Rediscovering Pen and Paper RPGs

Picture of several colourful dice

By Diacritica – Wikimedia Commons

In my 20s and 30s, I loved playing pen and paper. We had a really great group of friends, and even after the kids were born, we simply kept playing at my place, putting the kids to be in between looting and adventuring. Somehow life got in the way, two members of the group had a fall out, our group kinda died in the middle of the campaign. I’m not sure if my kids remember those gaming session or simply grew up with a steady tale of them, but they’ve been bothering me for a long time, asking to play some adventures.

In the end I recruited my two other friends and last week we had our first gaming session. Oh boy, that was fun. Since none of them ever played any pen and paper, I dmed, not my favourite thing, but since they’re also completely newbies in the world of The Dark Eye (Germans don’t play DnD, we play DSA), I also created a character to go with them, thus “giving birth” to “Salida de Emergencia*”, a priestess of the goddess of wisdom and magic, to give them some background information and also to get the roleplay going. If it comes to the last, she can also always disperse a bit DM wisdom, but that’s something I’d like to avoid.

I really had forgotten how much fun it can be, especially with completely green characters being played by completely green players. For one, the group is badly balanced. Neither of them carries an actual sword or has decent fighting skills. One of them, our nimble elf, carries a smallsword, which she kept losing by rolling 20s (in that system, 20 means failure). In the end, she resorted to wrestling with the Rodents of Unusual Size in a lot of bat shit. The archer kept missing, of course, because when you’re a starter character you have a 50/50 chance. Now the rest of them is suspicious of her because they barely survived the final fight while she was unharmed. Oh, and the mage didn’t learn the spells, so magic was not used at all. Playing by the rules, we would all start the next session by making new characters because these would be dead.

However, the good thing about playing together is that you can say “fuck the rules”. The combat rules are too complicated anyway. There may be people who do keep track on whether somebody is wounded, exhausted, their exact distance from the opponent. I have enough trouble keeping track of which bandit is dead and which is alive and killing which hero. I firmly believe that the rules should serve the game, not vice versa, so I’ll apply bonus and malus with some common sense. If the players also developed some of it, we might actually make it. ;)

*That character has been waiting in the back of my mind for a long time, ever since my beloved saw a sign saying “Salida” (exit) in Spain and remarked that it would be a nice girl’s name.

Creative Fun: Painting Ceramics

This is the little one’s fault (yeah, the little one. Almost as tall as me). She saw something like this on the net and asked if there was a place near where you can paint your own ceramics. I found one and invited the kids for Easter. While I dislike making huge presents for Easter, you can basically always get me to spend money on making memories. If there’s a place like that near you and you have kids ages 5 to 99 who enjoy creative stuff, I can only recommend. The nice thing is that since it’s professionally fired in a kiln, you get lasting designs, not like with other paint on techniques.

So, here’s what we did:

Various ceramic items, see individual desription with the other pics.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A small jug with dotted flowers.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A green, white and brown tile with a kitty face

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A small ceramic owl figure

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The little one’s haul: lots of dots there. And a kitty, because she loves cats.

A rectangular tray with a sakura tree

©Giliell, all rights reserved

#1 worked painstakingly on her Sakura blossom tree. The picture doesn’t do it justice, since it doesn’t show the many layers.

Well, and what did I do?

Big mug in green and blue with the character Totoro

©Giliell, all rights reserved

View into the mug: a studio Ghibli dustbunny

©Giliell, all rights reserved

My new favourite mug. I love, love, love Totoro. It’s such a wonderful movie and I identify with Totoro: We’re both fat, grey haired and love naps, children and gardening.

I also did a plate which turned out completely different than planned.

A plate in deep blues and greens with a white geometric whale pattern

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The place offers you a lot of materials, like stencils, and also an introduction: you can always paint dark on light colours, but not vice versa. When fired in the kiln, they turn transparent and the dark colour underneath comes through. What I wanted to do was to use a mandala stencil to add a geometric pattern in black and then paint the spaces in between with vibrant colours. Buuuuut, well, with the curve of the plate and the clumsiness of the artist the black colour ran and smudged. If you look closely above the whale, you can see it shine through. I needed to save it and painted layers upon layers, smudging the black, drawing it out, creating a deep sea and the scratching out the whale with the help of another stencil. It turned out nice and I’ll try to create the other plate another time.

Explaining Pfizer Vaccine in a Nutshell

I was just explaining how the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 works to my parents – not that they were vaccine skeptics or some such, my mother was just curious – so I put my teacher hat on and – inspired by yesterday’s picture post by kestrel – I put it to them thusly:

A virus is an envelope that contains the instruction on how to make a said envelope with the same instructions inside. So the body starts producing said envelopes with the instructions over and over again. The vaccine is similar but it is just an envelope containing the instruction on how to make the virus envelope – but without the instructions inside. Thus when the instructions from the vaccine are used up, the production stops, unlike with the virus. In the meantime, the immune system learns from this how to recognize the envelope, and subsequently, when it encounters the real deal, it can destroy it.

