrible job was my goal!

As important as it is to offer authentic voices and empower authors and role models from within LGBTQ community, it’s is also important that LGBTQ kids see themselves reflected and valued in the larger world of mass media, including my books. I know this because my non-heteronormative readers tell me so. They actively lobby to see characters like themselves in my books. They like the universe I’ve created. They want to be part of it. They deserve that opportunity. It’s important that I, as a mainstream author, say, “I see you. You matter. Your life experience may not be like mine, but it is no less valid and no less real. I will do whatever I can to understand and accurately include you in my stories, in my world. I will not erase you.”

People all over the political spectrum often ask me, “Why can’t you just stay silent on these issues? Just don’t include LGBTQ material and everybody will be happy.” This assumes that silence is the natural neutral position. But silence is not neutral. It’s an active choice. Silence is great when you are listening. Silence is not so great when you are using it to ignore or exclude.

But that’s all macro, ‘big picture’ stuff. Yes, I think the principles are important. Yes, in the abstract, I feel an obligation to write the world as I see it: beautiful because of its variations. Where I can’t draw on personal experience, I listen, I read a lot – in particular I want to credit Beyond Magenta and Gender Outlaws for helping me understand more about the perspective of my character Alex Fierro – and I trust that much of the human experience is universal. You can’t go too far wrong if you use empathy as your lens. But the reason I wrote Alex Fierro, or Nico di Angelo, or any of my characters, is much more personal.

I was a teacher for many years, in public and private school, California and Texas. During those years, I taught all kinds of kids. I want them all to know that I see them. They matter. I write characters to honor my students, and to make up for what I wished I could have done for them in the classroom.

I think about my former student Adrian (a pseudonym), back in the 90s in San Francisco. Adrian used the pronouns he and him, so I will call him that, but I suspect Adrian might have had more freedom and more options as to how he self-identified in school were he growing up today. His peers, his teachers, his family all understood that Adrian was female, despite his birth designation. Since kindergarten, he had self-selected to be among the girls – socially, athletically, academically. He was one of our girls. And although he got support and acceptance at the school, I don’t know that I helped him as much as I could, or that I tried to understand his needs and his journey. At that time in my life, I didn’t have the experience, the vocabulary, or frankly the emotional capacity to have that conversation. When we broke into social skills groups, for instance, boys apart from girls, he came into my group with the boys, I think because he felt it was required, but I feel like I missed the opportunity to sit with him and ask him what he wanted. And to assure him it was okay, whichever choice he made. I learned more from Adrian than I taught him. Twenty years later, Alex Fierro is for Adrian.

I think about Jane (pseudonym), another one of my students who was a straight cis-female with two fantastic moms. Again, for LGBTQ families, San Francisco was a pretty good place to live in the 90s, but as we know, prejudice has no geographical border. You cannot build a wall high enough to keep it out. I know Jane got flack about her family. I did what I could to support her, but I don’t think I did enough. I remember the day Jane’s drama class was happening in my classroom. The teacher was new – our first African American male teacher, which we were all really excited about – and this was only his third week. I was sitting at my desk, grading papers, while the teacher did a free association exercise. One of his examples was ‘fruit – gay.’ I think he did it because he thought it would be funny to middle schoolers. After the class, I asked to see the teacher one on one. I asked him to be aware of what he was saying and how that might be hurtful. I know. Me, a white guy, lecturing this Black teacher about hurtful words. He got defensive and quit, because he said he could not promise to not use that language again. At the time, I felt like I needed to do something, to stand up especially for Jane and her family. But did I make things better handling it as I did? I think I missed an opportunity to open a dialogue about how different people experience hurtful labels. Emmie and Josephine and their daughter Georgina, the family I introduce in The Dark Prophecy, are for Jane.

I think about Amy, and Mark, and Nicholas … All former students who have come out as gay since I taught them in middle school. All have gone on to have successful careers and happy families. When I taught them, I knew they were different. Their struggles were greater, their perspectives more divergent than some of my other students. I tried to provide a safe space for them, to model respect, but in retrospect I don’t think I supported them as well as I could have, or reached out as much as they might have needed. I was too busy preparing lessons on Shakespeare or adjectives, and not focusing enough on my students’ emotional health. Adjectives were a lot easier for me to reconcile than feelings. Would they have felt comfortable coming out earlier than college or high school if they had found more support in middle school? Would they have wanted to? I don’t know. But I don’t think they felt it was a safe option, which leaves me thinking that I did not do enough for them at that critical middle school time. I do not want any kid to feel alone, invisible, misunderstood. Nico di Angelo is for Amy, and Mark and Nicholas.

I am trying to do more. Percy Jackson started as a way to empower kids, in particular my son, who had learning differences. As my platform grew, I felt obliged to use it to empower all kids who are struggling through middle school for whatever reason. I don’t always do enough. I don’t always get it right. Good intentions are wonderful things, but at the end of a manuscript, the text has to stand on its own. What I meant ceases to matter. Kids just see what I wrote. But I have to keep trying. My kids are counting on me.

So thank you, above all, to my former students who taught me. Alex Fierro is for you.

To you, I pledge myself to do better – to apologize when I screw up, to learn from my mistakes, to be there for LGBTQ youth and make sure they know that in my books, they are included. They matter. I am going to stop talking now, but I promise you I won’t stop listening.”

Is it really?

So Rowling had no way of knowing the political climate during the 19 Years Later epilogue, but we do now. So consider this: what kind of world does the Golden Trio live in right now?

Their country is in the middle of Brexit talks, with racism and protectionism at their worst and the magic community isn’t far behind. 

Young Pure Bloods march the streets with torches and capes, shouting “They will not replace us!” They wear Deatheater masks and temporary tattoos (oh it’s not the real thing, they’ll wash it off and be back at the office on Monday).

In the news, the authorities call for a cease of violence and ask people not to fight the young pure bloods. In the streets, people talk about talking to them calmly to fix things. Ron is livid. “You don’t reason with bloody Deatheaters! You throw curses at them!”

Hermione’s work for equality in the magical world gets harder every day. She starts getting death threats in her mail, many howlers that leave her in tears. She keeps going. When people insist that every werewolf is dangerous to society and they should all be banned from country, she tearfully remembers Lupin giving his life to protect them all, she remembers Dobby with a knife in his heart and Hagrid with his half giant blood and his giant heart. She keeps fighting. 

As much as he hates it —and he hates it a lot— Harry becomes a vocal public figure again, constantly condemning blood purists and calling for action against them. His office calls horrified after the first interview, telling him he can’t be calling for violence against this people who are only protesting. “They are Deatheaters and this is how we deal with them,” he snarls back. “Have you forgotten Voldemort?” On the other side of the line, he can feel them flinch. 

No one who fought the war has forgotten it, but so many others seem to, it pains Harry. It’s been barely twenty years since he saw children die in the grounds of Hogwarts, killed by grown angry men who believed themselves superior. It’s been barely twenty years since Tom Riddle’s death body laid on the ground and he thought they could finally have peace. 

The trio sends their kids on the Hogwarts Express and they can’t help but remember their experiences there in a time much like this. They never thought their own children would have to suffer as they did, they pray they won’t have to. 

Harry touches his lighting scar and reminds himself it hasn’t hurt again for years. All is well. A quiet voice inside his head wonders bitterly: “Is it, really?”

How the eclipse will affect the signs

Aries: The eclipse can affect your growth and success in areas of romance, hobbies, and creativity. You will feel a call to action in one (or more) of these areas of your life, luckily, in a positive way. On the other hand, be cautious when entering any-long term commitments, it is likely these obligations will not go your way.

Taurus: The eclipse can be affecting your energy and other matter close to home. You might have a need to take action and make a change in your family dynamic or home life. If you have been feeling out of balance lately, things will finally be looking up for you.

Gemini: With the eclipse approaching you should focus on letting go on the past and resolving any relationship issues. The eclipse will be effecting your third house of communication and self expression which will allow you to form new relationships and partnerships.

Cancer: It’s time to start taking action and turning your ideas into plans to achieve the goals you’ve been working towards. The solar eclipse will bring you a positive  support that will help you to improve your career life or school life.

Leo:  Start preparing for a big change as the solar eclipse can give you a clean slate this year. The eclipse is the start of a new chapter in your life, where you can kick bad habits and turn over a new leaf. However, as your life is changing you will feel uneasy with the lack of control you have over it.

Virgo: While Mercury is in retrograde the solar eclipse will not start out well for Virgos. Now is the best time to slow down and seek out balance, take time to rest and look within yourself. Don’t worry, once Mercury in retrograde ends, the effects of the eclipse will become positive for the rest of the year.

Libra: The eclipse will be effecting Libras in an empowering and positive manner. It will bring a charge of energy to friendships and group associations. If you’ve been working on a project now is the time you will recognize the need to collaborate, or start something brand new.

Scorpio: For Scorpios, issues that have been resting below the surface will start to suffice in your life. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s a great time to go in a new direction or gain a new perspective on your goals and, like Leos, start a new chapter in your life.

Sagittarius: For Sagittarians, the solar eclipse will act as your “new years”. It will bring a desire to personally expand and grow and maintain balance in your life. Your energy will settle and you’ll be able to find a balance between responsibilities and pleasure. Try to resolve any relationships issues and if there’s a conversation you’ve been putting off, have it before August 21st.

Capricorn: Capricorns must let go of the past in order to uncover new support during the eclipse. The eclipse will be effecting your eighth house. You will feel a sense of renewal and energy with regards to your ability to master new skills. The eclipse will leave you determined to face the upcoming months.

Aquarius: The eclipse will affect your seventh house allowing you to discover new ways to connect with the people around you. You will be able to connect deeper with existing friendships and a sense of renewal of energy will impact your relationship skills. You might become aware of a need for somebody significant to rely on. Just make sure to be cautious of those who try to derail you out of jealously.

Pisces: The eclipse can be extremely draining on you, so slow down and focus on your health and personal happiness. A new set up in your job, or a new job altogether, may occur during the upcoming months. You will feel renewed and energized in regards to your daily activities, health, and routines. Stay aware of your personal health and of how your daily routines can keep you organized and less stressed. Now is a time to reflect upon yourself and find happiness.