Yes, I do occasionally explain things to my elderly parents in an oversimplified fashion as if they were children. Especially sciencey things. They do not seem to mind.

Midsummer Afternoon – Part 1 – Visit to Harakka Island

Guest posts by Ice Swimmer

It was a hot afternoon just after Midsummer. I went to downtown Helsinki to take some photos.

In the first photo, you can see a jackdaw walking at the Market Square tram stop. I took the picture while waiting for the tram.

A jackdaw walks by © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The second photo is an “aerial photo” of a family of mute swans, two adults,

and five little cygnets. I’m on the shore end of the pier, from which the boat to Harakka picks up passengers.

I think the leftmost cygnet has some Cladophora around the base of the neck, at least I’m hoping it’s that and not plastic (I noticed the green stuff when looking at the edited photo). The green algae, which has a Finnish name ahdinparta, beard (parta) of the old Finnish god of the sea Ahti, is rather ubiquitous in shallow waters here and there’s a lot of it on the underwater stones in the picture.

Swan family dinner. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I took the boat to Harakka. The digitalis was in bloom and there were wild strawberries. It could be that when the Imperial Russian army was using the island before Finnish independence, they planted strawberries and other berries, as I’ve heard stories that it was their way to prevent the soldiers in fortress islands from having scurvy.

Digitalis and strategical strawberries.  © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This red-leaved rose was growing in a forested area on Harakka. I like how simple and unpretentious it looks.

Red-leaved rose with green leaves. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Most of Harakka is ruled by dinosaurs in the summer. This gull seemed to be above any ergonomic considerations.

Common gull forming an animal puddle. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

My visit to Harakka was cut a bit short by the low battery charge level of my phone. I had neglected to take an emergency charger (“sähköpossu”/”electricity piggybank” as I like to call them) with me.

Having come back to the mainland from Harakka, I saw these crows on a sign (warning about the underwater cable AFAIR) on the pier. They were “singing”. There’s a Finnish saying “Äänellään se variskin laulaa.”, which could be translated as: “Even the crow will sing with its own voice.”

Crows singing with their own voices. © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I did take more than these pictures on Harakka and there could be material for further posts.

When your neighbour knows you too well…


New Pokémon Snap, Source: Nintendo

The end of last month saw the release of a new Pokémon game for the Switch. #1 had asked for that game for Easter and was damn happy when it was released. And, to be honest, it’s a really nice game. No hard storylines, fights, tournaments… You travel on a fixed course and take pics of Pokémon, like on a Legoland Safari.

Anyway, my neighbour, who’s just as massive a nerd as I am, asked me how the game was, and if I had taken nice pics and if it was worth the money. We chatted a while and I offered him to come over and try it out. Inside again I asked #1 if she’d talked with B about the game, since he knew that we had it.

“Mum, do you really think I’d voluntarily talk to other people???”

Seems like our neighbour knows us quite well by now….

The Art of …

… styling hair, by Macedonian artist Trendafilka Kirova

Today’s art comes from a story at My Modern Met. If you’re interested, you can see more of Kirova’s work at that link or at the artist’s Instagram, Trendafilka Kirova.

Braiding by Trendafilka Kirova. Image from My Modern Met

Braiding by Trendafilka Kirova. Image from My Modern Met

Braiding by Trendafilka Kirova. Image from My Modern Met

Braiding by Trendafilka Kirova. Image from My Modern Met

Braiding by Trendafilka Kirova. Image from My Modern Met

In which I declare my love for Pokémon Go (instead of a end of year review)

Several Pokémon around the Pokémon Go logo


Well, let’s not do a usual “end of year” review, shall we? We all know what happened this year. Instead I want to focus on something that really helped me through the struggles of this year, and like many other people I turned to video games. Now, while I played too much Animal Crossing in spring, to the point that the kids were upset with me digging out all the fossils and catching all the rare fishes, Pokémon Go made me happy all year long.

For one thing, it regularly gets me out of the house. I don’t have a dog for good reasons, so there’s no wet nose that makes me get off my ass, and like for many people, “I should go on a walk because the movement in the fresh air will do me good” just isn’t enough for me. But “I should go outside to catch Pokémon” amazingly is. And since Mr plays as well, we go on walks together, spend time together on our hobby and get some mild exercise outdoors.

For another thing, it keeps me connected. The social aspects of the game are carefully crafted. There is competition, and trainer battles, but they tend to be anonymous over the internet. Real life encounters tend to focus on cooperation, as all players focus on battling the same boss together. Just last week we met a family on our walk who had mostly just started playing and the little kid of some 8 years or so was super happy to find some advanced players to play with and get the big bad monster. Those little things make me happy.

Of course it’s also something we do with our friends, as restrictions allow, so we plan whole weekends around Pokémon events, with food and drink and everything. Even when we cannot play together, we have something to talk about via video chats or messenger services, so we keep talking with each other, having some light hearted chats or rants about some thing or other that isn’t working (what, did you think the game didn’t have glitches?) without having to talk about serious matters.