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Mom Friend

Ok but imagine how the aliens would react to the idea of the “mom friend”. Like the crew is losing their mind over the fact their human is reckless, doing so many dangerous things that would have killed any other race but of course it’s fine because it’s a human and those things are so hard to kill anyway.

The only planet that is a danger to a human is the one it came from.

So when the human-Kat comes into the control room with that adorable hopeful face a lot of the crew members are instantly on guard. The last time Human-Kat had that expression they almost lost Xe'rex to the waves of that one planet that Human-Kat just had to “Surf”.

“Can my friend Lola come meet us for the 34-OJ mission? She’s right in our pathway to that new planet? Please?” Huamn-Kat says and though they want nothing more then to say no, the crew of 626- Launch can’t say anything else other then yes.  They know how humans react when left alone for too long. Humans claim that their greatest criminals are placed in “solitary confinement” as punishment which goes very far to show how much bonds affect their life spans.

Human-Kat needs human interaction to stay alive and sane (or as sane as humans can be)

So the crew  agrees to have Friend-Lola on the voyage, slightly terrified of having two humans. But when the new human arrives it is not what they expected.

“Kat, have you finished your paperwork? Come on man, you know it’s due in like a day. Get on it.”

“Whoa dude, I love you ok. But no. You are not going to go surfing down there. It’s for your own good.”

“Girl you got the promotion?! Yes! Ok Ok! We need to celebrate with girls night in!”

“Hey I have some tissues in my bag somewhere hold on. There ya go.”

“Look at this game I picked up on RE-vr’. It’s just like Cards against Humanity but space!”

“Go. To. Sleep. Kat.”

“Remember that pact we made in high school? The one where I would stop you from doing something that will get you arrested or killed? Yeah well I’m calling it into action and saying that you do not lick anything on a unknown planet!“ 

This Human…holds common sense? That is possible for that race?!

After Friend-Lola leaves they ask Human-Kat about this and she merely laughs while swiping through photographs she had taken with the other human.

"Well Lola is the mom friend.”

And the crew of 626-Luanch are so confused because they have already seen photos of Human-Kat’s birth givers and they look nothing alike not to mention Human-Kat already has a Mom. Do humans have more then one “Mom”?

“Oh you know a mom friend is the one friend in a group that keeps everyone else from dying.” Human-Kat jokes.

But the crew is amazed. They have learn the reason humanity haven’t killed itself off. They send a message to every out post in the area.

If xe have a human on-board make sure that they are accompanied by a Mom Friend. These are the humans in charge of keeping other humans alive and well-behaved. 

D&D: How to Use Character Arcs as a Dungeon Master

In my previous post on character arcs, I talked about how a player should determine how they want their character’s arc to begin and end. It was from a player’s perspective. But how does a DM write an adventure that will make that player’s arc happen?

First, get the information you need. Ask your players to each determine how their characters will begin the campaign and how they want them to change by the end of it. Then ask for copies of their character’s traits, flaws, ideals, and bonds. Note whether a player’s character is going to die tragically and if they are okay with that. With this information, you can give the players what I call a moral quandary, personalized for their own character’s arc. A moral quandary is giving the player two difficult options that the player must decide how their character would choose. The character should lean to one side of a moral quandary at the beginning of an adventure, but gradually start to lean the other way as their arc comes to completion. 

For instance, a cleric might be presented with a choice to kill an evildoer or merely capture them. If the cleric is heading down an arc where their ideal changes from “all life is precious” to “evil must be stopped at all costs” in their character arc is going to make very different choices in that situation depending on where they are on their arc.

Let’s figure out how we can use this info as a DM and where to put moral quandaries using a 9-point story structure. These are not an entire campaign, but you can use each point as a fixed point in the narrative; a story outline based on the characters’ arcs. Plenty of different stuff can happen between each point, but the points must happen to create a robust story.

Call to Action

The player is given an initial call to action. Essentially, a moral quandary disguised as a quest hook. Try to have a separate but related call to action for each player. Ideally, the players should refuse the call to action, as they haven’t been “changed” yet. If they play to their characters’ initial backgrounds and traits, they will refuse the call. You can even enforce this by loading your call with descriptions of how the character is feeling. “You are offended that someone would even offer something so morally reprehensible to you, despite the fact that you could use the money.”

A good-hearted rogue is starting a tragic fall arc and is offered a chance to make millions from some morally questionable actions involving an evil regime, but decides it is wrong. An innocent paladin starting a coming of age arc could be offered a chance to rise against an evil regime, but values their own safety. A studious apprentice wizard starting a corruption arc is offered power in exchange for service to an evil regime, but decides they can get power on their own.

Inciting Incident

Something happens to force the player to action, whether they are ready or not. Try to come up with an inciting incident that involves all of the players, not just one. The inciting incident can act as where the adventuring party finally meets.

The evil regime in the Call to Action ends up invading the players’ quiet suburb to enforce martial law. The players escape or fight back or else they and their loved ones die or are enslaved. The rogue decides to run from their debts by joining the party. The paladin has seen firsthand what the regime can do, and will now join the party to find someone else who can help them stop it. The wizard seeks out more power to stop the regime.

1st Plot Point

The players learn the first shreds of information about the overarching narrative of the campaign. After the inciting incident, some characters might not be convinced and want to turn back. This gives them a reason to continue onward together, as a team. There should be no turning back from the 1st plot point.

Players learn how this evil regime has been spreading across the kingdom. It still holds many mysteries, but its power is great and threatening. Its power is centered in a capital city, which the players now opt to travel to in order to find the things they currently desire.

1st Pinch Point

A pinch point is the first real display of power from the antagonist or opposing force. In D&D this should be actual combat, though it doesn’t have to be. As long as the players see firsthand what the antagonist can do to their characters, this part will add the tension/drama that it should. If you want to have a 1st Pinch Point for each character, then this display of force should directly target the player’s character arc and spark the desire to change through a moral quandary. It’s an awakening. Create tension by ending a session with this pinch point.

The players come across a thieves’ guild run by the evil regime. The rogue takes note of how rich, glamorous, and lawless the life of a criminal is to spark their tragic fall arc. The paladin realizes how deep the corruption of the world runs and sparks their coming of age arc as their innocence starts to fade. The wizard realizes how much resources the evil regime has, and wonders what sorts of power they had in mind for him sparking their corruption arc.

Midpoint

More info is revealed about the antagonist and the perception of the characters change. They have an epiphany and decide to continue onward through their arc. This can, and most likely will, happen at different times for each character and their varying arcs.

The players learn about the leader of the regime. They have been pushed to the breaking point by the regime’s forces. The rogue decides join the regime and start doing crime for the regime and acting as a double agent against the party. The paladin no longer cares about finding someone else to help them stop the regime, vowing to end it themselves. The wizard gets an unholy tome and decides to learn how to make a pact with the demon the regime mentioned to overpower the regime. They are all still heading to the capital, though now with severely divergent goals.

2nd Pinch Point

The antagonist reveals their full power and threatens the completion of the characters’ arcs. The entire party should, in general, be at their lowest moment and completely without hope. This should happen at the same time for everyone. Ideally, end a session with this pinch point to create a cliffhanger and highlight the hopelessness.

The players reach the capital of the evil regime. The rogue is faced with a moral test, where they will be offered riches and allowed to live if they rat out their adventuring party. They choose to take the offer and are betrayed by the regime’s leader and sentenced to death anyway. The paladin comes face to face with the regime’s leader after being ratted out by the rogue. They fail the encounter and barely manage to escape with their life. The wizard is also defeated and their unholy tome is destroyed in the battle. The rogue is imprisoned and the paladin and rogue escape the leader and are being hunted in the capital.

2nd Plot Point

The last piece of the puzzle has come together in the second plot point. The characters finish their arc and learn how to overcome the antagonist. This can happen at different points and doesn’t have to happen quickly. For a tragic character, this is the part where they finally meet their end. Tragic characters fail to change or their change is self-destructive and they fail to overcome the antagonist of the story (tragic, isn’t it?). Think of this part as a moral quandary that characters’ finally “know the answer” to, as far as their character arc is concerned.

The rogue tries to escape, succeeds, but heads back to the thieves’ guild instead of his adventuring allies, and they ultimately betray and kill him. The paladin’s innocence is shattered and they gather rebel forces over time to take on the regime’s leader, becoming a leader themselves. They also find an unlikely ally in the wizard, who has finally succumbed to evil. The wizard still doesn’t know how to summon the demon, but they have already gotten a taste of evil’s power by performing vile rituals on captured regime members and will now use their power for vengeance against the regime’s leader.

Climax

The characters finally face off with the antagonist. The promise set out at the beginning of the campaign is fulfilled. The characters, having completed their arcs, are now changed enough to be able to defeat the antagonist. This should be the players at their most powerful and should be the most epic battle to take place in the campaign.

The paladin’s rebel army and the wizard’s evil magic face off against the evil regime’s leader. The battle is long and epic, but the characters succeed, freeing the kingdom of the evil regime.

Resolution

The game shouldn’t abruptly end after the antagonist is defeated! There needs to be closure. The players’ characters find out the results and the aftermath of defeating the antagonist, for better or for worse. In the case of an ongoing game, you should now set up the next campaign here.

The paladin and wizard regard each other as unsteady allies who no longer have a common enemy. The wizard seeks more power, even seeking to possibly usurp the void of power left from the regime’s defeat. The paladin and their rebel army gather in defiance of the wizard. The paladin tells the wizard to leave the kingdom and not threaten anyone with their evil, else the paladin will smite them down. The wizard, not having many spells left after the battle and not being ready to face an entire army, teleports away to parts unknown with a puff of green smoke. The paladin is placed in power, and the wizard now acts as a looming threat. Perhaps an NPC and villain for the next campaign?


This character arc outline is not cut-and-dry. You should use it as a guide, not a rule. Some characters might abruptly choose to change. Some will reach different parts of the outline at different times or out of order. Some characters might waffle between two sides of their arc before deciding which side they want to be on. But the more you talk to your players about it, the easier it is to come up with a generalized plan for your campaign’s story. Heck, your story might even change from what you initially intended by the end of it (a character with a bad roll can still end up dying before even finishing their arc!) But hopefully this will aid you in making the players love their characters even more and have fun as they grow and change in your campaign’s world. That’s what it’s all about, after all.