And finally there’s the people we met via Pokémon Go who have become friends. Sometimes life puts somebody in your way and then you notice that it “clicks”. About a year ago we met a woman who was hoping for others to join her in a Raid, and we did, and we connected on social media, and we noticed that we actually like each other and now I’m looking forward to our Wednesday night raids and chatting for a while with her and her husband. So much for the people who say that video games make you lonely.

Oh, and as an addendum: It also provides and outlet for all the judgemental people who have nothing better to do than getting upset at other people playing some harmless game on their phones in public. I wouldn’t want to disappoint them, would I?

©Giliell, all rights reserved
Look at what we got for Christmas!

So, what is your favourite (video) game and why?

It’s almost Winterfest and we want your photos

Ugh! ©voyager, all rights reserved.


The Freethought Blogs Winterfest is coming up on Saturday, December 5th, and we have all sorts of good things planned to entertain you. For the full schedule of events, you can click here or on the Winterfest logo at the top of the left sidebar on any of our blogs here at FtB. The schedule is still being finalized, so be sure to check back often to see what’s up and when, but there are lots of good things being planned. Here at Affinity, we’re hosting a Winterfest Photofest beginning Monday, November 30th, and we’d like to add your photos to the collection. You can submit your pictures to and please let me know what name or nym you’d like them credited to. That address is permanently in our left sidebar underneath the colourful, percolating head, and if you click that link, it will open up an email form for you to conveniently use.

Why do we do all of this? That’s easy; it’s because we love you. Also, we’re celebrating an important anniversary. It was one year ago that we celebrated our legal victory over Dr. Snowflake, Richard Carrier. We’re still digging out from under the legal bills of that mess, and we would greatly appreciate any support you’re able to provide. You can donate directly to our Paypal account here or with a credit card here. I know this is a tough time of year for many folks (especially in 2020), so an appreciative audience is also plenty of support. Please tune in and let us entertain you.


I could not get it done, but maybe you can help

A bit of a mess.©voyager, all rights reserved

I had agreed to read The Masque of The Red Death for Hallowe’en, but I’ve never worked with audio or video files and got myself in over my head. By the time I realized I needed better equipment, and way more knowledge (way, way more knowledge) it was too late. I simply can’t get it done for tomorrow.

I’m not giving up, though. I believe I can do it. I have a better mic on order (not much is getting through the border right now) and I’ve downloaded editing software. I tried using it today, but everything still sounded raw and echoey, and it was terrible. Rather than limp along with bad audio and then adding to it bad video or a photo still, I’m ceding defeat.

There are other bloggers here, though, who are better at these things than me and they will be reading stories, so please tune in to hear them. PZ at Pharyngula, The Bolingbrook Babbler and Abbey from Impossible Me will all be reading for you. Plus there’s the story chain and the quiz show scheduled for tomorrow evening. Why do all these things? Because we love you. And we need money. Nasty ass lawsuits are expensive and we want to get out from under the Richard Carrier nonsense. We really do love you though, and if you’re able, you can help us by donating to our Paypal account.

I’ve been wanting to try a small video before this, in order to share a bit of Jack and I singing for you. I’ll make you a deal. Jack and I will sing for you in November and if that isn’t a total disaster, I may try reading you a fairy story for Christmas. Or, I could still read the Masque of The Red Death. I’ll leave it up to you. Let me know in the comments. And if you’re able, even a small donation to our Paypal is helpful.

Thanks. For everything.




Marcus Gave Me Wood, Here Is What I Did With It

Marcus sent me a piece of stabilized maple burl last year. It wasn’t very big, not enough for my usual chunky knife handles, but it was big enough for two badger knives, so I used it for the last two blades in the current batch.

I did not do the brass bolsters and pommels very well, I am afraid. The pins refused to blend in – they do so so seamlessly in aluminum and stainless steel, but so far I did not have any luck with brass. And since this blade is stainless steel, some artificial extreme patina would not look proper. I tried to make the heads rounded this time, but I did not like the look of it at all, especially because I did not position them correctly for that kind of look. Nevertheless, the extremely beautiful wood from Marcus, when polished with beeswax, does redeem the knives a little. And when I saw how pretty the wood is, I have decided to make better and nicer sheaths for these knives too.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This is the better of the pair. Making the silver maple leaves was real fun, and I have managed to get the colors very close to what I have originaly designed in Photoshop.

It looks pretty, but silver maple is not native here so for the second one I have used a different design and color palette – yellow small-leaved linden leafs.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The small-leaved linden tree is pretty common here and it is also Czech national tree, so I have been intentionally a bit patriotic with this one. Unfortunately, I run out of the medium thickness leather so I had to use the thicker one and it was just a tad too thick for this small knife design. It is not a functional problem, only the leather could not be formed so snugly around the knife, because the knife would not get out.

I think my leatherwork is improving and I like these leafs-designs. I shall definitively use them more, even though they are a bit labor-intensive, especially since I do not intend to use the same design twice. I might use the outline, but I will always at least mix up the colors differently.