Here’s All the New Mass Effect: Andromeda Info from the Press Embargo

SOURCE: https://www.reddit.com/r/masseffect/comments/5vq0qp/embargospoiler_discussion_thread/de4a760/

RANDOM BITS

  • Shepard’s gender affects Andromeda’s story somehow.
  • According to a Bioware rep, ‘Eagle eyed players may uncover a few narrative morsels related to Shepard’s story’.
  • No importing of the trilogy’s save files.
  • Character customisation contains ‘unconventional and bizarre hairstyles’. Makeup, scars and tattoos are also available.
  • You can choose the training Ryder received. They are: Security, Biotic, Technician, Leader, Scrapper and Operative.
  • Game starts out quickly with the introductory sequence takes place on a toxic planet.
  • According to IGN and Gamespot, the game has performance issues, with visual glitches, audio and framerate drops.
  • Clunky and jarring Bioware animations on characters. Awkward faces and movements.
  • ‘Eyes, eyelashes and mouths look particular cartoony’, according to IGN.
  • Gamespot’s reviewer feels that ME:A is a more polished version of Dragon Age Inquisition.
  • PS4 Pro will support higher resolutions and HDR features.
  • It feels like Mass Effect.

COMBAT

  • The game opts for flexible skill profiles that can be changed to suit different challenges.
  • Combat is ‘engaging’ with a variety of skills and combat encounters. In addition, the skill tree is ‘massive’ which can be mixed and matched.
  • Skills trees are Combat, Biotics and Tech.
  • Once you hit rank 3 of a skill, you get to choose between 2 separate varieties of the same power and specialise in 1.
  • Classes are still present. They are Soldier, Engineer, Adapt, Sentinel, Vanguard, Infiltrator and Explorer. They have no unique skill trees but rather, they give you a boost in things such as health regen or access certain items that might help you in combat.
  • Combat is faster with tighter gunplay and more responsive handling.
  • Gun feedback has been greatly improved.
  • Most offensive abilities are considered ‘primers’ or detonators’. Deploying a primer skill followed by a detonator inflicts more damage on your target.
  • Jet pack allows for more combat strategies and can be used to access higher, out of reach places.
  • Skills and abilities can be saved and favourited. You can switch between different set-ups mid combat.
  • Some enemies can apparently kill you in one hit.
  • Cover system is sticky and a little finicky, according to IGN. Automatic clipping into cover when the reviewer did not want to get into cover.
  • Squadmates’ AI seem to be more competent.
  • You cannot control your team mates like in the Dragon age games but you can tell them where to go, like in the previous games.

CRAFTING

  • Armour is customisable and can be changed on the ship.
  • Elemental ammo (fire and cryo) are no longer powers but consumable items.
  • Powers can be combined to produce devastating results to your enemies.
  • Autosaves seem generous and Ryder respawns 1 to 2 mins before they he/she died.
  • Blueprints for armour and weapons using RD (research data). You can obtain these by scanning environments and creatures.
  • Blueprints are colour coded. Bronze (common), sliver (uncommon), gold (rare). The rarer it is the more RD they cost.
  • Crafted items can be named.
  • You can add augmentations to your armour.

DIALOGUE

  • Paragon and renegade choices are gone, replaced with more open ended dialogue allowing for grey areas.
  • Dialogue choices are emotional, logical, causal and professional which will influence the direction of the conversation.
  • There is A LOT of dialogue now.
  • Interrupts are now called ‘Impulse Actions’. Interviewer did get the chance to experience it.
  • After completing a mission, you can look at a summary of the events as well as see how you responded to any choices.

EXPLORATION

  • Exploration is ‘exciting and not a chore’.
  • The Nomad controls like the Mako but less rubbery. No bouncing and no weapons on it. You can also return to your ship any time by holding down the Evacuation button.
  • The Nomad has a booster and a shield that, when destroyed, knocks enemies back during combat.
  • Nomad has mining drones to help you retrieve resources.
  • Environments are ‘gorgeous and varied’.

COMPANIONS AND CHARACTERS

  • Interactions between characters are similar to where ME3 and the Citadel DLC left off, more friendly and light banter.
  • You can interact with Dad Ryder.
  • Companions are sectioned off into their own rooms like the previous games.
  • There is a whole menu detailing your relationship status with your crew. Relationships are obviously going to be a huge part of the game.
  • Party members as well as non-party members (eg. the pilots, engineers and doctors) have been fleshed out, with equal care put into each. For example, your crew interacts with each other over the intercom.
  • All squadmates can be flirted with but a relationship might not be necessarily possible. (Think Samara’s romance)
  • You get Cora and Liam at the start of the game.
  • Cora and Liam are ‘fun, passionate people who want to get away from the life they lead but also want to talk about it.
  • Cora is stricter and trained to be your senior but has to deal with the fact that you now outrank her.
  • Liam is cool, upbeat and cockney.
  • Kallo, the new pilot is a bit more serious than Joker.
  • Asari doctor, Lexi T’Perro is voiced by Natalie Dormer from Game of Thrones fame.
  • There is a Scottish scientist called Suvi and a chief engineer called Gil Brodie, who enjoys Male Ryder’s flirting.
  • Vetra is like a ‘stern mother’ and warmer than Garrus.
  • Drack is a bit like Wrex with his dead pan humour but also has a more mature point of view.
  • PB is impulsive and flirty and lives in an escape pod.
  • SAM (Simulated Adaptive Matrix) is like a combination of EDI and Legion and was created by your parents. He can eventually bond with your brain and you can engage in philosophical debates with him. It is hinted you can uncover more of your family backstory though him.
  • Sloane Kelly is an ex-Andromeda Initiative officer who defected.
  • Companions are as engaging and interesting as the ones in the original trilogy.
  • Banter is back. They can be triggered during exploration and while driving in the Nomad.
The 7 Elements of a SCENE

There are few things as soul-crushing in the writing process (at least to me) than getting a bunch of characters in a room with the intention of something happening, then the characters proceed to stand around and stare at each other.  

Or worse, look at you like this. 

My characters didn’t know why they were there. I didn’t know why they were there either. I had no clue what they were supposed to be doing, so I’d start throwing random instructions at them: “Fight, characters! You guys should fight now! Maybe fighting will make this event have a purpose!” Which inevitably resulted in characters going through the motions of battle for no apparent reason, like they had all lost their minds.

What was the problem? I didn’t know how to write a scene. I didn’t know what a scene was. I had a vague definition that it was something about changing scenery, or just “something happening”.

It’s not. And once I learned what a scene was, my characters got to stop pummeling each other, while wishing they could pummel me. 

So what is a scene? 

The definition of a scene is kind of like the definition of a story. Story is change, a massive change in the life of your main character. A scene is change too, but much smaller, and part of that huge story change. You couldn’t have the BIG change without these tiny changes. Thus, a scene is not switching scenery. It’s not flipping to a new Character’s POV. It’s one segment of change, which triggers the next change, which triggers the next, which gradually build into sequences, which build into Acts, which build into story. 

So what goes into a scene? How does it work?

1. Alternating Charges

If a scene opens positive, it will turn negative by the end. If it opens negative, it will end positive. Simple. 

2. Character Goals

Everybody in a scene wants something. If they don’t want anything, they shouldn’t be in the scene. And these characters, with their often opposing goals, are going to employ different tactics on each other to get what they want. Which creates …

3. Escalating Conflict

Conflict is created when one character wants one thing and another wants something else, right? So the characters in the scene are each pushing for something different, each new tactic increasing in determination. And what are these actions called?  

4. Beats

The beats of a scene are exchanges of action and reaction. One character does something, another character reacts. All exchanges (beats) are pushing the scene onward, building tension and conflict, until finally …

5. Turns & Revelations

The scene turns. The positive has changed to negative. Something has been discovered. The story has spun in a new direction.

6. Connection to Story Objective

Every scene must be connected to the BIG goal of the story, the main character is taking small actions to reach that big goal. If it isn’t obviously connected to this big plot, it won’t make sense. Your reader won’t know why the heck they’re reading the scene. Which brings us to … 

7. Logic & Necessity  

Every scene must be necessary. It must be able to be linked with the previous scene. “Because that happened in the previous scene, THIS must happen in this scene.”

So! To see how that all works, let’s break down a scene from Tangled. (Because I used it in the last post to map out how a premise works, and my little writer heart can’t resist symmetry.)

Which scene? The one right after this happens: 

Opening Charge: Positive. She’s realized everything. 

Rapunzel’s Goal: Rise up against her mother – finally. 

Gothel’s Goal: Regain control.

Escalating Conflict: They’re fighting over who controls Rapunzel, and this battle causes them to go from “mother and daughter” to “enemies”. The conflict builds nicely in this scene, causing the story turn.

Connection to Story Objective: Throughout the movie, the big thing Rapunzel wants is freedom, she wants her life to begin, she wants to have a new dream. This is the moment she figures out how to do that; it’s not escaping the tower, it’s escaping Gothel’s control over her.

So! Here’s the scene.

Beat 1

“Rapunzel? Rapunzel, what’s going on up there?”

Ignores her. Still processing the tremendous implications of this revelation. 

Beat 2

“Are you alright?" 

"I’m the lost princess.” (Dumbfounded. Almost whispering it to herself.)


Beat 3

“Oh, please speak up Rapunzel! You know how I hate the mumbling.” (Bullying.)

“I am the lost princess! Aren’t I?” (Fighting back. She will not be bullied anymore.)

Beat 4

Gothel stares, stunned. She’s rendered temporarily speechless, because her secret’s been revealed finally, and her victim is actually fighting against her.


“Did I mumble, Mother? Or should I even call you that?” (Accusing. Drawing herself up taller. Looking down on Gothel and glaring. She’s seeing her clearly for the first time in her life.)

Beat 5

After a pause, thinking up a tactic. “Oh, Rapunzel, do you even hear yourself? How could you ask such a ridiculous question?” (Laughs. Ridicules. Attempts to make her feel childish, dumb, worthy of being mocked. Tactics which have always worked. She even begins to hug her.)


Rapunzel pushes her. “It was you! It was all you!” (Still accusing and angry, but pain is beginning to show. It’s almost like she’s giving her a chance to explain herself.)


Beat 6

“Everything I did was to protect you.” (And Gothel doesn’t say anything redeeming. She’s holier than thou, regal, bestowing kindness on an ungrateful, stupid child. Trying to control through guilt.)

Rapunzel rams her out of the way. 

Beat 7

“Rapunzel!” (Shouting. Now trying anger.)

“I’ve spent my entire life hiding from people who would use me for my power …” (Leaves her.)

Beat 8

"Rapunzel!” (Still trying the anger angle.)

“But I should have been hiding from you.” (Throwing the truth at her.)

Beat 9

“Where will you go? He won’t be there for you.” (She’s tried everything else. It’s time to attack her heart.)

“What did you do to him?” (Fear)

Beat 10

“That criminal is to be hanged for his crimes.” (She’s keeping up the disapproving mother act, but striking her right where it will hurt her most.)

“No.” (She’s stopped. Shrinking in on herself. Staring, horrified. And Gothel thinks she’s won.)

Beat 11

“Now, now.  It’s alright. Listen to me. All of this is as it should be.” She goes to pat Rapunzel’s head, a gesture symbolic of her superiority, her physical, mental, and emotional control over her victim.


Rapunzel grabs Gothel’s wrist. “No! You were wrong about the world. And you were wrong about me! And I will never let you use my hair again!" 

Beat 12

Gothel wrenches free, stumbling backwards in shock and anger, breaking the mirror in the process. 

Rapunzel walks away. She’s escaped Gothel emotionally now.

Beat 13

"You want me to be the bad guy? Fine. Now I’m the bad guy.” (Well, now emotional control is over. It’s time to start stabbing Rapunzel’s boyfriend.)

This action has no reaction, interestingly. It leaves us hanging, a cliffhanger created with only beats. 

Closing Charge: Negative. She’s now a full-fledged villain, the motherly persona shed, and she’s determined to get what she wants whatever the cost. 

Turn: It changed from positive to negative,  and now we’ve got a Flynn-stabbing witch to deal with.  

Revelation: She’s always been evil. She has always been the bad guy. The motherly act was just that, an act. 

Logic & Necessity: This scene fits with the previous scene, and the one that follows.     

Though I’ve seen these concepts in many books, the place I first learned about it (and the best resource for scene design in my opinion) is the book Story by Robert McKee. It’s helped me countless times, is one of my favorite books on storytelling, and I highly recommend it if you write anything.

I realize that these definitions were a little vague, so I’ll be explaining things more thoroughly in subsequent posts. 

Devos might have gotten confirmed, and that’s BAD, but don’t think your efforts have not been worth it. Because of your actions:

  • Devos confirmation got pushed back as much as possible
  • two GOP senators defected
  • Mike Pence had to be the tie-breaker, something that’s has NOT happened for a cabinet confirmation and the Trump Tower is already whining about it

While it is likely all other cabinet nominees will be confirmed, because of protests and calls from the public and actions taken by senate democrats, these confirmation hearings have been taking longer than previous cabinet confirmations. And just because they’ve been confirmed, the fight does not stop. 

Put your senators who voted for DeVos on notice and that they’ll pay for their vote in 2018, thank those who voted against her. To keep fighting Devos, pay attention to your local school board. They are your best defense against her and many municipalities will be voting for a new school board this year. Make sure you vote then, or even consider running. If you know someone qualified to run, convince them to run. We all know someone who is a teacher or an educator, and I bet that you or someone you know in the education sector is infinitely more qualified than Devos. Attend school board meetings as well. 

Vote for a democratic governor and state legislature. 

If there’s some silver lining, maybe now we will continue pay attention to public education outside of an election year, and make it hard for Devos to push any of her agenda.

One of the things that Daenerys haters who have read the books love to say to the show watchers (to convince them to join their ranks I guess?) is that the show version is an “ideolized version” of the character, that the show writers “whorship” her and that in the books she is much worse and it is utterly untrue

The show removed a lot of Daenerys’ kindness, her intelligence and political mind, as well as her emotions. The true Daenerys is softer, sweeter, brighter (without mentioning ten years younger) and her so called “questionable actions” are few in the novels. In fact, the only “questionable” thing I can think of is when she agreed to allow one of her advisors in Meereen to use torture on the only witness/suspect they had following the torture and slaughter of dozens of innocent people. But even that part - which is the darkest moment in Daenerys story - was made worse on the show, where she gave two Masters to be devoured to her dragons.

In the second novel, Daenerys never said the “when my dragons are grown we will lay waste to armies and burn cities to the ground” speech. She wasn’t insisting that the merchants of Qarth have to give her ships, she never locked up Doreah and Xaro Xhoan Daxos in a room to die of starvation, she didn’t plunder the city (not that I have a problem with show Daenerys about it, but she did not do that in the books). Doreah died in the Red Waste in Daenerys’ arms, and she gave her her last water although Doreah was dying and they were in a desert without provisions.

In the third novel, Daenerys didn’t enjoy the sack of Astapor and her quote was not “all men must die but we are not men” but “all men must die, but not for a long while, we may pray.” She really wanted to forgive Jorah despite his betrayal but his behavior towards her is what made her banish him (he was insisting that he did no wrong and that she had to forgive him, and that in front of others) - and even after he was gone, she thought a lot of him and wished for him to find happiness back on his Bear Island.

In the fifth novel, Daenerys is the one who is compromising and navigating in the very complex political situation of Meereen. She is the one trying to negotiate with the former slavers and slaves. She never ordered one of her followers to be decapitated, and she never let her dragons eat the Masters. It is not Drogon who rescued her from the Sons of the Harpy, but she who ran toward him to help him after Hizdahr’s men tried to kill him. She didn’t fly away leaving her friends behind in danger, she and Drogon were the only ones in direct danger and she needed to protect him from harm - besides it was the very first time she rode a dragon and did not know how to control him. 

Book Daenerys loves to hug children, kisses people on the cheeks, smiles and laughs and has a great sense of humor, doesn’t say things like “I am a Queen not a politician” and does not need men around her to restrain her from using dragonfire - it is actually the other way around. Everyone of her advisors in the fifth book wanted her to use dragons to burn her enemies but Daenerys was insisting to negotiate and build peace without using force. 

I love show Dany, but book Daenerys is amazing and anyone who tries to claim that the show version is “overhyped” or “whitewashed” or “idolized” compared to the real, canon version is a liar.

President’s budget proposal to eliminate federal library funding

Originally posted by icicesttouslesjoursmercredi

Do we need to tell you we aren’t thrilled about the President’s budget? Didn’t think so.

This is just the first of many calls to action we’ll be posting, but for now here’s what you can do:

  1. Call your Members of Congress and ask them to publicly oppose wiping out IMLS, and ask them to commit to fighting for federal library funding.
  2. Share your library’s IMLS story using the #SaveIMLS tag - tell us how IMLS funding supports your local community.
  3. Sign up to receive our Action Alerts - we will let you know when and how to take action, and send you talking points and background information.

If you need some background information about IMLS or the appropriations process, you can check out this IMLS database or our most recent blog post on the subject of LSTA and IAL..

Liberals, we need you now to join an actual #Resistance to Trump, fascism, and capitalism, the latter of which will perpetually produce the conditions that breed the former. Support us in the battle against oppression, understand that these problems are systemic, and move to the left. Oppression can’t be defeated with centrism.

Oh and stop calling the cops on direct actioneers.

Greetings, Tumblr! To the immediate left of the photo is @marsincharge and to the immediate right is @nukirk and together, we’re the co-creators of the #TheBlackout, the team behind the Shorty Award Nominated #Blackout and #Blackoutday! For the uninitiated, #Blackout is a tri-monthly call-to-action with a mission to celebrate and (re)define Blackness. It takes place on the 6th of every third month starting from March 6th! That means it happens on March 6th, June 6th, September 6th, and December 6th.  

We’ve been getting ready for our second anniversary on March 6th and are excited to announce that on Feb 6th starting at 2 PM EST / 11 AM PST, we get to have our turn at what Tumblr likes to call “Answer Time”! We’ll be answering questions about the hashtags and the Blackout’s goals and future. You can ask us anything at anytime, but we’ll be doing the most that day, so hit up our ask box here!

Can’t wait to answer your questions. 

P.S. - Check out our FAQ / Masterpost here 

Making Dragons Deadlier...

D&D Stands For One Thing - Dungeons & Dragons!

And what’s the second part of that name?

DRAGONS!

One of the most famous, if not the famous, creatures in all of D&D History.

And so for the Reptile-Lovers and Exceptionally Cruel Dungeon Masters who just happen to have a few dozen Dragons in their Settings and Campaigns, here’s a selection of Traits and Weaponry to armor-up those special little guys and girls and turn them into the world-destroying weapons of D&D, that we all know and love…

Note: Here is 80+ Traits, Actions, Reactions, Attacks and Much More for all your Dragon-Making Needs…

Keep reading

you don’t have to make history

In its original context, famed bumper sticker “well-behaved women seldom make history” wasn’t actually an exaltation of revolutionary women. It was historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s way of recognizing the voiceless majority: the women who keep the world running while the rest of us burn it down.

Right now I’m seeing many calls to action in the United States, and make no mistake: I’m grateful for them. It’s high time we instated collective action on this kind of scale. I think everyone can do at least a little. But in the spirit of Ms. Ulrich (who is one of my favorite historians), I think there’s a missing piece we ought to remember.

The wheels of progress have always been greased by invisible labor. Behind every great man there’s a a great woman, they say - more like an entire host of them. For every leader, every hero, every revolutionary who muscles world leaders to the table, there’s someone who makes dinner. There’s someone who lends an ear and a comforting shoulder when the odds seem too high. Someone who pays the bills, watches the children, makes the appointments you’re too burned out to make. For every person changing the world, there’s at least one more quietly running it. 

It’s only within that infrastructure that we’re able to meaningfully organize at all. Even the best and brightest break down without food and sleep. Yet it’s so easy to ignore it precisely because it’s so constant. I take for granted the bus service that delivers me to and fro every day - the bus service that enabled me to attend last night’s protest. I take for granted the warm cafe my friends holed up in to decompress afterward. We’re battling uphill these days, but we forget just how much steeper the hill could be.

So here’s to the well-behaved women, and men. Here’s to the ones who care for us as humans so we can care for the world as activists. We might not remember their names, but we can unearth their invisible work.